Apple AirPods Pro Review: one year later

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Erin Lawrence

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My hunt for the ultimate headphones continues. As a major Apple user, I’m admittedly already a convert for their seamless integration between products so you can take that as bias if you like, but I’ve not been a fan of their headphones because I never cared for the fit of AirPods. I found them too loose to provide any kind of sound isolation and therefore kind of inferior when it came to sound quality. So when Apple announced the new customizable fit options as part of ther AirPods Pro, I knew this would be an improvement.

I’ve had my AirPods for about a year now, so yes I’m very late for my review, but here goes anyway.

Apple AirPods Pro review

AirPods Pro are truly wireless earbuds. What sets them apart from AirPods is that they now have silicone ear tips which let you get a better fit. The AirPods Pro also have the addition of Noise Cancellation and Transparency Mode too, which we’ll get to.

Better customizable fit

As I said off the top, I disliked the fit of the old AirPods; they would just kind of hang in your ears so they didn’t feel secure, and all kinds of noise could bleed in.

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Apple refined the fit by altering the shape and adding silicone ear tips in three sizes. Right away the fit is noticeably better, and more secure. Apple also has an optional Ear Tip Fit Test where you can check if you’re wearing the right size.

How to do Apple’s Ear Fit Test

-With your AirPods Pro in your ears, go to Settings > Bluetooth on your iOS device.
-Tap the info button  next to your AirPods in the list of devices.
-Tap Ear Tip Fit Test. If you don’t see the Ear Tip Fit Test, make sure that you have iOS (or iPadOS) version 13.2 or later.

I will say the pods’ super rounded shape is very slippery and hard to grip, and particularly hard to pull from the case. I’ve got delicate lady fingers and they’re hard to grasp, and I had my husband with his man-hands give it a go too and he also reports that they’re not easy to pull out. Minor annoyance? Perhaps. You do get used to it.

A new addition here too is vents; these vents are said to help to equalize the pressure in your ears so they don’t feel plugged up like they can with some ear buds when they make a good seal.

For me personally, I don’t know what I’m supposed to feel with these; with Transparency Mode on, they certainly don’t feel plugged, but with the Noise cancellation on, it does block out most noise and I do have a disconnected or cut-off feeling, but maybe I’m missing the point of that effect?

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Fit and feel:  AirPods Pro = supreme comfort

I’ll say these headphones are extremely comfortable, definitely much more so than a lot of other headphones I’ve reviewed recently. Even wearing these for hours on end while taking part in conference calls and zoom meetings, these headphones stay comfortable and don’t make my ears sore.

Active Noise Cancellation

Let’s get to the key features: Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) and Transparency Mode.

Noise Cancellation technology essentially listens for outside noise and uses a counteracting digital signal into your ear to block it out.

With AirPods Pro, an outward facing mic detects external sound and then the AirPods Pro counter it essentially digitally cancelling the external sound before you hear it. Another internal mic inside the ear essentially fact-checks this, listening to make sure sound bleed and noise isn’t getting in. Apple says its noise cancellation is “continuously adjusted at 200 times per second for truly immersive sound, so you’re fully tuned in to your music, podcasts, and calls.”

When it comes to how this feature works, it’s outstanding. The ANC can block out a lot of outside sounds and extremely effectively, meaning I can focus on work or writing when I need to, or listen more closely to phone and conference calls. I found it effectively blocked things like my husband’s video conferencing in the adjoining room, yardwork noise and TV or radio playing elsewhere in the house.

Transparency Mode on AirPods Pro

The flip side of Active Noise Cancellation is Transparency Mode. This feature lets you hear outside sounds while also listening to music, podcasts, TV, calls and other audio.

You turn this feature on or off, essentially toggling between ANC and Transparency, by pinching and holding the stem of either earbud.

Transparency mode also works well, making it seamless to keep an ear on background noise, or to have a conversation, while still listening to video, podcasts or music, making these great for the office.

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Seamless connection across devices: not for me

Apple touts a feature called Automatic switching which “allows sound to move seamlessly between your iPhone, Apple Watch, iPad, and Mac when connected to multiple devices”. In theory, this means you pods will connect to whichever device you’re using at the moment, not the last one you connected to.

