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Apple AirPods Pro 2

Generation 2 of the successful True Wireless in-ears with Noise Cancelling

The new Apple AirPods Pro offer very good sound, remarkable and clever technical details, as well as active noise cancelling, which is supposed to be twice as effective as with the previous model, according to the manufacturer. Thanks to the newly developed H2 chip, there is now also adaptive transparency that can suppress loud noises. But a lot has also been done in terms of operation, such as the MagSafe charging case and battery life.

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A quick check of what’s new with the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation):

  • the new H2 chip improves sound quality, noise cancelling and battery life
  • adaptive transparency reduces loud noise in ambient mode
  • personalised 3D audio creates an individual hearing profile based on your head shape
  • the volume can now be controlled directly on the in-ears
  • the charging case has the new U1 chip and a built-in speaker to locate it precisely
  • the charging case is now IPX4 certified
  • four silicone tips (XS, S, M, L) for an optimal fit

It’s been three years since Apple hit the ground running and introduced the AirPods Pro. Although we were blown away at the time, we still had criticisms, some of which are no longer an issue with the 2nd generation. But more on that later.

Design

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The Apple AirPods Pro 2 look almost exactly like their predecessors. The only differences on the outside are the placement of the microphones and the ventilation openings. Otherwise, they are again a pleasantly light weight of just 5.3 grams, so they can be worn comfortably for hours. These require an optimal fit, and Apple has stepped up here: a fourth pair of silicone ear tips in size XS is now included in the package.

The charging case design has also remained the same, although there are some obvious new features: three small holes on the underside reveal the existence of a small speaker that emits sounds so that the case can quickly be found if it is lost. In future, the “Where is” function will not only show the charging case visually on a map, but it will also play acoustic feedback for locating it, and this also applies to the two in-ear pieces. In addition, there is now the option of attaching a carrying strap (not included in the package) to the right side of the case so that the small white box can be attached to a backpack or handbag. Finally, the case also has IPX4 certification now and, thus, benefits from protection against water splashes.

Operation

Our criticisms of the first-generation Apple AirPods Pro have been heard! Previously, to change the volume, you either had to whip out your smartphone, use the Apple Watch face, or ask Siri to correct it. This is now faster because the two stems of the Apple AirPods Pro 2 have a sensor that changes the volume by swiping a finger. However, this did not work so smoothly for us right away and required some practice. For us, this method worked best: the thumb stabilises the stem from behind, while the middle finger strokes upwards or downwards on the notch on the front. A soft popping sound gives corresponding acoustic feedback.

The rest has not changed from the previous model: a single press plays or pauses music or accepts and ends a call. A long press again toggles between noise cancelling and adaptive transparency mode, while two presses skip forward one track and three presses skip back one track.

Hardware and performance

As mentioned above, at the heart of the new Apple AirPods 2 is the new built-in H2 chip, which handles a wide range of functions— from noise cancelling to 3D audio (spatial audio), including head tracking. Like the Apple AirPods 3 or the Apple AirPods Max, the new AirPods Pro feature the so-called “personalised 3D audio” function. Those with an iPhone with a TrueDepth camera can photograph themselves and their ears so that a personalised hearing profile can be created. With compatible Apple hardware, this is synchronised so that it is available on all end devices. However, in terms of sound, you have to listen very closely to notice any differences. At least, this was the case for the tester’s hearing. If you have had other experiences with this, please let us know in the comments below.

Bluetooth

There have been a lot of rumours in the past about which Bluetooth version and codecs Apple would give its new headphones. Beta firmware detectives claim to have identified the new LC3 codec, better known as LE Audio. The question of whether LC3 will be used as the successor to the SBC codec cannot be answered with certainty at the moment, despite all the research. The fact is that the new Apple AirPods Pro support Bluetooth version 5.3 and the AAC codec. Interestingly, these in-ears played media content via a Google Pixel 3a without complaint via SBC, while a Pixel 6a refused to do so and only accepted AAC.

Battery life

Apple claims that the AirPods Pro 2 offer a total of six hours of music enjoyment (ANC on) before needing to be recharged in the charging case. This was able to charge the in-ears up to five times so that a total runtime of 30 hours was achieved. Five minutes in the case provided about an hour of listening time, and the case itself can be charged via a Lightning cable, Apple Watch or MagSafe charger, as well as with a Qi-certified charging mat. The runtimes are, of course, a value measured by the manufacturer; in practice, we did not reach the six hours, as we did not listen at 50 per cent volume but a little louder. We still got a good 5.5 hours.

Noise cancelling and adaptive transparency mode

The Apple AirPods Pro 2’s active noise cancellation is said to be twice as effective. But whether this is the case cannot be confirmed because only Apple’s acoustic engineers are likely to know the truth.

