Apple AirPods Pro - New ANC AirPods

Apple just officially announced the release of the long-rumored “AirPods Pro” with active noise-cancellation and a new design:

They add active noise-cancellation to the existing true-wireless AirPods, have venting to prevent pressure build-up/improve comfort and the included charging-case can, itself, be charged either wirelessly or via a Lightning cable.

Price is $249; availability starts on 10/30/19.

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I ordered a set of these, which I should receive on 10/31.

Looking forward to comparing them to the Sony WF-1000XM3 - which I think are very good (as these things go), but do have some quirks.

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I have a big concern with that design… Esp for people with small ear like me

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I’m torn, Bose is supposed to have their latest NC out next year, I’m thinking of trying these instead of waiting.

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My normal “travel” (i.e. for on-the-plane) is a set of Bose QC20i. While I could quibble about how they sound (pleasant, if warmer and not necessarily accurate), they’re comfortable for 9 hour stretches, the battery is good for 16 hour stints, and their ANC is good enough for using even without music/videos playing.

If the AirPods Pro can match that (with accommodation for how long one can listen before putting them back in the case), I’ll be pretty happy. If nothing else, because the one thing I don’t like about the QC20i is the wires.

The Sony WF-1000XM3 actually do a better job than the Bose QC20i with the ANC, and without wires, but they’re not quite as comfortable, and they’re iffy when walking and problematic if there’s any wind as the microphones pick up any passage of air with audible results.

It’s a shame the closest thing to a “wireless” option Bose have a) needs the neckband arrangement and b) has worse battery life than the QC20i (despite being outwardly similar to the actual in-ear piece).

Will be interesting to see where the AirPods Pro fall in regards to both of those …

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Bose is saying the 700 Earbuds will have ANC as good as their over the ear cans, but all that they are showing right now are concept drawings so who knows how long it might be…

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They’ve got a good track record in the ANC space (until recently they were unquestionably top-dog), so there’s clearly potential there.

The tips on those drawings look like those from the QC20i and other, existing, products. They’re extremely comfortable, but don’t have much mechanical isolation (which make what they do with electronics even more impressive).

But … shipping product trumps concept art … and “2020” could be 3 months, or 14 months away … so for me … I’ll see what they have, and what they’re up against, when they ship.

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I can’t have my ear canals plugged, and yet for some odd reason nobody bothers to differentiate between the ear-canal types and outer ear types. That’s a very important difference.

The Bose QC20i (and their stuff using similar tips) doesn’t actually “plug” your ear-canal.

They’ll close off the end of it, but don’t insert into it. That’s one of the reasons they are so comfortable …

The Sony WF-1000XM3 do insert into the canal (a bit, not very deeply). Won’t know with the AirPods Pro until sometime tomorrow, but they look closer to the Sony’s in that regard than they do to the Bose.

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Don’t forget the Amazon EchoBuds come out this week too and also have Bose noise cancelling tech built in. :slight_smile:

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Tom’s guide just published a review and said they beat the EchoBuds easily :man_shrugging:

Another article there rated the AirPods a 0 out of 5 for repairability. Not sure why that even needs to be said.

That’s the irony… Well beside the thing that is you can’t use aftermarket tips tho.

High-Level: AirPods Pro vs. WF-1000XM3 vs. QC20i

Pictures once it’s light out … but I spent a bit of time comparing the Sony WF-1000XM3, Apple AirPods Pro and the Bose QC20i (wired).

These are all things I would use for travel or walking, but not units I would choose to sit and listen to critically. And my travel usage is pretty much in airports and on planes, so the high levels of background noise, even with ANC and mechanical isolation, limit the degree of fidelity one can achieve to the point of “good enough” to “very good” at best.

