Review: Apple AirPods Pro (Surprisingly Delightful)

Filed Under: Travel Technology
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I recently purchased the Apple AirPods Pro, and I’m shocked by how much I like them…

Some background on my technology setup

Even though I work online, I’m rather low tech. I’m fairly good at using the internet, while anything else related to technology is more or less lost on me. I’m also a creature of habit, so I rarely make changes unless a situation is dire (and that’s especially true with technology).

Until a few weeks ago I was using an ancient MacBook Air that was truly a disaster — the mousepad hadn’t worked for years, it was slow, and it generally looked like it had been run over by a car. I tried to replace it a couple of years back, but I’m pretty sure I got a defective MacBook Pro. The whole thing was just a disaster, so I gave up.

Finally all of that changed a few weeks ago — I finally picked up a new MacBook Air and AirPods Pro, and I love both of them. In this post I wanted to review the AirPods Pro — not from a super technical standpoint, but rather from my pretty low tech perspective, because this is the first time I’ve purchased any sort of headphones from Apple (I’ve only otherwise used the ones that come with an iPhone, which aren’t wireless).

Basics of the Apple AirPods Pro

The AirPods Pro are Apple’s extremely versatile in-ear headphones. As the Apple AirPods Pro are described:

  • They offer active noise cancelation, though there’s also a “transparency mode” so that you can better hear what’s around you
  • They come with three different silicon ear tips for a more customized fit
  • They’re sweat and water resistant
  • They offer easy setup for all Apple devices
  • They come with a compact charging case that you can always easily keep with you
  • They offer quick access to Siri by saying “Hey Siri”

What’s the battery life like on Apple AirPods Pro?

  • On one charge the Apple AirPods Pro can get you up to 4.5 hours of listening time or 3.5 hours of talking time
  • The charging case can get you up to 24 hours of listening time or 18 hours of talking time
  • Putting the AirPods Pro in the case for just five minutes will get you an hour of battery life
  • You can charge the case with the USB-C cable, which is the same as you’d use for an iPhone

As far as the cost goes, Apple AirPods Pro retail for $249. However, I see they’re now on sale on Amazon for $199, so clearly I didn’t do a good job maximizing value here (I ordered AirPods Pro directly from Apple, along with my new laptop).

Why I’m so impressed by the Apple AirPods Pro

When I was deciding whether or not to buy the Apple AirPods Pro, I thought to myself “well why are these basic-looking little earbuds $250?” Well, upon receiving them, I quickly realized that these are kind of the greatest earbuds ever, and I won’t ever need to buy other headphones again.

I’ve never before seen such well rounded, versatile headphones. They do just about everything really well, and I’m so delighted by it:

  • The sound quality and noise cancelation for playing music (or whatever else) are so much better than I was expecting
  • The microphone is excellent for making phone calls
  • I worried whether the AirPods Pro would fall out of my ears when running or working out, but it hasn’t happened once
  • AirPods Pro are so easy to use; you don’t have to turn them on or off, you just put them back in the case, and they also automatically connect to your linked devices so easily

The product just gets all of the basics oh-so-right, and I love it. I really don’t think I’ll ever use other headphones again. I bought Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 (review) back in 2019, and I still can’t figure out how to turn them off correctly (or at least they miraculously keep turning on and draining the battery). Sure, you can find some over-ear headphone with marginally better sound quality, but to me it’s not worth the space it takes up in my bag.

In the past I always thought that the AirPods Pro looked kind of silly, and I still feel that way. One thing I hadn’t fully appreciated though was how beneficial these are as an introvert, as having these in your ears gets you out of just about all unnecessary small talk with strangers.

AirFly: an invaluable AirPods Pro accessory

When I first published this post I mentioned my one concern with using AirPods Pro when traveling. Specifically, most airplanes with personal televisions don’t support bluetooth connections. In other words, you can’t really use AirPods Pro for inflight entertainment, and you’d be stuck with whatever (inferior) headphones an airline offers you (and in some cases you even have to purchase headphones on planes).

