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With every new Apple product release, there’s a desire to evolve, change, and push the boundaries of what’s possible from the last version. That’s to say, the updated version of the Apple AirPods Pro 2 is a hotly anticipated release. Apple provided us with a set to test for ourselves, boasting new features including better ANC, better audio, better battery, and plenty more, but did they do enough to push the envelope forward? Here are our thoughts.
Apple AirPods Pro 2 ANC Earbuds
- Improved sound and ANC
- Better battery
- Improved case
- Nothing earth-shattering in terms of upgrades
Apple AirPods Pro 2 Review: Setup
Apple continues to make pairing products within its ecosystem a breeze. All I needed to do to pair the Apple AirPods Pro 2 was to be on the home screen of my iPhone, open up the case and then tap connect on the setup animation that Apple automatically displays. Since I’m an iCloud user, the Pro 2’s were then connected to all of my other Apple devices for instant use. This setup continues to be remarkably easy and among the most streamlined of connections on the market.
From there, the Apple AirPods Pro 2 were ready to go, but I decided to set up the spatial audio connection as well. The internal-facing camera on my iPhone scanned my ears and required me to move my head around a bit to get a full picture of them. The entire process took about two minutes, and then I was ready to listen to the Pros in full. All in all, a breeze from start to finish.
Apple AirPods Pro 2: The Same Design You Know and Love
Those looking to Apple for a radical design change in the Pro 2s may be disappointed. Outside of a case refresh, the actual earbuds of the Pro 2s look more or less identical to the original Pros. Eagle-eyed Apple fans may notice the company shifted around some of the mics and sensors (notably from the side to the top) but otherwise, the design is unchanged.
However, the case for the Pro 2s has a few notable upgrades. The righthand side now includes a built-in lanyard loop if you’re someone that has a hard time keeping track of the case, although you’ll have to purchase one separately either from Apple or any of the many third-party retailers that sell them. Speaking of losing your earbuds, the case also has a tiny speaker in it that emits a chime for various features, including letting you know the case is charging when you connect to a lightning cord or place it on a charging pad when the battery is running low, and, most critically, is capable of producing a sound should the case go missing. That feature in and of itself is likely to be quite a game changer for those who are slightly more absent-minded with their devices, myself included.
The Best Features of Apple AirPods Pro 2
Outside of that previously mentioned chime speaker in the case, the feature set of the Apple AirPods Pro 2 remains the same as the past iteration. The Pros offer both active noise cancelation and transparency mode, as well as one-earbud functionality, voice calling, Siri activation, fast charging, and true wireless capacity. However, there are some improvements worth nothing in regard to both the transparency mode and how you play songs.
Transparency mode now includes a special functionality an ability to scale down loud noises. For example, if you have the AirPods in transparency mode, the earbuds will essentially lower the volume of annoyingly loud noises like a train passing, sirens, or even loud construction noises. It’s not so much of a noise-cancelation feature as it is a de-scaler for particularly unpleasant noises.
On the control front, Apple added an ability to actively control the volume on the stems of the AirPods themselves. On the interior of each earbud is a little notch that you can swipe your finger up or down on to raise or lower the volume accordingly. It takes a bit of getting used to but is a more than welcome addition, saving the time and hassle of having to pull a device to control the volume. Considering the majority of Bluetooth earbuds don’t include a feature like this, I was shocked to see it placed here and to have it work as well as it does. I hope Apple makes it standard on all future versions of the AirPods, regardless of whether or not it’s on the Pro or the standard version.
How Do the Apple AirPods Pro 2 Perform?
The majority of improvements made to the Apple AirPods Pro 2 are on the performance side, including reimagined amplifier and driver to improve the sound, as well as the new H2 chip that brings everything together. But how does it all fare?
Listening to the AirPods Pro 2 is definitely a step up from the original Pros but not as earth-shattering as you may find on other earbuds. In fact, I’d liken it to Apple just continuing to dial in the sound of the Pros with just a few subtle tweaks, like adding a bit of depth and warmth. A few songs, in particular, stood out during my testing, including the score for Halo Infinite, whose extensive use of strings felt extra hum-y when compared to some other earbuds I’m used to testing. On songs like Arctic Monkey’s “There’d Better Be A Mirrorball,” I felt the overall landscape to be balanced with good depth, as I was able to pick out individual instrumental parts of the song with ease. Rap albums like Pusha-T’s “It’s Almost Dry” weren’t as bass-heavy as I personally prefer but still managed to kick hard in places where they need to, especially on the Pharrell-produced tracks like “Call My Bluff.”
On the active noise cancelation side of things, I’d say the Apple AirPods Pro 2 are a step above where the Pro 1s were and are closer in line to the noise cancelation abilities of the Sony WF-100XM4 ANC earbuds, which are pretty impressive. That’s a good progression for Apple to make and definitely makes that $250 pricetag more justified. To give a more tangible example, my fiancé often watches television in our bedroom while I work out of our guestroom/office. Even with the music off, I couldn’t hear the sound of the television through the ANC of the Pros. Commuting is still an inherently noisy process, but I certainly heard an improvement when using the Apple AirPods Pro 2. The ANC on these is definitely in the mid-to-top range area.
Testing the Pro 2s during a workout with transparency mode active cut down on some of the car traffic I’d typically hear while on a run but not to the point where I felt like I couldn’t hear a vehicle approaching if I need to do so. I also didn’t have a problem with the earbuds falling out, staying firmly planted in my ears during sprints and while also doing weightlifting (worth mentioning the Pro 2s include an IPX4 rating for water/sweat resistance). The sound-scaling I mentioned in transparency mode might catch you off guard the first few times, but I felt it was pretty effective at cutting down on noise without totally removing or blocking it.
On the battery side of things, Apple estimates about six hours of listening with ANC active and about 30 hours of total time off of a full case charge. I found those assessments to be pretty accurate and could easily go two or three days of on-and-off listening before needing to fully charge the case again. However, it’s worth noting that your individual usage may vary if you’re wearing these all the time. Additionally, I notice a subtle upgrade on the microphones, which were already pretty good already, so those who look to spend a lot of time speaking on work calls should find plenty to love.
The Verdict: Should You Buy the Apple AirPods Pro 2?
There’s plenty to get excited about with Apple’s AirPods Pro 2, especially if you’re an Apple user that’s grown accustomed to using a standard pair of AirPods or even the first version of the Pros. If you’re a dedicated audiophile or want best-in-class ANC, you’ll find a lot to like here, but there are likely other competitors who will provide better options. For most, however, there’s enough here to warrant an upgrade — and to be more than satisfied with your purchase.
Apple AirPods Pro 2 ANC Earbuds
Apple AirPods Pro 2 Alternatives
Looking for other options in the ANC earbud space? Here are three suggestions.
1. Apple AirPods Pro
You can’t go wrong with the original set of AirPod Pros, which you can now snag at quite a discount.
Read More: Review: Apple’s AirPods Pro Are Still a Must for Apple Users
2. Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II
Bose’s best-in-class noise-canceling is on display in what very well might be the best set of ANC earbuds on the market.
Read More: Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II Review: If Only Every Sequel Was This Good
3. Sony WF-1000XM4s Earbuds
I personally love the bass-forward sound of Sony’s 1000XM4s and the super strong ANC makes for quite a compelling offering.
Read More: Sony’s New WF-1000XM4 Wireless Earbuds Promise Headphone-Quality Noise Cancellation
Tested & Reviewed: These Are The Best Cheap Wireless Earbuds Under $100