The AirPods Pro fix almost everything wrong with the originals [Opinion]

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AR AirPods Pro
Even AR AirPods Pro look great!
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

Here’s a short list of things that are wrong with regular AirPods:

  • They don’t fit in the ears properly.
  • They don’t seal out environmental noise.
  • Those grilles get gunked up with earwax really easily.
  • They lack a volume control.

The new AirPods Pro fix all of these problems, apart from the last point on the list. And to be honest, it’s so easy to change the volume by squeezing your iPhone through your pocket, or by using an Apple Watch, that the lack of a volume control isn’t that big of a deal.

The original AirPods (and the faster, updated version) might be the most-loved new Apple product in recent years, and the AirPods Pro improve on them in almost every way. So, are the AirPods Pro perfect? Maybe …

Are the AirPods Pro perfect?

I love many things about the original AirPods. They sound great, and they couldn’t be easier to use. The tap-based controls are good when you’re wearing gloves or have wet hands. And the lack of a wire means they never tangle or get yanked from your ears.

But I eventually gave my AirPods away. Why? Fit. First of all, they were always coming loose in my ears. This is the same reason I never got on with EarPods, which are the same basic size and shape. The second reason, and by far the biggest, is that this poor fit meant I couldn’t use them outdoors.

The original AirPods don’t seal out environmental noise. This is fine indoors, because it’s usually quiet. In fact, being able to listen to a podcast and hear background sounds simultaneously is an advantage.

But outside, the lack of any kind of noise rejection make things impossible. You must crank up the AirPods volume just to hear anything at all, which can damage your hearing. And If you take the metro, or walk near a busy road, you can’t hear a thing.

Two ways to cut out noise

The AirPods Pro, on the other hand, offer two kinds of noise rejection. Passive canceling, via the new ear-sealing silicone tips, and active noise cancellation, via new hardware and software in the AirPods Pro.

Science in action! This is how AirPods Pro active noise cancellation works.
Science in action!
Photo: CC Marekich/Wikipedia

One very interesting part of Apple’s new active noise-canceling tech is that AirPods Pro add additional microphones inside the ears, which check for sound that managed to infiltrate despite the regular noise canceling.

Active noise cancellation, if you’re not familiar with it, uses a microphone to listen to ambient noise. It then creates an inverse copy of that noise, and plays it into the headphones. This cancels out the noise with what Apple terms “anti noise.” (If you want more info, read our article detailing how different kinds of noise cancellation work.)

Apple’s addition may make AirPods Pro the quietest earbuds ever. We’ll have to wait and see. Or wait and hear.

Automatic fitting

The other interesting feature is that AirPods Pro can test the fit of the interchangeable silicone tips they come with. A built-in sound test, involving the AirPods Pro speakers and microphones, somehow assesses the fit of the silicone tips to see just how good of a seal they provide for your individual ears. This should make choosing the right tips easy.

On paper, then, the AirPods Pro do seem pretty much perfect. They’re not high-end, over-ear wired monitor headphones. They’re meant to be the best-sounding, and most convenient, wireless earbuds around. Only testing will tell if Apple indeed fixed the problems in the list at the top of this post, but I’m confident it has. After all, if those widely acknowledged problems haven’t been addressed, then what’s the point of the AirPods Pro?

Which brings us to the most surprising part of all. Apple seems to actually be listening to its customers at last. Instead of making everything smaller, lighter and simpler, the AirPods Pro are slightly bigger, heavier and have less battery life than the originals. And yet they’re still a lot more expensive. And that’s great, because it seems like Apple’s priorities might finally have changed.