When it comes to the word Pro, ask 100 different people what that means and you’ll get 100 different answers. This article isn’t going to get into that debate. Instead I want to talk about my experience of using AirPods Pro day to day over the last 6 months and help you decide if AirPods Pro are for you.
Comfort and Fit
One of the biggest differences with AirPods Pro compared to regular AirPods, is the way in which they fit. AirPods Pro offers a more customisable and personalised fit compared to the standard AirPods. The buds feature removable silicone tips. The tips come in three sizes (all included in the box) and are quite different to the ones found on competing ear buds. They feature a unique locking mechanism that largely mitigates the potential for the tips to fall off. For the average consumer this is a win win. Less chance of losing the tips, a more personalised fit.
Lots of people find the original AirPods just don’t fit them or fall out during workouts. I didn’t personally have that problem with the original AirPods or the new AirPods Pro. Chances are AirPods Pro will be a better fit for you if you struggled with the fit of the originals. That doesn’t mean AirPods Pro are a 100% fit for everyone. If you usually struggle with in ear buds then I would recommend trying these on if at all possible before shelling out the cash. Apple has also built in a clever sizing test in the settings to help you determine if the AirPods are correctly sealed. I’d recommend trying that before committing.
In terms of how they feel in your ears, they feel comfortable even with extended listening sessions. I’ve sometimes left mine in for several hours without any pain or soreness. The built in transparency mode also increases comfort by allowing you to choose to let outside sound in whenever you’d like. Transparency mode uses the external microphones to funnel sound in your environment directly in to your ears. This negates the need to remove the AirPods Pro when pausing music if you need to speak to somebody in a shop or pay for a coffee etc… but has the added benefit of mitigating that horrible sensation of pressure in your ears. Too often in ear buds tend to create a sensation a little bit like that feeling you get when you start to take off or land on a flight.
AirPods Pro sound significantly better than the standard AirPods. I would definitely not class myself as an audiophile by any means but I could notice the difference immediately. A big reason for the improvement in sound quality is the addition of ANC (active noise cancellation). Unlike many other in ear buds, the AirPods Pro are able to dramatically reduce the amount of ambient noise that you can hear while wearing them. External microphones essentially pick up and neutralise external low frequency sounds. They do this by working with the drivers in the AirPods Pro to generate white noise that cancels out the sound. The big benefit is the less ambient noise you can hear, the more volume and presence you’ll experience in your music.
The other noticeable improvement is in bass response and mid frequencies. The standard AirPods can sometimes be a little underwhelming in this regard. Thanks to new and improved drivers, the AirPods Pro deliver richer, deeper bass. The seal created by the silicon tips also prevent sound escaping from your ears.
When making phone calls with AirPods Pro, I find the experience to be truly excellent thanks to the features described above. The other person sounds loud and clear and I’ve never once had a problem with the caller not being able to hear my voice. Apple has done a great job with creating small, miniaturised microphones for some time now. An engineer I worked with at Apple previously worked for the UK intelligence service developing small, discreet microphones for various operations. Apple snapped him up and I’m sure his experience and the various other talent in the department has contributed to this best in class microphone array.
The sound quality to me sounds more than good enough, I’d say it sounds very good, better than average. I wouldn’t describe the sound as the best audio experience I’ve ever had but when combined with excellent ANC, the average consumer won’t be disappointed.
Other Notable Features
AirPods Pro benefit from the various excellent features introduced in the original AirPods. Instant pairing makes setting up the AirPods Pro a breeze. Audio syncs up perfectly with your content every single time. The tight integration with iOS displays battery life of each AirPod and the accompanying charging case. Battery life is 4.5 hours with ANC on and 5 hours with it turned off plus an additional 24 hours battery from the charging case. Wireless charging comes as standard but you can also charge via a cord if you prefer. AirPods Pro also introduce sweat and water resistance ideal for working out. All of the Apple magic that made the original AirPods sell like hot cakes can be found in the AirPods Pro and more.
Gripes and Niggles
AirPods Pro are excellent but they aren’t perfect. The fit isn’t a guaranteed fit for anybody with a small or diminished anti tragus. If that applies to you then sadly you’re out of luck. A close friend who found the standard AirPods to be a perfect fit just couldn’t keep the AirPods Pro in. The tips rely on the rigid cartilage of your ears anti tragus to stay in.
Apple has also run into some problems with AirPods Pro firmware. In the first firmware update for AirPods Pro, many users reported diminished ANC. I personally didn’t experience any difference. Only last week however on May 8th Apple issued a firmware update which seems to have largely resolved this issue but not for everyone. Something to keep in mind. I’d recommend testing them before deciding if the ANC works well for you. In my experience it has been very very good indeed.
Should you spend your hard earned money on AirPods Pro? At £249/$249 they aren’t an inexpensive product and there is plenty of competition entering the wireless earbuds space.
If you’re in the iOS ecosystem, travel and commute to work on public transit or just want the best audio quality but hate bulky headphones, then AirPods Pro are an easy recommendation. The ease of use, the instant pairing and the great ANC tech make using them simply delightful. If you don’t have a need for ANC, want to save some money or you just listen to music casually, then you’ll probably be just as happy with the standard AirPods for £159 without wireless charging or £199 with the wireless charging case.
If you’re using an Android device, the recommendation becomes a tougher sell. You’ll still benefit from ANC, the comfort and fit and great battery life of AirPods Pro but you won’t get to experience some of the magic such as instant pairing that those in the iOS ecosystem enjoy. Google’s recently released Pixel Buds will offer some of those benefits albeit without ANC.
AirPods extends the lead Apple has in the wearable space and moves it forward in a meaningful way. I don’t expect to see that lead slowing down anytime soon based on current rate of sales. 6 months later I continue to use and enjoy AirPods Pro as much as when I first unboxed them. I don’t think most people will be disappointed. Good job Apple.