Apple AirPods Pro Review: Big sound in a stubby package
Love them or hate them, Apple’s AirPods are the best-selling wireless headphones in history.
Which means any improvement – no matter how small – comes with Apple’s usual level of fanfare.
This time it is directed at the new Pro model of the company’s wireless AirPods, which actually boast more than a few improvements over the previous two iterations.
More importantly, they are Apple’s first headphones – wireless or otherwise – to come with silicon ear tips, which is a big deal for audio fans. That means they come with passive noise cancellation, further improved by active noise cancellation.
Apple has also included a load of nifty little tricks that supposedly will change the way you interact with your music. Let’s put that to the test, shall we?
Apple AirPods Pro: Design
Apple’s AirPods have always looked visually distinctive, both in-ear and out. This time around you still get the dinky little case that both fits and charges the earbuds, now in a stubbier package. Apple has squashed it down to better fit the new AirPods, which themselves are smaller than the last iteration.
That long stem has been reduced, made slightly thicker to accommodate touch controls, while the ‘pod’ bit has been widened to accommodate that extra noise-cancelling tech. You’d think making the actual bit that goes in your ear bigger would be a bad thing on a pair of headphones, but here they work due to Apple’s silicon ear tips.
There are three tips included in the box (little, medium and large) and Apple has even built a feature into iOS that will help you test the seal by playing music and analyzing pressure. Elsewhere, you now get a small black patch on each bud which protects a new microphone, used for noise-cancellation.
It’s actually the case that most gives away that you’re walking around with a pair of ‘Pro’ headphones. Once they’re in your ears, they’re easily confused for a regular pair.
Apple AirPods Pro: Features
Apple has included a load of little features (such as the ability to regulate in-ear pressure) but let’s get right to the quiet elephant in the room: the noise cancelling tech.
It’s the big new feature that turns a bog-standard AirPod into a Pro AirPod and it really is very good here. Especially considering the size of these of these buds.
Slot one of them into your earcans, and you’ll immediately notice less noise than the previous pair (that’s down to the silicon tips). Then, after a split-second or two, noise cancellation kicks in which drowns out pretty much all ambient noise.
It works well, and is a noticeable upgrade on the last pair. It also works in reverse: while the previous pair leaked sound something fierce, these ones ensure no on nearby can hear your tunes.
Apple has also thrown in a ‘transparency mode’ which uses that speaker to pipe in outside noise, while you’re listening to music. It’s eerie at first, to be able to hear what’s going on around you while also listening to something else, but makes a lot of sense for people who run, or for those looking to talk without removing the buds.
Apple has also included a touch sensitive bit on each stem that lets you swap between noise cancelling and transparency mode, as well as play and pause your music. You can also just say, ‘hey Siri’ to talk to the Apple assistant, and there’s also quite a cool accessibility feature that uses your iPhone as a microphone.
Apple AirPods Pro: How’s the sound?
These are the best sounding AirPods Apple has ever produced. Be that because the last two pairs leaked sound and didn’t fit snugly in people’s ears is beside the point; if you want the best audio you can from an Apple product then these are the buds for you.
Apple has also built in something called Ambient EQ, which apparently adjusts the sound signal 200 times a second to optimize audio for your specific ear shape. While we can’t exactly put that to the test, when it’s active (when noise cancellation is turned on) it certainly makes a different.
Compared to the previous AirPods, the Pro version is certainly punchier and boast a lot more base.
Apple AirPods Pro: The Verdict
The Pro model delivers a significant upgrade over previous AirPods, most notably by adding that noise cancelling technology.
That makes them more expensive, however, as these buds come in at AED999 (versus AED829 for the last pair, and AED679 for the first iteration). So are they worth the extra couple hundred dirhams? If you’re serious about audio, then absolutely.
They are a marked improvement over every other iteration, and a good step in the right audible direction for Apple.