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Apple AirPods Pro review (2nd-gen): Big improvements, all on the inside

Do not be deceived by the recognizable design; this update is worthwhile.

Active noise cancellation (ANC) in a pair of AirPods was what the public had been demanding for three years before Apple finally delivered. The original design of the product’s traditional earbuds was maintained, but a better fit and an ear tip for noise isolation were added. Apple officially debuted its most recent premium earbuds with the iPhone 14: the second-generation AirPods Pro ($249 each), following a complete redesign of the “standard” AirPods last year and the release of some over-ear noise-canceling headphones in 2020.

Apple hasn’t completely rewritten the formula for version 2.0. Apple undoubtedly let you down if you were looking for an upgraded design for the new AirPods Pro. The company chose to concentrate on the internals as opposed to performing a thorough redesign, adding a number of new features and improving what was previously present using some new silicon. Hence, despite the fact that Apple didn’t abandon its appearance, these AirPods Pro nonetheless differ greatly from their predecessor.


We are currently using the company’s fifth set of earbuds, and only the third generation saw any changes to the design of the “standard” AirPods. Even back then, the business maintained the controversial stick buds design, which has come to represent Apple’s real wireless product selection. At this point, expecting Cupertino residents to do away with the stem is probably a fruitless endeavor, but hey, I encourage Apple to disprove my hypothesis.

Even with the recognizable appearance, there are a few subtle but important modifications. The first is a gesture that is invisible: the new swipe gesture. The side of that panel now supports swipes, but the main controls (play/pause, skipping tracks, sound modes, and Siri) are still clickable on the AirPods Pro stem. This volume-controlling touch motion is mirrored on both sides and is employed. The earbud won’t stay in your ear if you simply swipe it; instead, you must brace the stem with your thumb, exactly as you would if you were trying to hit the main button. The extra small (XS) ear tip size is one improvement that can be seen (not to mention passive noise reduction)

The AirPods Pro charging case is where the other significant design modifications occur. The built-in speaker makes it simpler to hear pings when searching for the earbuds or to activate tones for low battery, charging, and connection. As a result, the bottom border of the grille can now be seen. The case has the same IPX4 rating as the AirPods Pro, making it similarly water- and sweat-resistant. A lanyard loop has also been added to one side. As Apple products seldom come with one, the extra convenience will set you back more money. The firm presently charges $13 for a lanyard from Incase in its online store, but you can anticipate other accessory manufacturers to provide alternatives.

Software and features

There is no need to download an additional app to make modifications because all of the AirPods Pro’s functions are included into iOS. For this reason, when you open the case and hit the on-screen pop-up, the earphones automatically pair with your phone. As before, a lengthy press on the volume slider in the Control Center will rapidly access noise cancellation, transparency, spatial audio, and head tracking.

In iOS 16, you may skip the extra taps via the Bluetooth menu thanks to a shortcut in the main view of your iPhone’s settings. You can view the battery life for the case and the earbuds once you reach the AirPods Pro settings page (one number for both). You may arrange the long press to activate Siri rather than cycle through the sound modes by changing the choices for ANC, transparency, and turning both off just below. This menu also contains sliders for turning off Adaptive Transparency, in-ear detection, charging case sounds optimization, and Locate My. Apple’s ear tip fit test is also located here.

Apple has previously provided adaptive EQ, but adaptive transparency is a new feature with the second-generation AirPods Pro. By providing a degree of noise reduction to strong noises like a siren or a jackhammer, this helps when you are in ambient sound mode. The Noise app on your Apple Watch will display in real-time how many decibels the AirPods Pro are blocking while they are synced with your wrist-worn device. Also, the Health app receives that information so you may measure your aural exposure levels. Indeed, the AirPods Pro still lets you hear these sounds (you’ll need to be aware of an incoming siren after all), but it substantially softens them for your ears.

Customized Spatial Audio is an additional new function that Apple added to the AirPods Pro. You can start the process of tuning the device to your ears from this primary settings menu, which according to Apple will enhance the immersive quality of Spatial Audio with better precision and clarity for directional aspects in films, TV shows, and videos. With an iPhone’s front-facing True Depth camera, you set it up by creating a personal profile. Your phone performs the rest after scanning your face and ears.