While the ANC of the first generation was already very good, Apple goes one better here: thanks to the H2 chip, new drivers and changes in the position of the microphones, as well as the vents, the Apple AirPods Pro 2’s noise cancelling actually cancels out even more widely and effectively. The quality was simply impressive: static noises, such as lawnmowers, engine noise or even the neighbour’s parquet sanding machine, were almost completely eliminated. Keyboard clatter was still audible but was far quieter and “thinner”.

However, in direct comparison with the Bose QuietComfort EarBuds II, the Apple AirPods Pro 2 draw the short straw. There are only nuances missing, but Bose’s ANC works a bit more effectively. What Apple has under better control here, however, is the background noise, which was significantly lower than that of the Bose headphones.

The same applies to the transparency mode, which increased the noise due to the system. Here, Apple’s new model behaved more inconspicuously in direct comparison to Bose. The new version also retained naturalness, and thanks to the new H2 chip, the intensity of the transparency mode was automatically adjusted. In other words: loud noises such as a siren were lowered so that the rest of the environment was more audible. However, this was not really noticeable in practice. Either this function worked so discreetly that hardly any differences were noticeable, or our test scenario did not trigger this distinctly. We will, of course, investigate this further under our acoustic magnifying glass and add the information accordingly.

Sound

Newly developed drivers, an adaptive equaliser that adjusts the sound in real-time, and special amplifiers with a high dynamic range. All of this promises “brilliant highs and deep, rich bass with impressive clarity” —at least, that’s what Apple claims.

In practice, this means: the company has again succeeded with their tuning! Whether intimate singer-songwriter pieces or bombastic EDM: the Apple AirPods Pro 2 sound very dynamic for consumer headphones— complete with a wide sound stage. In direct comparison to the first generation, bass sounds were richer and more defined. The mid-range, which is important for understanding speech, was clear and detailed. The trebles were not too demanding, which helped to counteract listening fatigue.

A closer look at the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II was interesting, but we liked them a little better. In the upper registers, they sounded a touch fresher, livelier and more open.

So, if you liked the sound of the first AirPods Pro, you won’t be disappointed by the new generation— quite the opposite.

Apple now encodes its entire Apple Music catalogue in the lossless ALAC format (16 bit/44.1 kHz to 24 bit/192 kHz), which is welcome, but unfortunately, the in-house Apple and Beats headphones still do not support this. We can only hope that this will change with the next generation of AirPods.

What else can the Apple AirPods Pro 2 do?

Of course, these True Wireless in-ears can do even more: the “Hey Siri” feature is always on so that messages can be read aloud, including replying to them with your own voice. They can also focus on voices within the immediate vicinity, so people with hearing impairments can follow conversations better. But “live listening” and, of course, the grandiose seamless switching between all the devices that are linked to the same Apple ID are all supported. Not real multipoint, but almost! Most functions require the current iOS version 16.

Apple AirPods Pro and Android

We’ve saved this exciting question for the end: how do the new AirPods Pro 2 perform with Android devices? There was— unsurprisingly —nothing new here. To cut a long story short, they behave like any other Bluetooth headphones. They can neither be configured nor does Auto Pause work. So if you don’t have a current iOS smartphone to configure as an accessory, you should look for alternatives that treat both platforms equally. A better alternative would be the new Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II. But the Sony WF-1000XM4, the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3 or the Soundcore by Anker Liberty 3 Pro would also be good alternatives. For a more comprehensive overview, check out our “Best True Wireless In-Ear Headphones 2022” list.

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4 months ago by Pete Schloßnagel
  • Rating: 4.75
  • Sound
  • Handling
  • Price/Quality
  • Function

The Apple AirPods Pro 2 sound very good, and the active noise cancelling works extremely effectively. The technology that the manufacturer has built into them is unique in the market. Unfortunately, there is also criticism: the lack of lossless support for Apple’s own music catalogue, the lack of optimisation for non-Apple devices and, finally, the price, which is 20 euros more than the previous model. Is it, therefore, worth upgrading? Only if your Apple AirPods Pro 1 batteries are weakening or partially defective. The first generation is still available, and its street price is now close to the 200 euro mark. So, you can now save almost 100 euros.

But, if you are planning a new purchase and your devices are exclusively in the Apple universe, you can’t go wrong with the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation)!

  • Sound
  • Noise cancelling
  • Transparency mode
  • Fit test
  • Volume control on the earpieces
  • lack of high-resolution Bluetooth codecs
  • lack of lossless support
  • lack of support for non-Apple devices

Technical specifications

  • Ear couplingIn-ear
  • Typeclosed
  • Transducer principledynamic
  • Weight without cable5,3 g each, case 50,8 g
  • Cable length100 cm

What's in the box

  • 4 pairs of ear tips (XS, S, M, L)
  • USB-C to Lightning charging cable
  • Charging case

Special features

  • BT version: 5.3
  • BT codecs: SBC, AAC

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