AirPods Pro review (2019): True Wireless Meets True Premium
Apple’s latest earbuds don’t just deliver excellence. They make it look easy.
Should I buy the AirPods Pro?
If you have an iPhone or iPad and are looking to get the best true wireless experience you can, the AirPods Pro are going to be hard to pass on. Relative to the original AirPods, they tout better design, cleaner sound, improved mic quality, sweat resistance and proper noise-cancellation.
That’s the kind of iteration you’d hope every product could get. While you do have to be in the Apple ecosystem to get the most out of them, the AirPods Pro hit every note you’d expect from a set of premium true wireless earbuds. They’re the whole package.
The original Apple AirPods found enormous success despite the subpar sound quality and iffy ergonomics. Just imagine what these things can do.
Price when reviewed
In Australia, the AirPods Pro are priced at AU$399.
AirPods Pro full review
In Australia, the new AirPods Pro are priced at an RRP of AU$399. You'll be able to buy them locally from October 30th through Apple and the company's usual retail partners.
Design & Build
At a glance, it’d be easy to mistake the new AirPods Pro for the originals true wireless earbuds. However, upon closer inspection, the design here is a little more compact and considered. The second time around, Apple have opted to make things slightly smaller. The AirPods’ iconic stem microphone also doesn’t extend nearly so far outside your ear.
The other big form-factor change here is the addition of proper ear tips. Where the original AirPods blasted sound straight into your through a small speaker, the Pro variant use proper silicone ear-tips that make for a more comfortable experience and provide plenty of passive noise-cancellation.
One small detail that I absolutely have to take the time to highlight here is the AirPods Pro’s nifty control mechanism. For as long as the true wireless earbuds category has existed, there have been two dominant schools of thought around how these cord-free earbuds should function.
Fare like the Sony WF-1000XM3s opt for haptic sensors that you swipe or tap. Other things like Jaybird’s Run XT or Jabra’s Elite 65ts use a physical button that you have to press, which can put an uncomfortable amount of pressure on your ears. Both approaches have their pros and cons but neither has really been successful enough to become what you’ll call the standard.
The AirPods Pro opt for haptics but they use them in a slightly different way and the end result of this experimentation left me excited. If anything, it feels like the closest thing to a frontrunner in the field of true wireless control schemes.
The short version here is that the AirPods Pro use haptic sensors but rather then swipe along the stem of the earbuds, you squeeze them.
When you’ve applied enough pressure for the sensor to trigger, you’ll hear a satisfying Apple-style click - giving you more feedback than a traditional haptic sensor. The shortcut system here isn’t particularly different to other true wireless alternatives. You tap once to pause and play. Double tap to skip forward and back. Tap and hold to enable and disable noise cancelling. It’s all very intuitive, quickly customizable and, most importantly, rigorously reliable.
Features & Sound Quality
As with the original AirPods, the AirPods Pro are able to pair with any iOS devices you own in seconds.
You take them out of their case. You get a pop-up on your iPhone or iPad. You tap to confirm. You’re good to go. This near-seamless setup remains superb. Even if other (more Android-friendly) wireless earbuds have deployed NFC to get an experience that’s remarkably close to this one, there’s nothing that’s quite as user-friendly as the experience of pairing the AirPods with an iPad or iPhone.
In addition, If you are using the AirPods with an iOS device, you actually easy access get a bunch of extra settings menu plus a quick test function that lets you confirm whether you’re using the ear tips that best fit your ears. The AirPods Pro include an additional two sets of (one smaller and one larger than the default) silicone ear-tips, so there is some wiggle room room here when it comes to finding the right fit.
As for how they sound, the AirPods Pro leverage their built-in noise cancellation to provide a loud and clear soundscape . The cancellation doesn’t feel as comprehensive as what I got from the WF-1000X M3s but it definitely threw me when I first put the AirPods Pro in my ears. It’s not quite best-in-class but it’s for-sure better than I expected it to be.
I found they weren’t quite as bassy and lacked the sharp character of the Beats PowerBeats Pro but they really popped on tracks like Half Alive’s “Ok ok?”, Gerard Way’s “Brother” and True Damage’s “Giants”.
As someone who has reviewed a LOT of true wireless earbuds over the last few years, I’d rate the AirPods Pro easily rate among the best. I don't know if I'd go so far as to call them the best but, at the $399 price-point especially, among the best is more than good enough.
When it comes to battery life, the new AirPods Pro offer up to five hours of playback at a time. As with the originals and their countless competitors, the AirPods charge through their carry case.
Combined with their charger case, they offer more-or-less the same 24 hours of total usage as the regular AirPods do and can be charged wirelessly via Qi or via a Lightning cable. If you’re trying to migrate your entire device system over to USB Type-C, this might be a bit of a wrinkle but Apple’s bet that most AirPods Pro buyers are already using an iPhone isn’t really one they’re going to lose.
Overall, the battery life offered by the AirPods Pro remains competitive. It doesn’t really raise the bar but, unless you’re on a plane or long train ride, you’re unlikely to use the AirPods Pro for more than five hours consecutively anyway. Apple don’t dominate this front of the true wireless experience in the way that they once did but 24 hours of total usage is still probably more than good enough for most people.
The Bottom Line
With the AirPods Pro, Apple cement themselves as not just the people’s choice for true wireless audio but also one of the best choices out there. Sure, if you’re looking to save money, the difference between the AirPods Pro and some of the other options might not be quite enough to justify the premium. They're not all that different to their predecessors but they're better where it counts and superior in the spots where you'll notice.
However, if you’re looking for the best, the AirPods Pro rate among them in a way that the iconic and original true wireless earbuds didn’t. They’re not just excellent. They make it look easy.
If you're after a set of true wireless earbuds that are a little more Android-friendly, check out our guide to the best true wireless earbuds here.
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