Apple has finally announced the AirPods Pro. Available for $249, they feature a tweaked design with shorter stems and silicone eartips and provide better sound, active noise cancelling, and come with a wireless charging case.
The Big new Noise Cancelling Feature
Yes, the big new feature of the AirPods Pro is active noise cancelling. AirPods Pro continually adapts to outside noise using a pair of microphones and software.
An outward-facing microphone detects external sound to analyze environmental noise. Then, an equivalent anti-noise wave is calculated and mixed into the audio going into the user’s ear. An inward-facing microphone listens toward the ear, and AirPods Pro cancels remaining noise detected by that microphone.
Noise cancellation continuously adapts the sound environment 200 times per second.
A look at the New Design
The AirPods Pro looks very much like the now-iconic AirPods, only tweaked. The ‘buds now have soft silcone eartips.
The stems are shorter, too. In all, the AirPods Pro are about 30mm (1.22 inches) tall. Regular AirPods are 40mm (1.59 inches) tall.
Sound Quality as compared to Airpods
Having silicone eartips to produce a seal in your ears is an important part of producing good low-end sound for in-ear earbuds. That alone should improve the audio profile of the AirPods Pro.
Apple points to a number of other improvements. There’s Adaptive EQ, which “automatically tunes the low- and mid-frequencies of the music to the shape of an individual’s ear” and a custom high dynamic range amplifier that “produces pure, incredibly clear sound while also extending battery life.”
There’s a new custom sound driver, too. All these things should produce significantly better sound than regular AirPods, though we’ll have to see how they fare against other similarly-priced in-ear earbuds.
Transparency Mode Feature
Apple offers a “Transparency Mode” that leaves some noise-cancelling active, while also piping in some sound from the outside world using the external microphones.This helps your own voice sound more natural, and allows you to hear traffic on a busy street, for example. It’s an important safety feature.
Navigation of Airpods Pro
There’s a new “force sensor” on the stem that is used to engage noise cancelling or transparency mode, or play/pause and skip tracks. It’s like a virtual button that doesn’t actually move.
Press once to play/pause tracks or answer phone calls. Press twice to skip forward. Press three times to skip back. Press-and-hold to toggle between noise cancelling and transparency mode, or to invoke Siri (you can switch its function in the Bluetooth settings on on your iPhone).
“Hey Siri” hands-free
The AirPods Pro use the same H1 chip found in the second-generation AirPods, PowerBeats Pro, and Beats Solo Pro. You can invoke Siri by simply saying “Hey Siri” just like you can on your iPhone.
Price of the Airpods Pro
The Airpods Pro cost $249. There’s only the one model—no colors or options. Regular AirPods can be bought with a regular Charging Case for $159 or with a Wireless Charging Case for $199. The AirPods Pro only come with a Wireless Charging Case—so in effect they cost $50 more than the similarly-equipped AirPods.
Apple says the batteries last for up to five hours of listening time without noise cancelling, and 4.5 hours with it. You get 3.5 hours of talk time on phone calls. By recharging in the case, you get “over 24 hours” of listening time and 18 hours of talk time.
Sweat and water-resistant
The sweat and water-resistant feature means you should be fine sweating all over them when you work out and you shouldn’t worry about getting caught in the rain, but you shouldn’t dunk them under the faucet to rinse them off or try jumping into a pool.