Apple in October 2019 launched the AirPods Pro, a higher-end version of its existing AirPods with a unique design, noise cancellation technology, better sound, and a more expensive $249 price tag.
Apple says that with the AirPods Pro, the company is taking the magic of the AirPods "even further," with the new earbuds to be sold alongside the more affordable AirPods 2, which do not feature noise cancellation functionality.
The AirPods Pro look similar to the original AirPods, but have a design with a wider front to accommodate silicone tips for comfort, fit, and noise cancellation purposes. Tips come in three sizes to fit different ears.
Though we heard rumors suggesting AirPods Pro might come in multiple colors, Apple is offering them only in white, much like the original AirPods.
Active Noise Cancellation is a key feature of the AirPods 2, using two microphones (one outward facing and one inward facing) along with advanced software to adapt to each ear for what Apple says is a "uniquely customized, superior noise-canceling experience."
With a built-in Transparency mode that can be toggled on, users have the option to listen to music with Active Noise Cancellation turned on while still hearing the ambient environment around them.
Inside of the AirPods Pro, there's a new vent system aimed at equalizing pressure, which Apple says minimizes the discomfort common with other in-ear designs for a better fit and a more comfortable wearing experience.
Because of the new silicone tips, the AirPods Pro are larger than prior versions of the AirPods, necessitating a wider charging case. The new AirPods Pro case is longer in the horizontal dimension than the prior AirPods case, but still pocketable.
AirPods Pro are water-resistant with an IPX4 rating, which means they can hold up to splashing water regardless of the direction. This suggests AirPods Pro should be safe from sweat and light rain, but they shouldn't be submerged.
Apple says that AirPods Pro include an Adaptive EQ feature for superior sound quality. Adaptive EQ tunes the low and mid frequencies of the music to the shape of an individual's ear for a "rich, immersive listening experience."
Like the AirPods 2 and the Beats Solo Pro, the AirPods Pro are powered by an Apple-designed H1 chip. The H1 chip powers real-time noise cancellation, the Adaptive EQ feature, and hands-free "Hey Siri" support.
AirPods Pro provide up to five hours of listening time on a single charge with Active Noise Cancellation disabled, or four and a half hours when it's turned on. With Active Noise Cancellation, AirPods Pro also offer three and a half hours of talk time.
The AirPods Pro Wireless Charging Case supports Qi-based wireless charging and it can also be charged over Lightning (using the included USB-C to Lightning cable). The charging case offers more than 24 hours of additional listening time and over 18 hours of additional talk time.
AirPods Pro became available for purchase on October 28, and began arriving to customers on Wednesday, October 30, the same day the AirPods Pro were stocked in retail stores. AirPods Pro are priced at $249.
Apple occasionally releases firmware updates for the AirPods Pro, and the current firmware version is 3A283, which was introduced in September to add support for spatial audio and automatic device switching.
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Crackling Noise Repair Program
Apple launched a repair program for AirPods Pro to fix a problem that causes some AirPods Pro models to exhibit sound issues such as crackling or static or faulty Active Noise Cancellation.
Affected models have static or crackling sounds that increase in loud environments such as with movement or when talking on the phone, or Active Noise Cancellation that fails to work properly with a loss of bass, increased background sound, or a street or airplane noise.
The faulty AirPods Pro models were manufactured before October 2020, and those who are experiencing issues can take the AirPods Pro to Apple for service at no charge. AirPods Pro will be examined prior to service to verify that they're eligible for the program.
AirPods Pro feature the same general design language as the original AirPods, but are notably different thanks to new flexible silicone tips that are designed to fit tightly within the ear to allow for noise cancellation technology.
The silicone tips come in three sizes to ensure a comfortable fit in most ears. Apple says the tips have been designed to conform to the contours of each individual ear, offering both comfort and a better seal, which is important for noise cancellation.
The tips come in small, medium, and large, and each tip clicks right into place on the AirPods Pro, making them easy to swap out. Each tip is internally tapered to conform to the shape of the inner ear to keep the AirPods Pro securely in place.
