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Apple AirPods Pro
October 30, 2019
Original: $249 USD
March 2022: $189 USD
21.8 x 30.9mm (earbud)
60.6 x 45.2mm (case)
The Apple AirPods Pro has a new design, new features, and a new price tag, but it’s still unmistakably AirPods. While the original model caught a lot of (deserved) flak for not sealing the ear canal, these Apple earbuds not only seal the ear, but also provide active noise cancelling (ANC). On paper, the AirPods Pro is light-years ahead of the old ones simply by this fact alone. But is it worth the cash?
Editor’s note: this post was updated on March 11, 2022, to answer a question about ANC technology and add context to the Noise cancelling and Sound quality sections.
Who should buy the Apple AirPods Pro?
- Apple iPhone users who want true wireless earbuds will get the most out of the AirPods Pro, and for them: these are the best true wireless earbuds for the latest generation of iPhones.
- Conference callers can take advantage of the AirPods Pro’s mic system for work. If you have an iPhone, you can choose which earbuds mic you want to designate for calls, or set it to auto.
- Gym rats and cardio monsters will appreciate that actually, you know, stay in your ears. The sweat resistance is a big plus here too.
How do you use the AirPods Pro?
When you first start using the AirPods Pro, you’ll want to find the right size ear tip to use, because the rest of your experience hinges on it. If the ear tips are too big they’ll be painful, and if they’re too small then they’ll likely fall out.
Once you’ve installed the correct ear tip size, they’ll fit securely in your ear canal. After you pair the AirPods Pro with your phone, you should be able to jump right into music listening without futzing with too many settings. Like any other Apple product, the product’s ethos is to be something that “just works.”
To that end, there are a few features that the AirPods Pro adopted to make them more useful than your garden variety true wireless earbuds. For example, transparency mode allows you to pump in surrounding sounds so you don’t miss your stop, or you can join in a conversation without skipping a beat. You can easily enter transparency mode by long-pressing the stem which is now actually functional instead of unsightly (though still a little ugly, let’s be honest). A single squeeze on the stem will pause or play music, a double squeeze will skip to the next song, and a triple squeeze will skip to the next song.
Additionally, there’s even an ear tip fit test that you can do to ensure that they’re in your ear correctly. To do this you have to go into Bluetooth settings, and then tap on the small “i” icon next to the AirPods. From there, you get a few more options if you’re on iOS such as the ability to rename them, control whether you want active noise cancelling on or off, customize the function of tap and hold on each earbud, and do the ear tip fit test. This will test whether you should use a different set of ear tips or whether the active noise cancelling is working properly.
While we’re on the topic of the ear tips, these have been redesigned as well. Unlike basically every other pair of earbuds that pretty much universally use the same ear tips, these are designed specifically for the AirPods Pro. Around the speaker driver of each earbud is a small section where the ear tip clicks into nicely and securely stays put. No more pinching the silicon ear tip in order to squeeze them around the nozzle, though to be fair these don’t have a nozzle.
If you are the kind of earphone owner that’s prone to losing your buds in your couch, no worries: the Apple AirPods Pro support the Find My AirPods feature. Owners of iPhones will be able to use their phones to locate missing earbuds—assuming they have battery left. Given how easy it is to lose a single earbud, this feature is far more important than many would like to admit.
On October 18, 2021, Apple announced the new AirPods (3rd generation) and with that, it quietly updated the charging case for the AirPods Pro. Now, the AirPods Pro case is MagSafe compliant, so you can use it with the same MagSafe wireless charger as your iPhone 12 or later.
Is the AirPods Pro waterproof?
The AirPods Pro is water-resistant and has an IPX4 rating to show for it. As far as the charging case goes, it’s relatively unchanged. It’s slightly beefier than the previous version, but not by much and if you take the old case and turn it sideways, that should give you a rough idea of how big it is. If you want to go further in-depth, we cover that in a head-to-head with both versions of AirPods.
How do you clean the AirPods Pro?
