If you were an AirPods Pro fan, the latest Apple events have been an exercise in disappointment management. With a slated release in 2022, two events — March’s Mac, iPad, and iPhone event and WWDC — went ahead without even a hint of updated noise-canceling headphones.
It was the third lucky time in September. Apple has unveiled new AirPods Pro with an updated chip, extended battery life and Apple’s Find My technology, so when you inevitably lose an earbud or the case, you can ping it through the app .
The short version of this review is as follows: the second generation of AirPods Pro is excellent. From adaptive transparency to improved sound quality, the AirPods Pro are among the best. Add some extra gestures – now you can control volume with a swipe – and the new AirPods Pro have solved some of the most annoying issues with the first generation.
You’ll have to shell out just under €300 for the privilege, though, so it’s not a budget option. Likewise, they’re designed to work with Apple and while you can connect them to other devices, the experience isn’t as smooth as using them with an iPad, iPhone, or Mac.
The first thing you need to know is that Apple has made almost no changes to the look of the AirPods Pro, both in terms of the buds and the case. If you look really closely, you might notice a few small differences, but overall the new AirPods Pro are the same as the old ones on the outside. It’s a tried and tested formula and Apple has decided not to play with it – for now.
That means the fit is the same too, although Apple has added a new extra-small ear tip that will solve fit issues for those of us with smaller ears. If you were getting less than satisfactory results running the fit test with the existing silicone tips, this might just solve your problem.
The real differences are inside. Apple replaced the H1 chip with the H2 and slightly increased battery life. That means AirPods will not only sound better than before, but they’ll also last you an hour longer in Active Noise Control mode.
The new AirPods also support spatial audio but with a new twist: you can customize it. As part of the setup process, you can customize it using the iPhone’s front camera to scan your head shape. It’s hard to say if it made any real difference, but if you’re trying to get the best sound possible from your earbuds, it’s a quick job that you do once and forget.
If you have an Apple Watch you can use the hearing app to monitor noise levels around you and see the impact of different sound options – turning on active noise cancellation on a busy road reduced the noise level reaching my ears at less than 45 dB, for example, lowering it considerably.
If there’s one thing that’s guaranteed, it’s that I’ll put an earphone down and forget where I left it. Or that the case slips under something and disappears for a while. Apple added a speaker to the charging case, and now you can use Find My to keep track of everything, including the two headphones separately.
The speaker is loud enough to easily find the case – mine had slipped into a drawer, but it was easy to locate – and the combination of that and the LED means lost AirPods cases should be a thing of the past.
The other big change to the AirPods is gesture control on the buds, bringing volume control with a quick swipe up and down. They’re easy to manage and hard to accidentally trigger, which is all I really ask for in touch controls.
If none of the new features appeal to you, there are some great deals to be had with the original AirPods Pro, which still sound good enough to warrant a second look.
The new AirPods Pro have even better sound quality. The H2 chip pulls its weight here, improving sound clarity as well as quality.
The active noise cancellation is also impressive. There’s a noticeable improvement over the second-generation headphones blocking out even the loudest traffic on a morning commute, or the background noise of family life when you really need to concentrate for a few minutes.
Personal Spatial Audio may seem like a gimmick, but you do it once and you’ll never have to think about it again.
The not so good
If you’re not an Apple user, these headphones will be too expensive to get the most out of them. And if you were hoping for a drastic overhaul, you’re heading for disappointment.
The volume controls on the ear cups are easy to use and won’t accidentally go off. You can still command Siri around these if you’d rather opt for that option.
You can also use the Apple Watch charger to power the case, as well as the Lightning port and wireless chargers, giving you more options when you need to recharge.
When it comes to Apple-compatible headphones, it’s hard to beat the AirPods Pro.