AirPods are arguably the world’s most popular earphones. Let’s face it, when asked to picture a set of wireless earphones, most folks will visualize a pair of Apple AirPods.
Aside from the ability to produce audio, the AirPods also can capture or listen to audio via microphones. This is more important than you might think when it comes to making these earphones as good as they are.
You see, the microphone system (which consists of four mics in total) is responsible for capturing your voice during phone calls. But, it is also responsible for the active noise cancellation (ANC), which is one of the aspects of the AirPods that receive the most praise from users and critics alike.
Yes, I know…
It’s embarrassing owning a pair of AirPods for so long and not having a clue that there are four mics in there. I had no idea, and if you were to ask me to make a guess on how many there were, I would have gone for one or two.
Luckily, this revelation inspired me to start digging into my Apple AirPods microphone system. And in this short guide, I’ll be sharing what I’ve unearthed, starting with “Where is the microphone on AirPods?” So, without further delay, let’s dig in.
Where are the Microphones?
If you hold an AirPod in your hand and look at it, you should be able to locate the two microphones, although they are very discreetly designed. The first microphone is located at the bottom of the stem of the AirPod. The second microphone is located on the backside of the main bud.
The main bud refers to the part of the earphone that goes into your ear. Whereas the stem is the part that is still outside your ear even when you’re wearing the AirPods.
The presence of the microphone is only indicated by a small hole. The microphone at the bottom of the stem (sometimes referred to as the inward-facing mic) is probably the easiest to spot. Look closely, and you’ll see a small hole that is probably not even big enough for the head of a pin.
The other small hole is located on the backside of the main bud on the outward-facing part of it when the earphone is in your ear. The small hole is right where the stem and the main bud come together and is where the second (or outward-facing) microphone is located.
Why Place the Mics in Those Spots?
The location of microphones on AirPods comes down to a strategic decision. As well as the number of microphones.
The engineers at Apple realized that two microphones working together are much more efficient at capturing audio. But also blocking out unwanted background noise while at the same time enhancing the speaker’s voice.
So, how do the microphones work on AirPods? Essentially, the mic system on Apple AirPods has three main modes of operation.
ANC or Active Noise Cancellation Mode
This is when you have the two microphones working together to simultaneously pick up the sound of your voice, and listen to the surrounding environment to identify unwanted frequencies and block them out.
This mode is great for phone calls or voice recording. It focuses on your voice and removes anything else as best it can.
This is when the microphones work together to capture your voice, but also listen to the environment and let some of it into the mix, depending on the preference you set.
This mode is useful for situations where you’d like to have music or a podcast in your ears but still want to be aware enough of your environment to interact with it, such as when riding a bike in traffic or waiting for a train or an airplane.
The final mode is when the transparency and ANC functions are turned off.
Are AirPods microphones external or internal?
There is one more little detail that will help us answer, “Where is the microphone on AirPods?” The microphones on the Apple AirPods are all internal or built-in. Therefore, finding the mics on AirPods involves searching for some very tiny holes.
How To Test My AirPods Microphones
If you’re curious about your microphones or wish to test that they are working properly, you can go about it in several different ways.
The first and probably the easiest way to test AirPod microphones is by using the Voice Memos app. This app is preinstalled on all iPhones and iPads and can be found by simply searching in your applications.
The app allows you to record audio using the built-in microphones or the microphones on any connected Bluetooth device, including your Apple AirPods.
To record using your AirPods…
Simply connect them to your device and open the application. Press the red button to begin recording, and then press the stop button when you’re done. You can then listen to the playback to hear how your voice sounds. This will give you an indication as to how well the mics are functioning.
The next way to test the AirPods microphone system is to make a phone call. Simply connect your AirPods to your phone or tablet and then call someone that you know.
Ask them to describe the quality of your voice to you. This should give you a good idea as to whether the microphones are working correctly or not. If the person describes your voice as very soft, make sure that the volume isn’t turned down.
Get some help from Siri…
The third and final easy way to test if your AirPods mics are working properly is to use Siri. You can ask Siri to perform any number of tasks for you, and doing this is a great way to test how well the mic system is functioning.
Simply connect your AirPods, activate Siri on your device, and then ask her to perform a task like “Hey Siri, please Call Jonathan.” or “Hey Siri, please google Superman.” If Siri can perform the task easily and quickly, then you know your mic system is working well.
Cleaning and Maintenance on AirPods Microphones
You should be able to answer the question, “Where is the microphone on AirPods?” But maybe you tested your mics and found the results to be less than pleasing. Don’t worry; this doesn’t necessarily mean that the mic system on your AirPods is damaged or faulty.
The first thing you should consider is that the mic opening might be blocked by wax, sweat, fibers, or just some microscopic dust. Let’s start by giving them proper cleaning and then go from there:
- When wiping down AirPods and the charging case, make sure you use a soft, Lint Free Cloth.
