The AirPods and AirPods Pro are in demand, or better said: they dominate the market. The Pro model of wireless headphones offers a few improvements over the standard version, including noise canceling. However, the wearable is also around 100 euros more expensive. Is it worth it?
When the Apple AirPods and AirPods Pro are in your ears, a cursory glance is not enough to see the visual differences between the two in-ear headphones. The manufacturer finally donated a similar design to the Pro model. However, there are some (significant) differences.
In the Pro model, Apple shortens the much-discussed stem and no longer places the microphone at its end, but on the side. The head is also a little more shapely and has a much larger speaker. This in turn is hidden behind a silicone attachment.
While the older EarBuds only lie in the auricle, the new model includes three soft and interchangeable attachments with which you can individually adapt the fit to your ear canal. The Pro model sits better in the ear – and should also have a role in the fact that you perceive less ambient noise. A better fit also ensures a more precise bass. Practical: which attachment is best for you, test your iPhone for you (in the Bluetooth settings).
The black opening on the back of the AirPods Pro is also new. It is a passive ventilation system whose pressure compensation should ensure a comfortable fit. IPX4 certification also appears in the datasheet of the Pro version. The headphones are (officially) protected against sweat and water – and are therefore suitable, among other things, for longer sports sessions.
Active Noise Canceling
Probably the biggest innovation compared to the basic model: The Apple AirPods Pro has Active Noise Canceling and a pretty effective one. Ambient noises such as that of a moving train, the noise of traffic, or noises in the office are filtered out by the headphones when the feature is activated.
In addition, Apple has built-in a so-called transparency mode, which has exactly the opposite effect. Then you can hear your surroundings clearly, especially close-up noises are picked up by the microphones. For example, you should still be able to hear the traffic when you cross the street. In addition, only the AirPods Pro has an adaptive equalizer. That means: The in-ears automatically adjust the highs, lows, and mids to both your ear and the soundscape in the environment. Apple wants to improve the sound experience.
The innovations already mentioned, such as the larger loudspeakers, the adaptive equalizer, and the better fit in the ear, lay the foundation for a better, because of richer, sound. The AirPods Pro is convincing when it comes to playing different types of music.
Overall, the sound experience is even more convincing than with the equally impressive AirPods. We would rather classify the difference in the “fine-tuning” category.
The options for the 1st and 2nd generation AirPods are significantly limited compared to the Pro model. You can start an action by tapping twice on one of the listeners. With the AirPods Pro, the control options are much more extensive. Depending on how often you tap the force sensor (on the stem) and whether you hold it down, you can switch between noise canceling and transparency mode, pause your music or take a call, among other things.
In terms of battery life, according to Apple, the AirPods Pro with 4.5 hours are not quite as long-lasting as the AirPods with 5 hours – but of course, this is due to the noise canceling. If you have switched off the feature, the premium model also lasts for 5 hours. With the Pro, you can call for up to 3.5 hours, with the standard version it is half an hour less.
The charging case provides energy for another 24 hours before you also have to charge the case. And that’s relatively quick: the case gives you 3 more hours of music within 15 minutes.
Both the AirPods and AirPods Pro have integrated microphones with which you can make calls or use Apple’s voice assistant Siri – provided you are connected via Bluetooth to an iPhone, MacBook, or other Apple device that supports Siri. The quality of sound recordings and telephony is marginally better with the Pro model.
Chips and sensors
All devices include an H1 chip, an accelerometer with speech recognition, and optical sensors. Bluetooth 5 is also on board. With the first generation of AirPods (with W1 chip), it was still Bluetooth 4.2.
The extra technology makes the Pro version of the Bluetooth headphones a little bit heavier: each plug weighs 5.4 grams, the AirPods weigh 4 grams each. However, this is not really noticeable.
AirPods charging case
The difference between the two storage boxes can be seen immediately. The case of the Pro headphones is a little longer but not as high as the basic model. The following applies to both charging cases: They are nice and compact, even if the slightly larger case of the AirPods Pro sometimes looks a lot beefier than it actually is in pictures.
Small but practical detail: the AirPods Pro-face each other in the case. So you can take them out and put them right in your ears. For comparison: The AirPods 2019 point away from each other, you have to turn them accordingly after removing them.
The AirPods Pro cost 279 euros. The package includes (in addition to a Lightning to USB-C cable) a wireless charging case, which you can also supply with new energy via a Qi-compatible charging mat.
Such a case with wireless charging is also available for one version of the basic AirPods, for which Apple charges 229 euros. The model with the standard charging case, which you can only charge via the Lightning connector, is a bit cheaper. This package costs 179 euros.
AirPods vs. AirPods Pro: which model is worthwhile?
The question of all questions. Yes, Apple has integrated some improvements into the AirPods Pro, of which the individual fit, the adaptive sound equalizer, the active noise cancellation, and the natural-sounding transparency mode are certainly the most convincing. For this you “only” have to pay 50 euros more than for the AirPods with wireless charging case. The price is fair for the upgrade package on offer, at least if you’re willing to invest that much money on in-ear headphones anyway.
However, if you can do without wireless charging and some of the new features, then the price difference between the normal AirPods and the AirPods Pro is already 100 euros – and you should rightly ponder whether you might not want to invest the price difference differently. Because the basic model alone provides a convincing overall package.