Which feature of the AirPods Pro do you like the most? Transparency Mode may be the best option for those of us who need to maintain focus while listening to music. And thankfully, Apple has improved Transparency Mode to the point that it may be worthwhile to buy a pair just for this function.
How Does the “Transparency Mode” on the AirPods Work?
Without an AirPods Pro or AirPods Max, you may still enjoy the ambient noises around you with the help of Transparency Mode and your regular AirPods. When they are properly sized for your ears, it won’t feel like you’re even wearing them: When you are off Transparency Mode, the volume drops back down to the muted level you’d expect from a well-sealed container.
This function is ideal for situations in which you want to listen to music or a podcast but still need to be aware of your surroundings, such as while crossing a busy street or talking to a group of people who may demand your attention from time to time. If you have Transparency Mode enabled, you can hold a conversation without removing your headphones.
However, this setting never took into consideration the volume of ambient noise. Your AirPods would blast any sudden, loud noises into your ears, such as a siren or horn. It’s not enjoyable; it’s happened to me a few times.
Your Hearing Will Be Preserved With Adaptive Transparency
However, AirPods Pro 2 have a new feature called Adaptive Transparency. All noises above 85 dB are muted in this version of Transparency Mode, but all other sounds are kept at their natural amplitude. Having something in your ear is a lot like constantly having a sound mixer there to make sure everything is just right. Apple claims that the new H2 processor can process these noises 48,000 times per second, so there is almost no lag.
Apple isn’t the first company to think of an idea like Adaptive Transparency, though they certainly helped popularise it. Bose’s QuietComfort Earbuds II include a function comparable to Apple’s, although PCMag claims it isn’t as refined.
Al Griffin, the editor of TechRadar, has been seen in public using AirPods Pro 2 during a performance. He claims the concert reached a peak of 114.7 dB, but that his ears were never exposed to volumes more than 85 dB owing to Adaptive Transparency.
Even though Griffin’s AirPods cost more than a regular set of earplugs, he claims that he can hear every nuance of the music with them in, but with the earplugs, he can’t hear anything at all. Griffin admits that using the AirPods Pro 2 at a performance is not ideal, but he plans to do so anyhow.
But it appears that you may not need to upgrade to AirPods Pro in order to take advantage of Adaptive Transparency. Despite not having the second-generation H2 processor that Apple claims enables the function in the AirPods Pro 2, iOS 16.1, which is now in beta testing, purportedly provides the first-generation AirPods Pro with a toggle for Adaptive Transparency.
Even if this function is included on the first-generation AirPods Pro, I suspect it won’t perform as well. Since the H1 chip is unable to analyse noises at 48,000 times per second, perhaps the sound reduction will arrive later. Still, I’ll be content if I can obtain most of the Adaptive Transparency’s advantages without shelling out $250 for a new set of AirPods.
In the event that Apple implements Adaptive Transparency in the original AirPods Pro, one can only hope that the feature makes its way to the AirPods Max as well. We won’t know for sure until iOS 16.1 is widely available.