Apple sells three versions of its super-popular wireless earbuds: The original AirPods, now in their second generation (thus AirPods 2), the third-gen version of the AirPods (which we’ve opted to call the AirPods 3), and the second-gen AirPods Pro (or AirPods Pro 2 for greater clarity). While there are a lot of differences between these models, people invariably notice the physical differences most of all, specifically the presence of silicone eartips on the AirPods Pro 2, and their absence on the AirPods 2 and 3. And that eventually leads to the question, can you use the AirPods Pro without those eartips, and if you did, what would happen?
Before I answer that, let’s quickly review why the AirPods Pro have eartips in the first place. The main purpose of eartips on any set of wireless earbuds is to create a seal around the entrance to your ear canal. This has several benefits:
- It creates another point of friction contact between the earbuds and your ears, which improves the security of fit — buds with eartips tend to move around less than those without them.
- It reduces the amount of outside noise that can enter your ear canal, something we call passive noise isolation. Less outside noise means your music, phone call,s or other audio don’t have to compete with that sound to be heard, which means you can listen at lower volumes and still get the same quality. In fact, you’ll likely get much better sound quality with eartips, because not only do they keep sounds from getting in, but they also keep sounds from escaping before you get a chance to hear them. This is especially noticeable with the low frequencies of bass.
- It enables features like active noise cancellation (ANC) and transparency modes to work effectively because these technologies rely on a strong sonic barrier between your ears and the outside world. In fact, eartips are, with only one or two exceptions, a prerequisite for wireless earbuds to offer ANC.
Now let’s move on to the bigger question. Yes, you can use the AirPods Pro without their eartips. You’ll still hear your music, podcasts, or phone calls, and you’ll still be able to talk to Siri. And if you really dislike the feeling of having silicone plugs pushed up against your ear canals, they might feel more comfortable if you wear them this way. The fit isn’t as secure, but they’re no more likely to fall out of your ears than when wearing the AirPods 2.
But I strongly recommend that you do not do this. Here’s why.
The AirPods Pro were designed to be used with eartips. Removing them seriously undermines many of their best features. Sound quality takes a big hit, especially in the low-end bass for reasons I explained above.
Noise cancellation, which the AirPods Pro arguably do better than any other wireless earbuds, is catastrophically reduced, to the point where you can barely tell it’s engaged.
If these weren’t reasons enough to keep the eartips on, you might even be shortening the life span of the earbuds by not using them. Each eartip comes with its own fine mesh screen, which prevents tiny particles of dirt, debris, and ear wax from entering the speaker opening on the earbuds. And while it’s true that the earbuds themselves also possess a screen or grille, why remove the extra layer of protection offered by the eartips?
So if you find that earbuds with silicone eartips like the AirPods Pro are uncomfortable, don’t pull the tips off. That just undermines their performance. Instead, consider selling them (fortunately there’s always a strong demand for used Apple products) and buying yourself either the AirPods 2 or AirPods 3, both of which are designed to work just fine without any eartips at all.
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