Apple’s New AirPods Look Pro, but Are Still Missing Noise Cancellation

Apple’s New AirPods Look Pro, but Are Still Missing Noise Cancellation
Image: Apple

Five years after the original release of AirPods, and a couple years after a minor upgrade that included the addition of wireless charging, Apple has revealed a complete AirPods overhaul. The third-gen earbuds now have a design similar to the AirPods Pro, and while they introduce features like adaptive EQ and conversation boost, they unfortunately won’t include active noise cancellation.

We unpack the AirPods 3 a little more over here.

The iconic design of the wired white earbuds bundled with iPhones for more than a decade was carried through to Apple’s first wireless earbuds, but the new third-gen AirPods are finally embracing a curvier aesthetic paired with a shorter stem design, which makes them look more like the AirPods Pro. What separates the new AirPods from the AirPods Pro, however, is a lack of silicone ear tips. Like the original AirPods, the new earbuds are designed to sit inside your ears instead of fitting snugly inside the ear canal with a squishy silicone plug. Users who’ve had trouble keeping AirPods in their ears might still struggle with the new AirPods as a result. The design decision also means that Apple is not bringing active noise cancellation to the new AirPods, as the silicone tips (which often come in various sizes to ensure the best fit) are a crucial part of keeping unwanted noises out of the ear. That’s a feature Apple is apparently planning to keep exclusive to the AirPods Pro and the AirPods Max.

In addition to a new design, Apple is bringing a few other features from the AirPods Pro to the third-gen AirPods, which to date have been fairly basic functionality-wise. Adaptive EQ will automatically adjust the frequencies of what’s being listened to based on how the sounds are being measured in the ear, so no matter how the buds are worn, or how their position may change during a run, for example, the quality of the sound should always be optimal.

The new AirPods will also leverage their microphone for a feature that automatically boosts the sounds of voices when worn during a conversation. A similar feature was introduced with iOS 14 for the AirPods Pro that promised to make quieter voices more audible, essentially turning the wireless earbuds into makeshift hearing aids, but it remains to be seen how well the feature will work with earbuds that don’t also include ANC functionality to reduce unwanted noises at the same time.

The third-gen AirPods charging case has also been redesigned to accommodate a larger battery. Apple promises six hours of listening time on the buds alone, or up to 30 hours in total when topped up with the charging case while away from a power source. Five minutes in the case will also charge the earbuds enough for an hour of listening to music, podcasts, or audiobooks.

Pricing And Availability

  • AirPods (3rd generation) will be available for RRP $279 and are available to pre-order from Apple, with availability in stores beginning Tuesday, 26 October.
  • AirPods (2nd generation) also have a price drop, they’re now available for RRP $219.
  • AirPods Pro now come with MagSafe Charging Case for the same price of RRP $399.

We’ll have to see how the new AirPods stack up to their rivals, so stay tuned for a full review.