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Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Generation) review: Improved in almost every way

Apple AirPods Pro Main

The AirPods Pro have long been hailed as some of the best true wireless earbuds out there, and frankly, there’s no better option for Apple users who want to be able to easily switch between devices and avoid third-party apps. Apple, however, is making the best wireless earbud option even better — and has launched a second generation of AirPods Pro that build on the originals in some meaningful ways, while keeping what users loved.

Do the new earbuds warrant an upgrade for those who already have the original model? And is the noise cancellation on offer here truly two times as good? I’ve been using the AirPods Pro (2nd Generation) to find out.

Apple AirPods Pro (Second Generation)

Rating: 4.5 Stars
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Pros

  • Great new smart features
  • Even better ANC
  • Still great design
  • Improved battery
  • Slightly better audio quality

Cons

  • A bit expensive

AirPods Pro (2nd Generation) design

First thing’s first — the second-generation AirPods Pro look pretty much the same as the originals did. There are some slight tweaks to the design, but you won’t get the rumored stemless design. I don’t see that as a huge downside — I really like the stem controls for the AirPods, and at this point everyone is used to how they look. I’m sure one day we’ll get stemless AirPods Pro earbuds, but until then, I still like the overall look of the AirPods Pro.

Apple AirPods Pro Buds 2Image source: Christian de Looper for BGR

As mentioned, however, there are some changes — to both the actual earbuds and to the charging case. The earbuds themselves now have smaller vents and sensors, which doesn’t really matter all that much as they’re hidden when you’re wearing them.

The charging case now has a lanyard loop on the right side, so it’s easier to connect them to a backpack or something else. And, it’s now IPX4 water-resistant, so if you get caught in the rain, you won’t have to worry about the case or the case’s internals getting damaged. Perhaps more important is the speaker grille on the bottom of the case. We’ll get into why that matters a little more later.

Apple AirPods Pro Case 2Image source: Christian de Looper for BGR

In the box, you’ll get the same accessories except for a new pair of extra small ear tips. I didn’t need these, but some will appreciate the smaller tips.

Generally, you’d be hard-pressed to tell the different between the two side-by-side. It’s possible — but they’re clearly still AirPods Pro, and they look as such.

AirPods Pro (2nd Generation) features and battery

There are a few new features on offer by the second-generation AirPods Pro. All the features you know and love from the originals are here, plus some new ones that could really come in handy.

Let’s start with what’s still here. You’ll still get automatic switching that allows you to automatically switch between your signed-in devices as needed. And, you’ll still get support for wireless charging — except that now, you can wirelessly charge through a traditional Qi charger, or through a MagSafe or Apple Watch charger.

Apple AirPods Pro CaseImage source: Christian de Looper for BGR

We mentioned the speaker grille, and that comes in handy. The AirPods Pro case now plays sounds when you’re low on battery or when you’ve successfully paired your device. Even better than that is that it can play sounds when you’re using Find My. The case now has an ultra wideband chip in it, so you can use Apple’s Precision Finding feature to track your AirPods down if you lose them, and play a sound from the case to make the finding process even easier.

The stem offers new features too. Now, you can use the stems to control volume, and I found that it was very easy to do so. I really appreciate that there are now volume controls here — it was one of the big downsides to the original AirPods Pro earbuds, and now, you don’t really have to take your iPhone out of your pocket if you don’t want to.

The battery life on the AirPods Pro is improved too. It’s up to six hours of continuous listening with noise-cancellation enabled, which is quite good. With the charging case, you’ll get up to an impressive 30 hours — so even though charging is easier, you may not need to charge that much.

AirPods Pro (2nd Generation) comfort

Wearing the second-generation AirPods Pro earbuds is exactly the same as wearing the original AirPods Pro — which is a good thing. I find them to be among the more comfortable earbuds out there, and preserving the same shape means that they remain as comfortable as before. They’re also quite good at staying in your ears — and I even run with them from time to time with no issues.

Apple AirPods Pro BudsImage source: Christian de Looper for BGR

New for the AirPods Pro are a pair of extra small ear tips. I didn’t need these and didn’t test them — but their inclusion may help ensure that the earbuds fit well in different ear shapes. The extra small ear tips fit on the previous-generation AirPods Pro too — but Apple has stopped selling the previous-generation AirPods Pro, so any you find in stores or second-hand will not come with extra small ear tips.

AirPods Pro (2nd Generation) sound quality

Apple says that the audio quality of the AirPods is better too — in a number of different ways. Sure, music will sound better, but the company also claims noise cancelation that’s two times as good, and has introduced a new adaptive transparency mode.

Indeed, the headphones do sound better in normal listening. According to Apple, the new AirPods Pro headphones boast a custom-built driver and amplifier to deliver a better-quality audio experience. And, you can take advantage of Apple’s personalized audio feature that uses your TrueDepth-equipped iPhone to take a scan of your specific ear shape. This was available before, but now also impacts how Spatial Audio sounds — making the immersive listening mode a little more personalized.

Apple AirPods Pro In CaseImage source: Christian de Looper for BGR

Generally, I found bass to be a little fuller and deeper, and perhaps a little more clarity in the high-end. The changes aren’t radical, and if you didn’t like the previous-generation AirPods Pro, the second-generation model won’t change your mind. But most will find the audio quality perfectly acceptable here.

Apple claims that the noise cancelation on the second-generation AirPods Pro is two times as good. It’s a little hard to quantify that, but it is indeed a lot better. Apple has gone from already offering among the best noise cancelation in earbuds, to being head and shoulders above the competition. Truly, it’s very good — and definitely a huge step forward over the original AirPods Pro.

Transparency mode has gotten an update too. Apple has introduced a new “adaptive transparency” mode, which will automatically dim audio if there’s a sudden loud burst of sound. This helos prevent hearing damage from overly loud sounds. Apple’s example is if you walk into a construction zone, but there are plenty of other situations that this could come in handy.

Conclusions

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The second-generation AirPods Pro represent a relatively big upgrade. I appreciate the fact that you’ll get better Find My support, a slightly better audio quality, and better battery life. To me, however, the killer upgrade comes in the form of better noise cancelation. Regardless, those features may or may not be worth upgrading from the previous-generation AirPods Pro for you, but if these will be your first AirPods Pro, you’re in for a treat.

The competition

The biggest competition comes from the likes of the Sony WF-1000XM4 earbuds and Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro. If you’re an Apple user, however, I highly recommend going for the AirPods Pro.

Should I buy the AirPods Pro (2nd Generation)?

Yes. The best earbuds for Apple users are now even better.

Christian de Looper was born in Canberra, Australia, where he lived until the age of 14. After his father got a job in Paris, France, Christian lived there for five years, after which he moved to Minnesota for college. During college, Christian developed a passion for consumer technology by writing for tech blogs. Christian now lives in sunny Santa Cruz, California.