The latest firmware update sent to the AirPods Pro wireless Bluetooth earbuds might have done more harm than good. Some owners of the device have complained on Reddit (via The Verge) that the Active Noise Cancellation feature on the accessory is no longer working as well as it did before the update, known as 2C54, was disseminated. The Active Noise Cancellation is designed to remove unwanted sounds by adding a second sound that cancels out the first one.
The AirPods Pro launched in October and right away users were impressed by how well the Active Noise Cancellation worked. One post from a Reddit user said, "I'm in a plane now and put them in. The very first time I wore them I was in a plane and thought "crap. Plane died. Not going anywhere", forgetting about the ANC feature. This time, I can still hear the airflow/humming. Hope they fix it as it was spooky and great how well it killed (continuous) background noise."
AirPods Pro users could tell the difference once ANC stopped working as well as it once did
Apple did pull the 2C54 firmware update for unknown reasons, although some AirPods Pro users claim that their problem with the feature started with the 2B588 firmware update that was disseminated in November. These updates are pushed out to AirPods Pro users without any notifications and are done in the background; the AirPods owner has no way to initiate or reject the updating process. Plugging the charging cable into the AirPods carrying case near an iPhone will initiate an update. Once the new firmware is installed, the latest version number will appear in the settings menu.
The interesting thing is how AirPods Pro users quickly discovered that something was not right with the ANC. Check out these posts from Reddit subscribers Wavelen and danemacmillan respectively: "Good to know that I did not just imagine that the NC worsened. I hope that they release a fix soon," and "Yeah, I was thinking the same. I’m on the metro every day, and the ambient noise was much more noticeable recently." We should point out that not all users have noticed a change to the Active Noise Cancellation feature recently.
It appears that customers of other manufacturers' headphones have also complained about a software update negatively impacting noise cancellation. So many Bose QuietComfort 35 II users have complained about an update that has lessened the effectiveness of noise cancellation on the accessory. As a result, Bose is reportedly making house calls to visit some of the people who purchased the product in an effort to find out what happened. Some owners of the Sony WH-1000XM3 headphones took to Reddit to complain that a firmware update has reduced the effectiveness of Active Noise Cancellation by up to 40% on the model.
The ANC on the AirPods Pro has two settings, on and off. Other manufacturers allow the user to change the strength of the noise cancellation but Apple does not do this to the chagrin of several users. Some wonder whether the reduction in the effectiveness of the feature might have been done on purpose by Apple since there are no controls that take ANC down a notch. That seems to be unlikely. Those who need to hear something from the outside world while wearing the device can press the force sensor to switch between Active Noise Cancellation and Transparency mode. The latter will allow outside sounds in so that the user will be able to hear what is going on around him. For example, imagine someone wearing the AirPods Pro at the airport sitting by the gate; with Transparency mode enabled, he or she won't miss the boarding announcement for the plane.
Apple's fastest-growing unit happens to be the Wearables, Home and Accessories division that includes two of the company's red hot selling products. That would be the Apple Watch and the AirPods. For the fiscal fourth quarter covering July through September, that group took in $6.52 billion up 54% year-over-year.