Apple AirPodsPro initial review: Silence is golden
by firstname.lastname@example.org Nov. 16 2019
Whether youagree with the polarising design or not, Apple's AirPods became an overnightphenomenon back in 2017. Since these in-ear wireless buds have gone on tobecome the number one sellers in the world – and you only have to head to anycity street to see how many people are wearing them.
Following thelaunch of a tweaked second-gen AirPods earlier in 2019, Apple has deemed theheadphone popular enough to expand the range with the AirPods Pro. But thisisn't just about offering tweaks; no, it's a completely redesigned experience,adding active noise-cancellation (ANC), a new design, and much more besides.
But in doing so,has the AirPods Pro lost that pocketable design and easy-to-use experience?We've put a pair on to find out.
A new pro design
Each bud:Measures 30.9 x 21.8 x 24mm maximum / Weighs 5.4g
Wirelesscharging case included (45.2 x 60.6 21.7mm / 45.6g)
There are twoelements to the AirPods Pro that you need to worry about. In the ear and in thepocket.
The carry case,which doubles as the charging case, is now shorter in height, but wider indesign. It's still very much just as pocketable as before and comes in the samegloss white. It's also included as standard.
The AirPods Proheadphones slot into the case in a similar way to the AirPods and instantlystart charging. Charging can be done via a Lightning cable or by putting thecase on a wireless charging pad.
The AirPod Proheadphones are considerably different in design to the AirPods. The mostnoticeable difference is the inclusion of silicone tips to improve the fit or'seal', while the thin rod that hangs out of your ear is now much shorter. Thisreduction in length will certainly appeal to those who thought the originals'design just looked odd.
Finding your fit
Three siliconetip sizes; small, medium, large
Vent system forpressure equalization
Ear Tip Fit testvia iOS 13.2
Uses Apple H1chip
Connecting theAirPods Pro for the first time is incredibly simple. You simply open the casenear your iPhone (running iOS 13.2) and press 'connect' on the screen. It's assimple as that thanks to the use of Apple H1 chip – as also found in theAirPods and Beats Powerbeats Pro.
Unlike AirPods,the Pro requires a secondary step, which involves you running an Ear Tip FitTest. Using both the internal and external microphones within the headphones,iOS 13.2 analyses the sound and tweaks its profile to sound better for you.
The process,which involves playing some music, takes about five seconds. It's during thistime that it will determine whether you've got a good fit, and if not recommendyou change the silicone tip to another size – there is a small, medium, andlarge options included. For us the medium worked perfectly and we were up andrunning with a minute.
It will beinteresting to see how these in-ears feel after some longer periods of wear. Atthe time of writing we're an hour in. As the silicone tips feel a little tightin there ear – more so than the standard AirPods, but not that they'reuncomfortable – Apple has included air vents to try and reduce potentialpressure and isolation build up. It calls this a "vent system for pressureequalization".
Active Noise Cancelling (ANC)
Internal andexternal microphones actively listen for noise changes
Adaptive EQ andTransparency Mode
The big newfeatures of the AirPod Pro is ANC, or active noise-cancelling technology, usingthe in-built microphones to check the ambient noise around you over 200 times asecond and react accordingly. This is the same process as othernoise-cancelling headphones, designed to avoid wind tear and other real-timesounds around you as best as possible.
You can alsodial-down the feature if you want to hear more around you – a feature calledTransparency – which allows you to hear people talking, given the frequencycut-off. This is all controlled via a squeeze of the AirPods Pro, via youriPhone volume control settings, or the Apple Watch.
So far we'veused it on a 10-minute London Underground ride and a further hour-long trainride. The ANC makes a huge difference. Classical music fans will no doubt lovethe Pros.
Switchingbetween the two modes with that squeeze will take a little getting used tothough. There is a specific indented area that you need to squeeze, soprecision is key, and do it too quickly and you'll stop the track. We suspectwe'll quickly get the hang of it, but it's yet another new control mechanismthat you've got to learn.
Anotherinteresting side effect is wearing them while talking. Because of themicrophones both internally and externally that are trying to cancel the noise,your own voice is amplified when in Transparency mode. The best way to describeit is akin to speaking into a microphone while wearing headphones to hearyourself. You don't get that experience when you're on a call with ANC on,although the silence is somewhat alien if you're used to hearing lots of noisearound you all the time when on a call.
Music sounds better with you
5 hours batterylife / 4.5 hours with ANC enabled
Custom highdynamic range amplifier
Customhigh-excursion Apple driver
We've yet toreally test the new AirPods Pro with a range of music, but so far we'velistened to a number of dance tracks from Ministry of Sound and theInterstellar soundtrack by Hans Zimmer to give us a sense of how well thesein-ears cope.
What isinstantly clear is that it's considerably better than the standard AirPodswe've been using. While the original AirPods focus on ease of use rather thanamazing sound quality, the AirPods Pro addresses that latter point.
Sure, the Prodoesn't come as bass-focused as the PowerBeats Pro, for example, but stillcertainly delivers a decent sound for what they are. For many they will be morethan good enough for commuting and running, especially once you factor in theANC performance.
In our firsthour of listening we are incredibly impressed with the ease of setup andquality of sound that the AirPods Pro deliver. Active noise-cancellation makesa huge difference to ambient noise, making these in-ears far more capable thanthe originals.
The Pro iscertainly more comfortable to wear and better sounding than we were expectingfrom Apple, given the previous AirPods experience.