My ears have gone through a ton of headphones. Everything from in-ear to over-ear. Everything from wired to true-wireless. You name it; I have used them — even headphones costing nearly US$1,000. But even with access to all these headphones, many of which are excellent, I have always reached for my personal Apple AirPods Pro.
Understand, this does not mean that I think every other TWS headphone I’ve reviewed sucks, not by a long shot. We review many excellent headphones. But I purchased the Apple AirPods Pro nearly a year ago, intending to write an article ridiculing them for how expensive they are and expecting the sound to be not so good. Boy, was I wrong in many ways!
Because I loved these headphones so much, I’ve decided to order the Apple AirPods Max. Those are due to land here in a few weeks. So I wanted to get my thoughts on the AirPods Pro down before I jump into testing the Max version. This review may be a little different than other audio reviews. I have never reviewed an audio product that I’ve used for this long. Usually, I have them for 3-6 weeks and then write up the review.
I should also mention, I’ve only ever used these with my iPhone, iPad, and Mac. I think Android users have many other better choices and should probably not consider them an option. Now that I’ve spilled my guts… let’s get into the full review of the Apple AirPods Pro. A pair of TWS headphones that I expected to ridicule and blow off but ended up as my personal go-to TWS headphones.
Estimated reading time: 11 minutes
The Apple AirPods Pro has the following features and specifications:
- Active Noise Cancellation
- Transparency mode
- Adaptive EQ
- Vent system for pressure equalization
- Custom high-excursion Apple driver
- Custom high dynamic range amplifier
- Spatial audio with dynamic head tracking
- Dual beamforming microphones
- Inward-facing microphone
- Dual optical sensors
- Motion-detecting accelerometer
- Speech-detecting accelerometer
- Force sensor
- Chip: H1-based System in Package
- Sweat and water-resistant (IPX4)
- Charging Case: Works with Qi-certified chargers or the Lightning connector
- Size and Weight AirPods Pro:
- Height: 1.22 inches (30.9 mm)
- Width: 0.86 inch (21.8 mm)
- Depth: 0.94 inch (24.0 mm)
- Weight: 0.19 ounce (5.4 grams)
- Size and Weight Charging Case:
- Height: 1.78 inches (45.2 mm)
- Width: 2.39 inches (60.6 mm)
- Depth: 0.85 inch (21.7 mm)
- Weight: 1.61 ounces (45.6 grams)
- Battery AirPods Pro:
- Up to 4.5 hours of listening time with a single charge (up to 5 hours with Active Noise Cancellation and Transparency off)
- Up to 3.5 hours of talk time with a single charge
- AirPods Pro With Charging Case:
- More than 24 hours of listening time
- More than 18 hours of talk time
- 5 minutes in the case provides around 1 hour of listening time8 or around 1 hour of talk time
What’s In The Box
- AirPods Pro
- Wireless Charging Case
- Silicone ear tips (three sizes)
- Lightning to USB-C Cable
I still remember when the original AirPods debuted. The memes and ridicule those things got for their long stems were insane. I was certainly one of the many who had a good time making fun of them. I skipped trying them altogether because of their design.
Since they were basically the same hard plastic tip Apple’s wired headphones had, I didn’t bother. When the AirPods Pro debuted, I had some of the same feelings I had with the original AirPods. The stem had gotten shorter and didn’t look as obnoxious and dumb. But I wasn’t convinced, even after the great reviews started coming in.
After several months, going into 2020, I decided I needed to order these things. I had enough of the positive reviews, and my full intention was to roast them. Because Apple does not send us review units of any kind, I shelled out my own money.
One of the reasons I ordered them was because of the redesigned ear tip. Gone was the hard shell plastic that caused much pain in my ears, replaced by a silicone tip. I figured I could at least use them even if they sucked.
Like every other Apple product, the AirPods Pro are sporting a minimal design language. While the original AirPods stem was obnoxious, this stem was less so. Yeah, I admit, I think it still looks a little silly, but I love that Apple used the stems to house the controls.
I’ve used many earbuds whose controls are on the part of the bud that sticks in your ear. Pushing and tapping on those can really be annoying, so I like Apple’s control placement choice.
The stem isn’t the only place these differentiate themselves. The ear tips are totally different from anything I’ve used in the past. The tips themselves connect by snapping on to the earbud. There is no shaft to which the tip is secured and no shaft that goes into your ear. It really is unique.
The outside of the housing has vents which are used for the noise-cancelling and transparency mode as well as mics which also are used for those same features.
The case is pill-shaped with a metal hinge that opens and closes smoothly. The AirPods Pro drop right in, and they stay put; no amount of shaking I did could get them out. The bottom of the case houses the Lightning Port; this really should have been USB-C. But these can charge wirelessly using a compatible Qi Charger, which is how I charge mine.
Overall, the Apple AirPods Pro are very “Applely.” The stems still aren’t my favorite, but they’re much more tolerable in the shorter format.
