After much speculation and rumour, Apple have released their latest generation of wireless headphones: the new Apple AirPods Pro. They silently appeared in the Apple Store with no fanfare or fuss, but does that mean there’s nothing to get excited about?
Here’s what’s new.
The new AirPod Pros are designed to fit in-ear, which means they fit into the ear canal. This is great for sound quality and immersion; they form a seal in your ear that blocks out most external noises, which greatly improves audio quality. They come with three sizes of silicone tips, so you can choose the tip that fits your ear the best. This is important not only for comfort but also to try and make the best seal possible. There is also a software feature in the form of a test that plays a tone through the AirPods and uses the built-in microphone, to tell if you have a good seal and therefore are using the right tip for you.
Each AirPod has three microphones and a touch area for controls such as play, pause, skip, Siri control and answering calls. They are also slightly smaller than the previous versions of AirPods and come with a charging/carry case. Battery life is five hours, or four if you use noise cancellation (see below), but the case, which charges via lightening port or wireless, adds 24 hours of further battery life.
Personally, I have never liked the feel of in-ear headphones and as a visually impaired person, not being able to hear environmental noises around me make them unsuitable for using on the go. However, the AirPod Pros are designed so they don’t protrude into the ear canal too far and also have an air vent to prevent that feeling of in-ear compression that is usually the case with in-ear design. Also, a new feature called Transparency should help with any safety concerns regarding hearing what’s going on around you.
Active Noise Cancellation
The physical design of the AirPods does mean that a lot of external noise is blocked out but they also have a feature called Active Noise Cancellation to reduce this even further.
In a very clever process I won’t pretend to fully understand, Active Noise Cancellation uses the microphones of the AirPods to listen to any external noise and then creates a inverted signal in the ear that cancels out that sound. Again, this greatly improves immersion and sound quality but it does mean that battery life is reduced when using this feature.
The in-ear design and noise cancellation are great when you want to fully immerse yourself in music or an audio-book, but as mention above, when you are on the move you do need to hear what’s going on around you. This is where the Air Pod Pro Transparency mode comes in. Like noise cancellation, it uses the microphones on the AirPods to listen to the external noises, but instead of cancelling them out it simply passes the audio through to your ears meaning that you can hear everything around you as well as the music or whatever you are listening to. Obviously, this is very important to us and if this feature works as advertised then using the AirPod Pros for directions or other Voice-Over related tasks while you’re out and about could be fine.
With a price tag of $250USD, the AirPod Pros are definitely placing themselves in the high-end audio market. Whether they can hold their own against competition such as Bose, Sony or even Beats remains to be seen… or rather heard.
We’re waiting for ours to arrive here at Double Tap, but expect to see a review on Double Tap TV as soon as they do.
Co-host & audio producer on the Double Tap Canada radio show. Occasional contributor to Double Tap TV, full time shed resident.