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What is Adaptive EQ and how does it affect audio quality?

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Apple markets its AirPods Pro and AirPods Max in-ear and on-ear headphones with a feature called “Adaptive EQ,” but what exactly does this mean? How does it affect the audio quality and can you turn it off?

Adaptive EQ is a marketing term

Apple applies the marketing term “Adaptive EQ” to its wireless headphones premium noise canceling . The company hasn’t said exactly what’s going on, but it has revealed that the technology does indeed tailor the sound coming out of the AirPods to the shape of your ear.

The AirPods Pro and AirPods Max have in-ear microphones that perform this task. These microphones mainly help the implementation of active noise cancellation (ANC) of the company, but they also adjust the way the sound is “dispersed” within your ear.

Promotional art for AirPods Pro Adaptive EQ
Apple

Inside of their Ears can be very different from someone else’s. The shape, size, presence or lack of hair and even the accumulation of wax in the ears can affect the way sound reaches our eardrum. Adaptive EQ is designed to produce a more consistent listening experience.

Apple claims that it uses Adaptive EQ to “adjust the frequencies of your music to deliver a rich and consistent experience that faithfully reproduces every note” and does not offer an option to disable the feature.

Which AirPods are compatible with Adaptive EQ?

Only the premium AirPods Pro and AirPods Max offer adaptive EQ, and the feature is missing from entry-level AirPods. But this isn’t the first time we’ve seen Apple try to adapt music playback to the immediate environment.

The black AirPods Max and iPhone are resting against a table top.
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The original HomePod uses a similar technique to analyze room acoustics and adjust its output to produce the “best” results. Like Adaptive EQ, Apple never reveals its secrets about what happens behind the scenes, but one patent which appeared shortly after the HomePod announcement in 2017 describes a similar technique on a room scale.

Can you turn off the adaptive equalizer?

Adaptive EQ seems to be running all the time, with no menu options to disable it on iOS. Some users of AirPods They have speculated that the feature is only enabled while ANC or transparency mode is enabled.

Our tests on a pair of AirPods Pro demonstrate a slight difference in sound when turning ANC on or off, but whether this is due to Adaptive EQ being enabled or disabled, or simply to the effect of disabling ANC, we cannot say. .

Choose the best wireless headphones for your budget

The AirPods Pro are wireless earbuds with great sound, but you don’t need to spend that much to get active noise cancellation or even Transparency mode. See our summary of the best wireless in-ear headphones for iPhone and iPad users to know our main recommendations.

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