In a manner similar to configuring Face ID, you also take pictures of your sides of the head. Sony uses a phone camera and a short scan in a similar manner to customize 360 Reality Audio for each individual. In addition to the third-generation AirPods and AirPods Max, Customized Spatial Audio will also be accessible on the first-generation AirPods Pro. Also, after configuration, your iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple TV all share the same sound profile.

A U1 chip from the improved charging case allows Precise Finding in Locate My. You have a rough location up until this point for a lost AirPods case. Yet like it does for Air Tags, Apple provides direction and distance information for the AirPods Pro. In case you forgot, the U1 chip from the corporation has been a precise location feature in every iPhone from the 11th generation. The element functions exactly as it does for the AirTags’ new AirPods Pro case.

H2 chip

For many years, Apple’s Beats headphones and earbuds have been powered by the H1 chip. Everything from adaptive EQ and active noise cancellation to hands-free Siri is handled by this component. But every great technological advancement has its time, and Apple is now offering the H2 on the new AirPods Pro. The new chip, according to the manufacturer, handles new features like Adaptive Transparency in addition to better sound quality and ANC.

Although H2 is more potent, it is also more effective. For instance, the chip can process 48,000 times per second on the device with Adaptive Transparency to identify and muffle any loud noises you may hear. Apple claims that H2 can execute ANC algorithms that were previously impractical on gadgets the size of AirPods. So, AirPods Pro cancel twice as much noise as the first-generation model when used in conjunction with the drivers, vents, and microphones. When you hear yourself talk in transparency mode, H2 improves Adaptive EQ with algorithms for better and more reliable audio performance and tries to make you sound more genuine.

I am aware that there are multiple claims of improved performance in various areas. But all you really need to know is that everything Apple has added, enhanced, or refined since the 2019 model is made possible by the new H2 chip.

Sound quality

Apple claims that new algorithms, an amplifier, driver, and transducer combine inside the new AirPods Pro to produce “richer” sound, more clarity, and consistent performance across volumes and frequencies. There is a lot of audio lingo, but what you need to know is that the second-generation model’s overall sound quality is significantly better than the original. When Apple said that music would sound better at lower volumes, it wasn’t lying. The Darling Fire’s post-hardcore riffs and spacey shoegaze still sound crisp even when the volume is down. Instead of being reduced to a murmur, the band’s ambient sound is preserved. What this new model can accomplish at a lower level, right down to the bass, is quite astounding.

Apple made a smart decision with regular loudness. In order to provide a more immersive listening experience, the overall sound is actually richer with increased depth, clarity, and soundstage. In Lorde’s “Royals,” the sustain on the loud, boom synth and the echo on the snaps are equal, yet they are at opposing extremes of the frequency spectrum. This maintains the track’s airiness and depth while showcasing the small variation in both tones. Not only is the audio immersive, but it is also more detailed.

I truly prefer the Customized Spatial Audio that the AirPods Pro provide right out of the box. The personalized sound profile was too treble-heavy for my taste after I scanned my face and ears. Movies’ thunderous or bombastic portions sounded a little less immersive, and the music sounded a little quieter. Unless you’re listening to one of Apple’s live performances that was specifically recorded for the format, Spatial Audio favors movies and shows more than music. Luke Combs’ most recent Apple Music performance sounds significantly more realistic when dynamic head tracking is enabled. Even without head tracking, songs sound much louder and clearer in Spatial Audio, but the directional element gives things a more “live” sense with a band on stage.

Not even a tap will activate the new customizing function. If you enable Customized Spatial Audio, it remains active once you do, and iOS will destroy your profile if you decide to stop using it. You must perform another scan in order to use it once more. Apple claims that since you’ll want it on always, you won’t need to switch between them. For example, I believe it would be beneficial to have the ability to toggle it on for movies while still allowing for standard Spatial Audio for music.