Fortunately you guys pointed out a valuable accessory, which I just ordered — AirFly is a wireless transmitter and receiver that offers audio sharing for up to two AirPods. This can be useful on airplanes, since it allows you to hook up your AirPods Pro to virtually any inflight entertainment. AWESOME.

How do you avoid losing AirPods Pro, though?

Let me throw this question out to the rest of you, since I’m still new to these headphones. I love how small AirPods are, as this will save me so much room in my carry-on going forward, compared to most headphones.

My one concern is that they’re so small that I’m trying to figure out how not to lose them. Does anyone have any tips? My general thoughts are:

  • If I’m working out or going to the gym I just take the actual in-ear headphones and leave the case behind, so that I don’t even think of leaving them anywhere
  • When I’m not using them I always store them in the same pocket of my backpack

But I still feel like this isn’t going to end well for me, so if anyone has any tips, I’d love to hear them.

Bottom line

This is a travel blog and not a tech blog, but I still like to share the accessories that I find really useful for travel. I know I’m late to the party here, but I love the Apple AirPods Pro I picked up a few weeks ago.

Not only are these headphones incredibly versatile, but they actually perform well in just about every category — the sound quality is great for music or talking on the phone, the audio quality is good when speaking, they’re easy to use, the battery life is excellent, and they’re small, which saves a lot of space.

Anyone else love the AirPods Pro as much as I do? Do you use them for everything, and have they replaced other headphones? Or anyone not like AirPods Pro?

Comments
  1. I love my airport too. Only problem I’ve found though is if, for example, you are flying, there is no way to connect them to IFE (same goes for any other system that doesn’t use Bluetooth). So you need to make sure you bring a pair of conventional headphones or use the ones provided

  2. @ Piotr — That’s a great point I hadn’t considered, so I added that to the post. I’ve only flown AA since getting these, so that has been a non-issue. :p

  3. You can purchase a Bluetooth transmitter to plug into the airplane’s IFE headphone Jack. Your AirPods Pro can then pair with that. Amazon sells a few different ones. I also purchased the AirPods Pri recently and was impressed as well with how good they are overall.

  4. I love my AirPods pro. Truly never ever lost them when I m out. But I do lose them when I fall asleep with them on the bed. If there is still battery in the AirPods, u can use the “find my” app to get it to make a sound to allow u to find them.

  5. There are small BlueTooth adapters that you can use with an IFE system. I don’t know if you can pair them with AirPods though.

  6. If you use a Bluetooth adapter like the TaoTronics Bluetooth adapter for wireless, you can use them for airline systems.

  7. There are (Bluetooth?) dongles specifically for airline audio jacks that will connect with Air Pods (Pro or original.) I haven’t used one, but have read online reviews for them. Google “dongle for airline headsets with air pods”

  8. I’ve had both the AirPods and the AirPods Pro. While the pro definitely have better sound quality and features, they fall out much easier and I miss the double tap functions of the original ones.

  9. Ben, get a “Twelve South AirFly” for the plane — it plugs into IFE and then connects to your AirPods. If you get the Duo version, you can connect to two different headphones simultaneously, so for instance you and Ford can watch the same movie together if the seats allow for that. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07Z13H4TP/

    Also I think the AirPods Pro uses a Lightning cable to charge, the same as your iPhone, but that’s not USB-C. Your MacBook uses USB-C. Similar but different. : (

  10. I’ve had them a while and they’re great. The only downside I had vs the similar Jabra set I have is they don’t work with other devices as well. The Jabra set can pair to my phone and laptop, and will auto switch to my phone as needed when I get a call. It’s super easy. For the AirPods, I have to manually switch them which is a pain, and usually results in me scrambling to change the pairing while trying to answer a call on my phone or laptop.

    On my Windows laptop the volume is super loud and so you have to set it to volume 1 or 2, which means its either medium or loud and no fine adjustments.

