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Apple Update May Not Have Changed Noise-Canceling After All [Updated]

Apple AirPods Pro, the super-successful in-ear headphones have, until now, only had one problem: they were so popular it was hard to get your hands on a pair. You can read my in-depth review here.

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AirPods Pro earbuds – how are they sounding now?

David Phelan

Update: This post now has a revised ending and new deals for buying AirPods Pro.

The new fit with soft eartips in three sizes for the best seal, the new design which many found stayed in their ears better, the great in-call performance – all these were widely liked. 

But above all, it was the active noise-canceling which won the best reviews. I’d say they outdid any in-ear headphones for this, and probably most over-ear cans, too. In other words, these earbuds sounded just great.

But a couple of firmware updates left some users wondering if their AirPods Pro were sounding as good as they used to. And then the update was pulled by Apple. 

I’ll add that it’s my understanding that the issues experienced have not been at all widespread. Indeed, I believe Apple temporarily withdrew the latest update for reasons unrelated to noise-cancelation – I’m getting the impression from Apple that neither noise-canceling nor any other part of the AirPods Pro performance has been impacted by 2C54 at all, as far as it’s concerned. In other words, Apple is not saying that it has altered noise-cancelation at all in its update. Indeed, the pulling of 2C54 may have just been because of an AirPods, as opposed to AirPods Pro, issue.

I’m continuing to ask Apple about this and if I get an update, I’ll share it here.

What’s going on? Here’s everything you need to know. 

Oh, and I’ve attached the latest and best AirPods deals further down this post. I’ll be updating it regularly, so please check back.

Apple AirPods Pro In-Depth Review: Snappy Design, Dazzling Sound Forbes David Phelan

Spoiler alert: AirPods Pro still sound fantastic – better in some ways

I’ve been using my AirPods Pro, which are on the latest firmware, consistently since launch and haven’t noticed any drop in performance. Not even in noise-canceling, and not even in the most challenging of circumstances – on a plane. I’ve flown long-distance with them twice recently. Once on a Boeing 777 and once on the most beautiful, but also the noisiest, plane, the Boeing 747. In both cases, the audio quality was outstanding, easily audible above the jet engines. 

But these things are subjective and while I haven’t had any problems, a recent test by Rtings.com suggests that a change has come about. 

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Unboxing AirPods Pro.

Apple

What’s gone before?

Glad you asked. Before we get to Rtings.com, here’s a quick history of updates for the AirPods Pro.

Apple AirPods Pro first appeared on Monday, October 28, which is when I started testing them. Within days, the firmware had been updated to version 2B584. Then came 2B588. Which led to some users thinking the noise-canceling wasn’t as good as it had been. 

After that, came 2C54, the latest update, in mid-December 2019. Some users still felt things didn’t sound quite as wonderful as before. 

Apple iPhone 11 To Google Pixel 4, The 7 Best Smartphones Right Now. Updated: New Deals Forbes David Phelan

I didn’t even know you could update AirPods firmware

Fair enough. In fact, you don’t need to. It’s something that Apple does for you. If your AirPods are in their case and the case is being charged, then providing an internet-connected Apple device is nearby, one that you’ve previously connected your AirPods to, then the whole update process is automatic. 

By the way, it is possible to force an update. To do this, you charge the AirPods in their case near your iPhone, open the case and let the magic happen.

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Buying AirPods and AirPods Pro

AirPods from Apple

AirPods Pro with pig animoji

AirPods Pro with pig animoji

Apple

You can buy Apple AirPods Pro from Apple, $249, including free engraving – even of an Animoji – from here.

Apple AirPods, the non-Pro version, can also be found at Apple’s website. Choose from the version with wireless charging case, $199, which you can buy here, and the version with the regular charging case, $159, which you can buy here.

AirPods Deals

There are currently no AirPods Pro deals which are under the regular $249 apart from one for members at Sam’s Club, but please check back as I’ll be updating the second there are!

