Apple Airpods Pro (2019) review

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8.3Expert Score
Apple AirPods Pro (2019) review: Still great value

Apple’s first generation of pro-grade AirPods offer noise cancellation, customisable ear tips and support for spatial audio, and are still worth consideration despite the launch of the second generation.

Design
8.5
Performance
8
Pros
  • Seamless integration with Apple ecosystem
  • Good audio quality
  • Spatial audio sounds great
  • Solid noise cancellation
Cons
  • Not ideal for non-Apple users
  • Price, particularly with newer generation

Apple’s first generation of pro-grade AirPods offer noise cancellation, customisable ear tips and support for spatial audio. They are still worth consideration despite the launch of the second generation.

It’s been three years since Apple first unveiled its pro-grade AirPods. In the world of consumer electronics, three years is a long time. Plus, those past three years have seen a seismic shift in how people work and play thanks to COVID-19.

While Apple has recently launched the second generation of the AirPods Pro, the first generation still holds up as a high-value pair of true wireless earbuds. In fact, they have only just been bumped out of our list of the best wireless earbuds in Australia.

From the seamless integration with Apple devices, to the support for spatial audio and its still-impressive noise cancellation, the first generation of AirPods Pros are still worth consideration, particularly for those looking for wireless earbuds on a budget.

AirPods Pro 2019 review

Design

While the design of the AirPods Pro was significant back in 2019 when it launched, in today’s earbud market it is remarkably normal. The Pros launched with shorter stems than the second generation of AirPods, barely protruding from your ears. Today, that shorter stem design has been integrated into the AirPods (3rd generation), making it less of a noteworthy feature.

Similarly, the interchangeable silicone earpieces for a more precise fit is largely considered standard for more premium earbuds. Wireless charging in the case is another standard feature common to many manufacturers.

Even the newer second generation of AirPods Pro didn’t do much to change the successful design of these earbuds, which gives you the best indication yet that the design works.

From a control perspective, the AirPods Pro is comparatively limited. Each earbud features pressure controls that let you flip between noise cancellation and transparency mode with a long press, or manage your music playback with shorter squeezes.

Apple’s original pitch was to give direct Siri integration to control some of the more complex features, like volume. In the two years I’ve been using the AirPods Pro, I’ve never once used Siri in this way. It’s not a surprise then that dedicated volume controls are one of the features added to the second generation.

Ultimately, the AirPods Pro are iconic. You can spot them in ears from across the room and know what they are. Even the case is iconic in its standard Apple simplicity.

AirPods Pro 2019 review

Performance

For the past two years, the AirPods Pro have been my de facto companion for everything from Zoom calls to listening to music.

This is because these earphones are very good.

Admittedly, they don’t have the best sound quality. Compared to a premium set of Sony or Sennheiser earbuds, I would have to say that the AirPods don’t sound as good.

Similarly, they aren’t always the most comfortable earbuds. I found the Jabra Elite 85t a more comfortable set of earbuds than the AirPods, particularly for extended periods of time.

From a noise cancellation perspective, these earbuds do a really solid job. They don’t really hit the heights of Sony or Bose’s flagship earbuds in terms of absolute noise cancellation.

The price of convenience

The AirPods are convenient without sacrifice. Just because they don’t sound the best and don’t fit the best, they still sound and fit extremely well.

And they come with the convenience of seamless integration with the Apple ecosystem, and that’s a price worth paying.

This means that I can be listening to music on my phone, and then jump to a Zoom call on my Mac with barely a finger lifted to change which devices I am hearing audio from.

Then, I can connect to Fitness+ on my Apple TV and do the same thing, all without having to remove the AirPods from my ears.

This convenience is worth the price of admission, every day of the week. Of course, you need to be already embedded with the Apple ecosystem, and not everybody is.

In fact, I’d go so far as to say that if your smartphone — the hub of modern-day living — is not an iPhone, then the AirPods Pro are not worth considering.

But if you do use Apple devices every day, then the AirPods Pro bring simplicity and quality audio to the mix.

AirPods Pro 2019 review

Spatial audio

The one area worth calling out that the AirPods do a superb job of is spatial audio, or surround sound.

Whether you listen to music specifically mixed to offer spatial audio, or you just pair it to an iPad to watch a movie, the AirPods Pro give a remarkably strong imitation of being immersed with surround sound speakers.

Obviously, source material is important here. The source needs to be encoded in 5.1, 7.1 or Dolby Atmos, and your paired device must be able to decode those channels.

But it’s a relatively uncommon offering in the true wireless earbuds space, and is worth applauding Apple for offering it.

Battery life

Apple tends to sit in the “good but not great” rating scale for battery life on the AirPods Pro. Typically, I manage to get up to about five hours of continuous playback with noise cancellation switched on. If I’m honest, it’s a rare event that I spend that long with these plugged in to my ears.

The case holds about 3-4 full charges, so you can comfortably know you’ll have about a full day’s worth of listening between charges.

The good news is that you can use each earbud independently. I’ve had quite a few meetings that have gone on for eternity, draining the AirPods battery faster than my will to live; I have had to charge a single AirPod at a time, so I could remain connected.

The case also supports wireless charging. That means you drop it onto a wireless charging pad when you’re at your desk, or overnight while you sleep, so you will always have some battery life to get you going in the morning.

Verdict

With the arrival of the 2022 model, you probably wouldn’t choose the 2019 model unless you were getting a bargain.

If you can get them at a discounted price, they are still a great option.

But it really depends on that discount. Given the newer models will set you back $399, paying more than $300 for the first generation is ludicrous.

If you manage to pick them up cheaply, the AirPods Pro will offer you a great experience. Nice sound quality, a comfortable fit, and seamless integration with Apple devices all at a bargain price.

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Product disclosure

The product for this review was purchased by the author.

Author

  • Nick Broughall

    Nick is the founder and editor of BTTR. He is an award winning product reviewer, who has spent the last 20 years writing, editing and publishing technology and consumer content for brands like Finder, Gizmodo and TechRadar.

    View all posts
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