What is Conversation Awareness for AirPods, how does it work and how do I get it?

Apple’s AirPods Pro (second generation) have some great noise cancellation features that ensure that the outside world doesn’t encroach on your listening enjoyment. You can immerse yourself in your favourite music or block out the world with the latest episode of your favourite podcast. Sometimes, however, you might need to be able to hear the outside world, just for a little while at least. If you bump into someone you meet, for example, not being able to hear a word they’re mumbling at you isn’t ideal.

There’s an Adaptive Audio mode that is sort of a half way point between full ANC and Transparency mode, which allows you to hear car horns or people talking for example. But there is also a Conversation Awareness feature that will detect when you’re speaking to someone and change the audio settings so that you can actually hold a conversation. What is Conversation Awareness, and how does it work? Here’s what you need to know.

What is Conversation Awareness for AirPods and how does it work?

Conversation Awareness is an adaptive audio feature for Apple AirPods that makes it easier to hold a conversation when you have your AirPods in and are listening to music or other audio such as a podcast or audiobook.

When you start to speak out loud, your compatible AirPods will detect your speaking voice, and recognise that you’re trying to hold a conversation. Your AirPods will then automatically lower the volume of whatever you’re listening to, reduce the background noise, and enhance the voices that are coming from in front of you. In noisy environments, it can actually be easier to hold a conversation with your headphones in than it would be without them.

The first time that Conversation Awareness kicks in, you’ll hear a message from Siri in your AirPods explaining that the volume has been lowered by the Conversation Awareness feature. This ensures that you don’t start freaking out that AirPods are broken or that you’re suddenly going deaf. From then on in, however, the feature will kick in automatically, although it shouldn’t freak you out quite so much once you know what’s causing it.

Conversation Awareness will remain on throughout a conversation you are having. This not only includes your voice, but it registers other people talking too. Once it no longer detects conversation for a couple of seconds, the audio volume will slowly increase until it returns to what it was at before it detected the conversation in the first place.

Which AirPods support Conversation Awareness?

Currently, Conversation Awareness is only available on the AirPods Pro 2nd Generation. The good news is that if you own the older AirPods Pro 2nd Generation with the oh-so-last-year Lightning port instead of USB-C, you’ll still be able to use the Conversation Awareness feature. So in a nutshell, either model of the AirPods Pro 2nd Generation, whether Lightning or USB-C.

How do I get Conversation Awareness on my AirPods?

If you own compatible AirPods, all you need to do in order to be able to use Conversation Awareness is to update your AirPods to the latest firmware. Firmware updates happen automatically for AirPods, so you just need to make sure that they’re charging and are in Bluetooth range of an iPhone, iPad, or Mac that’s connected to Wi-Fi and the firmware should update to the latest version. You’ll also need to update your iPhone to iOS 17 or update your Mac to macOS Sonoma.

How to turn on Conversation Awareness

By default, Conversation Awareness will be off. In order to turn it on rather than just keep shouting ‘I CAN’T HEAR YOU I’M WEARING MY AIRPODS PRO (SECOND GENERATION)’ then you can toggle Conversation Awareness on in your iPhone settings.

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Scroll down and tap AirPods.
  3. Select Audio.
  4. Toggle Conversation Awareness on/off.

You can also jump to quick settings by opening Control Centre (swipe down from the top right of your iPhone’s screen if you are using a Face ID iPhone, or swipe up if you’re using an iPhone SE). From here, when your AirPods Pro 2nd Generation are connected to your phone, you can press and hold on the volume control and tap on Conversation Awareness to toggle it on.

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