First Impressions

A Day with the AirPods Pro: Here’s How They Stack Up Against Apple’s Standard AirPods

October 29, 2019 Tech By Photo by Henry Phillips
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This week, Apple officially announced the AirPods Pro ($249), which have brand-new active noise-canceling and transparency modes and sweat- and water-resistance (IPX4). The AirPods Pro are available now.

Ahead of their official release, I got to test the AirPods Pro for roughly a day. I listened to them at work, on my commute, and on a 4.6-mile run. As somebody who has loved the original AirPods for the past two-plus years, these are my initial thoughts on the AirPods Pro, Apple’s newest wireless earbuds.

Hands-On: Five Things to Know About Apple AirPods Pro

They don’t feel exactly like AirPods.

The AirPods Pro look noticeably different than traditional AirPods. They have a shorter stem, a more bulbous head and, for the first time since 2008, Apple has introduced an earphone that has a silicone ear tip. But it’s not just their appearance, the AirPods Pro feel noticeably different, too. They fit deeper in your ear canal and require you do that certain “twist” action to make sure they’re actually snug. It’s not a better or worse fit, it’s just a little bit different.

The charging case is refreshingly small.

The AirPods Pro’s charging case isn’t much bigger than the original AirPods’s charging case, which is surprising in the best possible way. It’s a little wider, but the difference in the width and the overall weight of the two different charging cases is pretty negligible – both are extremely pocketable. Apple could’ve gone the route of the Powerbeats Pro ($200), which have a huge charging case, but thankfully they did not. Just like AirPods, the new AirPods Pro could be your everyday earbuds.

The active noise cancellation is excellent.

The noise-cancellation abilities of the AirPods Pro are on par with, if not better than, those of the Sony WF-1000XM3 ($230), which had previously been our pick for best noise-canceling wireless earbuds. Apple claims that each AirPods Pro earbud is able to adjust its noise-canceling levels up to 200 times per second, therefore ensuring that it’s the optimal noise-canceling for the environment it’s in. The effectiveness of this will obviously depend on how well these earbuds fit in your ears, but for me, who loves the fit of AirPods (as well as AirPods Pro), these worked excellently.

Transparency mode is actually pretty brilliant, too.

Adaptive EQ is hit-or-miss.

As far as I know, the AirPods Pro are the only wireless earbuds to have built-in tech that tells you if they’re in your ears correctly. While in Bluetooth settings, you select the “i” icon next to your connected AirPods Pro, and then scroll down to “Ear Tip Fit Test.” The test will play music for a few seconds and then will detect if each earbud is fitting correctly. If not, it will tell you to play around with the earbud or swap to a smaller or larger silicone ear tip.

This feature is pretty neat, however, every time I ran the test I seemed to get a different result. First, my right earbud wasn’t fitting correctly. After switching ear tips and twisting to ensure a snug fit, I got both earbuds to fit “correctly,” but when I ran the test an hour later and my left earbud wasn’t fitting properly. A few hours later, neither was fitting correctly.

My gut tells me that this is a neat feature that Apple will continue to improve over time, but the best way to get a good fit is to use your own judgment; if it feels snug and like it’s not going to fall out, you’re probably good to go.

They’re a dream for running.

I never run with AirPods — I can’t. Every time I start bouncing around they feel like they’re going to fall out. But I had no such issues with the AirPods Pro. I wore them on a 45-minute run, for just over four-and-a-half miles and I enjoyed every bit of it. They were loud. The bass was good. And at no point did one of them feel like it was about to pop out. As far as sweat-resistant running earbuds, my initial thought is to rank these right up there with my other favorite exercise buds: the Powerbeats Pro ($200) and Jaybird Vista ($180).

Final thoughts.

The AirPods Pro are $90 more expensive than AirPods ($159), but it’s probably best to compare them to the AirPods that come with the wireless charging case, which cost $199, as the AirPods Pro have a wireless charging case as well. So the question is: would you pay $50 to get better all-around AirPods?

For a decent amount of people, I think the answer is “yes.” But for others who don’t care as much about noise cancellation, sweat-resistance or slightly superior sound, or just don’t want to spend $249 on wireless earbuds — which is undoubtedly expensive –– the original AirPods are still well-good enough to get the job done.

The AirPods Pro will be available everywhere on October 30.
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Tucker Bowe

Tucker Bowe has been on Gear Patrol's editorial team since 2014. As a Tech Staff Writer, he tracks everything in the consumer tech space, from headphones to smartphones, wearables to home theater systems. If it lights up or makes noise, he probably covers it.

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