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Apple AirPods Pro

8
£239.00

VERDICT:

8
10
Very impressive performance, on and off the bike – as long as you're using them with an Apple device
Excellent sound quality
Little wind noise
Easy connection to Apple products
Few features for non-Apple devices
More difficult to use with full-finger gloves than others
Weight: 
56g
Contact: 

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The Apple AirPods Pro are excellent earbuds for use on the bike, with effective transparency mode that doesn't suffer too much from wind noise, a secure fit, and excellent sound quality. Using them with Apple products is also quick and simple, but try them with anything else and they don't offer the same level of convenience.

The AirPods Pro are the first set of Apple headphones with active noise cancellation, which also means they are the first to have the transparency mode that I consider a prerequisite for being safe to use for cycling. When using regular headphones, even those that allow a lot of sound in through leakage, they are not specifically designed to make you aware of what's around you.

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The third generation AirPods, for example, are newer and more affordable, but without a transparency mode they're not ideal for outdoor cycling, in my opinion.

Sound quality and transparency

First off, the sound quality of the AirPods Pro is excellent, with deep and powerful bass for music that has a kick, plus clear high and mid range, meaning that listening to spoken word is clear and concise.

Switching between Active Noise Cancellation, Transparency, and off is done by pinching the stalk on the left earbud, which first makes a clicking sound then a tone that lets you know that you've turned a specific mode on or off. This system works well with bare fingertips, but is a little more challenging when using full-fingered gloves compared with earbuds that have a physical button.

2021 Apple AirPods Pro - earbud 1.jpg

Once on, the transparency mode on the AirPods Pro is very good for cycling, with minimal wind noise and the ability to maintain awareness around you. I found that I could still hear even relatively quiet podcasts clearly while also being able to hear cars coming up behind me.

Connectivity, technology and usability

The AirPods Pro are by far and away the easiest earbuds to set up on Apple devices I've tried. To pair them to an iPhone, for instance, all you need to do is open the charging case beside the phone, then press connect when prompted. Once I had done that, the AirPods Pro connected to all other devices that I am signed in on with my iCloud account, so I can instantly connect to my laptop and tablet, and the sound transfers between them automatically.

2021 Apple AirPods Pro - case 1.jpg

For instance, if I am listening to music on my laptop and a call comes in on my phone, if I answer the call it will automatically play through my earbuds. This level of convenience is very impressive.

Within the menu of each Apple device you can also edit what the pinch on each stem does, the fit of the AirPods, and choose from a number of different settings about the microphone, charging and so on. You can also use the 'Find My' app if you've misplaced them.

All of this means that when using a suite of Apple devices these are, by some distance, the most convenient wireless earbuds to use.

> People’s Choice: Your favourite songs (in 2016) about bikes and cycling…

You can use them on non-Apple devices, but they lose much of what makes them appeal – the customisation, the ability to seamlessly transfer between devices, and the settings that come with their use on Apple devices. So where they are the most usable and convenient on Apple devices, they are perhaps some of the least usable on anything else.

Fit and sweatproofing

The AirPods Pro have an IPX4 rating for water resistance, meaning they'll stand up to water splashes and sweat, which should be good enough for most conditions you'll find yourself in. I used them for some very sweaty rides, and several times in heavy rain, without any kind of issue.

In the box you get a set of three different size ear tips so you can choose which works best for you. But then you can also perform an 'ear tip fit test' through an Apple device, which measures the amount of sound leakage and tells you whether you should consider changing ear tip size.

2021 Apple AirPods Pro - earbud 2.jpg

The AirPods Pro incorporate an unusual stalk design, which puts more weight outside the ear than in. Although they felt secure and never like they were going to fall out, they don't feel quite as secure as the Jabra Active 75ts I tested recently, which are smaller and whose centre of gravity is deeper in the ear.

2021 Apple AirPods Pro - earbuds.jpg

Battery life

Battery life is a claimed 4.5 hours on a single charge with ANC/Transparency enabled, and 5 hours without, which seems broadly to correlate with what I found. This is pretty good for true wireless headphones, though there are others with more impressive numbers. The Bang & Olufsen Beoplay EQs, for example, last a claimed 6.5 hours with ANC and 7.5 hours without, although they are £110 more. The Jabra Elite Active 75t last 5.5 hours with ANC and 7.5 without, and are £60 less.

Where the Pros really outdo the others is the fast charging: an hour's listening time for only five minutes of charging. So even if you are out all day, you can just pop them in their case in a jersey pocket for five minutes and you'll be able to listen for another hour.

As with the fast charging of the AirPods, charging the case itself is really quick too: from empty to 100% in around an hour. You can charge it with a thunderbolt cable or wireless, an LED on the front of the case indicating the rough battery level.

2021 Apple AirPods Pro - case 2.jpg

The total charge time available from a fully charged case is over 24 hours with ANC enabled, and over 18 hours of talk time. These numbers are difficult to nail down exactly, but from my experience I found no reason to believe they're inaccurate.

This seems to track broadly with others in the market: the Jabras at 28 hours without ANC and 24 with, the more expensive Bang & Olufsen Beoplay EQs, 20 hours.

