We all know how great AirPods are, but we can also agree that they’re not quite perfect. Static noises that impact your listening experience, the too-frequent occurrence where you’re inaudible on the call – AirPods have their fair share of problems.
Another fairly common issue is the imbalance of volumes between your AirPods. You might find that one AirPod is louder than the other, or it might sound like one is significantly quieter than the other. Whichever way the problem presents itself to you, it’s certainly annoying!
In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the most common reasons for this problem, and most importantly, I’ll show you how to fix them!
Table of Contents
- Rebalance Audio Volume Slider
- Clean Your AirPods
- Recharge Your AirPods
- Recalibrate Your AirPods’ Battery
- Recalibrate Device and AirPod Volume Settings
- Run Software & Firmware Updates
- Power Cycle Your Device
- Try Mono Audio
- Ear Tip Fit Test (AirPods Pro Only)
- Corrupt Audio File
- Replace/Repair Your AirPods with Apple
Rebalance Audio Volume Slider
iPhones have a specific setting for adjusting the balance of audio output between the left and right AirPod. If you think your audio output is uneven, you can check this and adjust it to get the balance right.
To do so, go to Settings > Accessibility > Audio/Visual. There will be an option a little further down the page which allows you to adjust the audio channel volume balance. If it’s anywhere other than right in the middle, set at 0.00, that’s the cause of your problem.
If it’s centered, but one AirPod is still louder than the other, you might have to try some other fixes to get to the root of the issue.
Clean Your AirPods
The next most likely cause of unbalanced sound seems obvious when you think about it, but it’s often overlooked. If there is a buildup of debris such as dust, crumbs, or (most likely) earwax in one AirPod, then the sound output will definitely suffer.
There is a highly-rated response on the official Apple page (from a user – not an Apple technician!) that recommends sucking on the AirPods to dislodge any blockages. Do not do this! Not only is it pretty gross, but it’s also possible that you could damage the headphone further by getting your saliva in the mechanism.
Instead, get yourself a cotton bud or a toothpick and (very carefully!) work free any debris that’s wedged in the speaker port. Use a lint-free cloth to wipe clean afterward.
Recharge Your AirPods
An improperly charged device of any kind will not operate with full capability, regardless of the problem you’re facing. Stick your AirPods in the charging case and let them charge and see if that makes any difference.
As with the above tip, it may be that one AirPod is not charging effectively due to debris on the contact points where it slots into the case. Wipe these down with a lint-free cloth prior to charging and see if that makes any difference.
Recalibrate Your AirPods’ Battery
With your AirPods fully charged, you might find that the problem seems to be solved. However, it’s quite common for the issue to resurface with normal usage of the AirPods, as the battery drains.
A reason for this may be that the batteries are draining unevenly, i.e. one AirPod is losing power faster than the other, resulting in the sensation that the volume output is unbalanced.
To remedy this, you can try recalibrating the AirPod’s internal battery. It’s a lengthy process, but it’s a great trick for improving the battery life of any electronic device.
First, reset the AirPod case as detailed in these instructions. Once your AirPods are re-paired with your device, simply drain the battery down to absolute zero. You can do this through normal usage, but it might take a while.
For faster results, play something at full volume non-stop until the batteries die. Let the case drain to absolute zero too.
Put the dead AirPods back in the dead case, and charge them back up to 100%. This will not only improve the overall battery life of your AirPods, but it can rebalance any uneven battery usage issues between the left and right headphones.
Recalibrate Device and AirPod Volume Settings
Occasionally, your device and your AirPods’ volume settings can slip out of sync. You can recalibrate them to try and reestablish a balanced volume output across both headphones.
Follow these steps to carry out a volume recalibration:
Connect your AirPods to your device and play some music. Hold the Volume Down button until the volume is muted.
Next, disable your Bluetooth in order to disconnect your AirPods. Resume playing your music, which should now come out of your device speakers.
Hold the Volume Down button again until the volume output is zero.
Finally, reconnect your AirPods via Bluetooth.
