How to Use Apple AirPods in Debian

| apple | linux | debian |

If you try to connect Apple AirPods to a computer running Debian, you will be able to pair them without any issues, but unfortunately you will not be able to use them to play any sounds. When I tried to do this, after pairing the AirPods, clicking on the Sound Settings menu option in the Bluetooth settings only showed the default output as an option.

In order to use AirPods to play sound you need to tweak the Bluetooth configuration file a bit. I poked around in that file a bit but I have no idea what the difference between "le" and "br/edr" was until I read this other stack overflow post which explained it succinctly.

For whatever reason, it looks like AirPods are only able to operate in BR/EDR mode. To get them to work with your Debian computer you should do the following:

  1. Edit /etc/bluetooth/main.conf and update the ControllerMode to equal bredr, by default it is set to dual mode.
  2. Restart the Bluetooth service with sudo systemctl restart bluetooth.
  3. You should now see your AirPods as an output option in the Sound Settings (screenshot shown below).
Sound Settings in GNOME

I am not 100% sure what the impact of disabling dual mode will be, but for now all of my other Bluetooth devices along with the AirPods work without any issues.

Update:

After a couple days of using Airpods with my Debian laptop, I've noticed that every once in a while they stop showing up in the sound settings menu. This bug is a bit annoying, but if you restart the bluetooth service with sudo systemctl restart bluetooth.service then they will begin to work again. In addition, I still have not figured out how to get the airpods to be an input source.

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