AirPods Versus AirPods Pro: Apple’s Earbuds Go Head-to-Head

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Through a series of circumstances, Adam Engst ended up with both a pair of AirPods and a pair of AirPods Pro. When free to choose one or the other at any time, which did he pick? The answer—and what he recommends—might surprise you.

Adam, did you have any problems with the AirPods Pro falling out? Mine do it on occasion, and I can usually feel it happening, so usually I push it back in before it actually pops out, but not always. I’ve had to rescue one from the garbage disposal. I’d never bicycle with them or any other headphones (I did try a Coros helmet with built in bone conduction speakers, but it didn’t work well and eventually one of the speakers fell out). But I do wear headphones cross country skiing, and I’d never wear my AirPods for that given this problem. (Never find one if it fell in the snow). For lawn mowing i wear my over-the-ear Shivr headphones, which noise cancel and are much easier to find than my AirPods if they fall off.

Yes! I meant to mention that. I’ll add it. I’m not sure they’ve every quite fallen out, but they often feel as though they’re no longer seated in my ears well. A quick press with a finger stuffs it back into my ear canal, but that’s never necessary with the AirPods.

I have been put off by the look of the air pods since they were released. They look like earrings. I know that’s petty but it is what has put me off from buying them and why I am much more likely to buy the air pods pro. I got some for my wife and she loves them. By the way, I have never cared for or used the earbuds that came in the box with the iPhone or iPod. I prefer something with a rubber like tip to hold the earpiece in place.


When I got my Airpods Pro some gentleman stopped me on the street, looked me over from one side, then then the other … and said “they don’t suit you” and wandered off.

What could I do but laugh?!



That was always necessary for me with the AirPods. With the Pros I have to do it occasionally, but not nearly as often. Best of all, because the Pros create a hermetic seal, when they start to get loose it changes the sound and the way they feel, so I noticed it and catch it before it pops out.

With the regular AirPods I had terrible problems of them popping out at random times and I was much more worried about losing them. (I once had one pop out without warning while on an airplane and I was scrambling around trying to find it under the seats before someone stepped on it.)

So I vastly prefer the Pros.

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My ears never took to Apple’s earbuds and AirPods. They fall out in a matter of seconds. I’ve always had to have my own headphones.

My kids gave me AirPods Pro for my birthday, and they present no such issues, I did buy some memory foam tip alternates for them and they are ultra secure in there but but the included tips do the job fine and are less ‘present’. I find I do notice them on insertion but forget pretty quickly that I have them in. The transparent mode is terrific I think. Looking forward to auto-switching…

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unnecessary unless people like pranking you by saying “Hey Siri” to your AirPods Pro

…or unless, like me, you named your dog Cerie a decade ago, and as a result have had to immediately disable “hey Siri” on every new Apple device you’ve bought to avoid both canine and silicon confusion.


I’ve tried them both. In order to get the AirPods to fit in my ears, I have to put the right one in the left ear, and vice versa. And even then, they don’t fit snugly.

I could not get a proper seal with the AirPods Pro; not with any of the three tips.

And since I normally wear hearing aids, I don’t have much opportunity to wear them in the first place. When I’m watching AppleTV or something on my iMac and there’s someone sleeping in the house is when I mostly use them. Oh, by “them”, I mean the original AirPods; I returned the Pro model.

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I too have both AirPods and AirPods Pro and prefer the comfort of the AirPods. I did buy Bulletz memory foam tips for the Pros that are much more comfortable than the silicone. I have used my AirPods and now 2nd gen AirPods under ear protection muffs for years with a simple trick: put left AirPod in right ear upside down so the stalk projects up and same for other side. The ear muffs fit easily now. It takes a little wiggling to get them to register as in my ears sometimes, but it works great. The AirPods Pro are uncomfortable under ear muffs for me.

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I’ve gone back to using AirPods rather than AirPods Pro most of the time, mainly because they don’t suddenly pop out of my ears without warning (a worry if I’m out walking). I also prefer the simplicity of double tapping to stop/start.

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Great comments here, folks, and they make it clear just how variable our ears are. I was careful to specify that all my comments were specific to my ears, but even so I think I’ll say more about how your mileage may vary.

OK, that’s hilarious. I know someone named Siri, but haven’t seen her in years. She runs a plant nursery that has a booth at the Ithaca Farmers Market and while I would be a little surprised if she was an Apple user (in a big way, if at all), I could imagine all sorts of issues with devices near her when people come up and greet her. :slight_smile:

You also have to be careful if you watch “The Witcher” on Netflix. “Hey, Ciri…”

Comply just released memory foam tips for the Pros which make a huge difference for me. I’ve had fit problems with the standard tips and had the occasional AirPod fall out. The comply tips fix this issue completely and improve the passive noise reduction at the same time.

