I have been using the original AirPods for a few years and liked them. They did have a few flaws like bad passive noise isolation and a slightly loose fit, but the ease of use and convenience outway the problems. I also thought these sounded reasonably good for listening to podcasts and occasional music. Apple has responded to the criticisms with AirPods Pro, and to cut a long story short, they are fantastic.
The main differences are they have a rubber ear tip to help with the fit in your ears. They now provide an excellent reliable seal with no danger of slipping out. They have also introduced active noise canceling that works very well. Granted, they won’t be as good as a larger set of over the ear headphones, but they are not far off. I have used these on a 4-hour flight, and they did a fantastic job of cutting out the engine noise and making my music sound great. They were also very comfortable for the duration of that flight. If I were doing a long haul flight to the US, then I would use over-ear headphones as the AirPods Pro only give 4.5 hours battery on a single charge, but for short-haul, these are perfect.
Another feature I appreciate is the transparency mode, which pipes external sound into your ears while listening to music or podcasts. This is handy if you need to maintain more spacial awareness when walking around. The sound quality of the transparency mode is fantastic, and I use it all the time. With other headphones, I found their equivalent transparency mode sounded more like a phone call, whereas these sound natural.
When using noise-canceling on other headphones, if I go outside and it is slightly windy, the microphones tended to pick up a lot of noise, making the listening experience a little unpleasant, which kind of misses the point of noise-canceling. With the AirPods Pro, I have been outside on windy days with the noise-canceling turned on, and they have not picked up any wind noise, which is fantastic.
I also appreciate the ease of pairing to devices. I am quite deep into the Apple eco-system, so I get to benefit from the H1 pairing chip, and this means once I have paired to my phone, the pairing is synced across iCloud to all my devices. Then if I want to switch to my iMac, for example, I click on the volume icon and tell it to pipe audio to the AirPods, and it instantly changes. Very convenient.
The sound quality of the AirPods Pro is also very good. I am not an audiophile, and I am pretty sure these do not offer a flat frequency response, but everything I have listened to on these AirPods sounds punchy, and you can feel the bass when listening to something like hip-hop or techno. The sound stage could do with being a little wider, but I am delighted with how they sound. With the original AirPods, I rarely listened to music on them and mainly listened to podcasts, but with the AirPods Pro, I listen to music on them all the time, and for their size, they sound great.
I did buy the Sony WF-1000XM3 a week before these came out as I wasn’t expecting Apple to release these when they did. I would say the noise-canceling is slightly better on the Sonys’ and they sound a little warmer than the AirPods, but the XM3 battery case is enormous, and they are a bit of a pain to re-pair with more than one device. Even though they sound a little better than the AirPods, the overall ease of use of the AirPods makes them a much better package overall. I returned the XM3’s.
Ok, the AirPods Pro are expensive. I paid £249, as we always seem to get ripped off on price in the UK with the currency conversion. Still, even with the cost, I use the AirPods so many times a day, and they are so convenient to use, I feel the price is justified and about on par with competing products like the Sony XM3s’. I am pleased with this purchase. When Apple comes to revising the AirPods Pro, I hope they make the noise-canceling even better and tweak the audio quality to have a wider sound stage. Some other colors would also be nice, but I do like the white color, so not as bothered by this.