AirPods Pro update screws up noise cancelling (report)

(Image credit: Future)

Back in December, Apple released a firmware update for its excellent AirPods Pro true wireless earbuds. This usually isn’t big news, but it might just be the cause of allegedly worse noise cancellation quality, currently being experienced by both professional reviewers and everyday users.

According to Rtings (via The Verge), the site which originally broke the story, their re-test of the AirPods Pro, after the 2C54 firmware update (which Apple has since stopped sending to AirPods but without a given reason), revealed that something had changed. While the bass performance and frequency consistency have\ improved according to this repeated review, an update note on the Noise Isolation section states that there has been “a fairly significant drop in isolation performance, primarily in the bass-range”, therefore making the AirPods worse in common situations like travelling on planes or buses.

Complaints from Reddit users say much the same thing. However, there is some disagreement as to when the problems began. While some are noticing the ANC issue since the December update, some believe that the update before that in November, named 2B588.

Apple doesn’t give users the option to ignore firmware updates for AirPods - the download happens automatically and without any notification. You can see which version of the firmware and software your AirPods are using in the General section of the Settings menu, in the About tab. There’s no manual way to adjust the noise cancelling either, as the AirPods Pro’s ANC is designed to be either on or off. So if you think you’ve been affected by this update, sadly there’s not really anything you can do about it.

Hopefully Apple will release a new update soon which fixes this issue, or perhaps you’re one of the users who hasn’t noticed anything wrong with your AirPods Pro. If you are put off purchasing these earbuds in light of this news, then have a look at our best wireless earbuds for our other favorite products in this category, or our best headphones if you want something in a different form factor.

Richard Priday
Assistant Phones Editor

Richard is based in London, covering news, reviews and how-tos for phones, tablets, gaming, and whatever else people need advice on. Following on from his MA in Magazine Journalism at the University of Sheffield, he's also written for WIRED U.K., The Register and Creative Bloq. When not at work, he's likely thinking about how to brew the perfect cup of specialty coffee.