Apple announces AirPods Pro for professional music listeners

Despite being wildly popular (largely for fashion purposes) Apple AirPods are a terrible product. Yeah, they have some nice technology inside, and they sound pretty good, but holy cow, they are extremely uncomfortable. Seriously, how can a company worth many billions of dollars not come up with a better design than a rock-hard piece of plastic that you shove in your ears?

Well, today, Apple announces that it has finally fixed the AirPods. No, it is not revising the product, but instead, it is launching a more comfortable version. Called "AirPods Pro," these new wireless earbuds are apparently designed for professional music listeners. Nah, I am being facetious -- they are designed for all users -- but the "Pro" branding is absurd. But thankfully, they do have replaceable ear tips, allowing the user to find the best fit. In other words, the one-size-fits-all approach taken with regular AirPods was, in fact, stupid. AirPods Pro offer more than just increased comfort, however -- noise cancellation is the real selling point here.

"AirPods revolutionized the wireless audio experience with a breakthrough design, and now AirPods Pro take it even further with a new class of lightweight, in-ear headphones engineered for comfort and fit. Each earbud comes with three different sizes of soft, flexible silicone ear tips that conform to the contours of each individual ear, providing both a comfortable fit and a superior seal -- a critical factor in delivering immersive sound. To further maximize comfort, AirPods Pro use an innovative vent system to equalize pressure, minimizing the discomfort common in other in-ear designs. AirPods Pro are sweat- and water-resistant, making them perfect for active lifestyles," says Apple.

The iPhone-maker further says, "Active Noise Cancellation on AirPods Pro uses two microphones combined with advanced software to continuously adapt to each individual ear and headphone fit. This removes background noise to provide a uniquely customized, superior noise-canceling experience that allows a user to focus on what they’re listening to — whether it’s a favorite song or a phone conversation. The first microphone is outward-facing and detects external sound to analyze environmental noise. AirPods Pro then create an equivalent anti-noise that cancels out background noise before it reaches the listener’s ear. A second inward-facing microphone listens toward the ear, and AirPods Pro cancel remaining noise detected by the microphone. Noise cancellation continuously adapts the sound signal 200 times per second."

Apple shares the following features.

  • The Ear Tip Fit Test helps ensure users get the best audio experience from AirPods Pro by testing the quality of the seal and identifying the best ear tip size for them. After placing AirPods Pro in each ear, advanced algorithms work together with the microphones in each AirPod to measure the sound level in the ear and compare it to what is coming from the speaker driver. In just seconds, the algorithm detects whether the ear tip is the right size and has a good fit, or should be adjusted to create a better seal.
  • Voice-activated Siri uses the H1 chip to enable hands-free "Hey Siri" to play a song, increase the volume, make a call or get directions.
  • Audio Sharing makes it easy to listen to the same song or watch the same movie with a friend by simply bringing a second pair of AirPods close to iPhone or iPad.
  • Announce Messages automatically and conveniently speaks incoming messages as soon as they arrive, and when on a phone call or sharing media via Audio Sharing, Siri knows not to interrupt.

Sadly, battery life is not improved with AirPods Pro -- they have the same up-to 5 hours of listening time as the non-Pro variant. Keep in mind, that is without all the fancy active noise cancellation. Once you turn on the ANC, listening time drops by a half hour. Besides ANC, AirPods Pro also feature transparency mode, which allows sounds of the environment to be heard while listing to music -- very important for safety reasons. After all, with all outside noise blocked, you can't be alerted to danger.

The real tragedy, of course, will be all the millennials that currently walk around showing-off their regular AirPods as a fashion and status symbol. Sadly for them, those earbuds are now yesterday's news -- all the truly cool kids (spoiled) on Instagram will surely be upgrading to AirPods Pro ASAP.

Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing provides the following statement.

AirPods are the best-selling headphones in the world. The one-tap setup experience, incredible sound and iconic design have made them a beloved Apple product, and with AirPods Pro, we’re taking the magic even further. The new in-ear AirPods Pro sound amazing with Adaptive EQ, fit comfortably with flexible ear tips and have innovative Active Noise Cancellation and Transparency mode. We think customers are going to love this new addition to the AirPods family.

So, how much will it cost to become a professional music listener? They will be available starting October 30 for a fairly high $249. To be honest, the price isn't obscene for what you are getting, including active noise cancelling. AirPods Pro look great, should be comfortable, and I expect them to offer superior audio too. With that said, if you don't need ANC, you can save some money and buy the excellent Jaybird VISTA wireless earbuds as seen here.

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