I’ve never loved the AirPod sound quality. I find the “tiny speaker on my ear” feeling creates a literal divide between myself and whatever music I’m listening to, whereas the Pros are much more immersive.

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One thing you don’t seem to mention, Adam, is using AirPods vs AirPods Pro on phone calls.

I also have both types of AirPods, splurging out on the Pro as an impulse buy on day 1 when I happened to be in Sydney, walking past the Apple Store just as it opened (there was a shortish queue). To me, noise reduction is a big thing so it was easy to justify. And the initial purchase experience was a bit long, but quite fun!

The Pros are great, though the sound suppression is noticeably less than when I got them after a few firmware updates. And they are more comfortable and stay in my ears better. I like them.

Both types have great sound as you say. Walking through the city on the phone, the Pros win hands down for listening.

But talking is a different story. The Pros for me transmit more sound through the outer ear as they contact more firmly. That means I can hear myself in a muffled way while talking which is very distracting. Distracting enough that I try to make all of my phone calls with the original AirPods rather than the Pro.

And hopefully with the updates announced at WWDC, moving frequently between iphone/ipad/mac will be much smoother for both kinds of AirPods.


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It’s not just ambient noise that the noise cancelling of AirPods Pro are good for in our exciting pandemic times. Caroline and I are frequently on the phone within earshot of one another – and since coronavirus, with little respite – and the noise cancelling is suprisingly good at reducing one anothers’ voices to distant or inaudible.

I loved my AirPods, but I love my AirPods Pro even more – and I use them in transparency mode a lot, too. I’m amazed at how well it works – I often forget they’re in my ears, though I am sharply reminded of them when I speak, and that part I don’t like as much. I think which one prefers is affected by ear shape and individual preference more than any individual factor.

Also, the batteries last a really impressively long time on the Pros, though maybe the batteries in my regular AirPods have just seen their best days and I forgot what I used to get out of them.

I agree that the case feels less kinetically and aesthetically satisfying, but I find it easier to insert the AirPods. And I agree that both sound superb. (And why doesn’t either case have an Apple logo on it?)

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I’ve found the sound much better with the Pros. This is a matter of individual ears, of course. Although the regular AirPods rarely fell out, they also rarely stayed sealed tight enough to maintain good bass (as good as bass can be from tiny speakers). The Pros stay sealed and thus maintain their full spectrum of frequencies. They do infrequently fall out if I don’t have the stem pointed just right, but so did the regular AirPods.

For airplane and lawn mowing noise cancellation, I wear my Bowers & Wilkins PX over-the-ear phones.

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People are free to have opinions, and to keep them to themselves.

Adam Engst.
WRT the missing AirPod, did you not know you can ping each AirPod [yep individually], from the “Find My” app? It is magical…and it works. You get close using geolocation and then ping them, unfortunately, they actually have to be out of their case for this to work. You cannot ping them in the case. Surely you knew this and just forgot to?

In terms of the comparison, here is my 2c worth:

  1. If you buy any buds for actually fidelity reasons, you are probably wasting your time. True fidelity comes from a high quality sound source [ie NOT MP3], and big amounts of air being pushed.
  2. I reckon all bud type systems sound about the same. WIthout proper attention to fit, however, AirPod Pros can sound really thin and tinny. Please do the sound test and use the correct tip.
  3. AirPod Pros are the stuff of science fiction! How they do the noise cancellation is beyond comprehension. I reckon the noise cancellation is easily as good as the Bose over ear cans I sold off years ago. I am a frequent flyer and the difference is astonishing.
    4., An typical, Apple added value. The transparency feature is not avaialble on any other device, to my knowlege and is excellent at keeping you safe as a pedestrian.
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Very nice review. Informative while also describing your own needs. And not poo pooing people with needs that differ from your own.

If I bought either one – I still use wired earbuds because I’m cheap – definitely the Airpods Pro. I’ve learned from using the wired Apple earpods how much noise I encounter during my commute, I take the DC metro. When I use Apple airbuds I have to pause my podcasts frequently because I can’t hear the podcasts. So for me noise cancelling is the most important feature when comparing the two. If I didn’t take mass transit every day – or just 2 days a week for the time beaing – other factors would be more important to me.