Despite their popularity, we weren’t big fans of the first two models, so it comes as a surprise how much we like the new AirPods Pro. For $249, these are actual earphones that seal off your ear canal, as opposed to resting against it like regular AirPods. This makes for a tremendous improvement in fit as well as audio performance, with rich bass depth and crisp high-mid presence. The AirPods Pro also delivers strong active noise cancellation (ANC) in a certified splash-proof build. They’re easily worth the premium over the standard model and earn our Editors’ Choice.
DESIGN AND CONTROLS
The glossy-white design of the Apple AirPods Pro has a pretty similar look to that of the regular model, but it has some new twists. For starters, the outer panels for the ANC/ambient mics now have black grilles, and you’ll find a control panel strip on the front of each earpiece’s “stem.”
An IPX4 rating also means the earpieces are safe from splashes. This rating isn’t as strong as the IPX7 rating we see on some gym-friendly, waterproof models but is a marked improvement over the standard AirPods, which carry no official rating. That said, don’t expose them to real water pressure or submerge them, and don’t get the case wet, as the IPX4 rating applies to the earpieces only.
The AirPods Pro ship with three pairs of silicone ear tips in small, medium, and large sizes, all of which are slightly oval rather than perfectly circular. The in-ear fit is ideal—these should stay in place and actually seal off the ear canal, unlike the regular AirPods.
The 1.6-ounce wireless charging case, which measures 1.8 by 2.4 by 0.9 inches (HWD), can be charged with a Qi pad (not included) or with the included USB-C-to-Lightning cable. Opening the case for the first time triggers an on-screen prompt on your nearby iOS device. If a software update is needed, the first prompt will advise you to download and install it.
Once the software update is complete, the earphones are ready to pair, and this is also achieved with an on-screen prompt rather than navigating the Bluetooth menu on your phone. This is all enabled by Apple’s H1 chip, an update to the W1. Both chips enable similar features, but the H1 supports newer Bluetooth technology, which allows for lower latency as a result. You can also share music between two pairs of AirPods provided they both have the H1 chip.
The on-ear controls are fairly straightforward. Press either ear once to play or pause, double-tap to skip forward a track, and triple-tap to skip backward. You can lightly press thin strips on the front of the stems to switch between ANC and Transparency modes. The only thing we don’t like about the design is that there are still no physical volume controls.
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