My most used bit of Apple tech, undoubtedly, is one of the least expensive. But, it is the ability for the AirPod Pro to fit in so easily, that makes them my go-to headphones every day.
Why do I love the AirPod Pro so much?
I think it was about two years ago, when we were deep in the midst of one of the 2020 lockdowns, that I got my first pair of AirPods. Note, I didn’t say buy, though. I came across them quite accidentally.
I had bought my daughter a MacBook Air for university, and as part of her education bundle, came free AirPods with the Mac. She already had some (see – I am lovely dad!), so, I inherited these ones by default.
I had never really understood AirPods until that point. I had been happy enough using the older cabled pairs along with the lightning adapter. Like so many things Apple though, once you start to use them, you really get them. And so was true with AirPods.
The lack of trailing cables, the ease of pairing, good audio and a great battery life, made them an immediate hit.
I used that pair solidly, day-in & day-out until March of this year, when I decided to treat myself, and trade-up to a pair of AirPod Pros. It has been one of the best audio decisions I have made.
What’s the fuss then?
I come from a background of audio. I must have about ten pairs of ‘professional’, headphones in my studio. I knew these, clearly, were never going to compete with those, but the audio would still be important to me.
The sound of the AirPod Pro’s, was fairly similar to that of the original AirPods. There were differences, though. The bass was more present, the top-end more defined and the mids, a touch less muddy. The BIG win for me, though, was the Automatic Noise Cancelling (ANC) function.
I was really hacked-off, when out walking and listening to podcasts, that I continually kept missing chunks of dialogue as the original AirPods let in too much outside noise. Actually, I didn’t think the AirPod Pro would cut-it either, and very nearly bought AirPod Max instead! If you are in that quandary, take my word, save yourself over £300 and get the AirPod Pro. The noise-cancelling is that good!
Being in-ear headphones, they will not be winning any audiophile awards anytime soon, but for consumable, easy to use decent sounding headphones, I love ‘em.
The mystery of Automatic Noise Cancelling
This is probably the best single feature of the AirPod Pro. Sure, they will not block out sound as well as a pair of over the head, noise-cancelling headphones like AirPod Max, but they do a mighty fine job. Particularly considering their size.
There are three settings for the noise-cancelling – off, transparency or on. Upon unpacking these headphones, you’ll find Apple have enclosed three different pairs of silicon tips. They are straightforward to pull-off and replace, and taking the time to find the tips that suit you best, really is worth it.
By using the the Ear Tip Fit Test on iPhone, you can check if you have the most suitable fit. Part of the effectiveness of the AirPod Pro, noise-cancelling, is that fit. AirPod Pro are actually the only pair of in-ear headphones that use Active Noise Cancellation.
An outward-facing mic will first detect any external sound, which in turn, is countered with an equal amount of anti-noise(Apple’s ANC algorithm), thereby cancelling the external sound before you even hear it. The job is not yet done though – an inward-facing mic is listening inside your ear for unwanted sound as well, which, once again, is eliminated with the same anti-noise algorithm. And all of this is done up to 200 times per second, ensuring the best possible listening environment for you at all times.
The moment you pop these AirPod Pro in, you detect the outside world becoming more distant and quiet. In fact, it is so effective, you forget it’s on! It’s only when you take them out, that you are reminded of what a great job they were doing.
Spatial Audio is at its best with these headphones. Watching something on Apple TV, with these headphones on, is the most immersive experience I have had. The audio tracks with your head, and Dynamic Head Tracking keeps the audio with you. It’s awesome, and by far the best way to experience Spatial Audio.
Fit and comfort
Firstly, let me say I had no beef at all with my original pair of AirPods. In honesty, I think the fit was possibly, slightly better, for me, using that first pair. The only thing I was not so keen on, though, was that I did find some fatigue crept in after a while, from the stem hanging down.
With AirPod Pro, there is virtually no stem, and thus no fatigue, but, they are more prone to drop out. This is most noticeable when exercising and, oddly, eating! When exercising, I find myself continually pushing them back in. I know the fit is correct for my ears, which leads me to believe it is just the nature of the beast. I have heard others mention this too, meaning I am not alone. Praise be!
Aside from the re-adjusting the fit when exercising though, the AirPod Pro are more comfortable, for longer periods, than the originals. AirPod Pro are also sweat, and water-resistant as well.
The call quality is exceptional. I think it is made superior to the original AirPod, because of all that clever ANC that we have just discussed. These AirPod Pro will, of course, work on all your devices…actually, a little too well…
My pet hate, is how AirPod Pro will attempt to connect to any of my devices around me, all the time. It is a case of Apple trying to be too clever. More often than not, they get it right, but this feature is, pretty much, universally hated! It is so damned annoying!
The good news is, help may be on the way, though. In the latest beta firmware release for AirPod Pro, attempts are apparently being made to significantly improve the Automatic Switching feature. I live in hope eternal.
Battery life & controls
Another strong suit for all AirPod’s is the outstanding battery life. The case is MagSafe compatible and quick to charge too. With only a 5 minute blast of charging, you can enjoy around 1 hour of listening time, and the case, when fully charged, will give about 24-hours of charge to the AirPods Pro themselves. The ANC, will naturally drain the battery quicker, due to the power being used in the background.
With the original pair, the battery life of AirPods, was notably longer, but of course, they were far more basic in what they were delivering, as they had no ANC.
When the AirPods are running low, you’ll get a notification on your phone. Battery life, though, is not anything you need to concern yourself with.
You don’t tap on these AirPod Pro to adjust things as you did with the original pair. On these, you simply squeeze the stem, which gives you a tiny haptic tremble. In so doing, this will help you control music, calls, and toggle between the Active Noise Cancelling modes. To alter the volume, head to Control Centre on your iPhone, and use the volume slider there.
There is no delicate way of putting this, but the build-up of ear wax on the original AirPods, is pretty hard to avoid. Over time, you’ll notice them becoming progressively quieter due to the compacted about of ear wax inside or behind the speaker grill. There is not much that can be done to stop that build-up, either.
With AirPod Pro, you have a line of defence, because of those silicon tips. Those tips prevent the speakers from ever coming in to contact with the nasty waxy stuff!
The case on these AirPod Pros feels a bit easier in your pocket too. Being squatter and flatter, it just seems to sit more comfortably when out & about.
If I have tempted you to either trade-up or buy or first pair of AirPod Pro, you may just want to hold back.
Stories from numerous sources, including MacRumours, suggest, the next generation of AirPod Pro may be on the way in the fall of 2022. Improvements could include lossless audio, an updated H1 chip, full Find My functionality and USB-C charging.
Are AirPod Pro worth it
Yup – in my experience, they are. There are currently three versions of AirPod available on Apple’s website.
- AirPod 2nd Gen at £119
- AirPod 3rd Gen at £169
- AirPod Pro at £239
There are some deals and offers to be had if you want to shop around online, but even at these Apple prices, the extra £70 it’ll cost between buying the 3rd Gen or Pro options is money well spent.
The active noise-cancelling is so hard for me to accurately describe, but it works really well. In most general, daily uses, the ANC will make listening to your content a joy. The long-term comfort, battery-life and fit, all make the AirPod Pro a good value purchase…but please just wait a few months…if you can! You’ll thank me in the long-run.
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