Apple’s AirPods Pro Are a Big Leap Forward

Beyond obvious design changes, the new buds prove far superior than previous generations

In 2016, when the first generation Apple AirPods debuted, customers across the board—from the audiophile to the podcast-obsessed—expressed concerns: What if they don’t sound great? What if they fall out? How long will they last on a single charge? Since then Apple has sold more than 65 million AirPods (through June 2019) and customers, overall, love their ease, reliability and functionality. Not long after a refresh of the AirPods earlier this year, yesterday Apple announced the AirPods Pro ($249)—an upgraded pair of in-ear buds that offers an entirely new suite of features for just $100 more than the first generation. We’ve been testing them all day and can’t help but hear Steve’s voice exclaiming “magical and revolutionary” as he did back in 2010 with the launch of the iPad.

Packed inside each AirPod Pro earbud there’s an unmatched amount of technology that assists in fulfilling the promises of revolutionizing on-the-go and all-day listening. Improved sound quality (courtesy of a high-dynamic range amplifier and adaptive EQ), active noise-cancellation (a first-ever for in-ear buds that auto adjusts 200 times per second), and transparency mode (which lets the outside environment trickle in courtesy of both microphones, a complex system of air vents and low-latency processing) are all new to the AirPods Pro. All of these features not only work as promised, but excel at providing seemingly impossible levels of performance. Ultimately it’s the microphone inside the earbud that listens to how the amplified sound bounces around in your ear and dynamically adjusts playback that ensures our ergonomic differences become normalized for the best possible listening experience.

From the design perspective, the bulb that sits inside your ear is larger while the stem is shorter, which ultimately shrinks its presence. This new iteration also trades the nesting style of the first two versions for silicone tips, which afford comfort and stability. There’s less risk of these falling out, especially because they come with three sized tips—small, medium, and large. Plus, within the Bluetooth set-up process, users will be asked to ensure a “seal,” signaling a proper fit. They’re also resistant to light rain and sweat, though they won’t survive submersion or splashing.

Users transitioning from a previous generation to the Pro pair will notice the obvious changes, but the process, look, and feel remain the same. They’re still AirPods, but the upgrades warrant choosing this version over the former. Especially as the Pro version brings with it smarter, more intuitive ways to interact with the technology within. Apple’s System in Package (SiP) design features an Apple-designed H1 headphone chip that’s in charge of taking commands—from the change of a song to the summoning of the voice assistant, with a “Hey Siri.” The former commands are made using the “capacitive force sensor” found in the stem, while the latter are still done by voice. Pressing and holding the sensor switches the system from Active Noise Cancelling to Transparency Mode. Taps—one, two, or three—will play, pause, skip songs, or answer a call.

Like previous generations, 4.5 hours of playback and 3.5 hours of talk are guaranteed on a full charge, respectively—and the case wirelessly charges too. While design differences are the most obvious discrepancy between this release and those of years prior, the AirPods Pro prove far superior and exponentially more capable when in use.

Apple AirPods Pro will be available tomorrow, 30 October 2019, for $249.

Images courtesy of Apple