Both of Apple’s wireless earbuds contain microphones, but AirPods Pro includes twice as many with inward-facing mics to hear just like you.
Apple‘s AirPods have great wireless sound and integrate well with the iPhone, Apple Watch, and other Apple products, and they also feature a microphone. Not all earbuds do, but a mic can make quite a bit of difference in the quality of the sound and how the product can be used. Naturally having earbuds that contain a mic is better than those that do not and more is usually better. AirPods and AirPods Pro both have multiple mics, with more found in the latter and serving various interesting purposes that are worth further discussion.
Apple launched the AirPods in 2016 and they quickly became among the most popular wireless earbuds in the world, claiming a significant portion of the overall global market share by 2019. Apple has only released two models of wireless earbuds since the original, one being the second generation of AirPods that brought hands-free Siri interaction, longer talk time, and faster connectivity. The other model is the AirPods Pro and it is quite a step up from the base model, featuring active noise cancellation and an advanced ‘transparency’ mode that allows outside sounds to come through without removing the earbuds.
Apple’s standard AirPods have a microphone on each side at the end of the stem. These are needed for user interactions with Apple’s virtual assistant, activated with the key phrase Hey Siri. The wearer can ask for weather updates, switch music playlists, ask Siri to read messages, and more. The microphones also serve to pick up the wearer’s voice when answering phone calls. Both are noise-reducing microphones that lower background noise and that’s why AirPods work great for calls. AirPods Pro costs $90 more but includes more microphones that are used to dramatically improve sound quality.
AirPods Pro’s Microphones Explained
Apple placed four microphones in its top-of-the-line AirPods Pro wireless earbuds. Two are used in the same way as those in the standard AirPods, for listening to the wearer’s voice commands, allowing interaction with Siri, and for answering phone calls. The other two microphones are actually situated in the portion of the earbuds that fit inside the ear. Apple isn’t trying to listen in on your internal conversation with this placement. Instead, these microphones hear the sound as it is formed by your ears and picks up on any leak-through from a less than ideal fit. This means the AirPods Pro don’t adjust the sound to some theoretical model, but rather tune it specifically for each individual, and even to each ear.
The AirPods Pro adaptive active noise cancellation (ANC) happens automatically, hearing what outside sound penetrates or leaks through and counters it with anti-noise, a reverse waveform of the unwanted external sounds. This can be switched off when outer sound is desired, of course, using transparency mode. For voice commands and calls, Apple allows the external microphones of both the AirPods and AirPods Pro to be set to always listening to the left earbud, always to the right earbud or automatic which leaves the decision to the earbuds themselves, choosing whichever is providing the best sound and least noise. Overall, Apple not only included a microphone, but standard AirPods have at least two microphones to allow interaction and calls, while AirPods Pro includes two additional inward-facing microphones to improve sound quality and cancel noise.
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