After being teased and appearing in a few leaks, Apple, in the latter half of 2019 launched the AirPods Pro that is aimed at audio enthusiasts that want nothing but the best in terms of design, performance and functionality. The AirPods Pro comes with massive improvements such as active noise cancellation, a better and snugger fit and last but not least, a new and enhanced design in comparison with the original, 2016 AirPods that should go some way in bringing more iPhone users into its true wireless ecosystem.
In India, the AirPods Pro retail for Rs 24,900 which puts it on the upper end of the pricing segment for true wireless earphones and this takes away some of its lustre. In a market like India’s, very few true wireless earphones are priced above Rs 20K, which makes Apple’s option all the more desirable for tech enthusiasts or clout-seekers.
If you happen to own an iPhone and want to have nothing but the best in what Apple has to offer — snug fit, great audio quality and superior noise cancellation; then the AirPods Pro is an obvious choice for you. Additionally, the new and improved design means that you get an all-encompassing fit that’s unlikely to get easily undone; no matter your ear type. Also, with intuitive controls and easy access to a new ‘Transparency’ feature, you can allow ambient noises to get in without plucking them out from your ears.
If you have used Apple’s original AirPods in the past, then you may not witness a huge learning curve; however, the new touch-sensitive controls need a bit of learning which you should master in a couple of days. However, we do recommend learning all the necessary controls as it will improve your overall experience significantly.
The AirPods Pro is designed to perfection and has the Apple ethos running through every single bit of it. This convenience which is oft-overlooked ranges from the time it's first paired to your iPhone right to it doing a custom scan of your ears to ensure it offers the best possible fit. Apple fans will undoubtedly love each and every aspect of the AirPods Pro making it an ideal purchase for all iPhone owners; or some Android users that want to experience Apple’s expertise in the wearable department.
The overall audio quality on the AirPods Pro has improved pretty impressively over the previous version with there being noticeable enhancements in the bass and vocals department. This ensures that fans of popular genres such as Hip-Hop or EDM will greatly enjoy using these earphones. However, those who are fans of other genres won’t feel left out as these sound great as well. While we don’t get some major improvements on battery life like some of the competition; Apple does ensure that you get a 4.5-hour playback with active noise cancelling turned on.
The AirPods Pro are a great pair of true wireless earphones and it is definitely a recommended product if you don’t have any cash restraints and want an Apple-designed product. With that being said, there are models like the Sony WF-1000X which offer better noise-cancellation and others like the HIFIMAN TWS600 that offer up to 38.5 hours charge in the charging case.
The Whole Story
As soon as we tried the AirPods Pro on, the first thing we observed was how insanely lightweight they are. They are so light that when using them, you will forget that you have them on. This feature scores major points when it comes to comfort and even when using it for hours while listening to music or video streaming, there was absolutely no ear fatigue, a feature which Apple has definitely doubled-down on when compared with the original design of the AirPods.
The AirPods Pro is a culmination of years of work Apple has put in and it’s great that these weren’t rushed out of the gate in the year following the launch of the original AirPods. Apple has taken user complaints into consideration and ensured that they not just built on the original model but also refined it to its finest. Even though we can’t deny the fact that there are similarities with the AirPods Pro and the AirPods such as the elongated stem, the gloss-white finish and the curved body, there are some stark differences as well. The biggest giveaway here is the silicone tips that are quite small in comparison with other models.
The entire body of the AirPods Pro is on the chunkier or bulbous side and this is in all-likelihood made to fit in the new components. However, the stem here is a lot shorter than the original AirPods giving them a much better appearance.
While the older generation AirPods could be interacted with taps, the AirPods Pro has controls that are now located on its stems. So, with these force-touch sensors to be activated, all you need to do is a slight squeeze on either stem to pause or continue playing a track. That’s not all, a double squeeze allows you to skip forward to the next track while a triple squeeze goes to a previous track. A long squeeze on the stem will toggle between noise-cancelling models.
There is a bit of a learning curve associated with the capacitive force sensor used here; but we assure you that once this is mastered, you will find this second nature and it will definitely enhance your overall usability experience.
These controls can be adjusted in the Settings app of your iPhone and you’re not limited to the ones Apple has to offer. For example, you can assign Siri to a bud while the other bud can be used to enable switching between noise-cancelling or Transparency mode.
However, like the original AirPods, there is no means to control volume and this is a minor grievance which we had. Other brands have successfully added this feature and it’s a shame that Apple missed out. In its place, we need to navigate the volume through the iPhone which takes away some of the intuitiveness of the AirPods Pro.
Apple has fitted an accelerometer in each earbud alongside an optical sensor which recognizes when the AirPods are removed from your ear. This allows them to automatically pause when removed and magically start playing once more when in the ears. In 2016, this was a great feature to have; however, in 2020, it is expected. Several brands are already using this feature in their products which cost a fraction of what the AirPods sell for; so, it’s not that big of a deal.
Elaborating on the fit, the silicone ear tips lock the AirPods Pro in place and you won’t find them coming undone even during rigorous movements such as running or functional training. There is absolutely no give whatsoever and while the original AirPods used to easily fall out during physical activities, the AirPods Pro always sat snug.
Apple has launched the AirPods Pro with an IPX4 Ingress certification which means that they can be used in light rains or during physical activities where a lot of sweat comes in to play. This rating ensures that your expensive purchase will withstand the elements and come out on top. While it may survive light rains, it cannot be used while swimming; this is a fair warning for all those who may think that this is a Swiss army knife of earphones.