If you use your earbuds every day, chances are they’re going to get dirty pretty quickly. Just as you (hopefully) clean your ears every once in a while, you should also provide the same service to your earbuds. Thankfully, cleaning your AirPods Pro is pretty simple and we have a full article explaining step-by-step how to do it. All you really need are some cotton swabs, drug store rubbing alcohol, a paper towel, a toothbrush, liquid dish soap, and a spirit for adventure! Okay, that last one isn’t actually necessary, but it can’t hurt.
How do you connect on iOS?
Connecting to the AirPods Pro is as simple as ever on an iOS device, though you will need to update to iOS 13.2 in order to connect. Thankfully, if you aren’t up-to-date the first thing that pops up on your device will be a prompt telling you to update. Once that’s done, connecting is just like pairing with any other Apple audio product thanks to the H1 chip. A small card pops up from the bottom and then all you have to do is press “Connect.”
After you do that, they will be paired with every other device on your iCloud account as well. The card that pops up will give you some helpful information like battery life on the charging case and both earbuds. One cool feature is that if you place only one AirPod back in the case, you’ll see a small red “x” where battery life should be. I’m sure if you lost one you’ll know that by the time you try to put them back in the case, but it’s still pretty cool.
How to connect the AirPods Pro on Android
If you’re on Android or using a Windows PC then the process is a little different, though it remains unchanged from the previous AirPods. Just long-press the button on the back of the charging case to enter Bluetooth pairing mode, and then search for it in the Bluetooth settings of your device. Once paired, you should be good to go. It’s worth noting that you won’t get certain features if you’re using them with Android. Specifically, the auto-pause detection when you remove one earbud from your ear won’t work, and saying “Hey Siri” won’t work either. Thankfully, active noise cancelling and transparency mode work just fine as it’s controlled by a hard press of the stem.
NB: A number of AirPods Pro users have noted that they have had connection issues even after updating the firmware of the earbuds. If you’re reading this review looking for a fix: you won’t find one here. You need to contact Apple tech support and potentially arrange for a new pair. True wireless earphones are notorious for skips, stutters, and other connection issues, and it seems that the Apple AirPods Pro is no different. Be sure to update the firmware as soon as it becomes available, and to practice good battery habits for best results. We cannot guarantee that this will help, but it will give you the most ammo when you take your product back to the Genius Bar for replacement.
How long does the battery last on the AirPods Pro?
In our testing, we managed to get 5 hours, 6 minutes of constant playback with ANC turned on (connected to an iOS device), which is just above average for most true wireless models. It’s worth mentioning that Apple claims you’ll get about 4 hours and 30 minutes of constant playback with active noise cancelling turned on and the volume turned to about 50%. The charging case will give you enough charges to last you 24 hours of total listening time, and what’s better is that the case is fully compatible with any Qi wireless charger or MagSafe charger.
One issue that we have is that the charging case still requires a Lightning cable because, well, reasons. The cable that’s included in the box is now USB-C on one side and lightning on the other, which is mind-numbingly annoying as now you’ll need to bring this specific cable with you wherever you go. Of course, it isn’t a big deal if you already own the newer iPhone as it also comes with this same cable, but if you haven’t upgraded yet (or don’t plan to) this is an annoying inconvenience that you’re just going to have to deal with.
Like every other set of true wireless earphones, what’s really going to let you down is battery longevity. Because each earphone uses a tiny battery that requires recharging often, you’re going to rip through its usable capacity in about one-to-two years. That’s not a long time to own an expensive audio product, so someone looking to buy their last audio products for a while should steer clear. Additionally, the AirPods Pro isn’t easy to take apart, so many people might be tempted to just throw them away at the end of their lives. This is really bad for several reasons, and not the least of which is its damage to the environment.
How good is the noise cancelling on the AirPods Pro?
The most important feature of the new version is without a doubt the active noise cancelling, and this is one of the best sets of noise cancelling true wireless earbuds on the market. While it won’t completely mute the low rumble of planes and trains, it renders midrange sounds half as loud as they’d sound without any kind of ANC. Is the AirPods Pro’s ANC mind-blowingly amazing? Absolutely not, and something like the Sony WF-1000XM4 still does a better job in this aspect, but the AirPods Pro is fine for most people.
Can updating the firmware make the ANC weaker?
