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New features, intelligible ANC, and personalized 3D sound make Apple’s AirPods Pro 2 their best wireless earbuds ever.
Personalized Spatial Audio fine-tunes 3D sound to your hearing
Stronger, smarter ANC modes
Distinctly enriched soundstage
Higher battery life
MagSafe charging case supports Find My (AirPods)
Design is mostly unchanged
Buggy performance with non-iOS devices
Lanyard costs extra
After years of leaks, rumors, and supply chain troubles, Apple has finally unleashed the AirPods Pro 2. This sequel builds on the groundwork laid by the original AirPods Pro, which popularized noise-cancelling earbuds and improved the series in nearly every way.
Battery life (rated): 5.5 hours (Spatial Audio and Head Tracking on); 6 hours (ANC on); 7 hours (ANC off); 30 hours (charging case w/ANC on); 34 hours (charging case w/ANC off)
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.3
Processor: H2 Apple Silicon
Water resistance: Yes (IPX4 rated)
Size: 1.22 x 0.86 x 0.94 inches (per bud); 1.78 x 2.39 x 0.85 inches (charging case)
Weight: 0.19 ounces (per bud); 1.79 ounces (charging case)
The AirPods Pro 2 provides twice the active noise cancellation (ANC) and comes with Adaptive Transparency that dynamically increases and reduces ambient noise levels. Headlining features like Personalized Spatial Audio and Find My (AirPods) support for the new MagSafe charging case are eye-catching. Also, the new H2 processor carries over all the significant hallmarks of its predecessor, while introducing new ones that enhance the user experience through high-bandwidth connectivity via Bluetooth 5.3 and more audio processing power.
Are there any flaws? Of course. No audio product is entirely perfect. Criticisms about the tired dangling design are expected, but also subjective. However, there are legit concerns surrounding the buds’ unbalanced performance with non-iOS devices.
Apart from those imperfections, the AirPods Pro 2 easily stands as the best Apple headphones and earbuds overall and arguably the best wireless earbuds.
The AirPods Pro 2 replaces the original at the same $249 price point. You can purchase a pair directly from Apple (opens in new tab) or at major online retailers (e.g., Amazon (opens in new tab), Best Buy (opens in new tab), Crutchfield (opens in new tab)). White is the only color available. Inside the box are a MagSafe charging case, Lightning cable, four sets of different-sized ear tips, and instructions.
No lanyard for the charging case? Nope. That costs extra. Incase currently sells one in the Apple Store for $12.95 (opens in new tab).
These buds are priced lower than the category-leading Sony WF-1000XM4 ($279) and new Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2 ($299). They’re also priced higher than mid-range gems such as the Beats Fit Pro ($199), a model we argue is better than the first-gen AirPods Pro.
Speaking of which, the AirPods Pro (1st gen) is currently on sale for $179 (opens in new tab), while supplies last.
If nothing above entices you, then check out our other picks for the best AirPods Pro alternatives to see what suits your needs and budget.
Be sure to bookmark our headphone deals page for the latest sales.
The only real design change on the AirPods Pro 2 are the skin-detect sensors, which were previously featured on the AirPods 3. Size and weight are identical to the original. Details like the mic grille on the front and the aluminum accent on the bottom of each stem remain intact. Build quality is also the same, with the exterior composed of subpar plastic that’s vulnerable to cracking if stepped on or dropped from a very high distance.
From a glance, the MagSafe charging case looks as if it did not receive any upgrades. Look closer. You’ll see a built-in lanyard loop and speaker unit that sends out a tone to indicate charging status, low battery, pairing or to help locate the case when misplaced. Underneath the hood lies U1 processor that works with Apple’s Precision Finding function in the Find My feature to pinpoint your lost case on a compatible iDevice (e.g., iPhone, iPad).
Apple has adopted a greener approach to manufacturing and uses recycled materials to construct all AirPods charging cases. Despite being a scratch-and-scuff magnet, much like the previous versions, this case is still durable. It also has stronger magnets. Dropping the older AirPods Pro’s case on a rug often led to the buds tumbling across the ground. Not anymore. Another unique feature about the AirPods Pro 2’s case is it comes IPX4 rated to prevent moisture damage.
Comfort has been a strength of the series, thanks to Apple’s vent system for pressure equalization and the sleek, contoured sound port that slides right into the canal. Apple left both untouched for the most part, so you can expect pleasant wear during lengthy streaming sessions. I used the buds for 3 hours straight at least twice a day, never feeling any soreness around the concha.
Apple claims their new eartips form a better seal. They do. After inserting and adjusting the buds, you should sense a tighter grip around the canal. This is a noteworthy improvement for iOS users looking to use them at the gym, though I would never do such a thing (the Beats Fit Pro is more suited for exercising).
The Ear Tip Fit Test still presents accurate results to achieve optimal fit.
