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Apple AirPods Pro headphones review: The best buds for Apple fans

Updated Nov 30th, 2021 2:39PM EST
Apple's AirPods Pro on a table
Christian de Looper for BGR

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AirPods Pro review

Apple wasn’t the first to true wireless headphones, but it would incorrect to say that the company didn’t popularize the concept. The original AirPods were iconic in their design, and how they worked with Apple products, but they didn’t really go the extra mile. Enter the AirPods Pro.

The AirPods Pro are built for those who like that Apple integration but want a little more from their true wireless buds. To that end, they offer noise cancellation, an improved sound quality, and support for features like Spatial Audio. They’re also more expensive. At $250, these headphones have to perform. Do they? I’ve been using the Apple AirPods Pro for a while now to find out.

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AirPods Pro design

The AirPods Pro look like they’re in the AirPods family, but they offer a slightly different design from the standard AirPods that both help them look a little better, and helps them fit better in the ears. That’s important considering the fact that noise cancellation requires a seal.

The charging case used by the AirPods Pro is wider than that of the standard AirPods, but it’s still easily pocketable. It measures 2.39 inches wide, 0.85 inches thick, and 1.78 inches tall. I found that it was easy enough to forget that it was in my pocket at all. That’s good. Some true wireless headphones, like the Beats PowerBeats Pro, offer a monster of a case.

Apple AirPods Pro Buds 2Image source: Christian de Looper for BGR

On the back of the case, you’ll get a pairing button, while on the bottom you’ll get the Lightning port. Yep, Lightning. I hope Apple moves completely to USB-C at some point, but that’s unlikely to happen.

The earbuds themselves nicely slot magnetically into the charging case. It’s very easy to place them in properly, ensuring that they’ll charge when not in use. The shape of them is slightly different from the standard AirPods, but in a good way. The stem is a little shorter, plus it’s angled. And, the main body of the buds is a little larger to help create a better seal.

On the top of the AirPods Pro can be found a vent, which is aimed at minimizing that clogged feeling that you can get from some in-ear headphones. That actually does help play into comfort, which we’ll go into later.

The headphones offer replaceable ear tips, and those ear tips are relatively easy to replace. AirPods ear tips have a grill at the bottom to help prevent ear wax and dirt from getting into the headphones permanently. It’s a nice touch and helps make the headphones easier to clean.

Apple AirPods Pro CaseImage source: Christian de Looper for BGR

The AirPods Pro are still only available in white. I would have liked a black pair, but Apple has that whole white look going on. They’re probably not going to offer more colors any time soon. Still, the headphones look pretty good and definitely work for those who want that immediately recognizable style. They also have an IPX4 water resistance rating, so if you get caught in the rain with them, they should survive perfectly fine.

AirPods Pro features and battery

The AirPods Pro have a number of features and options that helps set them apart from other true wireless headphones. First, the headphones are relatively easy to control. Apple has built so-called “Force Sensors” in the stem of each bud, which let you control volume, playback, and Siri. It works relatively well. You will have to get used to squeezing the stems to control your headphones. Once you do, you’ll love the system — mainly because the headphones give you audible feedback to know that you’ve controlled something, unlike some other touch-sensitive buds and headphones. Here’s a rundown of the default controls.

  • One squeeze: Play, pause, answer a call
  • Two squeezes: Next track
  • Three squeezes: Previous track
  • Hold: Switch between noise-canceling modes, or activate Siri

You can customize the controls for the different sides if you so choose. For example, if you want you can hold the right stem to activate Siri, and the left to switch between noise-canceling modes, or vice versa, you can select those options in the Settings app on your iPhone, or in the Bluetooth menu on your Mac. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem as though those controls carry over to other platforms. So, you’ll have to manually tweak them separately on each device you use.

Apple AirPods Pro BudsImage source: Christian de Looper for BGR

The AirPods Pro support other features too. Notably, you’ll get Apple’s awesome automatic switching feature, which means that your AirPods can seamlessly switch to your Mac, iPad, iPhone, and Apple Watch whenever it detects that you’re using those devices. It doesn’t seem to work quite as well as it does on the AirPods Max, but it still works well, and connecting to the AirPods Pro manually is very easy.

Last but not least is Spatial Audio, which basically simulates surround sound. Spatial Audio works with compatible videos and music, and it works really well. There have been plenty of virtual surround sound technologies in the past, but Spatial Audio is by far the best that I’ve heard. To date, Spatial Audio has not been available on the Apple TV, however that’s finally changing when Apple launches tvOS 15 later this year.

