I’ve been using Apple’s new AirPods Pro, the only noise cancelling earbuds with satisfying internal pluralization, since they were released at the end of last month. They were more expensive than I’d usually be comfortable with, but I use AirPods for hours every day—often in loud places—so it seemed like a good investment. I’m quite happy with them so far.
Most importantly, the noise cancellation is great. I’ve used noise cancelling headphones before, but never earbuds; these feel qualitatively different because they can “disappear”—I forget I’m wearing anything, and the world just seems less sonically invasive.
I seem to be growing more sensitive to sound as I get older, so it’s hard to overstate how much of an improvement this is. At work, I can block out the hum of the HVAC system or the ambient conversations around my desk (which is especially useful with an open office plan). On the subway, I can quiet the roar of the train enough to listen to a classical guitar piece, or a podcast, or even a bass solo in a jazz tune. The fact that I now have more opportunities to listen to quieter audio—and that I can listen to it at a lower volume—is worth the price of admission alone for me.
It doesn’t seem like a huge difference to me, but the AirPods Pro do also sound better than the previous AirPods. That said, I’m not really an audiophile, so I was already happy to trade sound quality for convenience by using earbuds in the first place; now I just feel like I’m making slightly less of a sacrifice.
I apparently have average-sized ears, so Apple’s earbuds have always fit me well. The AirPods Pro do too, although I can sometimes dislodge them by chewing. Even with that solid fit, though, I’m not sure I would describe them as comfortable—especially with noise cancellation on. Using them in that mode is somehow mentally taxing for me, similar to using a virtual reality headset; after wearing them for too long I find I want to take them off for a second to come up for air, as it were. I’m still keeping my old AirPods around for more “casual” wear.
Subjectively, these AirPods also seem more reliable than the last model. My non-pro pair always fell short of Apple’s “it just works” aspirations: they would stop responding to volume changes, or one earbud wouldn’t work until I dipped it back into the charger for a moment, or they wouldn’t activate when I put them in and I’d have to manually connect them from the Bluetooth menu, or the two earbuds would get a couple milliseconds out of sync and produce a dizzying delay effect, or the phone would forget about them entirely and I’d have to re-sync them. None of these problems were especially common, but there were enough of them that something often went wrong, and it was a constant low-level annoyance. I haven’t had any of that happen with the AirPods Pro yet.
If any of this sounds interesting to you, you can demo the AirPods Pro at an Apple retail store.