Wednesday, December 8, 2021
Archived Post

Once you’ve used the AirPods Pro, it’s hard to go back to the non-Pro version

Last week AirPods Pro joined the AirPods family with Active Noise Cancellation, Transparency mode, sweat and water resistance, and superior, immersive sound, in an all-new lightweight, in-ear design. After five days of use, I’ve found them to be very impressive. 

First, let me say that I foun found the Ear Tip Fit Test feature of the AirPods Pro to be …. interesting. It’s designed to help users get the best audio experience from AirPods Pro by testing the quality of the seal and identifying the best ear tip size for them. The earbuds come with three different sizes of soft, flexible silicone ear tips that conform to the contours of each individual ear, 

Apple says that, after placing AirPods Pro in each ear, advanced algorithms work together with the microphones in each AirPod to measure the sound level in the ear and compare it to what’s coming from the speaker driver. The algorithm detects whether the ear tip is the right size and has a good fit, or should be adjusted to create a better seal.

To get started with the Ear Tip Fit Test, make sure your AirPods Pro are connected to your iPhone running iOS 13.2. Open up the Settings app, tap “Bluetooth,” then tap the “i” next to your pair of AirPods Pro from the list of devices. Here, you’ll find “Ear Tip Fit Test.” Tap this button, then tap “Continue” on the following page. Finally, with both AirPods Pro in your ears, tap the “Play” button to start the test.

If one or both of your rubber ear tips are the wrong size, you’ll see. If one or both of your rubber ear tips are a match, you’ll see that reflected with a message in green: “Good Seal.”

However, try as I might, I could never get the “Good Seal” message. Maybe I just have freakish ears. On a related note, while swapping the tips, I had to pull a LOT harder than expected to remove them from the AirPods Pro. I was very careful to pull them firmly and steadily without yanking. If you damage them, Apple will sell you replacement tips for $4.

That said, I found the AirPods Pro to be very comfortable with fantastic audio. The original (and still available) AirPods sound good, but the Pro models kick things up a notch thanks to their noise-isolating design and new drivers, bass is more substantial, treble is better, and the midrange has more detail. 

Adding to the quality of the listening experience is the AirPods Pro’s Adaptive EQ, which  automatically tunes the low- and mid-frequencies of the music to the shape of an individual’s ear. The audio — which I tested with rock and country songs, as well as with three films, is, overall, well balanced.

The AirPod Pro’s Active Noise Cancellation feature is also very impressive. It uses two microphones combined with software to continuously adapt to each individual ear and headphone fit. This removes background noise.

The first microphone is outward-facing and detects external sound to analyze environmental noise. According to Apple, AirPods Pro then create an equivalent anti-noise that cancels out background noise before it reaches the listener’s ear. A second inward-facing microphone listens toward the ear, and AirPods Pro cancel remaining noise detected by the microphone. Noise cancellation continuously adapts the sound signal 200 times per second.

The result: the AirPods Pro sound much better in noisier environments like city streets than their predecessors. Still, they’re not going to totally block sound as well as headphones that completely cover the year.

Of course, in many instances, you don’t want all background noise obliterated. If you’re running on a street or walking through the mall, you need to be in tune with your environment. Which is where Transparency mode comes in.

It offers the option of simultaneously listening to music while still hearing the world around you. Using the pressure-equalizing vent system and advanced software that leaves just the right amount of noise cancellation active, Transparency mode ensures that a user’s own voice sounds natural while audio continues to play perfectly, according to Apple. 

Switching between Active Noise Cancellation and Transparency modes can be done directly on AirPods Pro using a new force sensor on the stem. The force sensor also allows you to play, pause or skip tracks, and answer or hang up phone calls. 

A long press switches between Noise Cancellation and Transparency mode, while single, double, and triple squeezes control audio playback. This takes a bit of practice to get the hang of.

You can also customize your AirPods Pro Force Sensors via your iPhone. Here’s how:

  • On your iPhone, head to Settings > Bluetooth.

  • Tap the “i” next to your AirPods Pro (make sure they’re connected).

  • Under “Press and Hold AirPods” choose Left or Right.

  • Customize if your AirPod Force Sensor activates Noise Control or Siri. (Fans of Apple’s personal digital assistant will appreciate this feature as, by default, the only ay to invoke Siri is through the “Hey Siri” verbal command. ).

  • You can also choose to include “Off” in the Noise Control controls.

    You can also press on the volume slider in Control Center on iPhone and iPad to control settings, or on Apple Watch by tapping on the AirPlay icon while music is playing. 

Apple describes the AirPods Pro as IPX4 water resistant. Note that they’re not waterproof. They’re okay for working out, but don’t expect to swim in ‘em. As for workouts, I know some folks who run in AirPods, just fine. Not me. All previous iterations of the earbuds always felt as if they were about to pop out of my ears, and that’s not changed with the Pros.

The AirPods Pro are bigger than the standard-issue AirPods. They’re 0.19 ounces and 1.2 x 0.9 x 0.9 inches each. The second generation AirPods are 0.14 ounces and 0.7 x 0.7 x 1.6 inches, but have longer stems. 

At 1.6 ounces and 2.4 x 1.7 x 0.9 inches, the AirPods Pro’s charging case is wider and heavier than past AirPod cases (1.3 ounces, 2.1 x 1.7 x 0.8 inches). However, they’re still small enough to slip into your jeans pocket. And, conveniently, the AirPods Pro charging case works just fine with wireless chargers built with the second gen earbuds in mine — such as those built by mophie.

I was disappointed that the new AirPods Pro only came in white. I was hoping for a black, perhaps even a space grey, version. 

Oh well, you can’t have everything it seems. I’ve long been an AirPods fan. Now that I’ve tried the Pro version, there’s no going back to the non-Pro model.

AirPods Pro cost $249 and are available to order from apple.com and in the Apple Store app in the U.S. and more than 25 other countries and regions. They require Apple devices running iOS 13.2 or later, iPadOS 13.2 or later, watchOS 6.1 or later, tvOS 13.2 or later, or macOS Catalina 10.15.1 or later.

Customers can add personal engraving to AirPods Pro, AirPods with Charging Case and AirPods with Wireless Charging Case for free on apple.com and the Apple Store app.

Apple World Today Rating (out of 5 stars): ★★★★1/2

Dennis Sellers
the authorDennis Sellers
Dennis Sellers is the editor/publisher of Apple World Today. He’s been an “Apple journalist” since 1995 (starting with the first big Apple news site, MacCentral). He loves to read, run, play sports, and watch movies.