I have to admit I was very excited about this feature, since I have a personal and work iPhone, as well as a MacBook and iPad and I am constantly moving between devices. Unfortunately, this feature hasn’t worked for me. I am still required to manually connect to the AirPods Pro from each device, even though I’ve ensured each of my devices has the most up to date IOS. And this is over a year after their initial launch, and after an AirPods Pro firmware update. Disappointing.

Sound quality: how do AirPods sound?

Of course the most important thing about headphones is going to be the audio quality. On this front I can’t make any complaints. The Apple AirPods Pro sound fantastic; they are well balanced, clear, and provide detailed stereo sound. Whether I am making phone calls, meeting on zoom, or listening to videos or podcasts, everything sounds great. AirPods Pro do not lean to any one end of the audio spectrum; the base is good but not what I would call jarring or overly strong, and there is no tinniness or buzziness on the high end. Overall, if you’re looking for great sounding earbuds, I can say these fit the bill.

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What is Adaptive EQ and do I have to turn it on?

AirPods Pro have a feature called Adaptive EQ. Apple says this adjusts the sound “to the fit and seal of the ear by measuring the sound signal delivered to a user and adjusting the low and mid-frequencies in real time — bringing rich audio that captures every detail.”

So how do you know it’s working, can you turn it on or off and what does it do?

For starters it’s hard to locate the settings for this. Unlike all the other AirPods Pro settings, this one isn’t in the Bluetooth menu for the pods, it likes in your phone’s Music settings menu, which you get to by going to Settings> Music. Scroll down to EQ. Once in that menu you can choose between about 20 presets. This is best selected by putting on some music and then trying out each of the presets. For me, I didn’t find any of them so much more amazing that I wanted to keep it. I’ve set my EQ to off and that’s where it will stay, though I would love to know if some of you out there are loving this setting and if so, which one is your favourite.

Apple AirPods Pro: Wind & Water resistant

AirPods Pro are sweat and water resistant, and they feature an expanded mesh microphone port that improves call clarity in windy situations. While I wasn’t taking a lot of calls in windy areas, I did often head out to walk the dog while taking to a call and got no complaints.

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AirPods Pro have a feature which I can really only think would be of interest to teen girls; audio sharing. With Audio Sharing, you can stream a song, podcast, or other audio stream between two sets of AirPods. For starters you need two sets of AirPods, and it is a bit of a multi-step process:

-Tap the AirPlay icon  in Control Center or the Lock screen or in the app you’re listening to.
-Tap Share Audio.
-If your friend has AirPods or AirPods Pro, hold them close to your device with the AirPods inside the case and open the lid. If your friend has AirPods Max, hold them close to your device. If your friend has Beats wireless headphones, put them in pairing mode and hold them close to your device.
-When you see your friend’s headphones appear on your screen, tap Share Audio.

Battery Life & charging: AirPods Pro

One of the other key features of any pair of headphones, especially in our work from home world, his battery life. I would say these earbuds offer battery life that is what I would say is average. I’ve tested out probably 100 headphones in my time; right now, Apple AirPods Pro’s 4 1/2 hours of battery in the buds, and 24 hours in the case is about standard, so Apple isn’t making any great leaps here, but is delivering on the basics. You can also get, by the way, 1 hour listen time on a 5 minute quick charge.

When it comes to charging, these buds use Apple’s lightning connector or you can set them on a Qi charger too.

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Overall, I have to say the pros outweigh the cons for me on these headphones. Yes they may seem pricey, but they’re in line with what most manufacturers are charging for noise cancelling and transparency-enabled headphones. (Sennheiser’s similarly-equipped Momentum 2 sell for $349CAD to AirPods Pro’s $329)

They sound great, even though the seamless automatic switching between Apple devices isn’t working for me.

I love the ANC and transparency features and use them constantly and they’re super easy to toggle between.

I love the new fit and feel; they are comfortable, particularly during really long listening sessions, even if they are slippery to grip.

Overall I love my AirPods Pro even a year in; they are my #1 go-to right now for all my audio needs and I can recommend them for you. As I said they sell for about $329 CAD and you can get them from places like Amazon, Best Buy or Apple.

*A note about Affiliate Links: Occasionally I will include affiliate links in my reviews. I do this partly for convenience of the reader (since I’ll almost always include a link to the company website or similar anyway) in case you want to read more or purchase but I also may get a small commission from the click, which helps me keep the blog running. If you chose to use this link I thank you greatly for supporting the blog. There’s no obligation or cost to you for using this link.

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