The Apple AirPods Pro 2nd Generation is the much-anticipated successor to the original AirPods Pro, launched in 2019. On the surface, they appear nearly identical; inside, everything is brand new, from the speaker driver to the wireless chip to the battery.
The true star of the AirPods Pro 2's show is the Apple H2 processor, which enables a 50% battery life boost and drives excellent active noise suppression, making even the quietest workplace or home setting seem uncanny. They are, without a doubt, among the most excellent noise-canceling earphones available today.
However, the quality of music playing remarkably improved over the original AirPods Pro (2019), with significantly deeper and weightier bass and brighter and crisper clarity in voices and treble. It has a more robust and dynamic tone.
The audio quality is better than the AirPods 3rd Gen, with significantly more extension and detail in the bass treble and clarity in the mid-range. You can hear it better on the street when you have active noise cancellation, which the non-Pro AirPods don't have.
Most of the features shared by the AirPods Pro 2nd Gen and AirPods 3rd Gen are the same, including auto-switching between Apple devices, audio sharing with AirPods and Beats headphones, Spatial Audio Dolby Atmos sound, and Find My assistance for misplaced devices. However, the Apple U1 ultra-wideband processor significantly improves Find My support, which means compatible iPhones (iPhone 11 and later) can physically direct you toward the AirPods when they're within range.
You won't be astonished to learn that the AirPods Pro 2nd Gen is intended, first and foremost, to function with Apple technology. Because they are essentially Bluetooth earbuds, they will work with Android phones, Windows laptops, and so on. Still, your options will be limited to listening to music, playing and pausing with the on-device controls, activating active noise cancellation, or switching to the Adaptive Transparency Mode.
You may also select to transfer audio from your Apple devices to the second set of AirPods or Beats headphones, allowing two people to view the same movie on an iPad while traveling, for example.
There's hands-free Siri support (say "Hey Siri" to activate Apple's assistant and ask it for information or to perform tasks), and Siri can read messages to you when they arrive via your AirPods. This is far too intrusive, but it's only optional, as is "Hey Siri" support - you choose whether you want them during the pairing process.
There are three active noise canceling modes: on, off, and Adaptive Transparency. The latter is a 'listen through' way in which the microphones combine outside noises with music, allowing you to hear what's happening around you when strolling near a road, for example. According to the hypothesis, the adaptive side takes action to lower the volume of any unexpected prominent noises (like construction) so that they're typically better for your hearing when strolling in loud regions. It would be simpler for others to attract your attention in your office if you listened to music.
They'll be added to your devices' Find My app, so if you need to figure out where you left them, they can tell you when they last linked. The AirPods Pro 2nd Gen takes this two steps further by using technology from Apple's airbags.
They have ultra-wideband (UWB) technology, which means that when they're in range of your phone (essentially in the same room or next door), an arrow on your phone will physically lead you toward them. In general, this works exceptionally well - even if you're not close enough for a perfect hand, you can get a feel if you're in the right part of the home. The biggest issue is that it needs to account for height so that you may be sent in the proper direction yet end up on the wrong floor. Nonetheless, the function is ideal for days when you need help remembering if you left them in your coat, bag, or elsewhere.
The shell now incorporates a speaker, so you can use the app to instruct the AirPods to emit a rather loud noise to aid in their location. The case now emits a noise when you pair it and begin charging it, although you may disable this if you wish.
When it comes to charging, the earbuds have a six-hour battery life, and the charging case has a 30-hour battery life. This estimate corresponds to our use and is a significant improvement over the original AirPods Pro, which lasted 24 hours from the case and 4.5 hours from the buds.
The bud increase is especially nice because we now rarely run out of juice when needed, which was not previously the case.
This battery life is standard for noise-canceling earphones (and it's excellent for the case). It can compete with the finest from Bose or Sony; however other competitors (such as the Master & Dynamic MW08) can reach 10 hours with ANC turned on. Overall, the battery life is adequate but could be more exceptional.
Their Bluetooth connection is quick and typically solid, though we've seen a few more connectivity dropouts in one ear with the AirPods Pro 2nd Gen than we did with the first-generation model. Nothing appears to be a problem - and it's always resolved by putting them back in the case for a second before reinstalling them in our ears - yet the reality persists.
