2019 is the year of the Pro. Between the Mac Pro, Powerbeats Pro, iPhone 11 Pro, and Solo Pro, was there any doubt that the AirPods would receive a Pro version as well?
Well here they are. The AirPods Pro build on the solid foundation of the original AirPods.
Today were going to take a look at the AirPods Pro vs the regular AirPods, and see if they’re worth their price.
AirPods Pro Design
Let’s start with what you get in the box. As expected, you’ve got the AirPods in their charging case, you’ve got a lightning to USB-C cable, and you’ve got extra silicon tips in various sizes to find that perfect fit in your ear.
The charging case is of a familiar design to the regular Airpods case, but stretched out. It is now wider than it is tall, changing the orientation of the opening, but it’s only about a half inch longer overall. It will still fit in your pocket just fine without any annoyances.
Interestingly, the Pro case opening hinges on the top portion, instead of the bottom, it comes incredibly close to touching the AirPods each time it opens. This is something you’ll never notice, but from any engineering point of view it’s an curious choice.
Inside the case you’ll find your AirPods Pro. They have the same glossy white earbud design that Apple has been known for since the iPod came out almost 20 years ago.
Compared to the regular AirPods, the Pros have a much shorter stem, so it doesn’t hang out the side of ear nearly as much. The stems are also pressure sensitive, allowing you to squeeze them for various controls; more on that later.
The biggest difference of course, are the silicon tips. The design ends up looking a bit like a mashup between standard apple earpods and every other kind of earbud with silicon tips. Many were quick to make it into a meme, pointing out similarities between a certain Pokemon, a hair dryer, and even Pingu.
The tips serve a purpose of course, and that’s to create a nice tight seal in your ear to block out ambient noise, as well offer the perfect fit for various ear sizes. I am one of the (presumably) many unfortunate souls who simply cannot wear AirPods as they don’t fit in my ears. (They literally fall out at the slightest turn of my head).
Another reason I could never use the original AirPods was – due to the really bad fit – because they let in all ambient noise. If you’ve used AirPods in a busy city, you’ll know that you need to keep the volume pretty high up to clearly hear your music or podcast, especially if the fit isn’t good. That, along with the impossible fitment I mentioned earlier, made the AirPods a device I couldn’t enjoy.
AirPods Pro Noise Cancelling
The biggest feature of the AirPods Pro of course is the active noise cancelling (ANC). Of course, it’s reasonable to be skeptical of how well ANC can work on earbuds this small, but it genuinely works really well.
If you’re already a user of over-ear noise cancelling headphones like the Sony WH1000MX3 or Bose Quiet Comfort, these won’t replace those in a meaningful way, but I don’t think they’re supposed to.
While the noise cancelling doesn’t block out everything, it manages to bring down the ambient noise to about 20%, which is just about perfect. At about 50% volume you can hear your music clearly while still being aware of what’s going around you if you’re outside. In an office environment, you’ll still hear that your coworkers are talking, but it won’t be distracting. You will definitely want to take these out of your ears if you want to have a conversation. Or you can use Transparency mode.
Within the sound settings on your phone (accessible by force touching the volume icon in control center), you have three noise cancelling options.
You’ll see the options for “Noise Cancelling, Off, Transparency”. Noise cancelling, and Off are pretty self-explanatory. Transparency is the odd one out. As far as I can tell, transparency mode actually amplifies the nearby noises so that you can have a conversation or just be more in tune with your surroundings.
Apple says all of these features work best when the fitment is best, and so they provided a tool to determine which tip is best.
If you navigate your way into the AirPod settings, there is a “Ear Tip Fit Test” which will perform a quick sound test and let you know if the tips you currently have selected are the right size, otherwise it will recommend a different size.
Changing the tips is surprisingly easy, as they clip in, instead of having to push them on like other headphones do. This does mean that you can’t replace the tips with any off the shelf tips, but rather Apple’s proprietary ones. Luckily replacements are only $4.
Once you figure out which size tip is best for your ear, you can wear these all day without any discomfort. I’ve been wearing them all day at the office the past few days and have not had any issues. I find that with in ear headphones, my ear will get a little itchy after a few hours, but thankfully this wasn’t the case with the AirPod Pros.
I did notice however, that if you wear a winter hat with the headphones in, it can feel a bit weird. Because they require a certain position to work optimally, a hat can cause them to shift around, and with winter coming up, I’m sure this will affect a lot of people.
AirPods Pro Features
Similarly to the regular AirPods, you can control your music directly from the headphones, but in a slightly different way. The original AirPods had touch based control, where tapping on the AirPod would allow you to play/pause, and skip tracks. You still have to invoke Siri to change the volume hands free, and since no one is saying “hey siri turn up the volume” in public, we’ll all still continue using our phones.
The AirPod Pros have a little divet in their stem where there is a pressure sensitive area. You can squeeze this area to invoke the same types on controls. One squeeze for play/pause, two for next track and three for the previous track. If you hold it down, you will hear a little chime and the AirPods will cycle between noise cancelling and transparency mode.
I’m not entirely sure if this a better way of doing things, but I don’t think it’s any worse.
Just like the regular AirPods, these contain the same H1 chip which allows you to seamlessly connect to your apple devices, and switch between them without having to play the Bluetooth pairing game.
The battery life is about the same as the AirPods, with about 4.5 hours of music with noise cancelling, 5 without. The charging case offers another 24 hours with of battery, and has wireless charging by default.
On top of all of these changes, there’s also the sound quality. The AirPods are pretty widely considered to not sound particularly good. They’re about the same quality as the standard earbuds that come with iPhones.
That means that it’s a pretty low bar to surpass in terms of sound quality; but nevertheless, the AirPod Pros are an enormous improvement in the sound department. They won’t blow away audiophiles, but they’re not supposed to. Admittedly, I’m not an audiophile, so if you’re really interested in the sound profiles these can put out, check out these reviews.
From a layman’s point of view, these provide a similar sound to the Powerbeats Pro, solid punchy bass (for its size), a decently wide sound stage, and just an overall better sound experience.
All of this brings us to the golden question:
Should you buy them?
Let’s start with the price; $250.
That’s a lot of money, but to be fair, the Sony WI-1000X’s are a similar price. There just aren’t that many completely wireless noise cancelling earbuds out there.
Are they worth the extra money over the Airpods? Undoubtedly so. If we compare them to the wireless charging AirPods, they’re about $70 more. With that, you get significantly better headphones, as well as noise cancelling, all in a seamless little white package.
Buy Here: (Amazon)
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