Today, Apple announced its latest AirPods iteration, the Apple AirPods Pro, featuring much anticipated noise-cancelling technology. These earbuds depart from the first and second-generation models by sporting angled nozzles that seal to the ear canal. They’re currently available for pre-order for a hefty $249 and are slated to release on October 30.
The wireless earbuds retain their lightweight build and include three pairs of silicone ear tips, enabling a majority of listeners to find the appropriate fit. Similar to the new Google Pixel Buds, each Apple AirPods Pro earbud houses a ventilation cutout to equalize pressure. Unlike with previous generations, the AirPods Pro are officially sweat-resistant. While many gym-goers use older AirPods to exercise with sans-issue, athletes no longer need to worry about voiding the warranty if water damage is incurred.
New fit, new noise-cancelling, new features
The new AirPods Pro uses two microphones in tandem with specialized software to constantly adapt noise-cancelling intensity. An outward-facing mic and inward-facing mic detect environmental and internal noise, respectively. The array works to mitigate distracting noises by way of destructive interference. Without the redesign, ANC wouldn’t have been possible: a complete passive seal is required in order for noise-cancelling to take effect.
Apple is boasting its Adaptive EQ which is posited to automatically adjust low and mid-range frequency reproduction to the shape of one’s ear, according to the press release. Ideally, this combats harmonic distortion and any electrical interference that could occur within the earbuds.
The Apple AirPods Pro introduces transparency mode to the AirPods line. This is something we’ve seen in many other noise-cancelling earbuds and headphones and is absolutely necessary for any ANC product as vigilance is key when exercising or walking around frequently trafficked streets.
There are some neat features accompanying the new AirPods Pro. For one, users will continue to enjoy the connection stability and hands-free access to Siri afforded by the H1 chip. Just like earbuds with Google Assistant integration, iOS users will be notified of incoming messages as Siri reads them aloud. Apple also includes audio sharing, whereby two people may listen to the same media source on two separate pairs of AirPods. In order for this to work, however, a compatible iPhone or iPad is required.
Apple designed an ear tip fit test which helps users find the best fitting ear tips for them. According to the release, the software analyzes in-ear sound levels and compares it to the speaker’s output. This process takes just a few moments and will know whether the ear tip fits well or if it needs to be adjusted for a cogent seal.
My concerns about the Apple AirPods Pro
Audio enthusiasts have lamented the fit of the AirPods since their debut in December 2016. While rumors circulated about a potential redesign of the AirPods 2, Apple fans were left with seal-less earbuds yet again. Now, the company has finally capitulated to fans’ demands but with minimal effort. From company renders, the AirPods Pro still look as if they could fall out at any moment. Plus, they don’t appear to include wing tips or a designated contact-point design to keep them stable. This may prove problematic during vigorous workouts.
Additionally, playtime is a concern: the 2016 and 2019 AirPods don’t afford stellar battery life, and that’s without noise-cancelling which is a power-hungry process. Granted, the H1 chip did facilitate extended battery life from the first-gen AirPods to the second-gen AirPods, but I find it hard to believe the Apple AirPods Pro will meet the specified 4.5-hour playback time with noise-cancelling turned on.
That being said, the Apple AirPods Pro will likely prove a success as many general consumers value efficiency and ease-of-use over all else, both of which Apple has a deep understanding of. Although the company explicitly defies what consumers want (e.g. headphone jack removal), it knows how to make a smoothly operating product, keeping users beholden to the Apple ecosystem.