It has been rumored for a while, but AirPods Pro is finally here. They have a new design, new features, and a new price tag, but they are still unexpectedly AirPods. While the original model grabbed a lot of (qualified) flak for not sealing the ear canal, Apple AirPods Pro not only seals the ear, but they also provide active noise cancellation. On paper, these are light-years older than the mere fact. But are they worth $ 250?
Editor’s Note: This review was updated on March 3, 2020, which included the Reader FAQ about AirPods Pro.
Who Should Buy Apple Airpods Pro?
Apple iPhone users who want true wireless earbuds will get the most out of AirPods Pro, and for them: These are the best true wireless earbuds for the latest generation of iPhones.
True wireless enthusiasts will like them, mostly because the active noise-canceling options in this type of gadget are quite rare unless you pick up the Beats, Sony, or Huawei models.
Gym mice and cardio monsters will appreciate that, in fact, stay in your ears. Sweat-resistance is also a big plus here.
How do you use AirPods Pro?
When you first start using AirPods Pro, you want to find the right size earpiece to use, as the rest of your experience hinges on it. If the ear hairs are too big, they will not be painful, and if they are too small, they will likely fall out.
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Once you establish the correct ear tip shape, they will fit securely into your ear canal. After pairing with your phone, you should be able to listen to music without fusion with a lot of settings. Like any other Apple product, the product’s ethos should be something that “just works.”
To that end, there are some features that AirPods Pro adopted to make them more useful than true wireless earbuds of their garden variety. For example, the transparency mode allows you to pump in the surrounding sounds so that you don’t miss your stops, or you can join the conversation without skipping a beat.
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You can easily enter transparency mode by long-pressing which is now really functional rather than being wonky (though still a bit ugly, let’s be honest). A single squeeze on the stem will pause or play the music, a double squeeze will skip the next song, and a triple squeeze will skip the next song.
Additionally, there is even an ear tip fit test that you can do to make sure they are in your ear correctly. To do this you need to go into Bluetooth settings, and then tap on the small “i” icon next to AirPods. From there, if you’re on iOS, the ability to rename them, whether you want to turn the ANC on or off, optimize the tap and hold on each earbud, and test the ear tip fit.
This will test whether you should use a different set of ear tips or whether active noise cancellation is working properly. Considering how bad the original AirPods are in our tests, this is a great improvement and kudos where they don’t because Apple actually listens to user complaints in this instance.
Until we are on the subject of ear tips, these have been redesigned. Unlike basically every other pair of earbuds, which pretty much universally use the same ear tips, these are specifically designed for the AirPod Pro.
Each earbud has a small section around the speaker driver, where the ear tip stays well and securely. To squeeze them around the nozzle one should not pinch more on the tip of the silicone ear, although it is appropriate that these do not have a nozzle on them.
How do you connect on iOS?
Connecting to AirPods Pro is as simple as on an iOS device, although to connect you will need to update to iOS 13.2. Thankfully, if you don’t get up-to-date the first time, you’ll be prompted to update to pop up on your device. Once this is done, connecting is like pairing with another Apple Audio product for the H1 chip. A small card comes up from the bottom and then all you have to do is “connect”.
After you do this, they will be paired with every other device on your iCloud account. The card that pops up will give you some useful information such as charging case and battery earbuds. A nice feature is that if you only put one AirPod back in the case, you will see a small red “x” where there will be battery life. I’m sure if you lose one, you know that as long as you try to get them back in the case, but it’s still great.
How do you connect on Android?
The process is a bit different if you are on Android or using a Windows PC, although this is unchanged from previous AirPods. Long-press the button on the back of the charging case to enter Bluetooth pairing mode only, and then locate it in your device’s Bluetooth settings. Once coupled, you should be good to go. It is worth noting that if you are using them with Android, you will not get some features.
In particular, when you remove one of the earbuds from your ear the auto-pause detects and does not work and apparently “Hey Siri” also does not work. Thankfully, the active noise-canceling and transparency mode works fine because it is controlled by a hard press of the stem.
