AirPods Pro Review

AirPods Pro

I have never liked Apple’s headphones. From the original headphones included with iPods, the redesigned ones in 2012, all the way through to the AirPods, none of them would stay in my ears if I moved my head even slightly. As if that wasn’t enough to dislike them, they didn’t block any outside noise while wearing them, so trying to listen to anything while walking around Manhattan, or on the subway, was pretty much useless [1].

My headphones of choice, when out and about in the city, has always been the in-ear “earbud” style that sit in your ear canal and create a seal with a silicone tip. This style stays in my ears and does a decent job of blocking some of the outside noise…enough so that I don’t have to blast the volume so loud that it triggers a volume warning.

I did try the Apple In-Ear Headphones that were introduced in 2008. While they were an improvement over the basic versions, I didn’t like them because the silicone “bud” portion would sometimes come off of the headphone and stay in your ear when you tried to remove them. I once had to have a friend remove it from my ear with tweezers!

For the past few years I’ve used the BeatsX bluetooth earphones. I had tried other bluetooth headphones, both with and without wires connecting the two ear pieces, but the BeatsX worked best. All other manufacturer’s headphones would cut out a bit when crossing most streets, but the BeatsX never did. The only thing they were lacking was noise cancelation.

When Apple announced the AirPods Pro, I got a little excited that my personal holy grail of earphones might finally be coming. Bluetooth, in ear, noise canceling, and sweat resistance all in one little package? I eagerly waited for the reviews to come out, and once they confirmed what I had hoped they would be, I stopped by my local Apple store on the way to work on October 30th and picked up a pair to try out.

Using the AirPods Pro

Upon opening them, I saw that they came with the medium sized ear tips on the buds. I put them in my ear and knew right away they were too small. I swapped them out for the large size, and while they stayed in my ears, they didn’t feel like I was accustomed to. When you put in a pair of in-ear earbuds, you push the silicone tip into your ear canal until it forms a seal. You know the seal is effective when it blocks out some ambient noise, and you can feel a small pressure change in your ear that you need to swallow to get rid of. The AirPods Pro do not have this pressure change since they have vents that allow the pressure to equalize. It almost feels like there’s nothing in your ears. I used the new ear tip fit test feature to make sure that the large tips were creating a good seal in my ears, and was happy when both ears got a “good seal” result.

When you first put two earbuds in your ears it takes about a second before the active noise cancelling kicks in. Even after a month of using them, I still do a silent, internal, “Whoa,” when it does. The best way I can describe it would be to say that most sounds are reduced, but not eliminated entirely. Ambient “hums” disappear, but not in a heavy handed kind of way. When I’m in my bathroom, the fan noise disappears, but I can still hear the water when washing my hands. If I use them while washing dishes, the general hum from outside is gone, but I can still hear the dishes and utensils being washed. When walking on the street, I can still hear traffic, but it’s not as loud. When in the subway, I can still hear the noise of the subway, and the announcements, but they just aren’t as loud. As a result, I can listen to my music or podcasts at a not ridiculously loud level and still hear everything.

They function exactly like the original AirPods. As soon as you open the AirPods Pro case near an iPhone for the first time, it attempts to pair them, which is seamless and takes seconds. When you put the buds in your ear, the iPhone automatically switches to use them for sound playback and microphone. If you take one or both out of your ears, whatever you’re playing pauses, and you put them in the case to turn them off and charge them. The case can charge with a lightning cable or wirelessly using the same Qi charger you use with your phone.

My main dislike with the AirPods Pro is that you have to carry around the case to turn them off. For example, with the BeatsX or the Jabra Elite 65t, you can just hold down a button and they turn off. I can get to work, turn them off, leave them on my desk, and when I go home, turn them back on and their battery hasn’t changed at all during the day. If I were to just take the AirPods Pro out of my ears when I get to the office, while they do go to sleep, and even though they aren’t playing anything, they would be dead by the time I left the office. Yes, the case isn’t big at all, but in the summer, when I don’t wear a jacket and try not to carry a bag most days, it’s just one more thing I’ll have to carry in my pockets.

After a month of using them, they have become my daily driver headphones and even use them around my apartment if I’m talking to friends on the phone, doing dishes, cleaning, etc.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

[1] Yet I see them it possible that it’s just me?

Nov 30, 2019