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AirPods Pro vs AirPods (2019): Which wireless earbud is best?


AirPods Pro vs AirPods: Apple announced the AirPods Pro with little fanfare, boasting a new design and active noise cancellation. Are they worth getting over the existing AirPods?

The Pro version arrived not long after the updated AirPods (2019) did, and it marked a change in direction for the tech giant. They’re more expensive but they also have more features

If you’re looking for a new pair of earbuds to go with your iPhone, which out the AirPods Pro vs AirPods should you get?

Related: Best Wireless Earbuds

AirPods Pro vs AirPods – Price

The AirPods can be had for as low a price as £120. This is the version that comes without the wireless charging case. The wireless case version had an RRP of £199, but you can currently find them for £159.

At £249 the AirPods Pro have a significantly higher price. They do, however, have more advanced features than the standard AirPods.

Related: Best Noise-Cancelling Headphones

AirPods Pro vs AirPods 2 – Design

The updated 2019 AirPods are identical to the first iteration, but the AirPods Pro offer a much more radical design than we’re used to from the AirPods true wireless range.

While the stem remains, the AirPods Pro have touch controls for playback and calls at the bottom of it. The  sleek profile remains intact, but the in-ear housing is bigger and now comes with silicone ear-tips, so they can be changed to fit larger or smaller ears. Unlike the AirPods (2019), they burrow into the ear instead of sitting on its edge.

There are three different sizes of ear-tips – small, medium and large. For increased comfort the AirPods Pro have a vent to equalise pressure and reduce the discomfort some may experience with in-ears headphones

Apple never confirmed nor denied an IP rating for its AirPods, but we know the Pros are rated up to IPX4. That certification means they can survive some water and sweat, which makes them better for when it rains, and with the better fit, more useful for workouts, too.

When it comes to design, comfort and fit, the AirPods Pro easily takes the win here.

Related: AirPods Pro 2 – What to know about the ANC wireless earbuds

AirPods Pro vs AirPods 2 – Features

The H1 chip introduced in the AirPods is used by the AirPods Pro. It enables hands-free Siri interaction and less audio latency. Battery life of both the AirPods and AirPods Pro is 5 hours of audio playback, 3.5 hours of talk time, and when ANC is engaged on the Pro the battery drops to 4.5 hours.

Active noise cancellation (ANC) and the revamped design means the Pro is  better at noise isolation (blocking out external sounds). For those who still like to hear what’s around them, the Pro’s Transparency Mode gives users the option to listen to their music and also hear what’s in the surrounding environment.

Ther AirPods Pro also have a force sensor on the stem, and a tap there switches between ANC and Transparency Mode. It can also be used to play/pause tracks or accept/end calls, while volume control remains embedded in Control Centre on an iOS device.

Another new feature the AirPods Pro have that the standard version doesn’t is the Ear Tip Fit Test. It tests the quality of the seal and tells you whether you need to adjust the placement. It requires both earbuds to be inserted into the ear, and ‘advanced algorithms’ detect whether each ear tip is the right size/good fit.

Just like the design section, the AirPods Pro win by a big  margin.

Related: AirPods 3 – What you need on Apple’s next true wireless earbuds

AirPods Pro vs AirPods 2 – Sound

Sound quality has always been an issue for the AirPod range. The loose, open fit of the AirPods allowed for a poor seal, the result was a wash of sound that competed with audio playback.

That’s no longer the case with the AirPods Pro. We’ve often dismissed the quality of the audio, but it’s not as easy to do that with the Pro. They sound very good across many music genres, with noticeably deeper bass, improved detail and greater clarity. The soundstage is wider too, and the Pro offer a warm sound that’s completely absent from the standard wireless earbuds.

Compare that with the standard AirPods and the ‘normal’ version have a weak bass-response, and complicated tracks have a tendency to be rendered without much clarity or organisation. Vocals are at least done well, but you’ll have to factor in that with such poor noise isolation, the headphones have to compete with loud surroundings such as a train, plane or populated areas.

Related: AirPods Studio − What to expect from the Apple over-ears

AirPods Pro vs AirPods 2 – Verdict

The AirPods Pro are a big improvement over the standard AirPods. In fact, with the changes and enhancements brought in it would be hard not to be better. With the better fit, they sit in your better. Active noise cancellations means the can shut out more noise and the audio quality is leaps and bounds better.

The only question mark is whether you’d want to pay a premium price for AirPods Pro. We’d say yes, they’re much, much better and if you’re looking for an Apple headphone to go with your iPhone, they’re the best available.

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