AirPods Pro review: These headphones still rock

Jeffrey Cuebas

Apple’s AirPods Professional ($249, £249, AU$399) to start with hit the industry in late Oct 2019. A great deal has changed in the globe considering the fact that then and new competition have arrived on the scene. But not substantially has changed about the way I really feel about these earbuds. The AirPods Professional are Apple’s to start with headphones to give lively noise cancellation, which electronically counteracts exterior noise like the hum of a jet motor or an air conditioner, and the firm’s to start with wi-fi product to feature a noise-isolating design and style — with silicone ear strategies that force into your ear canal. They keep on being a safe and sound option for Apple consumers wanting for a compact, lightweight pair of legitimate wi-fi earbuds that link conveniently to their Apple units and perform perfectly — equally for new music and motion picture listening as perfectly as producing voice calls.

Like

  • Ultracompact, lightweight, sweatproof (IPX4) and extremely cozy to have on
  • Sound-isolating design and style fits additional ears securely than typical AirPods
  • Provides superior bass and in general sound than the original AirPods
  • Lively noise-canceling significantly lessens ambient noise
  • Transparency manner to enable in sound
  • Headset overall performance when producing calls is top rated-notch
  • Spatial audio digital encompass feature coming this drop with iOS 14

Never Like

  • Fairly pricey
  • Seem high-quality is very good but some competition sound superior
  • Unclear if these have superior very long-term battery lifetime than the original AirPods

Sure, they are a minimal overpriced. But the very good news is we are seeing them frequently discounted by $25 to $35 at various online shops. Also, Apple declared not too long ago that this drop, with the release of iOS 14, they’re going to get automatic switching between Apple units and a new spatial audio encompass sound feature that requires advantage of some inside tech we didn’t know the AirPods Professional had: Alongside with crafted-in accelerometers, it turns out they also have crafted-in gyroscopes. That will enable for head monitoring, a feature commonly observed on bigger-stop gaming headphones, enabling the AirPods Professional the potential to make a additional practical encompass-sound knowledge (I am even now ready to attempt it out). The typical AirPods, which value about $100 significantly less, won’t get the new digital encompass sound feature, even though they will be upgraded with automatic switching.

After living with the AirPods Professional for lots of months and comparing them to a slew of competition, my conclusions keep on being mostly the exact. Here are some important takeaways.

Examine additionalThe greatest legitimate wi-fi earbuds of 2019

The original AirPods on the remaining, the new AirPods Professional on the suitable.


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AirPods Professional fit comfortably and securely

I am one of these people whose ears aren’t excellent receptacles for the original AirPods, which are now on their second technology. I can have on them, but they do not stay in my ears all that perfectly. I really feel them get started to drop out if I do just about anything also challenging in them, like dash throughout the street to make a light-weight.

With the AirPods Professional, I do not have that trouble. They fit my ears securely. I can operate with them — and they are sweat-evidence, Apple states (they have an IPX4 water-resistance ranking, which usually means they are splashproof but not watertight). It is also worthy of noting that they appear with modest, medium and large ear strategies. I was nervous I might need to have an additional-large tip to get a limited seal, but the AirPods Pro’s large ear strategies fit my ears fine. That explained, in the final handful of months, I did enhance the strategies with ($thirty) specially designed for the AirPods Professional that permitted me to get an even tighter seal and an even additional protected (I observed that one bud started to slip out of my ear on lengthier operates). Comply also would make and some more affordable foam strategies are offered for significantly less than $15. Nevertheless, I are not able to vouch for these, getting only tried the CharJenPro and Comply strategies.

Examine additional: Finest AirPods Professional extras of 2020

If you happen to be setting them up on an iOS machine, in truth, the app will guideline you via tests which ear tip fits you greatest. And Apple is providing its possess replacement strategies for just $four (for a set of three pairs), so replacing them when they sooner or later get, perfectly, gross is eminently very affordable.

The very long and short of it is the new design and style will fit additional ears than the original AirPods. I wait to phone it a universal fit mainly because there are usually exceptions, but they are shut. The only problem is that some people simply just do not like getting silicone buds caught in their ears, even if they are as soft and pliant as these strategies are. That’s the motive why so lots of people like the original AirPods. They just form of nestle in your ear — and when they fit suitable, they are definitely cozy. Nevertheless, a handful of of my coworkers explained that even even though the AirPods Professional sounded superior, they even now chosen the fit of the common AirPods.