- The mesh covering the microphones can be cleaned using a Cotton Swab. You can also add some 70% Isopropyl Alcohol to the tip if need be.
- Never use water or any other kind of lubricant to clean the AirPods in any way.
- Should you discover anything like dirt, grime, or dust blocking the microphone openings, you can clean them using a soft, dry bristled brush. Vanity brushes used in salons, such as this Silicone Face Mask Brush, work fantastically well for this. Also, the small brushes that sometimes come with shaving kits, or get a very affordable pack of ten Cleaning Brushes that can be used for a variety of electronics.
- Never try to use anything sharp or abrasive to clean the openings of the microphones.
- You can also try gently blowing to get the dust out of the microphone openings. If you’ve got a small Compressed Air Duster, that will work as well.
- If the AirPods get wet for any reason, you need to dry them as quickly as possible. And, you need to avoid using them for at least 12 to 24 hours. Take the AirPods out of the charging case when you dry them.
AirPods Have a Muffled Sound/What To Do
If you find that your AirPods are producing a muffled or weak sound, you can try some of the following troubleshooting tips.
Go to the settings page on your source device (iPhone or iPad), and check for your pair of AirPods. Make sure you haven’t muted or changed them to Mono Mode (the mode for using only one AirPod at a time).
The second consideration is a physical obstruction over the microphone mesh or opening. Check the AirPods closely to make sure nothing is covering the openings. If you do find something, remember to use a dry cotton swab or a soft-bristled brush.
Reset your AirPods…
When you have finished doing this, you should try resetting your AirPods just to be sure the problem is not software or settings-related. Here’s how:
- Start by ensuring the AirPods are disconnected from the phone.
- Press and hold the setup button on the back of the case for at least fifteen seconds. You will notice the lights flashing white after flashing amber a few times. That’s how you know the process was finished successfully.
- Turn the Bluetooth on your source device back on and then open the lid of the charging case. Make sure the two devices are within two feet of each other.
- Pair the AirPods to the source device by approving the pairing on the Pop-up.
- After the AirPods have been connected, do a test to see if the problem has been fixed.
If, after trying the above fixes, you’re still experiencing problems with your microphone, you may need to consider that the microphone is damaged or faulty in some way. In these cases, the best option is to contact Apple support and arrange for a repair.
AirPods Microphones Not Working on Calls
Some users have reported the microphones working fine when they make recordings or talk to Siri. But, when they make phone calls, the microphones don’t seem to work at all. Here are some tips and tricks to try.
The first test you should try is using the AirPods with a different sound source. Give your favorite tune or podcast a listen; if the audio sounds okay, you’ve already helped isolate the issue.
The next step is a physical check…
There have been cases of AirPods being chewed by dogs, getting stepped on, or falling from great heights. If there is any physical damage to the AirPods, this will explain why the microphone isn’t working the way it ought to.
In cases of damaged or faulty AirPods, you should be able to repair them with no problem if they are still under warranty. This is what I would recommend in these situations.
Also, as I mentioned earlier, try the DIY methods for fixing AirPods microphones. Those include cleaning the microphone mesh and resetting the AirPods.
One last thing to consider…
This one might seem a bit strange, but take a moment to check that your software is up-to-date. This has been found to cause problems with the microphone in the past.
To check for an update, open the settings tab on your source device, then go to Bluetooth settings and select your AirPods. From there, you should be able to check for any available updates. And, if there are any, install them.
While the above-mentioned fixes are by no means able to solve every single problem you could potentially have with a pair of AirPods, they will solve most.
Want More Information About AirPods?
We can help with that. Take a look at our detailed articles on Can I Use Two Different AirPods, Should AirPods Have The Same Serial Number, How to Know if Your AirPods Are Fake, and AirPods Connected But No Sound for more important information.
Also, check out our comprehensive articles on Can Reset AirPods Be Tracked, Do AirPods Work Well on Android Devices, Simple Tips to Keep AirPods From Falling Out, and How to Clean Your AirPods Pro for more useful tips and advice for AirPods.
And, don’t miss our in-depth reviews of the Best iPhone Earbuds, the Best AirPods Alternative, the Best Apple AirPods Pro Alternatives, the Best True Wireless Earbuds, the Most Comfortable Earbuds, and the Best Sound Quality Earbuds you can buy in 2023.
Where is the Microphone on Airpods? – Conclusion
When they’re working the way they ought to, you will struggle to find a microphone system that can compete with the Apple AirPods. They are well-designed, very compact, and intuitive. That being said, it doesn’t mean that they can have issues every now and again.
But, if you make sure to keep them clean, up-to-date, and well-looked after, you shouldn’t have a problem with the mics. Always remember to check for updates and replace them if they are still under warranty rather than trying a DIY job of your own.
Until next time, happy listening.