AirPods Pro

AirPods Pro: are they worth the purchase?

I have been a long-time fan of Apple, and yes, I am truly deeply embedded in its ecosphere of products and services. I am, admittedly, an audiophile and really enjoy good quality headset. I prefer in-ear to over-the-ear headset on most occasions. I am a huge fan of Audio-Technica’s ATH-M50xBT, an over-the-ears wireless version of the amazing studio-quality ATH-M50X. However, I was looking for a higher-end in-ear headphones mostly to listen to music, podcast, and talk on the phone. I’ve been hearing a lot of great things about Apple’s AirPods Pro. I bit the bullet and decided to buy them.

The form factor of the AirPods Pro is astounding. The two-piece in-ear AirPods Pro spot a slick white glossy finish with a small chrome at its bottom, and silicon ear tips. This is incased on a case that also has a glossy finish and acts not just as a case, but also as a charging case which can be plugged into a Lightening-to-USB cable. I was amazed by the pure simplicity yet beautiful form factor. Apple is widely and worldly known as a company that prides itself on amazing design that is then copied by others. This was no different. Ever since the release of the AirPods Pro back on October 30, 2019, there have been many knockoffs. At $249 price tag, the AirPods Pro are not cheap. The question with any product is whether you get your money’s worth. While other reviews of this product deal with features and functionality, this review would reflect every day use and whether the AirPods Pro worked for my expectations and daily needs.

The AirPods Pro came partially charges, which is very typical of any Apple product. Nonetheless, I decided to fully charge them before getting any use of them. You can expect to fully charge these headset within about an hour. The setup, as is so typical with any Apple product, is so simple, so beautifully easy. My iPhone immediately recognized the AirPods Pro so pairing was easy. Then you’ll get a choice to do a fit test, which measures whether the ear tips fit your ears properly to provide noise cancelling. Frankly, I am not a fan of the ear tips that come with the AirPods Pro so I opted to get replacement “memory foam” type ear tips, which did a far better job at staying in my ear and in improving noise cancellation compared to the original tips that came with the Apple headset.

The sound was beautiful, one of the best and clearest for music and podcast. It is not quite the level of the amazing Audio-Technica’s ATH-M50xBT, but it is very well near good. I love using the AirPods Pro as I walk, hike, or relax at home. The sounds are so rich, so beautiful that this pair of in-ear headset is nearly a perfect pair. However, the shortfall came when I use it to talk as a Bluetooth headset. One of the best features of this headset is the amazing noise cancellation mode where the world seems to virtually disappear. You can then switch to turn off noise canceling, or switch to transparent mode which allows you to listen to music, podcast or a call, but also allows you to enhanced ability to listen to your surrounding. In transparent mode, the microphone picks up every sound possible and amplifies the sound so you can have “super hearing” of sorts. I jokingly call this mode “spy mode” as you could pretend to listen to something and yet hear everything around you in amplified mode. Another amazing feature is spatial sound, which allows you to hear sounds from various angles as if you are in a movie theatre, making the sound feel richer and lifelike. I am looking forward to further enhancements of this feature in the future.

For some reason, I have yet to find a good headset that can handle phone calls as good as listening to music and podcasts. The issue is not strictly with Apple. Other headsets I’ve used have the same problem. When I was using the AirPods Pro, I would often receive complaints from people that they can’t hear me well. No matter what I tried, including re-pairing the device, ensuring that my devices are up-to-date (which I always do), or even adjusting the position in my ear, the problem continued. I could hear the people I was talking with very clearly, but they could not hear me that great. Then I discovered a very strange issue. The sound of my voice would virtually be overtaken in a noisy environment. This was most profound when walking through a freeway underpass where cars would whisk by causing an echo like effect in the underpass, as if going through a tunnel. I could still hear the people I was speaking with clearly, but suddenly all they could really hear is the sound of cars going by, and my voice was virtually muffled. The only workaround that I found was to switch between the phone handset or phone speaker, then go back to the AirPods Pro and the person on the other side heard me clear again.

I called Apple’s fantastic tech support team. The tech support rep and I went over troubleshooting steps, but nothing worked. Apple decided to replace the pair. I received the replacement within a couple of days and returned the malfunctioning pair back. To my astonishment, the new pair had the same issue, but somehow to a lesser degree. So I am still using the workaround that I discovered. Perhaps the next version of the AirPods Pro would correct this issue.

So would I recommend the Apple AirPods Pro? Well, it depends on the price. It lists for $249, but I have seen it as low as $179. I would say anything under $200 would be a good buy. However, there are many good quality, much cheaper, headsets, both in-ear and over-the-ear that would suffice for most people. One of my favorite inexpensive in-ear headset is from soundcore Liberty 4 NC Wireless Earbuds that is just $99.99 (and often discounted to less than $40). While you won’t get the full sound richness of the AirPods Pro, nor the amazing features including the great noise-cancelling, you will get a great headset for a fraction of the cost. Happy shopping, and most importantly, enjoy your buy.