AirPods have come from nowhere to dominate the earbuds marketplace in just six years. Apple’s best buds are the AirPods Pro, and after three years, they have been replaced by an all-new second-generation product. So should you upgrade to AirPods Pro 2, and what’s the difference? Here’s everything you need to know.
Note: Apple still calls its second-generation model ‘AirPods Pro 2nd Generation’, but for brevity, I will refer to them as ‘AirPods Pro 2’ in this guide. The original AirPods Pro are no longer for sale.
AirPods Pro 2 may look identical, but internally it’s all change.
Design – Familiar On The Outside, All Change On The Inside
AirPods Pro have long been Apple’s best-looking buds, and AirPods Pro 2 don’t change a winning formula. Externally, the new Pros are almost identical to their predecessors.
However, there are two very useful, if subtle, additions. First, a new capacitive touch sensor on the back of the buds enables volume control via up and down swipes. This makes them (somewhat remarkably) the only AirPods with external volume control. Finally!
AirPods Pro 2 Volume control
Second, ‘skin-detection’ sensors replace the IR optical sensors in AirPods Pro 1. The new sensors (also used in AirPods 3) improve in-ear detection and prevent them from being activated accidentally in a bag or pocket.
For those with small ears, Apple has bundled XS ear tips along with the S, M and L options provided previously. AirPods Pro 2 also remain IPX4 water resistant, which means they can withstand splashing water, though they should not be fully submerged (so don’t wear them in the shower).
AirPods Pro 2 case speaker
The AirPods Pro 2 case has been improved as well. Like AirPods Pro 1, it supports MagSafe charging, but Apple has also added ‘Find My’ support (via a U1 chip), a speaker for low battery alerts (useful when misplaced), plus a lanyard loop. Unfortunately, wired charging is still via a Lightning port, despite USB-C gradually taking over Apple’s product ranges.
Features & Performance – Faster, Smarter
AirPods Pro 2 feature a new low-distortion driver, similar to Beats Fit Pro, and an upgraded amplifier. Apple claims this combo delivers greater detail and clarity across the full frequency range. And there is a definite improvement that even casual listeners will notice.
For me, Sony’s WF-1000XM4 still top the pile for outright enjoyment, but this is a subjective category, and I doubt any AirPods Pro 2 buyers will be disappointed.
AirPods Pro 2 H2 Chip
As for the brains of AirPods Pro 2, that is handled by Apple’s new H2 chip. Apple boasts that H2 can deliver 2x more active noise cancellation (ANC) than the H1 chip in AirPods 1. As a result, AirPods Pro 2 ANC performance is comparable to some of the best (and most expensive) earbuds available, such as the WF-1000XM4 and the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II. Though Sony still gets my vote here as well.
AirPods Pro 2 also overhauls its Transparency mode thanks to the H2 chip, with what Apple is calling ‘Adaptive Transparency.’ AP reacts in real-time to spikes of external noise (think sirens, power tools, etc.) while still allowing you to hear the outside world. To achieve this, H2 tweaks its noise reduction levels 48,000 times per second. Transparency mode on AirPods Pro 1 was already excellent, but Adaptive Transparency takes things up to another (in my opinion, class-leading) level for wireless earbuds.
Lastly, AirPods Pro 2 have upgraded from Bluetooth 5.0 to Bluetooth 5.3. Launched in May 2022, Bluetooth 5.3 offers lower power consumption, reduced interference, improved security and more reliable connectivity.
Battery Life – Significant Gains
These are solid upgrades. AirPods Pro 2 battery life can’t match — yes — Sony’s WF-1000XM4, the current class leader (8h ANC on, 12h ANC off), but they are still among the longest-lasting ANC earbuds available.
One further nugget: alongside Lightning and MagSafe, the AirPods Pro 2 case can be charged with an Apple Watch charger (unlike AirPods Pro 1). Which is a pretty cool trick.
AirPods Pro 2 wireless charging
Price – The Pro Premium
AirPods Pro 2 retain the same $249 asking price as their predecessor. This makes them one of the few Apple products not to have received a price rise since 2019. There are also regular sales online, where the price drops to circa $200.
Compared to the competition, AirPods Pro 2 undercut Sony’s WF-1000XM4 and Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II (both $279). They are more expensive than Google’s also-excellent $200 Pixel Buds Pro, but the two are unlikely competitors given their focus on different ecosystems.
AirPods Pro 2 audio is a big step forward
Apple fans have waited almost three years for the second generation of AirPods Pro, and the new buds don’t disappoint. Superficially, they may look virtually unchanged, but they are significantly improved in almost every other way.
For me, Sony’s WF-1000XM4 remain a step above, but they are bulkier and more expensive. That said, the integration of AirPods Pro 2 with Apple’s ecosystem is unmatched, and if you want the very best AirPods (AirPods Max are absurdly priced), then nothing compares to the all-round package of AirPods Pro 2.
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