This should recalibrate the volume levels across your device and your AirPods, eradicating any imbalance issues.
Run Software & Firmware Updates
It’s always recommended to be running the latest version of any operating system to ensure connected devices are running without any bugs, and with the latest firmware available. Here’s how to update both your AirPods’ firmware and your device’s software.
If one AirPod is louder than the other, it may be that the software running on your device, or the firmware running on your AirPods, needs updating.
Although you can’t manually update AirPod firmware via your device, you can give the AirPods the chance to update automatically by simply connecting your AirPods to your device via Bluetooth, placing them in the charging case, and connecting the case to a power supply. Your phone needs to remain near your AirPods while this process runs, and be connected to WiFi.
Leave the AirPods connected and in the case for around 15 – 20 minutes, to give them a chance to download and install any firmware updates.
Your device also needs to be running on the latest version of iOS software. To check for any available updates, go to Settings > General > Software Update.
If there is an update available, download and install it.
Power Cycle Your Device
Now, you didn’t think you would get through an electronics article without the appearance of the trusty power cycle, did you?
The reason it is featured so much is that it works! If there’s a discrepancy between your left and right AirPod volume output, there is a chance it could be a runtime error on your actual device, as opposed to something wrong with the AirPods themselves.
We turn our phones off so rarely these days that there is little to no chance for these bugs to be eradicated naturally, so go ahead and turn your device off and on and see if that helps.
Try Mono Audio
The way some audio files are mixed may make it sound like one AirPod is louder or quieter than the other. Songs or podcasts mixed in stereo will have the various audio tracks panned over the left and right output – in this case, your AirPods. This is done to create a wider, deeper, and more immersive sound field and to improve the quality of the audio recording.
However, if it is done badly, it may sound like there is less volume on one side.
To remedy this, try changing your audio settings to mono. This will override the stereo mix and play all sounds at an equal volume down both audio channels.
To do this, go to Settings > Accessibility > Audio/Visual. Simple toggle the Mono Audio setting to on, and see if that fixes the problem.
Ear Tip Fit Test (AirPods Pro Only)
If you have AirPods Pro and you’re experiencing this issue, you can try the Ear Tip Fit Test to ensure your headphones are fitting snugly in your ears. If they aren’t you may not be experiencing the full effect of the headphones, and volume output may seem uneven across both ears.
To carry out an Ear Tip Fit Test, you must be running iOS 13.2 or later.
First, connect your AirPods Pro to your device, then head to Settings > Bluetooth, and find your AirPods in the list of devices.
Click the information (i) next to your AirPods, and select Ear Tip Fit Test, then click play to run the test.
Depending on what the results of the test say, you may be able to easily remedy your sound imbalance issue by simply changing the ear tip on one of your AirPods.
Corrupt Audio File
While this is less likely, it may still be the cause of a sound imbalance, especially if you only notice the problem on certain songs or podcasts.
Now, if you’re listening to a podcast or a track from a streaming service like Spotify, Apple Music, or Apple Podcasts, there’s not much you can do about the quality of the source file.
But, it is worth bearing in mind that if it’s the same songs that you hear the imbalance on, then at least you know there is probably not a serious problem with your AirPods, and when you listen to something else, the issue should disappear.
Replace/Repair Your AirPods with Apple
Finally, if none of the above fixes has helped, you may have a faulty or broken AirPod that needs to be repaired or replaced.
You can either make an appointment at the Genius bar of your local Apple store or mail in your AirPods for repair.
If your AirPods are under warranty, replacement or repair will be free. Otherwise, the standard cost for repair (at the time of writing) is $69 per AirPod or $89 per AirPod Pro.
Hopefully, you found the answer to your problem in one of the many fixes listed in this article. For this issue, the most common cause is actually the easiest one to fix – debris in the actual headphones themselves.
My advice when it comes to cleaning AirPods is be careful! You don’t want to damage the fine mesh speaker screen and leave yourself with the cost of replacing the AirPods anyway, even if there is nothing wrong with them!