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? We've reviewed both products, so read on to find out...
- You can now read our official Apple AirPods Pro 2 review
AirPods Pro 2 (2022) vs AirPods Pro: price
We are happy to report that the new AirPods Pro cost the exact same price as the originals did in 2019 – £249 / $249 / AU$399.
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.
AirPods Pro 2 (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.
You now get four ear tips in the box: a smaller XS size is included, giving you more options to get the perfect fit and seal. That's good news is you’ve struggled with the AirPods’ fit before.
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.
Arguably the biggest design change here is to the charging case: it now has a built-in speaker and a lanyard loop. The speaker emits tones to indicate charging, low battery and to help you find it if you’ve misplaced it. The case itself remains the same small and pocketable size – it easily slips into a pocket, bag and the palm of your hand. 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 Pro 2 (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 dramatically improved this time, thanks to the new H2 chip as well as optimised placement of the acoustic vent and mics. We found it to be incredibly effective – although not quite as effective as the Award-winning Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II.
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. It seems to do a decent job of damping down high-pitched noises but it can be a subtle effect.
While the original AirPods Pro were updated to support Apple's spatial audio with head tracking technology, the Pro (2022) tailors this immersive listening to individuals. The process involves using your iPhone’s camera to capture images of your ears, but we found it to be a tricky and frustrating business, and one we hope Apple can streamline in an update.
Of course, those with an Android device still don't get access to any of these extra Apple-centric features, and there’s still no Android app either.
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. The latter means the Pro (2022) are now now more competitive with the market-leading Sony WF-1000XM4 buds (eight hours in the buds, 24 hours in total).
We did find the new AirPods Pro (2022) charging case drains a bit more power than before during use, but it charges up swiftly. If you’re running low on battery, pop the earbuds into the case for five minutes to get an entire hour of charge.
It’s also worth noting that neither the first of second gen AirPods Pro support hi-res of higher-quality codecs, which remains at odds with the 24-bit high-res audio tracks available in Apple Music’s large catalogue.
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 (2022) vs AirPods Pro: sound quality
Apple has always impressed us with the clarity and tonal neutrality of its products’ audio quality, but the AirPods Pro (2022) bring some extra weight and detail to the party.
This is thanks in part to the new custom low-distortion, high-excursion audio driver, transducer and high dynamic range amplifier, which combined with the new H2 chip’s advanced audio algorithms, results in a sound that’s been improved in every way from the original Pro.
That's not to say you should discount the first-gen buds. We like how the AirPods Pro sound – balanced and easy-going, their mid-range especially packed with texture and detail. They just aren't as dynamic as the second-gen Pro (2022). Nor are they as musical as the newer Sony, Bose and Sennheiser rivals.
AirPods Pro 2 (2022) vs AirPods Pro: 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.
Happily, Apple has done just that – and taken big leap forward in the process. With fantastic sound, dramatically improved noise-cancelling and some clever new (Apple-centric) features, the new AirPods Pro 2 (2022) are much admired here at What Hi-Fi?. Sure, we'd have liked to see the arrival of higher quality audio codecs but that doesn't detract from their all-round appeal.
If you're on a tighter budget, or simply don't want to spend big on Apple's souped-up AirPods, the original AirPods remain an excellent buy. Especially if prices continue to fall.
Read the full Apple AirPods Pro 2 (2022) review
Read our Sony WF-1000XM4 review
These are the best wireless earbuds you can buy
iPhone 14 is official, so here's everything you need to know about it