According to Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing “AirPods are the best-selling headphones in the world.” Apple estimates it sold around 35 million units in 2018. Analysts estimate they make up 60% of the global wireless headphone market. Suffice to say, they’ve been a massive hit for the company that seems to conjure up a massive hit every few years.
It’s not hard to see why. They exhibit ease of use, symbolic of the best Apple products. Once you pair ’em with your iPhone or iPad or MacBook, they connect immediately, thanks to the Apple-designed W2 chip. They fall easily into your ear. And while the battery doesn’t last all day, they come with a small, unobtrusive case that lets you extend their usage time by more than double.
Despite the AirPods being a runaway success for Apple, they’re not perfect. Like their corded sibling, the EarPods, the sound they produce isn’t as robust as some similarly priced competitors. Low-end bass is lacking and highs don’t really sparkle. And if you live in a noisy city like NYC, they become less effective as the sounds of the city seep into your music or podcasts.
All of that is why Apple surprise dropped the AirPods Pro: a remix to the original that aims to address a number of the shortcomings. Priced at $249—nearly $100 more than the regular AirPods—the question nearly everyone has is: Are they worth the money? After using them for 48 hours, I’m sold.
The headline feature of the AirPods Pro is the “Active Noise Cancellation” mode, which, as its name implies, blocks out extraneous noise. It does this using a mix of hardware and software features to detect and actively cancel out unwanted noise before it gets to your ear. All you really need to know, though, is that it’s A1. Walking around NYC is a completely different experience with these. Even with no music playing, you can sit on a packed train in peace and quiet.
The second-most-important thing to know about the AirPods Pro is that you can now customize the fit. The new smaller design and the silicone ear tips that come with the AirPods Pro look and feel better. Large, medium, and small ear tips come in the box to ensure you’re able to create the best possible seal—without that seal, it’s way more difficult to cancel out noise. Now, when they’re in your ear, they do not move. And with the new “transparency mode,” you never have to take the AirPods Pro out to hear what’s going on around you. It allows you to hear outside noise while your music plays or you’re on a call. You can talk to people, order food, and be more aware of your surroundings, all while you bump whatever you want.
The “superior sound quality with Adaptive EQ” is no joke, either. Music sounds better. Calls are clearer. The AirPods Pro provides a much more immersive listening experience compared to the old AirPods. You can feel the bass in Future’s “Codeine Crazy” (which recently hit streaming services). Summer Walker’s “Fun Girl” sounds clearer. With the old AirPods, I always found myself raising the volume or maxing it out. The AirPods Pro sound a lot clearer with the volume a lot lower.
The wireless charging case is wider but shorter and only a little bigger than the previous cases. We didn’t time it, but from my experience, a few minutes of charging gives you a few hours of listening time. All in all, AirPods Pro are comfortable and I like the sleeker look. In Active Noise Cancellation mode, the battery life is lower than the old AirPods. And while 4.5 hours is a lot of time, I may find myself charging them more often, which is annoying. But for the noise-canceling alone, they might be worth the splurge.