(Pocket-lint) - Apple announced several products during an event in September, including four iPhones, three Apple Watches and the next generation of the AirPods Pro.
The original AirPods were first announced in 2017, and were followed by the original the AirPods Pro in 2019, so it's been three years since we saw Apple's noise-cancelling earbuds first appear.
The design remains predominantly the same in the second generation, but there are some big changes internally that make the AirPods Pro 2 a compelling option for iPhone owners. Keep reading for our full review.
Apple's AirPods are wonderfully convenient, whatever model you have. The AirPods Pro 2nd Generation offer all the same features as the excellent AirPods 3rd Generation, but they add Active Noise Cancellation and Adaptive Transparency modes, as well as the touch sensor for volume control on the stem, taking things to another level.
There are some great other additions too, like the speaker and U1 chip in the Charging Case, and we love that you can now use an Apple Watch charger, reducing the number of cables we need to have lying around.
The design of the second generation AirPods Pro may have remained similar to its predecessor, plus they aren't cheap of course, but the internal upgrades, performance and noise-cancelling improvements, plus the extra features overall make the AirPods Pro 2 an exceptional pair of wireless headphones and one iPhone users in particular should definitely have on their shortlist.
Apple AirPods Pro 2
- Excellent performance
- Great noise cancellation
- Touch sensor on stem for volume control is useful
- Super-convenient features
- Sweat resistant Charging Case
- H1 chip unlocks more potential
- Pricey compared to 3rd Generation model
- No lanyard included
- 30.9 x 21.8 x 24mm, 5.3g (AirPods Pro), 60.6 x 45.2 x 25.7mm, 50.8g (Charging Case)
- White colour option only
- IPX4 sweat and water resistant (AirPods and Charging Case)
The Apple AirPods Pro second generation share an almost identical design to their predecessor, with a couple of incremental changes here and there, mainly in terms of vent and microphone placement. From a distance though, it would be tricky to tell the difference between the first generation AirPods Pro and the second generation model - though that's not a bad thing.
Despite rumours suggesting the AirPods Pro 2 might move to a design similar to the Samsung Galaxy Buds by ditching the stem, that's not come to fruition. Apple retained the signature design, with the short stem of the AirPods Pro returning and the silicone ear tips positioned at the end of the white head, differentiating the Pro model from the AirPods 3rd Generation.
The AirPods Pro 2 are small and dainty, as they have always been, measuring just 30.9 x 21.8 x 24mm and weighing just 5.3g. There is a new silicone ear tip size available now though, with XS joining the S, M and L options already available. We use small ear tips, which fit our ears well and are nice and comfortable, but it's always good to have options as everyone is different. It's also worth trying the different sizes before deciding on the best fit for your ears as we thought medium were fine initially but small were much better.
The stem also has a touch control sensor on it too now, allowing you to adjust the volume by sliding your finger up and down. It takes a few attempts to nail the gesture - we put our thumb behind the stem so we could hold the AirPod Pro in place while we moved our index finger up and down - but once you have it down, it's very simple to do, and handy too. There are audio cues indicating you have changed the volume successfully, so you'll know when you've mastered it. Our tip - apply more pressure than you think you need to - volume goes up and down incrementally so you might need to swipe up or down a few times.
Along with the new touch controls, the AirPods Pro 2 still offer the same controls of the original AirPods Pro, allowing you to press and hold to switch between Active Noise Cancellation and Adaptive Transparency modes, press once to play or pause music, or answer or end a phone call, press twice to skip forward and press three times to skip backwards.
While the AirPods Pro themselves are similar in design to their predecessor, aside from the changes we mentioned, there have been some upgrades to the Charging Case. There's now a speaker at the bottom of the case to help locate it if you've lost it - more on that in a minute - and the case is IPX4 sweat and water resistant, like the AirPods Pro 2 buds themselves. The case also has a lanyard loop - though a lanyard doesn't come in the box. It's a handy addition though.
Hardware and performance
- H1 chip in AirPods Pro 2, U1 chip in Charging Case
- Personalised Spatial Audio with Dynamic Head Tracking
- Active Noise Cancellation and Adaptive Transparency
- Bluetooth 5.3
The Apple AirPods Pro 2 run on the H2 chip, allowing for a range of features and performance enhancements. There's Personalised Spatial Audio with Dynamic Head Tracking - which is also available on the AirPods 3rd Generation. You can read how to set this feature up in our separate feature but it is designed to offer a more tailored listening experience. We did notice a slight difference when it was on compared to off, with voices a little clearer especially, so it's worth doing for the minute it takes to setup.
