Consumer Electronics, Gadgets & Accessories

Apple AirPods Pro (2021) in review: King of the TWS in-ears with ANC function?

The AirPods Pro have been the high-end version of the Californian company’s in-ear headphones since 2019 and set new standards with their timeless design. Now, the wireless Bluetooth headphones with active noise cancellation have been relaunched. In our review of the Apple AirPods Pro (2021)we tell you what the white headphones have up their sleeve.

Technical data

Bluetooth version 5.0
Maximum operating range 10m (without obstacle)
Battery life Up to 5hrs, 24hrs total with charging case; (varies depending on volume level and audio content)
Charge Time around 2 hrs. (for charging case + headphones via USB-C)
Size charging case (W x H x D) 55 x 44 x 20 mm
Weight 55g (Earbuds + charging case); 5.4g per Earbud
Special features Wireless charging (Qi and MagSafe); Spatial audio
Bluetooth codecs SBC, AAC
Price € 194.85 *

Scope of delivery of the Apple AirPods Pro (2021)

The Apple AirPods Pro (2021) once again come in a manufacturer-typical white box. However, there is still quite a bit of content in the compact box. Directly under the hood is the charging unit that houses the two in-ear headphones.

Joining them are two more pairs of silicone ear inserts, which are smaller and larger than the pre-installed pair. Thus, every user should find the ideal fit. Besides the obligatory manual, a Lightning to USB-C cable rounds off the scope of delivery.

Apple AirPods Pro: Differences between 2019 version and 2021 model

Apple has updated the AirPods Pro in 2021. But what are the actual differences from the original model? To be more precise, there is only one small difference: with the Apple AirPods Pro in the 2021 version, the charging case can now be charged wirelessly via MagSafe.

Apple AirPods Pro (2021)
The only new feature on the 2021 model: wireless charging via MagSafe

The case of the original version could already be charged wirelessly before and supported the Qi standard. As with other MagSafe devices, however, a magnet is now additionally integrated. The case can thus be charged more easily and reliably with corresponding chargers. Charging with Apple’s MagSafe Battery is now possible as well.

Already on the packaging, a note with the designation “Magsafe Charging Case” reveals that it is the Apple AirPods Pro (2021). Otherwise, there are no differences between the two Pro models.

Apple AirPods Pro (2021)
The inscription on the packaging reveals that this is the new model.

Design and finish

So the Apple AirPods Pro (2021) have inherited the timeless design from their predecessor. After all, the exterior of the Pro in-ears has now been the inspiration for many competing products from various manufacturers.

Apple relies on a white design for the AirPods Pro, which has significantly shorter stems (16 mm in length) compared to the classic AirPods and thus looks more elegant overall. As is typical for Apple, the in-ears have a simple and appealing look. Compared to many competing products, the AirPods look noticeably slimmer.

Only a black stripe for the built-in microphones, as well as silver contrasting magnetic holders for the charging case stand out visually as design elements.

The charging case is also quite compact. With a length of around 55 mm, a height of 44 mm and a depth of 20 mm, it easily fits in jacket and trouser pockets. There is a USB-C port on the bottom for charging, and the lid closes very reliably with the help of a magnet so that the in-ears cannot fall out. There is a physical button on the back to start the pairing process, and a status LED on the front to inform about the battery level.

Processing of the AirPods Pro (2021)

In terms of build quality, the Apple AirPods Pro (2021) more than live up to their high price tag. The in-ear headphones and the charging case harmonize excellently with each other; everything seems well thought-out here and as if they were made of one piece.

Both the headphones themselves and the charging case look very high-quality and robust and even leave a better impression in the test than similarly expensive models like the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds. Chapeau!

Wearing Comfort of the AirPods Pro (2021)

In terms of wearing comfort, the AirPods Pro (2021) are also beyond reproach. Thanks to the sophisticated design and the low weight of only 5.4 grams per earbud, the AirPods rest comfortably in the ear even for several hours.

Apple achieves this, among other things, through the soft and very comfortable silicone ear inserts, which provide a comfortable and secure hold, while also bringing excellent passive noise shielding.

AirPods Pro (2021) Wearing Comfort
Even in 2021, perhaps the most comfortable in-ears par excellence

The manufacturer has actually managed to deliver one of, if not THE best in-ear headphones on the market in terms of wearing comfort. I’ve tested quite a few TWS in-ears this year alone: In terms of comfort, none came close to the AirPods Pro (2021).

