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Hands-on review: Apple AirPods Pro

15 Nov 2019
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After the release of the new iPhone 11 Pro, iPhone 11 Pro Max and the new Apple Watch Series 5, the only thing that was left to complete the package is the release of the new Apple AirPods Pro. Are they truly “Pro”? Are they worth the hefty price tag? This is what we will break down.

Design

The internet is on the ball when it comes to making fun of Apple products, but it is all in good fun. The new AirPods Pro have been compared to hairdryers, Bellsprout the Pokemon, and my personal favourite, the Peashooter from Plants Vs Zombies. Jokes aside, I actually think the AirPods Pro look good.

Apple have somehow kept the essence of the first and second-generation AirPods but improved upon it. The stem is now shorter which makes them look nicer inside the ears.

A major change in the design was the addition of the in-ear tips. These are necessary for the soundproofing feature. The AirPods Pro come with three different tip sizes. There is also a software on the iPhone that tests out if you have a good seal. My ear had a good seal with both the medium and the small tips, but the small felt more natural. I suggest playing around and trying the different tips. The tips are also easy to remove and attach, they just click into place.

Another major design change was the addition of the force sensor on the stem. Different presses on the sensor start different commands, like switching between noise cancellation and transparency mode, switching songs, pausing and playing, etc. This is a game-changer as this way I no longer have to tap the AirPods Pro pushing them further into my ear to switch songs.

Sound Proofing and Transparency mode

When I first saw the images, I didn’t expect these tiny earbuds to do an amazing job with noise cancellation. When I first opened the box, that was the first thing I wanted to try, and the experience was jaw-dropping. The AirPods Pro completely seal your ears creating a good noise-cancelling experience.

The technology behind the active noise cancellation of the AirPods Pro is fascinating. The AirPods Pro have an outward-facing microphone that detects external sounds. They then counter that sound with the exact equal anti-noise that cancels out the sound before you hear it. The AirPods Pro also have an inward-facing microphone that hears what you hear. This smart microphone applies the same technology to eliminate unwanted sounds.

While active noise cancellation is amazing on the bus, in noisy offices and on planes, it can be dangerous if you are walking down the street - and it can be rude if someone is talking to you. Lots of earbuds lately have been taking a shot at “transparency mode”.

The problem with all the earbuds I have tried in the past that have that mode is how fake it sounds. It almost feels like they give you super hearing. This is what I expected the AirPods Pro to sound like in that mode, I was very wrong.

The transparent mode on the AirPods Pro sounds so natural you actually forget they are in your ear. You can hear everything perfectly like you would if you didn’t have the Pods on. I was able to have a conversation with my co-workers while listening to my music, and not once did I feel like I need to take them off to be able to listen better.

Sound

This is where the AirPods Pro surprised me the most. While the second-generation AirPods sounded good, they were not the best sounding earbuds on the market. The AirPods Pro change the entire game. A good earbud needs to pronounce High, Mid, and Low notes while also keeping a perfect balance between the three to produce the best overall sound. The AirPods Pro do an amazing job striking the right balance. They play the high notes clearly without taking away from the base.

The AirPods Pro use the same technology used in noise cancellation to provide better sound quality. I mentioned the in-ear inward-facing microphone - this gives the EarPods the data it needs to fine-tune the audio and adjust the frequencies to produce the perfect sound.

The H1 Chip

This tiny chip somehow houses everything that makes the AirPods Pro amazing. According to the Apple website, the H1 chip employs 10 audio cores that create a low audio processing latency. This is what enables real-time noise cancellation.

This chip is also what allows the AirPods to magically connect to all your Apple devices. The seamless transition between my iPhone, Apple Watch, iPad, MacBook and Apple TV is one the main reason I love the Apple AirPods.

Battery

The battery on the AirPods Pro is as good as you would expect from an in-ear device. They have up to 4.5 hours of listening time. The case adds in an additional 24 hours of charge time and putting the AirPods back in the case for just 5 minutes gives you 1 full hour of listening time. So far, I am yet to find myself in a situation where both the AirPods and the case were completely dead.

The case also supports wireless charging. This is perfect if you have a wireless charging pad on your nightstand you can throw the box on every night.

Siri

Siri lifts up the AirPods Pro experience to a whole new level. A simple “Hey Siri” gives users the chance to ask her to switch songs, control the volume, call a contact etc.. without having to touch the AirPods or the phone.

I also like the fact that Siri can now read your messages to you. You hear a small chime, then Siri tells you who the message is from and proceeds to read it. You can say “Reply” To dictate a reply. You can even have Siri reply for you if you trust her that much. I don’t think I will ever be that close with Siri, but who knows.

Verdict

The AirPods Pro were a pleasant addition to the 2019 Apple family. They were the last puzzle piece to complete the ecosystem. When considering the sound quality and vast list of features, the Apple AirPods Pro are worthy of both the higher price tag and the “Pro” title.