THE sound of silence is unusual at 37,000 feet – but not with with the right pair of headphones.
I tested Apple’s AirPods Pro and AirPods Max while flying across the Atlantic (and back again), and I’ve rarely felt more at peace.
The AirPods Pro and AirPods Max are Apple’s top-end headphonesCredit: Apple
The AirPods Pro delivered tranquility at 37,000 feetCredit: The Sun / Sean Keach
Both of those models feature active noise-cancelling (unlike the $179/£169 regular AirPods).
The whole point of noise-cancellation is to shut out ambient sound.
And there’s plenty of that on an airplane…
Noise-cancellation uses microphones to detect background noise.
For instance, the AirPods Pro ($219/£189) are fitted with two microphones.
One of these is used to then create equivalent anti-noise that cancels out the background sound before it reaches your ear.
A second microphone listens towards the ear, cancelling out any remaining noise.
Apple says this noise-cancellation system continuously adapts the sound signal 200 times per second.
The AirPods Pro were very impressive on board my Virgin Atlantic return flight from NYC, given their small size.
You get different silicon tips for maximum fit (allowing for passive noise cancellation), and the active noise cancellation really helps.
It’s very easy to block out the mumbles of conversation, and dim the endless hum of the plane and its varying systems.
There’s also a Transparency mode that activates quickly with a long press, so you can hear important announcements or questions from the flight attendants.
The AirPods Max were even better – and so they should be at $499/£549.
I’ve already written about their impressive sound in my AirPods Max review.
But the noise-cancellation was absolutely brilliant in-flight.
Importantly, the fit was very comfortable for long periods. I occasionally struggle with over-ear headphones, especially as they can press into my glasses – but the Max sits perfectly.
This secure fit meant that I could hardly hear noises around me.
And when you’re being whisked along at 560mph on an Airbus A350-1000, it’s nice to feel relaxed.
It certainly helped that I was (very luckily) flying in Upper Class, thanks to some available free space in the posh cabin.
Lie-flat chairs, blankets and Apple’s blissful noise-cancellation whisked me away to the serenity of podcasts about murder and heavy metal music. Well, serenity for me anyway.
There’s even a strange joy in wearing the AirPods and listening to nothing at all.
It made it very easy to get some work done, simply shutting out noise and enjoying the sound of silence.
Neither pair of AirPods comes cheap, but good noise-cancelling headphones never do.
The AirPods Max are still really only for people with a real passion for music, frequent long-haul fliers, or true gadget geeks.
But the AirPods Pro are much more accessible in terms of pricing – and they work brilliantly in the air, on the ground, or on London’s tube or NYC’s subway.
So if you’ve got a journey coming up, consider upgrading your headphone game. It’s worth it for the peace alone.
The AirPods Pro have the benefit of being small and easily transportableCredit: The Sun / Sean Keach
The AirPods Max are much bigger, and deliver far better sound and noise-cancellationCredit: The Sun / Sean Keach
There’s also a handy AirPods Max carrying case availableCredit: The Sun / Sean Keach
A surprise upgrade at the gate meant I could try the AirPods in the best way possibleCredit: The Sun / Sean Keach
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