AirPods Pro Hands On

I picked up my AirPods Pro earlier this week and have spent my time using them for listening to music, podcasts, and fiddling around with the new noise cancellation feature. I will say there is a lot going on with these new headphones—much more than I first suspected.

Before I get into the AirPods Pro, I have to give credit to Apple for the amazingly simple setup. Yes, it’s the same as the previous generation, but the fact that once paired to one device, it automatically shows up on all of your devices, is quite impressive.

When you first open the AirPods Pro, you will notice that you get three sizes of silicon tips—small, medium, and large. The AirPods come with the medium tips installed by default.

The problem with these silicon tips in most headphones is that you’re not sure which ones are best for your ears. Apple has taken the guesswork out of that process for you.

By opening the preferences for the AirPods in the Bluetooth settings, you will find a Fit Test. It uses an algorithm and an inward-facing microphone to make sure the silicon tips are proving a good seal for your ears. The seal is vital for noise cancellation to work correctly.

Once you put the AirPods in your ear, tap the play button on the Fit Test screen. It will play some music and analyze the seal of the silicon tips in your ears. If it comes back with a “Good Seal,” you’re good to go. If it comes back with a bad seal, you need to change out the tips to one of the other sizes and try again.

Changing tips is easy. You have to give the silicon tips a good tug to get them off because Apple has devised a locking mechanism to keep them in place. This is much better than the peg that other manufacturers have used for years. Once the new tips snap into place, you’re ready to go.

It’s important to understand that Apple measures each ear individually, so it may recommend a different size tip for each ear. That’s fine, go with the recommendation and enjoy the sound.

The Fit Test said both the medium and small tips provided a good seal for me, so I went with the one that provided the most comfort.

If you happen to lose a tip, Apple said you can buy replacements for $3.95 a pair/per size.

One of the things I found uncomfortable with other manufacturers that use silicon tips is the pressure build-up in your ears. It’s noticeable and can lead to discomfort while you’re listening to music.

Apple solved this by providing a vent to equalize pressure in the ear and adjusts, as needed, 200 times a second. Suffice to say that pressure discomfort isn’t something you have to worry about with the AirPods Pro.

The AirPods Pro also has an adaptive EQ that adapts to each ear. It measures what sound is being absorbed and reflected in the ear, so the chip and algorithm know precisely what to do, giving you the best listening experience.

I guess the biggest test for any headphones is the listening experience. For the AirPods Pro, this also included the noise cancellation feature.

Instead of walking around looking for ways to test noise cancellation, I just used the AirPods Pro like I always would—real-life experience.

The results surprised me quite a bit. First, I didn’t have that swooshing sound in my ear that I had with other noise cancellation headphones. There was also no pressure build-up, as I explained above. The result was just a pleasant experience of listening to music.

The real shocker was when I turned on Transparency Mode. I didn’t realize how much sound was being blocked by the headphones until I turned that on.

Depending on the volume of the music you’re listening to, you can hear most of the sounds around you. Turning noise cancellation back on, you go back into a peaceful experience, blocking out all of the noise.

There are many instances when Transparency Mode will come in handy. For me, it’s when I’m at the airport, sitting at the gate and waiting for the announcements. Other people will find it useful in their daily commute or exercising. Whatever your use case, Transparency Mode works great.

Getting to Transparency Mode is just a matter of squeezing and holding the stem of the AirPods Pro for a second. You’ll hear a distinct beep, and then you’ll be able to hear outside noise. To turn noise cancellation back on, hold the stem and squeeze again.

The squeeze is a little different from the double-tap of the previous generation AirPods. I think the double-tap was a lot easier, but I’m getting used to squeezing after a few days. A single squeeze (and quickly let go) is play/pause; a double squeeze skips to the next song; a triple squeeze goes to the previous song.

The battery life of the AirPods Pro is the same as the previous generation—about five hours. With noise cancellation on, it gets about four and a half hours. That’s fine because even on a long flight, it only takes about 15 minutes to charge to AirPods, so any downtime will be minimal.

With the AirPods Pro coming in at $50 more than the previous generation AirPods with wireless charging case, I can’t see a situation where you wouldn’t upgrade. As I mentioned in the beginning, there is a lot going on with the AirPods Pro with technology to make your experience the best can be.

For me, AirPods Pro are definitely a must buy.