AirPods Pro - Exceptionally different, undoubtedly Apple
Apple has launched the pro version of AirPods which were already really great, especially if you're in the Apple ecosystem. The "pro" version brings active noise canceling, a much-needed feature for commuters. Active noise-canceling is nothing new and has been crafted to perfection by the likes of Bose and Sony. Apple does it with a twist.
Alright, now that you've recovered from that kaboom! here's everything new, literally everything.
Before we get started, noise-canceling can be done actively and passively. Most and event the AirPods Pro make use of both of them to get the job done.
Passive noise-canceling ensures a proper seal between the outside and the inside of your ears. It's passive since it depends on the clamping force and the choice of material like memory foam for over-ear or silicone ear tips for in-ear to get that seal. If you're at a really peaceful place that's all you need to cut off the environment. Find yourself on a plane and you'll feel like you're inside the jet engine.
Active noise-canceling, on the other hand, makes use of clever electronics to digitally cancel the noise outside. Despite Apple's claims, it's not magic, but Apple's implementation is interesting.
The Sony 1000XM3 or the Bose QC 35 make use of 2 or 3 microphones located on the exterior to acquire noise and then inject it's inverse into your ears to cancel them out. The approach is tried and tested and works really well.
However, the AirPods Pro makes use of 2 microphones, one on the exterior listening to the environment and the other inside it functioning as a feedback for the algorithm. The implementation allows Apple to do what's never been done before. The algorithm adjusts the output 200 times every second for what could be a really immersive experience.
It adapts to the geometry of your ear and the fit of the ear tips. A feat that's never been done before.
The design of the AirPods is controversial and let's just get memes out of our way first.
AirPods comes with three adjustable silicone tips like any other in-ear earphones. Apple has put in vents to equalize the pressure and "you'll feel like there's nothing in your ears".
The charging case has been redesigned and is bulkier and provides up to 24 hours of backup which equals or even exceeds most premium ANC headphones or earphones. Apple promises up to 4.5 hours on a single charge which is a slight reduction from the vanilla AirPods which offer 5 hours. Really impressive though, considering the extra hardware. The AirPods Pro will give you an hour of playback with just 5 minutes of charging.
Sound quality is not something I can put in words especially since I don't see myself buying a pair for the eye-watering price of $249.
However, the H1 chip inside will ensure high quality (BT 5.0) identical to that of the AirPods (2019) with the obvious lack of ANC and the "Hey Siri!" way of invoking the assistant which is way overdue for an overhaul. The addition of 10 audio cores results in low latency audio output and enables real-time noise-cancellation.
Apple has gotten rid of IR sensors which were to be tapped on and has opted for a force-touch surface at the base of the stem. The usual single tap to play/pause or answer calls, double-tap to skip forward, triple-tap to skip backward. Press and hold, you will engage "Transparency Mode" which will allow you to hear your surroundings.
Apple had one more trick up its sleeve, called the "Ear tip fit test". Essentially, it tells you which of the three included ear-tips provide the best seal for you.
Below are screenshots from MKBHD's first impressions video of the AirPods Pro.