The Apple AirPods Pro is perhaps the most enjoyable product of the year.
Anyone who has spent many years observing, analyzing, criticizing, commenting and testing the tech enters at one time into a form of weariness. Revolutions are rare, products are all alike and projects too radical do not affect their audience and end up falling into oblivion. In fact, the objects for which you feel a real attachment are few - because it takes much more than the technical mastery to pass in the category of products apart.
The AirPods Pro are they of them? We think so and we have tried to understand why, in ten days, we can not do without this object.
Understanding a need: everyday audio
It may be something that sets Apple apart from its competitors and one of the traits for which the brand is appreciated or rejected. The specification of a product is never made of absolutes and preconceptions related to technical characteristics. It's a visible thing about the Watch: Apple felt that these small objects needed energy to achieve a pleasant experience and said that anyway, we remove our watches at night - the opportunity to recharge it. Manufacturers announcing weekdays autonomies for their products do not offer, today, a fluid, dynamic and practical experience throughout the day.
The AirPods are conceptually based on the same philosophy: if Apple had stopped as a raw value, offering devices that oscillate between 4h30 and 5h battery would not have made sense, when wireless headsets display dozens of hours of use on the meter. But now, Cupertino has targeted the use and made it into the habit of a small box that sucks the AirPods every time you take them off the ears. Use? In a row, out of a long trip by plane or train (and even, we take breaks even in these transports), it is rare that one uses a helmet so long continuously.
And it is by progressing in this path of object design that we realize that everything in the AirPods Pro, exactly meets the need of the nomade. With their soft silicone tips that do not clip on a hard end and their aeration system so that the ears do not sweat, the AirPods Pro fade as soon as they are placed in the ear. The form proposed by Apple, quite surprising at first, is surprisingly suitable for most ears - when the AirPods was open to debate.
We are in the perfection of the consumer product: the tip is so well designed and well integrated that it takes only three sizes to perfectly cover most ears. To compare, Sony's excellent headphonesdespite their 6 tips, have never managed to get into our ears properly. When they hold about, they threaten to fall and the angular forms come to touch without pleasure other parts of the ear. In short, everything is excellent for anyone with good ears, they do not have the universality of AirPods Pro.
This is the first reason why Apple's headphones seem so desirable: in minutes, and without putting on any music, they provide a feeling of comfort that is known to last - as if they were designed for us and not for the millions of customers of the Cupertino giant.
The details that make all the difference
After comfort, comes the technique. If the headphones wireless are now expensive products (the best do not come down below 250 €, whether Pro Powerbeats or Sony WF-1000XM3), because they ship a complete hardware equipment well beyond sound processing. Apple has pushed refinement to a climax. Without even mentioning the dedicated processor, we can list small things perfectly executed, which, put end to end, create an incomparable experience.
- Mode selection. Apple does not bother reduction level and prefers simplicity. Sound can be blocked, amplified or noise reduction can be disabled. When activated, a small sound fade out comes to make the transition between noise and the realm of silence. A simple auditory hallucination that helps put us in a bubble and get out of it.
- Noise reduction. Accompanying the passive blocking of the sound offered by perfectly anchored earphones, without pain, in the ears, the AirPods Pro offer a reduction of dynamic noise particularly bluffing. We really feel that the world is fading around us. The silence is never complete: we always hear things, but in a stifled and gentle way. It's the AirPods Pro processor that adjusts the 200 reduction every second for each ear. Moreover, to perfect the experience, Apple offers a small audio test to do to find out if the AirPods have returned. When Sony asks you to take a picture of your ear, Apple simply presses a play button.
- Pairing. Apple requires, everything is simple. You open the case in front of the device to be paired and it's done: you can use the AirPods Pro. Any other pairing feature that asks you to open a manual to find the key combination to press for so many seconds seems to take you back to the Middle Ages of technology. Switching from one product to another is also easy ... just like sharing the same audio stream on two pairs of AirPods or Beats: very handy for watching a show with a person in a train on the same screen or share to two a piece of music.
