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  • Cheryl Tan

How Apple Made the New AirPods Pro 2 Even Better Than the OG

When the original AirPods Pro launched in 2019, it was one of the best all-round earbuds you could get. It's still incredibly popular today, as evidenced by the earbuds being one of the best selling products on Apple's roster. That being said, three years was a long time to go without a refresh, but the AirPods Pro 2 is finally here.

Apple took their time for sure, but the end result is well worth the wait. We gave the AirPods Pro 2nd Gen a very good review, with the sound quality, ANC strength and more being greatly improved. But how did they manage to do it? We sat down with some folks from Apple — Eric Treski, Product Marketing and Esge Anderson, Acoustics — to learn more about what changed in the AirPods Pro 2 and how it made the earbuds even better.

First, let's talk about the physical changes. Truth be told, there isn't a very obvious change from the outside: it still looks like an AirPods Pro. What's really changed is on the inside. The engineers at Apple were thinking of how to improve airflow and how to push air, and by moving one of the vents to the top, they managed to push more air while causing less turbulence and distortion, resulting in clearer sound. There's also a new amplifier inside which works to reduce artifacts and pops, along with a reshaped tube and the new low-distortion driver that helps to enhance the bass to be clearer and more distinct.

Besides the new hardware though, software also plays a huge part here. Apple actually uses different tunings based on use cases, so the earbuds will sound slightly different when you're listening to music compared to watching a movie or taking a call. Additionally, the EQ will change based on the volume as well, improving high frequencies and resulting in fewer people listening at high volumes.

There's also the new personalised spatial audio feature, which is fantastic. Like Esge said, one spatial audio profile doesn't work for everybody since we're all different and have different ears. So with the help of machine learning, Apple managed to develop an efficient way to get personalised spatial audio by using the TrueDepth camera on an iPhone to scan the user's ears and calculate the ideal profile before pushing it to iCloud, which means it's accessible across all linked devices. The first time the engineers at Apple tried creating a personalised profile, it took them two days! It's been cut down to just five seconds now and it's incredibly fast and easy to do.

As for ANC, well, that's another big improvement. With the new H2 chip in each earbud, the ANC performance is even better as there's lower intermodulation distortion, resulting in cleaner ANC. Additionally, there's the new Adaptive Transparency feature which builds upon Apple's impressive Transparency mode, allowing for the earbuds to bring loud environmental noises down to a comfortable level.

Credit: Apple

There are two specific scenarios where this comes into play, the first being when there's constant noise such as construction and the second being loud impact noises, such as hammering a nail into a wall. Both scenarios are covered under Adaptive Transparency, and the earbuds will automatically dampen the sound thanks to the H2 chip allowing for environmental noise to be sampled 48,000 times a second.

When we asked if it was tough to work on a successor to such a fantastic product, Esge revealed that they were already thinking about how to make the original AirPods Pro better back when they were finishing up the first generation, and that it's "about knowing what you could do better, but also about setting new goals for yourself".

Credit: Apple

As to whether we'll ever see first-party foam eartips, well, don't hold your breath. While Apple does acknowledge that foam ear tips have advantages like better conformity to ear canals and better passive noise attenuation, the foam tips do result in more earwax and need regular replacement. "From our perspective, that's not a great Apple experience," said Esge.

Eric added on that it's about making sure that they're covering all types of use cases throughout the day, whether it's exercising with sweat thrown into the mix or others. "So we have to make sure we have a very durable, but yet high quality ear tip, and that's why we stay with the silicone," he concluded.

And that's really the base of it. What the AirPods Pro has always offered (and done better than its competitors) is the whole experience, from the seamless pairing once you open the case near your iPhone to the ability to instantly switch connections to your iPad or MacBook and now, having a custom spatial audio profile automatically applied and adjusted across all your Apple devices.

Credit: Apple

I'll leave you with something Esge said that really struck me, because I feel it applies to pretty much every Apple product: "The soul inside the product, I think that's Apple, and that's hard to beat."

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