Apple announced AirPods Pro Monday — without a media event — featuring an in-ear design with active noise cancellation, as predicted by a recent leak. AirPods Pro are available for preorder now, and will ship October 30th for $249.
Apple’s new AirPods Pro feature an in-ear design. That means they’re designed to fit just inside your ear canal, where they form a seal. Regular AirPods are specifically designed to just sit in your ear without fitting into your ear canal and without forming a seal.
There are pros and cons to both approaches. Regular AirPods allow you to maintain more awareness of your environment, for instance, which might be better for walking through a city. AirPods Pro, however, will have more responsive bass, and isolating you from your environment enhances the active noise cancellation process.
Apple also claims to have an “innovative vent system to equalize pressure, minimizing the discomfort common in other in-ear designs.”
Active Noise Cancellation
Each AirPods Pro will use two microphones for the active noise cancellation process. One microphone is outwards facing and samples the world, while the second microphone samples inside your ear. AirPods Pro will then eliminate noise by creating sound waves that negate external noise.
More importantly, each AirPods Pro is customizing this process for each ear, and Apple said noise is being checked 200 times per second.
But, Apple is taking it another step, too, by allowing users to use a “Transparency Mode” that artificially adds in enough environmental noise to make it more appropriate for, again, walking through a city.
“Using the pressure-equalizing vent system and advanced software that leaves just the right amount of noise cancellation active, Transparency mode ensures that a user’s own voice sounds natural while audio continues to play perfectly,” Apple said. In other words, with Transparency Mode, you won’t be That Guy who’s yelling in a conversation because he can’t hear himself. Our experience with this technology on other earphones like Earin’s M-2 make this a great fit for chatting with flight attendants on airplanes, for example.
AirPods Pro In-Ear Tips and Apple’s In-Ear Sound Test
Apple is shipping every pair of AirPods with three different sizes of silicone tips. That’s all well and good, but Apple is doing something I haven’t seen before by having the AirPods Pro actually test to make sure you are using the right tips for your ear.
According to Apple. “After placing AirPods Pro in each ear, advanced algorithms work together with the microphones in each AirPod to measure the sound level in the ear and compare it to what is coming from the speaker driver. In just seconds, the algorithm detects whether the ear tip is the right size and has a good fit, or should be adjusted to create a better seal.”
If it works, that should greatly improve customer satisfaction for AirPods Pro.
Apple said AirPods Pro will have the same battery life as regular AirPods, which is up to five hours of listening time—without active noise cancellation. With active noise cancellation on, AirPods Pro will have up to 4.5 hours of listening time and up to 3.5 hours of talk time on a single charge.
Other Features of AirPods Pro
AirPods Pro feature Adaptive EQ, “which automatically tunes the low- and mid-frequencies of the music to the shape of an individual’s ear — resulting in a rich, immersive listening experience.”
Bass response reaches down to 20Hz.
I ordered a pair while working on this story and was offered delivery on October 31st. They’ll be in stores on October 30th.