Apple’s AirPods are the most popular headphones in the world. Go outside, take a look around, and it’s very likely you’ll see someone with white plastic stems coming out of their ears. Once ridiculed, we’ve come to shrug and accept this signature look as normal. AirPods weren’t the first true wireless earbuds, but they quickly came to dominate the category because of their sublime ease of use and small-enough-to-take-anywhere carrying case. The second-generation AirPods added wireless charging and a few other minor enhancements but left the design and sound quality unchanged.
This week, in a rapid evolution from rumor to shipping product, Apple introduced the $249 AirPods Pro. And a lot has changed, from the slightly bigger case that now opens on the longer side on down to the Lightning to USB-C cable that comes in the box. They’re only $50 more than the regular AirPods with wireless charging, but the AirPods Pro feel like a major next-generation leap.
The big obvious change is the new design, which switches to an in-ear construction with silicone tips. This is a significant upgrade that will instantly appeal to many people. The first two models of AirPods were hard plastic earbuds that sat in your ears, just like Apple’s iconic iPod headphones. This design did the AirPods well — as evidenced by their massive success. But the one-size-fits-most approach always leaves some of us in the cold. It never worked for me. I could get AirPods in my ear, but any sudden movements or even a quick turn of my head, and they’d go tumbling to the ground. Exercise? Out of the question.
If you’re like me and your ears have never been a good match for AirPods, the Pros — yes, I’ll pluralize them however I want, thank you — will finally let you experience the so-called “magic” that others have come to love since late 2016. On top of that, the AirPods Pro also include active noise cancellation to help mute your surroundings when you want little distraction from your music.
To mitigate the downsides of in-ear headphones, such as a clogged, pressure feeling, there’s a vent on the outside of each earbud. So whereas many earbuds can make you feel closed in — you hear your own voice too loudly and almost feel like you’re underwater — that phenomenon doesn’t really exist on the AirPods Pro. As a result, they’re exceptionally comfortable to wear. The vent system also reduces wind noise when you’re on a voice call, according to Apple.