Wednesday, April 15, 2020

AirPods Pro Thoughts

I’ve been using AirPods Pro since early December. There are several aspects of them that I haven’t seen much coverage of, so I decided to write up my notes:

Overall, I find it difficult to evaluate AirPods Pro because I have such mixed feelings about them. If I had to pick one model, I would buy the Pros because the seal and noise cancellation make them usable in situations where I couldn’t use the regular AirPods. That said, in situations where I don’t need noise cancellation or a long battery life, I always reach for my original AirPods. They feel better in my ears, and the case makes me happy.

Currently the regular AirPods are on sale for $130 or $150 with wireless charging case, with the Pros going for $235 (via MacRumors).


Update (2020-04-17): Kyle Howells:

I don’t actually like my AirPods Pro very much. I use my normal AirPods for everything and live them! Unless that is I’m going to be traveling and want the noise cancelling, then I use the Pros.

I use them instead of over ear noise cancelling headphones, not instead of AirPods.

Update (2020-04-23): David Roth:

I’m so glad Apple makes 2 models of AirPods, for people with differently sized and shaped ears, and different needs. AirPods Pro itch once in a while, but generally feel much more comfortable and secure than regular AirPods. They’ve essentially ended my quest for a perfect pair

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It looks like firmware issue is not yet fixed: (initial firmware did a better job of noise cancelling).

The AirPods Pro case, even out of the box, isn't as nicely made or solid-feeling as the original AirPods case. The lid audibly creaks/shifts between your fingers.

I never noticed the blueberry smell until you posted this. I can smell it close up but it has never bothered me and I'm told that I am very sensitive to odors. If anything the odor is somewhat pleasant now that I've noticed it.

I'm also puzzled by your opinion of the new squeeze controls. I find them vastly superior to the previous AirPods touch controls and significantly more precise. They also work great with gloves, which are common throughout the northern US in winter months. The old AirPods were not controllable with gloves.

I had very mixed feelings about the original AirPods and compared them frequently to the BeatsX. I wanted the best of both worlds. I bought the Powerbeats Pro thinking that would be the answer but stopped using them immediately upon purchasing the AirPods Pro. They are one product that if I were to lose them I would instantly buy replacements because they are so important to me. The experience of using them seems truly magical, similar to that of the original AirPods but better in every way.

I never noticed the smell or the residue, however, my out of the box experience was in the Apple store which I happened to be near on day 1 of release and that was in a noisy vibrant Apple store. There never has been a noticeable smell.

Unlike the original airpods, these don't fall out of my ears and I find them way more comfortable. I agree talking on the phone (which is the main thing I do with airpods/pro) is just weird and transparency helps, but may as well take one out of the ear.

The cancellation is excellent and I've been struggling to work out whether these are better than my Bose 25 noise cancelling (they are more comfortable, but bulky - until the padded ear cup came unstitched) or not. About the same in many ways.

One weird thing that has started happening is the right airpod feeds back with a short loud buzz if there is a loud noise in the room or one talks a bit loudly. That's weird and annoying.

I agree the press hold click style controls are quite hit and miss. Not really a fan.

One thing I do like is that I can wear these under ear muffs when mowing the lawn. V cool.


Tom Hagopian

Regarding Siri not registering your command, did you hear the connection sound from both 'pods when you put them in? I have 2-3 types of extremely irritating connection problems with all 3 AirPods, and this lack of Hey Siri is one.

@DS I don’t know what to say. I didn't have trouble controlling the original AirPods with winter gloves.

@Tom Not sure about the connection sound, but I had definitely been getting audio through both ears.

I got my Airpods Pro on the first day [and loved my original Airpods] but the new ones are so much better in every single way for me.

The fit is much better, the noise-cancelling is great, sound is better, battery life is great, I can leave them in my ears for hours and they never hurt and I can run with them and they never, ever move....and definitely no bad smell.

Only point I can agree with is @Ulysses - my case creaks as well, which is slightly unnerving given the cost we pay here in Australia for these. It's not an issue per se, just slightly disappointing but if I lost them, I would buy another set straight away so I guess that says it all.

After washing, they no longer left a residue. I aired them out for several weeks, yet the smell remained string.

Found the programmer. 😉

Seth Willits

I currently have been struuuuuggling with firmware issues. A replacement AirPod has a different version of the firmware than the other, and the "process" for updating firmware is more voodoo than voodoo. Two days of unsuccessful finger crossing, spent an hour on the phone with support... no dice.

And this is all because Apple didn't want to put a "Update Firmware" button in the UI somewhere. It happens "automatically at some point."

Now I'm stuck using just one or the other, but not both AirPods.

Other than that, they're great.

Overall the Pros are easily the best headphones I've ever owned. For all the reasons @DS and @rollbahn mentioned.

That said, after several months of using them, there are two improvements I'd like in a future version:

1) An actual haptic click when using the controls, because it can be hard to tell from just the audio effect whether my double-click to go forward has registered as 1 or 2 clicks. (I've noticed it also makes it a little tricky to explain the controls to other people as it's not clear to them the first few times if they've squeezed the stems in the right place.)

2) An obvious indication of which earbud goes in which side of the case. I'm always guessing which shape fits in which hole, like some puzzle game for a 2-year-old that I repeatedly fail.

> 2) An obvious indication of which earbud goes in which side of the case. I'm always guessing which shape fits in which hole, like some puzzle game for a 2-year-old that I repeatedly fail.

Same here, Nigel. There's already a low-contrast L/R on the stem of each AirPod, but you have to remember to look for that.

A Nintendo Switch style different colors for different AirPods / different ports would work, but Apple would never do that. I suppose you could put a tiny colored sticker on the stem of the left AirPod and the same on the left port.

The reason I ask about the connection sound is because of that actually. They played, but Siri didn't work. I put mine back in the case for a little bit now when I don't hear the sound and haven't had problems — with that problem, anyway.

I agree on most of your points. In general I never had any problems with my original AirPods so I just upgraded to the AirPods Pro because of the noise cancelling.

Unfortunately I had to replace my left one already because of some weird clicking noise and I'm currently replacing my right one because of a different buzzing noise. Both issues I found loads of threads about online with people having the exact some one. That's why replacing them was relatively painless and they just sent me a new left one. Or will hopefully soon send me a new right one.

The firmware problem seems to be a bigger one too as when I was talking to the support they also asked me if I noticed the noise cancellation getting worse in the last weeks. That's not really something Apple usually does so I guess it's a serious issue.

I loved the original AirPods, and I was nervous most about the fit. Once I found a good tip size, it really hasn't been a problem. I've been wearing them almost all day for 5 weeks working at home and talking on Zoom at my day job.

I really miss the tap action like you. First, the angle of the "button" is wrong and I often have to contort my hand to press it, and I miss it half the time still. Second, its hard when wearing gloves.

I also really really really wish they would open open the options much more for button presses.

Oh and like Philip, I already had to get the left replaced for buzzing.

However the noice cancelling has been really awesome and totally worth it.

I have regular AirPods and I cannot exercise with them because they fall out. I was told the Pros stay in during running or other exercise. Can anybody confirm this?

I can confirm another case of the smell issue. The smell is so intense and nauseating to me I'm going to return mine. Found your blog post searching for the issue.

@Paul Sorry to hear that. For what it’s worth, sometime within the first year the smell did mostly go away.

@Michael Thank you for letting me know, and thanks for the blog post!

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