Apple AirPods Pro 2 review
Introduction and unboxing
It’s been exactly three years since Apple unveiled the AirPods Pro, and if you look at their successors, it’s clear that Apple hasn’t tired of the design.
But don’t let that fool you—just about everything has gotten better inside, and Apple will have another winner on its hands.
Compared to 2019, 2022 has a much more saturated and stronger TWS market, and AirPods Pro 2’s ability to actively suppress sound is no longer enough to stand out. Strong offerings from Apple’s well-known rivals in the smartphone world, as well as from audio staples, means the AirPods Pro 2 will have to work hard to earn their spot.
On the other hand, many people who are deeply invested in the Apple ecosystem will only see three alternatives at €299/$249/INR 26,900 AirPods Pro 2 – €159/$129/INR 14,900 AirPods 2, €209/$169/ INR 19,900 AirPods 3, and €629/$549/INR 59,900 AirPods Max. That makes the AirPods Pro 2 the cheapest Apple headphones with active noise reduction, which is an immediate win.
The new case, comparison with AirPods Pro
Let’s open these.
AirPods Pro 2 comes with a USB-C to Lightning cable, XS/S/M/L silicone ear tips, and the buds themselves, in their case.
The MagSafe Charging Case is new this year. It’s got a speaker to play Find My chimes, as well as a metal loop for a lanyard – eliminating one of the main reasons people buy AirPods cases.
But the loop isn’t just there to destroy third-party retailers’ bottom lines. Smartly, it serves the dual function of an antenna for the Find My service.
You can charge AirPods Pro 2 using a MagSafe charger, the Apple Watch charger, or any standard Qi charger. The obsolete Lightning port is the wired charging option on the new AirPods Pro 2.
AirPods Pro 2 is almost the same as the original, early rumors point to shorter stems never materializing. It’s not generally bad, as buyers of the original model will feel confident that these will fit just as well as the old ones.
The new AirPods Pro 2 introduces the smaller XS eartip size, which will help those who find the S size too big. Since the ear tips fit the old models, it gives owners of these earphones another size option.
The only real change on the AirPods themselves is the new skin detection sensor that has replaced the old ear sensor. It can tell the difference between your ear and any other surface, so the earphones won’t automatically start playing when placed on a table or in a pocket – a very welcome change.
The stems of the AirPods Pro 2 have a new slide functionality in addition to the old press and hold. So now you can push the stem column to adjust the volume – a single pull up or down toggles the correction one step in the respective direction.
You can tap with two fingers on the stem to play/pause, while a squeeze and hold will toggle between Active Noise Reduction and Adaptive Transparency.
Find My has been enhanced with AirPods Pro 2. The case supports Precision Finding, enabled by the U1 chip, and you can play a sound to help you find the buds more easily. The case also rings a bell.
There is also a detailed battery indicator which gives you battery readings of the case as well as each of the two knobs.
Sound quality, active noise reduction, spatial sound, battery life
Okay, let’s get the biggest thing out of the way – the AirPods Pro 2 sound great and are vastly improved over their predecessors.
The original AirPods Pro were a big step up from the open AirPods. They had better sound isolation thanks to the in-ear design, which also gave them better bass characteristics. The original Pros had a wide soundstage with pronounced vocals and a sharp reproduction of instruments. Still, their sound was mixed in the middle, becoming bland and screechy at higher volumes. Their upper mids lacked presence, while the sub-bass wasn’t particularly impressive.
AirPods Pro 2 solves each of these problems. For starters, the soundstage is just as wide, but clearer – the sound is more dynamic, filling in the gaps that left the old pair sounding messy and mushy. The upper midrange has more presence and on the other hand there is more sub-bass. And AirPods Pro 2 can be louder without sacrificing sound quality.
So improvements across the board. If you use AirPods Pro daily and consider the Pro 2 for their sound, you will notice a noticeable improvement.
Ditto the active noise reduction and Adaptive Transparency mode. Starting with ANC, the first thing you’ll notice is the lack of white noise hum on quiet backgrounds. It is the low noise floor, which on the original Pros can be heard and felt as a kind of pressure in your ear when you are not listening to anything. It is not audible on the AirPods Pro 2 and the pressure is not there.
The new earphones have better sound insulation. Apple claims a 2x improvement, but we wouldn’t go that far. It’s better – constant sounds with the same cadence frequency as an engine or a fan are filtered more effectively than before. However, there are better options out there like Sony’s WF-1000XM4 and, subjectively, the much cheaper Samsung Galaxy Buds2.
Then there is Adaptive Transparency mode. It allows noise from outside, but will tone down harsh sounds like car horns or construction on the street. In practice, it allows you to listen to music or a podcast/audiobook while being safe outside. You can even have a conversation with someone without having to take out the buds.
However, don’t expect Adaptive Transparency to feel like you’re walking around without knobs, it doesn’t.
Spatial Audio is fantastic. It’s top Apple, simulating the surround sound you get if you’re sitting in the middle of an extensive high-end speaker setup. There are two settings – Fixed increases sound quality without a tangible surround sound experience, while Head Tracked is properly magical. Best used while sitting down, this mode simulates surround sound according to the movement of your head. Turn left and right “speaker” will gradually fade back. It feels real and adds a whole new level to your favorite music.
Samsung and others are trying to simulate the same feature, but can’t match the skill of Apple’s implementation.
AirPods Pro 2 have dual beam-forming microphones as well as an inward-facing microphone, which combined provide a good call experience. People on the other end of the line reported that we sounded almost as good as through a phone.
Battery life is excellent on the AirPods Pro 2. We got close to 6 and a half hours of phone calls and 6 hours and 20 minutes of music playback with ANC on, both at 50% volume. For context, the old AirPods Pros got 4 and a half hours of playback, while the AirPods 3 offer the same 6 hours of listening and 4 and a half hours of talk time as the pros.
There AirPods Pro 2 are amazing. They sound much better than the previous pros, have meaningfully better battery life and excellent active noise cancellation. They’re also better in every way than the open AirPods 3 – more sound isolation, ANC vs no ANC, better bass, wider soundstage, etc.
But what did you really expect? It’s only natural that Apple has made the new AirPods Pros superior to their three-year-old predecessors.
The question of whether or not to buy the new AirPods Pro 2 is also easy enough to answer – if you have the original benefits, getting the new ones will bring a myriad of improvements. It’s further amplified if you have an AirPods 2 or 1. Get the AirPods Pro 2, you won’t regret it.
If you own AirPods 3, then the question is more difficult. Switch to AirPods Pro 2 if you need active noise cancellation, otherwise keep your existing buds.
It caters to pretty much everyone in the Apple ecosystem. On the other hand, there is no reason to go for Apple’s AirPods Pro 2 if you are an Android user. You’re going to pay a premium over the majority of TWS options on the market, and would lose most of the AirPods Pro 2’s benefits outside of iOS — no spatial sound, no Find My support, not even automatic ear detection (seriously , Apple!?).
These are the absolute best earphones to get for the iPhone. They are also very good on their own. But the reality is that the AirPods Pro 2 are far from the best buds out there. There are better sounding options and certainly better deals out there.