Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Generation) Review: (Impressed Noises)

Apple is back with a vengeance!

Apple AirPods Pro 2nd Generation Review 2
Tecno Ad
Tecno Ad
Tecno Ad
Tecno Ad

In this review, I’ll be discussing all about the new Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Generation). So 2019’s AirPods Pro was a massive hit for Apple. Matter of fact, every AirPods Apple has ever launched has been a massive hit, with the company dominating a significant portion of the wireless earbuds market. And after three long years, Apple has finally launched the successor to the first-gen AirPods Pro, called the AirPods Pro 2nd Generation—or just AirPods Pro 2 in short.

Global TWS Market Share - Q2 2021 vs 2022
Global TWS market share (Image: Counterpoint Research)

But things are not as easy this time, and Apple has got quite some catching up to do because the wireless audio market has well surpassed the first-gen AirPods Pro both in terms of audio quality and active noise cancellation. I’ve been using these earbuds for over a week now and I definitely think Apple is back to its winning ways with the AirPods Pro 2. And hey, if you’re already in the Apple ecosystem, there are even more reasons to love these guys.

Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Generation) Review: Specifications

  • Body:
    • Earbud: 30.9 x 24.0 x 21.8 mm, 5.3 grams (each)
    • Charging case: 60.6 x 45.2 x 21.7 mm, 50.8 grams
  • Water Resistance: IPX4 sweat and water-resistant (AirPods Pro and charging case)
  • Color Options: White
  • Sound Driver: Custom high dynamic range amplifier, 11mm custom high-excursion Apple driver (low-distortion)
  • Chip: Apple H2 headphone chip, Apple U1 chip in the charging case
  • Microphone: Dual beamforming mics, Inward-facing mic
  • Audio Codecs: AAC, SBC
  • Noise Cancellation: Yes (ANC with Adaptive Transparency)
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.3
  • Companion App: N/A
  • Control: Capacitive touch control on each earbud
  • Sensors: Motion-detecting accelerometer, Speech-detecting accelerometer, Skin-detect sensor
  • Battery: Exact battery size unspecified
    • Up to 6 hours of playback with ANC
    • Up to 5.5 hours with Spatial Audio and Head Tracking
    • Up to 4.5 hours of talk time
  • Other Features: Adaptive EQ, Personalized Spatial Audio, Find My, Audio Sharing, Always-on “Hey Siri”, Automatic Switching
  • Price in Nepal: Rs. 44,500

Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Generation) Review:

Design & Comfort

  • 30.9 x 24.0 x 21.8 mm (earbuds)
  • 5.3 grams (each earbud)
  • IPX4 sweat and water-resistant
    • Both earbuds and charging case

I’ll get into the ecosystem talk in just a bit, but the one thing I can tell you right away is that there aren’t many changes in the design department since the second-gen AirPods Pro looks nearly identical to its predecessor.

Benco Ad

Apple hasn’t tinkered with such an iconic and recognizable look of the original AirPods Pro all that much. And that’s understandable, I guess.

So the only way you could tell the two apart is that the AirPods Pro 2 has its noise-canceling microphones on top of the earbuds, while Apple bundled it with the skin detection sensor inside the buds. Other than this, it’s still only available in a single white color option with a glossy finish, which might not be everyone’s cup of tea. Certainly not mine because I think Apple should be doing better in terms of colorways at a time when other companies are offering some really beautiful-looking earbuds these days.

Apple AirPods Pro 2nd Generation - Design 1

Even Beats lets you pick between multiple color options for its earbuds. And in case you’re unaware, Apple owns Beats. Not just that, but over time, the AirPods Pro 2 is going to age poorly due to discoloration as well. That’s pretty unfortunate but you know what isn’t? Its fit and comfort.

Super duper comfy

Although I’ve never been one for the stem design of Apple’s AirPods that sticks out of your ears, I think I can give it a pass this time because of how comfortably it fits my ears. I don’t think I’ve had to readjust these earbuds even once after putting them on—it’s that good! Just make sure you try out different size ear tips because the default one may not be it. I found the small ones fit my ears the best but if you have particularly small ears, there’s also an extra small pair of ear tips included with the second-gen AirPods Pro.

