I've been switching between Apple's standard AirPods and the AirPods Pro, and there's only 1 reason you should consider buying the more expensive version (AAPL)


airpods pro

  • If you’re trying to decide whether to purchase the standard AirPods or the pricier AirPods Pro, consider how important noise cancellation is to you.
  • There are several features that differentiate the AirPods from the AirPods Pro, but noise cancellation is the most noticeable one by far.
  • Otherwise, the AirPods Pro offer a new design with an in-ear fit and slightly improved audio quality among other changes. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories. 

Those in the market for a pair of AirPods now have more choice than ever before.

There’s the $160 standard AirPods, which Apple refreshed earlier this year, the $200 second-generation AirPods that come with a wireless charging case, and the $250 AirPods Pro. The latter represent a more significant update to Apple’s original AirPods that offer a new in-ear design, active noise cancellation, and resistance to sweat and water.

If you’re struggling to decide between the AirPods and AirPods Pro, the biggest factor to take into account is how important noise cancellation is to you. The AirPods Pro offer several upgrades over Apple’s standard pair, but noise cancellation is the most noticeable one that truly sets the Pro model apart from the regular version.

Both types of AirPods also support the same features that make Apple’s wireless earbuds stand out in the first place, like the ability to automatically connect with your iPhone once you flip open the case. 

Here’s a closer look at how the AirPods Pro compare to their less expensive predecessors. 

SEE ALSO: AirPods Pro and Powerbeats Pro are both perfect wireless earbuds for iPhone owners — here’s how to decide between them

Active noise cancellation

The AirPods Pro’s active noise cancellation is their biggest advantage over the standard AirPods. They use outward-facing microphones to detect sound and then balance it out with anti-noise, which drowns out noise when the feature is turned on. There’s also a transparency mode for times when you don’t want to block out the noise around you. 

This is the one AirPods Pro feature that I found myself missing when switching back and forth between the two pairs of headphones. It’s not just that the standard AirPods don’t have the Pros’ noise cancellation technology. They’re also not designed to plug your ear like the AirPods Pro and other in-ear headphones, so it’s nearly impossible to tune out surrounding sound.

That may not be a deal-breaker, but if you’re looking for a pair of headphones to wear in loud environments, it’s certainly worth considering.  I often wear AirPods in noisy places like the New York City subway or my office. When wearing the standard AirPods, I sometimes find myself cranking up the volume just to hear my music over the sound of the screeching subway, traffic driving by, and crowds of people talking. The AirPods Pro offer a drastic improvement in this regard. 


Design and comfort

You don’t have to actually wear the AirPods Pro to understand why they’re different from the standard pair. Even just by looking at them, you can tell that Apple has taken a noticeably distinct design approach with the Pro model.

Unlike the standard AirPods, the Pro have an in-ear design with silicone tips in three sizes to provide a more customizable and all-encompassing fit. The stems that protrude from the bottom of the buds are also significantly shorter when compared to the regular AirPods, which aren’t designed to plug your ear the way the Pro earbuds can.

Which one you find more comfortable will depend on your preferences. If you already dislike in-ear headphones, the AirPods Pro probably aren’t going to change your mind. But if you’re a fan of them, you’ll probably find Apple’s AirPods Pro to be comfortable.

Like the original AirPods, I’ve found that the Pros are much easier to situate in the ears compared to some wireless earbuds I’ve tried from other companies like Amazon and Samsung, which usually take more adjusting before I can find an enjoyable fit.

One advantage the standard AirPods have over the Pros, however, is that they’re slightly lighter, which makes them feel all the more discrete when wearing them. An individual AirPod weighs 0.14 ounces, while each AirPod Pro weighs 0.19 ounces. 

Sound quality

Apple says it made some significant changes that should significantly boost the AirPods Pro’s sound quality. The Pro model features Adaptive EQ, which the company says adjusts sound frequencies to the shape of the wearer’s ear.

They also have a custom high-excursion driver and high dynamic range amplifier, which taken together should enable crisp, rich sound and reduced background noise. 

The biggest area where you’re most likely to notice this update is in the quality of the bass. When switching between the AirPods Pro and standard AirPods, I noticed that songs with deep bass tracks had a lot more oomph when listening through the Pro. Music also generally sounded a bit more crisp and sharp through the AirPods Pro, and each layer of the track sounded slightly more defined and isolated. 

It’s not a drastic change, but it’s still an improvement. 

Other important differences between AirPods and AirPods Pro

The other major difference to take into account when deciding between the AirPods and AirPods Pro is the fact that the Pro model is water and sweat resistant. That should make the more expensive version better for those who frequently wear their AirPods to the gym. (Although, for what it’s worth, I’ve been running with my standard AirPods in for years and have never had any issues.)

The AirPods Pro also come in a new case that’s noticeably wider than the standard AirPods. This doesn’t change the experience that much, but it does make it more difficult to flip the case open with one hand. The case for the AirPods Pro also supports wireless charging by default, whereas Apple charges extra for the version of its standard AirPods that support the technology.

You can also expect the AirPods and AirPods Pro to offer similar battery life. The Pro earbuds should last for 4.5 hours on a single charge, or five hours if you have features like active noise cancellation and transparency turned off. The standard AirPods should last for five hours, according to Apple’s claims.



Which one is right for you?

If drowning out the noise from your surroundings is a top priority, then the AirPods Pro are a no-brainer. Apple’s active noise cancellation technology combined with the AirPods’ Pro design make them significantly better at blocking out the noise around you — an area in which Apple’s AirPods had been seriously lacking until this point.

That being said, if you don’t care all that much about noise cancellation and are looking to spend significantly less, the standard AirPods are probably the right choice for you. They’re lighter, less intrusive for those who dislike the feel of in-ear headphones, and their more compact case adds a little extra convenience compared to the Pro’s wider case.