Apple AirPods Pro review: close to perfection
Apple's ability to make good wireless headphones has been proven with the AirPods. With the AirPods Pro, the Cupertino-based company is expanding its range of headphones with a further model that offers a better fit and, above all, active noise cancellation for an extra $50 than the non-Pro version. Here's how Apple's newest AirPods perform in everyday life.
- Very good fit
- Good sound
- Very good active noise suppression
- Very good integration with iOS
- Compact charging case
- Only basic functions outside of the Apple Ecosystem
- Missing volume control
- Average battery life
Apple AirPods Pro release date and price
Wireless headphones are the latest trend. One of the reasons is certainly the extinction of smartphones with a 3.5mm headphone jack. We're forced to find wireless solutions now. With the AirPods Pro, Apple now offers a second variant of its true wireless headphones, which differ from the conventional AirPods and at $250 cost 50 bucks more than the conventional AirPods with the wireless charge case. There are no differences in color, so the AirPods Pro are only available in white. It's a shame, because Apple could have adapted the colors of the iPhone 11 Pro models to the AirPods Pro.
Apple AirPods Pro design and build quality
When the first AirPods were presented in September 2016, the design of the earbuds quickly became a social media joke. The AirPods were compared to toothbrush attachments and many smirked at the design. But within a short time, the AirPods were everywhere and even Amazon's Senior Vice President used the Apple AirPods during an interview with Bloomberg. Unfortunately, the interview revolved around the latest recently introduced Echo products, including Amazon's Echo Buds.
But back to the design of the new AirPods Pro. Apple has designed the Pro version of its wireless headphones as in-ear headphones. This means that there is now a rubber ear tip that penetrates into the front part of the ear canal. Practically speaking, passive noise suppression is already carried out. Interesting is the new and innovative click system for these ear tips. Instead of putting the rubber units over an extended tube as usual, you just click them into a groove directly on the loudspeaker grill.
Apple's AirPods Pro has been able to shorten the long bridge so that the earbuds are less reminiscent of toothbrush attachments. In the lower area of the bridges, these are flattened, as both action areas are accommodated here. The charging case also benefits from the shorter stem of the AirPods Pro, as this makes the case more compact. It has now become so compact that it fits easily into the small pocket of jeans, in which I had always kept small change until now.
Another special feature of the new AirPods Pro are the ventilation channels in the earbuds. These are recognizable by the black grids outside and inside. The main purpose of the ventilation duct is that someone wearing the AirPods does not feel this unpleasant feeling of pressure.
In addition, microphones, which are required for active noise suppression, are also located behind the grilles. While the outer microphone captures ambient noise, the inner microphone is used to dynamically adjust the sound. Apple says that the sound image can be adjusted up to 200 times in one second.
Software optimized wearing comfort
Long story, short: out of the case, and into the ears. At the first insertion I felt the reflex to drill the ear studs deep into the ear canals, but you don't have to be. Instead, a gentle insertion of the earbuds is sufficient and the fit is usually perfect. If you are using an iPhone with at least iOS 13.2 then you can not only connect the AirPods Pro very simply, thanks to the H1 chip, but also tests whether the two earbuds really fit perfectly with the help of a sound file during the setup. Unfortunately, this feature is embedded in iOS and is neither available on macOS nor for Windows or Android.
In general, the AirPods Pro are more comfortable with an Apple product. Not only has the pairing process been designed to be so simple that nobody can fail and the fit is always perfect, but with the help of the Apple ID it is easy to connect the Airpods to other Apple products without a new pairing process. You can also find the last position via "Find my" AirPods.
Nevertheless, it is no problem to pair the AirPods Pro with an Android smartphone or a Windows PC and other Bluetooth players. Therefore the charging case has a button on the backside to set the Bluetooth module into pairing mode. But coupled with non-Apple products the above-mentioned features are missing and it is also not possible to read out the battery life of the AirPods or even the charging case. You can also use only two of the three modes. Instead of being able to choose between ANC on, Transparency and ANC off, there is then only the possibility to choose between the factory activated ANC on and Transparency.
