The AirPods Pro are the more premium version of Apple's standard AirPods. They feature two audio modes for filtering outside sounds, changeable ear tips, and the H1 processor. Gyroscopes in the ear pieces enable users to move their head 'around' within an audio space using a feature called Spatial Audio.
● Active Noise Cancellation
● Transparency Mode
● Changeable ear tips
● Force Sensor for easy control
● Adaptive EQ
● H1 chipset
● Water resistant
● Spatial Audio
● 4.5 hours battery with ANC
● Retails for $249, deals available
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True wireless earbuds have become commonplace, with multiple competitors offering their take on the product. However, it was Apple's AirPods that made the concept mainstream.
Apple makes three different versions of its line of headphones: AirPods, AirPods Pro, and AirPods Max.
AirPods Pro Features
There are multiple headphones and earbuds that Apple sells to customers. The Beats by Dre line and AirPods line both provide a wide variety of features and fits that will make any customer happy.
The AirPods Pro take everything the AirPods made popular and improves on them. In fact, the "AirPods 3" are expected to borrow many of the pro's features.
Active Noise Cancellation
Active Noise Cancelation (ANC) describes a technology in modern headphones that reduces external noise from a listening experience. ANC's effectiveness varies from device to device, depending on each manufacturer's algorithms and goals.
AirPods Pro include a microphone on the earpiece's outside that listens for external noise continuously, then sending a sound called anti-noise into the ear. This attempts to cancel out with minimal latency. When it works correctly, it cancels external sound before the wearer can hear it.
A second microphone located inside the ear listens to the sound in your ear canal and will cancel any unwanted noises there.
The ANC is continuously adjusted at 200 times per second to ensure the best results. The HomePod also uses microphones to continuously adjust the sound.
AirPods Pro is also vented, for equalizing air pressure and preventing the user from feeling like they are underwater or have clogged ears. Venting allows for increased comfort and fixes an issue many have with the in-ear rubber design.
Transparency mode is a third listening mode for the earphones, after ANC and standard. When wearing earbuds with flexible ear tips, you're likely seeking to seal off the ear canal entirely. This creates a barrier to external sound, making hearing the world around you difficult, even with ANC off.
Transparency mode uses the microphones to adjust the ANC to a much lower level, then pipes in some of the external environment and voices it to your ear. It even listens for your own voice to make it easier to speak naturally. This means you can walk around town and not be afraid you'll miss hearing an oncoming car.
When wearing a single AirPod Pro, Transparency mode is on by default. To make ANC work with only one ear, you will need to turn it on in settings. If you are in ANC mode and remove one of your AirPods, it will automatically switch the remaining AirPod to Transparency mode.
Fit and design
If you tried to wear Apple's original earbuds or AirPods and you found that their "one size fits most" design didn't fit you, you may want to try again with the pro model. Apple includes three different earpieces in the box, allowing for some variety to the fit and seal. The attachment is a simple plastic oval, which third parties can replicate. So, even if Apple's tips don't work for you, others may.
Another unique feature is its ability to perform an "Ear Tip Fit Test" to verify that the ear tips you have chosen are providing a proper seal. After starting the test, a paired iPhone will play music through the earphones while using their microphones to analyze the seal. For each ear, it then either recommends trying a different tip or tells you that you that ear already has a tight seal.
Apple says that with ANC turned on, the AirPods Pro will last 4.5 hours, and only gains another half hour with the setting turned off. The charging case offers an additional 24 hours of battery, just like its predecessor. Apple says five minutes in the case will provide enough power for one additional hour of listening.
The key to long battery life lies in how you use them. Like with the AirPods, keeping the earpieces in their case when not in use will ensure a continuous charge. Using only one earpiece at a time, when applicable, will extend their battery life even further.
Water resistance is rated at IPX4, meaning working out with the AirPods Pro or exposing them to a little rain shouldn't scare you. The previous AirPods all stood up to water rather well, and some even survived a trip through the wash, but this is the first time Apple gave AirPods an official water-resistance rating.
Similar to ANC, Adaptive EQ will listen continuously to the audio inside your ear canal, but instead of adjusting for noise, it adjusts for audio quality. This is another feature likely born from Apple's experience designing HomePod.
