After three years, what assessment can I make of the 1st generation AirPod Pro?

Is an objective assessment even possible? These three years have been more like a rollercoaster ride than a peaceful honeymoon.

The time has come to tell you about my little consumer woes in the wonderful golden prison of the Apple world.


I took my time before buying Apple headphones.

I’ve never been a big fan of the ones that came with the iPod or iPhone. Is it their shape, their smooth, slippery texture, or just that thread? To cut a long story short, I find it hard to keep them in place and they regularly get knocked out of my ears.

Apple’s decision to go wireless wasn’t enough for me to start thinking about it again. I like their products, but I’m not the fan-boy some people think I am.

But the arrival of “pro” in-ear monitors in 2019 has titillated my attention and begun to arouse a certain attraction.


Going wireless is a real convenience. The sound low quality promised by Bluetooth does weigh down this comfort somewhat.

But, with support for the AAC codec, I had at least the same quality as that coming out of AppleMusic. In any case, I’d have a much better listening experience than with the old headphones I used for running.

Apple’s thin proprietary layer added to Bluetooth fades aways up the pairing, disconnecting and connecting maneuvers between earphone and terminal. Switching from iPhone to iPad or Mac could finally be automatic, or at least done in a few clicks via the Control Center. An indisputable step forward compared to the Kama-Sutra of fingers imposed on me by my M50xBT.

The final touch was noise reduction. It’s not essential on headphones, which naturally offer good sound insulation. On earphones, however, it offers real added value, enabling minimum noise levels to be used.

A final point, which is important, was IPX4 water resistance.

After all these qualities, these headphones were bound to have their shortcomings?

The first was, of course, the price. This is far from a impulsive purchase, and I don’t spend that much without a minimum of hindsight and guarantees.

And of course, I don’t lose sight of the fact that these AirPods are a real misery from an ecological point of view.

The batteries are not replaceable. A change is an exchange for a new earphone. This is a far cry from Cupertino’s promises of environmental responsibility.

There are also rumors of a maximum lifespan of 2 years. This remains difficult to verify, as individual use determines this lifespan. But the combination of a not inconsiderable price and a potentially short lifespan didn’t argue too much in their favor.

First movement

So it took me almost 2 years to finally make the move in July 2021. It was a gift and I took advantage of a promotion to combine a pair of AirPods Pro and AppleCare coverage for a mere €240.

You’ll quickly understand that, even though it only lasts for two years, the extended warranty was an excellent buy.

I had no complaints about the quality and experience of the AirPods Pro.

Sound quality is more than adequate for this type of earphone. It’s hard to ask too much of them given their size, even if they don’t hold a candle to good-quality headphones.

Noise reduction does its job well. It remains well below what headphones like Bose can offer. But then again, is it really reasonable to compare products that play in totally different categories?

The honeymoon will have lasted a year, until the first blip.

Frying on the line

The varnish was beginning to crack after a year of quiet romance, a sign of a sad return to reality.

The symptom was clear and unmistakable: all I had to do was speak in transparency or noise reduction mode, and my voice would be laced with a horrible crackling sound and completely saturated in my right ear.

A discomfort that was strictly reserved for me. During telephone conversations, I was the only one to suffer.

It wasn’t long before I discovered that Apple had indeed agreed to acknowledge a defect in “a limited number of AirPods Pro”. If the brand is slow to admit this kind of problem, it can’t be blamed for treating its customers badly. An exchange program was set up, and all I had to do was make an appointment at the nearest AppleStore.

On July 22, 2022, I was at the Cap3000 AppleStore for the hoped-for replacement of my right earpiece.

After a few minutes backstage in the hands of an Apple genius, they confirmed that the earphone had a problem and that they’d be exchanging the whole pair. Yes, even though I hadn’t noticed anything yet, the left earpiece was showing identical symptoms of weakness.

So off I went with two brand-new earphones in my pocket.

Second round

This should have been our last exchange. It wasn’t.

Less than a year later, the noise pollution was back in my headphones.

Naturally, I made another appointment at the nearest AppleStore. I consider myself lucky to have one within reasonable distance of my home.

In store at the end of May 2023, I resume my explanations and once again see my earphones off to the back room to be tested. Having said that, for my own personal culture, I’d be quite curious to find out how this verification takes place.

After a few minutes, it’s confirmed that my headphones are indeed suffering from the same symptom. Without going into too much detail, I’m told that this is a known problem, but has nothing to do with the exchange program I’m reminded of.

While I’m somewhat reassured to know that Apple hasn’t replaced a faulty series with a model from another series of the same ilk, I’m still curious to know what the problem might be.

I’m puzzled by the answer: moisture from perspiration is said to be a cause of premature wear.

But Apple is happy to exchange my two earphones, since I had the good idea of taking out an AppleCare contract.

Thanks to Apple’s customer service, even if I remember that the AirPod Pro are sold as splash- and moisture-resistant (IPX4).

Love lasts three years

The month of May is drawing to a close, and here I am with my third pair of AirPod Pro, ready to take me through the summer of 2023…

But in the end, less than a year was enough to tire out these AirPods once again. As fall arrived, my right earpiece starts to show signs of weakness.

Again, that crackling sound when I speak.

Even more unpleasant, a parasitic noise on the sound, even when I’m listening without any processing, transparency or reduction.

So, here’s where I’m at:

  • AppleCare coverage expired in July.
  • An AirPod that assaults my right ear and is unusable with transparency or noise reduction.

Changing the earpiece would officially cost me €99. I’m obviously going to contact Apple again.

I’m probably out of luck.

Maybe my ears are sweating too much? Maybe the AirPod Pro aren’t designed for a Mediterranean climate?

It’s true that I’ve been able to enjoy these headphones for almost 3 years. But in reality, each pair will have lived for barely a year.

I’m not talking about the lifespan of their non-removable batteries, I didn’t have the opportunity to see them age.

Already, the impossibility of changing them yourself is a worry, but Apple is far from isolated on this point. At the very least, I trust them to recycle used AirPods properly during exchanges.

What does my experience tell me about this product?

  • Functionality lives up to expectations and virtually eliminates the usual friction with Bluetooth headphones and headsets.
  • My preconceived notion of the AirPod’s durability is reinforced by the idea that it’s a “disposable” accessory, far from the eco-friendly and responsible rhetoric brandished by Apple.

The latest generations are supposed to improve this resistance to water and humidity, with IP54. But am I ready to invest again after this first mediocre experience?