Why Do My AirPods Sound Muffled? (hint: They Could Be Dirty!)

AirPods are known for their reliable sound clarity, so it’s reasonably alarming when they sound muffled. This can affect your ability to use them for work or simply to listen to your favorite songs. Many Apple users ask themselves the question: why do my AirPods sound muffled?

Your AirPods sound muffled if there is lint and debris in the speaker ports or if the firmware is outdated. Muffled sound is also common if your AirPods are out of Bluetooth range or if your iPhone is on Low Power Mode. Check your Wi-Fi connection and switch to cellular data if it is poor to improve your sound quality.

Sometimes, you can fix this problem if you adjust the EQ settings or turn off features such as spatial audio. A muffled sound can also be a sign that you need to replace your AirPods. Follow along as we explore why your AirPods sound muffled and see what you can do to resolve the issue.

Why Do My AirPods Sound Weird?

Your AirPods can sound weird and muffled if they are clogged or out of Bluetooth range. Other problems such as outdated firmware and physical damage can also affect audio quality. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to replace your AirPods if they sound muffled, however.

Instead, you can diagnose and troubleshoot the problem to save money and solve the problem without an Apple Genius. Let’s take a look at the most common explanations for why your AirPods sound muffled.

Your Location

Your location can often affect the clarity of your AirPods. For example, buildings with lots of metal or thick walls can make it difficult to get clear sound quality in many cases. This is common for Apple users that bring their AirPods to work.

Everything from ceramic tiles and plaster to windows and concrete walls can weaken your AirPods sound quality. These materials don’t directly affect your AirPods, but they affect the connection. AirPods struggle to stay connected to Wi-Fi and cellular data around these materials, and that affects the audio.

You can tell that this is the problem if you don’t experience muffled audio in other locations. Even spaces with too many Wi-Fi and Bluetooth-enabled devices can make your AirPods sound muffled. Unfortunately, there is nothing that you can do to fix this problem in many places, especially if you are at work.

Speaker Ports Are Clogged

The speaker ports and grills on your AirPods have a lot to do with your sound clarity. It is easy for lint and debris to clog your AirPods, especially if you put them in your pockets. Even if you don’t, your AirPods can easily get clogged from the charger case or even with earwax.

Some people even lightly suck on the speaker grills to dislodge debris. This may sound gross, but it is a good last resort as long as you clean your AirPods before you try this. First, you should clean the speaker grills with an antibacterial wipe or isopropyl alcohol.

The isopropyl alcohol will especially help if your AirPods are clogged with earwax. Next, clean the speaker ports with a lint-free cloth so that you don’t clog them even more.

Debris In Your Charger Case

It’s easy to forget to clean your AirPods charger case because most users focus on the earbuds themselves. However, a dirty charger case will often clog your AirPods with lint and debris which will affect the sound quality. That is why it’s just as important to clean your charger case as it is to clean your AirPods.

Wipe out the deepest part of your charger case with a lint-free cloth. Don’t use paper towels or else you may make the problem worse with more lint. Dab your lint-free cloth in a little bit of 99% isopropyl alcohol and clean the case to remove stubborn debris.

Don’t use isopropyl alcohol that is under 90% or it won’t be able to evaporate quickly enough. Otherwise, the water content will be too high and you risk damaging the case. You can also use pressurized air to clean your AirPod charger case to remove debris that you can’t reach.

Firmware Is Outdated

Outdated firmware can lead to muffled audio and cause several performance problems for your AirPods. Apple made AirPods to automatically install firmware updates, but that doesn’t always work. Your AirPods should receive a firmware update automatically when you put them in the charger case.

However, this only works if your AirPods are paired with one of your Apple devices. Put your AirPods in the case, open your iPhone’s settings, and pull up Bluetooth. Select your AirPods from the list of Bluetooth devices to pair them.

Now, simply close the lid on your AirPods and wait for them to update. You can always save time and check to see if you have the latest firmware update from your iPhone’s settings. Tap General, select About, and click on your AirPods. You will be able to see whether or not your firmware is up to date.

Weak Bluetooth Connection

A weak Bluetooth connection will prevent your AirPods from sounding as good as they can. This can happen if you are out of the range of the device that you are connected to. In that case, all that you need to do is move closer to the device if your AirPods sound muffled. You can also disconnect and reconnect your AirPods from Bluetooth to improve the sound quality.

All that you need to do in many cases is unpair additional devices that are connected to your device. This can improve the clarity of your AirPods if they are competing with other devices for a Bluetooth connection. Open the settings menu on your iPhone and tap the Bluetooth tab.

