What Do All Those Noises Your AirPods and Beats Make Actually Mean?

What Do All Those Noises Your AirPods and Beats Make Actually Mean?
Photo: Hadrian, Shutterstock

When you pick up your AirPods or your Beats, you expect them to play your favourite music, podcasts, movies, and more. What you might not expect to hear are random, unexplained alert tones. These sounds can be distracting and confusing, and can affect the way your headphones and earbuds function. Here’s what these tones all mean, and why they’re sounding off.

AirPods and Beats, versus the rest

The reason we’re specifically focusing on AirPods and Beats headphones and earbuds is that Apple makes both brands of audio devices. That fact is pretty obvious when it comes to AirPods, but unless you keep up with tech acquisitions, you might not know that Dr. Dre’s headphone company is under the same umbrella as your iPhones, iPads, and Macs.

As such, Apple uses unique alerts to get across the same messages between these two types of headphones. While the sounds themselves aren’t identical, both AirPods and Beats have the same alerts in mind. (That’s not necessarily unique to these headphones, either; other Bluetooth devices have their own alert tones as well, but to decipher those, you’re on your own.)

For this piece, however, we’re diving into the different tones for Apple’s brands. I’ve written out the types of sounds you hear as best as I can; the bold text is to indicate where the tone features the most emphasis. You can hear all of the AirPods sounds in the following video:

Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be an equivalent video for Beats; I have a pair of PowerBeats 3 and Beats Studio Buds I’ve tested, and my findings are below. While those two devices should cover many different types of Beats sounds, it’s possible other pairs of Beats have unique tones as well.

Connecting to a new device

The following sounds indicate that your AirPods or Beats have connected to a new device. You’ll usually hear this when you turn on your headphones, or when you pop your earbuds in, so long as there’s a device nearby for them to automatically connect you. You’ll also hear these sounds when you manually connect to another device.

AirPods: Da-da.

Beats (older): Dada-da-da-da-da-da.

Beats (newer): Da-da.

Disconnecting from your device

When your AirPods or Beats disconnect from your current device, they’ll play the following sounds.

AirPods: Ba-da.

Beats (older): Da-da-da-da-da-da.

Beats (newer): Da-da-da-da-da.

Note one of these sounds will play when you manually disconnect your earbuds or headphones, too, but if you hear it unexpectedly, you know your AirPods or Beats have disconnected for some reason. If your headphones have a power button, you might have shut them off by mistake. It’s possible the device you’re connected to booted your connection for some reason; it’s also possible your headphones shut down due to low battery (but that will usually trigger a different sound).

Just know, if you hear this sound, take note that your audio is likely about to start playing from your device’s built-in speakers, rather than your AirPods or Beats.

Low battery warning

This sound is notorious among AirPods users. The dreaded tone signals imminent death for the earbuds, with the threat of a silent, joyless commute. Lucky for us, it doesn’t only mean that; the first time you hear it, it indicates your earbuds or headphones have 20% battery left.

AirPods: Doo-doo-doo-doo.

Beats (older): Will update this section once we’ve tested and captured the sound.

Beats (newer): Will update this section once we’ve tested and captured the sound.

About to shut down

This is the same sound as the low battery warning. If you hear it a second time, yes, your headphones are about to die (sorry about that).

AirPods: Doo-doo-doo-doo.

Beats (older): Will update this section once we’ve tested and captured the sound.

Beats (newer): Will update this section once we’ve tested and captured the sound.

Noise Control

Noise Control is a feature that is unique to specific AirPods and Beats models. As such, you might not deal with these tones on your particular headphones or earbuds. However, if yours are capable of noise cancellation, you will hear these tones.

Apple has a unique tone for activating Noise Cancellation, Transparency Mode (which pumps in sound from outside so you be more aware of your surroundings), and when shutting Noise Control off. You can switch these modes from your earbuds or headphones, so if you’re hearing these tones and feeling a change at random, you’re likely accidentally pressing the button on the device itself:

Noise Cancellation

AirPods: Doo (higher pitched).

Beats: Doo-doo-doo (low-to-high).

Transparency

AirPods: Doo-doo.

Beats: Doo-doo-doo (high-to-low).

Off

AirPods: Doo (lower pitched).

Beats: Doo.

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