Nobody can argue that AirPods are some of the best wireless earphones and headphones on the market, and even their microphones are exquisite for general use. But they are not without their flaws. For example, a question that I’m often asked is, do AirPods block the wind?
Wind noise can affect AirPods’ microphones and speakers. All models of AirPods try to block wind on their microphones, but because wind noise varies so much, it can also adversely affect your voice on the call. You can also hear some wind noise on AirPods, depending on the model and the intensity of the wind.
Wind-blocking technology is far from perfect, but it is progressing steadily. Currently, as much as Apple tries to block wind noise entirely, there are no guarantees. Let’s look at the different aspects of wind noise and how effectively AirPods can block it.
Do AirPods’ Microphones Block Wind? (So That You Can Be Clearly Heard on Call)
Most of us have heard how terrible it sounds when you’re calling someone who’s on the beach on a windy day or caught in a storm; it’s almost impossible to hear them. That’s why all models of AirPods have some form of wind-blocking technology on their microphones. It helps others hear you more clearly when you’re on a call or recording a voice message.
Different types of AirPods use various wind-blocking technologies.
The standard AirPods (all generations) use passive methods to try and control wind noise. These include noise filters and vents located strategically around the earphones to let the wind pass without affecting the microphone too much.
Such passive methods are effective in their way. It’s similar to the “deadcat” methods that journalists and newscasters use when they’re outdoors in windy conditions, which are essentially furry pieces of cloth they place over the microphone. These “deadcats” are great at blocking wind.
Unfortunately, since the AirPods are so tiny, getting furry pieces of cloth to cover their microphones is impossible. So, Apple tries to use similar methods, but they aren’t always perfect. Especially in rough, windy conditions, your AirPods’ microphones will still pick up a lot of wind noise, especially if you face the wind in the wrong position.
Active Wind-Blocking Methods
On Apple’s more premium AirPods models, the AirPods Pro (all generations) and AirPods Max, the company utilizes an active wind-blocking method combined with the same passive methods used on the entry-level models.
Active wind-blocking is part of the overall noise reduction technology that the AirPods Pro have built-in. This shouldn’t be confused with Active Noise Cancelling (ANC), which helps you hear music more clearly by reducing background noise interference through a different mechanism, although both technologies use the signal from the microphone.
Active Noise Cancelling (ANC) works by using the microphones to detect external noise and then generating an opposite sound wave to cancel out the unwanted noise. On the other hand, noise reduction technology, like active wind-blocking, focuses on filtering out specific sounds, such as wind, to improve voice transmission during calls.
Outward-facing microphones detect external noise, including wind, and then attempt to filter those sounds out, ensuring that only your voice is transmitted over the phone.
It’s pretty effective, but with a few caveats, namely:
- The wind isn’t as predictable as constant low-level background noise, so filtering it out isn’t as easy. Wind noise comes in sudden bursts and at different pitches, so some of the wind noise can still pass through unfiltered.
- Some of the pitches and frequencies of wind noise match some of the levels of the human voice. When the AirPods block the wind noise, they can also filter some parts of your voice. The result is that your voice may sound hollow or flat with rapid changes in volume and intensity.
People who often use this feature will know that it’s a little better than having wind noise if it’s better at all. Some users have even found that they get better sound from their iPhone’s built-in microphone than from their AirPods Pro in windy conditions.
Will I Hear Wind Noise Using AirPods?
The other side of AirPods and wind noise concerns whether you can hear the wind over the audio you’re listening to.
Regular AirPods (all generations) have passive noise-canceling technology. The AirPods Pro and AirPods Max also have these features, but they have active noise canceling too.
The noise-canceling solutions on AirPods are pretty effective. They can block out most background noise. Even with passive noise canceling, only the most prominent background noises will make it through to your inner ears. That includes blocking out some of the wind, especially with active noise canceling.
But AirPods aren’t close to perfect at blocking out wind noise, and there are three reasons for this:
- Your AirPods may not create a perfect seal in your ears. If there’s even a little bit of a gap for the wind to pass through into your ears, and if there’s a lot of wind at just the wrong angle, you will hear plenty of wind noise. It might be even worse because your ears are slightly sealed, so the noise will reflect into your ear canal instead of going out.
- The varying levels of wind noise may cause problems with active noise canceling. As mentioned about the active noise blocking on your AirPods’ microphones, the same applies to active noise canceling. The range of pitches and frequencies, and the rapid pace at which they can change, can make it difficult for the AirPods’ ANC to cancel out.
- The Stethoscope effect. This is the noise you hear when you wear older wired earbuds or headphones and bump or brush against them. The stethoscope effect didn’t die out with the emergence of wireless earphones, but they became less of a problem since you don’t have wires to bump against. You can still hear the noise when you bump or brush against the earphones.
The wind can cause slight movements in your AirPods, creating the same scratching and bumping noise we’ve come to associate with the wind.
How To Block The Wind More Effectively With AirPods
Though there isn’t much you can do to block the wind entirely except wait for Apple to invent some incredible new technology, there is one thing you can try to improve it.
Most of the problems we’ve mentioned, especially when talking about earphones, are caused by the fact that your AirPods might not create a tight fit or seal in your ears. So, you should do what you can to get that seal tighter. This includes:
- Press your AirPods more firmly into your ears. If possible, try to get them in as deep as you safely can.
- If possible, try different ear tips. The AirPods Pro uses replaceable ear tips. If your current ear tips aren’t sealing your ears properly, they can let wind noise through and cause wind movement.
Try to replace the ear tips with something that fits your ears better. Try different options until you find one that works for you, but many cyclists have achieved excellent results using Comply Foam ear tips that shape and adapt themselves to your inner ears to create a perfect seal.
Apple is constantly working on improving different aspects of its AirPods, and one of those aspects is blocking wind noise. The current measures are reasonable but far from perfect. Many users claim never to have any wind-related issues, but others can’t use AirPods because the noise is so bad. We can only hope that technology improves enough to remove this factor entirely.