AirPods Vs AirPods Pro: Really, What’s the Difference?

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by Jack Taylor | Last Updated:  December 30, 2019

With the release of the AirPods Pro, one naturally asks which pair they should purchase. What is the difference between the AirPods vs the AirPods Pro, and which set of AirPods should you buy?

The major differences between the AirPods and the AirPods Pro is that the AirPods Pro offers noise cancellation, a custom fit to your ear, and they are water resistant. There are benefits to each, and which pair you choose depends on what is important to you and and what your budget will allow for.

Below is a snapshot of the AirPods and the AirPods Pro that shows the differences between the two. In a minute, we will talk about the advantages that each offers and discuss the differences, helping you decide which set of AirPods is the right pair for you.

AirPods vs AirPods Pro

$159$249
One Size Fits AllCustom Fit
5.4 grams per AirPod4.0 grams per AirPod
Active Noise Cancellation
Transparency Mode
H1 ChipH1 Chip
Adaptive EQ
Works on Any Version of IOSRequires iOS 13.2 or later, iPadOS 13.2 or later, watchOS 6.1 or later, tvOS 13.2 or later, or macOS Catalina 10.15.1 or later.
Supports Bluetooth 5.0Supports Bluetooth 5.0
No Water ResistanceIPX4-rated Water Resistance
Better Call Clarity in Windy Situations
Up to 5 Hours of Listening TimeUp to 5 Hours of Listening Time
More than 24 Hours of Listening Time (when used with wireless charging case)More than 24 Hours of Listening Time (when used with wireless charging case)
Wired / Wireless Charging CaseWired / Wireless Charging Case
Lightning to USB-A cable Lightning to USB-C cable
3 Sets of Ear Tips (Small, Medium, Large)
Free Personalized EngravingFree Personalized Engraving

The AirPods were first introduced in December of 2016, and have only increased in popularity with time. According to hypebeast.com:

Apple AirPods sales equate to more than $6 billion USD in 2019, which was a figure doubled from 2018. During Black Friday and Cyber Monday alone, more than three million units were sold to avid retail and online shoppers. With the year ending, 2020 expectations for the AirPods near $15 billion, with 85 million units predicted to sell.

Why are the AirPods so popular? There are a couple of factors at play here. First of all, admittedly, the brand does play a huge role. AirPods are made by Apple, and everybody knows that Apple only delivers high quality products. If AirPods were not a high-quality product, they would not offer them at all.

The second reason why they are so popular is because they are incredibly reliable. They just work. Once you initially pair your AirPods, they work every time, and once connected, they don’t drop the signal, unless, of course, you walk beyond the reach of Bluetooth. If my iPhone rings, I can literally put them in my ears, and then answer the phone. I do this all the time. They are that reliable.

Advantages of AirPods

Just because the AirPods Pro are new, does not mean that the AirPods themselves are less worthy of consideration. There are a few really good reasons to use the AirPods instead of the AirPods Pro.

AirPods Are Less Expensive Than AirPods Pro

AirPods are significantly less expensive than AirPods Pro, $90 less expensive to be exact. Much of the price difference between a pair of AirPods and a pair of AirPods Pro can be attributed to the noise cancellation feature offered by AirPods Pro. Additionally, AirPods Pro are more compact, more water resistant, and allow for custom fit to your ear canal. Just understand that the difference in price does not mean that the sound quality is $90 better. Rather, the difference in price is due to all of the new features found in the AirPods Pro.

It should be noted, that the AirPods are now available in two formats. You can buy them with or without wireless charging capabilities. Everything about the AirPods is identical between the wired version and wireless charging version. The exception, of course, being that the wireless charging AirPods allow you to place them on a wireless charger to charge, while the wired version requires you to plug them in to charge them. The wireless charging AirPods run for $199, while the base model only costs $159.

The Convenience Factor

It is easier to put the AirPods in your ears than it is to put the AirPods Pro in your ears. Why? Because when you put the AirPods Pro in your ears, you are concerned with getting a proper seal. With the AirPods, you can simply put them in and take them out. With the AirPods Pro, you put them in and then adjust to get a proper seal. With the AirPods, you simply place them on the base of your ear and BOOM, you are done. This allows me answer the phone quicker, and I can take them out of my ears easily to show someone that they have my undivided attention when speaking to me. My wife loves that, and I’m sure your spouse will too.

Advantages of AirPods Pro

The three big advantages to the AirPods Pro are that they offer noise cancellation, allow for a custom fit to your unique ear, and are water resistant.

AirPods Pro Offers Noise Cancellation

If you were to remove the noise cancellation feature from the AirPods Pro, the sound would be slightly better than the regular AirPods due to a fuller bass, and perhaps a higher range at the top end. But there would only be a slight difference, perhaps only noticeable to the audiophile, but probably not to the average consumer.

Noise cancellation brings the audio experience to a completely new level. I remember the days when you would place the needle on a record, and just prior to the song playing, you would hear every bump or scratch from the record. I remember playing “cassette tapes”, hearing the hiss between songs. When CD’s came out all that was eliminated. No more hearing scratches. No more hissing.

