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This is an excellent and useful feature, and it can be enabled by either pressing a button on the stalks of either earbud, asking Siri to “enable transparency mode” or selecting it via your iPhone, iPad or Apple Watch.

AirPods controls

While it’s a little tricky to see, there are two control buttons, one on each of the AirPods Pro’s stalks. These use a capacitive force sensor so you sort of ‘squeeze’ them to operate. Once pressed, you hear a ‘click’ sound. A single press will play, pause or answer a call. Press twice to skip ahead, press three times to go back. Press and hold to switch between Active Noise Cancelling and Transparency mode.

In use, it takes a few tries to familiarise yourself with the location of the buttons. Thankfully they are recessed so you can feel where they are fairly easily.

Otherwise, the AirPods Pro can be controlled with Siri or via the Control Centre on your iPhone or iPad. Simply ask Siri to play a song, skip a track, call someone, get directions, etc. Open your iPhone’s control centre and press and hold the Volume slider to access to your sound mode settings. It’s all so nicely integrated.

Also, as per the original AirPods, setting up for the first time is incredibly easy on iOS devices. Just hold the case close to your device, open it up, and follow the instructions. Pairing is ultra-fast too.

The AirPod Pros can work with other non-Apple phones and other Bluetooth enabled equipment. Since you can change noise cancelling modes with the capacitive buttons, there’s no need to rely on software or apps to make it all work. Simply press and hold the sync button on the AirPods case and find it via your device’s Bluetooth settings.

Call clarity

Using the AirPods Pro for phone calls is excellent. The ANC embeds you in the conversation and reduces distracting ambient noses. When testing, the overhead AC was quite loud, but this was all but eliminated and I felt like I was transported to a silent room for my call. The mic clarity was sharp and detailed, and there’s now an expanded mesh microphone port that improves call clarity in windy situations.

Music and audio fidelity

At the heart of the AirPods Pro is Apple’s own H1 chip. This also features in the standard AirPods as well as some of the Apple-owned Beats models. The benefits are an extremely low latency and stable wireless connection, along with advanced sound processing, advanced battery management and ‘Hey Siri’ capability. 

For audio performance, the H1 chip includes 10 audio cores. Added to this is an Apple designed high-excursion, low distortion driver for bigger bass pushes and detailed mid and high frequency sounds. The custom high-dynamic range amp helps with clarity and the adaptive equaliser tunes the low and mid frequencies to match the shape of your inner ear.

Person wearing AirPods Pros in subway
With Transparency mode you’ll be more aware of your surroundings

The net result is excellent audio reproduction and bass response. During our limited tests, we experienced a meaty low-end bass punch without any noticeable distortion. Mids and high frequencies are clear and bright, with a warm feel and clearly discernible audio separation for the left and right channels. Audio performance is elevated by the ANC, which adds another dimension of immersion without any noticeable downsides, so you’ll probably want to leave this on all the time.

Something to keep in mind, however, that Apple doesn’t offer ways to fine-tune the sound setup to your liking via a custom equaliser setting, unlike some noise cancelling headphones.

Power management

Like the AirPods, the Pros come with a battery-equipped charging chase, which in turn can be powered up wirelessly with a Qi-compatible charge pad, or by Lighting cable.

Wireless charging
Qi wireless charging is supported

Charge time includes 5 hours without ANC, 4.5 hours with ANC and 3.5 hours of talk time. When using the case to top them up, the AirPods Pro buds can work for more than 24 hours (according to Apple) when on the go. Also, a 5 minute top up in the case will give the buds about an hour of listening time.

More features

Other features include Audio Sharing, so you can connect to another set of AirPods or AirPods Pros and stream the same music. Just hold the second pair of AirPods next to your phone to get started. Volume can be controlled individually, which is a handy option.

The new ‘Announce Messages with Siri’ feature will have Siri read out your messages through the AirPods Pros. Siri can read messages as soon as they arrive, or after you’ve finished a call.