One of the biggest advantages the AirPods Pro give you for the extra money is active noise cancellation, a handy feature that monitors ambient noise and plays you the opposite wavelength to create an artificial silence. The standard AirPods offer only passive noise isolation, which essentially means they act like an earplug and is considerably less effective.
Having paid a premium for the Pro feature set, however, you’ll want to make sure you’re getting full value for money. In this article we explain how to use the noise cancellation feature and fine-tune its behaviour to your exact requirements.
The three noise control modes
Active noise cancellation is a handy feature but you don’t have to use it all the time. When it comes to noise control, in fact, the AirPods Pro have three modes.
- Noise Cancellation: This cancels ambient sounds and creates artificial silence.
- Transparency: This is the opposite of Noise Cancellation. The headphones still listen to background sound, but instead of cancelling it, they pipe it directly into your ears to make sure you can hear the people and sounds around you.
- Off: Neutral. It doesn’t either boost or block ambient sounds. You’ll get some passive noise isolation, but a certain amount of ambient sound will make it through.
Switching between noise control modes
If the AirPods Pro are connected to an iPhone, open the Settings app and go to Bluetooth, then tap the lower-case I next to the headphones in the list. Near the top of the next screen you’ll see a Noise Control section, and you can tap the one you want to activate.
A much easier method of switching between modes, however, is to use the AirPods’ own controls. There’s a small flat area on the stem of each earbud; if you press and hold this area, it will (by default) switch Noise Control mode.
To check you’ve got the settings just right, however, let’s go back into Settings > Bluetooth and the lower-case I next to the AirPods Pro. Below the Noise Control section you’ll see a section headed Press And Hold AirPods. This is where you decide what command will be triggered by that action – and you can set a different command for each earbud.
Tap Right to see what command is set up for the right earbud. You’ll see at the top you can choose between Noise Control – what we want – and Siri. Make sure there’s a tick next to Noise Control, tapping that option if necessary.
Below, and more interestingly, you’ll see a list of the three Noise Control modes. As far as I’m concerned, the Off mode is basically pointless: if I want to hear I’ll choose Transparency, and if I don’t I’ll choose Noise Control. So I set this feature to cycle between those two, and skip Off entirely.
Select the modes you want to be part of the cycle (again, make sure there’s a tick next to the desired modes) and then leave the Settings app. You should find that pressing and holding on the flat area of the earbud will cycle between the modes you want.
Now sit back and enjoy the absence (or presence) of noise in your life. If you’d like more advice, read How to use AirPods. And if you’re looking for a bargain on a new set, check out our guide to the best AirPods deals.