Apple has incorporated Bluetooth 5.3 compatibility (the most recent version), but not Bluetooth LE Audio (a new codec that claims to sustain audio quality better when the connection is terrible) or any lossless audio, despite having the availability for it.
We can see why Apple would avoid LE Audio because it is superior to the standard SBC audio codec, but Apple will typically utilize the particular AAC codec whenever possible. However, the lack of lossless audio seems a pity when Apple Music provides both CD quality and Hi-Res Audio music available throughout the whole collection. Still, Apple's finest earbuds can't make use of it.
However, Apple has introduced Spatial Audio support once more, which we'll discuss (along with the quality of the noise suppression) in the Sound Quality section.
Create and design:
The AirPods Pro 2's exterior design is not identical to the original AirPods Pro, although the variations are virtually entirely academic. The exterior vents on the earbuds are slightly different. There are no holes on the extremity of the case for the built-in speaker, but that's about it, aside from two more practical differences: the inclusion of a lanyard loop and a new extra-small in-ear tip in the box for those with smaller ear canals.
The latter isn't for kids (or, rather, it might be, but it isn't entirely) - we gave the buds and fresh tips to two adult women who never got on with AirPods Pro. Both felt that having the smaller size accessible improved their comfort and sound quality significantly.
That means you receive four silicon eartips in the package (XS, S, M, L), and it now appears to cover the spectrum exceptionally well (and you can perform an ear fit test in the Settings app, to be sure).
The usage of an in-ear fit is similar to the previous AirPods Pro but distinguishes them from the non-Pro AirPods 2nd Gen or 3rd Gen, both of which have an outer-ear fit, where they sit over but do not enter the ear canal.
Some people love that fit, but it isn't conducive to excellent active noise canceling, so, understandably, Apple didn't utilize it here.
The earbuds themselves continue to weigh only 5.3g, roughly the same as the previous iteration, which is why we grade them so highly. Many earbuds with comparable functionality are physically larger and heavier; for example, the Sony WF-1000XM4 weigh 7.4g apiece, making them 40% bulkier, which makes a significant difference in how safe they feel and how comfortable they are for extended periods.
Most other earbuds also have more extensive cases. Still, the AirPods Pro's design means the shell is thin enough to sneak into a pocket without seeming absurd, which is all important, but far too many earbud manufacturers overlook it.
But it does imply that we still have the design with the sticks, which some people dislike. We don't dislike it at all, not only because it's pleasant to wear, but also because it makes them easier to see, so others don't attempt to talk to you, and you both end up humiliated because you can't hear. The white stick pattern offers a unique affordance.
We genuinely wish they'd give a color option other than white. Why can't the AirPods Pro have cool colors like the AirPods Max?
However, the sticks have another advantage: they contain some of the most excellent on-device controls of any earphone. You can play/pause by squeezing the posts or holding them down to switch between active noise canceling and Adaptive Transparency mode. (However, you may change what they do in the Settings app, including various controls on separate buds.)
Even with gloves on, this works well. We favor touch-based controls since they are more challenging to activate mistakenly.
This time, though, Apple has included a new feature: volume control. You may alter the volume by extensive up or down on the sticks. This works well, although it is less secure than the other controls: it may accidentally trigger when playing/pausing or altering the fit. It also does not operate when wearing gloves. So, while it's an improvement, it's not a game-changer for me.
Aside from that, the general high build quality is there. There are no creaking, flexing, or poorly constructed connections. Without a doubt, they are high-end gadgets. Their waterproofing is IPX4, so they should be able to endure sweat when working out, but do not submerge them in water or wash them.
Most of this has previously been seen, but the AirPods Pro 2 sounds fantastic. They're a significant improvement over their predecessors, but regarding sound quality, they're towards the top of the tree.
The tremendous breadth of their capabilities is instantly apparent. Low-end notes carry as much weight as the music allows - strong bass lines slam deep and burrow into your skull. Yet, the low-end resonance of an acoustic instrument delivers believable authenticity without becoming excessive. Even after weeks, songs that start with no bass and then drop it in still surprise us - it always comes in more profound than you recall it can handle.