Ease of Use
One of the best things about AirPods Pro is the ease of pairing with an iPhone. The first order of business for me with any pair of headphones is to charge them. Before I even open the case, I make sure it is charged to full. Once that is done, it was as simple as opening the case next to my iPhone. The iPhone detected the AirPods Pro and asked if I wanted to connect, I hit yes, and we’re in!
If you choose to use a non-Apple device with these, you’ll have to go to Bluetooth settings to pair. As for controls. These are located on the stems of the AirPod Pro’s and are fairly straightforward to use. The image below shows what the controls do; I will say that Apple calls the action a press. I’d say it’s more of a squeeze than a press, but it’s simple to get used to.
I usually don’t use the stem controls as I am also wearing my Apple Watch and find it just as easy to control things from there.
As for other controls and features. You can toggle ANC and Transparency within the settings of the iPhone. Here you can also perform the Ear Tip Fit Test which helps you find the right ear tips for your ear shape. It works really well.
Overall, these headphones are super simple to use, especially if you’re already on an iOS or macOS device.
If you’ve ever read any of my headphone reviews, you know that I prefer a flat soundstage with just a bump to the bass frequencies. I feel the AirPods Pro fits this description really well. The bass isn’t insanely overcrowding the rest of the frequencies but instead allows a little more room to hold up the rest of the soundstage.
I really prefer to listen to music the way the producer intended it to be heard. So extra tuning by headphone manufacturers is a pain in the butt to me. But many people really love the bass to be extreme, and that’s ok. Apple chose not to cater to that, instead opting for a more balanced soundstage.
I’ve listened to everything through the AirPods Pro. From movies and music, to podcasts and audio books. It all sounds crisp and clear and spot on.
Now, noise-canceling. Apple isn’t the first to do noise-canceling on TWS headphones, but dammit, they do it well. This was one area I really thought I would roast them, but I can’t. The noise isolation and noise-canceling combined to do an excellent job of keeping things isolated.
I was able to use these in a few flights right before COVID hit, and they are excellent. I also use these daily when writing my reviews and articles. Since I work from home and we homeschool, my kids are always around, and these keep the noise of daily life out so I can concentrate.
As far as Transparency Mode goes, it works well. Most earbuds have transparency mode these days, and most of them work okay. I think the AirPods Pro are only slightly better than others I’ve used but still not awesome. This is why the AirPods Max have me intrigued; I hear many reviewers fawning over the transparency mode; I need to try it myself, considering I’m not super impressed with it here.
Overall, Apple hit the nail on the head when it comes to sound on the AirPods Pro, at least for me. The noise-canceling is the best I’ve used on a pair of TWS headphones. Transparency mode is okay, better than most but not by much.
Holy cow! Reception on the AirPods Pro is beyond excellent. I’ve left my iPhone in a room on the bottom floor of my house and gone upstairs to the opposite side of the house and never lost connection. I’ve left the iPhone in the house and gone outside as well; reception and connection stability is the best I’ve ever experienced on any headphone.
Call quality is also better than average. Crystal clear on my side as well as the other side. Really, these are the best earbuds I’ve ever used for phone calls, and I’m not particularly eager to make or take phone calls with earbuds in.
Battery life is also top-notch. I’m not like a lot of people who worry about battery life constantly. Whenever I have the chance, my devices get plugged in when not in use. So I rarely have issues with batteries on any of my mobile gadgets. Unless I’m someplace like CES, MWC, or IFA, I don’t worry about it much.
Still, the AirPods Pro did fine for over 4 hours of use with ANC on all of the time. Popping them in the case for 10-minutes gave me over an hour more of juice. If you’re a battery hog, you should be just fine for 24-hours of listening time with the case.
Overall, the battery life is more than acceptable for me. I understand if you’re needing more and don’t find this to be enough. But with the case, it should at least get you through a whole day.
So now it comes to it. US$249 is what the asking price is for the Apple AirPods Pro. Honestly, when I first heard this I was outraged. Typical Apple over-pricing, I thought. But really, these are well worth the cost. It is a lot to shell out for earbuds, but these are that good. And you can find them on Amazon for cheaper, usually. As of this review, they are US$199 on Amazon and I purchased my second pair at this price.
Alright, I know this review was long. I also know this review is really late, and you’ve probably already purchased the AirPods Pro or skipped them. Given that I ordered the Apple AirPods Max and am expecting to review those in a timely manner, I wanted to give you my perspective and review of the Pro’s.
I felt it was important because I intended to rail on them when I purchased them, and I expected them to be horrible. I really should have done this review eight months ago, but I knew I would have to eat crow if I did it. Well, I guess I’m eating crow now.
The Apple AirPods Pro are my everyday go-to TWS headphones. I own several brands and have used dozens of others, but these have made a home in my ears, and everything I thought about them was wrong. These are the best TWS headphones out there right now. At least for Apple device users. There are plenty of other choices for Android users, which you can find reviews for in our archives.