A number of users report worse ANC performance after updating to firmware build 2B588. There’s a trend among ANC headsets in that failed Bluetooth updates seem fairly common. If you find that your AirPods Pro have worse ANC than they started with, then you should do the following:
- Place your AirPods Pro back in their carrying case
- Factory data reset your AirPods Pro by holding the setup button for 15 seconds, or until the light flashes amber three times, then turns white
- Re-charge the carrying case, and then re-attempt the firmware update
- If the problem persists, contact Apple support
Unfortunately, this is a common problem with Bose, Sony, and other Bluetooth headsets requiring updates over Bluetooth—not just Apple. Hopefully one day these can be applied over a physical wire, because it seems that Bluetooth just isn’t cutting it for some people.
On October 14, 2021, Apple extended its AirPods Pro repair program to three years after purchase, rather than the old two-year warranty. AirPods Pro owners can receive free replacement earbuds, or repairs, if ANC issues arise. If you notice that the noise cancelling doesn’t work anymore or there’s static crackling, you may be eligible for its repair/replacement program.
How does the AirPods Pro sound?
The AirPods Pro (cyan) sounds very good and its frequency response closely follows our consumer house curve. This means most music should sound good to most listeners with little need for equalizing the sound with a third-party app or your streaming service’s EQ. Additionally, Apple’s Adaptive EQ equalizes your music based on the shape of your own ear (read more: What is a DSP?). Because of this, the AirPods Pro will sound more consistent from person to person than with other headphones. Additionally, with actual noise cancellation, this sounds much better than its predecessors by virtue of the fact that your music isn’t competing with bus engines, the airplane cabin, or noisy street.
Lows, mids, and highs
The low end in Callaita by Bad Bunny is loud and clear, including the sub-bass synths. Drum kicks and deep voices come through very well, though if you’re coming from cheaper headsets you may find it a bit quieter than you’re used to. The mids sound great here as do treble notes, though high frequencies come through a tad quieter than our house curve suggests. You should be able to hear high-pitched detail from the song Songbird by Cory Chisel. Here, the strumming and guitar squeaks sound good and not grating.
What is Apple spatial audio?
During WWDC 2020 Apple announced compatibility for “spatial audio” with the AirPods Pro. Spatial audio is Apple’s version of simulated surround sound; It uses a combination of software algorithms and the accelerometers in your AirPods Pro to place sound cues around you in 3D space. This simulates the immersive experience of sitting in the middle of a full surround sound setup. The accelerometers of the AirPods Pro sync up with the accelerometer inside the source device that you are watching videos on. That way if you’re in a car or on a plane the audio that you’re listening to will change only when you move your head instead of when the vehicle makes a turn.
Learn more: How does surround sound in headphones work?
Currently, spatial audio only works with a handful of apps including Apple TV+ and Disney, for videos encoded for 5.1 and 7.1 surround sound as well as Dolby Atmos. To get access, you must update to iPadOS 14 or iOS 14 or later—so it won’t work on any non-iOS devices. The Apple AirPods (3rd generation), AirPods Max, AirPods Pro, and Beats Fit Pro all support head-tracking spatial audio with Dolby Atmos through Apple Music or an Apple TV 4K.
Is the AirPods Pro good for phone calls?
One use case that can’t be ignored when it comes to AirPods is the microphone. I see more people talking on the phone via their AirPods than their phones nowadays. Luckily, the Pro still has a really good microphone for picking up the human voice. Take a listen to our demos below.
AirPods Pro microphone demo (Ideal):
AirPods Pro microphone demo (Office):
AirPods Pro microphone demo (Street):
How does the microphone sample sound to you?
As of March 23, 2021, 4,060 readers have rated the above mic sample as somewhere between “okay” and “good.” This is a pretty typical result for true wireless earphones, and at the upper end of what you should expect to get out of any products of this type.
Is the Apple AirPods Pro worth it?
