(A copy of my original review on Reddit)
Both headphones are intended for completely different audiences and occupy completely different price brackets, but that didn’t stop me from being curious on how the Pros would sound and isolate compared to my Andromedas. So I decided to get a pair and compare them.
The differences are exactly what I expected them to be. They’re probably what you expect them to be, too. So the following wall of text is a waste of your time and you shouldn’t read it.
The AirPods isolate similarly to the Andromedas with Comply Foam tips, but are initially much more comfortable - there is no “foam pressure” exerting on my ears. The silicone tips with the air vent on the Pros does not cause ear pressure issues like some silicone tips do. However, the silicone tips get hot, quickly. I didn’t find this an issue on the foam tips at all.
The ANC on the AirPods easily eliminates most droning noises such as fans and air conditioners. At the cost of comfort, the Andromedas’ Comply Foam tips eliminate much more noise and more varied noises
The convenience factor is unparalleled. My Andromedas frequently tangle and getting the wire to straighten out is a task that can take over a minute for worst-case scenarios. On the other hand, I can remove and insert the AirPods entirely with one hand.
In terms of bass, the AirPods exhibit much more sub-bass than the Andromedas. However, the AirPods suffer from pretty bad bass bleed, and where the bass is present, it’s extremely wooly. In contrast, the Andromedas do not have as much sub-bass, but where the bass is present, it’s much tighter and much more refined, despite also having a bit of bass bleed. While the AirPods might sound more impressive initially, any serious listening will quickly reveal their shortcomings.
It’s a similar story for the mids. The AirPods have more present mids, but the mids are also far less detailed. Differentiating instruments is fairly difficult and there’s not much dimensionality or soundstage to the sound at all. Single-note tracks work fine, but anything beyond this and the difference is - again - obvious.
And finally, the Achilles’ heel of the AirPods are the highs. These are genuinely terrible by all standards. Cymbals have no detail, violins and cellos have no zing, synths sound like they’ve been replaced with a thin film of static. I’m finding it difficult to describe how bad the highs are. They drain the soundtrack of life. It’s like Apple just decided to play hissing noises for the highs. A comparison with the Andromedas is out of the question. The AirPods completely and utterly fail to produce even barely listenable highs.
The lows have a surprising amount of sub-bass and are serviceable, as are the mids. I’d put them around the $50-range. The highs, however, feel like they’re out of $10 IEMs and I wonder if it’s even possible to do worse.
Still, I’ll be keeping the AirPods. They’re tremendously convenient. They’ll make fine IEMs for the gym, podcasts, and audiobooks. Anything else would be pushing what they’re good for, but overall, the AirPods make a solid companion to the Andromedas for just about anything but music.
I find that our brain tends to “normalize” to good gear and we forget how good it actually is. With this in mind, a nice thing about the AirPods is that they provide me with a regular baseline from which I can appreciate my other gear!
I’ve been hearing people toss about the phrase “diminishing returns” with respect to the AirPods. I wholeheartedly disagree. The law of diminishing returns does not apply here. The Andromedas are, to my ears, many, many times better than the AirPods in terms of audio quality. In comparison to the AirPods, I find the price of the Andromedas well worth it.