Review: Apple AirPods Pro With MagSafe Case

I briefly tried the AirPods Pro when they first came out in 2019. At the time I thought the noise cancelling was amazing. But the sound quality was average at best. I then forgot about them and went on with my life.

Fast forward to 2021. I have in my possession these new AirPods Pro which Apple has quietly updated to include a MagSafe compatible case. Are they any better? Let’s find out by unboxing them.

On the right hand side there’s a pull tab that will help you to get rid of the plastic wrap which will be in a landfill site shortly after its removal because Apple still insists on using plastic wrap on the majority of it’s products despite making a big deal of not including plastic wrap on the iPhone 13 to save the planet. Once you remove the plastic wrap and remove the top of the box, you will see this:

You get documentation that you won’t read and no Apple Stickers. Lift those out of the way and you will see this:

There are your new AirPods Pro. It’s wrapped up in a paper like packaging. There’s more underneath this:

You get extra ear tips (Small and large ones. Medium ones are pre-installed) and a Lightning to USB-C cable. Now here’s your AirPods Pro:

Here is your pair of AirPods Pro. And you can have any color as long as it’s white. Unless you want to go to ColorWare if you’re willing to pay their prices to get a color other than white.

The pairing process is laughably easy.

  1. Open the AirPods Pro case next to your iPhone.
  2. The AirPods Pro will pop up on your phone. Click connect.
  3. Follow the directions.
  4. Done. Declare victory and have a beer.

And what’s really cool is that they automatically pair themselves to your other Apple devices via iCloud. In my case, they popped up instantly on my 16″ MacBook Pro and Apple Watch Series 6 instantly. And to add to the cool factor, simply putting them in your ears and using a device is enough to get connect to that device. For example, I might be using them to listen to music on my iPhone. If I stop listening to music and then start using my MacBook Pro, they will connect at the press of a notification. Going the other way it just connects automatically. While not perfect as I would like to see Apple have the ability to connect to any Apple devices automatically, this switching ability such as it is, is one of the chief reasons why people use these because “it just works” due to the fact that you are in Apple’s ecosystem. Here’s another example of this:

The battery widget on my iPhone 12 Pro shows the battery status from the case and the Airpod Pros.

One of the things that you can do to make sure you get the best audio experience is an an ear tip fit test. To do this you have to go into Bluetooth settings, and then tap on the small “i” icon next to the AirPods. From there, choose ear fit test. This will test whether you should use a different set of ear tips or whether the active noise cancelling is working properly. My advice is to choose the ear tips that feel the most comfortable for you after using them for an hour and then do the ear fit test. Speaking of comfort, I had no issues with comfort. But your mileage might vary on that front.

Controlling the AirPods Pro required me to unlearn some muscle memory as I am used to tapping my way through options in truly wireless earbuds. Apple instead has you squeeze the stems and the haptic feedback click (A.K.A: fake clicking) that they make is very convincing. A single squeeze on the stem will pause or play music, a double squeeze will skip to the next song, and a triple squeeze will skip to the next song. You can switch between noise cancelling, transparency mode, or nothing by long-pressing the stem. You also hear unique tones to indicate that the mode has changed.

You can customize them to do what you need as well. And in my case, here’s what I’ve done starting with the left side:

Followed by the right side:

The AirPods Pro is water-resistant and has an IPX4 rating. That means if you get caught in the rain or you sweat, you’re likely going to be fine. If you submerge them, you’ll likely going to be screwed. The case is a has a Lightning connector, but can be charged via a Qi wireless charger or via the same MagSafe charger that iPhone 12 or 13 users can use. More on that later. But the case is not water resistant or waterproof.

But what you’re likely here for is to find out if the sound quality is top notch. Let’s start with the microphones. I tried them out on some Zoom and Microsoft Teams calls and people at the other end of the connection said that I sounded great. But don’t take my word for it, here’s an audio recording so that you can judge for yourself:

This is simply the best audio in any truly wireless earbuds that I have tested. If you spend your day on calls, the AirPods Pro are a win.

Now that calls are covered. How about listening to music? To test that, I tested the AirPods Pro against a pair of truly wireless earbuds that their marketing material claims to have “next level” active noise cancellation, a transparency mode, and “Big, massive, earth-quaking-window-shaking sound”. In other words, it should be similar in capabilities to the AirPods Pro at a similar price point. I then enlisted the help of a HVAC unit that is loud enough to test the noise cancelling of both products. Finally I used the song “Electric Youth” by Denmark + Winter as that’s a song that runs through the audio spectrum from high to low. The net result that the AirPods Pro comes out ahead. But just ahead. Let me explain:

  • The music sounded about the same, but there seemed to be a bit more bass in the AirPods Pro. Highs, vocals, and mids sounded about the same. Which was clear and crispy. The bass wasn’t overdone or overwhelming, which meant it enhanced the music as opposed to destroying it.
  • The noise cancelling is clearly better on the AirPods Pro. On the other earbuds, they mostly killed the sound of the HVAC unit. The AirPods Pro eliminated the HVAC unit completely.
  • From what I remember about my experience with the AirPods Pro in 2019, these AirPods Pro sound better. I don’t know if that’s due to a firmware update, or if it’s a side effect of the resolution of the AirPods Pro service program where AirPods Pro manufactured before October 2020 had sound issues which Apple had to address, and that’s been carried forward into these. Either way, there’s a difference in sound quality for the better.

One other party trick is spatial audio. Spatial audio is Apple’s version of simulated surround sound; It uses a combination of software algorithms and the accelerometers in your AirPods Pro to place sound cues around you in 3D space. This simulates the immersive experience of sitting in the middle of a full surround sound setup. Currently, spatial audio only works with a handful of apps including Apple TV+ and Disney, for videos encoded for 5.1 and 7.1 surround sound as well as Dolby Atmos. All of this requires iOS 14/iPad OS 14 or higher. It also supports Find My, which means that you can leverage the Find My network and use similar functionality as the AirTags to find your AirPods Pro should you lose them. The last party trick is hands free Siri support in the form of “Hey Siri” along with other Siri functionality where messages can be read and responded to among other things.

In terms of battery life, I managed to get 5 hours, 6 minutes of constant playback with ANC turned on switching back and forth between my iPhone 12 Pro and my 16″ MacBook Pro, which is just above average for most true wireless models. It’s worth mentioning that Apple claims you’ll get about 4 hours and 30 minutes of constant playback with active noise cancelling turned on and the volume turned to about 50%. So this is a win as far as I am concerned. You’ll get 24 hours of listening time when you factor in the case.

In terms of charging, I was able to charge it using Lightning, wirelessly via a Qi wireless charger, and via MagSafe. One cool thing I will note is this:

It sticks to the MagSafe charger. Which means it is likely to be fully charged when you need them as it auto aligns to ensure charging takes place. That wouldn’t be the case with Qi wireless charging.

Cons? Well, these don’t work fully with Android. Not that anyone who buys them cares as the majority of people buying them will be Apple users. They’re also expensive. Which brings truly wireless earbuds like the Sony WF-1000XM4, Master & Dynamic MW08, and the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds into play as while they are all more expensive than the AirPods Pro, they have features and sound quality that may make them good alternatives.

That brings me to the price. In Canada the AirPods Pro With MagSafe Case is $329 CDN. That’s not cheap. But if you check Amazon, they are often on sale there. The bottom line is that Apple who has a reputations for making crappy headphones have a pair of good ones on offer that you should have a look at.

8 Responses to “Review: Apple AirPods Pro With MagSafe Case”

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