NB: A number of AirPods Pro users have noted that they have connection issues even after updating the earbuds’ firmware. If you are reading this review in search of a fix: you will not find one here. You need to contact Apple technical support and make possible arrangements for a new pair.
True wireless earphones are notorious for skips, stutters, and other connection issues, and it seems that AirPods Pro is no different. Be sure to update the firmware as it becomes available, and practice good battery habits for best results. We cannot guarantee that it will help, but it will give you the most ammo when you return your product to the Genius Bar for replacement.
How are AirPods Pro different than the original AirPods?
If you’re wondering why Apple fans are trying to get the latest model AirPods, it’s because they fix the most egoistic issue with the older model: an earless canal. This may not seem like a big thing, but it is an improvement that you will notice immediately – something we have done endlessly on SoundGuyus.
So why is it important to get rid of noise? The answer is double.
First, by providing a sealed ear canal, AirPods Pro can prevent other sounds around you from drowning out your melodies, and preserve sound quality without interference from auditory masking.
In short, auditory masking is the phenomenon of external sounds that are similar in loud “removal” to other sounds you hear in your brain. With the original AirPods, the issue was massive because the earbuds didn’t actually prevent any noise from reaching your ears.
Second, you no longer have to crank your music to listen to it. When you’re fighting outside noise, the only way to hear your tunes is to crank up the volume – which can cause noise-induced hearing loss if you’re not careful. Although the original AirPods capped at a high level of total loudness, it is possible to affect the long-term hearing if you hear the maximum amount at all times.
By sealing the ear canal (and canceling the noise above it), the sound pressure level below 1/8 reaches your ears, so you can also turn off your music and it will still sound better than anything that AirPods can pump on your traffic
But that’s not all: AirPods Pro also packs new features like automatic matching of your music to fit your unique ear canals, three types of eartips, large microphones with wind screens, and beefier internal components. These may all sound like window-dressing, but they are quite convenient if you frequently switch from music to call.
Finally, these are AirPods that you can actually take to the gym. With IPX4 certification (and the fact that they are actually able to stay in your ears), they can block sweat, and reap the rewards of working outdoors with music. As far as the charging case goes, it is relatively unchanged.
It is slightly beefier than the previous version, but not too much and if you take the old case and turn it sideways, you should guess how big it is. If you want to delve further, we cover head to head with both versions of AirPods.
What does AirPods Pro look like?
This is always the hardest part to address with any review because everyone’s anatomy is slightly different. However, Apple’s attempts to make the Pro version a bit more special, attempted to add them to a feature that tries to equalize your music based on the size of your ear (read more: What is DSP?).
Because of this, all AirPods Pro will sound very similar from person to person with other headphones. Additionally, with actual noise attenuation, they sound much better than their predecessors based on the fact that your music is not simply competing with engines, airplane cabins, or noisy alleyways.
These sounds are clearly better than the previous version, due to the ear tips and relatively good isolation. The low end of these is still by no means comparable to the PowerBeats Pro, but they are more powerful than the AirPods 2.
The fact that you can actually hear the bass with these highlights is that it is quite tight and is controlled with just a slight thrust to help the younger drivers a little.
The low end in Callaita by Bad Bunny made its presence felt without punched or fake looks, which is a trap that earbuds fall into to make the low end heard. Don’t get me wrong, you’re still missing some of your favorite sub-bass syntates, but the drum kick and deep sound come right through.
Speaking of sounds, the AirPods Pro does a good job of reproducing the vowels, along with a neutral frequency response across all the tones. This means that any note in the mid-range will not be made to sound louder just because of headphones. That said, you can see that it is in really high where notes of 11kHz and above have some (green) extra loud peaks.