The new AirPods Max also includes Adaptive EQ.
The non-pro version of Apple's wireless earbuds used a tap gesture to summon Siri or play/pause music, which would sometimes be uncomfortable or push the earphone deeper into your ear. The pro model uses something on the stem called the Force Sensor, which you squeeze to perform tasks. One press operates play/pause, two will skip forward, three will skip back, and a long press will switch between ANC and Transparency modes.
The H1 chip brings all the quick-pairing and Siri features you've come to expect from Apple headphones. It supports "Hey Siri" and the new Announce Messages with Siri feature. You can also share audio with other users who have the latest H1-equipped headphones.
Apple updates all of its products from time to time to ensure the best possible operation, and the pro wireless earbuds are no exception. Apple has released multiple firmware updates to the earphones, but the company doesn't state much about what they change. Apple pulled an update in December 2019, after complaints of reduced sound isolation in ANC mode.
On May 5, 2020, Apple finally released a new firmware update to address the pulled update and fix any remaining issues. You can navigate to Settings > General > About on a paired iPhone to check which firmware installed. If it's on an older firmware, ensure your AirPods show as connected in the Bluetooth menu screen when the lid is open, then leave them in the case. The update will complete on its own at some point without user interaction. There is no way to manually force an update.
At the 2020 Worldwide Developer Conference, Apple announced that its flagship in-ear headphones would be seeing some major upgrades. In iOS 14, AirPods Pro received a new Spatial Audio feature that mimics an immersive surround sound and movie theater-like experience. In other words, the audio will sound like it's coming from around the wearer.
Spatial Audio relies on tricks like the built-in accelerometer to monitor a user's head motions so that its sound field stays fixed.
Spatial Audio supports audio encoded in 5.1, 7.1 and Dolby Atmos.
AirPods Pro Review
In the AppleInsider review, we gave AirPods Pro 4.5 out of 5 stars. We liked the smaller design, audio quality, and ANC. However, the limited ear tips options, awkward force sensors, and charging case design gave us pause.
The AirPods Pro fit well in our ears and never showed signs of falling out during an intense workout. Running, jumping, or other common exercise routines did little to make the earbuds budge.
Apple would have been better to include more ear tip options rather than three standard sizes. The fit didn't feel perfect with any of the three choices offered. However, there are third-party options available for those with more specific ear tip needs.
We tested the ear tip fit test and found it didn't provide any useful information. This test may benefit those who have more irregular ear shapes.
The audio quality for the AirPods Pro is satisfying and good for the driver size. We don't believe they reach audiophile territory in terms of sound reproduction, but the quality was fine nevertheless.
The rubber ear tips provide a better seal, so audio was able to be more punchy than with the plastic AirPods.
Active Noise Cancelling is a welcome feature, though one we may not use too often. Using the ANC feature at the gym made the workout more immersive with complete isolation from the environment.
We found that Transparency Mode was a more useful feature in day-to-day use. Hearing audio piped in from the surroundings makes outdoor running or other activities feel more safe.
One of Apple's biggest strengths is its ability to integrate the earbuds so deeply into its operating systems. The earbuds instantly can switch between any of your Apple devices, including your Apple TV.
Controls show in Control Center on iPhone, iPad, and Mac so you can connect or adjust the ANC mode.
Apple's AirPods Pro are built for the person on the move. If you're working out, traveling, or commuting on the train — these wireless earbuds are the right choice for you.
Deciding which AirPods model is right can be tricky. For most, the choice is simple: the cheapest option is the best.
If you're looking for more quality and customization, then look no further than Apple's AirPods Pro. There is only a $50 difference between the AirPods with wireless charging case and the pro upgrade, so that choice is a no-brainer.
If you already own a pair of AirPods, it may be difficult to justify an upgrade. The quality is better and the features like Transparency mode add a lot to the experience, but the price may be prohibitive.
AirPods Pro Pricing
AirPods Pro cost $249. Unlike standard AirPods, which ship with either wired or wireless charging cases, the AirPods Pro only ship with a wireless charging case.