Goondu review: Apple AirPods Pro offers good noise cancelling, snug fit

December 5th, 2019 | by Grace Chng
Goondu review: Apple AirPods Pro offers good noise cancelling, snug fit
Apple’s AirPods Pro. PHOTO: Handout

By the time I decided to buy the AirPods Pro from the Apple online store here about a month ago, there was a seven-day to 10-day wait for delivery. Since I was travelling to the United States, I took a chance that I would be able to buy it there.

That was the first thing I did when I arrived in Austin, Texas on Nov 11. I walked into the Apple store and bought the earphones. It still sports the iconic design that looked like golf tees except that it has shorter stems.

Like many other Apple products, it comes juiced up and can be used straight out of the box. Still, I charged it that night. Ten days later, it was still going strong.

Admittedly, my usage pattern may have an impact on battery life. Most of the time, I use the earphones for daily workouts, listening to podcasts and occasionally music.

The rest of the time, I put them on for conference calls. Noise cancellation is turned on if the ambient noise is high during those calls. Apple claims that its battery life would be around 24 hours per charge in the wireless charging case, which is about right from my usage.

The reasons people buy wire-free earphones are obvious. No messy entanglements with wires and the ultracompact lightweight earphones are advantageous.

It can’t compare to my over-the-ear Parrot Zik 3 Bluetooth headphones which provide good sound and effective noise cancellation. But as far as a pair of earphones go, the sound, active noise cancellation and good controls make the AirPods Pro a good buy.

It’s also sweat- and water-proof – though not for water sports – and are best for gym workouts and runs.

I realise that like most other wire-free models, these earphones will probably last only a couple of years before their tiny batteries bite the dust. Well, until then, I’m contented and happy using the AirPods Pro.

It comes with silicon tips which feel more comfortable than the original AirPods. It fits snugly in the ear canals and stick out less, which means lower chance of them flying off when I bump up against train passengers or joggers.

The active noise cancelling feature dramatically reduces ambient noise. When I used the AirPods Pro on the flight back to Singapore, baby crying and engine sounds were considerably muted.

I also like the Transparency mode because it lets in some ambient sound. This is important for me during my runs because they enable me to skip out of the way of cyclists and the e-scooters (although banned they still appear on the sidewalks) as they whiz up from behind.

Inside the Apple AirPods Pro. PHOTO: Handout

The controls are also improved. Auto-pause comes on when I remove one bud. I can also use them one at a time like old-fashioned Bluetooth headsets. Instead of using touch controls like the originals, the AirPods Pro use pressure sensors in each stem.

Squeezing the stems in short or long bursts, will play or pause music, change songs, or turn on transparency (ambient sound) mode. I like least these controls because they don’t feel natural.

To avoid some of the grab-and-squeeze controls, I go to the settings that open up on my iOS device when the AirPods Pro are in use. Click on the Bluetooth setting, and it brings you to a page where you can change from Noise Cancellation to Transparency Mode. You can also just use one side.

I’ve been listening to Barbra Streisand, Pavarotti, Adele, Beyonce and Il Divo. The AirPods Pro sound quite good, producing good vocals with great depth and quality.

They deliver better bass and overall sound than the original AirPods. The sound is even better in active noise cancelling mode. However, despite the AirPods Pro fitting snugly in the ear canal, some ambient noise does leak in. I could hear a standing fan whirring in the background.

It automatically pairs to my iOS and Mac OS devices when I open the case. At the same time, a pop-up box shows battery life of the earphones.

There’s a host of useful settings options without having to download a new app. In the Bluetooth settings for the AirPods on iOS, for instance, I can test the AirPods Pro to see if they fit properly and adjust the noise canceling settings. This seems to be a first for Apple.

The AirPods Pro make a good Christmas gift for someone plugged into the Apple ecosystem. It can be used for Android phones, but you would need to download an app for settings and control.

Overall, the AirPods Pro feels lighter and more stable. They have features which are useful especially for gym rats and cardio fans who will appreciate the stay-in-the-ear, sweat proof feature.

Additionally, I like that the charging case works with Qi-certified wireless chargers. I already have one for the iPhone which can be used for the AirPods Pro too.

Its arrival was long rumoured and was a refresh of the original AirPods launched in 2016. Longevity of the AirPods, I discovered, was short since the lithium-ion batteries which power the earphones degrade over time. I found each charge slowly diminishes the juice.

After 18 months, the originals were only gave 50 minutes of use. If this is any indication, I would be lucky to use the AirPods Pro for 60 minutes after 18 months to two years of steady use.

This time the batteries are smaller – remember the batteries are in the stems which are shorter than the originals – which could affect longevity of the AirPods Pro.

That’s why I paid S$39 Apple Care for the S$379 Airpods Pro. If the earphones’ battery diminishes within a year, I can get a new pair.

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