Should I buy an Apple AirPod Pro?

Apple: The AirPods Pro in the test - is it worth buying Apple's blockbuster?

Apple has introduced a newer and more expensive version of its hugely successful AirPods wireless headphones - with active noise cancellation. For whom is it worth buying?

Since it was launched three years ago, Apple's AirPods (179 euros) have become the best-selling headphones on the market. Since then, the design of the headphones has not changed, only a variant with a wireless, rechargeable transport case (229 euros) was presented last year.

AirPods Pro have been fundamentally redesigned

With the AirPods Pro (279 euros), Apple has now presented a fundamentally revised version and made several major changes:

  • For the first time, the earphones will be delivered with silicone tips in three sizes - good news for everyone who has previously had problems with fitting the AirPods in one size.
  • The headphones support active noise suppression, so that you can better understand the music or the person you are talking to in a noisy environment - or you can simply have some peace on the train or plane.
  • Instead of the touch control of the AirPods, there is now a sensor surface to press to pause music, jump forward or backward a song or to switch between noise suppression and the transparency mode.
  • You are protected from rain and sweat.

In everyday life, these changes were largely convincing. Here are our experiences in detail:

The facility has been expanded to include a pass test

The AirPods Pro are still the headphones that are easier to set up than any competing device. All you have to do is take the charging case out of its packaging, open it, hold it up to the iPhone and tap the "Connect" button that appears on the display.

The headphones then automatically connect to the phone when you take them out of their charging cradle and put them in your ears. That too is unbeatably simple.

A one-time trip to the Bluetooth menu is still worthwhile with the AirPods Pro, because there is a fit test that checks whether the silicone earplugs also fit and are securely in the ear. Apple plays a short piece of music to do this. The microphones on the inside of the earphones now use the sound to check whether the plugs are tight - the app gives you a hint if you should try another attachment.

Fit in the ear: tight, without the typical "plug feeling"

While the AirPods, like the EarPods included with the iPhone, sit loosely in the ear, the new AirPods Pro seal the auditory canal, just like most in-ear headphones do. According to Apple, a special air duct in the headphones is supposed to equalize the pressure between the outside world and the inner ear. In our test it actually worked, the new pros do not have the typical "plug feeling" that in-ear wearers usually experience.

In the test, the listeners sat noticeably tighter than the AirPods. This makes them more suitable for sporting activities. In addition, according to Apple, the devices should now also be protected against rain and sweat. However, the protection has its limits: the tiny white ones are not allowed to submerge.

Another advantage in sports: the handle is now significantly shorter, so that it is less easy to get caught on it - this happened quickly with the predecessors, for example with the straps of the bicycle helmet.

Noise cancellation works well

The noise cancellation of the AirPods Pro was very decent in the test. Apple explains that an external microphone and an internal microphone constantly check the external noise and the internal noise in the ear. Thanks to Apple's H1 chip, listeners could adjust the audio signal 200 times per second in order to be able to cancel out outside noise as effectively as possible.

Over-ear headphones, such as those from Bose or Sony, do a little better at this - but Apple's latest AirPods do very well for in-ear headphones. In everyday life, the function makes a pleasant difference in many situations.

Transparency mode ensures safety in traffic

The new transparency mode is at least as important. It ensures that you can hear the outside world well - despite the plug in your ear. To do this, the external microphones (there are a total of three microphones installed per listener) pick up the ambient noise and mix them into the audio signal of the headphones.

The result is really good: If the transparency mode is activated, it sounds like nothing is in your ears. That makes Apple considerably better than many of its competitors. This makes the new headphones particularly interesting for situations in which you have to be aware of your surroundings - for example in traffic.

Because of their open sound, cycling, for example, also worked well with the older AirPods. Here you had to set the music or podcast very loud to drown out the outside noise - and above all the rustling of the wind. In the transparency mode, everything can be regulated a little quieter, wind noise is much less audible, probably also because of the smaller stems.

Sound: balanced and pleasant

In a tonal comparison, the new AirPods Pro benefit greatly from the firm fit in the ear canal compared to their predecessors - so the comparison is not entirely fair. If you do it anyway, the AirPods Pro are way ahead: The bass, in particular, is much more present without superimposing other frequencies. In general, the sound is very balanced. Apple dispenses with special accents and delivers a round, slightly warm, very calm mix that does not overstrain the ear even when listening for a long time. For true wireless headphones in this price segment, you get an absolutely adequate sound.

Battery life: similar to its predecessors

The battery life is considerable for the size of the earphones: Apple states four and a half hours of battery life, with noise suppression. That fits roughly with our experience. It should be three and a half hours for phone calls - we didn't try that, but it sounds plausible given the corresponding runtime of the previous models. However, you will seldom use the full battery life - because as soon as you stow the earphones briefly in the transport case, they are recharged. The white box holds energy for a total of 24 hours of use. If the earphones are empty, you have an hour of listening time after five minutes in the charging case.

Handling: Apple is still setting standards here

If there was one thing about the previous AirPods that was almost perfect, it was handling. Setup, daily operation, even switching between different devices: no other manufacturer makes it as intuitive as Apple. The second argument, which is just as important in everyday life: the AirPods transport case is so small and flattering that you can actually carry it in your pocket without any problems. And the headphones are usually charged. That may sound profane, but it makes a significant difference compared to many other devices and leads to the fact that you use the AirPods when in doubt. This also applies to the new Pro version. The transport box is slightly larger - it makes no difference in terms of use.

Conclusion: not perfect - but the best overall package

Apple AirPods Pro are really good, completely wireless in-ear headphones. Those who primarily look at the sound will find better wired over-ear headphones for 280 euros. If you are only looking for Bluetooth headphones for occasional podcasts or listening to music, without having special demands on the sound, you will definitely find cheaper models. But the package of absolutely simple handling, good sound, constant availability and very compact earphones including charging case is - at least for iPhone users - not even remotely as round in any other product.

Android users can also use the AirPods Pro - handiness, sound and good noise suppression are clear advantages for them too. The simple setup is reserved for Apple users.