So I ended up getting my AirPods Pro on launch day after all! When I purchased them, my order notification said they would arrive tomorrow and the notification on the Apple Store app still said the same this afternoon. However, when I checked the tracking info after leaving work, low and behold they were out for delivery and headed my way.
I can add my voice to the growing chorus of very positive reviews of the AirPods Pro. I’ve only had the opportunity to use them since I got home from work tonight, but they have already made a solid impression in a short amount of time. The noise cancellation isn’t complete and total, but it is still very effective and the combo of this and the new tips is a huge improvement over the original AirPods.
For reference, I have used one pair of Sony over the ear phones with active noise reduction in the past, but they could only do so much. They didn’t offer full cancellation. I have also used passive noise reduction, which is nothing more than a fancy way of saying that headphones have a lot of padding or earbuds have tips that isolate to a certain degree. Those products don’t really compare.
In the case of the AirPods Pro, the active noise cancellation is a completely different ballgame. This feature actually analyses the sound coming in and attempts to cancel it out dynamically. While it can’t stop everything, swapping between Noise Cancellation and either Off or Transparency will adequately demonstrate how much sound the AirPods Pro can remove from the equation.
Speaking of Transparency, this feature is what really makes the AirPods Pro practical for me in everyday use. I reviewed the Powerbeats Pro after they were released and while I really liked the sound quality and fit, they blocked too much sound to be useful as a general purpose headset, especially for taking calls during work. Thanks to Transparency, it is possible to quickly switch from Noise Cancellation to suddenly being able to hear everything around you clearly. That is a big deal when you need to be able to quickly switch from listening to tunes to taking a call to talking to a customer face to face. The AirPods Pro allow you to do this seamlessly.
Now, there is a bit of an uncanny valley that takes a bit of adjusting to while using Transparency. The sound is clear and understandable, but it’s different enough that you know it isn’t natural. That can be a little distracting or disorienting at first. I noticed it, at least. That said, I adjusted to it and didn’t notice it as much after using the feature for a while.
Squeezing and holding the stem of either AirPod Pro to switch from Noise Cancellation to Transparency to Off took a little bit of getting used to at first. However, once I did it became very easy to toggle between the modes. Each of the three modes is accompanied by a unique tone, so distinguishing between them without looking at Settings is painless. A quick squeeze of the stem has also taken the place of double taps on the buds to Play and Pause audio content, as well.
As for the sound quality, I am sure the AirPods Pro don’t measure up to the state of the art for audiophiles. However, they are a noticeable step up from the regular AirPods. That shouldn’t be a surprise, as the primary features for the original product were their simplicity and ease of use. It was about the total package and sound quality was down the list of features. It wasn’t necessarily bad and I actually found the AirPods to be a little better than the old wired Apple EarPods, but it never stood out. This is one of the reasons I had a tough time parting with the Powerbeats Pro after reviewing them, as they also offered much better sound quality.
With the AirPods Pro, I am getting the same richness and better balance that the Powerbeats Pro offer. Both offer better specs and a much better fit thanks to the flexible tips (By the way, Apple including an Ear Tip Fit Test in Settings is the most Apply thing I can think of. It’s a nice touch). The improvement in bass presence is particularly noticeable between the AirPods Pro and their predecessors. As for the Powerbeats Pro, the active noise cancellation and Transparency mode put Apple’s new buds over the top, giving you a much more immersive experience when you want it and a better window to the world around you when you need it.
I have plenty more testing to do, as I’ve only listened to a handful of tracks covering a couple of genres. I have a two hour drive ahead for work tomorrow, so I will try out a podcast or two and maybe mix in some classical and jazz to give the AirPods Pro as broad a test as possible. I will try some streaming video tomorrow, as well. For now, I can definitely say they are a step up in quality befitting the $90 price increase over the base model AirPods.
I won’t make any definitive statements today, as i prefer to test over a longer period of time. However, if you have been disappointed in the sound quality of regular AirPods in the past and a little higher price doesn’t scare you off, then I would definitely recommend the Pros. As for me, I can definitely say that they are one product that won’t be moving on or going back to the store after review. Stay tuned for more over the coming days.