With very little fanfare Apple announced the AirPods Pro true wireless earbuds, bringing a new design and active noise cancellation to the AirPod range. So, how do they measure up to the existing AirPods, and are they worth getting?
Arriving not long after the AirPods (2019), it appears that the AirPod range has diverged, with the current AirPods aimed at more casual music listeners and the Pro leaning towards the more refined listener.
With that in mind, how are they different and which version should you be getting?
Related: Best Wireless Earbuds 2019
AirPods Pro vs AirPods – Price
Currently, the AirPods fetch a price of £160 for the version with the standard charging case. The AirPods with the wireless charging case cost £200.
We were always under the impression that the AirPods Pro would cost more, and at £250 that expectation has been met.
However, that means they cost more than the Sony WF-1000XM3, which are the current standard-bearers for sound and features.
AirPods Pro vs AirPods 2 – Design
The updated 2019 AirPods are practically identical to the first iteration. That’s not the case with the AirPods Pro.
While the stem remains, it now has touch controls for playback and calls at the bottom. Their sleek looking profile remains intact, but the in-ear housing is bigger and now has silicone ear-tips. Unlike the AirPods 2 they’ll actually burrow into the ear rather than sit on it.
There are three different sizes of ear-tips – small, medium and large. Otherwise the AirPods Pro have added a vent to equalise pressure and reduce discomfort some may experience with in-ears.
With previous AirPods, Apple didn’t confirm or deny the IP rating – but the Pros are rated up to IPX4. They should be to survive quite a bit of water and sweat, making them better for gym workouts.
To our eyes, the AirPods Pro offer a much more suitable design.
AirPods Pro vs AirPods 2 – Features
The H1 chip introduced in the AirPods remains, enabling hands-free Siri interaction, longer battery life and lower audio latency. Battery life is the same with 5 hours of listening time (dropping to 4.5 with active noise cancellation) and 3.5 hours of talk time.
The introduction of active noise cancellation (ANC) and the new design means the Pro will be better able to block out ambient sound. However, if you’re someone who likes to hear what’s around you, Transparency Mode gives users the option to listen to their music and hear your immediate environment.
There’s now a force sensor on the stem. A tap there and the AirPods Pro can switch between ANC and Transparency Mode. You can also play/pause tracks or accept/end calls, while volume control remains embedded in Control Centre on an iOS device.
One last new feature is the Ear Tip Fit Test, which tests the quality of the seal. It requires both earbuds to be in place and then ‘advanced algorithms’ will detect whether each ear tip is the right size/good fit or requires adjustment.
In this case it’s clear that the AirPods win this by a clear margin.
AirPods Pro vs AirPods 2 – Sound
Sound quality has always been an issue. The loose, open fit of the AirPods allowed for a poor seal, the result was a wash of surrounding sound competing with the audio.
The AirPods Pro appear to be a correction, with a focus on high-quality sound. While we haven’t heard and thus can’t compare sound quality between the two, Apple’s claims of ‘superior sound quality’ is built on Adaptive EQ.
This feature automatically tunes low and mid-frequencies to the contours of the listener’s ear. Inside the in-ear housing is a custom-made high-dynamic range amplifier that Apple says produces a ‘pure, incredibly clear’ sound. There’s also a custom-made high-excursion low-distortion driver (which suggests the driver will be able to move about a bit) to hone audio quality.
As always, we’ll have to judge the sound quality once we get our hands on a sample.
Related: Best Wireless Headphones
AirPods Pro vs AirPods 2 – Early verdict
Early signs point towards the AirPods Pro being a favourable improvement over the current AirPods. Bringing ANC to the party is a welcome addition, and Transparency Mode means you can control what you listen to.
The jury is still out on audio quality, but we’ll have a better sense of that once review samples start flowing in.