The new AirPods Pro 2 are now Apple’s premium wireless earbud, and they feature some impressive improvements to the original AirPods Pro earbuds, which were released in 2019. Amongst the headline upgrades are enhanced active noise cancellation, superior spatial audio, new touch controls, and longer battery life. I found these to be the ideal companion to other products in the Apple ecosystem thanks to their auto-pairing and auto-switching capabilities.
New Design and Features
The Airpods Pro 2 are powered by Apple’s new H2 chip which works with a custom-designed driver within each earbud to deliver crisper, clearer, and more authentic audio than the previous model, in addition to better noise cancellation. The new drivers and chip are much better at analyzing and removing ambient noises while ensuring that the intended audio is delivered using high-fidelity sound that’s rendered specifically for the wearer’s ear shape. Four pairs of silicone tips (ranging in size from extra small to large) are included with the AirPods Pro 2. The new technology relies on a tight seal within the ear canal, so selecting the right set of tips is crucial, and indeed a new feature of the AirPods Pro 2 is a quick Ear Tip Fit Test to ensure you’re wearing the correct size silicone tips for the earbuds and that they’re able to achieve a good seal. This test took me less than 15 seconds and I only needed to perform it once. The tips are extremely malleable and feel extremely comfortable in my ears.
Active noise cancellation works even when no audio is playing, so you can place them into your ears to tune out the world around you. This is particularly useful if you need to concentrate on work in a busy home office with noisy kids, or trying to make your commute more relaxing.
Another feature that sets AirPods Pro 2 apart is that you don’t need a separate app to control the earbuds. The AirPods automatically pair with the device you’re using. Then, when you access the Control Centre on your iPhone or iPad, or the Bluetooth menu on your Mac, you’re able to quickly adjust volume, turn noise cancellation on or off, plus turn on Transparency mode with an on-screen tap.
It’s also very easy to adjust the automatic head tracking function. This can be set to off, Fixed or Head Tracked. In Fixed, the spatial audio (when listening to compatible audio) will sound immersive, but will not simultaneously adjust based on your real-time head movements. However, with the Head Tracked feature turned on, not only does the compatible audio sound like it’s surrounding you, but as you move your head, the audio rotates accordingly. I found this to be particularly impressive when using the AirPods Pro 2 with my iPad Pro to watch TV shows and movies that support spatial audio.
Audio and Call Quality
When listening to music both within my quiet home and outside in the middle of a busy city, I found that when I played music at a volume higher than 50%, virtually all ambient sounds were eliminated. The vocals sounded crystal clear while the accompanying music and effects were equally satisfying—complete with rich, but not overpowering bass.
The AirPods Pro 2 use dual beaming microphones to pick up your voice, while using the built-in inward-facing microphones, motion-detecting accelerometer, speech-detecting accelerometer and skin-detect sensor to ensure the clearest possible audio during hands-free phone calls, video calls and virtual meetings. Outdoors, the additional wind reduction technology kicks in to get rid of unwanted wind noise, while the active noise cancellation reduces or eliminates extraneous sounds that could detract from the clarity of a phone call.
Like the original AirPods Pro, the new earbuds automatically pair with any iPhone as soon as you remove them from their case for the first time. Once paired with the smartphone, they then automatically pair with all your Apple devices, and then switch between them based on which one you’re actively using. This is a unique feature to Apple-made earbuds and headphones, including Beats.
Another new option that’s available from the iPhone’s Settings app allowed me to personalize the spatial audio listening experience. This involved a two-minute process that used the iPhone’s front-facing camera to scan my face and both sides of my head (including the size and outer shape of my ears).
Each earbud now includes more advanced touch-sensitive control functionality on its stem, so it’s easy to adjust the volume up or down with a swipe, play/pause audio with a tap, answer or end a call with a tap, or toggle between active noise cancellation and adaptive transparency mode by pressing and holding an earbud’s stem for a moment. Naturally these controls are also available from the iPhone, iPad or Mac they’re paired with. I found the touch controls to be intuitive and very convenient to use.
Once placed within my ears, I found the touch sensitive area of the AirPods Pro 2’s stems to be easy to locate with my finger, but it did take a few minutes of practice to determine how much pressure needed to be placed on the sensors with my finger to achieve the desired action—whether it was adjusting volume, pausing the audio, or switching to transparency mode, for example. These are new gestures and controls that are not offered by other AirPods models or other competing wireless earbuds.
Apple has integrated the Siri digital assistant into the earbuds too. In addition to responding to voice commands, while you’re wearing the earbuds, Siri plays audio announcements or tones associated with alerts, alarms and notifications generated by the Apple device the earbuds are currently paired with. For example, for an incoming call, Siri will announce the caller’s name or caller ID information, making it possible to decide whether to answer the call without looking at your iPhone’s screen.
Even with spatial audio, head tracking and noise cancellation turned on, the AirPods Pro 2 offer up to 5.5 hours of listening time. Turning off spatial audio and head tracking boosts listening time up to 6 hours. Using the earbuds for hands-free calls, expect up to 4.5 hours of talk time on a single charge. I found these average listening times reported by Apple to be accurate, although volume level does (unsurprisingly) impact battery life.
When used with the wireless charging case (when its internal battery starts off fully charged), you’ll get up to 30 hours of listening time or 24 hours of talk time. Plus, a five-minute charge in the case will give the earbuds an additional one hour of talk or listening time. This is a noticeable improvement over the original AirPods Pro and above average for other wireless earbuds in the same price range.
The new case now includes a convenient lanyard loop, as well as a tiny speaker that generates an audible alert that works with the Find My app, making the earbuds (and their case) easier to locate if they’re misplaced. The case includes Apple’s new U1 chip which allows the Find My app to provide a more precise location if the earbuds and case go missing.
Thanks to its MagSafe compatibility, the case works with any Qi-certified charging pad, including the Apple Watch MagSafe charger. Of course, you can also use the supplied USB charging cable to keep the case (and the earbuds) charged between uses. The case offers the same level of water resistance (IPX4 rated) as the earbuds themselves.
Based on my experience using the AirPods Pro 2, the extra cost of this cutting-edge technology is justified because of the improved sound quality, spatial audio and head tracking in virtually all listening scenarios. Beyond sound, Apple has also improved on comfort. The AirPods Pro 2 fit firmly and comfortably in my ears with the right ear tips. Their water resistance means you don’t have to worry about getting caught in the rain or getting them covered in sweat—which makes them extra versatile.
If you’re already a devoted Apple device user like me and you want to upgrade your listening experience, the AirPods Pro 2 are a great investment. The overall sound quality, noise cancellation, spatial audio, head tracking, comfort and battery life really set them apart from the competition.
Battery life: Up to 6 hours | Weight: 0.19 ounces | Driver size: Undisclosed, uses Apple’s H2 chip | Wireless charging: Yes, MagSafe compatible | Active noise cancellation: Yes | Spatial audio: Yes, with dynamic head tracking | Waterproof rating: IPX4 | Quick charge: 1 hour per 5 minutes of charging | Colours: White
Apple AirPods Pro: £249/$249
To purchase, please visit apple.com
The new extra small ear tip delivers a better fit to more customers.
The AirPods listening experience is even more immersive with Personalised Spatial Audio.