Scroll through the list of Bluetooth-enabled devices and tap on each one that you want to unpair. Select each device and choose “Forget This Device” to unpair it. You will need to reconnect each device that you unpair once you try to use it again.

They Are Damaged

Damaged AirPods typically sound muffled or they simply won’t work at all. AirPods are durable, but they cannot withstand a fall from great heights without suffering damage. Damage is almost unavoidable if you drop your AirPods from 4-5 feet or higher.

AirPods can also suffer damage if they experience a sudden and extreme temperature change. This can happen if you go outside in sub-freezing temperatures with your AirPods. Try to keep your AirPods in their charger case within a backpack or bag if you travel with them in extreme heat or cold conditions.

Moisture from a hot shower, aerosol sprays, and even humid air can also damage AirPods which will make them sound muffled. Keep your AirPods in dry conditions as much as possible or the volume will weaken and they may even break.

AirPods Haven’t Been Reset In a While

It is a great idea to reset your AirPods every once in a while to avoid problems. Generally, you can fix several problems if you reset your AirPods, and that includes muffled audio. Place your AirPods in the charger case and make sure that you keep the lid open.

Open the settings menu on your iPhone or iPad, tap “Bluetooth”, and select your AirPods. Select “Forget This Device” to unpair your AirPods with your iPhone. Now, hold the reset button on the back of your AirPods charger case to reset them.

Keep your AirPods in the case and reconnect them to your Apple device. Test out your AirPods to see if resetting them fixed the muffled sound.

Low Power Mode

Low power mode is a feature on iPhones and iPads that is meant to preserve your battery life. You can enable this feature at any time, and a prompt for low power mode appears when you hit 20% battery. It is a useful mode, but it can cause your AirPods to sound muffled and your apps to run slowly.

Luckily, you can improve the quality if you disable low power mode or charge your iPhone. The best option is to charge your device. That is because your AirPods may sound muffled even without low power mode if your iPhone is close to dying.

Try not to use low power mode unless it is an emergency, and you need to preserve your iPhone’s battery. Check to see if your AirPods still sound muffled after you charge your iPhone to see if that is the problem.

Poor Wi-Fi Connection

AirPods can only connect to a device via Bluetooth if you have a Wi-Fi connection or cellular data. Devices switch to cellular data when your Wi-Fi signal goes out, but not necessarily if it’s simply weak. A weak Wi-Fi connection will slow down your iPhone’s performance and Bluetooth connection.

Move closer to your Wi-Fi router to see if your AirPods sound less muffled. If so, then that is a sign that your Wi-Fi connection is the problem. Install a second router in your home if you cannot get a strong signal throughout the house.

Otherwise, you can improve the signal strength if you use Wi-Fi range extenders. This won’t help you when you go to other places with a weak Wi-Fi signal, but it will help in your home. Simply switch to cellular data when you are away from home and connected to a weak Wi-Fi signal if your AirPods sound muffled.

Your AirPods Are Old

The sound quality of AirPods can slowly degrade over time. AirPods generally stay clear and effective for 2-3 years before the performance and sound quality degrades. Your AirPods may lose their volume and sound quality by 20%-30% or more after even the first year.

It all depends on how frequently you use your AirPods and for how long each day. The volume also plays a huge role in how quickly the sound quality degrades. AirPods will generally sound more muffled if you consistently blast the volume at high levels.

Not only is this dangerous for your eardrums, but it can also make your AirPods sound muffled and drain their batteries. The microphone can also eventually become less clear after a year or more of heavy use.

How Do I Make My AirPods Sound Clearer?

You make your AirPods sound clearer if you use and adjust some special features. Features such as noise cancellation and EQ settings can make your AirPods sound much less muffled. Let’s take a look at how you can make your AirPods clearer if they sound muffled.

Noise Cancellation

Noise cancellation is a feature that many AirPods users enable to get more sound clarity. This feature blocks outside noise so that you can hear unadulterated audio. Oftentimes, your AirPods sound muffled because of noises in your surrounding environment that you cannot control.

Swipe down from the bottom right corner of your screen to open the control center. Tap the volume control and wait for additional options to appear beneath it. Find the noise control tab in the bottom left corner and tap it to enable or disable noise cancellation.

In some cases, however, noise cancellation can hinder your AirPods and make them sound muffled. Luckily, you can enable noise transparency instead if that is the case. More outside noise will seep in with noise transparency, but it may help improve your audio quality in some cases.

