Wednesday, 06 October 2021 21:59

New AirPods Pro firmware 4A400 enables Conversation Boost at last - how to turn it on and use it!


For those with mild hearing loss, AirPods Pro offers a new "Conversation Boost" feature on iOS 15, which needs to be turned on in the AirPods section of the Accessibility settings menu, with the new firmware also available for other Apple headphones, too.

If you have AirPods 2nd generation, AirPods Pro, AirPods Max, Beats Solo Pro, Powerbeats 4 and Powerbeats Pro, a new firmware update is available, taking you to version 4A400, up from what is 3E751, at least for the AirPods 2nd-gen and Pro.

Obviously these are bug fixes, improvements and enhancements, but for AirPods Pro owners, there is something extra special - Conversation Boost.

Here's how Apple demonstrated the feature at its Worldwide Developer Conference earlier this year:

Now, one thing that is slightly difficult is getting your AirPods Pro to update their firmware, although in theory, if you've had them plugged in overnight and somewhere near your phone, the firmware has already been updated.

The way to check for the firmware version is to go to the Bluetooth menu in iOS settings, where you'll see the Bluetooth devices you have connected to your device. At the end of each listing is a letter i in a circle. Tapping on this icon takes you the screen that shows you details about your AirPods or other Apple headphones, and the firmware version.

There is no way to "force" the updating of the firmware, as such, although some people say to listen to music for a minute on the AirPods, and then put them back in the case, and plug them into the charger.

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After a few minutes, the firmware should have updated. You can also try turning your iPhone on and off, and you can try getting your iPhone to forget the AirPods so you can re-pair them, but probably just listen to some music or the radio for at least a minute, put them back into their case, plug the case them into the charger and leave them next to your iPhone for a few minutes, and the firmware should update.

So, to update your AirPods Pro to use Conversation Boost, here's what to do:

1. Tap Settings
2. Tap Accessibility
3. Tap AirPods
4. Tap Audio accessibility settings
5. Tap on Headphone Accommodations and turn it on
6. Tap on Custom Audio setup
7. Don't add audiogram (unless you have one and want to add it)

NOTE: A Redditor called Demigod787 on the Reddit post I made to share this article notes an audiogram is a really great thing to do, and they shared this (apparently) completely free app to make an audiogram - . Please feel free in the comments to let me know how it worked for you! The exact quote (which links to the same app) is below, followed by the instructions continuing. 

Demigod787 said: "I HIGHLY recommend using an audiogram to set up your conversation boost. It makes the whole experience tailor-made for your needs; I always felt transparency mode to be lackluster, no more. This is especially the case for people who are now realising that they're not young anymore. Use this app with your Airpods Pro to get a fairly accurate audiogram, and you're all set."

8. Now you'll see "Before Getting Started" which says "look for a quiet environment before computing", as well as "audio customisation will take about five minutes", and finishing with: "in the first take, you'll listen to audio of someone speaking".
9. You'll then hear voices saying hello. If the voices are too soft, select that you can't hear them and you'll be taken to another page where you'll hear voices again, except this time, louder.
10. You'll then be asked to choose between three types of music. If you don't choose the second choice at least once, you're likely to be told that you should leave your AirPods Pro on the default settings.
11. However, if you do choose No.2 on at least one of the choices of music that you're listening to, you'll be asked whether you want to choose from default settings or custom settings.
12. If you custom settings, you're then taken to a screen where you can fine-tune the audio settings for the transparency mode.
13. At the bottom of this page, is a setting to turn Conversation Boost on.
14. When you do, you can then swipe up to go back to the Home Screen.
15. After this, you can swipe down from the right hand side where the battery icon is. You can then long press on the volume control setting.
16. In the volume control setting, you can then choose to turn noise cancellation on or off, or turn Transparency Mode on.
17. Once transparency mode is on, you can hear the effect of conversation boost - which definitely turns up the volume and turns on the conversation boost capabilities, which is immediately noticeable.

For my ears, which hear normally, I don't need the conversation boost, but as I was writing this article, I was helping a friend in the senior age bracket who normally uses hearing aids, and who has been trying to upgrade their hearing aids for the last year or so without finding a pair she was really, really happy with.

Either the Bluetooth connection was flaky with her iPhone 11, or the hearing aids software wasn't very good, or whatever it was - she just wasn't happy.

Since WWDC 2021, I've been telling her and her husband that Conversation Boost was coming, and finally, today, after iOS 15 has launched, and after the new AirPods Pro firmware has arrived, Conversation Boost is here.

I've checked with her more than once over the course of the dat, and she's very happy with the feature, saying that it sounds even better than the multi-thousand-dollar headphones that she has been testing over the last year or so.

So - that's how you turn on Conversation Boost. If you have mild hearing difficulties, and you have an iPhone 11 out better and some AirPods Pro - try it out, you could be surprised at how good it is!

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

Alex Zaharov-Reutt is iTWire's Technology Editor is one of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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