AirPods versus AirPods Pro -- Apple's wireless earbuds compared

Posted:
in General Discussion edited December 2019
Apple's just-launched AirPods Pro are certain to be a desirable audio accessory this holiday season, but how different is it from the existing second-generation AirPods? AppleInsider runs the numbers on both sets of wireless earphones.




Launched on Monday and shipping from October 30, the AirPods Pro are a premium alternative to the existing and already highly-coveted AirPods. The key change for this version is the inclusion of Active Noise Cancellation, but there's far more changes to the model from what's available in its predecessor.

The Spec List

AirPods (Second Generation)AirPods Pro
Dimensions (inches)1.59 x 0.65 x 0.711.22 x 0.86 x 0.94
Weight (ounces)0.140.19
Case Dimensions (inches)2.11 x 1.74 x 0.841.78 x 2.39 x 0.85
Case Weight (ounces)1.411.61
Battery Life (AirPods)5 Hours 4.5 House with ANC, 5 with ANC off
Battery Life (with Case)More than 24 HoursMore than 24 Hours
ConnectivityBluetooth 5.0Bluetooth 5.0
MicrophonesDual BeamformingDual Beamforming, Single Inward-Facing
SensorsDual Optical Sensors, Motion-Detecting Accelerometer, Speech-Detecting AccelerometerDual Optical Sensors, Motion-Detecting Accelerometer, Speech-Detecting Accelerometer, Force Sensor
Sweat and Water ResistanceNoIPX4
Active Noise CancellationNoYes

Physical

The AirPods Pro are best described as shorter and squatter than the AirPods, having a shorter height of 1.22 inches against 1.59 but measuring wider and deeper at 0.86 by 0.94 inches against 0.65 by 0.71 inches. To external viewers, the main difference is the stem of the AirPods Pro is a fair bit shorter than for the AirPods, which is their biggest clue as to which version is being worn.

The short and squat changes also apply to the case, which measures 1.78 inches in height and with a width and depth of 2.39 inches and 0.85 inches respectively. The case for the AirPods is, again taller at 2.11 inches but not as wide at 1.74 inches, and with a comparable 0.84 inches in depth.

The AirPods Pro in the new Wireless Charging Case
The AirPods Pro in the new Wireless Charging Case


If the AirPods Pro case is rotated so it is on its side against the upright AirPods case, there's not much difference at all, with the Pro being generally slightly smaller in terms of overall volume. Just like the AirPods Pro, the case is also slightly heavier at 1.61 ounces, versus 1.41 ounces for the AirPods case.

Another big difference is the AirPods Pro use of additional silicone tips that can be switched between three different sizes to give an optimal fit to the ear cavity, something not offered by AirPods. Apple claims the fit helps provide an "exceptional seal for Active Noise Cancellation" to function optimally.

This arguably also accounts for the additional width of the AirPods Pro, and with the shifting of internals up into the earbud, this allows Apple to reduce the length to something that is less obvious.

Similar Functionality

The core functionality of both the AirPods and AirPods Pro are the same, mostly due to the use of Apple's H1 headphone chip in both models. The chip drives the connectivity with an iPhone or another device, as well as enabling voice-activated Siri, with Apple boasting it also reduces audio latency for gaming by up to 30 percent.

The built-in optical sensors and motion accelerometers work together to manage the audio experience, such as turning on the microphones for calls and for Siri, and for turning each AirPod on to play sound when it is placed in an ear. Taps of each earphone can be used to control music playback or answer a phone call, instead of needing a verbal Siri request to do so or to access the connected device hosting the audio feed.

The speech-detecting accelerometer is able to recognize when the user is speaking then, in concert with the beamforming microphones, can filter out external noise to try and focus on the user's voice for clearer audio.

The Big Difference: Active Noise Cancellation and Adaptive EQ

The main change potential AirPods owners will care about is Active Noise Cancellation, which is available on the AirPods Pro but not the AirPods. As with other noise-cancelling systems, the AirPods detects external sound to determine environmental noise, then creates an equivalent "anti-noise" to cancel it out before it reaches the user's ear.

The AirPods Pro include an extra microphone that is inward-facing, which listens towards the ear. Any remaining noise that is detected by the microphone is then dealt with in a similar way, further enhancing the ANC effect.

According to Apple, this process is performed 200 times per second.

Due to the use of an effective ANC as well as using the vented silicone tips that seal the ear canal, a Transparency mode is offered in the AirPods Pro that can let users hear the environment while still listening to music, making it safer for wearers to hear traffic or other potential hazards while out and about.

An exploded view of the AirPods Pro, complete with silicone tip
An exploded view of the AirPods Pro, complete with silicone tip


The system is similar to ANC in that it detects the environmental noise and processes it, but instead it reduces the volume.

The included Force sensor, new to AirPods Pro, is used to switch between the full ANC and Transparency modes, though it also helps assist with other tapping actions.

