There"s lots to love sầu about Apple"s noise-cancelling true-wireless earbudsTested at £249 / $249 / AU$399

ByWhat Hi-Fi?19 April 2021

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Our Verdict

The noise-cancelling AirPods Pro can be beaten for sound, but they are a joy to live sầu with & use all day, every day

(Image credit: Future)

While there’s no denying the familial similarities between the 2nd-ren AirPods và the AirPods Pros – the glossy Trắng finish, protruding stem & bulbous body toàn thân – there are clear differences, too. Most obvious is the silicone tip of the new AirPods, which is shorter in length than on many in-ear headphones và elliptical rather than round.

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That main body toàn thân is chunkier, too– presumably to lớn accommodate the extra components– but the stem is shorter, making the AirPods Pros less conspicuous when worn.

Where the existing AirPods respond to lớn taps lớn the body toàn thân, the AirPods Pros" controls have been moved to the stems, which now contain force sensors. A quick squeeze on either stem pauses or resumes a trachồng (or answers an incoming call), a double-squeeze skips forward, a triple-squeeze skips baông chồng và a long squeeze switches between noise-cancelling modes.

However, we’re not completely convinced by this approach. The squeezes are fiddly lớn persize, particularly when running or cycling, which you may well vày with the AirPods Pros thanks to lớn their sweat- & water-resistance. They"re not as sports-focused as a rival such as the Bose Sport Earbuds, but running in the rain is all good.

(Image credit: Future)

The AirPods Pros generally stay in the ears well when running. They are so light (5.4g each) & comfortable that they can give the impression of not being secure, but they refuse khổng lồ budge in action. Some people may manage khổng lồ shake them loose, but they are much more secure in place than the original AirPods. Third-tiệc nhỏ fins/hooks that make the fit even more secure are also now fairly widely available and have been tried & liked by members of the đánh giá team.

Apple supplies just three pairs of tips, with two of those hidden beneath a flap at the bottom of the box. The message here is that the pre-attached, medium-sized pair should fit most, và you should only dabble with the others if there’s an issue.

You don’t even have sầu to lớn identify an issue yourself – cliông chồng on the AirPods Pros in the Bluetooth không dây thực đơn of your iPhone & you’ll find, ahy vọng other options, an ‘Ear Tip Fit Test’ that, when tapped, plays five sầu seconds of music that’s analysed in order to identify any sound leakage. Get a green ‘Good Seal’ result & you’re ready to go, but if the Pros identify an issue you’ll be prompted to lớn try a bigger or smaller tip.

This is an impressive sầu feature, largely because the Pros don’t feel like most in-ear headphones in that they burrow inlớn the ear canal significantly less và generally exert a lot less pressure. In short, they’re more comfortable, but that comfort can initially be mistaken for looseness.

Also contributing khổng lồ the ‘barely there’ feel of the AirPods Pros is a series of vents that allows air to lớn flow between your ear and the outside world. That might sound odd, but it reduces that pressurised feeling that you often get from noise-cancelling buds.


(Image credit: Future)

The biggest change here is, of course, noise-cancelling, & Apple’s implementation is typically techie. Each Pro has two microphones: one on the outside lớn detect incoming noise that can be cancelled out by anti-noise, and one on the inside that detects any noise that makes it through the seal and also analyses how your music is responding lớn the individual geometry of your ear.

What’s most impressive is that the noise-cancelling is continuously adjusted 200 times per second. Apple claimed at launch that these were the only headphones to take this approach, but at the very least it"s now been repeated by Apple"s own AirPods Max on-ears.

The good news is that the noise-cancelling is effective. Predictable, constant noises such as a train are more or less eradicated, while less predictable sounds such as office chatter are reduced khổng lồ a whisper. And, as promised, there’s no sense of the air being sucked out of your ears when you engage the noise-cancelling.

Apple has ignored the trend for user-selectable noise-cancelling modes. Instead, noise-cancelling is either on or off. The exception is the ‘Transparency’ mode, which actively allows sound in from the outside world.

Apple AirPods Pro tech specs

This is another extremely impressive sầu feature. Many noise-cancelling headphones have a similar feature, but it often comes across as unnatural và synthetic, with some sounds amplified louder than others and the blover between external noise and your music seemingly not quite right.

Use Transparency on the AirPods Pros, though, và it’s remarkably similar khổng lồ using a pair of completely non-isolating headphones, such as the original AirPods. This is again down to lớn the vents và continuous processing, according khổng lồ Apple. There seems lớn be a slight enhancement lớn midrange sounds, which helps you hear voices, but it"s done subtly enough that it never feels anything other than completely natural.

