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Do iPhones Enhance AirPods Audio Quality? A Comprehensive Analysis

Many people wonder if AirPods sound better on an iPhone than on other devices. It’s a fair question since Apple has been known to make some of their devices work better with other Apple hardware than competitor models (though they aren’t the only company to do so). So, is that the truth? Do AirPods sound better on an iPhone?

AirPods shouldn’t sound better on an iPhone than on other devices because Apple made them perfectly compatible in terms of sound quality. But there are several external factors that could affect the sound quality on non-iPhone devices. Some devices are worse, while others may sound slightly better.

Sound isn’t a simple concept. So many factors influence the quality of sound you get from AirPods that just one setting can create an entirely different learning experience. Let’s look at some of those aspects to see why your AirPods may or may not sound better on an iPhone.

Do AirPods Sound Better On iPhone?

Do AirPods Sound Better On iPhone Than Android?

For the most part, your AirPods should sound identical, regardless of whether you use them on an iPhone or Android. But there are two factors that could make your AirPods sound worse on Android:

Bluetooth Support

This is not tied directly to Android, but if your Android device does not support the same Bluetooth standard as the AirPods, they will probably not connect. If they do, your sound quality will be poor.

Codec Support

Because Bluetooth requires your sound to be compressed, audio devices like iPhones and Android phones use codecs to compress and decompress the audio data to be transferred. The headphones and devices must support the same codec standards to work correctly.

Apple uses the AAC codec, which is Apple’s proprietary high-quality audio compression codec. All AirPods models support the AAC codec by default, but they don’t support other codecs.

Meanwhile, most Android devices (and most other Bluetooth audio devices) use the aptX codec by default, which AirPods don’t support.

The result is that you might hear no sound at all, or it will be scratchy or have a very low volume.

The solution is to change your Android device’s audio settings. Most Android phones support the AAC codec natively, but it may not be enabled. So you can go into your phone or app’s sound settings and manually enable the AAC codec. Note that some Android phones automatically turn this on when you pair AirPods. Then your sound should be basically the same as on an iPhone.

Do AirPods Sound Better On iPhone Than Mac?

Few people would be surprised that AirPods work just as well with a Mac as with an iPhone. They’re both Apple devices, after all.

In theory, AirPods should sound the same or slightly better on a Mac than on an iPhone. There are a few reasons why they might sound better:

  1. Laptop and desktop computers aren’t as power-optimized as smartphones since they generally only have to run for a few hours between charges, while the aim is for a smartphone to run for at least a day. This means that full computers can give their Bluetooth transmitters more power, which could lead to improved speed and clarity.
  2. Smartphones tend to limit the audio quality unless you adjust it manually. Apple Music and Spotify both support lossless audio on phones, but you must enable them manually. Computers often don’t limit the sound quality at all because they tend to have higher capacity, usually play through built-in speakers, and aren’t often used to listen to music on the go.
  3. It’s also possible that your computer might have better sound hardware than your iPhone. For example, the Pro range of Macs all have high-end audio processing hardware far superior to those found in iPhones.

However, there’s also the possibility that the AirPods might sound worse on a Mac. This would mainly be for two reasons:

  1. The Mac is older and has a more dated Bluetooth version than your iPhone.
  2. Apple Music on the Mac doesn’t always have the best default equalizer settings. If you open Apple Music for Mac and go to the Window menu, then click on Equalizer, you can adjust the sound quality to any format you prefer.

Why Do AirPods Sound Better On iPhone?

In the simplest terms, AirPods tend to sound better on iPhones because the devices were made to work together. The codecs and Bluetooth versions correspond, so none of the factors that affect sound quality on Android devices apply here.

Bluetooth Support

AirPods require at least Bluetooth 4.0 or higher, while newer models require version 5.0. All iPhones from the iPhone 5S can connect to AirPods (though some models need newer iPhones). So, if you have matching iPhone and AirPods models, they will work optimally without any issues.

Codec Support

iPhones natively use Apple’s AAC codec. It’s the default for Apple Music and any other audio service you use on your iPhone, so you won’t have to reconfigure your audio codecs manually.

However, note that you may still want to configure your equalizer settings on the iPhone to get the sound exactly how you want it.

Do AirPods Sound Better On Newer iPhones?

Newer iPhones can definitely offer better sound quality over AirPods because:

  • The audio hardware is more modern and can process the audio in a better way.
  • Newer iPhones can use updated codecs and software versions with improved sound quality.
  • Newer iPhones have more modern implementations of Bluetooth, which could also improve the sound quality and connection speed (if your model AirPods supports it).

For example, the iPhone 5S supports Bluetooth 4.0, so you can pair it with AirPods. However, you will likely notice a significant difference in sound quality compared to a newer iPhone, like an iPhone 13 or 14.

Do AirPods Sound Better With Apple Music?

The difference in quality when listening to Apple Music over AirPods doesn’t have much to do with the AirPods themselves but with Apple Music. There are three reasons why AirPods may sound better with Apple Music:

  1. The AAC codec, which is the default codec used by Apple Music, is widely considered one of the best lossy codecs on the market. It retains astounding audio quality compared to its competitors, like MP3 and Ogg Vorbis.
  2. Dolby Atmospheric Audio. Since Apple Music implemented Dolby Atmos, the listening experience over AirPods has improved drastically. Since Dolby Atmos is processed on the iPhone rather than in the AirPods, you can experience the improvement using any model of AirPods. However, the library of songs that support Dolby Atmos is still quite limited.
  3. Lossless audio. Apple Music supported fully lossless audio long before services such as Spotify did. However, the only AirPods model that somewhat supports lossless audio is the AirPods Max, and then only over a wired connection (and not even fully).

Having said that, listening to lossless audio on Apple Music with your AirPods Max connected through a wire delivers the best possible sound experience you can have with any AirPods.

Conclusion

AirPods should work just as well on any other device as they do on an iPhone, at least in terms of sound quality. If you find that the quality is worse, check the Bluetooth version and which codecs you’re using since you need at least Bluetooth 4.0 (preferably higher) and the AAC codec. You can also ensure that you listen to proper high-quality sound files to provide the best results.