If you want AirPods—or have an iPhone—the AirPods Pro is the only pair of Apple earbuds we recommend picking up for several reasons. Not only does it sound significantly better than the open-fit AirPods, but it offers more in the way of features and useful accessories too. Sure, the AirPods Pro is pricier than the latest AirPods with wireless charging, but you get a lot for that extra cash. If you’re an Android user, you should skip the AirPods Pro. Sure it’s good if someone happens to gift you a pair for some reason, but you’ll miss out on a lot of the features that make the buds worthy of consideration, due to lack of cross-platform support.
Deciding where to buy your AirPods Pro can be difficult, but there are a few key things to remember before you purchase any electronic device: does the vendor offer a good warranty; how is its customer service; is there a live chat function? We’ve put together a detailed guide on where to buy headphones to ease your concerns, but remember that you’ll pay a premium for better warranty coverage and customer service.
Apple AirPods Pro vs AirPods (3rd generation): What’s the difference?
If you’re wondering why Apple fans are clamoring to pick up the AirPods Pro, it’s because they fix the most egregious issue with cheaper model: an unsealed ear canal. That may not seem like a big deal, but it’s an improvement that you’ll notice immediately—something we’ve harped on endlessly at SoundGuys.
So why is getting rid of noise important? The answer is twofold.
The AirPods Pro seals to your ear canal and prevents external noise from drowning out your music. This preserves the sound quality without the interference of auditory masking. Passive isolation in tandem with effective noise cancelling means that you’re less likely to increase the volume to block out those external sounds, which potentially protects your ears from noise-induced hearing loss.
So what do the Apple AirPods (3rd generation) and AirPods Pro have in common? Well, a lot: both headsets include a MagSafe charging case with a Lightning input, share the same IPX4 water-resistant rating, use Apple’s Adaptive EQ, and are spatial audio-compatible.
If you want to remain aware of your surroundings at all times, the AirPods (3rd generation) is a solid pick for iPhone users, but if you plan to take plenty of flights or spend a lot of time on the subway, the AirPods Pro makes more sense for you.
What to consider instead of the AirPods Pro if you have an iPhone
While the AirPod Pro true wireless earbuds marks a serious upgrade over the original AirPods, there are plenty of other models to choose from. Apple-owned company Beats also has a few options to choose from like the Beats Powerbeats Pro and Beats Fit Pro. The Powerbeats Pro has an ear hook design that stays in place no matter what and you get well over 10 hours of battery life from a single charge. The Beats Fit Pro, on the other hand, is much more compact and has premium features like ANC and spatial audio with head tracking.
These AirPods alternatives work with any smartphone
If you want the best ANC that true wireless tech has to offer pick up either the Sony WF-1000XM4 or Bose QuietComfort Earbuds. Both of these earbuds essentially nullify low-frequency sound and have a custom EQ module in their respective apps (iOS/Android). You also get an IPX4 rating for either set of earbuds so you can workout in them without issue.
If you want to go a bit cheaper, consider the Jabra Elite 4 Active, and the Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen) that offer competitive performance for a competitive price. The Amazon Echo Buds support hands-free Alexa and compares favorably to the AirPods Pro, while Jabra’s earbuds are a jack-of-all-trades option with excellent app suppport.
Additionally, they suffer all the drawbacks of true wireless earbuds—like batteries that won’t last beyond a couple of years tops. If you’re looking to make a wise investment in your audio, I’d caution you to look at something like the Bose QuietComfort 45 before picking this up. Not only will the batteries in on or over-ears last much longer than the tiny cells in true wireless earbuds, but they’ll also be much more durable and long-lasting.
What to consider instead of the AirPods Pro if you have an Android phone
If you’re an Android user trying to attain that AirPods aesthetic with Android functionality on a budget, try the TCL MOVEAUDIO S600 or the slightly quirky functionality, HONOR Earbuds 2 Lite. Meanwhile, the affordable Google Pixel Buds A-Series, does not have active noise cancelling, but is a serious contender in the true wireless market for anyone that uses the Google Assistant on a daily basis. If ANC is important, the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 is a great choice, especially for Samsung users, who can take advantage of Samsung Scalable Codec.
What about the Apple AirPods Max?
