AirPods are one of the best earbuds available for any listening need. You can use them for your favourite songs, a great podcast, or even for taking calls.
Several options are available, including a version that provides active noise cancellation.
One of the most common problems that AirPods users face involves sound muffling. This issue creeps up after several hundred hours of use for most people (if it happens at all), but it can also occur at any time.
If you started to experience this problem with your AirPods, there’s an excellent chance that a simple solution can resolve the issue.
Related: Are Airpods Pro Worth It?
How Can I Stop Muffled Sounds from My AirPods?
AirPods can develop a muffled sound quality for several reasons. You’ll need to look at the equipment to determine which of the following options can fix the problem.
1. Dirty Grilles
This issue is the most common reason why your AirPods might sound muffled. The wireless earbuds are meant to sit in your ear canal, interacting with wax and other potential debris.
As these materials accumulate on the product, they get into the grille. This process creates a barrier between your ears and the sound, making it harder to hear music, podcasts, and other broadcasts.
If you find dirty grilles on your AirPods, you can follow these steps to clean them.
- Apply rubbing alcohol to a cotton swab or pad. Don’t use cotton balls as they leave fibres behind more often.
- If you have the Pro version, remove the silicone ear tips. You can rinse them in water to clean them.
- Use the cotton swab or pad to clean the speaker mesh. You’ll see the rubbing alcohol loosening the debris and earwax buildup.
- If wax or dirt is in the mesh grid, carefully remove the item with a small toothpick or dental hook. Don’t go beyond that area with this tool, as you could inadvertently damage the electronics.
- Put more rubbing alcohol on a microfiber cloth, then wipe the AirPods clean with it.
You’ll want to give the AirPods time to dry before placing them in the charging case. If they are dirty, these steps should resolve the audio muffling problem.
Some AirPods users feel like one side is louder than the other. This issue could be due to one AirPod needing a good cleaning, but not the other.
2. Reset the Connections
If your AirPods are clean, you might need to reset them to stop the muffled sound problem. There can be times when the connections to Apple products are not ideal, leading to the audio issue.
When you reset the AirPods, it renews the connection to your iPad, iPhone, or another Apple device. Here are the steps to follow for this fix.
- Place the AirPods in their case and close the lid. Wait for 30 seconds.
- Open the lid, then go to the Bluetooth settings on your device.
- Tap on the “More Info” command next to your AirPods.
- Choose “Forget This Device” and confirm the request.
- You’ll find a setup button on the back of the AirPods case. Press and hold it until the light flashes to white. It takes about 15 seconds.
- Place the AirPods next to your device and follow the on-screen commands to reconnect them.
It usually takes one run-through to complete the reset. If you aren’t successful, try turning your device to “Airplane Mode” before following the reset steps to fix the audio issue.
Related: Fixes For Blinking Orange Light AirPods
3. Turn Off Dolby Atmos
You have the option to listen to songs with Dolby Atmos through Apple Music. If you have a first- or second-generation set of AirPods, they won’t support this feature. Listening to audio tracks with it included can cause the audio to seem muffled.
The only way to fix this problem is to turn the feature off or upgrade to a new set of AirPods. Here are the steps to follow to resolve this particular issue.
- Update your device to the latest version of iPadOS or iOS.
- Go to Settings, then tap on the Music icon.
- You’ll find the option for Dolby Atmos under the Audio menu choice.
- If you have a first- or second-generation set of AirPods, you’ll need to turn this feature off. You can set it to Automatic to let supported tracks play if you have Pro, Max, or third-generation AirPods.
- You can also turn Dolby Atmos to be “Always On” if you have compatible equipment.
4. Change the Audio Balance
One of the wireless earbuds can sometimes sound louder or offer more clarity than the other. You might not be able to hear a podcast or a preferred song with this issue, even if the volume is turned up all the way, but Siri will still interact with you.
The first step in this fix is to determine if one of your AirPods has stopped working correctly. You can do this by going into settings, choosing the Sounds and Haptics option, and selecting “Headphone Safety.”
You’ll see a slider under “Reduce Loud Sounds.” Adjust it to change the audio. If the volume still seems low on one side, shifting the balance from your mobile device might be necessary. Here’s how you can do that with your iPhone.
- Go to the iPhone settings icon and tap it.
- Next, tap on the Accessibility option.
- Tap on the Audio-Visual menu choice.
- Drag the slider so that it is at the centre.
Some Bluetooth® connections aren’t great, even when everything is functioning as expected. If your sounds are constantly muffled, try using an app that boosts the volume on both sides to enjoy your audio at the level you prefer.
5. Change Your Mac Settings
If you use a MacBook or an iMac with your AirPods, there could be an issue with your initial setup. There is also a known issue with iMac speakers and Bluetooth connections that sometimes needs a fix at the Genius Bar.
The AirPods need to be set up on the computer for them to work correctly. It helps to have them inside the case with at least 40% battery charge available before starting the pairing process. They must be powered on and connected to the case.
If the battery is low, the AirPods will not connect during the pairing process.
Some AirPods connections sound muffled when they have a low battery charge and are paired with a MacBook or an iMac. If you’ve followed the steps in this category and the audio didn’t improve, try charging them to 100% before attempting the connection another time.
Should they continue to sound muffled after these attempts, try following these steps to correct the situation.
- Choose the Apple icon from the menu. When the dropdown box appears, select “System Preferences.”
- Tap or click on the “Sound” icon, then choose “Input.”
- The choices you’ll see on the next screen depend on your iMac or MacBook model and the audio devices already connected to it.
- You’ll need to change the sound input from the AirPods to the Internal Microphone from the list that appears.
- If the display has an internal microphone, you might see this option listed as “Display Audio.”
Some people use AirPods with their Windows PC instead of connecting them to an Apple device. That operating system creates two new devices instead of one during the pairing process.
The headset option creates a sound quality similar to a telephone. The headphones device is what provides CD-quality sound.
You’ll need to stop your AirPods from switching to the headset mode when connecting them to a PC. That command is under the Services tab under “Hardware and Sound” and “View Devices and Sound.”
Click the box next to “Handsfree Telephony” to remove the checkmarks. Click on the “Apply” button to save the changes.
6. Fix the Calibration
Your AirPods and your connecting device can require calibration. Each can have its own definition of an appropriate volume level to manage. The fix is relatively simple.
- Place the AirPods in your ears to play music, a podcast, or another audio file.
- Use your iPhone or the device’s volume buttons to turn down the levels you hear. Once you reach the zero level, there should not be any sound coming from the product.
- Swipe down from the top-right corner of the iPhone screen to choose the Bluetooth button. Disable it while keeping the AirPods on and working.
- Now, play music through the built-in speakers for your device. Turn the sound down using the volume controls a second time.
- Reconnect the AirPods by following the on-screen instructions. You will need to get into the Bluetooth screen to turn on this feature and select them if they don’t automatically connect.
- Adjust the volume to continue playing the music.
If you’ve tried these fixes and the audio still sounds muffled, there could be a deeper issue with your electronics to resolve. Your best option at this point would be to make a Genius Bar reservation or speak with Apple Support directly.
For more AirPods troubleshooting guide, check out our post, “AirPods Keep Disconnecting.”
Related: How to Charge Your Earbuds and Why Do My Headphones Sound Muffled?