AirPods Pro review: These headphones still rock

Nancy J. Delong

Apple’s AirPods Professional ($249, £249, AU$399) first hit the sector in late Oct 2019. A large amount has altered in the world since then and new competition have arrived on the scene. But not substantially has altered about the way I experience about these earbuds. The AirPods Professional are Apple’s […]

Apple’s AirPods Professional ($249, £249, AU$399) first hit the sector in late Oct 2019. A large amount has altered in the world since then and new competition have arrived on the scene. But not substantially has altered about the way I experience about these earbuds. The AirPods Professional are Apple’s first headphones to offer you energetic sound cancellation, which electronically counteracts exterior sound like the hum of a jet motor or an air conditioner, and the company’s first wi-fi model to attribute a sound-isolating style and design — with silicone ear suggestions that drive into your ear canal. They continue to be a secure decision for Apple customers on the lookout for a compact, lightweight pair of accurate wi-fi earbuds that connect effortlessly to their Apple equipment and conduct effectively — both equally for audio and film listening as effectively as producing voice phone calls.

Like

  • Ultracompact, lightweight, sweatproof (IPX4) and pretty comfortable to wear
  • Sound-isolating style and design fits more ears securely than standard AirPods
  • Delivers superior bass and overall seem than the primary AirPods
  • Energetic sound-canceling considerably cuts down ambient sound
  • Transparency mode to let in seem
  • Headset performance when producing phone calls is best-notch
  • Spatial audio virtual surround attribute coming this slide with iOS fourteen

You should not Like

  • Quite pricey
  • Audio high quality is excellent but some competition seem superior
  • Unclear if these have superior extended-time period battery life than the primary AirPods

Certainly, they are a little overpriced. But the excellent information is we are observing them routinely discounted by $25 to $35 at numerous on the web suppliers. Also, Apple announced not long ago that this slide, with the launch of iOS fourteen, they’ll get automated switching in between Apple equipment and a new spatial audio surround seem attribute that will take gain of some internal tech we didn’t know the AirPods Professional experienced: Together with designed-in accelerometers, it turns out they also have designed-in gyroscopes. That will enable for head monitoring, a attribute ordinarily located on better-close gaming headphones, allowing the AirPods Professional the probable to produce a more reasonable surround-seem experience (I am however waiting around to try it out). The standard AirPods, which value about $one hundred much less, will never get the new virtual surround seem attribute, while they will be upgraded with automated switching.

Immediately after dwelling with the AirPods Professional for lots of months and evaluating them to a slew of competition, my conclusions continue to be mostly the very same. Below are some essential takeaways.

Study moreThe very best accurate wi-fi earbuds of 2019

The primary AirPods on the remaining, the new AirPods Professional on the proper.


Sarah Tew/CNET

AirPods Professional in good shape easily and securely

I am a person of people folks whose ears aren’t perfect receptacles for the primary AirPods, which are now on their second technology. I can wear them, but they do not keep in my ears all that effectively. I experience them start to slide out if I do anything at all too arduous in them, like dash throughout the street to make a gentle.

With the AirPods Professional, I do not have that difficulty. They in good shape my ears securely. I can run with them — and they are sweat-evidence, Apple states (they have an IPX4 drinking water-resistance rating, which indicates they are splashproof but not water resistant). It’s also truly worth noting that they occur with tiny, medium and massive ear suggestions. I was fearful I would have to have an further-massive idea to get a restricted seal, but the AirPods Pro’s massive ear suggestions in good shape my ears good. That stated, in the very last several months, I did improve the suggestions with ($thirty) specially manufactured for the AirPods Professional that allowed me to get an even tighter seal and an even more protected (I located that a person bud started off to slip out of my ear on lengthier operates). Comply also would make and some much less expensive foam suggestions are accessible for much less than $15. Nevertheless, I can not vouch for people, owning only attempted the CharJenPro and Comply suggestions.

Study more: Very best AirPods Professional accessories of 2020

If you might be setting them up on an iOS unit, in truth, the app will manual you by means of screening which ear idea fits you very best. And Apple is providing its have replacement suggestions for just $four (for a established of 3 pairs), so replacing them when they eventually get, effectively, gross is eminently cost-effective.

The extended and small of it is the new style and design will in good shape more ears than the primary AirPods. I hesitate to call it a common in good shape mainly because there are constantly exceptions, but they are near. The only situation is that some folks simply do not like owning silicone buds stuck in their ears, even if they are as delicate and pliant as these suggestions are. That’s the rationale why so lots of folks like the primary AirPods. They just type of nestle in your ear — and when they in good shape proper, they are truly comfortable. Nevertheless, a several of my coworkers stated that even while the AirPods Professional sounded superior, they however preferred the in good shape of the regular AirPods.

