Can you use AirPods Pro without eartips? The answer may surprise you

Apple sells three versions of its super-popular wireless headphones: the original AirPods, now in their second generation (hence AirPods 2), the third-generation version of AirPods (which we’ve decided to call AirPods 3), and the second-generation AirPods Pro (or AirPods Pro 2 for clarity). Although there are many differences between these models, without exception, people notice more the physical differences, especially the presence of silicone tips on the AirPods Pro 2 and the lack of them on the AirPods 2 and 3. And this ultimately leads to the question, can you use the AirPods Pro without the earbuds and if you could, what would happen?

Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

Before we answer that question, let’s quickly go over why AirPods Pro have ear tips in the first place. The main purpose of the ear tips in any set of wireless ear tips is to create a seal around the entrance to the ear canal. This has several advantages:

  • Creates another point of contact of friction between the ear cups and your ears, which improves the fit: Headphones with ear cushions move less than those without.
  • It reduces the amount of outside noise that can enter your ear canal, something we call passive noise isolation. Less external noise means your music, phone calls, or other sounds don’t have to compete with that sound to be heard, which means you can listen at a lower volume and still get the same quality. In fact, you’ll probably get much better sound quality with headphones, because they not only prevent sounds from getting in, but they also stop sounds from escaping before you even have a chance to hear them. This is especially visible at low low frequencies.
  • It allows features like Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) and Transparency mode to work efficiently because these technologies rely on a strong sound barrier between your ears and the outside world. In fact, the ear pads are, with just one or two exceptions, a prerequisite for wireless headphones to offer ANC.
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Apple AirPods Pro 2 seen without the eartip, next to the Apple AirPods 3 headphones.Apple AirPods Pro 2 without case (left) and Apple AirPods 3. Simon Cohen/Digital Trends

Now let’s move on to the bigger question. Yes, you can use AirPods Pro without the ear tips. You’ll still hear your music, podcasts, or phone calls, and you’ll still be able to talk to Siri. And if you really don’t like the feeling of having silicone plugs against your ear canals, you might be more comfortable wearing them this way. The fit isn’t quite as secure, but it’s no more likely to fall out of your ears than when you’re wearing the AirPods 2.

Apple AirPods Pro 2 next to Apple AirPods 3 headphones.Apple AirPods Pro 2 (left) and Apple AirPods 3. Simon Cohen/Digital Trends

But I recommend that you don’t. This is why.

AirPods Pro are designed to be used with headphones. Removing them severely compromises many of its best features. Sound quality suffers greatly, especially in the low bass for the reasons I explained above.

Noise cancellation, which the AirPods Pro does arguably better than any other wireless earphone, has been catastrophically reduced, to the point where you barely notice it’s on.

If these aren’t reasons enough to leave your headphones on, you may even be shortening the life of your headphones by not using them. Each earpiece comes with its own fine-mesh screen, which prevents tiny particles of dirt, debris, and earwax from entering the earpiece’s speaker opening. And while it’s true that the headphones themselves also have a screen or grill, why remove the extra layer of protection that ear cushions offer?

So if you find earbuds with silicone tips like the AirPods Pro uncomfortable, don’t break off the tips. It only undermines your performance. Instead, consider selling them (fortunately, used Apple products are always in high demand) and get yourself an AirPods 2 or AirPods 3, both of which are designed to work perfectly without earplugs.

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