LISTEN up: Apple’s new AirPods Pro should be at the top of your Christmas list this year.
I’ve spent a couple of weeks with the wireless Apple earbuds, and I can’t get enough. The din-busting noise cancellation is especially awesome.
The new AirPods Pro were easy to miss, amidst the glitz and glamour of the iPhone 14 Pro and Apple Watch Ultra at this month’s Far Out event.
They’re a revamped version of the 2019 earbuds of the same name, with the same price (£249/$249) and plenty of extra tricks.
The AirPods Pro are Apple’s most expensive wireless earbuds (but still cheaper than the over-ear AirPods Max).
They look roughly the same, with the smaller contoured body that differentiates them from the cheaper AirPods models.
Really, they’re the AirPods we know and love.
They pair and work so seamlessly with an iPhone, it puts other earbuds to shame.
Even years on, it’s still amazing to pop an AirPod out and have your music pause.
And they’re now as much a fashion statement as an iPhone accessory.
They also sound great: bass is enhanced, which is great if you like metal or hip-hop (as I do).
Noise-cancellation (more on that later) really helps you focus in on the sound too.
And fit is flexible, with four silicon tip sizes in the box to choose from.
The new volume controls are brilliant, if a little finicky to pick up at first.
You grab a stem and then swipe up or down to adjust volume accordingly.
There’s a knack to pinching and swiping it that probably takes a dozen or so goes to truly master.
But once you’ve got it, it’s great – and really the only way I change my AirPods volume now.
I even prefer it to using the Apple Watch dial, which used to be my favourite way to adjust volume.
You can still use the stems to pause and play music, and switch between listening modes.
And “Hey Siri” lets you quickly issue commands: I use this all the time to call specific contacts when I’m walking around.
Sound of silence
Noise-cancellation is notably improved.
If you’re new to the concept, active noise cancellation blocks out ambient sound around you.
In very simple terms, the AirPods listen to sound around you, invert it and create ‘anti-noise’ – and so silencing any nearby din.
The idea is that you could then listen to music, podcasts or maybe nothing at all in total peace.
It’s rarely 100% perfect, but the new AirPods Pro manage it exceptionally.
Apple says the amount of noise cancelled is doubled versus the old AirPods Pro, and that probably feels about right.
I’ve worn them at busy London intersections, near construction sites, and on the tube. Honestly, you can barely hear a thing – aside from the music you’re playing, of course.
Perhaps even more noticeable is the improvement to Transparency Mode.
You toggle Transparency Mode on by squeezing the ear stem.
It lets you hear what’s going on around you, so you can listen out for important speech.
The new version lets you easily hear spoken words (like a train announcement), but minimises the din of loud noises like power tools or sirens.
The quality of Transparency Mode is much better, and voices sound far more natural.
It’s partly thanks to the new H2 chip, which works to adjust for noise at 48,000 times per seconds.
You can now adjust Spatial Audio to the exact shape and size of your head.
All you need is an iPhone to scan your face and ears from various angles.
Set up is easy, and the Spatial Audio effect is very cool – but it’s not a must-buy feature.
Instead, it’s a clever trick that can definitely immerse you in a movie or some great music.
Battery life is a little harder to measure in practice, because I never really ran out with the old AirPods Pro.
I usually just stick them on charge every few days, and that works fine.
My normal usage is probably 45 minutes of guaranteed listening in the morning, and the same in the evening – plus intermittent usage for music, podcasts and calls throughout the day, totally an extra two or three hours.
Apple says this time you’re getting six hours of listening per charge, with a total of 30 hours using the charging case.
The case itself has also received a few upgrades.
There’s now a small cut-out for a strap, and the option to add a free case engraving upon purchase (including your own Memoji).
And it’s now possible to charge the case using an Apple Watch pad, as well as a MagSafe charger.
The good news is that Apple is flogging the new AirPods Pro at the same old price of £249/$249.
Not everyone will be willing to pay that: these are still luxury headphones.
But the noise-cancelling, extensive features and general quality are unmatched at this price point.
Buying the cheapest pair of AirPods only sets you back just over £100/$100, so they’re still extremely tempting.
There is also a limit to how good in-ear headphones can sound, simply due to their physical size. For more powerful audio, the AirPods Max will deliver (albeit for around double the price).
However, if you really love your music or you’re surrounded by noise that you want to shut out, the AirPods Pro are a great purchase.
They’re also really masterfully designed, so self-respecting gadget geeks with some spare cash will want to pick up a pair too – just to see what all the fuss is about.
The Sun says: A tour-de-force of in-ear audio, the AirPods Pro are impossible to knock at this price. 5/5
All prices in this article were correct at the time of writing, but may have since changed.
Always do your own research before making any purchase.
The new AirPods Pro are available for £249/$249 from September 24, 2022.
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