The new AirPods Pro 2, or second generation, are no different from the originals. That’s a bit of a shame because the sound and functionality of these new active noise-canceling (ANC) wireless headphones deserve visible accolades.
Sound quality is better, noise cancellation is improved, and the headphones are overall more comfortable to use compared to the first-gen model. My favorite feature was the brand new addition of volume controls – swipe up on the stalk to increase the audio level and down to lower it. Even if you don’t care about that, there are other new features scattered throughout the product to improve most aspects.
Interestingly, these new second-gen AirPods Pro pick up where the original model left off, which is to say that the new earbuds are much better than the previous ones, but not necessarily much better than other competitors. on the market. Sony Linkbuds S, Google Pixelbuds Pro, Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II or any other newer earbuds always get their money’s worth. But if you’re in the Apple ecosystem or want to upgrade from the 2019 AirPods Pro, these new ones are a definite home run.
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Apple claims that the new second-generation AirPods Pro are twice as good at active noise cancellation as the first-generation model. I think that’s about right. It’s really hard to gauge the exact ANC measurements, but I tried to do a few tests to get an idea of how the two models compared to each other.
I simulated a noisy environment with different audio tracks to emulate an airplane cabin, vacuum cleaner, and city street noise. I played each of these with both new and old AirPods Pro models and with ANC turned on. The new AirPods Pro were able to calm these different sound environments better.
I also repeated the tests with music playing at 50% level, and the loud sounds almost disappeared when listening with the newer AirPods Pro, while on the older ones I could still hear the noises more distinctly. I found myself more susceptible to distraction using the older model.
There’s a new H2 chip inside the AirPods Pro that powers these advancements in ANC and adaptive transparency. There isn’t much to say about the chip except that it seems to be doing its job.
Instead of allowing general transparency into the world around you, the new adaptive feature tries to limit high-decibel sounds that might suddenly arise. I didn’t notice much of a difference in day-to-day transparency, including when running with the earbuds on. In my suburbs, I found functionality to be a more subtle refinement than something completely new.
Stepping outside the Apple world for a minute, the new Bose QuietComfort II headphones are about to embarrass these new AirPods Pro in their ability to block out noise. By using Bose’s new headphones, I was able to listen to music at a lower level for better audio health while completely getting rid of distractions. That’s not to say the QuietComfort II headphones are a better product in every way – they’re not – but when it comes to ANC, the QuietComfort II headphones might be the best available in late 2022.
There’s some nuance required to this statement, but overall: the touch controls on the wireless headphones are bad. Often they don’t work well in settings like running or exercising. And, according to the manufacturer, the touch controls sometimes never work reliably. So when Apple mentioned that its new AirPods Pro would receive volume adjustments via touch controls, I was nervous.
After spending some time swiping up and down on the stalks to increase and decrease the volume, I’ve had nothing but good experiences using the gestures. In iOS 16’s dedicated AirPods setting screen, you can even make volume swipes more or less sensitive. I left this setting alone and can’t remember a time when the headphones misfired by accident. The biggest problem was remembering that volume controls were available.
I took the new AirPods Pro on a run specifically to see if the volume controls would work well when I needed them most. I was able to skip tracks without accidentally adjusting the volume. I raised and lowered the volume as expected. I kept expecting some sort of accidental entry, but never experienced one. I was impressed with this volume control implementation.
The new AirPods Pro have significantly better audio quality than the original AirPods Pro. Music was richer overall, bass was deeper, and all songs were fuller. For me, the jump in audio quality is similar to how the third generation of the regular AirPods improved significantly over the previous generation.