This may not sound all that important but trust me, getting the right-sized ear tips is really important for the best audio and ANC experience.

The case, the (almost) incredible case

Now, I don’t usually talk much about the charging case in our wireless earbuds reviews since there’s so little to talk about them, but not this time. Believe it or not, this case is easily one of the most interesting upgrades on these AirPods. It still arrives in the same sleek form factor that we know and love, but Apple has supercharged it with the U1 ultra-wideband chip. That’s the same chip you’ll find in the AirTag object tracker, which means you’ll have much better luck finding this case if you happen to misplace or lose it.

As ultra-wideband support isn’t available here in Nepal, I can’t use Precision Finding just yet. So it’s down to the standard directions options in the Find My app. But at least I can now ring the case—besides the buds—since it has a built-in speaker too. That’s definitely something!

Apple AirPods Pro 2nd Generation - Lanyard

Apple has also found a way to make this case IPX4 sweat and water-resistant—just like the buds themselves. There’s even a lanyard loop on the side so that you can attach it to a backpack or an external lanyard. So yeah, on the behalf of all the clumsy people in the world (including myself), thank you Apple! As for charging, the company has officially phased out its usual wireless charging case as well. The second-gen AirPods Pro gets a MagSafe charging case by default, whereas it can also juice up via a Qi charger or even an Apple Watch charger!

It’s 2022, and we still have to complain about the Lightning connector.

But… that Lightning connector is still a sight for sore eyes. I’m not a fan of the Lightning port in the iPhones and I’m not a fan of it in the AirPods either. Hopefully, 2023 is when Apple finally goes all-in on USB-C.

Controls

  • Capacitive touch control on each earbud
  • Only press and hold action customizable

The second-gen AirPods Pro also gets a sweet volume control upgrade. The capacitive force touch sensor on its stem can switch between volume levels with a simple swipe up or down gesture. And I must say that it works wayyyyy better than I expected! I’ve used my fair share of such volume control gestures on other earbuds, so I was kinda keeping my expectations low.

But here, it works with the gentlest of swipes and the buds don’t readjust when using the gesture either. Awesome! There’s also nice audible feedback confirming your action, although I wish its intensity varied depending on the volume level itself. Maybe Apple will add it via a future update, we’ll see. On the other hand, its pinch control is still not my favorite way to get around a pair of earbuds, but hey, it’s quite immune to accidental touches—unlike Samsung’s Galaxy Buds 2 Pro—so I’ll take it. The upgraded skin-detect sensor is quick at pausing the playback when removing one of the earbuds too. Or resuming it when you put it back in.

Noise Cancellation

  • Active Noise Cancellation (ANC)
    • With Adaptive Transparency Mode
  • Powered by Apple H2 chip

Okay, let’s now talk about the noise-canceling ability of this thing. Powered by the all-new H2 chip, Apple promises a remarkable 2x improvement in ANC performance on the second-gen AirPods Pro.

Apple AirPods Pro 2nd Generation - Fit

You would think that Apple is trying to set the bar too high but when giving it a second thought, that’s pretty much expected and required from the company. Remember that Apple took three years to come up with an upgrade to its first “Pro” AirPods. And as I mentioned in the very beginning, the competition has caught up and outclassed Apple’s legacy by leaps and bounds during this time. Anyway, I don’t know about 2x exactly, but these AirPods are indeed super effective at cutting out the outside noise.

Most of my test conditions have remained the same since the time I reviewed the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro not too long ago. I travel the same route from my home to the office and my office space is right next to a preschool, so shouting children, loud kids’ music, and vehicles driving by are just a few examples of noises I get to “enjoy” on a daily basis. I also share this air-conditioned space with a couple of my colleagues so the noise of people typing in on their mechanical keyboards and the HVAC noises are in the mix as well.

And yup, the second-gen AirPods Pro indeed manages to eliminate most of the consistent noises I would normally hear, much more effectively. Especially the low-frequency noises that are almost completely blocked.

Does it have the best-in-class ANC?

Seeing how everyone has been giving such high regard for its ANC, I was expecting to be blown away in terms of the mids and high frequencies as well but turns out I set myself up for a (mild) disappointment there. Don’t get me wrong, this is still incredible at dampening stuff like people chatting around you, a TV playing in the background, loud-pitched noises, or when you’re out in a busy café or a marketplace.