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Powering the whole experience is the same H1 chip that"s built into the second-generation AirPods. This is already renowned for enabling a flawless wireless performance & supremely quick pairing. We"ve been living with the AirPods for well over a year now và have experienced no drop-outs and have sầu found the automatic pairing, which instantly connects to your phone when you insert an earphone, to be predictably brilliant. This feature was made even better towards the over of 20đôi mươi, when Apple released a software update that allows the AirPods Pros khổng lồ automatically switch between your Apple devices.

That same update brought with it support for Apple"s Spatial Audio, which adds virtualisation of Dolby Digital 5.1, 7.1 và Dolby Atmos soundtracks. Via the AirPods Pros this feature doesn"t hit the same, surprisingly cinematic heights as it does via the AirPods Max, and app support is patchy (Apple TV and Disney+ bởi vì, but Netflix and Amazon Prime Video vì chưng not), but it"s still very impressive sầu indeed with the right nội dung (try the opening of Gravity if you want lớn give it a go).

The H1 chip also allows Apple"s voice assistant khổng lồ be invoked by the "Hey Siri" command, although it can also be activated by a pinch of one of the stems. One disappointment is that Siri is the only method for adjusting volume without reaching into your pocket for your phone"s controls. Other brands have managed lớn squeeze physical volume controls into their true wireless earphones and we wish Apple would bởi the same.

Battery life is a claimed five sầu hours for the earphones with another 19 hours from the charging case &, in our time living with the AirPods Pros, those figures have proved to be, if anything, conservative sầu. The case itself is wider than that of the standard AirPods but also more squat, resulting in a package that’s actually not much larger in terms of volume. If the earphones run out of charge, five sầu minutes bachồng in the case will give you another hour of listening.


(Image credit: Future)

Sonically, Apple has taken the same approach with the Pros as with its other products, favouring clarity và a neutral tonal balance rather than lots of weighty bass.

That said, the performance does alter slightly when noise-cancelling is switched on. Playing R.E.M."s Belong via Tidal and switching between noise-cancelling modes, we notice that "Off" produces a slightly tonally richer & rhythmically crisper performance. There"s an extra warmth to Michael Stipe"s unusually deep, spoken vocals, a little more texture to lớn that bubbling bassline, a more engaging punch khổng lồ notes & greater overall cohesion.

Even here, though, the AirPods Pros aren"t quite able to lớn match the sound unique of the Sony WF-1000XM3, which are that bit more dynamic and attacking. But the Pros counter with a more easy-going nature that ensures nothing sticks out unpleasantly – even the lowest chất lượng Spotify streams sound acceptable.

The Pros also achieve sầu something that few other in-ears do: they combine the directness inherent in the design with an open airiness that"s far harder to achieve sầu. That feeling of the sound being pumped directly inkhổng lồ your brain is far less intense here và, while you"re not quite fooled inkhổng lồ thinking you"re listening out loud, there is a spaciousness that allows instruments lớn breathe.

There"s not tonnes of bass here, but that"s not to say that the AirPods sound lightweight – bass is just more balanced & considered. The midrange is where the AirPods Pros really shine, though, with vocals reproduced with plenty of texture and detail. There"s good sparkle khổng lồ treble, too, but with no hint of brightness sneaking in.

But switch on Noise Cancellation or Transparency (which sound broadly the same except for added outside noise) and there is a small step down in sound quality. Here, there"s a touch of sibilance audible in the vocals of some tracks and a slight comparative laông chồng of tonal warmth that"s most noticeable in the bass. More significantly, timing takes a bit of a hit, which manifests itself in tracks losing a bit of overall impact, possibly down to lớn all of that on-the-fly processing when noise-cancellation is enabled.

None of this is a huge issue & shouldn"t put you off using Noise Cancellation when you need to lớn escape the noise of a plane, train or crowded office, or Transparency when you want khổng lồ reduce the possibility of being run over when out for a walk. We would recommend switching both modes off when they"re not strictly necessary, though.


The AirPods Pros can"t quite match the best-in-class noise-cancelling true wireless headphones for sound chất lượng, but the user experience & unprecedented levels of comfort still make them a very strong option in the category.

And, by combining that excellent noise-cancelling with a transparency mode that feels almost as natural as wearing non-isolating earphones, Apple has created a pair of headphones that’s as well suited to lớn a long-haul flight as it is to a run around the blochồng. For many people, they could be the only pair of headphones they ever need.


Sound 4Comfort 5Build 5


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