Apple’s transparency mode is another thing I must highlight. I don’t understand why AirPods are the only product on the market that even comes close to ambient sound, but in actuality, Apple offers the most realistic-sounding audio. The AirPods Max are where I first noticed it, but the new AirPods Pro are equally stunning. They can be worn in a meeting while making it appear as though you are not even wearing them. The only time the AirPods Pro will be noticeable is when you talk because your ears are clogged. The closest rival is still far behind, making it the most transparent setting you’ll find on earphones.

You can now anticipate 48kHz “movie grade” audio when watching something with a buddy thanks to improvements made to Share Play audio by Apple. I don’t remember their being any problems with the way things sounded before, but I can confirm that House of the Dragon sounds flawless when the audio is beaming to two pairs of AirPods.

Call quality

During calls, the majority of earbuds can only generate speakerphone-quality audio, although the AirPods Pro perform somewhat better than the majority of the competitors. The voice quality won’t be perfect, but it won’t be instantly obvious that you’re talking into a phone that’s on your desk either. The AirPods Pro also perform admirably when it comes to background noise, muffling but not completely eliminating sources like white noise generators. FaceTime has the highest call quality with Apple’s new system, which is not surprising.

Spatial Audio was already available for group FaceTime chats, but Apple has now also incorporated dynamic head tracking. Instead of only talking to people online, you can feel even more like you’re in the same room with them when using the newest AirPods models. If you like that little bit of customization, it will also be used in your group chats since personalized spatial audio is compatible with FaceTime. You only really become aware that you are wearing earbuds while you are speaking when you combine Apple’s immersive sound with the natural audio in transparency mode. That’s once again because of your closed ears.

Battery life

According to Apple, you can expect a battery life of up to six hours with noise cancelling turned on or up to seven hours without it. There are three more charges in the redesigned case, which can now be recharged via a Lightning connection, a Mag Safe accessory, a Qi-certified accessory, or an Apple Watch charger. In an emergency, five minutes in the case will provide you with up to an hour of use. According to the business, dynamic head tracking and personalized spatial audio reduce listening time by 30 minutes altogether, and calls can last up to 4.5 hours just talking.

In my experiments, I was able to utilize the device for six hours and fifteen minutes while juggling calls, transparency mode, and noise suppression. This is comparable to the majority of the current competition and is longer than the previous generation’s 4.5 hours. While some businesses do offer 10-plus hours of battery life, the average for the noise-canceling gadgets I’ve evaluated is closer to five to seven hours. The six to seven hours of battery life that Apple manages are sufficient to get you through the workday if you take a little break, though more battery life is always great.

The competition

Apple keeps the best features on the AirPods Pro for fans of the iPhone, iPad, and Mac, just like Google and Samsung do. Although you may use these earphones with other devices, features like hands-free Siri and Spatial Audio are not available. So, Apple’s buds aren’t actually in direct competition with Pixel Buds and Galaxy Buds because all three firms have established a walled garden where they only provide their most devoted customers access to the greatest audio products.

The Bose Quiet Comfort Earbuds II are your best option if ultimate ANC is what you’re after. The most recent true wireless product from Bose has significantly improved noise cancellation and overall audio quality while being smaller and more comfortable. They cost a lot ($299) and are deficient in features like wireless charging and multipoint networking. Choose the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3 for pristine audio clarity. With its most recent model, which arrived this spring, the business, which routinely ranks at the top in terms of audio performance, maintains that position. Last but not least, Sony’s WF-1000XM4 boasts a comprehensive set of tools if you’re looking for a tone of practical functions. Sony’s spec sheet has been imitated by other headphone manufacturers, but features like Speak-to-automatic Chat’s pause while you speak and Still useful are location-based sound settings.


An update to Apple’s noise-canceling earbuds was long overdue. The business made significant interior changes, adding new amenities and enhancing performance but deciding against changing the overall look. It’s significant that it made all of these adjustments while maintaining the cost at $249. The new AirPods Pro are a worthwhile update to a tried-and-true design with to features like enhanced audio, more potent ANC, Adaptive Transparency, and even improvements to the charging case. Just let’s hope the full overhaul doesn’t take another three years to complete.