Apple AirPods Pro with USB-C review: It’s time – LSB

I won’t lie: my work here wasn’t very difficult.

Apple’s new AirPods Pro, released during the iPhone 15 presentation in September, are technically a new product, but in almost every aspect they are the same as last year’s second-generation AirPods Pro. To read my perspective on their sound, design and user interface, check out my review here.

The biggest difference with the new AirPods Pro is how you charge them. The Lightning port on the case has been replaced with a USB-C charging port — Apple reflects this revision with new iPhones. But while the Cupertino-based tech giant is still calling them “second-generation AirPods Pro,” they have some hidden features that make them little more than the same old headphones in a new case.

Apple AirPods Pro

Apart from the USB-C port, the AirPods Pro are no different from last year’s model.
Credit: Stan Schroeder/Mashable

Here’s a quick checklist of the new USB-C AirPods Pro features (which is what everyone will probably be calling them from now on):

  • A USB-C port that lets you charge the case by plugging it directly into your iPhone

  • New braided USB-C to USB-C cable

  • Dust resistance, bringing the AirPods Pro’s water and dust resistance rating up to IP54 (the rating applies to both the case and the headphones)

  • Lossless audio with Apple Vision Pro

That last one is very cool. Lossless audio and wireless don’t usually mix, and despite manufacturers’ claims, Bluetooth-based lossless audio is almost never truly lossless. But the new AirPods Pro feature Apple’s H2 chip, just like Apple’s Vision Pro, and Apple engineers actually designed a new wireless audio protocol that supports 20-bit, 48 kHz lossless audio with very short delays.


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In practice, when the Vision Pro launches (the time is still officially “early next year”), owners will be able to listen to lossless audio on their USB-C AirPods Pro while using the Vision Pro. As eager as I am to test this (I’m especially interested in those low delays Apple promises), there’s no way to do so now, but I’ll update this review if I ever get my hands on the $3,500 headphones.

Dust resistance is also difficult to test for obvious reasons. My hotel room in Cupertino was pretty dusty and it didn’t hurt the AirPods Pro in the slightest. We’ll call it testing!

Apple AirPods Pro

If you run out, you can now charge your AirPods with your iPhone 15 or iPhone 15 Pro.
Credit: Stan Schroeder/Mashable

The most notable feature is the USB-C port, which replaces Apple’s own Lightning charging port, which is now almost dead. I’m happy to report that the boot works as expected; It’s a relief to be able to charge all my devices with the exact same USB-C to USB-C cable.

There is a great new feature here; you can charge the new AirPods Pro by connecting them to any of Apple’s new iPhone 15 devices. This is one of those features you won’t need very often, but it’s nice to have the option.

Is that all? Technically, yes. The new AirPods Pro are otherwise the same as their Lightning port-equipped predecessor (Apple simply calls them both second-generation AirPods Pro), though you can no longer buy that version from Apple.

However, there are some iOS 17 beta options that have enriched my experience with the new AirPods Pro. These features work with both USB-C and Lightning variants of the AirPods Pro, and include adaptive audio, conversation recognition, and custom volume.

The three features, accessible both in settings and by long-pressing the volume icon in Control Center when AirPods Pro are connected, work in tandem and build on each other. Adaptive Audio tunes out the outside sounds you don’t want to hear, leaving the sounds you want. Conversation Awareness lowers the music volume when you start talking to someone and increases it when the conversation stops. And Personalized Volume intelligently adapts your listening volume depending on the scenario you’re in.

The end result is a pretty impressive combination that uses Apple’s machine learning magic to juggle all of these capabilities into something that sometimes looks really clever. For example, when I talk to someone while listening to music, AirPods Pro automatically lowers the volume so I can hear them. When the device “senses” that the call is over, it gradually increases the volume to previous levels. Adaptive audio, when set, will selectively reduce certain noises while skipping others; this works particularly well with sirens, making it perhaps the best mode for urban cycling or running.

Apple AirPods Pro

The price is the same, but the cable is now braided. Added value!
Credit: Stan Schroeder/Mashable

Apple seems to be aiming for an all-encompassing listening mode that uses AI to intelligently understand how you want your headphones to behave in different scenarios – and automatically adapts accordingly. The idea is promising, but not quite there for me yet. For example, Adaptive Audio reduces much less noise than full noise cancellation, which was rarely ideal for my needs. And while Conversation Awareness won’t kick in every time you mumble something to yourself, it’s not great for people who like to sing along to the tune they’re listening to (reader, I’m those people).

Should you buy the new AirPods Pro? The answer is pretty simple: they’re just as good (and even a little better, thanks to USB-C and other minor improvements) as last year’s AirPods Pro. If you already have them, the upgrade isn’t worth it (unless you really can’t stand the Lightning port). If you’re just looking for a pair of headphones with good sound and excellent noise cancellation, along with some unique smart features, the AirPods Pro are a great buy.

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