What Is the Bluetooth Range for AirPods? (All the versions)


AirPods by a smartphone

Wired earphones have wires that get tangled easily. The tangled wires don’t just waste time, but also damage the copper inside them. This leads to reduced durability and sound quality until one of the earpieces stops working. That’s why true wireless earphones are on the rise and AirPods sit at the top of the sales food chain making more revenue than Adobe and Spotify combined. However, switching to AirPods, some may have concerns about the range.  

AirPods have a decent range of around 60 feet or 18 meters and won’t give you any problems with audio quality within that range. However, depending on the version of AirPods you own and other factors, the range may vary and bring issues with signal strength and quality.

What is the range of AirPods? 

AirPods are a stellar deal for their price and that’s why Apple can’t sell enough of them. Apart from iPhones, Macs, and other devices in the Apple ecosystem, they are also compatible with Android and Windows-powered systems. While the optimal range is around 60 feet, you may have found that you don’t get the same range with all the devices and different versions of AirPods. 

What is the range of AirPods (1st Generation)

The 1st generation Airpods released in 2017, have quite a few things setting it apart from its brethren. Apart from the build quality and design, the key difference lies in the embedded Apple Silicon inside the earpieces. 

The 1st generation AirPods come with an Apple W1 chip. The chip manages the connection between two devices, processes audio signals, and can work with other sensors. This chip also uses Bluetooth version 4.2 and hence has all the drawbacks of that standard. Apart from consuming more power than the latest Bluetooth 5.0 standard, it also has a shorter range. 

That’s why the 1st generation AirPods have a direct line of sight range of 60 meters, while typical indoor use may not give you more than 10 meters of range. Apart from that, Bluetooth 4.2 also makes the 1st generation AirPods less secure than the latest versions and the only way to talk to Siri is by double-tapping the AirPods. 

What is the range of AirPods (2nd Generation)

Unlike the 1st generation AirPods, the 2nd generation released in 2019 comes with virtually no difference apart from the new and improved H1 chip. 

The H1 chip is a highly optimized chip that was developed specifically for Apple headphones and earphones. It has Bluetooth 5.0 and brings all the benefits that come with that standard. That means even if the Airpods on both generations share the same battery capacity, the low energy Bluetooth 5.0 would give it more battery life. Apart from that, you’ll also get a far better range compared to the W1 chip. 

Due to Bluetooth 5.0, you can expect a range of 40 meters during indoor use with the 2nd generation Airpods and a more reliable connection with fewer signal drops. 

What is the range of Airpods Pro and Airpods Max? 

AirPods Max

The AirPods both share the same design. However, the AirPods Pro has a better design with comfy ear tips and a smaller footprint. The AirPods Max on the other hand is in a league of its own since it’s a headphone that is designed to compete with audiophile-grade noise-canceling headphones at that price segment in the market. 

However, when it comes to range neither of them can take a win against the 2nd generation AirPods. All these devices are powered by the H1 chip and hence have the same Bluetooth modem. You get 40 meters of range in indoor conditions while the direct line of sight range can reach up to 240 meters. 

How does range affect audio quality on the AirPods? 

Bluetooth devices usually switch audio codecs in favor of a lower resolution when you reach the range limit. The bandwidth on Bluetooth is limited. For Bluetooth 4.2, the maximum bandwidth is 1 MBPS while it reaches 2 MBPS for Bluetooth 5.0. However, when you reach the range limit, Bluetooth devices switch to an audio codec that uses lower bandwidth in favor of the signal strength. 

All the AirPods support two Advanced Audio Distribution Profile (A2DP) audio codecs. Since Bluetooth version 1.3 SBC (Sub-Band Coding) developed by Philips is the default Bluetooth audio codec supported by all Bluetooth earphones and headphones including AirPods. Apart from that, AirPods also support AAC (Advanced Audio Coding) developed together by Nokia, Bell Labs, Sony, and a few other partners. 

When you are close to a connected device with your AirPods, they play audio with the higher resolution AAC. However, when there is physical obstruction interference from other electronic devices or you hit the range limit, the AirPods will automatically switch to SBC to preserve the signal strength at the expense of audio quality. However, Apple’s implementation of both the codecs is done well enough. It’s so good that regular users may not note any difference. 

How does the range of AirPods compare with other wireless earbuds and headphones?

You may find significant differences in terms of build quality, sound signature, user-friendliness, and durability when compared to wireless Bluetooth headphones and earbuds from other manufacturers. However, the range is mostly governed by the Bluetooth version and the quality of the Bluetooth modem used in the device. 

So, if you use the latest Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 or the Bose Quiet Comfort Earbuds, there may not be any significant difference in range with the 2nd generation AirPods, AirPods Pro, and AirPods Max. All of them use Bluetooth 5.0 that grants a range of 40 meters or something very close to that figure within your home. 

Conclusion

Since the 1st generation, AirPods are out of production and only available in the used devices market, you don’t have to worry about the range if you’re in the Apple ecosystem. Whether you buy the 2nd generation AirPods, AirPods Pro, or AirPods Max, all of them would have relatively the same range.

Rune Bearson

As you can see, I love my headphones! I use them every day when commuting, watching YouTube videos, playing guitar/piano and doing chores. I'm a podcast addict and I like all kinds of music from metal to chillout ambient.

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