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TEST: A mandatory upgrade – AirPods Pro 2

I am a big user of AirPods Pro.

Introduction

After the test in 2019, I continued to use them daily, mainly for podcasts and YouTube, and let other plugs mainly take care of the music.

I know the plugs well, and it’s been a long time since the first generation was launched, but it doesn’t look like Apple has made any changes – isn’t the design exactly the same?

Not so fast.

Specifications (price: NOK 2990)

  • Specially developed speaker driver from Apple with long travel
  • Specially developed amplifier with a large frequency range
  • Bluetooth 5.3
  • Active noise reduction
  • Custom audio highlighting
  • Valve system for pressure equalization
  • Personal room-adapted sound with dynamic direction tracking1
  • Adaptive EQ
  • Dual, beam-forming microphones
  • Inward-facing microphone
  • Sensor that registers skin contact
  • Accelerometer with motion detection
  • Accelerometer with voice recording
  • Touch control
  • Apple H2 headphone chip
  • U1-chip i MagSafe-ladeetuiet
  • Water and sweat resistant (IPX4): AirPods Pro and charging case

About battery life and charging:

  • Up to 6 hours of listening time on a single charge (up to 5.5 hours with room-adapted sound and direction tracking turned on)
  • Up to 4.5 hours of talk time on a single charge

AirPods Pro med MagSafe-ladeetui

  • Up to 30 hours of listening time
  • Up to 24 hours of talk time

“5 minutes in the case corresponds to around 1 hour of listening time or up to 1 hour of talk time.”

Design

Because the trend now is for plugs to almost disappear into the ear: control of volume is done from software and voice assistants. This has been a mindset that you can immediately think is a good thing, but what if you could combine the possibility of volume control without talking to Siri or touching the mobile, and at the same time achieve the very best connection quality? Then the antennas are not removed.

You will not be able to tell whether a person is using first- or second-generation AirPods Pro.

And is there really a point in having a new design just for looks? No, it’s not, and when you already own the most iconic design in this product segment, you can lose more than you gain by doing something just for the sake of doing it.

I found the fit to be perfect for my ears with the medium plugs they come with. This year, Apple has added another pair of plugs that are even smaller.

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The case is also the same, and that’s perfectly fine. That’s one reason we liked Sony’s LinkBuds so much: they both have an optimal case size and are easy to take in and out.

Functions

I have been asking for this way of controlling the volume for many years, and now that the function is here, I am as happy with this practical function as I had hoped for.

It required me a surprising amount of “practice” to successfully increase and decrease the volume each time: you have to squeeze in a little, but not so hard that you pause. When you get it right, it works as intended.

Here I have to point the finger at the competition, because there is one more thing that is best about Apple’s way of doing it: it requires a physical click – it is not enough to come across. Do not make the experiences so digital that the experience deteriorates.

On all plugs I’ve tested from competitors, nothing should falsely pause or otherwise distort playback: all it requires is a tiny touch.

Apple has also implemented skin detection. Why is it nice? Because you can place the plugs in your pocket without them starting to play on their own. The Sennheiser Ture Wireless 3 badly needs this feature.

How about the consecration sound being activated when the waiter talks to you in a noisy restaurant? Probably the reason why this is not a thing yet is that the sound processing algorithms are not good enough – this will also require more powerful hardware, which drains the battery.

I still think apple would have done it if they could. Expect an influx of more advanced features like this next year or in 2024.

The ANC this year has been upgraded. Apple claims they have managed to double the active noise reduction. Apple also throws around the number 48,000. This is the number of times per second the plugs reduce noise. Put another way: yes, the noise reduction is very good, although I am not aware of what this figure is for the competitors.

A function has also been implemented that immediately activates damping in the event of sudden noise when ambient sound is activated. The ambient sound technology is particularly good in AirPods Max, because it is important that the product serves ambient sounds as if they were not on. The opened mode also copes well with the AirPods Pro 2, where the goal has been as transparent a sound as possible.

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Apple has not only improved the plugs with better ANC, battery life, volume control and sound quality, but the charging case has also been upgraded with two important improvements: a speaker so that you can find them more easily, and a hole for a carrying cord. From the outset, the plugs are also easy to find thanks to the U1 chip that AirTags use.

Here’s everything you need to know about checking the plugs:

Sound

These have an H2 chip that optimizes the sound for each song. That’s pretty impressive technology the plugs performs.

Be sure to run the “plug test” from your mobile to ensure that the plugs fit as well as possible. As I said, the fit is perfect for me, and I can therefore compare with Sony LinkBuds S, I think they sound somewhat better than, Sennheiser True Wireless 3 which they lose to in terms of sound and the Samsung Galaxy Buds2 Pro with which they are roughly equal.

To say that Apple’s plugs have a signature sound is taking it too far, as the company, as mentioned, uses technology to optimize each song. I would argue that Apple is in the middle of the tree-screwed sound. Put another way, Apple doesn’t screw up mostbut they do what they think is best for the product to maximize the perceived sound quality.

A “Pro” product without USB C. Why? Probably because they are often used with the iPhone.

The biggest upgrade this year, because all the internals are new including the speakers, is a more precise and entertaining bass. The midrange is also improved, but I’m surprised that the soundstage isn’t bigger: it’s possible Apple thinks it’s Spatial Audio’s job, but it shouldn’t be.

The quality of corks at this price has been good for a long time, and there are many about the bone. The sound is good, that’s not it, it’s just that AirPods Pro doesn’t compete in the class for the plugs that sound the best – AirPods Pro 2 wants to be an all-rounder. Yes, these deliver good sound, but are also perfect for Apple’s ecosystem (including tracking and 3D sound), have a good enough battery life and good comfort. There is also a lot of focus on the ANC.

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Conclusion

It’s not that Apple always has better technology in the first place, but when they wait three years to update a product, it will be much easier to convince: every part of any technology product will be better after three years of constant innovations.

Whether Apple targeted the Bluetooth 5.3 launch is also possible. Although the support is there in the plugs and the iPhone 14, there is no support for Bluetooth LE Audio, which increases the sound quality and is more energy-efficient. Why this is not in place I do not know, it is possible that it will come later, but then it is a bit strange that Apple has not said that it will come later. They tend to do that with important features that are first missing in the 1.0 launch.

One should not snort at the ANC quality and Spatial Audio for movies.

That said: it’s been three years since Apple introduced its Pro buds, and this year they’ve made all the improvements we could hope for with an ANC that’s at least as good as the AirPods Max. If you live in Apple’s ecosystem, these are almost mandatory.

AirPods Pro 2 switches lightning fast and seamlessly between all Apple devices, and the volume control is the best solution I’ve tested. The sound is also good and the price Apple charges is not terribly high for being in this segment. Unbelievable, but true.

TEST: A must-have upgrade – AirPods Pro 2

We conclude

Apple is conservative in many ways, but at the same time not cautious: everything is better in the second generation AirPods Pro. These are a couple of mandatory plugs for anyone with one or more Apple devices.

Reader rating70 Assessments

4.5

+

Smart volume control

Good sound

Very good ANC and ambient sound

Perfect fit

Smartly integrated into Apple’s product universe

You lose a lot with an Android mobile

Not the best sound in the class

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