AirPods Professional sound superior than typical AirPods 

The to start with detail you recognize about the AirPods Professional is that they sound superior than the typical AirPods because they have additional bass. The motive they have additional bass is mostly due to their new noise-isolating design and style and new drivers that are tuned for that design and style. The typical AirPods sound decent ample in peaceful areas but due to their open design and style, they just do not do perfectly when confronted with exterior noise (the bass frequencies get drowned out). The AirPods’ noise cancellation, which is helpful, also helps with exterior noise, and the blend of the seal of the strategies and the lively noise cancellation usually means they sound substantially superior in noisier environments these types of as town streets. 

Examine additional: AirPods Professional vs. typical AirPods — which need to you invest in?

The Ear Tip Match examination helps figure out which dimensions is suitable for your ears. 


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But AirPods Professional sound high-quality just isn’t greatest in class

Never get me mistaken, I like the way the AirPods Professional sound. They’re pleasurable to hear to — extremely very good for legitimate wi-fi. But they lack the clarity, definition and additional textured sound one could assume from headphones that value $250. In short, there are competing versions that value around the exact rate or significantly less that sound as very good or superior. That will not suggest these competing versions are superior in general — there are other factors to take into account — but just realize that from a pure sound standpoint, there are excellent selections. 

I compared the AirPods Professional to its closest recent competitor, the Sony WF-1000XM3, which also has adaptive noise-canceling capabilities. The WF-1000XM3 appears superior — its sound is even larger, smoother and additional refined in general, and less complicated to hear to in excess of lengthier listening sessions.

Examine additional: Finest noise-canceling legitimate wi-fi earbuds of 2020

The Sony WF-1000XM3’s noise-canceling manner is as helpful as that of the AirPods Professional. And the Sony’s battery lifetime is rated a minimal bigger (six hours), maybe mainly because they are bigger. With lively noise cancellation on, Apple states AirPods Professional will produce up to four.5 hours of listening. We have been in a position to eke out 5 hours and nine minutes in our battery examination with new music participating in at seventy five% quantity degree (you can observe the examination in our YouTube online video). While additional battery lifetime would ideally be superior, it just isn’t a big problem mainly because the buds cost swiftly in their scenario and a 5-minute cost through the Lightning port or a Qi wi-fi charging pad (indeed, they feature wi-fi charging) will get you an hour of battery lifetime. A USB-C to Lightning cable is involved, but you can need to have to source an adapter or plug them into a USB-C notebook if you do not have a wi-fi charging pad.

Given that I wrote my initial critique of the AirPods Professional, Sennheiser launched its second-gen Momentum Accurate Wireless two ($three hundred), which has superior sound than the AirPods Professional and similarly helpful noise-canceling. A number of other powerful noise-canceling legitimate wi-fi earbuds have hit the industry, which includes the Technics EAH-AZ70W ($250), and additional premium noise-canceling versions will get there in advance of the year’s stop. Match is a big variable when it comes to noise-isolating earphones: If you do not get a limited seal and very good fit (with any of these versions), the noise cancellation and sound high-quality equally just take a big hit. Some of these other earphones sound superior, but it is challenging to defeat the AirPods Pro’s lightweight design and style and cozy fit. 

Options you can entry from your Apple iphone.


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The dimensions and fit of the AirPods Professional are big providing points

The AirPods and their charging scenario are significantly lesser and lighter than the Sonys. The charging scenario is wider than the typical AirPods’ scenario and a minimal thicker, but it is even now a modest package. And dimensions matters when it comes to these forms of earphones. The scenario and the AirPods are practically 50 % the dimensions of the Sonys. You can find one thing desirable about that. Despite the fact that the Sonys fit me perfectly, the AirPods Professional appear to be additional probably to fit additional ears comfortably.

Side be aware: You can have on the remaining and suitable earbuds independently of each and every other (that is, have on one bud at a time), and Apple’s new Audio Sharing feature makes it possible for a pal with a compatible set of Apple or Beats headphones to link to your iOS machine to hear to the exact written content that you are.

These wi-fi earbuds are even superior for producing calls

The typical AirPods are rather very good for producing calls. With the release of the second-gen product this yr — some phone them the AirPods two — Apple improved their noise-reduction abilities, significantly wind noise. The AirPods Professional have three microphones on each and every bud, one of which is a beamforming mic that’s intended to choose up your voice. They also have comparable noise-reduction abilities, plus a vent system that’s not only meant to ease some of the force that can establish up in your ear from a noise-isolating design and style coupled with noise-canceling capabilities, but can enable reduce down on wind noise a tad, an Apple rep advised me. A lot more importantly, you can simply just hear callers superior mainly because of the Pros’ noise-isolating design and style.