Features and battery life

The AirPods Pro transmit wirelessly via Bluetooth 5.0. Above all, the integration into the Apple universe, i.e. the pairing with iPhone, iPad and co. works very easily. After switching on, the headphones are immediately recognized on the smartphone and connected at the push of a button. A look at the manual is therefore not necessary.

On Android, the setup is not quite as elegant, but still very simple. Simply open the smartphone’s settings and make Apple’s charging case ready for connection via the pairing button on the back. The AirPods are recognized and can be paired.

In addition to active noise cancellation (ANC), the headphones have a transparency mode and meanwhile offer the function of playing back sound content with virtual surround sound thanks to “Spatial Audio” (called “3D Audio”). Here, the AirPods Pro’s motion and acceleration sensors track the head’s movements and match them with other Apple devices to create a virtual surround system sound image.

Apple AirPods Pro (2021) 3D Sound
3D audio: Meanwhile, the AirPods Pro are also capable of virtual surround sound.

However, this feature is only available in conjunction with an iPhone or iPad. Multipoint, i.e. the connection with multiple audio sources, is unfortunately not supported by the Pro models. Automatic switching between multiple devices is also only available in the Apple universe.

Battery life of the AirPods Pro (2021)

The battery life of the AirPods Pro is a maximum of five hours. If you use noise cancelling or the transparency mode, the duration is reduced to 4.5 hours. In combination with the charging case, another 24 hours of runtime are added – all in all good, but not outstanding rates.

Five minutes in the charging case are enough to supply the in-ears with juice for one hour of playback. The completely empty charging case is fully charged again in about two hours – it doesn’t matter whether you charge it via cable, wirelessly in the Qi standard or just recently via MagSafe.

AirPods Pro under Android: Is it possible?

Of course, the AirPods Pro (2021) can also be used under Android, but you will have to do without many functions. We have already explained that the initial setup and switching between devices is not quite as convenient.

However, the feature set is also reduced in other respects. For example, Spatial Audio and firmware updates are only available for iOS. The sound quality is also worse in Android because the AirPods Pro only offer the AAC format (Advanced Audio Coding). This is extremely energy-hungry and works much better on Apple devices because Android assigns Bluetooth devices a lower priority to reduce power consumption. Android often uses the Qualcomm aptX codec for this. However, the AirPods Pro do not support this.

AirPods Pro (2021) Android
The AirPods Pro (2021) also work with Android. However, the range of functions is reduced.

In short: Those who own an Android smartphone will probably not really be happy with the AirPods Pro (2021) – there are clearly better in-ear headphones here. In the Apple cosmos, however, the Pro models are unrivaled in many respects so far.

Operating the AirPods Pro (2021)

The AirPods Pro (2021) are controlled via an elongated pressure sensor on the outer sides of the two stems. An innovative concept that is much less prone to errors compared to the old-fashioned touch control surfaces and works excellently in practice.

Various functions can be activated by pressing once, twice or three times. For example, jumping back and forth between songs is possible, as is starting and pausing songs. Holding down the sensors switches between ANC and transparency mode by default.

AirPods Pro (2021) Operation
The in-ears are operated innovatively by squeezing them together.

Also iOS-exclusive, the function can be adjusted while squeezing, albeit only minimally. The only option here is to include the voice assistant Siri. Unfortunately, the volume cannot be adjusted on the AirPods Pro. This is where the AirPods leave important points behind – the competition has long since surpassed Apple’s now three-year-old system in terms of handling and offers a much higher range of functions.

AirPods Pro (2021) Operation
Only the press-and-hold function can be adjusted in a rudimentary way

AirPods Pro (2021): audio quality, ANC and microphone

However, the AirPods Pro (2021) then make up for the flaw in terms of the operating concept with their excellent sound. Once again, this is only true for iOS. The in-ears reproduce the acoustics excellently across the entire sound spectrum and score with rich, precise basses, clear and detailed mids, and enormously spacious highs.

The sound is very balanced, dynamic and powerful. Although not audiophile, it is still much rounder than many competitors. The high-excursion woofers also do a good job with basses, without becoming sonic mud even with massive basses.

However, no one should expect really bass machines: Here, a coherent, round sound image is clearly more in focus than the classic “listening fun” that often comes with emphasized bass of other headphones.

