AirPods Pro on a Motorcycle Review; Discussion of Noise Canceling, Bluetooth, and more

AirPods Pro on a Motorcycle Review; Discussion of Noise Canceling, Bluetooth, and more


Today I’m gonna review and discuss the AirPods Pro, specifically in the context of how good they are when wearing while riding a motorcycle. Speaking of which, I don’t need these in anymore. Now, if you’re already a subscriber to my channel, you probably know this is like… the third video I’ve made about using headphones while riding. If you’re not a subscriber, now’s a good time. The first one talked about safety and legality of using headphones on a motorcycle, the second was about testing different styles and discussing the features you should look for in a set of headphones along with some recommendations. In that last video I talked about how the normal AirPods design wasn’t exactly ideal for using while riding. So the big question I had was if the AirPods Pro fixed all the issues I had with the AirPods, to become my new go-to riding buds. You’ll just have to watch the whole thing and find out! Or you know, skip the last 90 seconds or whatever to find the conclusion. No! Don’t fucking do that! I’ve got a lot more than just some headphone review that’s gonna be relevant for two months or whatever. I did a bunch of research on similar sets like the Galaxy buds, Powerbeats, Plugphones and all that shit, because a bunch of people recommended. Since they were similar to the AirPods, I looked at all of them and got pretty concerned that a lot of you are running around, blowing your eardrums out because you are not taking the proper precautions to protect your hearing with these things. Let’s get into the deeper discussion of the things that people do with their phones while reviewing the technical details of how headsets reduce external noise, and wireless protocols used by these devices all kind of wrapped in an AirPods Pro review. Enjoy! I got a lot of feedback and recommendations from people for different headphones in my previous video. A lot of people recommended some similar sets to the AirPods Pro such as the Galaxy buds, Bose Quiet Control, PowerBeats Plugphones, Jaybirds, and a million other similar styles. I could have bought and tested them all but the Patreon money isn’t gonna cover hundreds of dollars of headphones anytime soon. Young people from all over the globe are joining up to fight for the future. I’m doing my part. I’m doing my part. They’re doing their part. Are you? So instead I tested the AirPods Pro, and I’ll go ahead and give you all the details of how well they worked, and issues I ran into, and then we’re gonna use that information to theory craft how well these other sets do. Quick recap on the key points from the last two videos on this topic. Any set of headphones or communication system you use when riding should have at least three minimum characteristics: They need to physically fit under your helmet, and do so in a way that doesn’t create pai, pressure, or discomfort in your ears or head. They need to be secure enough in your ears to not come loose or potentially fall out with just the normal jostling of the helmet. And in my opinion the most important feature, and the thing that people seem to consider the least, they need to protect your hearing by eliminating at least some external wind, engine, and traffic noise so that you can prevent permanent damage to your hearing. The previous AirPods failed on all three of these accounts. They did a dogshit job of eliminating external noise so you need to blast your music to overcome the already unsafe levels of external noise at speeds above 35 miles an hour. The in-ear design of the AirPods Pro corrected the first major issue with the AirPods making it so that they actually stay in your ear when you put on your helmet and shake it around. They stick to your head securely and have multiple tips in case the set that comes with it don’t fit your ear holes. In fact I couldn’t get them outta my head no matter what I did. I rode with them in for 30 minutes or so at a time and didn’t feel any pain or issues, but your helmet style and design may create different problems for you. Some commentators said they removed the pain or pressure by modifying the ear pad area and removing some material from their helmet, which I wouldn’t recommend for the record, but you do you boo. Headphones fitting under a helmet securely is the easy part. Literally thousands of cheap sets of headphones will do that, albeit most aren’t Wireless like the AirPods Pro. And Wireless is a neat feature, but not all wireless sets work or function in the same level. One advantage of the AirPods is they have cutting-edge wireless technology, and in headphones what we’re really talking about is the various Bluetooth chipsets and protocols. Bluetooth is a radio frequency technology that’s been around since 1989 but it’s evolved over for 30 years, and the earpods Pro uses the newer 5.0 standard. Bluetooth devices have always been a mixed bag. In theory Bluetooth is an Auto-Magical way to wirelessly connect two devices together. The wireless devices don’t need to be in line of sight of each other and the connection distance is measured in tens of meters not feet, Amazin’. Amazing! The reality though is that there is a huge variance in the quality of antennas, chipsets, and protocols being used between devices that can create a dumpster fire of frustration that has left Bluetooth a bit of a mixed reputation. Lots of people can tell stories of at least one Bluetooth device that wouldn’t say connected, might regularly un-pair itself or have bouts of poor audio quality and distortion. The number one complaint I’ve seen about stuff like the Senna’s is poor connection and audio quality, I’m sure much of which is caused by people using different models of varying ages and so have totally different wireless stacks. Well Apple figure out how to fix all that bluetooth shittiness by building their own custom wireless chipset called the W series chips in the previous AirPods and now the H Series in the AirPods Pro The air pods pairing is insanely quick, easy, and reliable. I never had connection issues at all and the buds never lost sync with each other unlike some of the other sets I’ll mentioned later. The chip and Bluetooth 5.0 enable features like pulling one bud out to charge it while the other keeps playing, having multiple AirPods Pro connected to a single phone simultaneously so you could, if you wanted to ride to the passenger who had their own set of AirPods Pro and be listening to the same music from one iPhone, neato! But to do all this cool shit you have to be running devices that also have bluetooth 5.0 support which any iPhone 8 and up does, but becomes a lot more of a crapshoot outside of the Apple ecosystem. If