AirPods Pro 2 vs. AirPods Pro: Is it worth upgrading? | Cult of Mac

AirPods Pro 2 vs. AirPods Pro: Is it worth upgrading?

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Apple said AirPods Pro 2 double the noise cancellation, among other enhancements.
Apple said AirPods Pro 2 double the noise cancellation, among other enhancements.
Photo: Apple

Should AirPods Pro owners upgrade to AirPods Pro 2?

The new set boasts a host of upgrades that could easily be worth it for many people — especially because the price hasn’t increased — and may even tempt owners of the relatively new and well-reviewed AirPods (3rd generation).

Do AirPods Pro 2’s enhancements make it worth upgrading?

Unlike iPhones, AirPods don’t come out every year. So the value of upgrading when they do refresh is at least a bit higher, especially if the new version goes beyond design changes. That’s certainly the case with AirPods Pro 2, updating a 3-year-old product in numerous ways.

For most people, it should definitely be worth it to buy the new ones.

Improvements include the new H2 chip with boosted audio quality and “Personalized Spatial Audio,” enhanced Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) and Adaptive Transparency mode, and a number of other features, like new touch controls and a new charging case with optional personalization and a lanyard.

The next-most-recent product refresh was AirPods 3, released in October 2021. That’s a somewhat different kettle of fish from AirPods Pro, given that AirPods 3 are a different style, with no ear tips, so they fit differently and isolate sound less than AirPods Pro. But AirPods 3 have several Pro-level upgrades over AirPods 2 and may suit those who don’t like ear tips. Read Cult of Mac‘s rave review of AirPods 3.

The new H2 chip with enhanced audio and ANC powers AirPods Pro 2.
The new H2 chip with enhanced audio and ANC powers AirPods Pro 2.
Photo: Apple

AirPods Pro 2 vs original: Audio quality

When a set of earbuds comes with a new, advanced chip and a new driver with claimed improvements to sound quality and ANC, they’re probably worth buying.

Apple said the new H2 chip in AirPods Pro 2 provides an exceptional acoustic experience and cancels up to twice as much noise over the previous generation. And that’s in addition to noise cancellation provided by the buds’ more sound-resistant bodies.

And while the original product’s Transparency mode made it possible for listeners to stay aware of the world around them while wearing the earbuds, the H2’s new Adaptive Transparency goes further, Apple said. On-device processing can reduce really loud environmental noise like sirens or construction.

In addition, a new low-distortion audio driver and custom amplifier offer richer bass and crystal-clear sound across a wider range of frequencies than the previous model.

Finally, AirPods Pro 2 have enhanced Spatial Audio. Here’s how Apple described it:

With Personalized Spatial Audio, the AirPods listening experience is even more immersive. Users perceive sound individually, based on the size and shape of their head and ears. Using the TrueDepth camera on iPhone, users can create a personal profile for Spatial Audio that delivers a listening experience precisely tuned just for them. Users can enjoy Personalized Spatial Audio with music, movies, and TV shows — with dynamic head tracking — across iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple TV.

Fit will be about the same, but better for smaller ears

As I often say about earbuds, a good fit is about as crucial as great sound quality. That’s because if they don’t fit comfortably, you might not wear them — or they might even fall out and go down a sewer.

The new AirPods Pro 2 have a slightly different look from AirPods Pro, but the design is similar, with stems. They both come with several sets of ear tips in different sizes.

But with the new release, Apple includes a set of extra-small ear tips. So anyone who found the original earbuds’ size options too big, the new set may fit better.

Here's a roundup of all the AirPods 2 features and upgrades.
Here’s a roundup of all the AirPods 2 features and upgrades.
Photo: Apple

New touch controls

With AirPods Pro, you controlled media playback and volume from another device. With AirPods Pro 2, customers can use touch control for media playback and volume adjustments directly from the stem.

A light swipe up or down with a finger increases or decreases volume. Press the stem to change the music, answer phone calls, and more, or say “Hey Siri” to make requests hands-free.

And the improved, built-in skin-detect sensor more accurately turns on or off playback, which saves battery life.

Instant pairing to all Apple devices makes setup effortless, while the new dedicated AirPods section in iOS Settings lets users easily access and control their AirPods features.

Extended battery life and charging options

In part due to the improved skin-detect sensor, AirPods Pro offer 1.5 hours of additional listening time over the first generation, for a total of up to six hours with Active Noise Cancellation, Apple said.

Using the case for four additional charges, users get up to 30 hours of total listening time with Active Noise Cancellation — a full six hours more than the previous generation. That’s a definite battery-life improvement, but not at the forefront among ANC earbuds.

For more flexibility when traveling, you can charge AirPods Pro 2 with an Apple Watch charger, in addition to methods AirPods Pro could use: Lightning cable, MagSafe charger or Qi-certified charging mat.

The new charging case comes with a lanyard loop, though the lanyard is sold separately.
The new charging case comes with a lanyard loop, though the lanyard is sold separately.
Photo: Apple

New case with Precision Finding

AirPods Pro 2 come with a redesigned charging case that is sweat- and water-resistant, and includes a lanyard loop. A lanyard, sold separately, gives you another carry option AirPods Pro didn’t have.

More importantly, the case’s new Precision Finding lets users with a U1-enabled iPhone locate their charging case with guided directions. The charging case also has a built-in speaker, unlike its predecessor, to deliver louder tones, so it’s easier to locate.

You can also personalize the AirPods 2 charging case, which wasn’t available for the original version. And it’s free. You can add initials, numbers or emoji. And you can add your individual Memoji, including custom-posed Memoji orAnimoji, by creating and uploading a Memoji in the Apple Store app.

No price increase since 2019

AirPods Pro 2 can be ordered for $249 from the Apple Store starting Friday, with availability in stores and deliveries starting September 23.

Personalization of the charging case is free. New subscribers get Apple Music free for six months with the purchase of any AirPods, AirPods Pro or AirPods Max.

AirPods (3rd generation) with Lightning Charging Case are available for $169 and with MagSafe Charging Case for $179.

Price: $249

Where to order: Apple Store