Now that Apple has released their $550 AirPods Max, it seems fitting that I review my new AirPods Pro. I had done some work for a friend this past Summer who kindly showed their appreciation with an Amazon gift certificate. I never knew what to do with it until I bought a new heated mattress pad and had some left over to buy AirPods Pro. I wasn't going to get them because I didn't like the original AirPods, but they were on sale for $180 and reviews claimed that all the things I hated about the originals had been solved... and then some. And since I may end up traveling again one day, they seemed a handy thing to have. The sound, while nothing great, is good enough when you're traveling and don't want to cart around a big pair of headphones.
So let's get to it, shall we?
PROBLEM: AIRPODS FALL OUT OF YOUR EARS CONSTANTLY
This was my most hated flaw of the originals. It got to the point where I was afraid to travel with them because they would never stay in my ears. Fart with your head turned and you're guaranteed that at least one of them would pop right out, and I was furious that Apple screwed the design up so badly. Eventually I "solved" this by purchasing silicone cups to put over them, but it was a crap solution because I had to take them off in order to fit the AirPods back in the charging case. AirPods Pro, on the other hand, have silicone cups already on them (in your choice of sizes) and stay in my ears perfectly fine. In addition, the seal they make provides better sound.
PROBLEM: WIRELESS CHARGING CASE COSTS EXTRA
AirPods Pro come with a wireless case included, thus saving me from trying to track down the stupid-ass Apple "Lightning" cable with a USB-C connector. Considering I have ONE USB-C charging brick that I can never find (amongst a hundred USB-A bricks), I usually end up having to charge from my MacBook Pro. What kind of life is this? JUST SWITCH EVERYTHING OVER TO USB-C ALREADY!!! Holy shit. The dream scenario of just having to lug around ONE charger for everything will always be out of reach when Apple keeps forcing us to suck on their shitty, antiquated, idiotic Lightning port. But NOPE!. Fortunately the MagSafe puck I'll be traveling with can also charge these wirelessly, so at least there's one less thing to forget at home.
PROBLEM: NO NOISE CANCELATION
When traveling... especially on a plane... having noise cancelation is essential unless you want to blast the volume to insane levels. I really missed it when I upgraded(?) to AirPods, and am happy that AirPods Pro have remedied this. Not surprisingly, Apple did a great job and it works well. And when you don't need the cancelation, there's "transparency mode" which allows outside sound to come through.
PROBLEM: POOR CONNECTIVITY
The original AirPods used the W1 chip which had wonky connectivity problems which popped up at random. Apple then developed the H1 which improved on this greatly in their second generation AirPods. This was carried over into AirPods Pro and it is a far better experience. The H1 also features "Always On Siri" which means she's always listening and can respond to commands.
PROBLEM: SEALED, DISPOSIBLE DESIGN
Of course Apple hasn't solved this problem... they are in the disposable design business! Like previous versions, AirPods Pro are glued together so you can't replace the battery when it won't hold a charge any more, essentially making them landfill poison. About the only thing you can do other than toss them is take them to Apple for recycling. Apparently there's a battery program at Apple, but they don't actually replace the battery, they just give you a new pair and recycle the old ones for a price.
PRO EXTRA: SIZE
AirPods Pro are slightly smaller, but in a way that makes them look a lot smaller when you're wearing them... a good thing.
PRO EXTRA: SPATIAL AUDIO
And here's what convinced me to pull the trigger on the AirPods Pro... spatial audio. This weird, magical technology somehow simulates a kinda "surround" style sound where the speakers know when you turn your head in relationship to the multi-channel audio coming from your late-model iPhone or iPad. And it totally works! Turn to the left and your right AirPod has the center channel directed more towards it. The effect is actually best when your head is turned than when you're looking straight ahead... but it's still pretty good even so, because occasional head movement you're not even aware of keeps the illusion intact. I sincerely wish that this was a feature on the Beats Solo Pro cans I reviewed yesterday.
I would not have bought AirPods Pro if it weren't for the gift certificate balance I had. And I certainly wouldn't have paid the full price of $249 for them. But for "free" (relatively) and $180 (on sale)? They're still way overpriced, but ultimately worth it for travel or even just walking to work given that these ACTUALLY STAY IN MY EARS. These are what Apple should have released the first time, design-wise. On the plus-side, the sound is better than other wireless earbuds I've tried (but still not spectacular), pairing with Apple devices is effortless and the way everything works together is magical and seamless, the wireless charging case is great, the spatial audio is fantastic, and they work as advertised. On the minus-side the built-in disposability is awful.
Once I'm able to travel again, I guess I'm set for audio now.
Assuming I ever get to travel again.