I’ll Never Travel Without the New AirPods Pro Earbuds After Using Them on a Long-haul Flight — Here's Why

The new Apple AirPods Pro earbuds win for sound quality and noise cancellation.

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Every fall, Apple unveils a much-anticipated new generation of tech products with the promise of upgraded features, and this year the industry leader released the second generation of the AirPods Pro headphones. With new products coming out every year, I’m generally skeptical about whether or not the number of improvements warrants an upgrade, so when Apple offered to send us a pair to test, I jumped at the chance to find out myself. 

Whether I’m on the train commuting to work or flying across the country, a pair of comfortable earphones are essential. For the past month, I’ve been using the new AirPods Pro for exercising at the gym, commuting to work, and I even wore them for the entirety of an international flight.

Keep reading to find out how the second-generation earbuds performed.

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Apple Airpods Pro (2nd Generation)

Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Generation)

Apple

Setting Up the AirPods 

From unboxing to synching the earbuds to my iPhone 12, the entire process took less than one minute. All I had to do was hold down the button on the back of the charging case and my phone recognized the AirPods prompting me to click “connect” and they were synced immediately. The second-gens come with a charging case, two earbuds, a charger, and four different-sized rubber ear tips — an upgrade from the first-generation ones that only included three sizes. I loved that I could hop into my AirPods settings to use the ear tip testing feature that played random music to test the fit of the ear tips to maximize the noise-canceling feature.

It took a few tries to get my MacBook Pro to recognize and sync to the earbuds but I chalk that up mostly to my error of not turning off the Bluetooth on my iPhone. I generally choose Apple products over anything else for convenience, so I was pleased with the quick setup. 

How the Noise-canceling Feature Works 

For the past four years, I’ve been using the first generation of AirPods that don’t have any noise-canceling abilities whatsoever. While I didn’t use the instructions to pair the earbuds to my iPhone, I did open up the paper manual to learn the basics of using the noise-canceling feature. This set features a powerful H2 chip with twice the amount of active noise cancellation (ANC) than its predecessor and the second-gens also have Apple’s new adaptive transparency setting that can be turned on and off by pressing on the stem of either earbud. 

AirPods Pro Review

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The ANC setting immediately blew me away with how quickly it drowned out most of the outside sounds. The adaptive transparency feature eliminates loud sounds like a car honking but still lets me listen to music while having awareness of my surroundings. I mostly kept the earbuds in ANC because I found that it didn’t completely get rid of loud noises like the subway screeching but still kept most environmental noises at bay. 

Apple also introduced Personalized Space Audio designed to scan your ears through a facial recognition test to customize your listening experience. In your AirPods settings, there is an example sound that shows what the Personalized Space Audio sounds like when it’s turned on and off. I’m not completely sure it makes a difference to me personally, but could for others.

Overall Performance

Having never used a pair of noise-canceling headphones before, I was truly mind-blown the first time I put these earbuds in my ears. I live on a busy avenue in New York City so to have silence surrounding me for the first time was actual bliss. However, the longer I started to use the headphones in different settings, I noticed the pros and cons of using them in various situations. 

Firstly, the sound quality of music and podcasts is exceptional. I mainly listen to music through my earbuds while on the subway or on a plane, and the ANC combined with music playing pretty much drowns out all the screeching on the subway. If music isn’t playing, I can still hear light chatter and the doors opening, but it’s still impressively quiet. When talking on the phone, the sound quality on my end is super clear, but those on the other end of the line did say that I had a slight echo so I wasn’t super impressed with the microphone. 

At the gym, the buds stay comfortably resting in my ear during high-intensity workouts even with my pesky tragus ear piercing that often gets in the way of earbuds. When it comes to fit, I learned fairly quickly that ear tip sizing is crucial to get the best noise cancelation. If the ear tips are too small or too big, you won’t get as much ANC.

The AirPods Pro headphones shined the brightest when I used them during two international flights where they completely drowned out that awful airplane static noise with or without music playing. And when I took them out to go to the bathroom, I nearly fell back into my seat momentarily forgetting how loud airplanes can be. When I opened Netflix to watch a mid-flight show, the sound was so crisp and sharp that it felt like the characters were talking right into my ear. Another perk for travelers is that the case has a small lanyard hole to make it easier to carry your earbuds or fish them out of your bag before a flight. Out of all of the loud situations where I used the AirPods, the airplane definitely proved the strong capabilities of the earbuds. 

Are the AirPods Pro Headphones Worth It?

Apple AirPods Pro 2nd generation (2022)

In short, yes. I would recommend the second gens for people like me who have never had a pair of noise-canceling headphones and are looking for that serious upgrade Apple promises. If you already have a pair of first-gen AirPods Pro earbuds, I’d say the upgrade probably isn’t worth it since they both have a similar appearance and boast active noise-canceling abilities. However, if you’re ready to retire your older AirPods or other earbuds, the better noise cancelation, MagSafe charging ability, and longer battery life of the new version headphones are worth the $50 price difference compared to the first generation. 

The newest AirPods Pro headphones are thoughtfully designed for the everyday traveler, whether that’s someone who gets on an airplane often, takes public transportation, or goes for walks. Sure, there are probably more high-tech pairs out there, but these offer convenience for iOS device users, superb sound and ANC quality, and they’re compact making them a must-have travel accessory. I certainly won’t be leaving my house without them anytime soon. 

Why Trust Travel + Leisure

Anna Popp is a Commerce Writer at Travel + Leisure, where she writes and reviews travel products. She has been travel writing since 2018 and product testing since 2021. Anna tested a pair of the new AirPods Pro earbuds while commuting to work, going to the gym, and for the duration of two international flights to give an honest and accurate review of Apple’s newest earbuds. 

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