As we briefly mentioned, the AirPods Pro 2 also have Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) and Adaptive Transparency, like the previous model. The ANC on the second gen model has vastly improved though thanks to a couple of factors, including the H2 chip, new low-distortion driver and optimised placement of the acoustic vent and microphone. It's excellent in use, drowning out all manner of sounds when switched on.
As just one example, we were on a late evening train with the AirPods Pro 2 and there was a screaming baby behind us, but with the ANC mode switched on, the screaming turned into a mild noise instead, which was much more bearable. It cancels out all the extra humming and bustling too though, as well as general conversation around you, which is bliss when you just want some peace. If you have an Apple Watch, you can use the Noise app to see the change in decibels when you have the AirPods Pro 2 in your ears and when you don't but you'll definitely notice the difference without having to see it.
There's a custom high-excursion Apple driver and custom high-dynamic range amplifier within the AirPiods Pro 2, along with a vent system pressure equalisation and overall, the performance from these earbuds is brilliant. The AirPods Pro 2 deliver a lovely wide soundstage - wider than the original AirPods Pro - and there's consistency across all volumes and frequencies too. We listened to a range of different tracks, from bass heavy to those with more focus on vocals and the AirPods Pro 2 coped well across the board.
In particular, there's more richness in the bass and improved detail and clarity through the midrange, helped by the Airpods Pro 2's new low-distortion audio driver and custom amplifier. Dynamically they seem to be more expressive than the original AirPods Pro too, with an improved ability to communicate the tempo shifts in a piece of music with more confidence.
We found we didn't need to turn the AirPods Pro 2 up as high as the original models either, which helps to give them more headroom to deal with dynamic shifts more explicitly. Overall it's a more confident and insightful performance.
In terms of sensors, you'll find a skin-detect sensor, motion-detecting accelerometer and a speech-detecting accelerometer - all of which the AirPods 3rd Generation offers. There's also the touch control sensor we mentioned too though - which is great. Dual-beaming microphones are also on board the AirPods Pro 2, as well as an inward-facing microphone.
Along with the speaker, the AirPods Pro 2 Charging Case has the U1 chip inside, meaning it will appear on the Find My app independently of the each earbud. You will also be able to play a sound to the case to make it easier to find if you have misplaced it thanks to the speaker, as we briefly mentioned. Additionally, the AirPods Pro 2 charging case can now be charged with an Apple Watch charger, which may seem like a small detail but it's actually really handy.
Apple claims the AirPods Pro 2 offer 6 hours of listening time, or 4.5 hours of talk time, with a further 30 hours of listening time or 24 hours of talk time from the Charging Case. As with the AirPods 3rd Generation, five minutes in the case will offer around one hour of listening time.
The AirPods Pro 2 are solid performers here too. Naturally, ANC does reduce the battery life more so than when the mode is off, but there's still plenty of hours before you need to think about charging them. If you're on a long haul flight then you'll need to take some time out to charge the AirPods Pro 2, but for those using these headphones for commuting, they won't let you down on the battery front.
- Automatic switching between Apple devices
- iOS and Android compatible
- Announce Notifications
There's automatic switching between Apple devices linked to your Apple ID - this works well on the AirPods Pro 2 as it does on other models. It's a very useful feature if you're switching between calls on your phone and video calls on your Mac, for example.
There's also quick setup with Apple devices, with one-tap connection, though the AirPods Pro 2 are compatible with Android devices too. In terms of accessibility features, the AirPods Pro 2 have Live Listen Audio, Headphone Levels, Headphone Accommodations and a Conversation Boost mode.
As we've mentioned, the AirPods Pro 2 also have Active Noise Cancellation and Adaptive Transparency modes. There's Hey Siri on board as well, and you get the controls we mentioned above. There are also plenty of settings you can change too, like turning on Announce Notifications so you can be told who is calling you if you get a phone call, as well as have them read messages and other notifications.
All these features are accessed more easily with iOS 16 too. When the AirPods Pro 2 are connected and in your ear, they will appear in the Settings menu of your iPhone, allowing you to see battery levels, change the name of your AirPods, as well as switch between the ANC and Transparency modes and toggle the various other features mentioned on or off.
The AirPods Pro 2nd Generation offer all the same features as the excellent AirPods 3rd Generation, but they add Active Noise Cancellation and Adaptive Transparency modes, as well as the touch sensor for volume control on the stem. There are some great other additions too when it comes to the Charging Case. The design of the second generation AirPods Pro may have remained similar to its predecessor, plus they aren't cheap of course, but the internal upgrades, performance and noise cancelling improvements, and extra features overall make the AirPods Pro 2 an exceptional pair of wireless headphones.