Review – Apple AirPods Pro

29Nov19

I’ve never liked the hard plastic headphones that come with iPods and iPhones, so when AirPods were launched I was totally ‘meh’, especially as I though they looked ugly and uncomfortable.

When AirPods Pro launched a few weeks ago I was willing to reconsider, as I’ve got on OK in the past with silicone bud earphones.

Then I read the reviews, which were overwhelmingly gushing. So I’m here to gush a little more.

My AirPods Pro in their charging case with silicone cover

Magical

I’ve found that the AirPods Pro ‘just work’ in that magical way we expect from Apple’s commitment to design and user experience (but maybe don’t always get). The last time I was wowed so much was probably my first encounter with the iPod touch.

Device switching between my iPhone and iPad can be a little clunky, but in pretty much every other way they’re encouraging me to use my earphones more than I did with any previous ones because everything is so quick and easy.

Controls

Part of the magic is the single control present on both sides, with short clicks for pause, forward, back and a long click to switch between noise cancelling and transparent.

Noise isolation

This is the key selling point of the Pro version – active noise cancellation.

I used to buy headphones and earphones with active noise cancellation, and then I discovered Koss Sparkplugs, which are basically just memory foam earplugs with a sound pipe and drivers attached. So I’ve been passive for over a decade now.

The culmination of my passive approach to blocking out the noise is a pair of Snugs Flight (now called Snugs Travel), which were ridiculously expensive, but worth every penny because they deliver excellent noise isolation and are comfortable enough for a 12h+ flight.

Comparing the AirPods Pro to the Snugs in an airport lounge last week it was pretty much impossible to tell them apart on noise isolation or audio quality. So the AirPods Pro win there on price[1].

The AirPods Pro also win on having transparent mode, which is much easier than fishing a perfectly fitting earbud out when you want to hear the drinks/meal choices. They also give you the option to keep listening or pause the music[2].

Fit and comfort

The default (medium) buds seem to fit just fine – with a satisfying little pop when they seal. I tried the larger ones, as I’ve often used larger silicone buds in the past, but they’re just too big for my ears.

Comfort has been perfect for the hour or two I’ve worn them at a stretch; but then the batteries only last for about 4h so long term comfort isn’t really a practical concern.

I’ve had one instance of one of them seemingly leaping out of my ear as I turned my head, which makes me a little cautious about wearing them when boarding trains or in other situations where dropped too easily turns into lost forever or destroyed.

Looks

They don’t make you look like you’ve poked candy cigarettes into each ear :/

Conclusion

I love them, and they’re so good that they’ve changed how often I use earphones and how I use earphones. The best new Apple thing in a while.

Note

[1] I’ll still be travelling with the Snugs, because the AirPods Pro won’t last through a long flight, won’t plug in to in flight entertainment and you definitely can’t sleep in them (and I sometimes like to doze off whilst listening to an audio book).
[2] Though I do wonder about the whole being talked to whilst wearing earbuds thing as it will take a while for people to get used to the fact that they can be heard perfectly well by somebody who’s in transparent mode (for which there is no visual indication).



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