AirPods Pro (2021) Sound
Sonically, the AirPods Pro (2021) score with high dynamics and a convincing mix

In combination with the Spatial Audio feature, the sound increases once again and noticeably gains space. The result is more than worth listening to. It is also praiseworthy that switching between the different modes only has a minor impact on the sound. With an active ANC function, the sound is even rounder and better. (The adaptive equalizer integrated in the H1 chip is only activated with active ANC).

However, it is a pity that the in-ears do not offer a classic equalizer or the option to fine-tune the acoustics. However, this can be easily forgiven with such a coherent sound image.

ANC and transparency mode

The ANC in the AirPods Pro (2021) also works excellently. Two microphones per earbud pick up outside noise, analyze it and then try to block it out. In addition, the Active Noise Cancelling is supposed to constantly adapt to the geometry of the ears for an even better result.

Especially low-frequency sounds are excellently suppressed, while the suppression of medium and high tones still turns out very good. Due to the design, however, the noise cancelling of in-ear headphones cannot quite keep up with that of over-ears, which should be known beforehand.

Nevertheless, the ANC in the Pros really works very well, although some competitors such as the Sony WF-1000XM4 are clearly ahead here.

AirPods Pro (2021) ANC

We also like the AirPods Pro’s transparency mode, which allows ambient noise to pass through more. Especially voices are let through clearly and undistorted and correspond exactly to reality. However, a slight background noise is always perceptible in quiet environments, which is not annoying.

The microphone

The AirPods Pro also cut a good figure when making calls. The built-in microphones reproduce the own voice clearly and with a high dynamic range. Thus, we can always understand the other person without any problems – even when the surroundings or the wind are particularly loud.

However, the microphones show their age. Some rivals deliver a much better result here. However, the microphone quality is still more than satisfactory for phone calls, voice chats and the like.

Software / iOS integration

Apple does not offer dedicated software for the AirPods Pro. Under iOS, the in-ear headphones are controlled via the Bluetooth settings, respectively the control center. Here, for example, it is possible to activate 3D audio (Spatial Audio) and to switch between different modes (Off, Fixed, or Head Capture).

Volume control is also possible with it. There is also a handy pass-test that can be used to further improve audio quality and noise cancellation effectiveness.

Basically, the iOS integration is well thought out and clearly understandable. However, it’s a shame that Apple doesn’t have a dedicated app here, since it’s always necessary to go to the Bluetooth menu for fine-tuning.

At least, if you don’t want to make the settings directly on the Earbuds. Here it would be slowly but surely time to provide the growing catalog of AirPod models with their own app.

Summary on the AirPods Pro (2021)

The AirPods Pro (2021) are still unrivaled, at least when paired with an iPhone, iPad, or other Apple device. This is mainly due to the excellent integration of the functions in its own operating system, which is much more convenient than is the case with Android devices.

In addition, the Pro models have received numerous useful updates and improvements over the years (such as Spatial Audio or an improved ANC function), which have made the already excellent in-ears even better.

The sound, microphones, workmanship and design are still beyond reproach today. However, all of this only applies in combination with Apple devices, because under Android, the AirPods Pro are just one headphone among many. I would even advise against buying the Pros under Android, because the feature set is clearly limited in Google’s mobile operating system – the competition is clearly ahead here.

However, the AirPods Pro (2021) are beyond reproach in terms of sound and wearing comfort when used with an iPhone and are more than worth the money. However, users who already own the 2019 version can save the update: MagSafe is nice-to-have, but does not bring any real added value.

Apple AirPods Pro (2021) Award

Apple AirPods Pro (2021)

Workmanship
Comfort
Sound quality
Recording quality
Features
Value for money

92/100

Noble design, outstanding workmanship, impressive sound. The AirPods Pro are still excellent in-ears for the Apple universe in 2021. Android users should look for other headphones.

Apple AirPods Pro (2021) price comparison


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Simon Lüthje

I am co-founder of this blog and am very interested in everything that has to do with technology, but I also like to play games. I was born in Hamburg, but now I live in Bad Segeberg.

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The AirPods Pro have been the high-end version of the Californian company’s in-ear headphones since 2019 and set new standards with their timeless design. Now, the wireless Bluetooth headphones with active noise cancellation have been relaunched. In our review of the Apple AirPods Pro (2021)we tell you what the white headphones have up their sleeve. … (Weiterlesen...)

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