It’s almost Thanksgiving here at MajorHiFi, which means it’s almost time to roll out our favorite turkey-related recipes. From turkey sushi to turkey-flavored ice cream, it’s true what they say: no one loves turkey like a headphone reviewer. And speaking of turkeys, today I’m reviewing the new Apple AirPods Pro. Priced at $249, this earphone promises active noise cancelling, a new-and-improved fit, and supposedly better sound than the original AirPods. But how good does it sound? And is it worth the price?
Apple AirPods Pro Review
Packaged in slick Apple packaging, the AirPods Pro come with the usual true wireless accessories – a charging case, eartips, and a charging cable.
Once you take them out of the box, you realize Apple may actually be trying to turn their earphones into, well, earphones. Unlike the older AirPods, the Pros are built with a more ergonomic design.
Despite fitting in the ear a little easier, the earpieces can still feel a little fatiguing. However, now Apple has added eartips. This slightly improves isolation, but if I’m being honest, I still find isolation pretty poor. Overall, the fit just falls on the wrong side of the comfortable vs uncomfortable divide, causing me to remove these things from my ears whenever I can.
Controls are also a lot easier, and everything you need to know about adjusting playback or changing the ANC modes can be found in the user manual.
The Transparency mode is odd to say the least, adding surrounding noises to the audio feed in your ears. To say the least, this can become a nuisance when actively trying to listen to your music. The feature feels more welcome during certain scenarios, for instance when trying to hear announcements on a commute or eavesdropping on your coworkers.
Active noise cancellation, on the other hand, works fine, I guess. It’s enough to mute the dull thud of my keyboard under the onslaught of this review. However, my office phone still manages to cut through the wall of sound I’m trying to listen to. While not as novel or impressive as Apple would have be believe, I would bet the inclusion of ANC will convince a lot of folks that the AirPods Pro are really good earphones. Normies love that kind of stuff, anyway.
Call quality is decent and I can’t complain. I can hear people and people can hear me. If I want to talk to Siri or other imaginary friends, I can. Yay.
Battery life comes in at a solid 4.5 hours on the earpieces, plus more than 24 hours of battery life in the case.
Running on Bluetooth 5.0, the AirPods Pro supports AAC and SBC codecs.
Apple AirPods Pro Review – Sound Quality
The low end on the AirPods Pro feels relatively thick. There’s some detail here, but like the original AirPods, the Pro seems to eschew a truly detailed sound in favor of one with lots of bass. With that being said, if you’re just looking for some good thumping bass and not necessarily a realistic low end, this earphone won’t disappoint.
Slightly recessed, the midrange on the AirPods Pro lacks the kind of presence and clarity one could get from a pair of IEMs at the same price. However, these mids still feel like an upgrade from the original AirPods, with just a hint of extra detail.
Slightly bright, the highs sound okay, though a touch accentuated. While not accurate, they do work well with the deep bass, providing a fairly v-shaped and exciting sound. These highs definitely work better with pop and rock, and even some electronica. However, they seem a little too colored for enjoying classical music or anything where more mids compliment the highs.
The soundstage is tricky on the AirPods Pro. If you’re using them in Transparency Mode, forget about it. Everything sounds squashed together and relatively amorphous. Surrounding noises actually sound like they exist in the audio track, making critical listening a pain in your ear.
But with that mode off, the Airpods Pro still suffer from poor isolation and a relatively shallow sense of soundstage.
That being said, the soundstage still feels wide, leading to plenty of room for instruments and vocal sources, but they all lack depth. So, for instance, a female singer sounds as loud or as present as a guitar or drum.
This wonky soundstage works fine with simple pop, rock, and hip-hop tracks, but feels lacking when tackling jazz or classical music. However, it also feels lacking with well-recorded music, and folks who want more resolution than that typically found on iTunes or Apple Music would be better off considering other alternatives.
Apple AirPods Pro Review – Conclusion
Pros and Cons
Pros: Passable audio quality and a wide (if somewhat narrow) soundstage. It also works seamlessly with the iMac, the iWatch, and the iDentity you’ve cobbled together that revolves around the things you own.
Cons: Poor fit and poor isolation. And Apple has the chutzpah to charge you $250 for it. Yowch.
Reviewing the AirPods Pro, I’m reminded of that age-old question: If a tree falls in the forest, and no one’s around to hear it, does it really make a sound? The Apple AirPods Pro seem to skimp on detail in every part of the frequency range in favor of other features. But I don’t think most Apple customers really care about sound quality.
At $250, you can choose from a plethora of other, more-detailed earphones, wired or wireless. If you actually want to get the most detailed sound at this price, and you want true wireless earphones, skip the AirPods Pro and get the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless. Even without active noise cancelling, this earphone still blocks out as much ambient noise. And it does that while actually playing something you would call music.
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