Call high-quality has been the Sony WF-1000XM3’s Achilles heel. It is gotten superior with some firmware upgrades, but it need to be even superior — it is not up to the AirPods Pro’s typical. In terms of producing calls, the AirPods are top rated-notch. But other individuals are catching up. I tested these towards the Anker Liberty Air 2 earbuds. The Ankers and their additional high priced sibling, the Liberty two Professional, calculated up perfectly to the AirPods when it came to producing calls. Like the AirPods Professional, the Liberty Air two earbuds do a very good position of muffling ambient noise (callers explained they could hear me fine even with a great deal of street and even building noise around me). They do not sound rather as very good as the AirPods Professional, nor do they have lively noise-canceling, but they fit comfortably and their noise-isolating design and style passively seals out a great deal of ambient noise. They only value $90. 

The only detail the AirPods appear to be to be missing on the phone front is a sidetone feature that makes it possible for you to hear your voice in the earphones when you happen to be producing a phone. That makes it possible for you to modulate your voice accordingly and not converse also loudly. Amazon’s Echo Buds ($a hundred thirty), also very good for producing calls, have this feature, and so do the pricier Sennheiser Momentum Accurate Wireless two, which are also very good for producing calls.

The Pros have shorter stems. 


Sarah Tew/CNET

The AirPods Professional noise-canceling is very good but has some limitations

I have been finding a great deal of queries from readers about just how very good the AirPods Professional noise-canceling is and whether or not it is superior than what you get from comprehensive-dimensions headphones like the Sony WH-1000XM3 and Bose Sound Cancelling Headphones 700 or Bose QuietComfort 35 II. I was typically amazed with AirPod Pro’s noise cancellation. In open workplace environments and in other areas, like a cafe exactly where people are chatting around you, I didn’t think there was substantially of a distinction when I switched between the AirPods Professional and these bigger headphones. They all do a decent position, even though you can even now hear people’s voices. 

I think the comprehensive-dimensions headphones and even Sony’s WF-1000XM3 do a superior position muffling very low frequencies. I haven’t utilized the AirPods Professional on a plane nonetheless, but I have a noisy HVAC unit in my apartment, and the Sony and Bose comprehensive-dimensions headphones did a superior position quieting its loud hum. 

As much as plane use goes, the AirPods Professional would unquestionably enable with noise reduction, but just be knowledgeable you will find no way to plug these into an in-flight entertainment system. You’d have to hook up a Bluetooth transceiver to the headphone jack. But the Pros will totally be superior on a plane than typical AirPods, which are all but useless thanks to their open design and style.

Also, if you happen to be delicate to lively noise cancellation, you might not be in a position to use these with it turned on. (You can find no way to regulate it to a lower setting like there is with the Sony WF-1000XM3 it instantly adapts to your surroundings.) You can flip the setting off, nevertheless, and just dwell with the isolation sent by the ear strategies.

Earlier this yr, there was some controversy in excess of whether or not one of Apple’s firmware upgrades had downgraded the AirPods Pro’s noise-canceling. Some consumers swore it did. Subsequently, Apple launched another firmware update that some say mounted the trouble and other individuals say it didn’t. I personally think it is as very good as it was when the AirPods Professional launched. But I do have a tighter seal, thanks to employing these foam strategies I mentioned before.

The stems are shorter and I like the new controls superior — but there are no quantity controls on the buds

The typical AirPods have touch controls. You tap or tap and keep a touch zone on the side of the bud. The AirPods Professional have a force sensor in the stem of each and every bud — and the stems are shorter, which is very good. You pinch the stem to activate the controls. Pinch two times swiftly to advance a monitor forward. Press and keep to flip noise cancellation on or off or to toggle a transparency manner that makes it possible for sound to leak in (so you can hear educate announcements, for instance, or just converse to anyone while you have your AirPods on).

The new controls just take a minimal finding utilized to, in particular if you happen to be coming from the typical AirPods and like their controls. Apple states it moved to the force sensors in the stem mainly because the noise-isolating design and style meant you could hear the tapping when you touched the buds, which irritated people. Some people could not be satisfied with that choice, but I was fine with the new management technique. I had some mishaps at to start with but I am undertaking superior soon after a handful of days of use. 

You can also system the press-and-keep perform to phone up Siri manually if you do not want the usually-on (palms-cost-free) Siri feature to be lively. Like the AirPods, the Pros have Apple’s H1 chip that makes it possible for for usually-on Siri, so you can phone up Apple’s voice assistant simply just by expressing “Hey, Siri.” That’s how you regulate quantity ranges — by telling Siri. Otherwise, you have to make quantity adjustments on your machine. 

