I’ve been using the AirPods Pro for two or so years and have greatly enjoyed them. Particularly nice is using them when doing outdoor chores such as mowing grass. That said, they’ve not been without problems. I’ve had the buds replaced a couple times due to the known issue of crackling sounds. Beyond that I’ve had no complaints until now and to be honest the newest issue may have been there all along and I’m just beginning to notice Or, it may be new, I’m not sure. It’s the thumping sound I hear when walking. Some on the internet report this as an issue from the beginning, others say it happens over time. In my case, I may have just accepted the sound or just not really noticed it. But, whether it was a sound there all along that I’m just now noticing or a new sound, it’s a loud thump with each step I take and as I generally wear them when I’m out for long walks, it’s a problem.
A few notes from my experience is that with the medium tips I’ve had a good seal and still do. Some on the internet claim that as the fine mesh side grill gets dirty over time this can cause a problem with performance and getting a good seal between the tips and ears. Some claim that cleaning by blowing or sucking can remove debris and fix the thumping and seal issues. Different users, different ears, etc, who knows what exactly is going on as there are so many contradictory reports. All that said, here’s what I’ve found and what is working for me.
Steps I’ve taken that didn’t help but which others report as being helpful:
- Cleaning the mesh openings
- Resetting the AirPods and repairing them to my Phone
- Trying the different tips
That last step of trying different tips led me to a solution for my personal situation. It occurred to me that perhaps the problem has been there all along and I was just ignoring it. My thinking here is that I was able to get a good seal from the first try with the medium tips. And as expected, when I’m sitting still or standing still, the noise cancellation or transparency modes, whichever I’m using sound great as does the audio. But with that seal comes a kind of vacuum. It’s that tight seal and the resulting vacuum that seems to allow one to hear the loud thumb, the vibration of the bones from heal to head with each step. It’s hard to describe really because it’s not just a sound, but a kind of resonance.
As an experiment I spent a few days with my older AirPods 2 which do not have such a seal. Of course, they do let in a good bit of environmental sound but they are free of that vacuum and generally still sound very good. It’s a trade off. It occurred to me that perhaps the AirPods Pro might be better with less of a seal. I changed to the large size tips and put them in my ears. The settings app that one uses to check the seal of the AirPods reported that I no longer had a good seal but I still got the thumping when walking. So I gently tugged them out just a little. They still felt secure in my ears but no longer tightly sealed. I wiggled my eyebrows up and down, which basically results in my ears also moving up and down. I could now feel that while the pods were still secure in my ears the seal was maybe only 80%. The sensation of a vacuum was gone. I walked and there was no thump. Over the past two days I’ve walked with music, podcasts, and nothing playing with both modes, noise cancellation and
transparency, no thumping. I’m also trying the smallest size tips and as expected, less seal, little to no thumping. I’m not sure yet if I prefer the small or large tips but in both cases it’s fairly easy to enjoy a walk without the thumping.
The downside to this method is that noise cancellation is not as good as it would be with a 100% seal. No doubt, I’m getting a little bit of environmental sound. That said they are still sound far better than the standard AirPods. And I should add that I do all my walking on trails in the woods where the environmental sounds are actually something I like. Birds, frogs, leaves under foot… there’s no traffic, honking of horns or anything I don’t mind hearing. And I suspect that when we get back to summer-time mowing I’ll have no problem just pushing in the AirPods and getting a near perfect seal for those times I need it.
So, in my case at least, the solution has been to simply spend a few moments at the beginning of each walk to gently unseal the AirPods from my ears with light tug and a few eyebrow wiggles. It may work for you or it may not, but a little experimentation might with different tips and positioning might be what you need.