your phone doesn’t support Bluetooth 5.0 the AirPods will still connect and play sound but will revert to the lowest common denominator of Bluetooth on your phone. This is why you can use the AirPods Pro in your piece-of-shit Android phone but you’ll be missing a lot of the reliability ease of use you get when pairing them with iPhones. Calm down, calm down. I’m just kidding about Android phones being pieces of shit, we all know the only true master phone was the Nokia 3310, the phone that literally can’t be killed. So the wireless on the AirPods Pro is awesome but is Wireless even a thing that you should care about? There’s of course the convenience factor of not catching cables on stuff and running them under your jacket but the real reason that people seem to want wireless is so that they can mount their phones to their handlebars and don’t want to deal with the wire in between. When I first started riding GPS Nav, text, emails, and video just weren’t things you did with your phone. You could get a weatherproof GPS designed for hunting if you wanted and juryrigg yourself a pretty mediocre navigation system on your handlebars, but most people including me didn’t spend the money on that shit because it was hundreds of dollars I was fucking poor in my 20s. Instead I just got pretty good at planning trips with MapQuest and memorizing directions… holy shit I’m so fuckin OLD! When phone based audio navigation became a thing circa 2012 it was a massive upgrade for me and it made it so I just need to get the basic overview of how to get somewhere and then let the turn-by-turn do the rest. This is how I’ve done navigation for years and the recent wireless earbuds are more of a nice to have than a requirement for me because I don’t mind running a cable from the pocket my phone sits into my head. But now that everyone has a super computer in their pocket that can do all kinds of cool shit some people won’t have access to their phone screens as much as possible, including while they’re riding and if you want to put your phone on your handlebars but still be able to hear music or audio navigation, well that seems to be where most of the man comes from for wireless headphones. A lot of comments and questions in my previous video seemed to indicate a fair amount of you were doing the thing of putting your phone in your bars and I’m not surprised because it seems like almost every one of these fucking motovloggers is doing this shit. I’m sure the fact that some of these guys are layin’er down incompletely normal turning situations is not related at all. Walteriffic wrecked his bike on purpose and there’s my goddamn thing any of you could say me convince me otherwise. Also, Epstein didn’t kill himself. You know that I’m not ‘safety guy’ and I know that some people are more capable behind the handlebars than others but as a blanket statement I think you shouldn’t do this. Your vision is by far the most important sense you have when riding. If you had a pie chart of all the senses and how necessary they were to safe riding, it would be like 90% vision. Touch, smell, taste, hearing, and telekinesis would all divvy up that last 10%. Having your phone in your peripheral means that you’re potentially getting notifications for text, emails, phone calls, FackFuck, InstaNudes while riding which is gonna draw your attention away from the road. Even if you do just use it for navigation and set up things like Do Not Disturb While Driving to silence all the Rando notifications. I’ve also noticed people including myself end up staring at their phone instead of just listening to the directions and using street signs and visual indicators on the road to guide them when the phone is in their vision. If you think about it and decide that you don’t need access to your phone to see the screen then you can throw out all the complexities of needing expensive wireless earbuds entirely. Just one man’s opinion. There are two techniques to reduce incoming and external noise; Noise Canceling and Sound Isolation. Noise Cancelling is a clever technical solution the problem of external noise. Sound is a pressure wave flying through the air caused by vibrations from the things around us which hits our eardrums and then is interpreted by our brain is sound. No, I didn’t know all that off the top of my head and yeah I did watch an explanation designed for children to refresh my memory on the specifics. Fuck you for judging me. Noise cancelling headphones use a microphone to sample the sound waves around you then emits the opposite sound, which when combined with external sound waves cancels them out creating the net effect of silence. In the real world how well headphones cancel noise is based on a lot of factors; the sensitivity of microphone, the ability to interpret external sounds, the speaker drivers in the earphones ability to reproduce the opposite sound waves, and of course the software algorithms written by the manufacturer to match those external sounds. Now the alternative to noise cancelling is a very low-tech solution called Sound Isolation which is just various methods of preventing sound energy from passing into your ear in the first place. As an example I’m guessing you are familiar with the incredibly common sound isolation technology used for literally centuries; ear plugs. The headphones I talked about in the previous video that I use are something like the Shure SE series because they block out a significant amount of external sounds with their foam earbuds the same way that earplugs do, allowing me to play my audio at safe volumes with the only downside being that I can’t hear shit outside of my headphones. That leads us to the most important question of this video how good is the air pods Pro noise canceling in sound isolation and the answer is………. Fuck, it’s probably not good enough to use while riding a motorcycle. When I’m wearing them in normal places, say walking downtown Seattle, there are cars, construction, and people talking. They take the loud city sounds and turn it into a dull whisper. It’s still there, I can still hear it in the background but I don’t have to crank the volume to hear my music and understand the voices in my podcasts. These external sounds are mostly in the 85 to 100 decibel range. Sitting on my bike at idle I could already tell we were gonna have a problem. The AirPods Pro support a feature called Hey Siri where you can give your phone commands to do stuff like call people, skip songs, read your messages, and more. Hey Siri, if God doesn’t exist, how should we build our ethics so that we can have a successful society? Also why didn’t daddy come home? I tested it in my living room and it worked great so I was stoked to jump on a bike and start activating calls via voice. But the moment I turned the engine over Siri