AirPods Pro wireless earbuds test: Apple's thunderclap

AirPods Pro wireless earbuds test: Apple's thunderclap

Here they are, the real new true wireless headphones from Apple. 3 years after the release of the "short" AirPods, the AirPods Pro do not skimp on new features, in particular by providing a revised design and active noise reduction.


Almost three years after their arrival on the market, the notoriety of classic AirPods with the general public remains unrivaled in the field of true wireless headphones. It must be admitted, however, that this popularity only matches the disdain accorded them by the most demanding consumers, who reproach them in particular - and rightly so - with barely passable sound performances and a very perfectible musicality. This observation, the AirPods Pro intend to make it obsolete, by proposing not only an active noise reduction, but also an audio reproduction with ambitions very clearly revised upwards.

AirPods Pro have been commercially available since October 31, 2019, at an indicative price of € 279.


The build quality of the AirPods Pro is extremely similar to the original AirPods i.e. excellent. Both the charging case and the headphones themselves use the shiny white plastic that is Apple's signature and whose reputation is well established: apart from a small tendency to catch micro-scratches, it should easily withstand assaults of time.

On the assembly side, the almost irreparable nature of the AirPods Pro has already been documented, but it is in fact the lot of almost all true wireless headphones on the market - which does not prevent this finding from being deplorable. But we can at least note that here, the abundant use of adhesive materials has the benefit of providing water resistance meeting the IPX4 certification; headphones therefore cannot accompany us during our swimming sessions, but we can at least wear them in the rain without endangering their proper functioning.

AirPods Pro vs. "classic" AirPods

Comfort, meanwhile, has been completely revised. AirPods Pro ditch the one-size-fits-all approach of their predecessors, and come with silicone tips in three different sizes. However, the AirPods Pro do not necessarily become true in-ear: their tips simply come to rest on the entrance to the ear canal, and not insert into it. In this sense, they are closer to the Bose QC20 or QC30 than to the Sony WF-1000XM3, for example. This non-intrusive aspect is obviously a major advantage for comfort, especially since the support is also absolutely excellent - even much better than that of the original AirPods.

However, it should be noted that if this observation is valid for the vast majority of people to whom we have been able to try the headphones, it is not universal. We have had a few rare cases of users not being able to position them correctly in their ears, often due to a conch too small to fully accommodate the body of the headphones. Unfortunately, this is inevitable: the immense variety of ear morphologies in humans makes it impossible to design irreproachable headphones for everyone.

Like the second-generation AirPods released in early 2019, the AirPods Pro incorporate the Apple H1 chip, allowing for deep integration with the brand's ecosystem. Quick pairing in particular works as well as on the first day: simply open the headphone case near your iPhone, press the "connect" button on the interface that has just appeared automatically ... and here are your new headphones already paired not only with your phone, but also with your Apple Watch, iPad and Mac. So no matter what device you're using, just open that device's audio or AirPlay menu to select AirPods Pro as your output device, without ever having to manually disconnect or reconnect them. What happiness!

Integration into the Apple software ecosystem also means the possibility of consulting the charge level of each earpiece and of the box from the widgets of your iPhone, or of controlling the noise reduction from the control center, or even from your device. Apple Watch.

It is also possible to connect AirPods Pro to a non-Apple device, but it goes without saying that the experience is much less satisfactory then. We then not only lose the benefit of multi-device use, but also quite simply access to the headphone settings ... and for good reason: they are housed directly in the "Bluetooth" menu of iOS ( version 13.2 or later only). From here, you can obviously activate or deactivate the noise reduction or the transparency mode - but unfortunately without the possibility of adjusting the intensity of the noise reduction, unlike the Sony WF-1000XM3, for example -, or to change the 'allocation of a long press on the control button.

The headphone settings menu even offers a test to automatically determine if you are using the right size tip - we discuss its effectiveness in the box at the bottom of the test.

Because in fact, the AirPods Pro controls are no longer activated by tapping on the headphones, but by pinching their rod, thanks to the presence of a force sensor. During handling, a small audible click indicates that the pressure has been correctly taken into account; without achieving the naturalness of haptic feedback, the trick is surprisingly effective, and allows this interface to be almost as pleasant to use as a physical button. Long press can optionally control activation of noise reduction or Siri call, while short presses are used to control playback: single press for play / pause, double for next track, triple for the previous track. As almost always with true wireless headphones, the only thing missing is the volume control. To do this, you must either use Siri, or use the buttons on your iPhone ... or the crown of your Apple Watch!

Regardless, it remains eminently positive that the AirPods Pro have largely gotten rid of the Siri addiction that the original AirPods suffered from. Apple's voice assistant has in fact only improved far too little in 3 years: the relevance of the answers it provides to our requests is still just as uncertain, sometimes varying completely depending on the formula. in one way or another. It is also a shame that Apple did not consider it necessary to teach it how to control the noise reduction of AirPods Pro ...

