What Is Adaptive EQ?

What does adaptive EQ in AirPods mean?

When buying new earphones or headphones, you may have come across the term Adaptive EQ. Attached to the Apple AirPods 3rd generation, AirPods Pro, and AirPods Max, it's one of the most prominent features for such earphones, but what does it mean? We break it down for you. 

What Is Adaptive EQ?

Adaptive EQ is a feature Apple includes on many of its in-ear and over-ear headphones. It's also in some Beats headphones (a brand Apple also owns). Effectively, it's a marketing term to explain the system used to create equalized sound tailored to the shape of your ear, providing you with a personalized listening experience. Apple describes it as "[adjusting] the frequencies of your music to deliver a rich, consistent experience that faithfully reproduces every note."

The Apple AirPods Pro and AirPods Max include microphones that sit just inside the ear, which help create the effect. The microphones adjust how sound is transmitted inside your ear, appreciating that everyone's ears are shaped differently and adjusting accordingly for that unique shape. The idea is it will enhance audio quality due to being such a personal experience.

Some sources suggest Adaptive EQ works similarly to advanced ANC headphones. If so, it would track surrounding noises and make accommodations so that music continues to sound as good no matter what's happening within someone's ear. However, Apple has never confirmed this.

Do AirPods Have Adaptive EQ?

The latest AirPods—the Apple AirPods 3rd Generation–includes Adaptive EQ, but older AirPods do not. Apple AirPods Pro and Apple AirPods Max both offer the feature as they are considered the premium range of earphones and headphones from Apple.

What Is Adaptive EQ in AirPods?

Adaptive EQ is exclusive to Apple AirPods and Apple-owned headphones. While other headphones and earphones may offer similar features with the likes of the Sony WF-1000XM4 offering an ear shape analysis tool within its app, only Apple AirPods offer it as standard and in a way that requires no setup by the user. It works automatically rather than requiring a separate tool or app to use. 

While Apple hasn't explained how it works, there are suggestions its H1 chip is responsible for the feature. Spatial Audio with head tracking, Siri support, and one-touch iOS pairing also play a part, which would explain why other devices such as Beats Fit Pro also have the feature. 

You can't switch off the feature as there are no settings available. It simply works in the background, which is helpful but somewhat restrictive if you want more control. 

Which AirPods Support Adaptive EQ?

Currently, three types of AirPods support Adaptive EQ. These include the Apple AirPods 3rd Generation, Apple AirPods Pro, and the over-ear headphones, the Apple AirPods Max. 

Earlier versions of the Apple AirPods do not offer Adaptive EQ–only the latest type of AirPods. 

  • How do I make my AirPods louder?

    To make your AirPods louder, turn off Low Power mode and fully charge your Airpods. Then, turn off equalizer settings and check the Volume Limit controls.

  • How do I increase the bass on my AirPods?

    On your iPhone, go to the Music settings > Playback. Make sure EQ is enabled, then tap Bass Booster.

  • How do AirPods Pro work?

    In addition to Adaptive EQ, new features for the AirPods Pro include Active Noise Cancellation, adjustable ear tips, and Spatial Audio technology. The physical design is different, but they otherwise work the same as original AirPods.

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