Apple soft-launched the rumored AirPods Pro, the successor to its innovative fully wireless earbuds. Available October 30, the Pros push forward with active noise cancellation, improved sound quality and an in-ear design that’s also shorter and much less awkward – to my eyes, that is. At USD 250, these are decidedly premium, though not the most expensive wireless buds you can buy. The Bose QuietComfort 30 still commands that eye-watering USD 300 price tag, I believe. With the news summed up, here are the details…
Lighter, liquid-proof in-ear design
Apple has reworked the AirPods a good deal, delivering earbuds that look and, likely, feel ‘new’. Each bud now includes silicone ear tips in three sizes and features a new vent system to equalize pressure, supposedly improving comfort. The AirPods Pro are also sweat and water-resistant, so active types will be interested. The buds seem well-engineered and I presume they won’t fall off your ears when running – not easily, at least.
The AirPods Pro feature Active Noise Cancellation, utilizing two mics and software to cancel out background noise. Apple doesn’t appear to be needlessly re-inventing a tried and true technology. Rather, the first tiny mic faces outward to capture ambient sound and the second is oriented towards your ear. The signal is processed as many as 200 times per second for what Apple calls a “superior noise-cancelling experience”. I presume the action happens inside the eabuds, thanks to that custom bit of silicon (the H1 SoC) Apple pioneered with the first AirBuds.
Transparency Mode is also available, mixing a little ambient noise in the music so you can still hear important signals from the environment, such as speech, traffic and announcements. This, as well as playback is controlled by tapping the earbuds’ stems – newly equipped with a force sensor. No, not Star Wars force – we’re talking touch sensitivity!
Better Sound with Adaptive EQ
The listening experience is facilitated by an Adaptive EQ that tunes low and mid frequencies to the acoustics of your ear canals. Pretty next level, heh. Apple also built a custom HDR amplifier and high-excursion driver, claiming bass response down to 20Hz and detailed audio across the spectrum. The original AirPods still sound pretty rad, so I trust Apple’s word that the Pros sound as good as they possibly could.
Up to 5 hours per charge, says Cupertino. Engaging noise cancellation lops off half an hour of listening time, and talk time is rated at 3 and a half hours. Presuming you carry the Wireless Charging Case, you can charge the AirPods Pro on the go for a claimed 24+ hours of music and 18+ hours of talk time per a single charge of the case. The WCC can be charged from a Qi-certified mat or via the Lighting port.
A bit that strikes me as old-school Apple “sorcery” which the company rarely displays nowdays is the Ear Tip Fit Test. Basically, Apple worked out a way to measure how well your chosen eartip seals your ear holes, using the integrated mics to compare sound level in the ear to what’s coming out the speaker driver. If an adjustment or change is in order, you will be notified. So that’s innovation possibly putting an end to earlobe stretching, pushing in the buds and assorted physical nightmares. Yay!
Other user-pampering features include Siri voice activation (say Hey, Siri), Audio Sharing to a second pair of AirPods close to an iPhone or iPad, and spoken notification announcements.
Finally, note that the original AirPods get price cuts – USD 159 for a pair and USD 199 for a charging case bundle. So if the Pros are too much tech or wallet pressure for you, the older AirPods become a nicer deal.