couldn’t hear me anymore no matter how much I yelled at it. So that was disappointing but not a deal-breaker. Forgetting about all that voice control stuff I started riding and initially up to about 6000 rpms things were working well and I was feeling better about the AirPods performance. But as soon as I started to open it up getting to highway speeds I began here cracking hissing and bleeding in of external noise and Engine gin sounds. What seemed to start happening was that the microphones listening to the external noise could only really handle sounds up to a specific volume level. I’m not sure the reason why they were shutting down or feeding back, maybe the microphone on the outside can only accept volumes at a specific level, or maybe the algorithm couldn’t handle the frequencies, or the internal drivers couldn’t replicate the sounds at the right level, but it sounded fucking terrible. So instead I just disabled the noise canceling features and tried using them as regular a earbuds just to see if they had enough sound isolation from being deep in my ears. But that was no better than some shitty twenty dollar earbuds. I had to blast my music to hear anything and even then it was all drowned out by my engine at highway speeds. I took some imprecise measurements using the same decibel meter app I used back in my first video and my engine got up to about a hundred and seventeen decibels which is pretty close to the volume of an ambulance siren between my legs and what OSHA would categorize as really fucking loud. This is why I’m really concerned for a lot of you reccomending a variety of other sets of earbuds that are using plastic buds or noise canceling technology. I find it very hard to believe all these different sets of buds are canceling 30-plus decibels of external noise. For example galaxy buds are similar in design to the AirPods Pro in the sense that they secure themselves inside the earlobe but have no noise cancelling. So if you’re relying on the little sound isolation you can get from these plastic shit buds you’re gonna have a problem. Some of your recommendations did advertise noise cancelling like the Bose Quietcontrol and Sony wf1000s but I’m insanely dubious of the claim that any of these will be much better than the AirPods Pro atnd avoiding the same external noise bleed and inability to cancel out louder sounds. The Shures that I use come with plastic buds that are absolutely terrible at stopping external sound but the memory style foam is a godsend. This foam is not the only material that can do this as brands like the Plugphones develop this proprietary thermoplastic with the goal of reducing external sounds. It’s possible that I or my bike are the outlier and maybe other people’s Riding conditions don’t create the same levels of sound. If you have an r3, or are using like a stock exhaust system, maybe your helmet profile is more aerodynamic than my Arai, or your position on the bike suppresses some of the noise from coming to your ears ,the AirPods Pro and other sets might be totally able to handle your needs, but I think that’s not most riders, and more often than not people just aren’t vetting the sound levels that they’re exposing themselves to while riding with these sets. The heuristic I would give you as a general rule to determine if the headphones that you’re using or doing a good enough job to protect your hearing is to put them on off your bike ,set the audio level to a comfortable volume that you can hear well, then jump on your bike and see if you can hear them just as well at that volume. If you have to increase your sound levels at all you might be in a danger zone where it’s compromising your hearing over long-term exposure and you’re better off considering a pair of headphones that advertise sound isolation techniques and materials. Alright let me stop blue balling you and give you a final wrap-up. The AirPods Pro might be a good choice for your riding if your bike isn’t too loud, your helmet blocks most the external noise, and you are ok with some distortion and feedback from the microphone picking up loud sounds and rubbing against the insides of your helmet. Personally, I reverted to using my Shures after forcing myself to use the AirPods Pro for a full week. And let’s just be totally real; If your cool with shelling out 250 bucks the AirPods Pro then buying two nice sets of headphones, one for being on, and one for being off your motorcycle, probably isn’t gonna break your bank. And just because it’s easy enough to mention here; Off the bike the air pods Pro are great. I fucking love them. If you’re gonna get yourself a pair of AirPods I really recommend you shell out the extra dosh for the pros because the noise cancelling and Hey Siri activation is worth the extra $80 if you’re already spending 170, and they’re a great all-around set of headphones. This is probably the last video I’ll ever make on the topic of headphones and riding because I don’t think there’s a video worth of discussion left to wring out of it so let me close by adding that I’m as guilty of anyone for having a bias towards looking for the slick high-tech solution to my problems. But sometimes we can get too wrapped up and looking for the clever solution that we forget what our priorities should really be. Okay, I promise this is the last video on headphones I’m gonna make for at least a year or two. The previous headphone videos were pretty popular and because I’m such a huge Apple shill people were asking for my opinion about the AirPods Pro and had questions and opinions about similar sets that I felt I needed to be addressed. Also I’m doing one of those kind of larger video projects that I do sometimes, where it takes a lot of time and effort to research based on this poll I did recently, so I didn’t want to go like three or four months without posting a video again. I was gonna buy these fuckers anyways so may as well monetize it. If you’re watching this right now then you either made it through the whole video without being too put off by my tangents and swearing or you did the thing I told you fuckers not to do which is to skip to the end. Either way you cared enough about this video to get here so you are obligated by the mutual reciprocity code of YouTube to like, subscribe, and check me out on Patreon. Until next time, which is probably gonna be a little while so calm your tits. Ride fast and take chances. [Music] I can’t do it, I can’t focus, I can’t read and do the hand shit, which I didn’t have planned anyway, fuck it I’m gonna show a video. AMAZZINNNNG… oh, that’s, I should do that. I’m just kidding about Android phones, iPhones are also pieces of shit. Really the Motorola RAZR is the only good phone. They sold that phone for like 15 fucking years, they still probably sell it at Verizon stores.