  11. Buy a small case with a carabiner hook. I hook them on my belt loop and have never lost one single pair.

  12. I resisted all of the new crop of wireless earbuds until recently, but I’ve warmed to some of them recently. Some thoughts:

    1) You will lose them even if you’re a careful person with a history of being careful with your stuff. It would be a service to the community if you tell us when you first lose your surprisingly delightful AirPod Pro.

    2) I’d really like to see you or someone else objectively compare your purchase to the ~$27 or so Anker Soundcore Life P2, which I have tried and which I think are excellent. Ideally you’d do this comparison before you’d committed your own money to the Apple product and have an emotional commitment to explain the extra expense.

    3) The pricing seems irrational. Given that that excellent alternatives exist for ~$30 its hard for me to understand why I would want to spend $200 for something that does the same thing. I own headphones that cost more than $1000 a set so I’m certainly not averse to spending for quality, but this is a case where I can’t see any significant benefit in spending six times more.

    4) I’ve used my bluetooth earbuds a bunch, but recently I’ve figured out for some use cases I prefer wired earbuds. I run distance a lot, and have found I prefer wired earbuds: they don’t get lost, they don’t run out of charge on very long runs, and you can take one ear out to hear with no fear of losing them. I bought about 30 set of Monoprice earbuds when they were discounted below $3 a set, and in terms of sound quality they meet or exceed $30 or $200 wireless Bluetooth earbuds.

    5) It leaves a bit of a bad taste in my mouth that Apple has removed what was a ubiquitous standard on their phones (the 1/8th inch headphone jack), made their phone less functional, and offered to restore some of that functionality if you pony up $200+ on what’s basically a disposable product. If you somehow don’t lose the earbuds, it is only a matter of time before the battery begins to degrade, just as the phones’ rechargeable batteries slowly die over time. It’s a slap in the face to both the consumer and the environment.

  13. @ shoeguy — Unless this is more of an existential question, isn’t it pretty obvious? I’ve reviewed all kinds of travel headphones in the past, and I’m sharing my take on these new headphones which will replace them, as these have proven great for travel. Like everything I write, if you don’t think the story will be useful based on the headlines, you’re more than welcome to skip that story, and it won’t hurt my feelings.

  14. Never once considered buying earbuds at this price point until I tried my friend’s- was sold immediately. One of the best purchases I’ve ever made considering the amount of use I get out of them.

  15. @ Kendor — Totally valid, and maybe I’ll order a pair of the Anker headphones just to try them and report back. I agree the cost for Apple AirPods Pro is high, though let me share why that’s not a deterrent for me. I don’t have a bunch of gadgets, but those that I do have I use constantly, and for years. Assuming I don’t lose my AirPods Pro, I will be getting a lot of use out of them.

    Sure, $200-250 is a lot to spend, but if I’m using them for hundreds and hundreds of hours, the amortization isn’t bad. That’s why for me even the slightest difference for the better justifies something costing several times more.

    Of course all of this assumes I don’t lose my AirPods, so I’ll report back on how that goes. 😉

  16. Google Rattlegate. Apple issued a Service Program to address the issue, but it seems like it is only a temporary fix. Eventually your AirPods Pro will rattle.

    I really love my Pros when they are working but they are plagued by issues.

  17. @Ben I’d be super-interested in what advantages you find over the Ankers I mentioned: at that price point you’re bound to find some benefits. If Apple decides to pour on the sleaze I suppose they may find ways to subtly break the Bluetooth connectivity and/or make it slightly inconvenient to use competing earbuds. I haven’t had an opportunity to do an extended test on those Ankers with our iPhone, but I’ve had easy connectivity and good results on the Android devices I’ve tried them with.

    I lost first wireless earbud last week. If/when you decide to have kids or have social hour with some, you will find that little children enjoy nothing more than to open earbud cases, pull out the headphones, and strip the silicone tips. That’s how I lost my first earbud, and I’m sure there will be many more opportunities before my four year-old outgrows this hobby. It felt lousy to misplace even a $27 device — I’d go a bit nuts if it was $200.