If you like everything about the AirPods Pro but just can’t see yourself going with a pair of true wireless earbuds, then the new AirPods Max might be for you. After running our objective and subjective tests on them, we can say with confidence that they are a very good pair of active noise cancelling headphones, and they have great sound quality. That being said, they’re still super expensive, and you can find lots of alternatives that perform similarly well for much cheaper.
The AirPods Max seems to share many, if not all of the same features as the AirPods Pro but in an over-ear design. You’ll get active noise cancelling, a transparency mode, spatial audio, ambient EQ, and even the same H1 chip inside for quick pairing. Most iPhone owners will be perfectly happy with the AirPods pro though—hence why the Pro model made it one of our favorite AirPods Max alternatives.
- Apple AirPods Pro vs Apple AirPods (2nd generation)
- Apple AirPods Pro vs Apple AirPods (3rd generation)
- Apple AirPods Pro vs Beats Powerbeats Pro
- Apple AirPods Pro vs Beats Studio Buds
- Apple AirPods Pro vs Bose QuietComfort Earbuds
- Apple AirPods Pro vs Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro
- Apple AirPods Pro vs Sony WF-1000XM4
- How to fix problems with AirPods
Frequently asked questions about the Apple AirPods Pro
The AirPods Pro has two tiny microphones both on the inside and on the outside, and they work in the same way that all active noise cancelling headphones do. Apple claims that the inward-facing microphones are measuring sound 200 times per second in order to ensure that it’s producing the correct sound to counteract it which, is all but impossible to test on our end. Still, the end result isn’t bad.
It sounds like you want to know if you can listen on the AirPods Pro in mono mode. Yes, you can. There are two ways of doing this. The first is to simply leave your second AirPods Pro bud in the case. It ought to work normally with both channels mixed together. The second way to change your AirPods Pro to mono mode, so that you can for instance share your second bud with a friend without missing any audio is to first connect as usual to your iOS device. Go to Settings, select General, and then, Accessibility. Select Hearing and toggle on Mono Audio. This means both buds will play audio in mono mode. Both options work for phone calls, but the first one is likely the one you’ll use.
No, no matter how you connect the AirPods, it won’t support Bluetooth multipoint. However, you can take advantage of automatic device switching between Apple hardware under the same iCloud account. This means when you’re listening to music on your iPhone and start playing a video on your MacBook, the AirPods (3rd generation) will stop playing from your phone and immediately switch to the laptop’s audio output.
That depends on how loud the person speaks, but in general ANC doesn’t do a great job of attenuating voice sounds. This is because ANC works best on droning, constant tones, rather than quick, irregular noise.
Unfortunately, the only thing you can really do is to turn everything off, and let it sit in a warm, dry place for a few days before attempting to charge or use it again. DO NOT try to turn it on or use it before doing this. But I should warn you: that earbud might already be cooked. Water is rarely pure, so little imperfections like dissolved minerals can cause shorting in electronics if it gets inside the housing. Hopefully, the water-resistant nozzle membrane prevented any ingress of water, but you never know. Give it time.
Yes, The AirPods will connect via AAC or SBC codecs. You will likely not notice any drop in performance, but many of the features of the AirPods Pro will not work on an Android phone.
Good question! But headphones don’t block out every sound at the same level. Typically, you see in-ears like the AirPods Pro block out a lot of high-pitched sound, while letting in low-pitched sounds. If you scroll up, you can see exactly how the AirPods Pro block out noise in the charts. If the chart is a little hard to read, this article should help.
Play? Yes, but Hi-Res audio is a certification, not really a performance benchmark. The AirPods Pro uses AAC as its primary Bluetooth codec, which won’t hit the exact thresholds needed for that certification. However, you’re unlikely to hear any deficiency in sample rate or bit depth—especially if you’re listening on a bus, train, or airplane.
That said, if you’re looking for high-end audio, you’re better off looking for something that’s actually geared toward that task.
The Apple AirPods Pro is completely redesigned from the original AirPods and AirPods (2nd generation). The Pro earbuds feature defined nozzles that create a solid seal to the ear. This improves passive isolation and facilitates active noise cancelling. What’s more, the AirPods Pro uses a DSP to measure your ear canal and make on-the-fly adjustments to optimize audio quality.