Apple’s Force Touch sensor was a revolutionary introduction to the category and it’s still the best and most responsive control input for wireless earbuds. Single/multi-press and long-press gestures enable different functions, including playback, calls, listening mode activation (ANC/Adaptive Transparency), and Siri. Onboard volume now comes part of the package, letting you lower/raise sound by sliding up/down on the Force Touch sensor. Everything operates flawlessly.
Wear detection auto-pauses content in less than a second when removing the buds and resumes playback when placed back on the ears. The skin-detect sensors do make a difference, acknowledging detection microseconds faster than the AirPods Pro’s proximity sensors.
“Hey Siri” voice activation is as reliable as ever. The dual-beaming mics and speech-detecting accelerometer work together to precisely capture every word you speak. Apple’s AI bot instantly fires up whenever you speak its wake-word phrase out loud. Any and every voice command you throw at Siri leads to an immediate and accurate response.
Unfortunately, the digital assistant function can’t be enabled when connected to Android devices, meaning no Google Assistant or Bixby use.
Apple modified audio performance once again on their flagship buds, this time integrating a new low-distortion driver and custom amplifier for richer bass and clearer presentation. You can hear the advancements in frequency range between this version and the OG AirPods Pro.
The Goo Goo Dolls’ “Iris” was a serene listen that showcased the AirPods Pro 2’s enhanced midrange. Lead singer John Rzeznik’s vocals sounded more impassioned and lively during both the climactic chorus and somber verses. The violin arrangement at the end was also striking, though hi-fi rivals like the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3 and Sony WF-1000XM4 do it more justice.
Channel separation was spot-on, as the bass strings on Weezer’s “Island in the Sun” tickled my right ear, while the “hip-hip” chants came through the left bud. You gain a true sense of the AirPods Pro 2’s bass response when the drums and thrashing guitar riff enter the soundstage during the hook; reverberation from those instruments had an everlasting effect that didn’t muddy up the low end.
My initial response to hearing the introductory kickdrums on Usher’s “Revolver” was stank-face head bob. Lows were nicely balanced and impactful, though the mids lacked clarity when the crooner began his whispery serenading on the hook.
There are a few ways to customize sound on the AirPods Pro 2. Headphone Accommodations lets you tune audio for balance, range, and brightness, as well as boost or decrease the presence of soft sounds. Another option within this setting is to enable Headphone Audio Customization. You’ll take a series of tests that examine and tailor audio to your hearing preferences, while also letting you tweak some of the attributes in Transparency Mode: amplification, noise reduction, tone, and transparency balance between each ear.
Codec support is limited to SBC and AAC, the latter being Apple’s preferred mode of audio transfer for hi-res playback. AAC operates well on iPhones, but not so well on Android devices. I couldn’t enjoy Spotify, YouTube, or any other media apps because the buds always muted audio on my Google Pixel 6 Pro and Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra after just 30 seconds of playback. MacBook Pro streaming was also affected, distorting and warping sound every time I walked out of and came back within range.
Spatial Audio is considered the AirPods Pro’s killer feature, and it’s been updated to grant a more personalized 3D listening experience. You can now create your personal profile using iOS 16 and the iPhone’s TrueDepth camera, which is then saved and secured for use across Apple’s ecosystem of products.
The ear-scanning process is a little frustrating, but I’ve tested much worse (see my thoughts on the Creative Outlier Pro ANC). Completing this will make music, voices, and effects sound clearer and accurately place them on the soundscape. I like to think that I have distinctive hearing, but I couldn’t tell much of a difference between my profile and what the previous Spatial Audio mode produced.
In any case, the feature is still awesome and produces compelling results for those that desire immersive listening. I pulled up Earth, Wind, & Fire’s “September” and was immediately enthralled from the start with the horns blowing vibrantly. Apple’s dynamic head-tracking exhibited superb accuracy, with all instruments transitioning smoothly from left to right ear whenever moving my head in each direction.
Apple TV content was even more engaging to hear. Some of the action scenes in See sounded more visceral, specifically ones featuring melee combat; there were moments where I felt Jason Momoa was swinging weapons over my shoulder.
Personalized Spatial can also be used for FaceTime and SharePlay, the latter delivering 8kHz cinema-quality audio.
Apple claims their active noise cancellation can “reduce up to two times more unwanted background noise.” Quite the statement. Is it improved on the AirPods Pro 2? Yes. Is it more powerful than Bose, Sony or Sennheiser’s noise-cancelling technology? No.
There was plenty of silence when using the buds around the house in high-traffic areas like my son’s playroom, which also doubles as my home office these days. Certain high frequencies went unnoticed, like the ones produced from my boy’s electronic toys, though his cries and loud bursts of laughter were audible. ANC performed terrifically against low and mid frequencies. I couldn’t hear any of the chatter taking place in the laundry room while the dryer ran on a powerful cycle.
