AirPods Pro 2

You might think that the new AirPods Pro 2 seem very similar to the original AirPods Pro – but there’s a lot going on here that means these true wireless headphones are going to be a big draw for so many people.

Whether it’s the new and massively improved noise cancellation, the extra speakers in the case so it’s much harder to lose them, or the improved transparency mode to chat to your pals, there are many reasons to upgrade from the previous AirPods Pro (2019) here.

That said, although they share the same official price as the previous AirPods Pro, in practice the older model has dropped in price a lot, and will keep dropping while remaining stock is sold off, so if you’re buying today you will need to pay more for the fancier new features – so it’s going to be a choice whether you really need them. 

So you’ll want to know what we think of them, right? Let’s get into it.

AirPods Pro 2 price and release date

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If you’re looking to pick up the new AirPods Pro, you’ll be looking at paying $249 / £249 / AU$399 – you can pre-order them from September 9, with the AirPods Pro release date being set for September 23.

This is the exact same official price as the previous model, except in the UK, where it’s a £10 increase. However, as mentioned above, the older model is always discounted these days at retailers other than Apple, so while both are available, the new version costs more, effectively.

AirPods Pro 2 design

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The design changes to the AirPods Pro 2 are surprisingly subtle, given how much improvement there’s been in the overall performance of these headphones. 

Rumors in the buildup suggested that these true wireless earbuds might actually ditch the stems and go for a straight ‘lozenge’ style in the ear, but the stalks remain and are very much part of the operation of Apple’s latest headphones.

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On the headphones themselves, apart from the slight alteration to the microphones and other small black covers, the AirPods Pro 2 look identical to the predecessors. If you’re going to buy these to show off that you’ve got the latest Apple gear, you’ll be rather deflated by the result.

However, while the case has the same footprint as the predecessors, there are a number of key changes in there too. 

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Firstly, at the base of the AirPods Pro 2 case are four small dots: one to the right and three to the left of the Lightning charging port (which will surely be one of the last times Apple will use this connector).

These are an acoustic vent and a speaker, so if you lose your AirPods Pro 2, you can activate a ‘Find My’ request from your phone to find them. It’s pretty loud in testing, and given we’ve lost a case like this in the past for nearly a week thanks to not being able to hear it in the house, this is a useful move.

The storage case, which is also now IPX4 water resistant (meaning it can withstand light showers and sweating) also has a small lanyard clip on the side, so you can feed through a holder and dangle the AirPods Pro 2 off a bag or strap. 

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This was a surprising addition that Apple has brought based on ‘user convenience’ – it’s not something we saw coming, but if you like to flaunt your AirPods Pro, or want to wear the case around your neck… here you go.

When we first saw it, we expected that it would be used as a base for a hearing aid, acting as a microphone for listening to conversation more easily… but that’s not the case, as there’s no microphone on board.

AirPods Pro 2 sound quality

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Apple has made some huge strides with the sound quality on the AirPods Pro 2, adding in new drivers, amplifiers and massively-upgraded active noise canceling – and the effect is pretty startling.

Having used the AirPods Pro for a number of years, it’s clear that the audio quality is much richer than before, with bass in particular so much more vibrant. 

The rest of the soundscape feels wide and expansive, but ‘rich’ is the best adjective we can use when listening to these new AirPods Pro 2. While it’s sad that they don’t support lossless audio, despite multiple rumors to the contrary in the build-up, the overall sound quality when watching video or listening to Apple Music in our testing was a stark difference from the previous model (which are still pretty good).

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The other impressive thing was the aforementioned noise canceling. While it remains very good on the original AirPods Pro, it’s been overtaken by other rivals in the three years since launch – but thanks to the H2 chip on board, now you can barely hear things you don’t want to when ANC is turned on.

The effect is genuinely startling – if you’re listening to music while someone is speaking to you, usually you’d hear some part of the conversation, but now, they’re practically inaudible. When testing with simulated airplane sounds, they were completely impossible to hear.

It makes the music so much more immersive, and Apple’s claims that it’s managed to make the noise canceling twice as effective as before are entirely believable.

AirPods Pro 2 Adaptive Transparency mode

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There have also been some improvements to Transparency mode, where you can hear the outside world when long-pressing on one of the stalks during use.

Voice processing happens so much more naturally now, with it possible to hold a conversation without even realizing you’re wearing Apple’s new earbuds – although you might seem tremendously rude. This is a feature that a number of brands are adding in now, with Sony doing something similar automatically with its over-ear headphones, but it certainly works here.

Apple is also claiming that, thanks to the H2 chip, it can offer ‘Adaptive Transparency’ automatically. So if you’re using Transparency when walking down the road and a vehicle with a siren goes past, the AirPods Pro will automatically tune down the sound without getting rid of it completely (in case you need to hear it as a warning).

That’s a lofty claim and one we’d actually need to try in real time, as that wasn’t possible in our testing situation.

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The stems also pack a new feature: finally, you can control the volume of your music from your AirPods Pro. While gripping the stalks, slide a finger up or down the ridge, which can register your touch through the new capacitive surface.

While it’s good to have this feature, it’s probably the weakest addition – to change volume significantly requires multiple ‘strokes’ of the headphones, and it would have been great to have a situation where longer strokes will raise or lower the volume quicker.

We didn’t get the chance to try the Personalized Spatial Audio on the AirPods Pro 2, where you scan your head and ear and deliver improved personalized sound. This feature landed on the latest iteration of the ‘standard’ AirPods, and it’ll be interesting if it works better on the new Pro 2 earbuds, as we weren’t taken with it on the other AirPods in testing.

AirPods Pro 2 Battery

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The final improvement to the AirPods Pro comes with the battery life: thanks mostly to the more efficient H2 chip (compared to the original H1 in the older AirPods) the Pro 2 earbuds can last six hours off a single charge when using ANC, and seven hours without.

The case can charge the AirPods Pro 2 five times, so you’ve got 30 hours’ use in ANC mode – which is a big jump over the 24 hours’ use previously.

And you’re able to charge the case in a new way too: using an Apple Watch charger. This is something that makes so much sense, especially given Apple is so intent on getting people to think of the AirPods as a key part of owning a Watch, as you can easily listen to and control music from the screen on your wrist.

AirPods Pro 2 Early verdict

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The AirPods Pro 2 aren’t cheap, much like their predecessors, but what’s on offer is a real step forward. The ease with which they’ll connect to all your Apple gadgets would be enough for most people to buy them, but the fact you’re getting much-enhanced audio, better noise canceling, volume control and more make them an easy buy… if you can afford them.

The new AirPods Pro 2 are definitely in ‘big present’ territory if you’re thinking of buying them for a loved one, or a long save-up for a good upgrade on your current true wireless earbuds – these are not cheap at all at $249 / £249 / AU$399.

However – and we definitely need to do some more in-depth testing to corroborate our time with them at the Apple launch event – what’s on offer seems to be a worthy investment, thanks to the enhanced feature set and audio quality. These really look like a challenger to our list of the best noise-cancelling earbuds.

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