This AirPods pro is priced differently from the mid-range, which retains the openness and airiness required for superb singing and instruments while diving down to connect cleanly with the bass when needed. And the treble sits above it all, bursting with clarity and detail but never seeming detached or excessively bright.
The detail is outstanding throughout, showing as much information as a song can supply via the AAC connection. Nothing is left out; sounds that should roll on slowly do so instead of disappearing into the mix, and notes that cease abruptly seem natural rather than like they'll fall off a digital crisp. It makes us wonder what they'd be capable of if they had access to the extra nuances and human faults seen in Apple Music's higher-quality audio tiers.
Still, the music arrives without being colored by how strong the bass or treble may be - Apple often goes for a relatively neutral presentation, and that's what you get here in general. Apple claims to have an 'Adaptive EQ' that adjusts to your music to improve sound balance, although its overall impact is unclear. However, as is customary with AirPods, there is no manual EQ, so although you may tweak the EQ of an individual app, you cannot change the presentation of the AirPods' overall sound.
There's nothing to complain about when it comes to music. Still, the sound is a little more forward and aggressive than the previous AirPods Pro and the same as the AirPods Max, which manages a similarly impactful level of bass and precise level of treble but is slightly easier to listen over time.
It's not a significant thing, and we've had no trouble using the AirPods Pro frequently since we got them, but they're a touch more tiring than the AirPods Max or earlier version. Turning off Noise Cancellation alleviates this little - the presentation takes only a half-step back - so consider that if you don't need to destroy the outside world.
Of course, music is only one of their applications, and they could look much better in movies. To begin, here is where Spatial Audio and Dolby Atmos shine. It's excellent for music (it gives the instruments more room and gives the impression that the sound is emanating from around you rather than being pumped directly into your ear), but it's fantastic for movies. It's as if you're in a movie theatre with speakers all around you; move your head, and the sound remains directed to the iPhone, iPad, or Apple TV. It makes the most of object-based sound, guiding 3D sounds to the correct position and providing a fantastic sense of height.
However, the mix is more precise than most people's home TV speakers while being quite firm. It means that battles and explosions pack a punch, yet speech is always crystal clear - more precise than your television, we bet. It's so powerful that it takes some attention since the brain not use to such noise-canceling capability.
The workplace air conditioner has failed. A microwave will be completely quiet right in front of your eyes. The speech will hardly register, and you may not detect it over your music. Traffic will pass, but you'll always be able to hear what you're listening to over it without turning up the volume, so they're beneficial for your hearing.
The only unusual thing is that they are more effective at lower registers than higher registers (as is typical for noise suppression); thus, outside noises can occasionally startle you. Walking near a waterfall made it seem like a hiss, so we took the earphones out to see what was happening. It was so excellent at masking the lower registers of the falling water that we didn't realize what the higher register sound that may leak in was. We heard the same thing from individuals walking nearby with bags on bad pavement - it sounded strange because it was just the clack of the wheel, not the weight of an object pull.
We would like you to change the degree of noise cancellation. It's only sometimes essential to have this effective noise masking, and occasionally you'd rather hear someone shouting at you without using Transparency mode. It would be wonderful to have multiple NC modes like competitors Sony and Bose offer for different requirements.
The new Adaptive Transparency mode vastly improves on the previous model's Transparency mode. It's not so much that it reduces the loud sounds it lets in (they'll still drown out much of what you're listening to even if your hearing is protected), but it is a better blend of outside sound and music. The original AirPods Pro was very transparent; these are an excellent compromise.
Should you get Apple's AirPods Pro 2?:
The result will be no surprise: the AirPods Pro 2nd Gen are the most excellent earphones available to Apple consumers. They sound fantastic, have incredible noise canceling, and Apple devices unlock all their handy extra capabilities.
On Android, they're still a decent buy overall, especially for their noise-canceling ability and even more for individuals with tiny ears. If that's not an issue, invest a little more in the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II, the only rival for sheer noise-canceling ability but offers more control and capabilities on Android. If you already own the initial AirPods Pro, the new version is so much better that you should seriously consider upgrading.