The AirPods Pro second generation is a confident step up that fixes almost every issue with the prior version.
What initially seems like a spec bump and the addition of a few qualify-of-life features actually manage to take the AirPods Pro to a new level of audio quality.
- Connectivity: Bluetooth
- Weight: Earbuds – 5.3g, Case – 50.8g
- Battery life: 6 hours of battery life (5.5 hours with Spatial Audio and head tracking). Case allows for 30 hours of listening time.
- Features: Spatial Audio, Active Noise Cancelling, Transparency mode, IPX4 Sweat and Water resistance, one-touch pairing, on-device controls
- Price: £249.99
- Where to buy: Best Buy
Included in the box: AirPods Pro Second Generation and charging case, USB-C to Lightning cable, silicon tips
At first glance, the AirPods Pro second generation doesn’t appear all that different from the last. They’re still that trademark white (still no color options), and they still pop into the little case.
That case actually is actually the more obvious way to tell them apart from their predecessors. Not only does it have a small cutout to attach it to your person or a bag via a lanyard, but it’s also now packing a small, but nifty, speaker on the underside.
As for the AirPods Pro themselves, the second generation doesn’t change the popular format of the first set – the stems are short, and the silicon tips can be replaced (there are four size options now, too, up from three before), and yes, they still charge via Lightning.
We’d have liked to see USB-C, but it’s seemingly just a matter of time. Thankfully, it supports wireless charging and can be charged through Apple’s MagSafe accessories or the Apple Watch charger.
Sound and microphone quality
The AirPods Pro were no slouches in the audio fidelity department, but the addition of the H2 chip in the second generation make a surprising difference.
While it’s naturally not quite as diverse a soundstage as the over-ear AirPods Max, the AirPods Pro 2 offers impressive bass and treble compared to the prior buds, and is considerably clearer than the standard AirPods. While the base AirPods tend to lean towards lumping everything in with the mids, the AirPods Pro 2 almost dares you to find more diverse audio to pump through them.
Apple has been touting its 3D audio support for the last few years, dubbed Spatial Audio, but in music and podcast listening scenarios it’s felt a little superfluous. Still, whack a blockbuster movie on and you’ll be impressed by just how immersive it can be.
New with AirPods Pro second generation is the ability to use your iPhone to scan your ears for more personalized spatial audio. It essentially works like the FaceID setup process, only with the sides of your head rather than the front, and tailors the audio setup to your ears’ physical attributes. It feels a little like science fiction, but it makes a surprising difference, but some genres naturally work better than others — podcasts with head-tracking can make it feel like you’re part of a conversation, while riff-laden metalcore can feel a little too chaotic for our tastes.
Noise-canceling is also vastly improved in all modes. Squeezing the stems of the AirPods Pro still switches between ANC modes, meaning you can use Transparency Mode to allow you to hear your surroundings or enjoy “classic” noise cancellation to focus on your audio. What’s new with the second generation of AirPods Pro is what the company calls Adaptive Transparency.
The idea of the feature is to minimize, but not remove, louder and constant background noise. It’s impressive, and you’ll find it works a treat with the sound of constant traffic or machinery, but if you happen to be a writer working from a garage where there’s little to no background noise, you’ll be just as well served by the first generation AirPods Pro.
The AirPods Pro second generation is more of the same when it comes to call quality. We didn’t have any issues hearing or being heard, and while head tracking audio through FaceTime calls is a nice touch, we found ourselves switching it off for more consistent audio.
That speaker on the AirPods Pro’s new case isn’t for pumping out your favorite playlist, but is solely for locating it if/when it goes missing. Apple’s U1 chip can be found in the case, and in each earbud, meaning if you can’t find them, you can track them down using the same tech found in Apple’s AirTags.
The H2 chip inside each also allows for better power efficiency, meaning you can now get up to 30 hours of listening time across the buds and the case. That’s 6 hours more than the first generation, and each bud gets 90 minutes longer per charge.
Speaking of the buds, users can finally adjust volume without reaching for their phone or Apple Watch thanks to touch-sensitive parts of the stems. It feels more than a little awkward to stroke them the first few times, but soon becomes second nature.
Should you buy them?
It’d be fair to say that at $250, the AirPods Pro second generation isn’t made for everyone. They’re not quite the audiophile targeting AirPods Max, sure, but they’re more expensive than the Beats Fit Pro and the standard AirPods.
And yet, after using them and enjoying movies with Personalized Spatial Audio, working out with the improved noise cancellation, and finding them under the desk thanks to the U1 chip, it’s tough to go back. The AirPods Pro second generation is, comfortably, Apple’s best earphones around.
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