Review of Apple AirPods Pro with USB-C

Apple’s latest AirPods Pro maintain their familiar features, with a notable shift being the introduction of the USB-C port.

Review of Apple AirPods Pro with USB-C
Review of Apple AirPods Pro with USB-C

Apple’s recent AirPods Pro, unveiled during the iPhone 15 keynote in September, are technically a new release, but they closely resemble last year’s second-generation AirPods Pro in almost all aspects. For insights into their sound, design, and user interface, you can read my review here.

Review of Apple AirPods Pro with USB-C

The primary change on the latest AirPods Pro lies in their charging method. The case no longer features a Lightning port but now incorporates a USB-C charging port—a modification Apple has synchronized with its new iPhones. Although Apple continues to label them as the “second-generation AirPods Pro,” these earbuds do conceal some undisclosed features that set them apart from being just the same old earbuds in a new case.

Here’s a brief checklist of the new features on the USB-C AirPods Pro (likely to be their new colloquial name):

The features include:

  • A USB-C port for direct charging by plugging into your iPhone.
  • A new braided USB-C to USB-C cable.
  • Dust resistance, elevating the AirPods Pro’s water- and dust-resistance rating to IP54 (applying to both the case and the earbuds).
  • Lossless audio with Apple Vision Pro.

The final feature is quite impressive. Traditionally, lossless audio and wireless technologies don’t blend well, and despite assertions from manufacturers, Bluetooth-based lossless audio is seldom genuinely lossless. However, the latest AirPods Pro incorporates Apple’s H2 chip, akin to Apple’s Vision Pro. Apple’s engineers have innovatively crafted a new wireless audio protocol supporting 20-bit, 48 kHz lossless audio with minimal latencies.

In practical terms, when Vision Pro officially launches (currently scheduled for “early next year”), users can enjoy lossless audio on their USB-C AirPods Pro while using the Vision Pro. While I’m eager to test this out, especially intrigued by the low latencies Apple promises, I currently lack the means to do so. However, I’ll update this review if I ever acquire the $3,500 headset.

Exploring the Noteworthy Features of the USB-C AirPods Pro

Testing for dust resistance is challenging for evident reasons. My hotel room in Cupertino had a fair amount of dust, and it had no adverse effects on the AirPods Pro. Let’s consider it testing!

The standout feature is the USB-C port, taking over from Apple’s proprietary and now nearly obsolete Lightning charging port. I’m pleased to confirm that the charging functions as anticipated, providing the convenience of using the same USB-C to USB-C cable for all my devices.

A nifty hidden feature is the ability to charge the new AirPods Pro by connecting them to any of Apple’s new iPhone 15 devices. While it may not be a frequently used feature, having the option is a nice touch.

Is that everything? Technically, yes. The new AirPods Pro are, in all other respects, identical to their predecessor equipped with the Lightning port (both referred to as the second-generation AirPods Pro), although you can no longer purchase that version from Apple.

Nevertheless, there are some iOS 17 beta options that enhanced my experience with the new AirPods Pro. These features are applicable to both the USB-C and the Lightning variants of the AirPods Pro and include Adaptive Audio, Conversation Awareness, and Personalized Volume.

The three features, accessible in both Settings and by long-pressing the volume icon in the Control Center when AirPods Pro are connected, collaboratively enhance the overall experience. Adaptive Audio eliminates unwanted external sounds while preserving the ones you wish to hear. Conversation Awareness lowers the music volume when you engage in conversation and raises it again when the conversation concludes. Personalized Volume intelligently adjusts the listening volume based on the context of your surroundings.

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