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  • Cheryl Tan

AirPods Pro 2 Review: Sound ✅ ANC ✅ Major Improvements All Around ✅

When the AirPods Pro first came out, it was one of the best options around in terms of comfort, convenience, ANC and decent sound. After that, the true wireless earbud market got majorly saturated and the AirPods Pro weren’t as good a recommendation anymore. Now? Well, they’re back on the list with the new AirPods Pro 2.

We have the AirPods Pro 2nd Generation with us today, and these are very much improved in almost all areas.


So, let’s talk design first. The AirPods Pro 2 look almost exactly the same as the first gen, and I honestly don’t mind. Why fix what’s not broken? There are, however, a few differences and the most notable one on the case would be the addition of a lanyard loop. It’s a nice touch to keep the case more secure on bags and the like, so that’s nice. There’s also a built-in speaker at the bottom which plays tones when the earbuds are connected for the first time, or when the case is charging, low power, stuff like that. There’s also the U1 chip inside the case so you can actually look for it now in Find My and accurately find the case’s location as well as ping it even if the earbuds aren’t inside.


Inside the box, there’s now a new XS ear tip so even more people can use the AirPods Pro 2 comfortably, which is a very nice touch by Apple. Personally, I’ve never had an issue with the medium tips, but I know there are a lot of you out there with smaller ears, so this is great for you.


Unfortunately, the case is still charged by a Lightning cable, although there is MagSafe charging, which is nice. A neat new feature is that the case can be charged via an Apple Watch puck charger now.


As for the earbuds themselves, most of the change is on the inside. We get a new H2 chip, a new low-distortion driver and new software features that we’ll talk about later. Externally, they do look slightly different if you’re eagle-eyed. You’ll notice the mics have been adjusted slightly in terms of position along with the addition of that new skin detect sensor we got in the AirPods 3rd Gen, but that’s about it really. Something that can’t be seen is the new capacitive layer on the stems of the earbuds, which allows for touch control. To be more precise, swipes up and down to control volume.


The controls remain the same otherwise, with a single press for play/pause, a double press to skip tracks forwards, a triple tap to skip tracks backwards and a long press and hold to switch between ANC and Transparency.

Now, let’s talk about software. Apple products work best with other Apple products, right? And it’s the same with the new AirPods Pro 2. Using an iPhone will give you features like personalised spatial audio, in which you can use a TrueDepth camera on an iPhone running iOS 16 to take ear and head scans to customise a spatial audio profile that will apply across all your AirPods products, from the open-fit AirPods to the AirPods Max headphones. We’ll talk more about the personalised spatial audio performance in the sound quality segment later.


Another great feature is Adaptive Transparency. This is an option enabled thanks to the new H2 chip which allows for the earbuds to process environmental noise 48,000 times a second on-device to lower harsh and loud environmental noise like construction and the likes. It’s certainly a great way to be able to hear what’s going on around you without having to listen to stuff that might be too loud and damage your hearing. Now, this can be toggled on or off in the new dedicated AirPods section in the Settings menu, which I really like. You can do pretty much everything AirPods related there, setting up personalised spatial audio, doing ear tip fit tests and more.


And of course, if you’re using an iPhone, you get all the convenience of being in the Apple ecosystem. Fast pairing once you open the case nearby your phone, auto switching between your Apple devices that are all tagged to your iCloud account and all that.


Coming to ANC, wow, is it improved. Right off the bat, you can hear the improvement in ANC when it comes to low-pitched sounds. Car engine noises, train rumbles, all very effectively cancelled out. In fact, for higher-pitched noises, the AirPods Pro 2 does a slightly better job at cancelling them out as well. Keep in mind that ANC typically already isn’t very effective at high-pitched noises, so this improvement is certainly great. You might still hear people chatting if they’re near you, but with music playing, it’s a non-issue. I have to say though, that the ANC on these earbuds is probably one of the best I’ve tried so far in earbuds launched this year.

Also, I spoke a little about Transparency earlier but this bears repeating, Apple’s Transparency mode is the best, most natural transparency mode I’ve ever had the pleasure of using. Most earbuds tend to process the sound somewhat, and some process it a lot, but Apple’s is just so natural sounding, it’s like, if not for the feeling of the earbuds in my ears, I wouldn’t think I was wearing anything. It’s fantastic, and it’s a major plus for the AirPods series.


As for connectivity, these are running on Bluetooth 5.3, which is excellent, although they only support SBC and AAC, so no high-res audio. Honestly, I’m a little disappointed here, because look, Apple Music supports high res audio, it supports lossless audio, and right now, the only way to use it is if you have a wired connection and if you want to play above 48kHz, you need an external DAC.


Battery life is improved as well, I’d assume thanks to the more efficient H2 chip. You now get six hours in the earbuds with ANC on and up to 30 hours with the case included. While that’s relatively middle of the pack, it’s certainly better than the four-ish hours in the AirPods Pro 1st Gen, so I’m definitely not complaining.


Something nice is that both the earbuds and the case are now IPX4 water resistance rated, so you don’t have to worry about your case if water accidentally splashes on it and all.


Mic quality-wise, it’s good. There’s a reason a lot of people are happy to use AirPods as a general all-rounder pair of earbuds, and that’s because they perform in both the mic and sound quality departments.

And yes, sound quality. It’s a lot better. The overall sound is clean, detailed and clarity is improved noticeably over the first gen. The bass reaches down lower and is slightly more impactful, with a tinge more energy in the highs. It’s just a very well-balanced sound that will appeal to almost anybody. The soundstage is wide and with personalised spatial audio, well, the layering and imaging just get even better.


Of course, the sound quality and detail aren’t the absolute best you can get in the market, but if you’re looking at the AirPods Pro 2, that shouldn’t be your main concern in the first place. These aren’t earbuds for more critical listening or to pick out every single guitar strum and pluck. They’re a pair of easy-listening earbuds that work well as a whole when you include the ANC, the ease of use, the comfort and the integration with Apple products.


Honestly, even though I always have new audio stuff to test out, on the days when I go out and want a break from testing earbuds, I reach for my old AirPods Pro 1st Gen. It was just so comfortable, with decent ANC and audio quality and so fuss-free. Now, I’ll be reaching for these when I don’t want to have to think about which earbuds to bring out. At S$359 or US$249, they’re certainly not the cheapest, but it’s hard to argue with what they bring to the table, especially if you’re an iPhone user.

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