I swore I would never do it, but I did the unthinkable: I purchased a new set of Airpods. Specifically, the Airpods Pro (2nd generation) with USB-C. (Henceforth referred to as Airpods Pro, for brevity.)
Let me explain.
Several years ago, I purchased the very first generation Airpods for use with my iPhone 7. My use case was simple: I wanted a pair of wireless headphones to wear during my workouts, whether it be at the gym or on my bike. (I’ve lived the wired headphone life during workouts, and let’s just say, it’s not optimal.)
While the original AirPods never truly wowed me with their audio quality, they fulfilled their promise of offering a truly wireless listening experience. That is, when they stayed in my ears. More often than not, an AirPod would fall out while working with weights at the gym. And, on many occasions, my AirPods would fly off unexpectedly during an outdoor bike ride, forcing me to screech my bike to a halt in the midst of a powerful cadence.
Eventually, I stopped taking my AirPods for my workouts, because they were more of a hinderance than a help.
Years later, I have decided to give the AirPods Pro a try. There were three major features on this model that compelled me to order a pair:
1) the inclusion of four silicone ear tips (XS, S, M, and L)
2) active noise cancellation
3) conversation awareness
I won’t spend too much time on what’s in the box, except to say that the AirPods Pro comes with a MagSafe charging case, 4 silicone ear tips, a USB-C charging cable and a scant leaflet that constitutes documentation.
The bottom of the MagSafe case has a USB-C port, along with accompanying speaker holes (more on that in a bit). The side of the case has two small holes for the purpose of tethering the case to a lanyard loop.
The case is slightly taller than the original AirPods case. Like its original AirPods ancestor, the MagSafe case is easy to tuck into a pair of gym shorts. I like the inclusion of a lanyard hole, though I will probably never use it.
Apple includes a set of four silicone ear tips. After a few weeks of rigorous use, both indoors and outdoors, I’m pleased to report that the ear tips have solved my biggest problem with the original AirPods. The AirPods Pro remain snug in my ears; I no longer feel the need to constantly readjust them to keep them from falling out.
The aforementioned holes on the bottom of the MagSafe charging case contain tiny speakers that will chime, in the event that the case is lost or misplaced and you have Apple’s “Find My” turned on. This worked flawlessly, when testing the feature in my house.
How do the AirPods Pro 2nd Generation USB-C Sound?
Writing about audio quality is difficult, if not impossible. What I will say is this: in my opinion, the audio clarity is several orders of magnitude better than the original AirPods.
I remember putting my AirPods Pro on and going for a walk in my neighborhood. Before playing any audio, I noticed immediately how quiet my environment felt, thanks to the AirPods Pro’s active noise cancellation processing. It was a bit uncanny to experience near silence as I began my walk around the neighborhood. As cars drove by, the AirPods Pro would adaptively adjust themselves, which made me more aware of vehicles approaching my vicinity.
My first test track was Tibetan flute music. The mids and highs felt crystal clear. Coupled with the active noise cancellation, I was experiencing the sound in a way that I had never before. Equally impressive, in my opinion, is the bass response: it’s punchy, but not mushy. My test track for bass response was C+C Music Factory’s “Gonna Make You Sweat”.
Even properly mixed podcast audio sounds crisp and clear with the Airpods Pro.
Walking is different from cycling. If you ride on a moderately breezy day, you will hear the wind; Airpods won’t magically cancel out all sound.
The Airpods Pro include touch controls on both stems of the Airpods Pro that will let you pause or play audio. There is a slight, tactile click that accompanies the pressing of the force sensor. You can also double-press the force sensor to skip forward, and triple-press the force sensor to skip back. These worked as expected.
What’s even more impressive is Spatial Audio, which made my music listening experience feel incredibly immersive. To experience this properly, you’ll want to download audio tracks that are specifically optimized for Spatial Audio. I’ll do my best to describe the experience: Imagine being center-stage at a performance, with a vocalist in front, guitarist on your left and bassist on the right, with the drummer in the background.
With Spatial Audio, you are experiencing the music as if you were experiencing it firsthand. I listened to some of my favorite songs (both studio and live recordings) with the Airpods Pro, and felt like I was listening to them with brand new ears. (If you’re a fab of The Who, give the Spatial Audio version of “Baba O’ Reilly” a listen. It’s incredible, to say the least.) Spatial Audio will not fix a poorly mixed audio recording.
Pairing and switching between devices
I’ve paired my Airpods Pro with my iPhone and two Macs. Pairing and switching between my devices was simple and straightforward.
Apple promises 6 hours of uninterrupted listening time on a single charge. I have not tested this aspect for myself, but I can say with certainty that my Airpods Pro have had enough juice for my casual usage. I have only charged the MagSafe charging case one time in the past 3 weeks. I typically use my Airpods for an hour or two each day, at work and during my workouts. Not only do my Airpods not fall out, they do not give me “ear fatigue” like nearly all over-the-ear headphones have in the past.
All in all, I really like the Airpods Pro (2nd gen, USB-C). The fit is comfortable and the audio quality is remarkable. My concerns, like with nearly all of Apple’s mobile products, is the lack of repairability. Batteries will eventually wear out, and Apple does not have any user-serviceable replacement battery options.
Time will tell on how long my Airpods Pro will last, but I have purchased AppleCare to hedge my bets, should anything problematic surface within the first two years of using them.