Apple unexpectedly announced AirPods Pro this morning—an upgraded and enhanced addition to the AirPods family. And they look great, especially when compared to the existing AirPods.
There’s a lot to unpack with these new headphones, but the difference is immediate as soon as you look at them. This is a dramatic departure from other Apple-branded earbuds, which have used pretty much the same non-customizable form factor since the original wired earbuds that shipped with iPhones back in the day.
And that has always been the biggest issue with AirPods too—if they don’t fit your ears, then they’re just uncomfortable. I have a set, and while they sound good, I can’t wear them for very long because they’re just uncomfortable. AirPods Pro, by contrast, look amazing because Apple is finally embracing the “let users switch the tips out” form factor that other manufacturers have been using since the dawn of time.
But there’s more to this design than just the option to swap between the three included tips—the AirPods Pro has a “fit tip test” to help users figure out which tips they should be using. It uses algorithms alongside the dual microphones in each earbud to “measure the sound level in the ear and compare it to what is coming from the speaker driver.” If the sound is accurate, then the tip is the right size. If it’s not, it will tell you that you need a different tip for a better seal. What?!
Much like the existing AirPods, the Pro units have a vent system along the top. Since these earbuds are relying on silicon tips to create a better seal than the non-Pro AirPods, this vent system is even more crucial, as it should prevent the “clogged ear” feeling that comes along with many earbuds.
It also uses these vents, along with the dual microphones, for active noise canceling, another feature that’s missing in the regular AirPods. The noise cancellation feature in AirPods Pro uses the external microphone to test ambient noise levels and “create an equivalent anti-noise that cancels out background noise before it reaches the listener’s ear.” The inner mic then removes any additional noise found. And it does all this 200 times per second. That’s neat.
But sometimes external noise is necessary, and the Pro accommodates there with a new feature called Transparency Mode. This is precisely what it sounds like—it lets users listen to what’s going on around them. Using the mics and the vent system, the software “leaves just the right amount of noise cancelation active” while still allowing outside sounds to come through.
The AirPods Pro take audio quality to the next level with Adaptive EQ, a feature that fine-tunes mid and low frequencies according to the shape of the wearer’s ears. This, combined with the improved seal of interchangeable silicon tips, active noise canceling, and the pressure-relief vent system should make for absolutely fantastic sound quality.
Finally, there’s the case. It looks like it’s a bit bigger than the existing AirPods’ case, which makes sense as each side of the AirPods Pro is bigger. But the case—which features wireless charging, of course—also houses a bigger battery, pushing the total talk and listening time to an impressive 18 and 24 hours, respectively. Bam.
All in all, the AirPods Pro appear to be a massive upgrade to the regular AirPods in every possible way—but they’re also $50 more than the most expensive AirPods currently available. You can pre-order them today for $250 will be available starting on October 30th.