First look: Apple's noise-cancelling AirPod Pro earbuds

Apple's new but still-dangly white earbuds add noise cancellation, water resistance and wireless charging.

By David Flynn, October 29 2019
First look: Apple's noise-cancelling AirPod Pro earbuds

Three years after the release of the original AirPod headphones, Apple's second-gen earbuds add what everyone's been waiting for: active noise-cancelling technology.

A pair of tiny microphones – one outward-facing, one inward-facing – provide two-stage noise cancellation with audio sampling and squashing at 200 times per second, while a tap on the touch-sensitive stem temporarily disables the noise-cancellation so you can hear what's going on in the real world. Apple, never one to let a buzzword go to waste, calls this 'transparency mode'.

A series of interchangeable flexible tips is intended to improve in-ear fit and optimise the noise cancellation, while Apple claims its Adaptive EQ  will automatically tune songs for better sound.

It's all wrapped in a new design with a shorter less-dangly stem, with water resistance to improve appeal to the fitness set.

Included in the $399 sticker price is a wireless charging case which works with standard Qi wireless charging pads, with a Lightning port to draw juice via any handy power socket.

Apple isn't claiming any boost in battery life for the AirPods Pro, which are rated at "up to five hours of listening time", although noise cancellation trims this to  "up to four and a half hours of listening time and up to three and a half hours of talk time."

The AirPods Pro land on October 30. Apple is keeping the 'classic' AirPods, at $249 with a standard charging case and $319 with a wireless charging case (the wireless case can also be ordered on its own for $129).


David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

06 Aug 2017

Total posts 83

One of the reasons I haven't bought AirPods is that I've heard that the "up to five hours" battery life tends to reduce to one hour or so after a year or two of use. I'd be interested to hear from people who've been using AirPods for a while about whether they can confirm (or refute) this: what's battery life like after a year or two?

23 Oct 2019

Total posts 5

For me with the original AirPods, I've never noticed any major reduction in the battery life. I usually have them in for at least 3 or so hours at a time running podcasts, music etc without the need to recharge.

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

18 Jun 2018

Total posts 5

I thought "noise cancelling" meant it would remove background noise for when you're using your airpods to talk on the phone. I'm frequently in a windy area and people can't hear me well on the phone when I'm using my air pods. Will this "noise cancelling" alleviate this? My reading of David's article is it will make it easier for me to hear which is great but I also need people to hear me.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

01 Apr 2017

Total posts 27

For me the original Airpods never fit with my ear... (too loose to feel safe) so they seem to have fixed that by offering the S/M/L tips that every other maker (including Beats) has done since ever.

Also, they seem to have shortened the "stick" part which I always thought looked a bit silly. Some colour choices would be nice, but I guess that will be next year and how they get people to spend again.

AUD$400 is VERY pricey IMO. But if the noise-cancelling is in the "premium" category near to Bose et al, then these may actually be a viable option for many situations. Certainly much smaller to pack & carry around than my QC35's.

Will be interesting to compare these to the Amazon Echo Buds recently announced, also with noise-cancelling. I'm tipping Apple's implementation will be better... but how much better.

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

18 Jun 2018

Total posts 5

Agreed, I think $400 is starting to get a little steep (understand the currency is in the toilet so not wholly surprised). Still not clear on this - apologies if I've missed the point - is 'noise cancelling' going to help people hear me better on the phone with background noise such as wind or is it only there to help me hear them (and music etc) better? If it's not going to help people to hear me better, I might skip this upgrade - still happy with my Gen 1s.

I haven't been paying close attention to battery life but I'm sure it's not been 5 hours for a very long time (if ever) I mostly use mine for talking on the phone so alternate the air pods while the other charges.

30 Oct 2019

Total posts 1

No mention of the quality of the noise cancelling. Has anyone compared them to say, Bose QC20?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 May 2014

Total posts 112

Interested to know how water resistant they are. The ear pads are a good improvement. I currently use B&O E8 buds which are awesome but not water resistant, I would love a set I can take into the pool - not to put under water but knowing they won't be destroyed if they fall in.

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