Today’s the official launch date for the AirPods Pro that Apple surprised us with on Monday, so of course we went to pick some up at an Apple retail store this morning to give MacRumors readers a rundown of the new features and our first impressions.
In this video, we’ll go over the new design, the AirPods Pro capabilities, and determine whether Apple’s newest earbuds are worth the $249 price.
Design wise, the AirPods Pro are recognizable as AirPods, but there are some distinct differences compared to earlier AirPods. The stem, for example, is much shorter, and it now has a new Force sensor feature that supports gestures.
Squeeze the stem to play or pause your music, squeeze it two times to skip forward a track, and squeeze it three times to skip back. Pressing and holding will also switch between different listening modes, which we’ll get to in a second.
The other major AirPods Pro design change is the inclusion of new silicone tips that are designed to fit inside of the ears. The AirPods Pro ship with silicone tips in three sizes, and the tips just snap right on and off. Apple has even designed a fit test that makes sure you’re using the right size tip for your ear size.
We found the AirPods Pro to be comfortable and secure in the ears, though they definitely have a different feel from the original AirPods. Those silicone tips enable a key AirPods Pro feature — Active Noise Cancellation. Apple has included Active Noise Cancellation in some Beats headphones in the past, but this is the first time the company has released earbuds with Active Noise Cancellation functionality.
Active Noise Cancellation worked well in our testing, drowning out the sound of a loud furnace fan and people in nearby offices. There’s also a Transparency mode that Apple added, which tunes down Active Noise Cancellation so you can hear the environment around you.
Swapping between Active Noise Cancellation and the Transparency mode that lets you hear traffic, announcements, and more, can be done with a press and hold on the stem of the AirPods Pro. You can also turn it off and on using the Control Center on the iPhone.
Apple touts audio quality as a major improvement in the AirPods Pro, and they do indeed sound good. There is a noticeable difference in quality between the AirPods and the AirPods Pro, so if you were satisfied with the AirPods, you’ll be even more impressed with the AirPods Pro.
There’s an Adaptive EQ feature in the AirPods Pro, which Apple says automatically tunes the low and mid frequencies of the music to the shape of an individual’s ear for a “rich, immersive listening experience.” In practice, we were better able to distinguish between each instrument, and everything was crisp and clear.
It’s worth noting that the AirPods Pro are IPX4 water resistant, which means they’re going to hold up to sweat and perhaps some light splashing from the rain, but you shouldn’t submerge them and should make an effort to keep them dry when possible.
There’s an H1 chip in the AirPods Pro, which was also included in the AirPods 2, so all of the quick setup and device swapping features are present, plus hands-free “Hey Siri” commands are supported.
When it comes to the Wireless Charging Case for the AirPods Pro, it looks a lot like the standard AirPods case but it’s fatter than the previous version because it needs to accommodate those silicone tips.
It has the same capabilities as the original case, offering up somewhere around 24 hours of battery life for the AirPods Pro, with a 5 minute fast charge feature that provides an hour of listening time. It can be charged using the included Lightning to USB-C cable or via a Qi-based wireless charger because it does support wireless charging.
As for the AirPods Pro themselves, the battery lasts for up to 4.5 hours with Active Noise Cancellation turned on, or up to five hours if it’s disabled. If you’re talking on the phone, expect 3.5 hours of talk time with ANC on.
AirPods Pro are $50 more than the AirPods 2 with Wireless Charging Case, and with the Active Noise Cancellation, comfortable fit, and superior sound, choosing AirPods Pro over AirPods 2 makes a lot of sense.
Whether or not they’re worth the upgrade for those that already have AirPods is something everyone will need to decide for themselves. They sound great and have ANC, but the AirPods and AirPods 2 are also fantastic little headphones and some people may not need to upgrade if they’re happy with what they have now.
Make sure to stay tuned to MacRumors because we’ll also be doing an in-depth comparison between the AirPods Pro, the standard AirPods, and the Powerbeats Pro in the coming days.