AirPods Pro measure in at 21.8mm wide and 30.9mm tall, so they're wider than the original AirPods (which are 16.5mm) but they're not as tall (AirPods are 40.5mm tall) as the stems are shorter.
Because the AirPods Pro are wider than the AirPods, the Wireless Charging Case that comes with the AirPods Pro is also bigger. It measures in at 60.6mm wide, 45.2mm tall, and 21.7mm thick. Comparatively, the AirPods case is 44.3mm wide, 53.5mm tall, and 21.3mm thick.
The AirPods Pro are a third heavier than the standard AirPods, weighing in at 5.4 grams per earbud. The charging case also weighs in at 45.6 grams, up from 38 grams.
The AirPods Pro case is a good bit wider than the AirPods case, but it's also not quite as tall, so the dimensions and pocketability are ultimately similar between the two cases.
AirPods Pro have been designed with what Apple is calling an "innovative vent system" that equalizes pressure within the ear to minimize discomfort that's common in other in-ear designs. Apple says that AirPods Pro are designed to make you feel like there's nothing in your ears.
There's also an expanded mesh microphone port that's designed to improve call clarity in windy situations.
Ear Tip Fit Test
To get the perfect fit and best audio experience, Apple offers an Ear Tip Fit Test for the AirPods Pro. After placing the AirPods Pro in each ear, Apple uses advanced algorithms and the microphones in each AirPod to measure the sound level in the ear and compare it to what's coming from the speaker driver.
The algorithm then detects whether the ear tip is the right size and has a good fit, or if it should be swapped out for another size to create a better seal.
Replacement tips for the AirPods Pro are available if you contact Apple support and are priced at $4 for a pair. AirPods Pro owners who have purchased AppleCare+ appear to be able to get free replacement tips.
AirPods Pro are sweat and water resistant with an IPX4 water resistance rating. That means the AirPods Pro have been tested and can hold up to splashing water from any direction, so they should hold up well to sweat and light rain.
AirPods Pro should not be submerged in water and water exposure should be avoided as often as possible as Apple's warranty does not cover water or sweat damage.
Apple says that the sweat and water resistant ratings are for non-water sports and exercise, and that sweat and water resistance are not permanent conditions and could decrease as a result of normal wear.
Active Noise Cancellation
AirPods Pro are Apple's first in-ear earbuds that feature Active Noise Cancellation technology, but Apple has previously used ANC in its on-ear Beats headphones.
Active Noise Cancellation leverages two microphones and Apple's advanced software algorithms to adapt sound to each individual's ear.
One microphone is outward-facing and is designed to detect external sound to allow the AirPods Pro to analyze environmental noise. There's a second inward-facing microphone that listens to sound towards the ear.
The first microphone lets the AirPods Pro counter external sound with anti-noise that cancels out background noise before it reaches the ear, while the second microphone fine tunes the noise cancellation by detecting any remaining noise. Apple says that the noise cancellation feature continuously adapts the sound signal 200 times per second.
Apple included a Transparency mode option that lets users who are worried about Active Noise Cancellation drowning out sound listen to the environment around them.
Transparency mode takes advantage of the vent system in the AirPods Pro to tone down the Active Noise Cancellation so AirPods Pro owners can listen for traffic, hear train announcements, and more while continuing to listen to music, podcasts, and more.
Active Noise Cancellation and Transparency modes can be activated directly on the AirPods Pro or by pressing on the volume slider in the Control Center on iPhone or iPad to get to the Control Center settings.
Activating Transparency mode can be done by pressing and holding on the Force Sensor on the AirPods Pro stem, which swaps between Transparency mode and Active Noise Cancellation.
According to Apple, AirPods Pro deliver superior sound than the original AirPods thanks to built-in speaker technology and Adaptive EQ functionality.
Adaptive EQ tunes the low- and mid-frequencies of music that's playing to the shape of each person's ear, for what Apple says is a rich, immersive listening experience.