Bicyclists and joggers were ghosts during morning strolls. Amazon trucks would catch me off guard, rolling up quietly to the front of the house when I was out front taking product shots. None of the construction taking place on the Intracoastal Waterway disrupted my concentration, nor did the landscaping next door.
What sold me most about Apple’s ANC was wind resistance. It is stronger than before and minimizes whisking effects at a high level…at least when listening to music. Call quality is another story.
Newly introduced is Adaptive Transparency, a more dynamic version of Apple’s ambient listening mode that’s designed to keep listeners aware of their surroundings and reduce harsh environmental noise at the same time. Talk about a definite description. This could be the best transparency mode in the category (more testing will determine its ranking).
Working in my “office,” I was able to keep tabs on the little one and listen to music simultaneously. The mics also captured vocals well to hear and communicate clearly with people. The technology also does a plausible job of reducing blaring sounds (e.g., jackhammers, sirens).
Conversation Boost is one of two underrated features that was previously introduced via iOS update. I bring it up because it’s a fantastic alternative to Apple’s ambient listening mode, serving best for those with mild hearing loss. While Adaptive Transparency automatically tailor’s ambient effects to your ears, Conversation Boost emphasizes vocals better during chats.
Live Listen is the other feature. It transforms your iDevice into a live mic and picks up the noises around you, which are then sent to your AirPods.
Apple stocked the AirPods Pro 2 with even more features. Much of what’s new has already been shared in detail: Adaptive Transparency, Personalized Spatial Audio with FaceTime and SharePlay support, Precision Finding for the MagSafe charging case, and skin-detect sensors. What else is there?
iOS 16 adds a new dedicated AirPods section in the Settings menu. This provides easier access to features and lets you adjust device preferences, like spatial audio and controls. You can enter the Accessibility setting and adjust volume touch sensitivity as well.
All the functional perks powered by the H1 chip are still available, including the adaptive EQ, automatic switching, audio sharing, announced messages with Siri, Ear Tip Fit Test, “Hey Siri,” Headphone Accommodations, Headphone Levels, and Live Listen.
There are numerous other AirPods Pro tricks you can take advantage of.
Playtimes won’t blow you away, but the small increase from 4.5 to 6 hours with ANC on is greatly appreciated. Disabling the feature extends battery life to 7 hours, though turning on spatial audio and headtracking drops it to 5.5 hours. Apple’s battery management is still unbeatable, squeezing every bit of juice out to get at least 3 days of moderate use (2 hours daily).
Apple didn’t forget to increase the charging case’s battery capacity either. It holds between 30 to 34 hours, depending how you use the buds. The AirPods Pro 2 can be charged four ways: Lightning-to-USB cable, MagSafe wireless charging, Qi-enabled wireless charging, and Apple Watch charging. Yes, you can use Apple’s smartwatch charger to power up these buds.
This might be a controversial take, but I prefer the call quality on the original AirPods Pro. For clarification, I’m not saying the AirPods Pro 2 isn’t a top-notch headset. Voice and FaceTime calls still sound loud and clear, and the inclusion of head-tracking support will make conference calls feel more in-person.
However, the noise cancellation takes a noticeable dip. The technology doesn’t buffer out background interference as well as it did on the original model. Wind resistance takes a hit as well, with whisking effects sounding more aggressive on calls.
This is the only AirPods model that supports Bluetooth 5.3. The wireless protocol combined with Apple’s H2 chip allows for instantaneous connectivity with your iOS/macOS products and iCloud account. The pairing notification pops up on your iPhone screen every time the case is opened. Range is decent, extending up to 45 feet before stuttering.
Apple’s recent attempts at making their wireless earbuds more platform neutral have been successful. The Fit Pro handles itself well on both iOS and Android, plus Beats app support extends functionality on latter devices. Even the AirPods 3 plays nicely with Google’s mobile OS.
Therefore, I was taken aback by how poorly the AirPods Pro 2 performed on my Pixel Pro 6. The pairing process was strenuous, and I already touched on the audio streaming issues with my Android smartphones and MacBook Pro.
The AirPods Pro 2 improves on what are already excellent wireless earbuds. ANC is stronger and Adaptive Transparency increases your awareness of surroundings. Apple fine-tuned the soundstage for full frequency representation. Battery life has been given a generous boost. Personalized Spatial Audio and Precision Finding compatibility with the new MagSafe charging case are also alluring additions.
A redesign has been long overdue, though millions of Apple fanboys appreciate it as is. Those who aren’t iPhone users will not be pleased with the finicky performance on non-iOS devices and MacBooks or spending extra on a lanyard for the charging case.
Taking everything into account, it’s impossible not to consider the AirPods Pro 2 as your next wireless earbuds upgrade.
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Laptop Mag is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Here’s why you can trust us.