- The box. Once you've gotten the hang of it, the AirPods Pro glide right into their notch and fall into the position set by Apple. It's impossible to make a mistake. In addition, it is really smaller than those of the competition.
- Capacitive controls and motion recognition. The control on the stem is a great idea: we quickly take the hand to go from one mode to another or pause a song. It's so nice that we remove much less AirPods Pro than the AirPods: we go Transparency to quickly respond to a colleague. When you really want to cut everything quickly, removing a headset is enough to put everything on pause.
Unlike AirPods, which could hurt in the long run, and eventually sit quite often, the AirPods Pro have hardly moved with our ears - and we are not usually fans of the intra format, preferring the traditional headphones. This is a sign of the quick attachment one makes to the product and a sign that also shows how successful the execution is. FIT for headphones: we had to use them much more often without music than with music. The calls, helped by the noise reduction, are for example crystalline and our correspondents hear us very well.
Will we regret something in this experience that changes our relationship to audio on a daily basis? Yes, the AirPods deserve a menu of their own. Today, to configure them, go to Settings, Bluetooth and press the small circle next to the device. It looks like the integration of a new product with an interface extremely dated and not ready to welcome it. Do not even mention the compatibility with Androidwhich simply provides the bare minimum: pair the headphones and use the settings configured on an iOS device.
And the music ?
It is always difficult to give an opinion on an audio product, so much the musical perception is subjective thing. An unsuspecting ear will not see the difference between scales. Moreover, we return to the original question: do we really need a high fidelity listening of uncompressed songs when, in any case, we move in a noisy environment full of friction?
The street, the subway, the bus or the long-term transport are not spaces where one can enjoy music and the best helmets can not do much against the hubbub in the background or the horn that interrupts a symphony. This is why, once we have understood the majority use of this type of product, we can only consider them as adapted to their environment. You will not find the comfort of a living room, nor your tube amp nor your 5.1 speakers. But is that what we are looking for? Absolutely not and the AirPods Pro are very much capable of producing a powerful sound and adapt to your listening.
Our playlist bingee for the test was extremely satisfactory listening - so much so that we have stored all our other listening devices. The dirty, compressed sound of a Neil Young period Hey Hey My My expresses itself in all its imperfections, with heavy guitars and perfectly sharp solos. The voice emerges perfectly above these saturations. The big gap towards Rough Trade Session of Weyes Blood or the bewitching voice of Alma Forrer on The year of the wolf is perfectly executed, the AirPods Pro is completely at ease on the worked electro sounds, letting the different tracks emerge without confusing them. Same observation JESUS IS KING from Kanye West or Arvoles by Avishai Cohen: AirPods never seem to do too much on one frequency, complex double bass strings in Yeezy's gospel.
It may be on the somewhat more industrial metal that the AirPods Pro seem to us less pleasant - but the opinion remains subjective. The last Rammstein can not get bigger, as if its compression on Apple Music was betrayed by the headphones with each word. We sometimes think in the 2000 years to listen to the bad MP3 downloaded on Kazaa. Same observation, although a little less pronounced, on the last Slipknot, We Are Not Your Kind. And again: we talk about attentive listening to obtain a judgment. Perhaps we would not have been so disappointed in real use, in the transport or office.
Clearly, the smallest object of Apple is perhaps, at the end of the year, its biggest product.
Apple AirPods Pro
Indicative Note: 5 / 5
The AirPods Pro is one of the most successful technological objects of the end of the year. After popularizing the wireless earphone format with the AirPods, Apple benefits from 3 years of experience to take a very large step ahead of the competition.
Advertised without a conference, the AirPods Pro have quickly become indispensable in our daily lives: in just ten days of testing, we feel like we have a product so ingrained in our habits and responding so perfectly to our needs that it seems to us have accompanied a decade. And this, with or without music.
- Ergonomics and perfect design
- As nice as without music
- Smart noise reduction
- Near-mandatory Apple ecosystem
- Advanced configuration difficult to access
- In Transparency mode, people do not know you hear them