Inside of the AirPods, there's a custom high dynamic range amplifier to produce pure, clear sound, along with a custom high-excursion low-distortion speaker driver that optimizes audio quality and removes background noise. The driver offers up rich bass down to 20Hz along with detailed mid and high-frequency audio.
Based on testing of the time that it takes for a user to trigger a sound and when it's heard in the earbuds, the AirPods Pro have improved Bluetooth latency compared to other wireless headphones on the market, including the original AirPods and the AirPods 2.
Introduced in iOS 14, spatial audio is designed to bring a movie theater listening experience to the AirPods Pro. Spatial audio is available on the AirPods Pro as of September 14 with the release of the 3A283 firmware. Using spatial audio requires the firmware update and a device running iOS 14.
Spatial works by applying directional audio filters and subtly adjusting the frequencies that each ear receives to place sounds virtually anywhere in space for an immersive surround sound-like experience.
The feature uses the gyroscope and accelerometer in the AirPods Pro and iPhone to track the motion of a person's head as well as the position of their device, comparing the motion data and remapping the sound field so that it stays anchored to your device even as your head moves.
Spatial audio is available on the iPhone 7 and later, and it is not compatible with earlier models. For directions on using spatial audio, we have a how to with instructions on enabling it.
For more on spatial audio and everything else that's new with the AirPods Pro in iOS 14, make sure to check out our guide.
H1 Chip and Internals
The AirPods Pro use the same 10-core H1 chip that's in the second-generation AirPods and the Beats Solo Pro. Apple says that the System in Package design of the chip is "meticulously arranged" with the placement of each component based on the form of the human ear for superior comfort, fit, and stability.
The H1 chip powers Active Noise Cancellation and Adaptive EQ, and supports hands-free "Hey Siri" requests.
As with the AirPods, AirPods Pro connect automatically to your iPhone or Apple device, with the H1 chip also enabling fast switching between your Apple devices thanks to iCloud. With iOS 14, automatic device switching has been enabled, so the AirPods will automatically switch between iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple Watch as you use them with no need to access Bluetooth controls to swap devices.
AirPods Pro also work with Audio Sharing, an iOS 13 feature that lets multiple AirPods or Beats headphones connect to a single iOS device so more than one person can listen to the same music, watch the same movie, and more.
Audio Sharing is limited to the iPhone 8 and later, the iPad Air and later, the 5th-generation iPad and later, the 5th-generation iPad mini, all iPad Pro models, and the 7th-generation iPod touch.
There are dual optical sensors, the aforementioned microphones (dual beamforming and one inward-facing microphone), a motion-detecting accelerometer, and a speech-detecting accelerometer, all of which power features like "Hey Siri" detection, pausing music when the AirPods are removed from the ears, and more.
AirPods Pro use Bluetooth 5.0 technology to connect to Apple devices.
AirPods Pro Motion API
As of iOS 14, there is a Motion API that lets developers access orientation, user acceleration, and rotational rates for the AirPods Pro, which can be used in fitness apps, games, and more.
There's a new Force Sensor on the stem of the AirPods Pro that supports different gestures, with a list of options below:
- Press once to play or pause music
- Press once when a call is incoming to answer the call
- Press twice to skip forward on a track
- Press three times to skip back on a track
- Press and hold to switch between Active Noise Cancellation and Transparency mode
For options like placing a call, playing a specific song, getting directions, sending messages, and more, Siri voice commands can be used.
The AirPods Pro last for up to five hours like the AirPods, but only when Active Noise Cancellation is disabled. In Active Noise Cancellation mode, the AirPods Pro offer four and a half hours of listening time and up to three and a half hours of talk time on a single charge.
There's a 1.98Wh watch-style button cell battery located inside of each AirPod, which is not replaceable as it is connected to a soldered cable.
The Wireless Charging Case offers more than 24 hours of listening time and over 18 hours of talk time. There's a fast charging feature that provides one hour of listening time or about an hour of talk time after five minutes of charging.
Charging the Wireless Charging Case can be done using a Qi-based wireless charging mat or through the included Lightning port. Apple ships the AirPods Pro with a Lightning to USB-C cable for faster charging.
