These are easily the best headphones that Apple markets, and some of the best headphones you can buy today, as you’ll see in our AirPods Pro review.
The unboxing experience of AirPods Pro is similar to the unboxing of AirPods hardware that we have done in the past. This time around, the big difference is the addition of several ear tips as well as a Lightning to USB-C cable instead of a Lightning to USB-A cable.
During assembly at the factory, Apple preinstalls the medium ear tips on the AirPods, but includes a set of small and large ear tips that can accommodate a variety of ear canal sizes.
Apple provides some verbose documents along with the cable and ear tips, along with the usual warranty and regulatory information.
You’ll know more or less what to expect from AirPods Pro if you’ve ever used AirPods. The premise is exactly the same as the AirPods baseline, in that you have two really wireless earbuds to store your AirPods Pro and to facilitate charging.
The AirPods Pro Wireless Charging Case uses a similar hinge design found on the AirPods entry level. which also provides the same satisfactory snap sound when the case is closed.
Like the second-generation AirPods released last spring, the front of the Wireless Charging Case features an LED status indicator for charging and pairing activity. You will find a Lightning port at the bottom of the case for those who prefer to stick with wired charging.
The earbuds of AirPods Pro are similar to the AirPods baseline, but slightly different in design and stature like the charging case. The new AirPods Pro buds are more compact and dense, packed with loads of new technology and feature replaceable ear tips on the ends to ensure a safer fit in the ear canal.
AirPods Pro remains true to the design of the original AirPods, although slightly altered. If you love the look of the AirPods, it’s a good thing, but if you can’t stand up to the look of the AirPods, the Pro version will do little to change your view of the design.
One of my long-running grip on the AirPods is the lack of other than white color options. Obviously, Apple considers the white color to be iconic when taking into account the iPod’s history and its all-white headphones trendsetting, but I think we’re far enough beyond that era that Apple should consider switching it up. This would not only bring some much-needed variety to the AirPods, but the white color tends to attract like crazy dust and dirt.
The AirPods Pro Wireless Charging Case is slightly bigger in area than the standard charging case for AirPods. It is also a little heavier than its forebears, but not sufficient to negatively affect the portability of the device.
Charging and Battery life
The AirPods Pro comes bundled with a charging case, like previous iterations, which is used to recharge each wireless earbud.
The Wireless Charging Case provides more than 24 hours of listening time, more than 18 hours of air time, and can provide one hour of listening time or one hour of talk time with a charge of only five minutes.
Individual earbuds are capable of listening 4.5 hours (5 hours with disabled Active Noise Cancellation and Transparency) and up to 3.5 hours of one-charge talk time. The results of battery life are similar to regular AirPods, with the exception of a slight increase in talk time.
Sweat and Water resistance
The lack of water and sweat resistance was one of the biggest downsides of the standard AirPods for active people. The updated AirPods Pro solves this problem by adding sweat and water resistance from IPX4, which ensures they are protected from splashing water, regardless of direction.
One way Apple has addressed water resistance is by minimizing or reducing possible water intake points. For example, on regular AirPods, the microphone holes on the bottom of the stem were relocated to the side of the stem, while the hole used to occupy the bottom of the stem was fully sealed up.
Fit and comfort
The biggest physical change is related to fit and comfort with the AirPods Pro and the regular AirPods. It’s one of the areas I was most curious about in this AirPods Pro review for improvement.
The ear tips on the AirPods Pro first and foremost ensure a much better fit than standard AirPods. The AirPods often fell out of my ears when performing activities such as jogging or even walking through an airport— not so with the AirPods Pro.
Apple offers inside the box three sets of different sizes of ear tips. Removing and replacing the tips of the ear is a simple process involving removing the tips and snapping the new tip.
When replacing the tips, users will hear a satisfying click sound, confirming proper fit. Overall, I found that it was easier to change the tips on the AirPods Pro than to change the Powerbeats Pro tips.
But I have to say I was concerned because acoustic isolation tips tend to make my head feel like it’s in a pressurized chamber, and when using the Powerbeats Pro, I felt a similar sensation. Apple is addressing this problem for the AirPods Pro by using an enhanced custom vent system to equalize pressure. Although the design does not completely eliminate the pressure sensation, in comparison with the Powerbeats, the uncomfortable feeling is not as obvious.
With all that said, the Powerbeats Pro’s ear hook design is lacking from the AirPods Pro, meaning some extremely active users may still have trouble keeping them in their ears, even with the from-fitting acoustic ear tips.
The AirPods Pro features significantly improved control over the AirPods standard. A new stem allows solid-state force sensor allows users to do the following:
- single press: play/pause
- single press on incoming call: answer a phone call
- double press: skip forward
- triple press: skip back
- press and hold: Toggle between Active Noise Cancellation and Transparency mode
- Use ‘Hey Siri’ to do everything else
While the Powerbeats Pro features plenty of onboard controls along with the ability to control volume via dedicated volume rockers, the external multifunction buttons of the unit that control Siri and playback controls are overly sensitive.
On the other hand, the regular AirPods come with more manual controls. Other than “Hey Siri” voice control, it only allows playing, skipping forward or answering a phone call with a simple double-tap gesture depending on how you set it up in settings.