On top of that, the AirPods Pro obviously come with proximity sensors. In particular, they allow you to automatically pause when you remove an earpiece, but that's not all: by default, the transparency mode is also automatically activated on the other earpiece, thus avoiding the unpleasant sensation that comes from switching it on. 'hear the outside world with one ear. The kind of little attention that sure doesn't change your life, but contributes to the true pleasure of using these headphones on a daily basis.

Sobriquet "Pro" requires, the new AirPods are supplied with a USB-C to Lightning charging cable. In case of loss of one or more silicone tips, Apple offers to replace them at a price of 3,60 €.

The autonomy of AirPods Pro is in line with Apple's promise, and very similar to that of classic AirPods: compared to the 5 hours of endurance of the latter, we are either very slightly below with noise reduction activated (4 h 30 min), or slightly above without the reduction (5 h 30 min). The storage box adds to that just under 4 extra full loads. Note that said box is compatible with wireless charging via the Qi standard.

The broadcast latency is approximately 160 ms; a perfectly correct value for true wireless headphones, but still clearly perceptible when it results in a sound / image shift when viewing a video. However, it is rare that we experience this inconvenience, since with most applications on iOS and Mac (including of course system applications), this lag is automatically compensated during reading.

Bluetooth impulse response delay

Finally, let's finish by mentioning the quality of voice capture ... which unfortunately turns out to be a small disappointment, being significantly less effective than those of classic AirPods, especially in the erasing of external noise. Is this a consequence of the AirPods' shorter stem, which would prevent mics from achieving such effective spatial filtering? Impossible to be sure, but still it is that the thing can be harmful, in particular when one wishes to use the voice command "Hey Siri": as long as one is in a subway a little noisy, it it becomes necessary to push your voice more than reason to make yourself understood by the assistant, and thus to attract the exasperated glances of other travelers. We are certainly well above the average for true wireless headphones, but we still hoped for better.

Examples of voice capture in calm indoors, and on the sidewalk of a noisy street with windy weather. Signal normalized to -1 dBFS.


We are not really surprised to see the AirPods Pro confirm Apple's expertise when it comes to the user experience. On the other hand, let's face it frankly, we really did not expect them at this level of audio performance, far from being satisfied with the minimum union that the original AirPods gave us.

In terms of overall balance to begin with, the AirPods Pro rank among the neatest true wireless headphones to have passed through our measurement lab. They offer a very warm color reproduction, as shown by the fairly marked inclination towards low frequencies, but also of a regularity that is simply impossible to fault. No excess or deficit is heard over the entire spectrum, the transparency of the signal produced is ensured in all circumstances.

No harmonic distortion is heard over the entire audible spectrum.

What else to say about the audio performance of AirPods Pro? We have to admit it, we feel all the trouble in the world to find the verve about them. Reason for that: the newborns of Apple have in fact for more beautiful quality ... the fact of having no real defect. In addition to the balance of the frequency response, all criteria taken one by one, there is almost always at least one other model of true wireless headphones doing better than them. The precision of the midrange and treble? It does not rise to the level of the Sony WF-1000XM3 - but remains at a level very sufficient to guarantee perfectly natural rendering of vocals, and entirely satisfactory soundstage clarity, even on the most dense pieces. Low frequency responsiveness? We have already heard better, especially on the side of the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless, a little more punchy and dynamic - but the AirPods Pro still provide transients of a good enough sharpness so that you never feel any lack of 'sitting or depth.

The square wave response at 50 Hz and 500 Hz shows very healthy membrane behavior.

In short, the sound reproduction of AirPods Pro does not really excel in anything, but provides a solid and assured job in everything. She does not have the richness that one would need for an analytical listening by which one would want to perceive all the micro-details of her music; but it does have the cleanliness, liveliness and versatility sufficient for anyone, even among the most demanding users, to be able to listen to any music without any lack standing in the way of their hearing pleasure. . Basically, in our opinion, this is exactly what we expect from a nomadic product like this. An expectation that very few competitors can boast of satisfying so fully.

Noise reduction measurement: reference noise in black, passive isolation in gray, active noise reduction in red, transparency mode in blue

To this is added an active noise reduction of absolutely bluffing efficiency. Let's put it very simply: at the time of this test, the AirPods Pro are positioned with the Sony WF-1000XM3 as the only two models of true wireless headphones on the market to offer truly convincing noise reduction - and even still noticeably more than that. They reduce with disconcerting ease the noises of a car engine, the rolling of a train, or even conversations taking place in a lively open space. Only the slight loss of efficiency of the insulation in the treble should be noted, which means that certain hissing or whistling noises can reach our eardrums with a power a little higher than what we would have obtained with a large headphone. arched. The latter must still keep some advantages for them.

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Let's face it frankly, we weren't expecting Apple's new headphones at this level. The AirPods Pro retain the convenience of legendary use of the "plain" AirPods (provided of course that you are already immersed in the Apple ecosystem), and add to that a very impressive noise reduction - not to mention either achieve a considerable leap in the quality of sound reproduction. At the time of this review, they are quite simply among the very best true wireless headphones available on the market, alongside the Sony WF-1000XM3.

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