Apple's latest AirPods launched earlier this year, but how silly do you feel if you splashed out on them then? From Wednesday October 30 you can now get noise-cancelling AirPods Pro for merely £90/$90 more. The new buds also feature improved fit, which should give greater noise isolation and better audio quality.
• Here's our Apple AirPods Pro review already!
To be fair, the unkind would say that a brace of tin cans and some string have better audio quality than standard AirPods. My current favourite true wireless buds are Powerbeats Pro from Apple subsidiary Beats by Dr Dre. However, by adding noise-cancelling, gym- and run-friendly sweat-proofing and a nasty arsenal of clever tech tricks to the proven AirPods blend of style and compact size, these are likely to blow them away. Battery life is still a slightly miserly 5 hours, mind…
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The usual AirPods skills are present in the AirPods Pro, with instant 'tap to pair' with your iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple Watch, Apple TV, iPod Touch and so forth. Android owners can pair via boring old Bluetooth and get the same overall effect
Unlike the original AirPods, the AirPods Pro are 'proper' in-ear headphones, which penetrate your ear holes a little, rather than just sitting above them. This give better audio quality and cuts out background noise (even before the active noise cancellation gets to work). Some people don't like the sensation of having things shoved down their ears, but then some people don't like caviare. Some people are idiots!
As usual Apple talks about this as if it just came up with the idea: 'Each earbud comes with three different sizes of soft, flexible silicone ear tips that conform to the contours of each individual ear, providing both a comfortable fit and a superior seal – a critical factor in delivering immersive sound.'
However, it also promises better comfort thanks to 'an innovative vent system' that will 'equalise pressure, minimising the discomfort common in other in-ear designs.'
As with Powerbeats Pro from sister brand Beats, AirPods Pro are sweat- and water-resistant, 'making them perfect for active lifestyles.' Like mine!
Apple AirPods pro: battery life
AirPods Pro feature the same battery life as AirPods not-Pro: five hours of listening time. Active Noise Cancellation mode only cuts that to four and a half hours of listening time (and up to three and a half hours of talk time), which is quite impressive, I guess.
The Wireless Charging Case contains a battery that recharges the Pro when you put it in, and you get 'over 24 hours of listening time or over 18 hours of talk time' in total. Charging of the case itself is done either via Qi contactless charging or a Lightning cable.
Apple AirPods Pro: Active Noise Cancellation
Noise cancelling headphones have become 'must have' products ever since Bose introduced the all-conquering QC35.
On the AirPods Pro, two mics and 'advanced software' are used to quell any background noise not removed by the newer, better seal provided by the new AirPod Pro ear tips. Adaptive EQ 'automatically tunes the low- and mid-frequencies of the music to the shape of your ear', further improving the musical end result. As with the new Beats Solo Pro, a 'Transparency mode' can be triggered to allow the sound of colleagues and transport announcements through, 'the pressure-equalising vent system and advanced software… leaves just the right amount of noise cancellation active.' On the Solo Pro this sounds a lot more natural than many previous 'transparency' systems, and that should be the case here too.
This is all probably bad news for Sony, whose WF-1000XM3 is the current top dog in true wireless buds with noise cancelling. They're great headphones but one thing they do not boast is a really sealed, but comfortable, fit. On the other hand, AirPods Pro are unlikely to sound as good as the Sonys when you're sat down, because nothing in the true wireless world does.
Switching between Active Noise Cancellation and Transparency modes is simple and can be done directly on AirPods Pro via 'a new, innovative force sensor on the stem.' This is also used to play, pause or skip tracks, and answer or hang up phone calls. Control is also possible via iPhone, iPad or Apple Watch.
Apple AirPods Pro: Ear-tip fit test
This is something I haven't encountered before. The AirPod Pro can actually tell you which of the choice of eartips is best for you, in terms of sound quality.
Just bung them in your ears, and AirPods Pro will use 'advanced algorithms' in conjunction with the microphones used for voice calls and noise cancelling, to measure the sound level in your ear and compare it to what is coming from the speaker driver. The nearer the two are to each other, the better the fit, and AirPods Pro will let you know accordingly, erm, somehow.
As you'd expect there's also voice-activated Siri on hand. Audio Sharing – another Beats Solo Pro feature – lets you 'share' the same song or movie with a friend's AirPods.
Siri can also read out text messages to you. Rest assured that, 'When on a phone call or sharing media via Audio Sharing, Siri knows not to interrupt,' it says here.
Apple AirPods Pro: release date and price
To use all their functionality AirPods Pro require Apple devices running iOS 13.2 or later, iPadOS 13.2 or later, watchOS 6.1 or later, tvOS 13.2 or later, or macOS Catalina 10.15.1 or later. However, they will pair quite happily with Android and other devices and provide most core functionality.