The introduction of Adaptive EQ also promises to make music better for users, by automatically tuning the low and mid-range frequencies of the music to the shape of the individual's ear. This, combined with a custom high dynamic range amplifier and a high-excursion, low-distortion speaker driver providing rich bass down to a level of 20Hz, promises to offer a great audio experience.

Power and Sweat

Both versions offer similar levels of power usage, though with ever so slight differences. While both are capable of up to 5 hours of music listening from a single charge, this drops slightly to 4.5 hours for the AirPods Pro when used with ANC. For talk time, the AirPods Pro come out on top with 3.5 hours to the AirPods 3 hours.

Wen used with the charging cases, Apple claims both models offer "More than 24 hours of listening time" in total, and "Up to 18 hours of talk time."

The specifications for charging the AirPods advise 15 minutes in the case will provide up to three hours of listening time. For the AirPods Pro, this is instead described as 5 minutes of charging resulting in around 1 hour of listening, making the two roughly comparable on that metric.

Apple also goes out of its way to state the AirPods Pro offer a level of sweat and water resistance, specifically at an IPX4 rating, whereas there is no mention of the feature for AirPods. It is likely that the additional silicone tips offer enough purchase to make the AirPods Pro more suitable for activities like running and working out, whereas the AirPods' slightly less secure seating make them less useful in that regard.

A Decent Upgrade

In theory, the AirPods Pro are the easy choice among the pair if someone wants to buy wireless earphones to go with their iPhone. The addition of ANC to the device makes it a no-brainer for people who hate having to deal with environmental noise and other distractions, while the Transparency mode still makes the user aware in situations where they need to pay attention.

A single AirPod Pro earphone
A single AirPod Pro earphone


As all other elements are largely the same, it becomes a question of whether the extra price is worth it for these additional functions. Considering other headphones with ANC can command a significant premium on top of non-ANC versions that can run to well over $100 in some instances, paying an extra $50 for the same thing in AirPods is actually quite reasonable.

This is of course in comparing the AirPods with Wireless Charging Case against the AirPods Pro, which uses a similar wirelessly-charged case. The price difference rises to $90 when comparing the lowest cost AirPods at $159 with the non-Wireless version of the Charging Case, but seeing as you gain the Wireless Charging Case as part of the upgrade as well, it's still worth going for it.

First-generation AirPods users looking to replace theirs may also want to opt for the AirPods Pro instead of going for the second-generation AirPods, though both they and second-generation model users may prefer to stick to their existing units instead of upgrading if they don't value ANC that much.

Where to Buy

AirPods Pro will be available only in white for $249 and are available to order from B&H, or Apple directly in the US and more than 25 other countries and regions. AirPods Pro will start shipping on October 30 and be available in stores beginning later this week. Apple's 2019 AirPods refresh remains available.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 31
    entropysentropys Posts: 2,881member
    I assume the ANC is the same software as the Pure ANC of Beats? OK, but not competitive with Sony or Bose. Not that it would be fair comparing in ear earphones with over ear headphones, but like with like.

    When Beats updates Studios I hope it comes with a more significant ANC performance upgrade than transparency mode. i also wonder if these Airpods Pro (and Solos) can get a software update to further improve the ANC? That would be interesting.
    rollerskatercaladanianforgot username
  • Reply 2 of 31
    Maybe carry one headphone from now on, hope the ANC is good. Currently I have both Airpods and Beats Studio for the ANC.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 31
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 9,251member
    I just keep marveling at Apple...
    Between the Watch and Airpods (now the pro version) the iPhone just keeps getting better and better as both compliment it and the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts.   And THEN you fold in how iOS and the iPhone integrate seamlessly with iPads and Macs...  Wow!

    Nice Tim!  Very nice!
    adaeonp-dogflyingdpnot_antonuraharan2itivguywatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 31
    SoliSoli Posts: 10,027member
    I hope AI also does a comparative review of the AirPods Pro against the Powerbeats Pro since both are in-ear and at the same MSRP.
    minicoffeeberndognapoleon_phoneaparturaharan2itivguywatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 31
    jonrojonro Posts: 59member
    I'm interested to know if the sound quality is improved in the AirPod Pros and how good the seal and the fit are.

    caladanianminicoffeeberndogMisterKitforgot usernamejbdragonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 31
    I still hoped for a black or Space Grey version, but regardless I’ve seen enough... Order is in! Looking forward to Weds and their delivery. 
    caladanianGG1uraharawatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 31
    I generally love my original AirPods. However, after two years of use the battery capacity is significantly down to under one hour on one side (automatically picking this side for mic?) 
    since servicing them is 60 bucks. Piece that would add basically 120 every two years recurrent costs (or 5 bucks a month). Not to complain since physics is physics, but simply to take into account when opting for wireless headphones like these. 

