AirPods are fantastic devices and offer almost unparalleled sound quality, but there are occasional problems, like when the AirPods’ microphone keeps picking up background noise on calls so that the other person can’t hear you. What can you do to fix this and ensure that the person on the other end can hear you clearly?
Your AirPods pick up background noise on calls because the microphone is much more sensitive than the one in your phone since it’s so far away from your mouth. You can only fix it with Voice Isolation on iPhones newer than iPhone XR or XS, 3rd Gen AirPods, or any AirPods Max or Pro models.
If you have supported hardware, getting rid of background noise on your phone calls is pretty straightforward. Let’s look at the issue of background noise during calls and what you can do to solve it on your AirPods.
AirPods Pro Noise Canceling: Does It Help On Phone Calls?
The AirPods Pro supports a great feature called noise canceling. On the surface, it seems like this could help. But what is noise canceling, and can it help the other person to hear you better during calls?
How Does Active Noise Canceling Work?
Headphones or earphones with active noise canceling, like the AirPods Pro and some other models, have built-in microphones that detect the ambient noise around the listener. The earphones then generate equal-but-opposite sound waves to cancel out the noise that the microphones detect, letting you hear the audio much more clearly.
Let’s say you’re in a noisy environment, like next to a busy road or commuting on a train or bus with lots of background chatter. If you’re listening to music over your AirPods, you will constantly hear the voices or sounds in the background interfering with your enjoyment of the music.
However, when you switch on active noise canceling, those background noises will be more or less eliminated. Because the system depends on microphones detecting the background noise to filter it out, it won’t be able to cancel out certain sudden, loud noises.
Noise Canceling For Music Vs. For Phone Calls
Active noise canceling works great for the person wearing the noise-canceling earphones, whether they’re listening to music or taking a phone call. It’s especially great for listening to music since you won’t be distracted from hearing every detail of the song you’re listening to.
Phone calls are a different matter.
A telephone conversation is a two-way system consisting of microphones and earphones or speakers on each end. Your microphone will transmit audio to the speaker or earphones on the other end and vice versa.
Having active noise cancelation on your earphones will mean that the background noise on your end will not interfere with you hearing the other person’s voice. But if there’s a lot of background noise on their end that gets picked up by their microphone, you will still hear that background noise because it’s not part of your ambient noise; it’s part of the sound that’s getting sent to your AirPods.
The same goes for noise on your end. Both you and the person on the other end may be using noise cancelation on your earphones; it will make no difference to the quality of the call. The background noise on your side won’t affect you, but the person on the other side will hear it clearly.
In cases where your AirPods are picking up background noise, you may wonder how well they can block wind noise.
Why Are AirPods So Sensitive To Background Noise?
To understand this, we must compare AirPods with the microphones and speakers built into your iPhones.
Your iPhone has a speaker that’s supposed to go directly next to your ear and a microphone conveniently close to your mouth. When you make a phone call with your iPhone without using your AirPods, the iPhone uses its built-in microphone close to your mouth, which means it can easily detect your voice.
AirPods do not have a microphone close to your mouth. They are tiny devices that fit comfortably in your ears, far from your lips, meaning their microphones must be much more sensitive to pick up your voice.
Unfortunately, the more sensitive microphones are, the more susceptible they are to background noise. Even though the AirPods’ microphones are slightly directional to try and eliminate as much background noise as possible, it doesn’t always work that way since some of the noise will come from the direction the microphone is facing.
Everything that your microphone picks up will be converted into signals the phone sends to the person on the other end, background noise included.
How To Reduce Background Noise On AirPods’ Microphone
Now we know what causes the problem and that noise-canceling technology will not resolve it. But what can you do to fix it?
The only solution at the moment is called Voice Isolation.
What Is Voice Isolation?
Voice isolation is a technology supported in new Apple devices running iOS 15 or later. It’s a system that uses artificial intelligence algorithms to analyze audio from the microphone. The algorithm determines the frequencies of the primary speaker’s voice, isolates those frequencies, then removes all the other noise from the audio before transmitting it.
For example, if you’re on a phone call with a lot of ambient noise around you, your iPhone will pick up the audio from your AirPods’ microphone and analyze it. Your voice will be separated from the background noise, which will be removed from the audio, after which only your voice will be sent to the person on the other end.
What Do I Need To Use Voice Isolation?
Voice Isolation is a reasonably new technology, so its requirements are still relatively high. You need at least the following:
- iPhone SE 2nd Generation or later, OR
- iPhone XR, XS, XS Max, or later
Required Operating Systems:
- iOS 15 or later
Required AirPods Models:
- AirPods 3rd Generation OR
- Any model of AirPods Pro OR
- And model of AirPods Max
Note that Voice Isolation also works without AirPods; you can also use it with your iPhone’s built-in microphone.
Required Type Of Call:
This last call is vitally important. At present, Voice Isolation does not work on standard phone calls. You need to use some kind of mobile data or WiFi-based calling services like FaceTime or WhatsApp call to use Voice Isolation. It works on audio calls and video calls.
How To Enable Voice Isolation On An iPhone
Follow these steps to enable Voice Isolation during a FaceTime or WhatsApp call on your iPhone:
- Start the call in the app of your choice.
- Open the Control Center by dragging your finger down from the right-hand top corner of your screen.
- Select the option called “Mic Mode”.
- Tap on the “Voice Isolation” option to select it.
Are There Any Downsides To Voice Isolation?
Voice Isolation is a relatively new technology, so there are bound to be some disadvantages and problems, though there are relatively few. The main issues are:
- As already mentioned, Voice Isolation does not work on regular phone calls. You must use internet calling services like FaceTime or WhatsApp calls to use it.
- There might be a slight delay in the call due to the AI algorithms filtering out the background noise. However, this is usually hard to notice since internet calls tend to have a slight delay at the best of times.
- The technology isn’t perfect, but it’s close. Sometimes your voice may sound slightly hollow coming out the other end, and some minor traces of the background noise might remain, but these problems are usually so slight that they won’t cause any difficulty hearing.
Voice Isolation is an effective way to keep your AirPods’ microphones from picking up background noise and making your voice indiscernible during a phone call. It only works on some devices and newer versions of iOS, and you can’t use it during regular phone calls. However, Voice Isolation is a noteworthy feature that can improve the clarity of voice during phone calls and will likely be refined further in the future.