AirPods Professional seem superior than standard AirPods 

The first thing you discover about the AirPods Professional is that they seem superior than the standard AirPods because they have more bass. The rationale they have more bass is mostly due to their new sound-isolating style and design and new motorists that are tuned for that style and design. The standard AirPods seem decent more than enough in silent spots but due to their open style and design, they just do not do effectively when confronted with external sound (the bass frequencies get drowned out). The AirPods’ sound cancellation, which is efficient, also can help with external sound, and the blend of the seal of the suggestions and the energetic sound cancellation indicates they seem substantially superior in noisier environments this sort of as metropolis streets. 

Study more: AirPods Professional vs. standard AirPods — which ought to you get?

The Ear Tip Fit check can help determine which dimension is proper for your ears. 


Sarah Tew/CNET

But AirPods Professional seem high quality just isn’t very best in class

You should not get me improper, I like the way the AirPods Professional seem. They are pleasant to listen to — pretty excellent for accurate wi-fi. But they deficiency the clarity, definition and more textured seem a person may well anticipate from headphones that value $250. In small, there are competing styles that value around the very same price tag or much less that seem as excellent or superior. That isn’t going to mean people competing styles are superior overall — there are other things to take into consideration — but just fully grasp that from a pure seem standpoint, there are superior alternatives. 

I in comparison the AirPods Professional to its closest latest competitor, the Sony WF-1000XM3, which also has adaptive sound-canceling capabilities. The WF-1000XM3 sounds superior — its seem is even larger, smoother and more refined overall, and a lot easier to listen to around lengthier listening periods.

Study more: Very best sound-canceling accurate wi-fi earbuds of 2020

The Sony WF-1000XM3’s sound-canceling mode is as efficient as that of the AirPods Professional. And the Sony’s battery life is rated a little better (6 several hours), possibly mainly because they are bigger. With energetic sound cancellation on, Apple states AirPods Professional will produce up to four.5 several hours of listening. We were equipped to eke out 5 several hours and 9 minutes in our battery check with audio participating in at 75% quantity degree (you can view the check in our YouTube video). Whilst more battery life would preferably be superior, it just isn’t a massive situation mainly because the buds charge swiftly in their circumstance and a 5-minute charge through the Lightning port or a Qi wi-fi charging pad (yes, they attribute wi-fi charging) will get you an hour of battery life. A USB-C to Lightning cable is included, but you’ll have to have to provide an adapter or plug them into a USB-C notebook if you do not have a wi-fi charging pad.

Given that I wrote my original review of the AirPods Professional, Sennheiser introduced its second-gen Momentum Genuine Wi-fi two ($three hundred), which has superior seem than the AirPods Professional and equally efficient sound-canceling. Several other compelling sound-canceling accurate wi-fi earbuds have hit the sector, which includes the Technics EAH-AZ70W ($250), and more premium sound-canceling styles will get there before the year’s close. Fit is a massive component when it comes to sound-isolating earphones: If you do not get a restricted seal and excellent in good shape (with any of these styles), the sound cancellation and seem high quality both equally take a massive hit. Some of these other earphones seem superior, but it is tricky to beat the AirPods Pro’s lightweight style and design and comfortable in good shape. 

Options you can accessibility from your Apple iphone.


Sarah Tew/CNET

The dimension and in good shape of the AirPods Professional are massive providing factors

The AirPods and their charging circumstance are considerably scaled-down and lighter than the Sonys. The charging circumstance is broader than the standard AirPods’ circumstance and a little thicker, but it is however a tiny package. And dimension issues when it comes to these styles of earphones. The circumstance and the AirPods are literally half the dimension of the Sonys. There is some thing attractive about that. Although the Sonys in good shape me effectively, the AirPods Professional seem to be more most likely to in good shape more ears easily.

Aspect take note: You can wear the remaining and proper earbuds independently of every other (that is, wear a person bud at a time), and Apple’s new Audio Sharing attribute will allow a friend with a appropriate established of Apple or Beats headphones to connect to your iOS unit to listen to the very same written content that you are.

These wi-fi earbuds are even superior for producing phone calls

The standard AirPods are very excellent for producing phone calls. With the launch of the second-gen model this year — some call them the AirPods two — Apple improved their sound-reduction capabilities, especially wind sound. The AirPods Professional have 3 microphones on every bud, a person of which is a beamforming mic that is intended to select up your voice. They also have related sound-reduction capabilities, in addition a vent process that is not only supposed to decrease some of the force that can make up in your ear from a sound-isolating style and design coupled with sound-canceling capabilities, but can assistance lower down on wind sound a tad, an Apple rep explained to me. Extra importantly, you can simply listen to callers superior mainly because of the Pros’ sound-isolating style and design.

