Archive for November 15, 2019

Review: Apple AirPods Pro

Posted in Products with tags on November 15, 2019 by itnerd

I got the chance to try the brand new Apple AirPods Pro recently to see if they addressed two things that stopped me from buying the original AirPods or the second generation ones that came out earlier this year:

  • Do they stay in my ears
  • Is the sound better

Let’s start with the first point. Apple has moved to an in ear design that uses silicone ear tips that come in three sizes to create a comfortable seal in your ear. There’s even an app on iOS 13.2 or higher that allows you to test the fit to make sure that the ear tips that you choose are the right ones. That’s important for sound quality. One thing that I liked was that not only were these comfortable to wear, but the pressure that you usually find with earphones of this type doesn’t exist. You can thank the vents that allow air to pass through the AirPods Pro. One other point is that no matter what I did, they didn’t pop out. Thus in terms of point number one, it’s a win.

Now onto point number two. Is the sound better? Yes…. Sort of. If you use the correct size of ear tips, you will get a nice balanced sound with a bit more bass to it versus the original AirPods. That assumes that you are using the noise cancelling feature which you activate by squeezing the stalks of the AirPods Pro (which is a change from the previous versions which you had to tap to do anything), or by activating it on your iPhone. While I will admit that over the ear headphones like the Bose QC35 will do a better job of noise cancelling, what Apple brings to the table is more than decent. What will likely blow you away is transparency mode which mixes your music with the sounds of the outside world. That way if you’re running you’re aware of what’s around you. And it sounds natural. As in neither the music or the outside sound sound fake or overboosted. Things however fall apart a bit if you turn either of these functions off. The music at this point sounds like what you would get from the original AirPods with a bit more bass. To be frank, my Sudio Bluetooth earphones that are my daily drivers are more crisp with a bit more punch to the bass. But to be fair to the AirPods Pro, they do sound good enough. But  I am not sure that they deserve that “Pro” moniker that Apple seems to be dropping into a lot of its products lately because someone who really cares about sound quality isn’t going to be blown away by them.

I touched on the fact that you don’t tap to do anything with the AirPods Pro like you did with the original AirPods. With the AirPods Pro you have to sort of “pinch” the stem—one pinch to play or pause, two to skip forward, three to skip back, or a long squeeze to toggle noise cancelling and transparency mode. If you want, you can change the long squeeze to trigger Siri instead, and you can even have different settings for the left and right earbuds.

The case that they come in is shaped differently than the previous AirPods. But it still fits in your pocket, and can be charged wirelessly. You can still get up to 24 hours of charge with it as well. As for the AirPods Pro themselves, I didn’t test how long they would run, but 4.5 hours is doable with noise cancelling on from AirPods Pro owners that I talked to. And the integration with the Apple ecosystem is top notch. Everything from the pairing process, to having them available on all your Apple gear, to little touches like the integration with Apple Health which will let you know if you have them cranked up too loud is top shelf. One quick note, for those on Team Android, you can use them too. But a lot of the functionality and integration that I’ve described here simply won’t work.

The question is, would I buy them. Well, If they were $150 CDN, that would be a yes. At $200 CDN, I would have to think about it, but I could be convinced to go for it. At $329 CDN which is what the MSRP for AirPods Pro happens to be, I can’t get out the Visa card to spring for a pair. The fact is that there are better sounding earphones out there. such as the Sudio earphones that I mentioned earlier. And those are about a third of the price. Having said that AirPods Pro do enough things from an audio perspective good enough, and have insanely great integration with the Apple ecosystem. Those alone will make many just buy them without a second thought. My advice would be to try a pair out for yourself and decide for yourself.