So the Apple AirPods Pro are finally here and with a whole host of improvements over the original, and there’s a lot to talk about. They have a smarter design and a number of new features that settle most of the issues people had with the first generation.
However, they are also significantly more expensive. The question is, are they worth the extra outlay?
Let’s find out in our Apple AirPods Pro review…
Thanks to Apple’s seamless H1 chip, the AirPods Pro instantly connect to your iPhone the moment they are activated along with every other Apple device that you have connected to your iCloud account. In other words, if you have an Apple Watch, an iPad, or a Mac, then you won’t need to pair the AirPod Pros separately.
Android devices also paired quickly. But nothing like the convenience you get when pairing the Airpod Pros with an Apple product.
Three sets of silicone earbuds come in the box and a very clever feature found in the Bluetooth settings. This will tell you if you’ve selected the right size or not. A piece of music is played, and the in-built microphones assess how much sound leakage is occurring.
If there’s too much, then you will be prompted to try a different set of ear tips that provide a better seal. Hats off to Apple for developing this idea into a reality. It’s probably something only they would have thought of.
One of the first things you notice when picking the AirPod Pros up is just how incredibly light they are. And if you’re not actively listening to something, it’s very easy to forget that you’re wearing them.
The main cosmetic differences from the original AirPods are a shorter stem and the addition of the silicone ear tips. As a result, they have less of a conspicuous look. Although they are still instantly identifiable as a set of AirPods.
Previously, you had to tap on the earbud housing to activate controls. This has been replaced with a pressure sensor on the side of the stem, which you have to squeeze. Play/pause, track selection, and ANC settings can be controlled by squeezes of different durations.
Initially, this was a little tricky, but after 10 minutes of use, it became second nature. The only downside to this design was that it felt like you were slightly pulling the buds out of your ear with each squeeze.
What would have been really nice would be the ability to control volume. It quickly becomes annoying having to do this through the phone every time. It’s a bit of a mystery why Apple chose to ignore this as some of the strongest competition have this as standard now.
Back on the plus side, we also liked the inclusion of sensors that pause your listening automatically when you remove a bud and resume it when reinserted. Saves a lot of fiddling around when you need to pay attention quickly.
The area that has seen the biggest improvement has to be the overall fit. The silicon buds and lightweight design really help to achieve a good seal and hold the AirPod Pros securely in place even whilst running or jumping around. We really put them through their paces over the course of a week, and they didn’t come close to falling out once.
If you’re a keen jogger, then the Pros have made great strides in terms of stability and comfort. One of the biggest complaints against the original AirPods was their inability to stay in the ear. That is no longer an issue.
Apple have even brought their ingenuity to their ear tip design. Rather than wiggle the silicone tip on to the stem, these ear tips have a click mechanism that holds them in place very effectively. It takes a little getting used to, but once you’ve mastered the removal technique, then there’s literally no chance of the ear tip coming loose from the stem and getting lost.
Little things that all add up to a much better user experience.
Rain and sweat are also not a problem as the AirPod Pros have an IXP4 water resistance rating. Not the best available, but it should be fine for most users.
Overall, the Apple AirPods Pro are a superbly engineered set of wireless earbuds with a host of clever features. And we haven’t even mentioned the noise cancellation technology yet.
Active Noise Cancellation/Transparency
Apple have finally got in on the noise cancellation scene. The ANC technology is complemented by two microphones on each earbud, and together they make 200 adjustments per second. A rate that Apple claim is unique to the AirPod Pros.
Active noise cancellation isn’t the easiest thing to get right, especially in a set of wireless buds, so we’re pleased to report that the AirPod Pros manage it very effectively with very little negative impact on audio quality. The consistent drone of a plane or train is virtually eradicated whilst the background chatter of the office is almost completely eliminated.
Another very useful feature is the transparency mode, which pipes in environmental sound via the external microphone. This is particularly useful if you need to hear what’s going on around you, when you’re jogging in a busy area, for example. It’s a very natural effect and feels just like listening on a normal pair of non-ANC headphones, which we guess, is the effect they are trying to achieve.
Apple claim five hours of continuous listening with the ANC turned off and 4.5 hours with it on. We found this to be accurate throughout the week we trialed the AirPod Pros. As accurate as the claims are, this still isn’t a very impressive total and should definitely be something that Apple should look to improve on in the future.
The accompanying charging case provides an extra 24 hours listening when fully charged, and a quick charge feature means five minutes charging in the case will get you a full hours worth of listening. Always handy when you’ve got dead AirPods, and you’re in a hurry.
The only complaint against the charging case was that you can’t tell how much power is remaining without going into the app. A simple LED display on the case would be a wise addition to the next model.
Whilst the Apple AirPod Pros are certainly not aimed at the audiophile market; they sound significantly better than their predecessors. Firstly, they are a lot more powerful, and the improvements in fit and noise isolation also help to improve the overall sound.
They don’t possess a huge amount of bass, but this doesn’t mean they sound underpowered, just more balanced and controlled. The midrange is the highlight of the frequency spectrum with vocals and lead instruments sounding rich and detailed. The treble frequencies are also nicely balanced, never feeling too sharp, even playing at a high volume.
There are better sounding wireless earbuds out there. The Sony WF-1000XM3, for example, has a punchier and more pleasing sound signature, but in comparison to previous Apple efforts, this is certainly a step in the right direction.
Apple AirPods Pro Pros & Cons
- Improved comfort and fit.
- Excellent noise cancellation.
- Well balanced sound signature.
- Super portable charging case.
- Quite expensive.
- Higher quality sound available in the competition.
- Not the most stylish of designs.
More Excellent Options
Not convinced about the Airpods Pro? No worries, check out our reviews of the Best Headphones and Earbuds for Sleeping, the Best Sound Quality Earbuds, the Best Wireless Earbuds for Small Ears, the Best Noise Cancelling Earbuds, or the Most Durable Earbuds currently available.
Or how about the Best Bone Conduction Headphones if you fancy something a little bit different?
So are the Apple AirPods Pro worth the high price tag?
Well, if you an iPhone user, then the answer is most definitely yes for a number of reasons. Firstly, they sound significantly better than the previous AirPods and come with a whole host of smart new features that immeasurably improve the overall user experience.
Add to that possibly the best noise cancellation technology we’ve experienced in a pair of truly wireless earbuds and massively improved levels of comfort and fit, and you have quite the all-round performer.
If you don’t own an Apple device, then there are a few other models that offer better audio quality at a lower price, that would be well worth a look. The Sony WF-1000XM3 and the Beats Powerbeats Pro both spring to mind as good alternative options.
Apple devotees, though need look no further. Yes, they can be topped for sound, but they are a pleasure to use and are the perfect wireless listening accessory to accompany the Apple ecosystem.