Phone high quality has been the Sony WF-1000XM3’s Achilles heel. It’s gotten superior with some firmware updates, but it ought to be even superior — it is not up to the AirPods Pro’s standard. In terms of producing phone calls, the AirPods are best-notch. But other individuals are catching up. I examined these in opposition to the Anker Liberty Air 2 earbuds. The Ankers and their more pricey sibling, the Liberty two Professional, measured up effectively to the AirPods when it came to producing phone calls. Like the AirPods Professional, the Liberty Air two earbuds do a excellent task of muffling ambient sound (callers stated they could listen to me good even with a large amount of street and even design sound around me). They do not seem very as excellent as the AirPods Professional, nor do they have energetic sound-canceling, but they in good shape easily and their sound-isolating style and design passively seals out a large amount of ambient sound. They only value $90. 

The only thing the AirPods seem to be to be missing on the call front is a sidetone attribute that will allow you to listen to your voice in the earphones when you might be producing a call. That will allow you to modulate your voice appropriately and not chat too loudly. Amazon’s Echo Buds ($one hundred thirty), also excellent for producing phone calls, have this attribute, and so do the pricier Sennheiser Momentum Genuine Wi-fi two, which are also excellent for producing phone calls.

The Execs have shorter stems. 


Sarah Tew/CNET

The AirPods Professional sound-canceling is excellent but has some restrictions

I have been having a large amount of questions from viewers about just how excellent the AirPods Professional sound-canceling is and whether or not it is superior than what you get from complete-dimension headphones like the Sony WH-1000XM3 and Bose Sound Cancelling Headphones seven-hundred or Bose QuietComfort 35 II. I was typically amazed with AirPod Pro’s sound cancellation. In open workplace environments and in other spots, like a cafe where folks are chatting around you, I didn’t assume there was substantially of a big difference when I switched in between the AirPods Professional and people bigger headphones. They all do a decent task, although you can however listen to people’s voices. 

I assume the complete-dimension headphones and even Sony’s WF-1000XM3 do a superior task muffling reduced frequencies. I have not applied the AirPods Professional on a aircraft still, but I have a noisy HVAC unit in my condominium, and the Sony and Bose complete-dimension headphones did a superior task quieting its loud hum. 

As much as airplane use goes, the AirPods Professional would unquestionably assistance with sound reduction, but just be aware there’s no way to plug these into an in-flight enjoyment process. You would have to hook up a Bluetooth transceiver to the headphone jack. But the Execs will totally be superior on a aircraft than standard AirPods, which are all but useless thanks to their open style and design.

Also, if you might be delicate to energetic sound cancellation, you might not be equipped to use these with it turned on. (There is no way to change it to a lower setting like there is with the Sony WF-1000XM3 it quickly adapts to your setting.) You can change the setting off, however, and just dwell with the isolation sent by the ear suggestions.

Before this year, there was some controversy around whether or not a person of Apple’s firmware updates experienced downgraded the AirPods Pro’s sound-canceling. Some customers swore it did. Subsequently, Apple introduced one more firmware update that some say preset the difficulty and other individuals say it didn’t. I personally assume it is as excellent as it was when the AirPods Professional introduced. But I do have a tighter seal, thanks to employing people foam suggestions I mentioned before.

The stems are shorter and I like the new controls superior — but there are no quantity controls on the buds

The standard AirPods have touch controls. You faucet or faucet and keep a touch zone on the aspect of the bud. The AirPods Professional have a force sensor in the stem of every bud — and the stems are shorter, which is excellent. You pinch the stem to activate the controls. Pinch twice swiftly to advance a monitor forward. Press and keep to change sound cancellation on or off or to toggle a transparency mode that will allow seem to leak in (so you can listen to coach bulletins, for instance, or just chat to a person although you have your AirPods on).

The new controls take a little having applied to, specifically if you might be coming from the standard AirPods and like their controls. Apple states it moved to the force sensors in the stem mainly because the sound-isolating style and design intended you could listen to the tapping when you touched the buds, which irritated folks. Some folks may well not be satisfied with that selection, but I was good with the new handle strategy. I experienced some mishaps at first but I am executing superior after a several times of use. 

You can also program the push-and-keep operate to call up Siri manually if you do not want the constantly-on (hands-no cost) Siri attribute to be energetic. Like the AirPods, the Execs have Apple’s H1 chip that will allow for constantly-on Siri, so you can call up Apple’s voice assistant simply by declaring “Hey, Siri.” That’s how you change quantity amounts — by telling Siri. Otherwise, you have to make quantity adjustments on your unit. 