AppleAirPodsPro2ndGeneration - Case

But I guess I was hoping for something stronger in this regard. I’d say the AirPods Pro 2 has marginally better noise cancellation than the Buds 2 Pro, mostly when it comes to shushing white noises—but otherwise, they’re quite similar. Besides the actual ANC strength itself, I’m also impressed with the sense of directionality that you notice on the incoming noises that manage to sneak in.

Still the king of Transparency Mode

Apple continues to knock it out of the park with the “Transparency Mode” too. The first-gen AirPods Pro was already my favorite pair of earbuds as far as effortlessly listening to the outside world is concerned. And with the new H2 chip, Apple has given me even more reasons to love its take on transparency mode!

Turning it on, it still feels as if you aren’t wearing the earbuds at all which is great when you need to have a quick chat with someone without having to take off the earbuds. Everything sounds as natural and unprocessed as you’d want. And the second-gen AirPods Pro takes things a step further by adding something called “Adaptive Transparency Mode”.

Think of it as regular Transparency Mode, but on steroids.

These earbuds can automatically drown out any unpredictable burst of loud noise—anything over 85 dB—so that you don’t get blasted with startling noise that could damage your ears. And it’s not like a “call-and-response” thing either. It’s not like there’s a sudden noise, the AirPods hear it, and only then the volume goes down. No. It happens instantaneously.

Say I’m walking down the street with my AirPods on with Transparency Mode and a loud bike passes me in a flash, or I’m in my office and a helicopter or an ambulance passes nearby. Instead of hearing such blaring noises at full force, these earbuds quiet them down to a more comfortable level.

It’s pretty cool—sure—but it’s not something I’d drool over though, to be honest. For me, this is a neat accessibility feature that’s better to have and not need than to need and not have. But I think this could be a game-changer for people with sensitive hearing. Or just someone who prefers putting on a pair of headphones when riding a bike.

Audio Quality

  • High dynamic range amplifier
  • 11mm high-excursion Apple driver (low-distortion)
  • Bluetooth 5.3 connectivity (AAC, SBC codec)

Getting to the audio quality itself, the second-gen AirPods Pro rocks an 11mm high-excursion driver. The same as the original AirPods Pro or the third-gen AirPods. Alongside a redesigned amplifier and a new low-distortion audio driver. Most of us were also expecting hi-res playback support this time, but Apple is still sticking with the default AAC and SBC codecs for now.

One for all, all for one

All this may not inspire a lot of confidence in its sound quality but the H2 chip is here to rest my doubts yet again. The best way I can put it is that these AirPods have a clean, consistent, and balanced sound profile that comes off as pleasant in most genres of music. It certainly sounds like Apple has gone for a “one for all” type of tuning that most listeners might not bother messing around with. Not that Apple lets you set a custom equalizer in the first place anyway.

AppleAirPodsPro2ndGeneration - Connectivity

And I have enjoyed listening to most songs on my playlist here thanks to its full and rich audio, with especially impressive mid-frequencies. So whether it’s Bob Dylan’s acoustic folk “Mr. Tambourine Man” or something with a busy soundstage like “Kiss With A Fist” by Florence + the Machine, the distinct vocal range of both artists sound true-to-life and incredibly pleasing to listen to.

This is also great news for someone who streams a lot of spoken word content like podcasts, audiobooks, radio, and such. The clarity in the mid-bass and highs is yet another strong point of the AirPods Pro 2. In Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”, these earbuds manage to preserve the smooth harmonics of the electric guitar and the bass hit perfectly. All without sounding muddy or sibilant.

It’s not all sunshine and rainbows

Sounds great right? But that “one for all” EQ has a few drawbacks of its own too. You see, if you’re used to thumpy bass and definitive treble, the second-gen AirPods Pro could leave you wanting more. Something so vividly noticeable in The Killers’ electro-rock track “Flesh and Bone”.

