Some AirPods Pro owners have been complaining about degraded noise cancellation in recent weeks, claiming that Apple’s latest earbuds suddenly got less effective at silencing ambient noise after receiving a firmware update. Rtings.com retested the AirPods Pro and found their noise canceling capabilities to be worse after firmware update 2C54. But affected customers say the trouble began even earlier with firmware version 2B588, which rolled out in November. (Apple later pulled firmware 2C54 for unknown reasons.)
This phenomenon — the perception that a software update has “ruined” noise cancellation — has also been reported by owners of Bose and Sony headphones. Bose has faced a months-long controversy over its QuietComfort 35 II headphones, with some customers insisting that an update drastically worsened the level of noise cancellation from the cans compared to their original out-of-the-box performance. There are a lot of people who say they’ve experienced this issue, and it’s escalated to the point where Bose is now visiting customers at home to get a handle on whatever’s going on. Sony also dealt with similar complaints about its 1000XM3 headphones.
Are companies really screwing up this badly, or are customers imagining a problem where one doesn’t exist? The Rtings tests suggest something changed; the site found that Apple has also been slightly tweaking the sound profile of the AirPods Pro with these updates. A few editors at The Verge think they’ve noticed a difference, and others haven’t, but that’s by no means scientific.
Since the original AirPods, Apple has chosen to make the firmware update process completely invisible to customers. The entire process happens in the background without so much as a single notification. You can’t reject AirPods software updates, nor is there any direct way to force the update process on demand; you plug a charging cable into your AirPods case, put them near your iPhone, and wait. Once a firmware update is installed, you’ll notice the new version in settings.