Apple states the air vents on the inside of the buds assistance launch some force.


Sarah Tew/CNET

Wi-fi connectivity is rock good

Even with their uncomplicated pairing capabilities, the primary AirPods weren’t immune to Bluetooth glitches and the occasional dropouts. I applied my review sample with an Apple iphone 11 Professional functioning the most up-to-date model of iOS 13 (you have to have 13.two or better) and didn’t have any true audio dropouts all through my restricted screening period of time. Audio syncing in video applications was also good. There wasn’t any lag that I observed, while I didn’t try every video app.

Like the AirPods, you can use the AirPods Professional with Android telephones (I applied them with a Galaxy 9 Plus). The car Bluetooth pairing attribute just isn’t accessible and the constantly-on Siri attribute isn’t going to perform. But they perform like usual Bluetooth earphones and you can use your phone’s voice assistant. The sound-canceling works the very same as it does with an iOS unit.

I related to a Mac without the need of a difficulty but I have not attempted the AirPods Professional with a Windows machine still. 

It’s truly worth spending $fifty more on the AirPods Professional as an alternative of the AirPods with Wi-fi Charging

If you like your latest AirPods and they in good shape your ears effectively, you do not have to have to run out and get the Execs. (I would wait around for your AirPods to die, which they will quicker rather than later if you use them a large amount.) But if you’ve been eyeing the $199 AirPods with Wi-fi Charging, I would move them by and go straight to the Execs. The Execs have a wi-fi charging circumstance too, and their superior seem and included capabilities are truly worth the further dough.

The massive question is this: How reduced will the standard AirPods (without the need of wi-fi charging) go? They listing for $one hundred sixty but they frequently value much less, and we’ve witnessed them for as reduced as $one hundred thirty. As their price tag creeps down, I would say people are the AirPods to get if you do not want to spend too substantially money on AirPods. Neglect the wi-fi charging. It’s an overrated attribute and ought to value much less. 

The Powerbeats Professional.


Sarah Tew/CNET

Beats Powerbeats Professional is in problems

Lots of folks were on the lookout for superior seem and a more protected in good shape than the primary AirPods and they could get both equally in the Beats Powerbeats Professional. Apple owns Beats, and the Powerbeats Professional earbuds have even larger bass than the standard AirPods. They also have more dynamic seem as effectively as extended battery life in a sporty style and design. The Powerbeats Professional value $250 but get discounted sporadically and ought to be accessible for $200 or much less as we head into the holiday getting season.

The Powerbeats Professional earbuds are however spectacular, but the massive strike in opposition to them is their cumbersome charging circumstance. With their sweat-resistant style and design, bolder seem and more protected in good shape, the AirPods Professional are a direct competitor. The scaled-down dimension and more discreet profile of the AirPods Professional would make them the more attractive decision than the Beats. I also assume some folks will desire their seem to the Powerbeats Professional, which is more hyped in the treble (perhaps a little too hyped for some). 

I would only get the Powerbeats if I was fearful about shedding a bud executing an activity like mountain biking where there’s a better chance of a person slipping out of your ears. The Powerbeats Pro’s ear hooks do assistance keep the earphones on your head.

A little bit pricey, but with a large amount to like

With seemingly all of Apple’s solutions, you have to different the marketing and advertising hype from reality. This just isn’t the first in-ear accurate-wi-fi with sound-canceling. Sony’s experienced earphones with the attribute for around two several years and several sound-canceling styles are now accessible with more on the way, which includes inexpensive types like the $60  (their sound-canceling is only so-so but they do seem excellent and perform effectively for producing phone calls). The Jabra Elite 75t, Sony WF-1000XM3, Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus and loads of other individuals have this sort of a “listen to-by means of” attribute. So when Apple states “magic you’ve never ever listened to” and talks about a “customizable in good shape” mainly because 3 distinct sized eartips are included, I variety of roll my eyes. 

But even if they do not seem as magical as you would hope a $250 model would, the AirPods Professional however handle to be a great pair of actually wi-fi earphones. That’s mostly due to their profitable style and design and in good shape, improved bass performance, efficient sound-canceling and superb call high quality. Yeah, they are pricey at $250, but the excellent information is you’ll use them so substantially you’ll likely wear the battery down — it does degrade around time and just isn’t replaceable — and have to get a new pair in eighteen to 24 months, if you do not reduce them first.

Initially posted November 2019. Current with added reflections and comparisons on July 17, 2020.

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