Here, the song’s sharp opening notes come off monotonous instead of a gradual ascend of the high frequencies. Bassheads might not be content with Apple’s default tuning either. In multiple rap, hip-hop, and rock songs I frequent, these AirPods couldn’t deliver that level of energetic vibe that I’ve come to expect. In comparison, the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro manages a much wider dynamic range with stronger bass and clearer highs for a more immersive listening experience.

Moving on, Apple is also pushing “Personalized Spatial Audio” with its latest set of wireless earbuds. This feature needs you to scan a picture of your ears to create a more precise surround sound experience. But I gotta be honest, I couldn’t notice any difference between regular and personalized spatial audio. And it doesn’t help that I’m not a big fan of such head-tracking audio tech as well. Especially for listening to music. Some tracks even sound worse with Spatial Audio, at both fixed or head-tracked mode.

Call Quality

  • Dual beamforming mics, Inward-facing mic

So what about the microphone quality then? AirPods have always had an upper hand when it comes to voice call performance because of their tall design that places the microphone relatively closer to your mouth. And the second-gen AirPods Pro is no exception.

It sounds great in an ideal condition like a fairly quiet room like the one I’m in right now, where you don’t have a lot of ambient noise around you. And even when you’re outdoors, they do a nice job at dropping the background noise to make sure your voice sounds nice and clear. I took multiple phone calls from these AirPods out on the streets, and people on the receiving end are yet to complain about the clarity of my voice.

Battery Life

  • Up to 6 hours of playback (with ANC)
  • MagSafe charging case, Qi wireless charging
  • Lightning connector

The new AirPods Pro also bumps the battery life from 4.5 hours to 6 hours with ANC enabled. Or about half an hour less with Spatial Audio turned on. And Apple promises five listening cycles with the charging case. I mostly keep noise-cancellation on when listening to music at around 80–90% volume, and under this, it kept going for five and a half hours before I needed to get reseat it in the case.

AppleAirPodsPro2ndGeneration - MagSafe Charging

But thanks to Apple’s adaptive EQ that dynamically adjusts audio quality, I could stream my music even at low volume without sacrificing much in terms of sound fidelity. So, besides not having to pump loudness at all times, this helps deliver better battery endurance too. And with the quick charging feature, I can also get an hour of listening time with just 5 minutes of charge!

Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Generation) Review: Conclusion

Okay, time to wrap up this review of the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Generation). It is—without any shred of doubt—Apple’s best-sounding pair of in-ear wireless earbuds by a long shot. It carries on the remarkable heritage of its predecessor by improving on multiple aspects including noise cancellation, audio quality, battery life, and more. So if you’ve been itching to ditch your first-gen AirPods Pro for a new one, this thing is absolutely worth it.

And if you’ve been holding on to the very first AirPods with that flimsy open-ear design, this is going to be a magical upgrade in every possible way. Add to that all the Apple-exclusive perks like Find My support, Spatial Audio, in-ear detection, automatic switching, and more, the second-gen AirPods Pro should be a no-brainer to most iPhone owners.

AppleAirPodsPro2ndGeneration - Design 2

Should be, not is. That’s because if you truly care about the absolute best ANC or the best sound quality there is—and can forego the benefits of the Apple ecosystem—competition like Sony’s WF-1000XM4 or the new Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II should be on top of your shopping list instead. And of course, Android smartphone owners have plenty of incredible options to choose from instead of having to give in to Apple’s AirPods.

Songs referenced in the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Generation) review:

Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Generation) Review: Pros & Cons

Pros:

  • Excellent fit and comfort
  • Versatile charging case with U1 chip, speaker
  • Terrific active noise cancellation
  • Unbeatable Transparency Mode
  • Great sound quality
  • Decent microphones
  • Nice battery endurance

Cons:

  • Many Apple-exclusive features
  • Available in just one color option
  • Lightning port
  • The audio quality could’ve been slightly richer
REVIEW OVERVIEW
Design & Comfort
Pairing & Control
Noise Cancellation
Audio Quality
Battery Life
Value for Money
apple-airpods-pro-2nd-generation-reviewAirPods Pro (2nd Generation) brings spectacular noise cancellation, transparency mode, audio, and a lot of quality-of-life upgrades that you're most likely going to love. And since a few of its features are exclusive to Apple devices, it's almost an easy recommendation to iPhone owners as well.