Adjust EQ

You can adjust the EQ settings for your AirPods in a few different ways. Connect your AirPods to your iPhone and open the settings menu to get started. Scroll down to the music tab and select and tap on EQ to disable it. This will restore the EQ to the standard settings which may add clarity to your AirPods.

Otherwise, you can rebalance the audio between each of your AirPods to improve the audio quality. Check to see if the volume slider is placed further over towards one of your AirPods. If so, you need to adjust the volume slider to the center so that each AirPod has equal volume.

Spotify also lets you adjust the sound EQ for your AirPods from the app or online. Click on the settings tab on your Spotify account and click on the “Playback” tab. Look for the tab that says “Equalizer” and manually adjust the EQ settings.  

Charge Them

AirPods cannot perform at the highest capacity when they are low on battery. Try to keep your AirPods battery life above 20%-30% to get the best audio quality and clarity. That is why it is important to charge your AirPods before you leave for the day.

Try your charge your AirPods to 80% or higher so that they will last for the whole day. Bring your AirPods charger case with you if you’re going to use your AirPods consistently to avoid audio problems. Even charging your AirPods for just 30 minutes can give you 2 hours of listening or more.

Turn Off Spatial Audio

Spatial audio is a great feature that Apple offers, but that doesn’t always mean that it works well. This feature is designed to immerse listeners in surround-sound audio. However, spatial audio doesn’t always sound great, and many users report that the sound is quieter.

It may sound better for some songs than in others, and in some cases, spatial audio can make your AirPods sound muffled. Apple makes it easy to enable or disable spatial audio from the control center. Swipe down from the top right corner of your screen to open the control center, then hold the volume button.

Options will appear at the bottom of the screen that let you adjust the spatial audio settings. Swap between fixed and head-tracked to see which setting sounds less muffled. Otherwise, you can disable the feature altogether to see if it adds clarity to your sound quality.

Modify Streaming Sound Quality

Some streaming services let you modify the sound quality of your AirPods. You can typically access the streaming sound quality from the settings menu of whatever service you use if they offer this option. For example, Spotify users can find the streaming options in settings beneath the “Voice Assistant & Apps” tab toward the bottom.

The default setting is “Automatic” which is useful because it helps you preserve cellular data. However, this doesn’t always mean that you will get the best audio quality. This is especially true if you have a weak Wi-Fi connection or are low on cellular data.

Adjust the audio quality setting to high or very high if your AirPods sound muffled. You will use more cellular data, but you will also get the best possible clarity. Spotify lets you adjust the audio quality options for both Wi-Fi and cellular streaming. If this doesn’t work, then it is a sign that something else is wrong with your AirPods.

Why Do My AirPods Sound Muffled To Others?

It is likely a sign that your microphone is blocked if your AirPods sound muffled to others. Make sure that the microphone stem is pointed toward your mouth if your AirPods sound muffled to others when you talk on the phone. Otherwise, they won’t be able to hear you clearly if at all.

The microphone on either of your AirPods may also be dirty. Use a lint-free cotton swab to clean the microphone so that you can get all of the small pieces of debris. Your AirPods can also sound muffled to others if you are out of range of your iPhone, and you need to move closer.

Otherwise, this can happen if you are in a remote area, have a weak Wi-Fi signal, or are low on cellular data. Some structures, such as buildings with metal roofs, can also affect how to sound to others when you speak with your AirPods. In some cases, the problem could be on the other end of the line depending on whom you are speaking to on the phone.

Why Do My AirPods Sound Muffled After Cleaning?

There is likely a problem with your Bluetooth connection or firmware if your AirPods sound muffled after cleaning. Lint and debris are the most common causes of muffled AirPods, so that should always be your first solution. However, your audio will also sound muffled after you clean them if there is Bluetooth or even Wi-Fi interference.

Reset your AirPods if cleaning doesn’t help because that can help with many performance issues. Otherwise, you should troubleshoot your Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connection or update your firmware.

So, Why Do My AirPods Sound Muffled?

Your AirPods sound muffled if you have a weak Bluetooth connection or your speaker ports are clogged. Carefully clean your speaker ports and remove lint from the grills to improve the audio quality. Update the firmware for your iPhone and AirPods via the charger case to see if they still sound muffled.

Disable features such as spatial audio and EQ if your AirPods still sound muffled. Move the volume slider bar to the center so that each of your AirPods sound clear. Otherwise, you can adjust the EQ settings for your AirPods if they sound muffled from several streaming services, such as Spotify