    I also tried the Tribit Flybuds 3 and thought they were pretty good, especially the charging case which will charge the earbuds 20 times and even doubles as an emergency charging battery for your phone. Handy in a pinch. It’s a nice thing that so many manufacturers are making products in this space that are somewhere between very good and excellent.

  18. A couple tips on not losing your AirPods:

    First, the case fits perfectly in the tiny coin/watch pocket on the right side of pants. I just leave mine in there all day.

    Second, the Find My app on the iPhone remembers the last location of your AirPods, so if you do lose them you’ll have some idea of where to look.

  19. If you’re a jeans wearer like me, the tiny change pocket on your right hip is the perfect size for an AirPods case.

    Mine are either there or charging. Never have to search for them.

  20. @Kendor, AirPods Pro switch automatically between Apple devices.

    For those stuck with Windows, you have my sympathies.

  21. Mac consultant here. Here’s how I manage to not lose my AirPods Pro: There’s a product called AirSnap, from Twelve South, which is a tiny leather case with a clip attached to it. I had lost three pair (of original AirPods) prior to getting it, and haven’t lost a pair since. I usually clip it to a belt loop or bag. Sure, looks dorky, but works great.

    FYI, if you lose one AirPod, Apple will replace it for $50-$60 if you call AppleCare.

    @Kendor: The P2 doesn’t appear to have active noise cancellation. That would make this an Apples to oranges (so to speak) comparison. Anker does appear to offer ANC earbuds for a higher price point that is still half of what AirPods Pro cost, but the noise cancelling and transparency modes, and the ease of switching them, and the comfort, are so good on the AirPods Pro, that I don’t even want to try another product. There’s also some value associated if you use the AirPods Pro with several different Apple devices, since they’re designed around them.

  22. I purchased my first pair, then lost the right ear piece on Lufthansa business class seat, ewr~muc. Purchased my second pair and the same thing happened, even though defensively bought an attachment rubber thing to prevent this. Still lost it. I’m thinking of buying the airpods max max now. No, I didn’t bother the lh stews to call muc mx and take the seat apart. I’m glad I have aapl stock to justify this madness.

  23. Can you talk about the noise cancellation quality and how it compares to the Bose Over the Ear Noise Cancelling headphones? How much noise actually gets in with the AirPods? Thanks.

  24. I also love these for listening anywhere and phone conversations in quiet places only. As soon as you try to use them for a phone call where there is ANY background noise (cars driving past, a sink running, etc.), they are awful. Not for the user, but for the person on the other end. They hear everything in the background as the mics have terrible isolation qualities. As long as you know that going in, you’ll be very happy with these.

  25. @ hp12c, in ear headphone noise cancellation is never going to be as good as quality over the ear headphones, but whether the tradeoff in size/hassle is worth it is 100% a personal opinion. I’m not sure how you can rely on somebody else to make that call.

  26. I bought a good pair of aftermarket foam tips for them – makes all the difference for keeping them in tight

  27. For over ear I love my mpow 059 pro heads. Had the regular ones for about 26 months and they crapped out ($30). Bought the pro on sale for under $50 with warranty. Love them and noise cancelling is pretty solid. Great battery life.

  28. @ steve64, “So I wonder what the FAA thinks of this AirFly “transmitter” ?”

    Why would they think any differently about it than the bluetooth transmitters in your headphones and phone? Which are powered on and usable in airplane mode.

    Technical stuff, so confusing!

  29. @Reaper Silly fanboi tech bigotry isn’t a good look on you. If you’re younger, don’t worry, you’ll eventually grow out of it. We have Macbooks, Windows machines, Android machines, iPhones, Samsung mobile devices, Huawei mobile devices, Amazon devices, Xboxes, and PS4s in our household. All have their particular strengths and all have enriched us figuratively and literally. SQL Server probably made me about a million dollars: not an Apple technology or platform. If you’re passively-aggressively extending sympathies to people who don’t happen buy the same off-the-shelf consumer technologies you do, you may be be missing out on a lot of skills, experiences, and dollars.

