It’s simple to understand why Apple’s AirPods Pro are still so popular EVEN AFTER THEIR 2019 LAUNCH. These wireless earbuds link easily, have decent audio quality, and largely remain out of the way. These days, it doesn’t even feel strange to wear them because it seems like everyone is sporting (the more unsightly) AirPods.
You might have anticipated a more significant visual update with the new second-generation AirPods Pro after three years, but I’m not surprised to see Apple scarcely altering the design. Why alter a wheel that is so easily recognizable? Instead, Apple concentrated on the internal workings, which are where the music actually happens.
You receive a much-needed improvement in battery life, substantially better sound quality (which previously had good sound), and even better noise-canceling technology. In comparison to the first-generation AirPods Pro, how excellent are the new ones? I’d even say that these in-ear headphones are the best I’ve ever used with an iPhone.
The Need for Change
The scenario represents the biggest structural improvement over the previous model. For a new, built-in speaker, the rounded rectangle now has three circular perforations on the bottom right. Need to use Apple’s Find My app to locate the case? You can now, and it is quite audible. Additionally, when it begins charging, there is a small jingle. Speaking of wireless charging, it’s unfortunate to see Apple continuing to use the Lightning port rather than USB-C (the case also supports MagSafe).
The magnetic clasp on the lid may be opened, revealing two peanut-shaped buds that are staring back at you. The sole bit of black on their otherwise white buds are their new skin detection sensors, which are intended to replace the IR sensors on the older generations. (These sensors assist in detecting when you remove the earbuds to play or pause music.)
Each bud has a little flat area on the side of the trunk; this is a novel touch sensor that lets you (finally!) change the volume by swiping up or down. There is no loss of functionality because the earlier, squeeze-based controls are still in use. One squeeze starts or stops the music; two squeezes skip songs, and a long push switches on active noise cancellation or Transparency mode.
When I got both of the new buds out of the side of their case by side, I had to constantly check which I was looking at because they are both visually quite similar. The second generation is a little bit more secure and comfy in my average-sized ears during workouts and extended listening sessions thanks to a little key contouring.
The medium-sized silicone ear tips that were included with mine seemed to offer a better seal than the smaller and larger ones that are also included in the box. This makes sense because Apple repositioned some of the earbuds’ vents to improve bass performance.
The longer battery life is the most noticeable change in the AirPods Pro before I get to the bigger, audio-based updates. Insufficient to go through a typical workday without hearing your coworkers’ mechanical keyboards was the original AirPods Pro’s meager four and a half hours of listening time with noise canceling on.
Because they lasted so much longer, I frequently recommended a set of Beats headphones to business-minded people.
The six hours of juice in the buds and the 24 in the case will now easily get you through a day at the office or out and about, as long as you pop the buds in their case for lunch. They’ll even get you through a very slow marathon with your audiobooks still intact.
Beyond the much-needed battery boost, it’s obvious that Apple has seen the improvements in sound quality achieved by its competitors over the past few years, including Jabra, Samsung, and Sony. Apple is at last back on the leading edge thanks to the new AirPods Pro.
I immediately heard how much more balanced they sound overall thanks to brand-new drivers and a new amplifier on each side. The middle is present but not hazy, the high end is clear but not sibilant, and the bass end is powerful but not boomy (that thing when s sounds really stick out).
Since the AirPods Pro has been improved, they sound fantastic even on recordings that are more difficult to recreate. I just learned that the song “What We Do In The Shadows” Matt Berry is a talented musician who has released a number of excellent CDs. Because it is so densely layered with guitars, horns, keyboards, voices, and other midrange-heavy elements, on top of a pronounced bass, “Take My Hand” tends to sound a little muddy on most earbuds.
I can plainly hear every layer of the song with the new AirPods Pro and can easily make out his lyrics (in my opinion, mixed a touch too low on any system).
On these devices, the majority of users will likely be listening to hip-hop, pop, and other Apple Music-based jams, and you’ll also be rewarded there.
These things crush it, producing lower oomph than I’ve probably ever heard from a pair of dynamic drivers—a testament to how well these earbuds form a seal and how well the noise cancellation functions. Kaytranada’s “Glowed Up” has long been a favorite of mine for testing deep bass response.
Additionally, the level of noise reduction has been increased from the already excellent first edition. I swear, with these buds in, I can’t hear my dog when he’s barking for food, and he’s one of the loudest dogs in the world (I just found out he tracks to be 15% Alaskan Malamute).
The buds have a new adaptive Transparency mode that enables them to block some, but not all, of the noises around you, when you don’t want to completely block them out. That might seem to contradict the very purpose of a Transparency mode but bear with me.
You can typically hear your immediate surroundings in this mode, but you definitely don’t need to hear the ambulance sirens wailing at full power. The level will be adjusted by Apple’s H2 chip so that you can still hear it without feeling as though your eardrums are about to burst.
Similar to that, if you begin speaking to someone while wearing the earbuds in your ears, it will attempt to amplify their voice so you can hear them clearly without having to remove the earbuds (though you should probably still take your earbuds out, you monster). Overall, I discovered that it performed admirably during my workouts when I always prefer to keep my ears open to hear those around me.
The microphones are among the best in a pair of wireless earphones and are mechanically helped by the fact that the elephant trunks point directly at your pie hole.
Within the Beat
Some drawbacks? The spatial audio elements that are included are essentially unchanged from the previous iteration, but I wouldn’t call that a major drawback per se. I’m still not sure that spatial audio adds much to music, but it’s wonderful for adding some surround sound to movies on Netflix and other streaming services.
The majority of music is and was created in stereo or mono, and with spatial audio turned on, you’ll likely run into what I call the “upscale” problem: old music being converted to Atmos after its original creation.
There are newer, interesting Dolby Atmos mixes on Apple Music (mostly from well-known artists), but in reality, most music is and was created in stereo or mono. The majority of this music, in my opinion, tends to sound boomy and bright, as if someone added a little reverb to everything.
Regarding the real practical issues with the headphones, WIRED reviews editor Julian Chokkattu has found that when he’s outside in New York City, his set has trouble picking up the “Hey Siri” command to activate the voice assistant, at least on the first try.
In my sound-proofed studio or while I was out and about in Oregon, I never had a problem with it. We both noticed that Siri chirps to let you know it’s listening when you speak the command is a little weak, so you’re not always sure it’s actually listening.
Other than that, I’m having a hard time thinking of many other problems with these earphones. You can take them with you to the gym and a jog in the rain because they pair up quickly, fit comfortably, and are IPX4-rated water resistant.
For anything from listening to music to important conference calls, the sound, noise canceling, and microphones are of the highest caliber. With them, you can stifle your screaming kids and even play Taylor Swift without having to touch your iPhone. What more could you possibly want from a set of headphones?