13 comments

  1. Say that going on a highway with a motorcycle produces 101+ dB within the helmet like your test did, 114 max outside the helmet.
    using unofficial decibelmeter (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fcl6puQu6EA at approximately 3 minutes)

    84 dB is generally the limit for long exposure
    (https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/programs/laws-regulations/labour/interpretations-policies/074.html)

    Active noise cancelling is purported to be NRR 20+ dB for the airpod pros.
    (https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg13618504-100-how-do-noise-cancelling-headphones-like-apple-airpods-pro-work/)

    Within a helmet, peak minus the purported noise reduction of airpod pros brings noise levels to less than 81dB, a safe level for long time exposure.
    However, given noise levels without a helmet or a helmet that does not reduce noise levels much from air flow, this brings the noise level to less than 94dB, which is unsafe for long exposure.

    Why not just be safe and get some Howard Leight Max-1 NRR 33dB earplugs?

  2. 14:09 lmfao I was just listening to the new chapo episode before I clicked on this. That's wild, wasnt expecting another chapo listener in this bike community lol. My friend uses a sena and has earplugs in to block the highway noice, it sounds counterintuitive but he says it works.

  3. I used to use Sony earbuds in the 90s. Now I use sena and eargasm. Mainly to talk to passenger. I do prefer looking at the gps map so I know how long and what my next turn is. Most gps dont give you that and a 1 or 2mile warning is too late on highway with traffic

  4. Unless they make a helmet that is specifically for it being quiet at 90mph having any headphone would be perfect, other than that anything is useless(not literally) I use the sena and the airpods, to each their own. I've done so much research and it always comes down to the shure. I'll wait another year and finally cave and buy the shure….

  5. im using jaybird x4s for riding, kinda of a bulky design for my head shape and helmet but it works. Cancels outside noises but I can still hear sirens and ppl honking.

  6. AFTER watching your other videos… I still fucking tried the Sabbat E12 earbuds with foam tips. They work great, but you are not getting your helmet on and off without PAIN!

  7. I Geniunley have zero interest in earphones whilst riding but fuck me I'll sit and watch this because your style of presentation is so good, I'm fucking glad Matt from the workshop sent me here keep up the good work dude

  8. I’ve tried my AirPods pro in my schuberth c3 pro helmet a few times with great results. I haven’t been above 80mph though.

  9. Sony MDR-EX300 series earbuds are the best wired earbuds for motorcycling, full stop.

    I switched to a Cardo Packtalk Bold. That is the best Bluetooth headset I have ever owned. I drive trucks for a living, and those fancy Britney Spears headsets don't hold a candle to the capability and clarity or the Cardo units I ride with.

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