Clean sound even with active noise reduction
When it comes to headphones, it's not only wearing comfort, handling, and battery life that matter, but first and foremost the sound. The output device, in this case the headphones, is the last link before we are excited or rather disappointed by the sound. In the case of the AirPods Pro, you can only take off the hat to Apple's audio specialists and what they produce from the small earbuds for beautiful sound.
So how do AirPods Pro sound in everyday life? The sound of the AirPods Pro is truly impressive in all three modes. Many manufacturers often tune their ANC headphones precisely for the noise-canceling mode as that is the main selling point. With the AirPods I had both ANC on and off and a warm sound garnished with present bass. Even at high volumes, the sound remains well defined, with no clashing treble, frayed mid-range, and heart-rending bass. When overdriven highs or really fat bass penetrate into the ear canals, the AirPods Pro will keep up and you can be sure that both the musician and the studio wanted to have this effect.
The representation of spatial depth is also good. With Queens Bohemian Rhapsody, Freddy Mercury was able to give me goosebumps through the AirPods Pro. Of course, everyone has their own musical tastes and preferences, but Apple's AirPods should be able to meet a large mass of tastes here.
Pssst - effective ANC without side effects
You don't always have to be the first on the market and be the first to place features that nobody else has. Apple demonstrates it very well with the noise reduction of the AirPods Pro. For the small ear studs, they filter out ambient noise very effectively. Apple's ANC is at eye level with the Sony WF-1000MX3. Apple's ANC was able to completely eliminate the huge and somewhat outdated beverage refrigerator. Even the hectic typing of the colleagues or the lawnmower and leaf blower of the gardener from the neighboring property filtered the noise suppression very well away.
In transparency mode, the AirPods sound better to me than the Sony WF-1000MX3 because voices sounded more natural and I didn't feel like they were being electronically amplified. So you can actually leave the AirPods in your ears and still talk to colleagues in transparent mode, but I find that a bit rude. I'd rather take the headphones out and show my conversation partner that he has my full attention.
More than enough for everyday life
With such small headphones, I would always have doubts when it comes to battery life, especially as the AirPods Pro also have active noise cancellation and transparency modes. Without ANC or transparency mode, I easily got 5 hours of battery life for the Apple AirPods Pro.
But with active noise reduction and/or transparency mode, the battery life dropped to 4.5 hours. For a long distance flights, a single battery charge is not enough for the AirPods Pro. One would have to put the AirPods Pro during an eight-hour long-haul flight arithmetically about 30 minutes in the charging case, so that one gets safely over the remaining flight time of three hours. After all, the charge case has an additional 24 hours running time for the Airpods Pro. The charge case can be charged either via Lightning cable or wirelessly on a wireless charging station.
Conclusion: So close to perfection
Well done, Apple! With the AirPods Pro, the company from Cupertino has created a truly amazing true wireless headphones that currently offer the best compromise between wearing comfort, sound and battery life. The best thing about the Apple AirPods Pro is that you don't need an iPhone for everyday use! The headphones also work perfectly on an Android smartphone or tablet, a Windows PC or notebook or a Smartwatch.
It is also impressive that Apple has managed to design the ANC of the AirPods Pro in such a way that there is no feeling of pressure. It also helps that Apple has designed the in-ear headphones with open ventilation to prevent the feeling of pressure. In transparency mode, the outside noise sounds natural and less electronically amplified than with competing products.
The AirPods Pro are also convincing when it comes to sound quality, even though the Sony WF-1000XM3 is better from a purely subjective point of view. The only suggestions I have for Apple are to integrate a volume control and say goodbye to the white plastic. The latter is particularly annoying with the transport case, as it feels greasy after just a few steps due to human fat.