Battery notifications, added in iOS 14, let you know if you need to charge your AirPods Pro so you can keep them topped up at all times. Apple has also introduced Battery Health features for AirPods, which will preserve the battery longevity by limiting the amount of time the AirPods Pro spend at 100 percent battery level when charging.
Added in iOS 14, Headphone Accommodations is a new accessibility option that can amplify soft sounds and adjust certain frequencies for an individual's hearing to make music, movies, phone calls, and podcasts sound more crisp and clear with AirPods Pro.
Headphone Accommodations in the AirPods Pro works with Transparency mode to make quiet voices more audible and tuning the sounds of the environment to each individual's hearing needs.
AirPods Pro require Apple devices running iOS 13.2 or later, iPadOS 13.2 or later, watchOS 6.1 or later, tvOS 13.2 or later, or macOS Catalina 10.15.1 or later.
AirPods Pro How Tos and Guides
Apple is continuing to sell its second-generation AirPods in multiple configurations. The AirPods with standard Charging Case continue to be available for $159, while the AirPods with Wireless Charging Case are available for $199.
AirPods vs. AirPods Pro
Compared to the standard second-generation AirPods, the AirPods Pro feature a higher price tag, a different design with silicone ear tips and a shorter stem, active noise cancellation, and improved sound.
For a detailed comparison on the AirPods and the AirPods Pro, make sure to check out our dedicated guide.
AirPods Pro vs. Powerbeats Pro
We also have a dedicated comparison guide that looks at the differences between the AirPods Pro and the Powerbeats Pro.
Compared to the Powerbeats Pro, the AirPods Pro offer Active Noise Cancellation and a slimmer design, while the Powerbeats Pro offer longer battery life and earhooks to better keep them in place during vigorous activity.
Some AirPods Pro owners have complained of reduced noise cancellation and crackling or static sounds, and Apple has released a support document with some advice for mitigating these issues.
Apple recommends that AirPods Pro owners install the latest software updates for connected iPhones, iPads, and Macs, and to make sure the AirPods Pro are free of debris. Noise cancellation can be affected if debris or earwax builds up on the mesh area of the AirPods Pro.
For crackling, Apple recommends making sure there's no wireless interference or obstructions between the AirPods and the device you're using them with. Apple also recommends testing multiple apps to make sure the issue isn't caused by an app. If these solutions do not work, Apple says that customers should contact Apple support.
Troubleshooting AirPods Pro
How to Buy
The AirPods Pro can be purchased from the online Apple Store or Apple retail stores for $249. Third-party retailers also offer the AirPods Pro and sometimes provide discounts.
AppleCare+ can be purchased for the AirPods Pro for $29, covering two incidents of accidental damage for a $29 fee.
When purchasing, AirPods Charging Cases can be engraved with Apple allowing either text characters or an emoji to be added.
On its website, Apple offers AirPods Pro replacement tips in sets of two small, medium, or large ear tips for $7.99 each in the United States.
For those who don't like Apple's own tips, there are a few companies making foam tips, like Comply.
What's Next for the AirPods Pro
Apple is working on a second-generation version of the AirPods Pro that could feature a more compact design and a new wireless chip. According to Bloomberg, Apple is looking to make the AirPods Pro smaller by eliminating the short stem that sticks out from the bottom. Apple is said to be testing a "more rounded shape that fills more of a user's ear," which would be similar to designs from Amazon and Google.
Apple has reportedly found it challenging to integrate AirPods Pro features, antennas, and microphones into such a small package, so there could ultimately be changes to the design. The AirPods Pro charging case could feature some slight design changes, including a taller case that's slightly narrower.
Japanese site Mac Otakara believes the second-generation AirPods Pro will launch in April 2021, and DigiTimes believes the headphones will come in the first half of 2021.
AirPods With Health Sensors
Future AirPods could include light sensors, which could be used for health monitoring features. DigiTimes has suggested the new sensors could be included in AirPods in one to two years.
Health monitoring features could let the AirPods monitor heart rate, step counts, and health conditions, as well as detect head movements.