Apple states the air vents on the inside of of the buds enable release some force.


Sarah Tew/CNET

Wireless connectivity is rock good

Even with their effortless pairing capabilities, the original AirPods were not immune to Bluetooth glitches and the occasional dropouts. I utilized my critique sample with an Apple iphone eleven Professional jogging the hottest edition of iOS 13 (you have to have 13.two or bigger) and didn’t have any authentic audio dropouts for the duration of my limited tests interval. Audio syncing in online video apps was also good. There wasn’t any lag that I noticed, even though I didn’t attempt every single online video app.

Like the AirPods, you can use the AirPods Professional with Android telephones (I utilized them with a Galaxy nine As well as). The automobile Bluetooth pairing feature just isn’t offered and the usually-on Siri feature will not work. But they work like ordinary Bluetooth earphones and you can use your phone’s voice assistant. The noise-canceling performs the exact as it does with an iOS machine.

I connected to a Mac devoid of a trouble but I haven’t tried the AirPods Professional with a Home windows machine nonetheless. 

It is worthy of investing $50 additional on the AirPods Professional rather of the AirPods with Wireless Charging

If you like your recent AirPods and they fit your ears perfectly, you do not need to have to operate out and invest in the Pros. (I might hold out for your AirPods to die, which they will sooner relatively than afterwards if you use them a great deal.) But if you have been eyeing the $199 AirPods with Wireless Charging, I might move them by and go straight to the Pros. The Pros have a wi-fi charging scenario also, and their excellent sound and extra capabilities are worthy of the additional dough.

The big concern is this: How very low will the typical AirPods (devoid of wi-fi charging) go? They record for $one hundred sixty but they typically value significantly less, and we’ve witnessed them for as very low as $a hundred thirty. As their rate creeps down, I might say these are the AirPods to get if you do not want to devote also substantially money on AirPods. Neglect the wi-fi charging. It is an overrated feature and need to value significantly less. 

The Powerbeats Professional.


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Beats Powerbeats Professional is in difficulties

A lot of people have been wanting for superior sound and a additional protected fit than the original AirPods and they could get equally in the Beats Powerbeats Professional. Apple owns Beats, and the Powerbeats Professional earbuds have even larger bass than the typical AirPods. They also have additional dynamic sound as perfectly as very long battery lifetime in a sporty design and style. The Powerbeats Professional value $250 but get discounted sporadically and need to be offered for $200 or significantly less as we head into the getaway purchasing period.

The Powerbeats Professional earbuds are even now amazing, but the big strike towards them is their bulky charging scenario. With their sweat-resistant design and style, bolder sound and additional protected fit, the AirPods Professional are a direct competitor. The lesser dimensions and additional discreet profile of the AirPods Professional would make them the additional desirable option than the Beats. I also think some people will choose their sound to the Powerbeats Professional, which is additional hyped in the treble (perhaps a minimal also hyped for some). 

I might only get the Powerbeats if I was nervous about dropping a bud undertaking an exercise like mountain biking exactly where you will find a bigger likelihood of one slipping out of your ears. The Powerbeats Pro’s ear hooks do enable maintain the earphones on your head.

A bit pricey, but with a great deal to like

With seemingly all of Apple’s products and solutions, you have to independent the advertising and marketing hoopla from actuality. This just isn’t the to start with in-ear legitimate-wi-fi with noise-canceling. Sony’s had earphones with the feature for around two years and a number of noise-canceling versions are now offered with additional on the way, which includes inexpensive kinds like the $60  (their noise-canceling is only so-so but they do sound very good and work perfectly for producing calls). The Jabra Elite 75t, Sony WF-1000XM3, Samsung Galaxy Buds As well as and a good deal of other individuals have these types of a “hear-via” feature. So when Apple states “magic you have under no circumstances read” and talks about a “customizable fit” mainly because three distinctive sized eartips are involved, I kind of roll my eyes. 

But even if they do not sound as magical as you’d hope a $250 product would, the AirPods Professional even now control to be a fantastic pair of really wi-fi earphones. That’s mostly due to their winning design and style and fit, improved bass overall performance, helpful noise-canceling and outstanding phone high-quality. Yeah, they are high priced at $250, but the very good news is you can use them so substantially you can likely have on the battery down — it does degrade in excess of time and just isn’t replaceable — and have to invest in a new pair in eighteen to 24 months, if you do not get rid of them to start with.

Originally posted November 2019. Up-to-date with further reflections and comparisons on July 17, 2020.

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