The new AirPods Pro are crazy expensive — and here’s how they compare to the competition
- The new
AirPods Procome with a price tag of $249 in the US and ₹24,900 in India.
- These earbuds boast of active noise cancellation, transparency mode, and water resistance.
- Alternatives in the Indian market are far and few.
Earphones and headphones have been around for decades. Even wireless headphones have been around since the dawn of Bluetooth. In comparison, earbuds are a relatively nascent concept that was introduced in 2016 by Apple. After which, the second generation of AirPods was only released earlier this year in March.
Then there’s the obvious Apple branding. If it’s Apple tech, it’s luxury tech — so no, one should not expect the price to be ‘low’ or ‘budget’.
And, also since it’s Apple tech, there’s a lot that the earbuds are promising to justify the price.
Active noise cancellation
There’s a key difference between ordinary noise cancellation and active noise cancellation. Normal noise cancellation headphones simply try and block external noise out using insulation, sound absorbing materials or a muffler. It’s a passive mechanism — like wearing a high-tech powered ear muffs.
‘Active’ noise cancellation, like on the Airpods Pro, needs a power source. It listens in on the background noise coming in and emulates a counteractive frequency to cancel it out.
It’s using technology that can actively cancel out background noise, which allows the AirPods to be so small. Normal noise cancelling headphones are normally bulky and over-ear to block out as much noise as possible by isolating the ear.
The ‘transparency’ mode
The transparency mode is the direct inverse of active noise cancellation. Where the latter blocks out outside noise completely, the former lets it in.
Rubber ended earbuds, even without active noise cancellation, subdue background noise. With the transparency mode, users can hear the outside world as their ears normally would — even while playing music simultaneously.
It’s also a convenient way switch over from noise cancellation mode into a conversation at a flip of a button — something Apple calls the ‘force sensor’ on the AirPods Pro.
One of the key advantages of wireless earbuds is that a user can move around freely. But a lot of that comes undone when the Airpods aren’t waterproof. The new AirPods Pro comes with an IPX4 water-resistance stamp.
This doesn’t mean that the AirPods Pro will survive being dumped in water but they will survive the morning jog or a vigorous workout in the gym. In a country like India, it’s not even about having an active lifestyle. A simple walk down the street during the summers means excessive perspiration — with the AirPods Pro can now handle.
Alternatives are far and few
Taking the combination of features into account, there’s no other set of earbuds offering quite the same deal.
Globally, the alternatives are scarce and in India, they get even more sparse due to the lack of certain brands.
Sony’s WF-1000XM3, for example — available in the US for $229 — are the closest alternatives to what Apple has to offer with the Airpods Pro. They sport active noise cancellation and transparency, but they’re not water resistant and are yet to launch in India.
In India, the only earbuds that come close to offering noise cancellation are the Jabra Elite 65t or the Bose’s SoundSport Free — and neither offer active noise cancellation, just noise isolation.
Active noise cancellation is only available in over-ear models like the Sony WH-1000XM3, Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 or Sennheiser’s PXC 550 Wireless — or on in-ear models like Bose QuietComfort 20 or the Jabra Elite 65e.
Over-ear headphones are generally bulky and can’t be worn for a long time because they suffocate the ear. In-ear headphones, though a closer cousin to the earbuds, aren’t entirely wireless since they still have a wire dangling around the neck.
Some people might think that it’s too much money to be spending on a pair of earphones but considering what on offer, the AirPods Pro are not the worst deal — especially for users looking for an all-in-one solution that makes them are wireless as they can be.
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