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AirPods Pro 2 (2022) vs AirPods Pro: what are the differences?

AirPods Pro 2 vs AirPods Pro
(Image credit: Future)

The second generation of Apple's noise-cancelling AirPods are here. 

The new AirPods Pro 2 (2022) were unveiled during the company's iPhone 14 launch event in September 2022 and look to build on the world's most popular noise-cancelling wireless earbuds with claimed improvements in sound, noise cancellation, connectivity and battery life. It isn't all change in every department, though...

So, how do the specs and features of "the most advanced AirPods ever" stack up against those of the veteran AirPods Pro? Read on to find out...

AirPods Pro (2022) vs AirPods Pro: price

We are happy to report that the new AirPods Pro will launch at the exact same price as the originals did in 2019 – £249 / $249 / AU$399. Pre-orders started on September 9th (opens in new tab) if you'd like to lock in a pair for yourself now, while they'll start shipping out on Friday 23rd September.

Due to their age difference, there is now a price discrepancy between the old and new models, though. The old AirPods Pro are knocking around online for as little as £190 / $199 / AU$319. Will they now drop further in light of the Pro 2's arrival? Perhaps a little, though prices of Apple products rarely plummet. We suspect Black Friday will be your best chance to get Apple noise-cancelling earbuds at a cheaper price.

The AirPods Pro 2's price puts them among the premium cream of the crop, including the class-leading Sony WF-1000XM4 and Sennheiser True Momentum Wireless 3, not to mention the newly announced Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II. So it's fair to say they aren't short of competition.

Apple AirPods Pro 2

(Image credit: Apple)

AirPods Pro (2022) vs AirPods Pro: design

Despite rumours of shorter stems or even stem-less designs, the AirPods Pro design stays the same – same stem size, same bulbous body with an eartip, same all-white finish. But the new model isn't a carbon copy of the original. 

In addition to their 'force sensor' for controlling music playback and taking calls, the stems on the new AirPods Pro now also have a touch-capacitive layer that you can swipe up and down to change the volume. On-earpiece volume control was one of the biggest things missing from the predecessors, so we're glad to see it added here.

The earbuds now come with a new XS size ear tip for a total of four ear tip sizes, too, which should better accommodate those with smaller lugholes.

The charging case has also been updated. It features Precision Finding to help guide owners of (UI-enabled) iPhones to it if it is misplaced, with speakers at the bottom of the case able to emit tones to help locate it. It supports wireless charging as standard, alongside the usual wired Lightning connection, and is compatible with the Apple Watch charger as well as Qi and MagSafe. It even has a lanyard loop and can be engraved with a Memoji for free (see image below).

Both the earbuds and charging case are once again IPX4 rated for water and sweat resistance.

AirPods 2 Pro

(Image credit: Apple)

AirPods Pro (2022) vs AirPods Pro: features

The Pro model still separates itself from the 'standard' AirPods model with one big, distinguishing feature: active noise cancellation. The sound-blocking function is supposedly more advanced this time round, with Apple claiming the Pro 2 model "cancels up to twice as much noise over the previous generation". This is down to the new H2 chip as well as optimised placement of the acoustic vent and mics.

This H2 chip also facilitates a new Adaptive Transparency mode which is designed to reduce loud, harsh, high-decibel noise around you such as a passing lorry or roadworks.

While the original AirPods Pro were updated to support Apple's spatial audio with head tracking technology, the Pro (2022) promises to tailor this immersive listening to individuals for a more effective experience. Using the TrueDepth camera on an iPhone (operating on iOS 16), the technology can tune the sound, and create personal audio profiles, specifically based on someone's ear shape and size. Pretty neat.

Battery life is longer, too. While the 2019 AirPods Pro offer five hours of playback in the earbuds and another 19 hours from the case, totalling 24 hours, the Pro 2 take that to six and 30 hours – and that's with noise cancelling activated.

While baby steps have been taken in the design department, larger ones appear to have been made when it comes to feature set in order to keep the Pros competitive and unique in the market.

AirPods Pro 2

(Image credit: Apple)

AirPods Pro (2022) vs AirPods Pro: sound quality

The jury is out on which model performs better, though the odds unsurprisingly favour the new pair. Apple is certainly promising super audio quality from the sequels thanks to a "new low-distortion audio driver and custom amplifier", so fingers crossed.

We have always liked how the AirPods Pro sound – balanced and easy-going, their midrange especially packed with texture and detail. But they aren't as musical or transparent as their aforementioned, newer Sony, Bose and Sennheiser rivals, so we hope the Pro (2022) will get closer to that class-leading level.

Watch this space for an in-depth sound comparison shortly.

AirPods Pro (2022) vs AirPods Pro: Initial verdict

The AirPods Pro needed to be brought up to date. In the three years since their arrival, new rivals have furthered the true wireless earbuds market with longer battery lives, customisable fits and ANC intensities, and dinkier designs.

The new AirPods Pro 2 (2022) aren't quite the refresh we had hoped for on the face of it, but there is more evolution here than first meets the eye. Apple has added some (fingers crossed) useful features such as personalised audio, righted a wrong by adding on-earpiece volume control that should've been there in the first place, and upped battery life to a more 2022-level of competitiveness. 

If noise cancelling and sound quality are indeed next-level too, the new AirPods Pro could well have been worth the wait. We can't wait to take them for a spin.

MORE:

Read our Sony WF-1000XM4 review

These are the best wireless earbuds you can buy

The one big feature missing from the AirPods Pro 2

4 reasons the AirPods Pro 2 (2022) should be better than the AirPods Pro

iPhone 14 is official, so here's everything you need to know about it

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II are new noise-cancelling rivals for Sony and Sennheiser

Becky is the managing editor of What Hi-Fi? and, since her recent move to Melbourne, also the editor of Australian Hi-Fi magazine. During her eight years in the hi-fi industry, she has been fortunate enough to travel the world to report on the biggest and most exciting brands in hi-fi and consumer tech (and has had the jetlag and hangovers to remember them by). In her spare time, Becky can often be found running, watching Liverpool FC and horror movies, and hunting for gluten-free cake.