AirPods are great – anyone who’s been using Bluetooth headphones and then had to go back to wired ones will agree.
With the Airpods, you get great sound quality, versatility, and the ease of hands-free Bluetooth connectivity for both listening to music/podcasts and making phone calls.
Sometimes, however, you may hear a crackling sound when using your headphones. This static noise can occur in both AirPods at once, or just one, or alternate between one and then the other. And it can drive you crazy!
Usually, it just boils down to a simple software issue, and an update will fix it. But let us take a look at possible causes and try to figure out why your AirPods might be making a static noise and, most importantly, how you can fix it.
Table of Contents
What Causes the Static Noise
Crackling sounds in AirPods are most of the time due to a performance or connection issue, which can often be remedied by resetting the AirPods, iPhone, or Bluetooth connection.
Sometimes, the cause is a physical blockage, which must be removed and the AirPods cleaned by hand, which we will cover later in this article.
This is the main cause of connectivity and audio quality issues when it comes to AirPods and that annoying crackling sound. If your devices aren’t up to date in terms of the latest software or firmware, issues are likely to occur.
To check if your iOS is up to date, simply go to Settings > General > Software Update. From here, you’ll be able to check what version of iOS your device is running and see if there are any updated versions available to download and install.
If there are, download them!
When it comes to firmware (software that lives on hardware – in this case, AirPods), updates are usually done automatically, so you don’t need to worry about it. But if you want to be extra sure, resetting your AirPods should clear up any firmware issues. How to do that is explained further down in this article.
Poor Bluetooth Connectivity
As anyone who has used any Bluetooth headphones or speakers will know, a poor connection between devices using Bluetooth can often lead to drops in the quality of sound.
Quickly toggling Bluetooth off and on your device can fix this issue in some cases. If it doesn’t follow these steps:
- Go to Settings on your iPhone
- Open Bluetooth
- Find your AirPods under available devices, click the info symbol, and click Forget this Device
- Then, pair your iPhone with your AirPods again
- Check the available devices list again to make sure there are no other devices nearby that may be trying to connect to your phone, weakening the connection between your iPhone and your AirPods
Reset Your iPhone/iOS Device
Sometimes, audio quality issues may arise through a simple runtime error on your iPhone or iPad.
Simply follow the standard process for restarting your Apple device, and then check that your AirPods are connecting in the Bluetooth section in your Settings.
Reset Your AirPods
You may want to try resetting the actual AirPods. This can clear out any bugs and will also ensure all firmware is up to date. To do this, you’ll need the AirPods charging case to hand. Once you have it, follow these steps:
- Place the AirPods in the charging case and close the lid
- Wait for 30 seconds
- Open the lid of the charging case
- With your AirPods in your ears and connected to your iPhone, open the Settings menu on your iOS device, then go to Bluetooth
- Find your AirPods under the Available Devices list, then forget them by clicking on the info symbol
- Open the lid of the charging case, and press and hold the Setup button on the back for 15 seconds to begin the reset. The LED light on the case will flash amber, then turn white
- Finally, reconnect your AirPods
Static Sound in One AirPod
If you hear a static/crackling sound in only one ear, the issue may be slightly different and requires a more precise fix. Note: Most reports concerning this issue are related to 3rd Generation AirPods and AirPods Pro.
Here’s a fix to try if you have this problem:
- Open the Settings menu on your iOS device
- Open the Accessibility menu
- Select your AirPods and open Audio Accessibility Options
- Open the Background Sounds section and toggle on the background sounds switch. A slider will be available for volume control.
- Set the background sound to Rain and turn the background sound volume slider all the way down. This will trigger a specific noise-cancellation process in your AirPods and should fix the one-sided static sound.
Cleaning Your AirPods
Although it’s unlikely that any physical dirt or grime is going to cause an audio crackle in your AirPods, it is possible that a dirty headphone is going to produce poorer quality sound, which may be mistaken for electronic static. Here’s a quick rundown of how to keep your AirPods clean and sounding their best.
- Don’t allow AirPods to get wet during the cleaning process
- Use a soft cloth or rag. Make sure it’s lint-free or microfiber.
- If your AirPods are exposed to anything that might stain or otherwise damage them:
- Wipe clean with a lightly moistened cloth
- Wipe dry with a soft cloth or rag, lint-free or microfiber
- Do not use at all until completely dry
- Ensure no liquid gets into any openings
- Clean microphone and meshes with a dry cotton bud
- Do not use sharp or rough materials to attempt to clean out AirPods
BONUS TIP: removing the rubber cap from your AirPods and blowing out any loose debris and dust is quite a common quick fix for audio quality issues.
If you’ve followed all these steps and you are still experiencing crackling/static in your AirPods, there may be an issue with the AirPods themselves.
In October 2020, Apple introduced an AirPods service program to address these crackling/static audio and noise cancellation issues.
This program was extended and includes three years cover from the initial sale of the item.
Apple is aware of audio quality issues regarding AirPods manufactured before October 2020, so if you purchased AirPods or AirPods Pro before this date, you could be eligible for free repair.
If you’re not sure whether you’re covered under warranty or not, there’s a good chance you are since Apple is quite generous when it comes to repairing and replacement services for its customers.
If none of the fixes worked, take your AirPods down to a registered Applecare supplier and see what they can do for you!
It can be incredibly frustrating when your headphones stop working or don’t work to the standard they should. In this day and age, having your headphones in is like a security blanket for many people, and it allows us to shut out the world around us and focus on what really matters.
My advice would be to investigate any static or crackling sounds as soon as they appear. Always start with the software/firmware, as it’s often the main culprit!
Don’t neglect the physical cleaning of your AirPods, either, as you can see from the hack of blowing under the rubber seal – sometimes the simplest fix is the one that works.
But, if all else fails, you can rely on Apple to simply supply you with a new pair of AirPods or repair the faulty ones. Good luck!