AirPods Pro

I happened to have some time over lunch so popped by the Regent Street Apple Store, and there were plenty of AirPods Pro available for sale, in a cordoned off area.

I was asked if I’d like to try it on, as they had a part of the store setup for this. I told the sales associate I was just interested in the purchase and would not want to try something that’s been in someone’s ears. The Apple sales process is quick, because they’ve got all your customer details handy, worldwide. 

Walking out, I realised I needed to update my iPhone to iOS 13.2. Nothing I could not do after lunch while at a meeting, right? 700MB+ download plus about 45 minutes later, I was ready to try using it.

What better place to try it that noisy Oxford Street, between Tottenham Court Road and Marble Arch? I did one walk with my current pair of AirPods, and another walk in the opposite direction using the AirPods Pro. 

Overall, I came off wowed. Noisy luxury vehicles revving their engines only to stop at the next set of traffic lights? The sirens of the police vehicles? Crowds of people chattering? I was calmly listening to the Taylor Swift Apple Essentials playlist without skipping a beat. 

Taylor Swift seemed like an apt choice because she was once exclusive to Apple Music (“Music is art, and art is important and rare. Important, rare things are valuable. Valuable things should be paid for.”). You could even not mishear the mondegreen in Blank Space!

Upon reaching home, I did try the Ear Tip Fit Test. Admittedly, it was not that intuitive, as I had to find out how to do it via reading the documentation. Turns out the mediums that it shipped with was perfect for my ear. 

I visited the gym, and while just running it in normal mode would have been fine, if you want to enjoy undisturbed music fidelity, you turn on noise cancelling mode, and the noise of two running on the treadmill just disappeared. It was a different experience. I know its supposed to be sweat resistant, but I felt my old pair of regular AirPods have done just fine in the gym.

The real test would come the day after when I would take a ride on the tube and the DLR. I’m pleased to say the AirPods Pro cancels noise perfectly, and I did not once miss my Bose headphones (for context I’ve never owned their earphones, and have used their headphones for over a decade). Those of you that ride the tube know that it can get noisy in the underground, and if you’re trying to listen to a podcast or audiobook you may have to turn the volume up a lot more (even then it might not work). I never went above 50% of volume with noise cancelling turned on, so I presume this is better for my hearing, overall!

I took a call in a noisy airport lounge, and I heard the other two better than I normally would have done, again thanks to the noise cancelling feature. They did not report hearing me better or any worse, so maybe there are no improvements mic wise.

Today I managed to try it on a plane, which is where I most commonly use my noise cancelling headphones (AirPods have won out for every other use); again I never once felt I missed my Bose. I listened to music while reading, and I’m sure I could have also watched a movie or TV show without issue. 

I don’t think I’d be a frequent user of Transparency Mode, but while ordering a cab, and then telling the cab driver directions towards where I wanted to be dropped, it was useful. I surprisingly could enjoy the music while doing these daily tasks. Naturally switching to this mode is going to take some getting used to – it has been so common to remove one AirPod from the ear (and Apple has thoughtfully ensured that even in Noise Cancelling mode, the other in-ear AirPod switches to Transparency Mode). I guess if I jogged on the road, it would also make sense to be able to hear my surroundings. 

I find that running it with noise cancelling mode turned off makes it feel like I’m using regular AirPods. It works for most general use cases. With long term use, I know they feel different compared to regular AirPods but I did not find it uncomfortable.

I’m going back to 2 AirPods life – one regular one (for gym and maybe calls), and one Pro variant for when I use public transport and find myself in noisy situations. Though when the regular pair eventually meet their demise (dead batteries are so common, like my first ever pair), I will probably go all in on the AirPods Pro.

I’m a little mixed considering it costs a lot and the replacement cycle seems to be quite frequent (anything above 18 months seems like a bonus) compared to say my Bose, where I still have a pair that’s over 10 years old. I’ll be using the pair I picked up last year a lot less now… However, it fits in my jeans coin pocket so will get a lot more use than either my Bose QC15 or QC25.