Apple’s AirPods Pro may be a big hit, but a growing number of owners of the high-end earbuds with noise cancellation are reporting a strange, rattly static that occurs mostly when the user is talking.
I can attest that it’s a maddening problem because it happened to me. Fortunately, Apple appears to be replacing individual AirPod Pro earpieces that develop this issue.
But on top of this, I wound up with another dilemma that prevented me from pairing the replacement earbud with the remaining original, a problem I ultimately solved by putting the defective earbud in a microwave oven.
My pain began a couple of weeks ago, when I noticed a static-like rattle in the left earpiece of my Apple AirPods Pro. It sounded almost like a physical problem, as though a part had come loose and was rattling around inside, but it only happened when I spoke or moved around. In fact, it sounded like a blown speaker, but it wasn’t present when I sat still and listened to music.
Over time, it got worse. What started as a minor annoyance grew to make the AirPods Pro unusable, and that was not good – they’re the primary way I listen to interview subjects when talking on the phone or via Zoom calls, so I can type at the same time.
The static happened regardless of whether I was using the noise cancellation or transparency modes. The former blocks out most external noise, the latter passes outside sounds in through the mics.
After doing some research, I found that a lot of other people have this issue, and that there was a workaround of sorts: Turning off both noise cancellation and transparency made the static go away. That indicated that it was indeed a software problem, rather than a physical one.
The problem is common enough that there’s a support page for it titled “If your AirPods Pro make crackling or static sounds.” It doesn’t offer much hope, with only two suggestions: Make sure wireless or physical interference isn’t present, and check to see if a specific app is causing it. If those don’t work, contact Apple support.
Which is what I did. Via chat, a technician had me do all the things I’d already tried, including unpairing the AirPods Pro from my iPhone and re-pairing. Nothing worked, so she offered to send me a replacement. I was pleased that she came to this conclusion fairly quickly, and in looking online, I saw that this was the ultimate fix.
When the replacement arrived a few days later, I eagerly opened it and tried to get it to pair, based on instructions on Apple’s support site. But each time, the replacement left earpiece would not join hands and play with the right one. It looked like it was pairing in the animation displayed on the iPhone, but then the cute pictures of the earbuds and their case would flicker and flash. I’d tap the Done button, and the process would start over again. I was stuck in a loop.
I hopped back onto another chat session with Apple support, this one much less productive, a lot more frustrating and lasting a lot longer – I spent almost an hour, but nothing worked. I asked for and was promised an entire new set of AirPod Pros. I got off the chat and started to pack up the old, defective left earbud to send it back and …
I could hear music playing from it! I was still paired to the other one and to my iPhone, which explains why the new one would not pair. I tried moving the earbud to another room, but we live in a smallish condo, and I couldn’t get it far enough away to break the connection.
That’s when I hit upon the idea to put the defective earpiece in the microwave. Those oven cabinets are designed keep microwaves – which are radio waves – from escaping. I figured if the left earbud was in the oven, it couldn’t communicate with the remaining earbud and the case. (Obviously, I did NOT turn the oven on – that would have been a different kind of fix!)
Indeed, the replacement left earpiece paired and the AirPods Pro worked as they should. I contacted Apple again, this time via phone, and asked the technician to cancel the full replacement. Done!
Everything’s working as it should now. But I’m keeping a wary ear out for static in the right earbud. Those Apple discussion forums also have posts in which users say the other earbud eventually starts doing the same thing.
It sounds like AirPods Pro may have a serious issue which hopefully can be solved by a future software update. If not, a recall may be in order.
Dwight Silverman is the technology editor for the Houston Chronicle. He manages the TechBurger website, writes about personal technology for HoustonChronicle.com and the print edition. He also writes a weekly tech column, also called TechBurger, and a weekly newsletter, Release Notes.
He has been with the Houston Chronicle since 1990 and has worked as an assistant state editor, business reporter, technology columnist, interactive journalism editor, social media manager and manager of the subscriber website. He moved to the website staff in 2000 and was responsible for helping bring blogging and social media to chron.com.
He’s also worked at the San Antonio Current, the San Antonio Light and the Beaumont Enterprise.
Silverman is a regular panelist on This Week in Tech, the popular tech news podocast at twit.tv, and is a former co-host of Technology Bytes, a weekly computer call-in show on KPFT-FM.
He is the author of several computer books, including “Running Windows on Your Mac” (Peachpit) and “Switching to a Mac: No Problem” (Wiley & Sons).
Silverman has taught journalism classes at the University of Houston, including a course on social media and news.
Apple, AirPods, Amazon Prime, Amazon.com, MacBook
World news – GB – Do your AirPods Pro have a crackling static when you talk? You’re not alone