Apple AirPods are the best-selling wireless headphones in the world. Whether you love ’em for making your time at the gym more seamless, for sharing a bud with a friend, or for getting in the zone at work, they’ve pushed the boundaries of audio-enhanced experiences. With the Wednesday release of the AirPods Pro ($250), Apple introduces noise cancelling into the already advanced technology of the buds.
The latest AirPods allow the user to toggle between three listening modes: “off” (which doesn’t manipulate the sounds around you), “transparency” (which allows you to tune in to your music and the world simultaneously), and—the standout feature of Apple’s new product—noise cancellation (which dismisses any sound not found on your playlist).
Like a technological magic trick, the noise-cancelling ear buds take in the sound around you and adjust it for a crisp, uninterrupted listening experience. “An outward-facing microphone detects external sound, and AirPods Pro then counter it with equal anti-noise, canceling outside noise before you hear it. An inward-facing microphone listens inside your ear, enabling AirPods Pro to also eliminate unwanted internal sound with anti-noise,” explained Apple in a press release. And get this: the noise cancellation adjusts sound 200 times per second.
The AirPods Pro are an appropriate follow-up for the new Apple Watch Series 5, which introduced a feature designed to keep you aware of harmful levels of noise. When your watch alerts you to an unsafe decibel of noise, you can now put in your AirPods and set them to noise cancellation to create a pretty powerful barrier between yourself and the potential affects of noise pollution—which can wreak havoc on your mental health over time. Since the device actively banishes noise, it also means you may not need to crank your music as loud as you previously would.
The shape of the buds also got a redesign. The new silicone tips on the AirPods Pro come in three sizes—small, medium, and large—to accommodate a range of ear shapes while creating a seal that further boosts noise-cancellation capabilities.
These updates mean that phone calls, music, and Siri commands will have less background noise to contend with, of course. More importantly, though, they foreshadow a future of ear wear that’s concerned with the health risks that can accompany too much noise stimulation. Headphones can be immersive and safe for your eardrums at once.
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