Apple AirPods Pro Review

The best Apple earbuds come with a host of features for a premium experience

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4.2

Apple AirPods Pro

Apple AirPods Pro

Lifewire / Jason Schneider

What We Like
  • Solid sound quality

  • Excellent battery life

  • Premium build and design

What We Don't Like
  • Lack of customization in sound quality

  • A little pricey

  • Prone to dirt and grime

A nice balance of quality and usability make the AirPods Pro a great buy for Apple users.

4.2

Apple AirPods Pro

Apple AirPods Pro

Lifewire / Jason Schneider

We purchased the Apple AirPods Pro so our reviewer could put them to the test. Keep reading for the full product review.

Apple AirPods Pro are considered by many to be the best wireless earbuds you can buy. The sound quality is probably the best for most people (not too bassy, but still full enough to support most styles of music), the active noise cancellation is pretty decent and the design, if you like Apple products, has become widely admired (i.e. copied).

There's also a whole list of extras, as you'd hope at this price, including a chip allowing for instant pairing to Apple devices and immersive 360-degree audio. I got my hands on a pair of AirPods Pro to test them out for work calls, podcasts, workouts, and more.

Design: The new normal

The initial launch of the first-generation AirPods came with its share of criticism from a design perspective, but now the 'hanging stem' has been copied by tons of different brands. The AirPods Pro bring this design into a more modern view with a shorter, more curved stem than the non-Pro AirPods, and a larger, more oblong enclosure that holds the driver, the bit of a headphone that actually makes sound.

I’m not breaking any new ground by saying these earbuds look sleek, premium, and very Apple.

The AirPods Pro also only come in the classic, glossy Apple white. I do like the look of this, and you don’t need me to tell you that these headphones are popular and can be seen in plenty of people’s ears. But, I can’t help but think white is an odd color to lean so heavily on. Because these earbuds are portable enough to just toss in a purse or backpack, the case and earbuds (particularly the inner ridges of the case) are very prone to dirt and grime.

What’s more is if you have higher ear wax content than most, you’ll constantly be rubbing marks off the silicone tips. Wear and tear notwithstanding, these earbuds look sleek, premium, and very Apple.

Comfort: A notable improvement

The most obvious change made from the regular AirPods to this Pro version are the new, more traditional eartips. The standard AirPods don’t feature a customizable silicone tip, but instead just rest on the inside of your ears. The AirPods Pro package comes with three sizes of silicone eartips that sit further in your ear, sealing in the audio a bit more and staying firmly in place. If fit was a big concern for you with the first-gen AirPods, then these certainly address that.

My experience in practice was actually a bit of a mixed bag. I don’t normally love the feeling of earbuds that are pressed firmly into my ear using silicone tips because it feels tight and stifling. I don’t have that problem with AirPods Pro, because the silicone that’s used is extra soft and form-fitting. What did end up causing some comfort issues was the rest of the plastic enclosure.

The AirPods Pro package comes with three sizes of silicone eartips that sit further in your ear, sealing in the audio a bit more and staying firmly in place.

The back part of the earbuds physically sit on the outer cavity of your ear, using gravity to balance with some more stability. I found that if the skin on my ear was feeling particularly sensitive that day, then it wasn’t as comfortable as other days. As is the case with any earbud, your mileage in comfort will vary, but be prepared to adjust the fit to your taste.

Durability and Build Quality: Premium and impressive

If there’s one thing everyone agrees on about Apple, it’s that the brand knows how to put together a premium product. From their expertly crafted unboxing experiences to the high-end materials used for everything in the product line, Apple’s prowess is virtually unmatched in this category. The AirPods Pro carry this reputation nicely into the premium earbud space. The plastic used on both the case and the headphones feels highly polished and premium.

Apple AirPods Pro

Lifewire / Jason Schneider

While the earbuds have a nice, substantial, balanced weight to them, they don’t feel too heavy. The case’s ridiculously satisfying magnetic snap is sort of a reason on its own to keep a pair of these sitting on your desk. Apple has even managed to get an impressive rating of IPX4 for moisture resistance. It’s certainly not the best rating you can get on a pair of true wireless earbuds, but it should handle a sweaty workout or some light rain without any issue.

Sound Quality and Noise Cancelling: Excellent sound and solid silence

In true Apple fashion, there isn’t a whole lot of information available about the actual numbers at play in the audio engine. There is what Apple is calling a “high-excursion, low-distortion” driver and a “super-efficient” amplifier to power it. But all of this is marketing flourish—at the end of the day the thing contributing most to the sound quality is Apple’s digital signal processing (what it calls “Adaptive EQ”). This uses an internal-facing microphone to measure the sound you’re actually hearing and adjust it to fit your needs and your environment.

In practice, I actually found this worked pretty well. When I’m inside sitting at my desk, things are clean, flat, and focused. When I’m out walking my dog, it seems to push a little more bass to help give me a fuller experience in a noisier environment. I’d give the sound quality an A- in practice. I normally like a little richer of a midrange than is on tap here, but most styles of music will sound good.

The active noise cancellation (known as ANC) is also pretty impressive here. In the true wireless earbud format, ANC is particularly hard to do because it relies so heavily on a tight seal. The AirPods Pro do seem to cancel out quite a bit of noise, even if the ear tips aren’t super tight for my ears. I think Apple does this well because it uses microphones that measure both the sound inside your ear by the ear tip and on the outside of your ear using an external-facing microphone.