    Edit: ok, alternatively, AC+ for 30 bucks will cover Brett replacement when under 80%. Igirss that’s a no-brainer then. 
    edited October 2019 cy_starkmanigrouchon2itivguywatto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 31
    Soli said:
    I hope AI also does a comparative review of the AirPods Pro against the Powerbeats Pro since both are in-ear and at the same MSRP.
    I would love to see this.  I purchased a pair of Powerbeats Pro when they came out in hopes that the improved seal over airpods would help to eliminate outside noise when running, but honestly I don't find them to be any quieter than airpods, especially when it's windy they allow way too much noise in and it's almost impossible to hear them.  Also, the charging is very fidgety and many times I'll pull them out of the case only to find them down to 5-10% because even though they were snug in the case they were not maintaining the connection with the charging points.  Yes, they do stay very snug on the ear, but I've never had a problem with airpods falling out and have jogged with them with no issues. In hindsight wish I would not have purchased the Powerbeats Pro, but I did.  First Apple product I've been dissatisfied with.
    forgot usernamecincymacn2itivguy
  • Reply 9 of 31
    Okay, but how is the sound quality?

    I still stick with wired Etymotic ER4S for the excellent sound quality, plus they cut 25-30db of ambient noise. 
    There’s no need to recharge them, either.
  • Reply 10 of 31
    SoliSoli Posts: 10,027member
    rattlhed said:
    Soli said:
    I hope AI also does a comparative review of the AirPods Pro against the Powerbeats Pro since both are in-ear and at the same MSRP.
    I would love to see this.  I purchased a pair of Powerbeats Pro when they came out in hopes that the improved seal over airpods would help to eliminate outside noise when running, but honestly I don't find them to be any quieter than airpods, especially when it's windy they allow way too much noise in and it's almost impossible to hear them.  Also, the charging is very fidgety and many times I'll pull them out of the case only to find them down to 5-10% because even though they were snug in the case they were not maintaining the connection with the charging points.  Yes, they do stay very snug on the ear, but I've never had a problem with airpods falling out and have jogged with them with no issues. In hindsight wish I would not have purchased the Powerbeats Pro, but I did.  First Apple product I've been dissatisfied with.
    I haven't had any of those issues, but the charging case lid seems wobbly by design when open giving it a cheap feel. I would like some of the AirPod Pro features, including inactive charging for the case, but it's not like I charge them too often so plugging in the Lighting connector for an hour every couple weeks isn't enough to make me jump onto a different option.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 31
    Soli said:
    I hope AI also does a comparative review of the AirPods Pro against the Powerbeats Pro since both are in-ear and at the same MSRP.
    Noticed this earlier on Apple's site:


    philboogien2itivguywatto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 31
    At least they’ve fixed the design and supposedly improved the sound quality, but $250 is super expensive for a device whose battery will wear out in two years and then you’re SOL.
    yuck9urahara
  • Reply 13 of 31
    what’s the difference?

    they won’t fall out of your ears all the time.
  • Reply 14 of 31
    kevin keekevin kee Posts: 1,291member
    I prefer AirPod design than PowerBeats, even though I think both has same ANC software. I lost my right side AirPod II (it doesn't really fit as well as my left one), and thinking to skip the replacement for Pro version with custom silicone tips. Hope the better fit on my right ear + ANC + anti sweat makes AirPod my fav gym pair again.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 31
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 11,154member
    what’s the difference?

    they won’t fall out of your ears all the time.
    Mine don’t fall out of my ears. Am I using them wrong?

    waverboy said:
    At least they’ve fixed the design and supposedly improved the sound quality, but $250 is super expensive for a device whose battery will wear out in two years and then you’re SOL.
    It’s not a fixed design, it’s a different design. Do you need ANC? Are you in the subset of people the years old EarPod shape don't work for? Then the APP are the option for you. If neither of those are the case then the normal model is for you. 
    edited October 2019 randominternetpersonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 31
    philboogiephilboogie Posts: 7,671member
    I'd like to see a transparant design as well


    forgot usernamen2itivguykevin keewatto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 31
    jccjcc Posts: 287member
    One huge problem with in ear designs is that the seal causes mechanical transference of sound. Walking barefoot, your heal strikes, for example, can be heard. Or even heavy breathing. I hope Apple was able to solve this problem. From their technical specs it looks like they did. I’ll have to try it out to see how well.
    forgot usernamecincymacn2itivguywatto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 31
    fred1fred1 Posts: 748member
    I love how they won’t be released for two more days, but there are already four customer  reviews on the Apple app. Just shows how trustworthy these reviews are. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 31
    I wonder if these will work to reduce the noise of the crying child on an airplane  (or just the roar of the engines)? I have an early  Bose over-the-ears for this purpose, but I don't like to use them because they're heavy to carry around and, more significantly, they hurt my ears. I was thinking about getting the Bose in-ear version (wired), but maybe I'll take a look at these instead.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 31
    JapheyJaphey Posts: 549member
    Soli said:
    I hope AI also does a comparative review of the AirPods Pro against the Powerbeats Pro since both are in-ear and at the same MSRP.
    Noticed this earlier on Apple's site:


    Yeah, they dropped the price a week and a half ago. I received a notification from Apple saying it was for a limited time, so that price might not be around much longer. 
    cincymacAppleExposedwatto_cobra
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