At a very high level, I’d rank them, by category as follows:

Sound: WF-1000XM3 >= AirPods Pro = QC20i
ANC: AirPods Pro -> WF-1000XM3 > QC20i
Comfort: QC20i > AirPods Pro > WF-1000XM3
Convenience: AirPods Pro > WF-1000XM3 > QC20i
Battery (w/o Case): QC20i > AirPods Pro = WF-1000XM3
Operation: QC20i = AirPods Pro > WF-1000XM3
Connection: QC20i > AirPods Pro > WF-1000XM3

The actual ANC is very similar between these units, but the QC20i do not seal into the ear canal the way both the Sony and Apple models do, so there is less mechanical isolation as a result and a bit more noise is audible.

QC20i are the most comfortable, precisely because of how they sit in the ears. I’ve routinely worn them for 10+ hour flights with no discomfort at all. The Sony’s I would have to pop out every couple of hours for a few minutes. The AirPods I got a bit of tenderness in one ear with the medium tips after about 45 minutes, though after taking them out, waiting 5 minutes, putting them back I ran the batteries down (another 4+ hours) without any further issue.

The AirPods Pro are easily the smallest package, being half the size (or less) overall (including the case) than either the Sony or the Bose. And the lack of wires, combined with functionality that “just works” (at least with an iPhone) is really nice. The Bose are completely reliable, but the cables are a distraction and get in the way. The Sony’s controls are a bit hit and miss, half the time I’ll turn on “Quick Attention” mode and then not be able to get it to turn off without multiple attempts or going into the app.

If the Sony “Headphones” App is not closed out and killed, it screws up the phone automatically connecting to my car.

The Sony’s can use conventional IEM tips. Both the Bose and Apple have proprietary tips. Though I am 100% sure it’s only a matter of time before third-parties off tips for the AirPods Pro.

When walking the WF-1000XM3 pick up the passage of air past the microphones and that’s distinctly audible. If there’s any wind at all, the same thing happens. So you want ANC off if using these in an urban setting and walking (not a bad idea from a safety perspective anyway).

Almost all ANC sets (in or over ear) I’ve tried exhibit low-level hiss when no music is playing as well as a sense of pressure on the ear drums. The pressure part doesn’t affect the QC20i, as they don’t seal the same way, but they have a slightly higher level of self-noise than either the Apple or Sony units. The WF-1000XM3 do have that “sense of pressure” thing going on. The AirPods Pro are the quietest AND do not have the pressure issue (probably due to their venting).

Proper details on sound a bit later.

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Size/Volume & Weight

While all are small packages, their relatively sizes vary significantly. As someone that often likes to travel as light as possible, with most smallest case/backpack/carry-on possible, this actually makes a difference to me:

Unit Width (mm) Height (mm) Length (mm) Volume (cm3) Weight (g)
AirPods Pro 22 45 60 60 56
QC20i 40 71 137 390 80
WF-1000XM3 29 53 79 121 92

Sizes and weights are all in their carry/charging cases.

The AirPods Pro are less than 1/6th the size of the Bose package and half the size of the Sonys, by volume:

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This is brilliant, thank you, so great to have them compared to the 20i. I’m surprised the ANC is better, now I’m going to have to fight the urge to get them.

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Technically, its the combination of physical isolation and ANC that is better with the AirPods Pro and WF-1000XM3.

The Bose don’t insert into the ear-canal like the Apple and Sony models do, so their mechanical/physical isolation is somewhat lower (and comfort is higher).

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Yeah, this is something I’m wondering about, I’ve never had IEMs where I didn’t like foam better than silicone, it will be interesting to see if foam will be possible with the AirPods.

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They’ll need an adapter, or the same solid, click-fit, base that the AirPods Pro tips use, but I have no doubt that enterprising third-parties will provide a variety of tips that’ll fit directly, or an adapter with a “nozzle” that’ll let you use conventional tips …

Would the Airpods Pro necessarily need to insert into the ear canal, if for example, my “perfect fit” were the large eartips but I used the small eartips instead?

That would (probably) result in not having a proper seal; without which the ANC doesn’t work correctly and the bass drops off significantly.

There’s a reason you can run an on-phone test with the AirPods Pro for seal integrity (pass/fail) … as they’re a bit pointless if you don’t have one.

If you don’t want something poking into your ears, the QC20i are the way to go.

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