I normally like a little richer of a midrange than is on tap here, but most styles of music are well-represented in general.

This gives the earbuds plenty of information to measure ambient sound and cancel it out. I do think the Bose QuietComfort earbuds do a slightly better job at ANC, but if you want solid noise cancellation, you can do a lot worse than AirPods Pro. 

Battery Life: Basically best in class

The first-gen AirPods set a seriously high bar for battery life, allowing for about 24 hours of listening when incorporating the battery case. Even with all the new features, like the fuller sound quality and ANC, Apple has managed to nearly match that 24 hours of listening.

Apple AirPods Pro

Lifewire / Jason Schneider

The earbuds themselves (without charging them in the case) do have a bit of variance, with 4.5 hours of listening using ANC, 3.5 hours of talk time, and 5 hours when you’re just listening to music and nothing else. But Apple has included fast charging in the case so just 5 minutes of time inside the battery case will give you about an hour of listening. There’s even Qi wireless charging available in the case, so charging up the battery is as easy as tossing the case down on a battery pad.

Connectivity: Impressively instant for Apple users

In general, one of the biggest selling points for an AirPods product is the connectivity, controlled by a chip Apple calls the H1. Technically the AirPods Pro just transmit music via Bluetooth 5.0.

What you do get thanks to the H1 chip is the magical experience of an instant pairing popup on your iPhone or iPad as soon as you open the case (no more digging through a Bluetooth menu). The H1 chip also provides a really solid and fast connection to your iPhone, meaning the AirPods Pro are great for videos and gaming as well. 

Apple AirPods Pro

Lifewire / Jason Schneider

It’s not without its issues. First off, if you don’t have an iPhone, then you’re missing a lot of the value of the AirPods, so Android users can basically count these earbuds out. I also had a few quirks even within my own Apple ecosystem. When it came to switching from my iPhone to my girlfriend’s iPad to my workday MacBook (which deal with different Apple IDs), things weren’t quite as smooth as I’ve come to expect.

Apple is pretty smart about recognizing when the device you’re using isn’t properly connected to your AirPods, and in these scenarios you’ll get the “do you want to connect?” prompt in many cases. But, needless to say that the “magic” Apple promises with the H1 chip does have some hurdles on occasion.

Software and Extras: A boatload of features you may or may not use

The software component of any AirPods product lives in the device menu of your System settings. To be clear, there aren’t a whole lot of options on Mac OS in this regard, and most of the customization lives in iOS. From this menu, you can customize which mode your earbuds are in (transparency, ANC, or neither), whether you’ve enabled 3D audio, what long touches on the earbuds control, and a few other typical things. There are no high-precision EQ options here, and you certainly shouldn’t expect an ultra in-depth app like you’d get with a pair of Sony headphones.

Then there’s all the little bells and whistles Apple has. The transparency mode on AirPods is actually pretty impressive, feeling a lot more lifelike to your surroundings than many of the flat-mic’d options on other products. This same immersion is carried through via the immersive audio setting, which puts compatible music and video into a mode that feels a little more like surround sound.

Apple AirPods Pro

Lifewire / Jason Schneider

There are all the sensors, too, like the force-sensitive touch control and the proximity sensor that automatically pauses music when you take an earbud out and plays it when you put it back in. A lot of these features are available on similarly priced options from competitors, but if solid UX is what you’re after, you’ll get it here. Just don’t expect a ton of customization.

Price: Premium, yet reasonable

At first glance, the $249 price tag might feel a little pricey. To be fair, for $200 you can get premium earbuds from another manufacturer that sound a little fuller and give you more customization. But many premium brands like Bose, Jabra, and Samsung all cost the same or more, so it’s hard to ding Apple for the price.

In fact, at the time of writing this review, I was able to find a pair of AirPods Pro on Amazon for under $200. So the price is becoming more and more reasonable. It feels like a copout to say they are reasonably priced simply because I expected them to be more expensive. But when you’re talking about Apple, this is the approach you’ve got to take.

Apple AirPods Pro vs. Bose QuietComfort Earbuds

With top-notch noise cancellation and well-rounded use cases from the office to the gym, the AirPods Pro and Bose’s latest true wireless earbuds are natural competitors. I think Bose has the edge on fit/comfort and the QC buds offer truly incredible noise cancellation. But fit, finish, and battery life are clearly better with the AirPods Pro. Both brands offer a premium X factor, so your ultimate decision will come down to how much convenience you want from the H1 chip.

Final Verdict

An incredibly balanced pair of earbuds

As one of the most popular pairs of earbuds on the market, it’s no surprise that I’m giving AirPods Pro solid marks in practice. Impressively full sound quality, a premium build, and long-haul battery life make these impressive headphones to toss into your travel bag or briefcase. Some connectivity quirks, noise cancellation that is solid but not the best, and a decidedly Apple-like lack of customization might count these earbuds out, depending on your priorities. But, if you can find them for under $200, it’s almost a no-brainer.

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Specs

  • Product Name AirPods Pro
  • Product Brand Apple
  • MPN MWP22AM/A
  • Price $249
  • Release Date October 2019
  • Weight 1.6 oz.
  • Product Dimensions 1.8 x 2.4 x 0.9 in.
  • Color White
  • Battery Life Up to 5 hours (earbuds only), 24 hours (with battery case)
  • Wired/Wireless Wireless
  • Wireless Range 30 ft.
  • Warranty 1 year, limited
  • Bluetooth Spec Bluetooth 5
  • Audio Codecs SBC, AAC
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