This can be an issue when listening to songs like Songbird by Cory Chisel where I think the clarity and sections of the guitar reach a point of rigor rather than clarity. Nevertheless, this is not a problem in most songs and I would take it back to previous AirPods frequency response any day of the week.
The most important feature of the new version is without a doubt active noise cancellation, and these are some of the best noise canceling true wireless earbuds on the market. While they are not completely ridding you of the lesser mess of planes and trains, they serve to remove ambient noise such as cars moving around you and ripping crowds.
Are they amazing in mind? Of course not, and something like the Sony WF-1000XM3 still works better in this aspect, but the AirPods Pro is no joke and will work for most people.
AirPods Pro has two small microphones on both the inside and outside, and they work in the same way that all active noise-canceling headphones do. Apple claims that inward-facing microphones are measuring sound 200 times per second to ensure that it is producing the correct sound to correct it, which is impossible to test on our end. Nevertheless, the end result is not bad.
Can updating firmware weaken ANC?
Many users report worse ANC performance after updating to make the 2B588 firmware. However, I should point out that there is a tendency among ANC headsets with updates over Bluetooth to fail the update, and then trouble after the fact. If you find that your AirPods Pro is worse than ANC, then you should do the following:
- Put your AirPods Pro back in case they carry it
- Factory data turns white by holding the setup button for 15 seconds or if the amber flashes three times, reset your AirPods Pro
- Charge the carrying case again, and then try the firmware update again
- If the problem persists, contact Apple Support
- Unfortunately this is a common problem with Bose, Sony, and other Bluetooth headsets that require updates over Bluetooth – not just Apple. Hopefully one day these can be applied to a physical wire, as it seems that Bluetooth is not cutting it for some people.
How long does the battery last?
In our testing we managed to get 5 hours and 6 minutes of continuous playback with the ANC (connected to an iOS device), which is above average for most true wireless models. It is worth mentioning that Apple claims that you will get around 4.5 hours of continuous playback with active noise cancellation and volume reduced to around 50%.
The charging case will charge you enough for a total of 24 hours of listening, and what’s better is that the case is fully compatible with any Qi wireless charger.
One issue I have is that the charging case still requires a Lightning cable because, well, the reason. The cable included in the box is now USB-C on one side and power on the other side, which is shocking as you will now need to bring this specific with you wherever you go.
Of course, this is not a big deal if you already own the new iPhone 11 as it also comes with this same cable, but it is a annoying inconvenience if you have not upgraded (or not planned) yet. That you are just being dealt with.
How to Clean AirPods Pro
If you use your earbuds daily, chances are they are going to get dirty very quickly. Just as you (hopefully) clean your ears every once in a while, you should do the same service to your earbuds. Thankfully, cleaning your AirPods Pro is very simple and we have an entire article explaining step by step how to do it.
All you really need are some Q-tips or cotton swabs, some drug store rubbing alcohol, a paper towel, a toothbrush, a liquid dish soap and a spirit for adventure! Okay, that previous one isn’t really necessary, but it can’t hurt.
Should you buy Apple AirPods Pro?
If you want AirPods – or you have an iPhone – AirPods Pro are the only AirPods we recommend to take for many reasons. Not only will they sound better than the original ones, but they also provide more in the way of features. Sure, they’re $ 50 more than the latest AirPods with wireless charging, but you get a lot for that extra cash.
While these genuine wireless earbuds are a serious upgrade over the original AirPods, there are many other models such as the Beats Powerbeats Pro and Sony WF-1000XM3 that offer competitive performance for a competitive price. Additionally, they suffer all the drawbacks of true wireless earbuds – such as batteries that have topped up for a few years.
If you want to make a wise investment in your audio, I caution you to look at something like Beats Solo Pro before taking these. True wireless earbuds will not only have longer battery life on or over-ear than smaller cells, but they will also be more durable and long-lasting.
However, if you’re an iPhone user, you’ve probably already made up your mind about living in the Apple ecosystem. If so, you can proceed with the knowledge that yes, these are the AirPods you should get.