  30. I am pro Apple and was excited to buy them. I am a light user of them. Just use them for my daily walk and occasional video conference. In December last year one of then just stopped charging. Not the case but Apple will not fix for free as out of warranty. It’s a shame as I have had many products over the years and few issues.

  31. @Ivan X: I have a few dozen high-end earphones, and a bunch of wired and wireless in-ear earbuds (my wife likes to say she is considering an intervention.) Some have active noise cancellation, some don’t. I’ve long favored in-ear silicone-tipped earbuds for exercise and for anything involving navigating an urban environment. My experience is that active noise cancellation technology is much less important than the fit and seal of the the silicone tips. A really well-fitting set of earbuds will not generally need active noise cancellation: the silicone effectively seals out external noise. Just my experience and my ears, yours may vary.

  32. Ben, I hate to break this to you, but AirPods Pro are up for a new model along with probably a host of other Apple products on or around 3/23/2021. https://www.macrumors.com/2021/03/12/airpods-3-redesign-new-images/

    I agree with you that they are good, but I still prefer my QC35s for flight, but I do use those with an airfly pro in flight. The QC35 keeps out substantially more noise from my take, and I do find in-ear headphones uncomfortable for longer periods of time. They are great for lots of things tho!

  33. @russ they are a replacement for the standard AirPods aren’t they? I understood they are not a replacement for the pro model or have I misunderstood? Agree on the QC35 for inflight though.

  34. Please share an Airfly review later. It would be nice to not rely on airline headphones or lugging around a QC35.

  35. @russ, rumors are rumors, but the new AirPods in March rumor is for “standard” not “noise canceling “ ones.

  36. @Reaper, lol, no harm, no foul. Just wanna make sure all of us can grow to be all we can be. Party on Garth!

  37. I have the first AirPods but not the Pro. Reason being the design doesn’t fit in my ears. But eventually I gave up even the old pods and went back to the old wired ones because when talking people can’t hear clearly unless I raise the voice. Mics are too far from the mouth. So these are a great hearing device but not so much for calls. This is my point of view of course.

  38. Ben,

    A few items which may be game changers:

    1. Buy these EarTune foam inserts and replace the Apple buds. I found that wearing the Pros for long periods of time eventually became uncomfortable and I was somewhere “between” a Medium and Large fit. I found these memory foam tips to be great (and better than the Amazon ones I purchased for my other set of Pros) – https://eartune.com/products/eartune-fidelity-ufa

    If after having the right tips, you still have problems with potentially losing a bud or simply wanting to remove one from your ear – e.g. falling asleep on a plane without the fear of it falling out – check one of these two out –

    Ear hook – Proof Labs 3 Pairs AirPods Pro Ear Hooks Covers [Added Storage Pouch] Accessories Compatible with Apple AirPods Pro (White) https://smile.amazon.com/dp/B0844WPDY5/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_glt_fabc_BBX2SZQX6QH75T2ZTZMN

    AirPod Pro strap – GOGOSODU Compatible with for Airpods Pro Strap, Silicone Anti-Lost Neck Strap Wire Cable Connector Sports Neckband Compatible with for Airpods Pro, 1 & 2 Wireless Charging, Black with White https://smile.amazon.com/dp/B075NCRPJ6/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_glt_fabc_PNHV5FADA18YKQ3S48Z9

  39. @lucky I love my AirPods Pro, mainly because of the transparency and noise cancellation but also because of the fact that they are completely wireless and is packed in a small case.
    The downside of using them on the plane – falling asleep while they’re in. There were multiple times where I woke up and couldn’t find my AirPod. One time it was under the seat and flight attendant helped. The other time, the kind person behind me picked it up while I was sleeping and returned it when I woke up. I wish there was a solution to this problem…

  40. I have always had problems with the cheap wired ear pods they handed out on domestic eco flights. I just never managed to have them stay in my ears, so I wonder if I could get those or similar ones to stay without falling out after 30 seconds.