Generally speaking, Apple continues to make living in its walled garden better and more beautiful. The AirPods Pro are a perfect example of this. Sure, you can use other true wireless headphones, but you won’t get Spatial Audio or automatic switching. Those are features that can really help.

The battery life on offer by the AirPods Pro is fine, but it’s not great. You’ll get 4.5 hours of use on a single charge, or 5 hours if you have noise cancellation turned off. With the battery case, Apple says you’ll get over 24 hours of listening time, though of course, you’ll have to charge the headphones every four or five hours.

AirPods Pro comfort

In-ear headphones generally aren’t as comfortable as over-ear headphones — but as far as in-ear headphones go, the AirPods Pro are pretty comfortable.

Apple AirPods Pro ComfortImage source: Christian de Looper for BGR

For starters, the buds have a shape that helps them stay nicely in your ears without ever feeling like they’re too big. And, the aforementioned vents help eliminate that clogged feeling that you can sometimes get from true wireless headphones. Lastly, the headphones come with a few different pairs of ear tips — though the default pair worked best for me.

The result of all this? The AirPods Pro are very comfortable in-ear headphones. In fact, I was able to wear them from being fully charged, to running out of battery, without them ever feeling like they were getting uncomfortable. Now, there’s still something in your ears, and that means that for my use, they’re not as comfortable as a pair of over-ear headphones. But you won’t find yourself having issues with the comfort level of the headphones.

AirPods Pro sound quality

AirPods are all about that complete package, but when you’re buying headphones, the most important thing to consider is audio quality. Thankfully, the AirPods Pro sound good. They’re not audiophile headphones, and you shouldn’t expect them to be — but for casual listening, they sound great.

The bass response, for starters, is very good. The headphones do have a bit of a bass boost, but it’s not over the top. The bass that is here doesn’t extend super low, but you wouldn’t expect it to. Instead, kick drums nicely cut through a mix and bass guitars sound nice and smooth.

The mid-response on offer by the AirPods Pro headphones is good too. There’s a slight cut in the higher mids, which helps make the headphones sound a little more consumer-friendly than audiophile headphones would. But generally, the frequency response on offer by the mids on the AirPods Pro is relatively flat.

Apple AirPods Pro TipsImage source: Christian de Looper for BGR

The highs on the AirPods Pro are crisp and detailed, helping make for an exciting listening experience overall. The highs aren’t quite as crisp as those on much more expensive headphones, but again, they’re still very good for a pair of true wireless headphones.

The AirPods Pro also offer both noise cancellation and transparency mode. Noise cancellation is solid on the AirPods Pro. It’s not as impressive as that on the AirPods Max, and in fact, it’s not quite as good as the Sony WF-1000XM4. But it’s still more than good enough for most scenarios. The transparency mode is good too, allowing you to hear things like traffic noise or a friend in a conversation. But again, it’s not as good as that on the AirPods Max.

AirPods Pro review conclusions

The AirPods Pro would be great true wireless headphones even if they didn’t fit perfectly into the Apple ecosystem. They sound great, offer solid noise cancellation, and have a good fit. Then, there’s the Apple stuff — like the automatic switching and Spatial Audio support. That helps bring the headphones to the next level.

The competition

The biggest competition to the AirPods Pro comes from Apple itself — in the form of the standard AirPods with wireless charging. The standard AirPods, however, don’t sound as good. They also don’t support some of the cooler features of AirPods, and don’t have noise cancellation. As a result, if you can afford AirPods Pro instead, it’s worth the money.

Perhaps the biggest competition comes from Sony, with the new Sony WF-1000XM4 headphones. These are Sony’s flagship true wireless headphones, and if you don’t care about the Apple-exclusive features, and just want the best pair of true wireless headphones that can work with all of your devices well, then the Sony option is the way to go.

Are the AirPods Pro worth buying?

Yes. If you’re within Apple’s ecosystem and want a pair of true wireless headphones that play nice with all your devices, the AirPods Pro are the way to go.

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Christian de Looper Senior Reviews Editor

Christian de Looper is based in sunny Santa Cruz, California. He has been expertly reviewing tech products for more than 8 years, and brings experience in deep technical analysis of consumer electronics devices to BGR's reviews channel.