I was lucky enough to pick up a pair of the new AirPods Pro just before a four hour flight, which was the perfect opportunity to put them to the test. I have used a pair of AirPods almost daily since the first release on December 13, 2016. From day one, the usability and quality of AirPods wowed me. I was quick to upgrade to the wireless charging model of AirPods, which came out on March 20, 2019. I found that upgrade quite unremarkable. I have also used a pair of Samsung Galaxy Buds, as I received them bundled with my Samsung Galaxy S10 5G.

The AirPods Pro are a very substantial upgrade over the previous models of AirPods, and in short: I love them.

Design

The new Pro model of the AirPods are the first departure from the original design. The earbuds now have a soft, replaceable tip. The case is roughly the same size as the previous model, but now it opens along the opposite axis.

I found the default tips to fit perfectly. In fact, Apple offers a fit test in the software settings. This ensures you’ve selected the size of tips that create the best seal for your ears.

Of note, the new designed earbud is slightly shorter than the previous model.

Noise Cancellation

I was sitting outside on a bench when I first unboxed and paired my AirPods Pro. As soon as I placed them in my ears, the world around me disappeared. All I could say was, “wow.”

The noise cancelation works quite well. As I mentioned earlier, I put these new wireless earbuds through their paces on a flight. They were able to remove most of the plane’s ambient noise, making for a much more comfortable flight. Best of all, I was able to maintain a lower volume level than the previous model of AirPods.

In a previous life, I cycled through a couple models of Bose noise cancelling headphones. I have used the over-ear QC-25 and the in-ear QC-20. I stopped using both models in favor of completely wireless options shortly after the first set of AirPods came out, so I can’t directly compare. However, I find the cancellation experience on the AirPods Pro similar to the experience with the Bose in-ear model.

Pairing and Experience

As I expected, the AirPods Pro were extremely easy to set up. This is one of the key differentiators with modern Apple and Beats wireless headphones. It’s quite literally: open the case next to your device, tap pair, and you’re done. I was able to get up and running in a matter of seconds.

The controls on the AirPods Pro are new, with a pressure sensitive button-like squeeze. This sounded confusing to me on the surface, but I found it very intuitive to squeeze the AirPod base. A short, regular squeeze pauses your content and a long squeeze will switch between noise cancellation modes.

Battery Life

Every generation of AirPods have had more than adequate battery life for my use cases. The ability to use one earbud while the other charges has enabled me to enjoy longer sessions, with an obvious compromise of just one earbud. Wireless charging is a nice-to-have, but not mandatory. Luckily, the AirPods Pro come with a case that is ready for wireless charging. My AirPods Pro came out of the box with 80% charge, and I topped them off before my flight. They were able to last the entire duration of the flight with 14% remaining when we deplaned.

Conclusion

In summary, the new features with AirPods Pro are a nice touch. The noise cancellation works very well, and they are a natural evolution of the AirPods we have all come to know and love. However, if you’re not drawn to noise cancellation, the $249 price tag will be a stretch to reason.