You can also open the case and leave the AirPods in it while beside an iPhone and this will bring up a pop-up showing the exact battery level percentage (not available on non-Apple devices).

Price and competitors

The AirPods Pro have an RRP of £239, but if you shop around you can find them for less. The price is about right for a premium pair of earbuds with a very impressive level of integration across Apple devices. However, that is a big caveat in this review; used with Apple products these work seamlessly and have a ton of great features, but if you're using them with anything else I'm not sure they're worth that kind of money.

The Jabra Elite Active 75t earbuds have a better battery life, more customisation on all devices, and cost £60 less, but they do suffer more from the wind in transparency mode. And while the Bang & Olufsen Beoplay EQs are £110 more, they have a wider degree of customisation and better claimed battery life with any devices.

Overall

The Apple AirPods Pro are excellent wireless earbuds that work impressively well on the bike thanks to effective transparency functionality and a lack of wind noise. The connectivity with Apple devices is also really impressive, with a single connection to one device that can then seamlessly transfer to any other Apple device you own. The battery life isn't as good as others, but they more than make up for this with the speed of charging – a five-minute charge giving an hour of listening time is particularly good.

However, there is a big caveat, which is that using these with Apple devices is fantastic, but trying to use them with anything else means you lose almost all the additional functionality that makes them so good. You still get a very good quality set of earbuds that sound fantastic, but for the price it's hard to recommend them unless they're for use with an Apple device.

Verdict

Very impressive performance, on and off the bike – as long as you're using them with an Apple device

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road.cc test report

Make and model: Apple AirPods Pro

Size tested: n/a

Tell us what the product is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?

Premium earbuds designed to be used across Apple devices.

Apple says: 'We refined the details of comfort, creating a new class of in-ear headphones with a customisable fit that forms an exceptional seal for Active Noise Cancellation. You'll feel your music, not your headphones.'

This is a pretty accurate description of these earbuds; they are comfortable to wear and easy to use.

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?

Apple lists:

Audio Technology

Active Noise Cancellation

Transparency mode

Adaptive EQ

Vent system for pressure equalisation

Custom high-excursion Apple driver

Custom high dynamic range amplifier

Spatial audio with dynamic head tracking1

Sensors

Dual beamforming microphones

Inward-facing microphone

Dual optical sensors

Motion-detecting accelerometer

Speech-detecting accelerometer

Force sensor

Chip

H1 headphone chip

Controls

Press once to play, pause or answer a phone call

Press twice to skip forwards

Press three times to skip backwards

Press and hold to switch between Active Noise Cancellation and Transparency mode

Say 'Hey Siri' to do things like play a song, make a call or get directions

Sweat and Water Resistant2

Sweat and water resistant (IPX4)

Charging Case

Works with MagSafe charger, Qi-certified chargers or the Lightning connector

Battery

AirPods Pro

Up to 4.5 hours of listening time with a single charge (up to 5 hours with Active Noise Cancellation and Transparency off)4

Up to 3.5 hours of talk time with a single charge5

AirPods Pro with MagSafe Charging Case

More than 24 hours of listening time6

More than 18 hours of talk time7

5 minutes in the case provides around 1 hour of listening time8 or around 1 hour of talk time9

Connectivity

Bluetooth 5.0

Rate the product for quality of construction:
 
9/10

Very well constructed, not only the physical devices themselves but the software too (on Apple devices).

Rate the product for performance:
 
8/10

Very good in terms of quality and using them on the bike, and also for the practicality when using them with Apple devices.

Rate the product for durability:
 
7/10

IPX4 is certainly good enough for most things, but there are earbuds out there with better protection.

Rate the product for comfort (if applicable)
 
8/10

They sit well in the ears for several hours at a time.

Rate the product for value:
 
5/10

Compared with others out there, they're neither overly expensive nor overly cheap. The Jabra Elite Active 75t have a better battery life, more customisation on all devices, and cost £60 less, but do suffer more from the wind in transparency mode. The Bang and Olufsen E8 Eq are £110 more, but justify that with a wider degree of customisation and better battery life.

Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose

Very well, as long as I was using them with Apple devices. They also sound good on and off the bike, whether you're using them on a turbo or out on the road.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

How simple they are to use, the way I can use them on my laptop on Zwift and take a call on my mobile without needing to switch anything.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

That they don't really work on anything except Apple devices.

Did you enjoy using the product? Yes

Would you consider buying the product? Yes

Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes

Use this box to explain your overall score

They sound great, stay in the ear well, and work seamlessly across multiple devices. Very good.

Overall rating: 8/10

About the tester

Age: 33  Height: 6 ft  Weight:

I usually ride: CAAD13  My best bike is: Cannondale Supersix Evo

I've been riding for: 10-20 years  I ride: Every day  I would class myself as: Expert

I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed,

George spends his days helping companies deal with their cycling commuting challenges with his company Cycling for Work. He has been writing for Road.cc since 2014. 

When he is not writing about cycling, he is either out on his bike cursing not living in the countryside or boring anybody who will listen about the latest pro peloton/cycling tech/cycling infrastructure projects. 

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