I've been listening to and reading from a number of reviews about the Apple AirPods, and they all seem pretty similar. The things are very well made, and do exactly what they're supposed to do.

But there are three recurring problems:

  1. The first everyone admits is a problem: There aren't good controls. Siri isn't a good enough stand-in for the lost volume and skip buttons.
  2. It seems like many are trying to talk themselves out of the second problem's mattering: Battery life could be better. That dental floss case is neat, but it's a hack at best. I realize AirPods are insanely small. That's cool, but battery life still stinks.
  3. The third is that, though AirPods apparently fall out of your ear less than the old wired EarPods, they do fall out: And, often elided, when they do fall out, BAM, they're on the ground.

From joecieplinski.com:

I have dropped the buds a few times (one onto a subway platform, which was frightening, to say the least)...

Eeeeew. That's gross. You're putting it into your ear, man. ;^)

It seems there's a pretty obvious answer. From 9to5mac.com:

You’ll be happy to know that the Beats Solo 3 features on board controls for music playback, volume, and Siri invocation. The left ear cup features all of the needed controls, along with a microphone for sending commands to Siri.

Guess what else?

Then there’s the 40 hours of battery life, 3 hours of battery life from a 5 minute charge, and that glorious long range connectivity. Lastly, the on board music and volume controls, Siri controls, and the ability to use these headphones like normal wired headphones is a definite win.

About the only negatives I've heard about the Solo3 is that 1.) They're big, and 2.) They're too bassy.

I like 1.). Big is good. I usually carry a pair of Hesh 2's, which I know most think are pretty crappy, but they're a lot better than what I used to tote around. They're about the same size as the Solo3. I put them into my bag's handle when I'm using the shoulder strap and take off.

The second, that the Solo3 is too bassy, makes me suspicious folks are trying to be audiophiles. I mean, it depends on the music you want to listen to, of course, but I bet there are a fair number of folk who are listening to pretty bass-friendly tracks via "neutral" headphones, and suffering for it.

Oh yeah, and though the Solo3 is $300 from Apple, guess what? Amazon has 'em for $220. That's $60 more than AirPods, but we're getting close.

airpods with blurb about mics

In fact I bet the biggest reason why you should prefer AirPods is that the fancy mics are head and shoulders above the one on the Solo3. But I haven't heard that many laud the mic. Maybe we're not making that many calls with headphones in?

In any event, I ran down to the Apple Store and tried the Solo3. They were paired to an iPod touch, but it was easy enough to unpair and use the W1 to magically pair to my iPhone. (It really was as easy as advertised to pair them up.) I played some Black Crowes. Not too shabby.

Then I tried some Metric -- you know, serious techno-pop. HEL-lo. The bass sounded great. Seriously, it blows (not surprisingly) my [corded] Heshes' away. The sound reminded me of when I've got the stereo blasting pretty loudly at home, EQ towards the bassy bias I tend to prefer.

So you might not like that "sound signature", but if you do... these things are freaking incredible for electro-dance/pop/EBM music. Nice. So let's cut out the audiophile complaint. At worst, it's not a blanket complaint. These give some nice sound. As The Verge says:


Yes, they used all caps. Yes, when I'm programming, that's what I'm listening to.

I'll still give the Solo3s a ding for still being $60 more than the AirPods, even "IRL", and a similar price as some pretty well-made headphones, which these plastic-y beasts apparently aren't, but the only other serious flaw I see (other than wondering about mic quality) is this one, also from theverge.com:

If you’re keeping track at home, charging Apple’s range of new 2016 products requires: a Lightning connector for the iPhone 7, a USB-C plug for the MacBook Pro, and a MicroUSB cable for the Beats Solo 3s. Top marks to Apple for not making me miss the wired connection for conveying sound, but that should have carried over to a more unified setup with charging cables too.


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