Needless to say, from a control perspective, the solid state ambidextrous force sensor is a significant improvement for the AirPods. I just wish there was a way for the Powerbeats Pro to manually change the volume.
Active Noise Cancellation
The Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) is very impressive on the AirPods Pro. I was shocked on more than one occasion when I pulled the earbuds out of my ears and suddenly heard all the commotion happening around me — the washing machine, dryer, dishwasher, etc. — that I had been oblivious of just a moment earlier.
By holding the force sensor on the AirPods Pro stem, users can toggle ANC. You can also change ANC by pressing the Control Center volume slider for a long press or through the Settings > Bluetooth tab of AirPods Pro.
Apple has done a great job with ANC as it should have, since it is the AirPods Pro’s flagship app. It is the primary reason, along with the much better fit, that a current AirPods user should consider upgrading.
The AirPods Pro features, like most ANC-enabled headphones, an external-facing microphone that senses noise outside. This makes it possible for the headphones to produce anti-noise to cancel the external sound faster than you can hear. There is also an inward-facing microphone that is concerned with listening for unwanted sound within the ear, which is also eliminated by anti-noise.
Apple says the AirPods Pro is the only headphones offering Active Noise Cancellation that can adapt to your ears ‘ shape and ear tips fit to help block noise. And all this is adjusted continuously at 200 times a second to help make the cleanest sound when listening to your favorite music.
The great thing about the AirPods Pro is that the end-user doesn’t have to worry about all this detail because it just works at the risk of sounding overly cliché.
Earlier today, I put the AirPods Pro Active Noise Cancellation with several cranky babies to the ultimate test inside a noisy airplane.
If the Active Noise Cancellation setting is reversed, it would be transparency mode. This is an useful feature that pipes sound from outside to enable you to hear what’s around you.
Like Active Noise Cancellation, on theiOS 13 Control Center volume slider, Transparency mode can be switched by holding the force sensor or by pressing a long press.
Transparency is perfect when you need to hear things, such as announcements at an airport, or when someone starts talking to you. This allows the sound of more natural outside noise, which in turn allows you to respond more naturally if required.
Throughout my testing, I used transparency mode several times and was impressed with how it helped me to absorb the sound from my environment without removing the buds from my ears. I used this app to clearly hear AirPort announcements about the PA system and to hear the flight attendant apologize for skipping a bumpy flight beverage service.
Even if their noise cancellation properties are not taken into account, the AirPods Pro sounds better for several key reasons than the standard AirPods.
The main reason why sound quality is improved is due to the acoustic isolation of ear tips. The ear tips, which help seal noise from outside sources, cause the low end frequency to be significantly more pronounced compared to the baseline buds.
There is also the inclusion the above-mentioned inward-facing microphone, allowing for a new feature called Adaptive EQ. The inward-facing microphone senses sound as you do, largely involving the shape of your ears. It helps the AirPods Pro to fine-tune the mid-and low-end frequencies of the audio and provide a richer and more consistent on-fly listening experience.
In addition to Adaptive EQ, the buds feature a low-distortion, high-excursion Apple driver built specifically for the AirPods Pro. This driver is responsible for the bass produced by the earbuds, which for such a small device is surprisingly powerful.
There is a custom high dynamic range amplifier in addition to the high-excursion driver. Not only does this amplifier help to produce clearer sound, but Apple is also improving its efficiency, specifically calling for additional battery life to be resounded.
I like to think I have a wide range of musical tastes, including hip-hop, j-pop, country, classic rock, and bluegrass. I tried songs from all those genres and was mostly impressed by the AirPods Pro’s sound quality. I recommend the Eagle’s Hotel California as a key song to put the new headphones of Apple to the test, just like many others.
The AirPods Pro is more bass-heavy than the regular AirPods, thanks to the tips of the ear and the custom Apple driver. Yet I haven’t noticed the sound to be too bass-heavy as Apple’s Beats series items seem to be distorted.
Although the regular AirPods or the Powerbeats Pro didn’t set the bar exactly as to how headphones should sound, the AirPods Pro sounded unmistakably better than either of those products, and I don’t think it’s even close.
I get a feeling similar to that of the AirPods Pro when I first heard the HomePod. In other words, I know that there are better sounding speakers, but these sound very good for the price, and I think most people will be happy with their quality of audio.
In many ways, the AirPods Pro is like the original AirPods, just a better overall performance. While no piece of tech is really ideal for every person, I think the AirPods Pro is as similar as you can to a better version of the original AirPods.
The AirPods Pro not only sounds amazing, they are uber-portable, come with great battery life, and feature amazing Active Noise Cancellation. Together with Transparency mode and adjustable ear tips, these features make the AirPods Pro one of the best earbuds you can buy if you’re an iPhone user.
All this, and I haven’t really touched on the ever-on, ever-ready features of Hey Siri, which was the signature feature of the AirPods of the second generation. From routine operations such as telling the time or current temperature, to more advanced functionality such as pre-heating your car or locking your window, just getting Hey Siri right in your ears is like having an assistant at your beck quietly and calling at all times.
If you’re on the AirPods Pro fence, just purchase them. This is a great product to recommend if you are an iPhone user, which is super-easy.