  41. I bought a pair and idk if they are defective but I hate the connection between my phone and the AirPod Pro, I didn’t have this kind of issue with the 1st gen ones. So I can literally be walking with my phone in my pocket and listening to music and the audio just cuts off, I then put my phone in my hand out of my pocket and it’s a bit better, sometimes it completely just stops working and I can see the audio still going but no sound, if I’m wearing a hoody I would have to put my phone in the middle pocket and it works better, I’ve troubleshooted this thing plenty of times and still same issue occurs, I’m about to just sell them and buy the old ones I had.

  42. I got a set of original AirPods when they first came out and really love them. Biggest problem now is battery life is getting really short and battery is not replaceable. I hope the Pros will last much longer in terms of life of the product.

  43. We bought nuheara brand as they can be set for any hearing deficiency. Because of that they can be a medical insurance item claim , so effectively cost us nothing.

  44. Had to check the date of your article when you said ‘recently purchased’ … because if you had purchased a pair made before October 2020 you might have one of the unlucky ones to get a pair that transmits so much background noise to the person(s) on the other end of the phone that they are almost un-useable – and your review might not have been so glowing.

  45. All these talks of losing them…
    AppleCare plus you can get replacements for $39 i think? Well worth the price for these, I’ve had mine for a year, and used them for at least 800 hours so far. A really amazing product.

  46. hmmm…Seems like you’re paid for this promotion. I prefer the cheap wireless earphones. Even non-apple branded ones can be connected to apple products. This way it’s no big deal if I loose them.

  47. My biggest fear when using the airpods on a flight was them falling off and getting lost between/behind/under seats. The airpods strap solved the problem. There are tons of them on amazon and they’re really cheap. Just pop the airpods in and there’s no danger of them falling too far. The strap rests conveniently around your neck. Although this isn’t ideal, I still consider it the safest way to prevent them getting lost – especially on a flight or when out in a crowded place.

  48. Miami I’ve come to realize living here for 2 yrs is a very introverted city in terms of the locals

  49. It would be a service to readers to know if Apple directly contracted for this review (e.g. cash payment), indirectly compensated for it (e.g. agreed to pay for a block of advertising on the site), or if the desire for a relationship with Apple influenced the review (hard to admit, even to yourself, but readers can dream.) It would also be useful to know if OMAAT has a specific policy for product reviews. I’m asking this with no particular cynicism or agenda.

    This is a little bit different than the credit card pitches, where you’re basically laying out reasons why a card may make sense for people, and financially benefitting if they sign up through your links. Even if companies are explicitly paying you to promote signups in the form of articles, that wouldn’t really bother me that much: we can look at the offer and decide if it makes any sense for our situation.

    If you’re getting paid to run a product review, then it is more difficult to maintain objectivity about the merits of the thing. The product is effectively free for you, even if you “paid” for it, so your review is probably not going to have a typical or honest analysis of value. And there is invariably the financial and business incentives to say the sorts of things that a company like Apple would wish for you to say.

    I don’t have issues with paid promotion but I do like to know when that’s what I’m reading. No idea if that’s what I’m seeing here. Apple often makes fine stuff so it’s possible your effusive comments are 100% from the heart.

  50. @ Kendor — None of those are the case. There’s no relationship with Apple whatsoever, and no desire for one. The Amazon link is an affiliate link, just as I’d do for any link to Amazon, but that’s it.

  51. @Ben

    I have original AirPods and love them but think AirPods Pro look stupid and are a waste of money I would love to see you compare these to the original AirPods?

  52. Just to be completely specific: Apple AirPods Pro and the Apple iPhone both require the Apple Lightning connector on one side of the cable. The other side can be whatever your charger requires which is usually either USB-C or USB-A.
    If you AirPods Pro fall out routinely you probably are not using a large enough ear tip. I had the same problem originally and put in the large tips and the problem has been solved. Also, it is a good idea to used the fit test that is part of the software that is activated when you link the AirPods Pro to your iPhone.

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