Today, the listening experience is better still. Instead of addressing the medium by which the music is played from, (records, real-to-real, 8-tracks, cassette tapes, CD’s, MP3’s or even streaming audio), the listening experience is now addressed from the listening device.

Apple did not invent noise cancellation, but they have done a great job in using technology to better one’s listening experience.

Noise cancellation is the process by which a microphone ”listens” to the noise outside of your ear and introduces the opposite frequency into the ear canal, which in effect, tricks the mind into thinking that there is no sound at all. At the same time, the AirPod Pro will play music or audio into your ear so that you only hear the pure intended sound. That is incredible.

AirPods Pro Allow for Custom Fit

The AirPods Pro comes with 3 sets of flexible silicone ear tips. They come in a small, medium, and a large size. What I love about this, is that you can mix and match sizes. In other words, if you’re right ear canal is smaller than your left ear canal, you would put a small size ear tip in your right here in a larger size in your left ear. You do not have to use a large size in each ear or a small size in each ear, can you can mix and match them up to find the right fit for you. Nice touch.

Apple has introduced the “Ear Fit Tip Test”, which will ensure that you will get the best audio experience by testing the quality of the seal within your ear while identifying the best ear tip size for each ear.

Advanced algorithms work together with the microphones in each AirPod to measure the sound level in the ear and compare it to what is coming from the speaker driver. In just seconds, the algorithm detects whether the ear tip is the right size and has a good fit, or should be adjusted to create a better seal.

Source Apple

AirPods Pro are Water Resistant

The AirPods Pro is IPX4-rated Water Resistance. This does NOT mean that they are water-proof. If you put them in the washing machine, or jump in a swimming pool with them on, you better have Apple Care, because you will need to get them replaced.

An IPX4 rating means that you don’t have to worry about your AirPods Pro dying on you when you find yourself out in the rain, or if you find yourself profusely sweating during a work-out at the gym.

You do need to be careful, but not fearful. In other words, you don’t want to wear them in the shower, but you won’t have to worry about getting caught out in the rain when running from your car parking lot to the office.

The One Complaint I Have Heard

It is funny how people will always find something to complain about, no matter how great the benefits are by way of comparison. I almost don’t want to bring this up, but for your benefit, I will. Just understand that I am not one of these “complainers“, and actually have some push-back that I will offer to their complaint.

Of the over 100 million owners of AirPods, there are a handful, (and by that, I mean a few), who complain that they can’t get their AirPods to stay in their ears. Let’s take a look at each, and address this concern.

AirPods

The complaint:

Standard AirPods (Generation 2), fall out of your ear if you do anything rigorous.

Yes, this is true. After putting them in your ears, if you shake your head rigorously like wet dog shaking his head, they will come out. Let’s be honest. They are not designed to withstand such rigorous action. After all, they rest on your earlobe.

Let’s not forget that verybody has a different sized ear canal, and the muscles within your ear fluctuate every time you move, talk, yawn or chew gum.

The AirPods should stay in your ears while working out or even while running, and for most people they do. I’m not one of those people, (and not because I don’t run), but because the opening to my left ear canal is wider than it is for my right ear.

When I chew gum, yawn, or even turn my head down to the left, I risk having the AirPod fall out of my left ear. But my left ear is not the size of the average user. So, is there reason for me to complain given that my left ear is not the average size of the rest of the human population on planet earth? I don’t think so.

AirPods Pro

The Complaint:

After a month of so, the AirPods Pro start falling out of my ears like the AirPods did.

Assuming that these claims are true, there are a few things you can do to prevent this from occurring.

Closing Thoughts

What really differentiates the AirPods Pro from the 1st or 2nd Generation AirPods is the noise cancellation feature, the option for a customized fit offered by the AirPods Pro, and the fact that they are water resistant, while the regular AirPods are not.

AirPods Pro “sound” better due to the noise cancellation feature they offer. For example, if you were using the regular AirPods to listen to your favorite song while vacuuming your living room, you would have to turn up the volume, and you would miss the high end and low end of the sound spectrum due to the loud noise of your roaring vacuum. Now, add the noise cancellation feature, (AirPods Pro), and all of a sudden that same song comes alive. You no longer hear the vacuum, you hear all the high end and low end frequencies from that very same song.

Do the AirPods Pro offer more when it comes to sound? Yes. $90 worth? Without noise cancellation, probably not. It is worth $90 more when you consider that AirPods Pro offers noise cancellation, the fact that they are more compact, more water resistant, and allow for a custom fit to your ear canal? You bet they are worth it. Every penny.

If you are the type of person that does not like to have something sticking into your ear canal, stick to AirPods. However, if you want a better overall listening experience, do yourself a favor and purchase the AirPods Pro. If you have any regrets, you can always return them to an Apple Store within 14 days of your purchase for a full refund, or exchange them for the regular AirPods. Either way, you will be happy in the end.


Jack has been helping people with computers needs for several years, and he loves to help people succeed. He brings a wealth of wisdom and insight from an entrepreneur's perspective and enjoys freelance writing. In fact, when he's not writing an article or working on his YouTube channel, you might find him binge-watching Suits or formatting his computer . . . again, just for fun. To learn more about Jack, click here.
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