AirPods Pro are finally getting the customizable noise cancellation we've always wanted

Close-up of woman using AirPods Pro 2
(Image credit: Shutterstock / Framesira)

One of our most-wanted features is coming to AirPods Pro 2, and it's not one of the 5 new AirPods features that Apple announced at its WWDC 2024 event. The new feature will give you much more control over how the Adaptive Audio mode works (via 9to5Mac), enabling you to adjust how much noise it blocks from the outside, and giving the kind of smart control we expect from the best noise cancelling earbuds from other manufacturers.

The Adaptive Audio mode combines two ANC features: active noise cancellation, and Transparency mode. The former removes ambient sound, while the latter lets it in so you can remain aware of your surroundings, mixing it in with your music. The Adaptive Audio mode is a bit smarter, using the noise cancellation power to cut down unneeded background noise, while still allowing speech or traffic to come through. But at the moment there's just a single setting for Adaptive Audio: you can have it on, or you can have it switched off. iOS 18 will change that.

What iOS 18 will be bringing to your AirPods

The new feature was discovered in the latest beta of the AirPods firmware, and it offers two new settings: remove more noise, or remove less. So this should mean that you find a balance that better suits your environment – maybe you want to use 'remove more noise' in the office so you're basically only letting in sound when someone wants to talk to you directly, and maybe you'll use 'remove less noise' if you're using them around the house and want to hear what the family's doing, but you don't need to hear the dryer noise.

We'd have liked even more control so we could fine-tune the settings ourselves, but as ever with Apple the focus is more on simplicity than complete customizability. And three options are certainly better than one.

Unfortunately for owners of older AirPods Pro, this new feature is only coming to the AirPods Pro 2 – and two other key new features, voice isolation for better call clarity and head gesture detection, need the second-gen Pros' H2 chip too. 

But there are some other new features coming to AirPods more widely in the form of personalized spatial audio with dynamic head tracking for gaming, which will be expanded to cover the AirPods (3rd gen), AirPods Pro and AirPods Max. Apple also promises that AirPods Pro will get "the best wireless audio latency Apple has ever delivered for mobile gaming" as well as better voice quality during gaming sessions.

It'll be a while before the new features come to your AirPods: the iOS 18 release isn't expected until September (probably right around when the iPhone 16 arrives).

You might also like…

Carrie Marshall

Writer, broadcaster, musician and kitchen gadget obsessive Carrie Marshall has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to all kinds of magazines and websites as well as writing more than a dozen books. Her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, is on sale now and her next book, about pop music, is out in 2025. She is the singer in Glaswegian rock band Unquiet Mind.