AirPods Pro Review: Active Noise Cancellation is the ‘Real Deal Holyfield’

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After UPS dropped off our AirPods Pro package in the evening yesterday, we finally managed to get our grubby little paws on these new earphones after trick-or-treating.

Apple announced AirPods Pro via press release this week on Monday and launched them on October 30, detailing the new earphones with Active Noise Cancellation and a Transparency mode, powered by the same H1 chip found in second-generation AirPods.

AirPods Pro are also made to stay better in your ear thanks to its new design with ear tips, plus made to be water-resistant for your workouts.

Unboxing AirPods Pro you’ll find the new slightly larger charging case, included extra ear tips (sizes small and large; the AirPods Pro have medium tips on them), and a Lightning to USB-C cable.

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First impressions, these earbuds are tiny and still slippery as hell like original AirPods. The charging case feels the same, with the familiar satisfying click when it closes like regular AirPods. They still pick up as much lint and other gunk like before due to static electricity and the magnets inside.

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Pairing AirPods Pro is just like pairing AirPods—you place them next to your iPhone and open the case lid, then tap ‘Connect’. Once this is done, you’ll be able to use AirPods Pro with all your iCloud-connected devices, one of the easiest pairings for Bluetooth headphones, ever.

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Putting AirPods Pro into my ears for the first time, the fit was comfortable, more so than Powerbeats Pro. After enabling Active Noise Cancellation (requires both earbuds in your ears), I was taken back at how effective it was, muting the environment around me like I had earplugs in. I couldn’t even hear my family talking to me and realized it was the AirPods Pro with ANC on. It’s impressive how this works and I had a rare ‘surprise and delight’ Apple moment, similar to when I first tried on the original AirPods. This is some cool in-ear technology in such a small earbud.

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AirPods Pro (L) vs AirPods (R); AirPods Pro Wireless Charging Case on right

Pressing and holding on the new ‘force sensor’ on the stem quickly (this button can be customized in settings) disables ANC and enables Transparency mode, allowing you to hear the environment around you. Transparency mode is also trippy as you can hear everything around you while still listening to what’s playing on AirPods Pro.

ANC is like blocking out the world, while Transparency mode lets them in temporarily, which is important if you’re out on a run or taking the subway, times when it’s about safety knowing what’s around you. Switching back and forth between both modes still impresses me every time.

With both ANC and Transparency mode off, it just feels like you have earbuds in your ears, with some outside sound muted. Changing between all three modes you’ll hear satisfying tones confirming each switch. You can also ask Siri to switch modes, while also make changes in Control Center by pressing and holding on the volume control.

If you leave your AirPods Pro in Transparency mode or ANC, they’ll stay in that mode when you connect them to your Mac.

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AirPods Pro sound better than AirPods with more bass and also Powerbeats Pro, thanks to ANC. If you’re expecting a sound upgrade over AirPods, you’ll find them with AirPods Pro. These will also be great for watching movies connected to your Apple TV with ANC making for a big upgrade.

Apple’s Ear Tip Fit Test with AirPods Pro also is neat (available via Bluetooth settings by selecting your AirPods Pro), letting you know if you have a secure fit or not.

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Switching ear tips is relatively easy. You just remove the existing ear tips off the AirPods Pro earbuds and pop the new ones on, which snap on. The silicon appears to be quite durable and won’t tear despite your worst fears.

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AirPods Pro ear tip in size medium flipped up

I haven’t taken AirPods Pro out on a run yet (the couch and a bucket of KFC is calling my name instead; not), but I have some confidence they will stay in my ears better than AirPods. But not enough confidence versus Powerbeats Pro–those will never fall out. One mistake and these expensive AirPods Pro earbuds will end up in a storm drain.

AirPods Pro sound great and even better with ANC enabled. The fit is comfortable. Battery life hasn’t been tested yet but I don’t doubt Apple’s claims they’ll be about on par as second-gen AirPods. The ear tips are also easy to add and remove.

As for downsides, AirPods Pro are expensive at $329 in Canada. They are also still very slippery and pick up lint and ear wax easily. You don’t want to lose these as they’re very tiny. Replacing them will cost you $115 CAD per earbud from Apple.

Your best bet to save on these is to wait for a sale on Sport Chek gift cards at Canadian Tire. Then, when AirPods Pro eventually reach Sport Chek, buy them when they go on sale with your discounted gift cards (even better if you purchase on a bonus Triangle Rewards weekend to double-dip on savings). We’ve seen Powerbeats Pro drop from $329.95 down to $207 after discounts before. It’ll be interesting if AirPods Pro will ever see similar savings (most likely not).

It’s going to be hard going back to regular AirPods after using AirPods Pro after all these fanboy moments. My wallet already hates me. How are you liking Apple’s AirPods Pro?

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