As far as the charging case goes, Apple has now introduced a more horizontal profile that’s marginally larger than the previous version. For the price, you get a fully-loaded charging case complete with wireless charging functionality without having to pay extra for a case with this feature. This allows you to charge it conveniently with any Qi-enabled wireless charging pad if you don’t want to use the supplied USB-C to Lightning connector.
To sum up this section of the review, the AirPods Pro does cost a pretty penny and they sell for a significantly lot more than rivals; however, they are built well and have the comfort to match. The design changes go a long way in ensuring they are worthy of the Pro moniker.
The Apple AirPods Pro is an Apple product through and through. The whole experience here is extremely simple and you will be hard-pressed to find another product that’s this easy to set up or pair. To set up, all you have to do is open the AirPods Pro charging case and tap on the “connect” prompt on your iPhone and you’re good to go.
To have this extremely simple experience, all you need to have is an iPhone running iOS 13.2 or later installed and then you get to benefit from Apple’s advanced features that are on offer which is not limited to access to Transparency mode directly from the Control Centre.
After this, the AirPods Pro will be seamlessly paired with all of your Apple devices such as MacBook, Apple Watch, iPad, etc that are associated with your iCloud account. This means that you won’t have to do the tedious process of pairing it every single time to each of your devices as you would have to do with other Bluetooth accessories. This is the Apple promise of a seamless ecosystem.
After the initial setup, we recommend heading on over to the Bluetooth settings in your iPhone to test the fit of the AirPods Pro. This is a useful feature as it allows you to gauge whether the ear tips you have used with the AirPods Pro provide the perfect fit. In the packaging, you get three different sized tips — small, medium and large. This fit test ensures if you have paired the right sized tips with the and it advises you to change it to get the perfect fit.
Having the perfect fit is of vital importance to any in-ear headphones as it helps in offering an enhanced listening experience. With Apple’s test, it ensures that there isn’t any sound leakage or any ambient sound entering in. This helps with passive noise reduction and goes some way in achieving physical sound isolation.
The eartips are fairly easy to swap between and we recommend removing them once in a while just so you can clean them as they get a bit grimy after usage.
The original Apple AirPods was a marvel in itself and the way they worked — so seamlessly, allowed them to be the most popular wearable in the world. However, it did come with some drawbacks and one key misstep was that the audio quality was just acceptable, not great, but acceptable.
Three years later and we have a whole different story. Apple has really put in the groundwork when it comes to the AirPods Pro audio quality and now they have introduced custom drivers for achieving powerful bass as well as improvements in the midrange and higher frequencies along with an adaptive equaliser “which automatically tunes the music to the shape of your ear. The end result is a neutral tonal balance instead of an added emphasis on bass like some of the other brand try so hard to achieve.
The first and second-generation AirPods had very little to work with due to the lack of customisable ear tips. This made it difficult to achieve a good bass response with them sounding muddy across all spectrums. Where the original AirPods lacked a tonal balance, the AirPods Pro completely excel; allowing them to be extremely pleasing on the ears.
The ear tips go a long way in making the audio quality on the AirPods Pro sounds a lot richer than the original AirPods. The bass response here doesn’t have the thump that’s witnessed on rivals such as the Beats PowerBeats Pro for instance, but it is a lot better than that heard on the second-generation AirPods. The bass response is tight with a bit of emphasis and this is due to the custom drivers Apple has used to achieve it. The low-end on certain tracks had a punch without sounding forced but you will miss out on the emphasis found on rivals. For those who love the neutral tonal audio, you will be more than satisfied as you the bass has a natural kick to it. Vocals are another area where the AirPods Pro shine and the neutral frequency is felt right through the mids with plenty of texture and detail. The treble does sound good as well and it has a bit of sparkle to it.
A point to mention here is that the AirPods Pro does well in an area where very few competing true wireless earphones do and that is spaciousness. While listening to these in-ear monitors, we don’t feel that the sound hits your head hard; but it has an openness that allows all frequencies to be heard with distinction.
With that being said, the audio quality isn’t on par with the likes of its nearest rival the Sony WF-1000XM3. The Sony option has a more vibrant sound while the AirPods Pro offers a more natural sound. However, for casual listeners, with the AirPods Pro, you will get an audio quality that will certainly keep you entertained.
Apple rates the battery life of the AirPods Pro at 4.5 hours with noise-cancelling and Transparency mode turned off. At a time when certain brands are able to offer 8 to 9 hours of audio playback on a single charge; this option from Apple seems a bit lacking. We would have liked it if Apple had done a bit more to ensure that it did not die off this quickly. Again, this is us just nit-picking here and for most, it should be just fine.
The Apple AirPods Pro cost Rs 24,900 in India and this puts it at the higher-end of the premium true wireless category alongside the Sennheiser Momentum, Bragi Dash Pro, Bang and Olufsen Beoplay and a handful of others. The AirPods Pro is on par with these models when it comes to audio quality; however, it trails the Sony WF-1000XM3 in terms of active noise cancellation.
With that being said, the ease of use, the comfort levels, the seriously sufficient noise cancellation and the improved audio quality will make the AirPods Pro the only true wireless earphones you ever have to buy or even for that matter the only pair of headphones you ever need to buy....