Sam’s Club

AirPods Pro $234.98, $14.02 off Apple’s price, here.

AirPods with wireless charging case $169.98, $29.02 off Apple’s price, here.

AirPods with charging case $144.98, $14.02 off Apple’s price, here.

Amazon

AirPods Pro $249, full price, back in stock on February 12, here.

AirPods with wireless charging case $169, $30 off, here.

AirPods with charging case $129, $30 off, here.

Walmart

AirPods Pro $249, full price, here.

AirPods with wireless charging case $169, $30 off, here.

AirPods with charging case $129, $30 off, here.

B&H Photo

AirPods Pro $249, full price, back in stock in 6-10 weeks, here.

AirPods with wireless charging case $169.95, $30 off the regular B&H price, here.

AirPods with charging case $139.95, $20 off the regular B&H price, here.

Best Buy

AirPods Pro $249.99, full price, here.

AirPods with wireless charging case $169.99, $30 off the Best Buy price, here.

AirPods with charging case $139.99, $20 off the regular Best Buy price, here.

Target

AirPods Pro $249.99, full price, currently out of stock, here.

AirPods with wireless charging case $169.99, $30 off, here.

AirPods with charging case $144.99, $15 off, here.

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Apple_AirPods-Pro_SiP-Design_102819

If you could see through an AirPods Pro earbud, it would look like this.

Apple

So, how do the AirPods Pro sound now?

To me, they sound as good as ever. Rtings.com has tested AirPods Pro several times. After 2B588 arrived, the result was that “Apple might have tweaked the ANC, but not enough to noticeably impact the overall performance.”

ANC is Active Noise-Canceling, of course. 

But yesterday, Ian McPhail, from Rtings.com revealed that a full re-test had take place, saying, “We finished re-testing with firmware 2C54 and did indeed notice a drop in noise isolation performance, primarily in the bass range. We’ve updated the review with our findings.”

This update led the site to say:

“After updating to Firmware 2C54, we retested the headphones and our results showed a fairly significant drop in isolation performance, primarily in the bass-range. This means that with ANC turned on, these headphones won’t do nearly as good a job blocking out the low engine rumbles of planes or buses as they did before this update.”

Here’s the site’s AirPods Pro full review. And when I say full, oh my, but it’s incredibly detailed, with stats, facts and graphs about every detail of the sound. 

Below is the graph comparing noise isolation for Firmware 2B588 and the current 2C54. 

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Apple AirPods Pro noise isolation compared by Rtings.com.

Rtings.com

The isolation is less effective in the low and mid bass frequencies, according to the graph. 

Is there any good news?

There is. First of all, please note that the revised review still lists “Great ANC performance” as one of the standout Pro elements.

Second, when it comes to Frequency Response Consistency, things have got “significantly better” since the latest update. This metric shows how consistently the headphones perform after re-positioning them. 

Similarly, the section on Bass accuracy comments that since the update that the bass accuracy has had a “fairly significant improvement” and that this means “The bass accuracy of the AirPods Pro is excellent.” Even so, it’s only fair to add, the site finds that “the response is still a bit under our target curve, meaning some people might feel like they are a little light on bass.”

Other changes, such as treble accuracy and mid accuracy, were found to have very slight changes since the latest update. 

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Apple AirPods Pro and charging case.

Apple

What next?

Apple will doubtless update the firmware, though there’s no date set yet. I have reached out to Apple and will report back if I hear more details. 

For now, though, AirPods Pro remain excellent, great-sounding true-wireless headphones.

As mentioned above, it’s my understanding that issues are not that common and that Apple probably withdrew the latest update for reasons unrelated to noise-cancelation. Noise-canceling or any other part of the AirPods Pro performance aren’t impacted by 2C54 at all, as far as Apple is concerned.

The next update, let’s hope, will make them sound even better. 

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Follow me on Instagram by clicking here: davidphelantech and Twitter: @davidphelan2009

More on Forbes: Apple iPhone 11 Pro Long-Term Review: Verdict And Deals

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