AirPods Pro Review: They’re Great (and Expensive)
Comfortable noise cancellation and decent sound quality elevate these beyond the first two generations of AirPods
With little fanfare, Apple announced AirPods Pro this week, a $249 iteration on the ubiquitous wireless earbuds that feature a new in-ear design and active noise cancellation. Whether the “pro” moniker is appropriate here is up for debate, but these new earbuds do bring a few significant upgrades to the lineup. Even if you snagged the half-step-forward, second-generation AirPods that came out back in March, you might decide that these are worth your cash.
I’ve used the original AirPods as my daily driver for the past three years — during my commute, in the gym, and around the office. What they lack in sound quality, they make up for in portability and wireless range. They’re so great at taking calls that I’ve let myself miss a few because I couldn’t find them, even though I was holding my phone. I don’t use them when I’m traveling or working in a busy café though — I’ve found that excessive background noise renders them useless.
Enter AirPods Pro, which are the first wireless earbuds from Apple that include both passive and active noise cancellation. Compared to the original one-size-fits-all design, these include silicone ear tips in three sizes for a tighter seal. Like other noise-canceling earbuds, an external microphone picks up background noise that is then counterbalanced by an internal speaker creating inverse signals. Apple’s implementation dynamically adjusts this process 200 times per second for optimal sound.
It’s effective... for the most part. The monotonous drone of my office’s air conditioning and street noise vanished. But my coworkers’ chatter turned higher-pitched and tinnier, not softer. The AirPods Pro won’t give you near-silence like the best over-ear options — Sony’s excellent WH-1000XM3 or the Bose 700 — but they also avoid that uncomfortable pressure inside your head. Apple says they’ve designed a vent system to equalize the pressure in your ears, a common gripe with noise-canceling tech. Whether the increased comfort can be attributed to these vents or lighter noise cancellation is hard to say, but these new AirPods certainly feel easier to wear for…