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Sound and Vision: Here’s what the AirPods Pro 2 need to be great

OPINION: Details relating to the upcoming AirPods Pro 2 have leaked this week, teasing what’s in store for Apple’s next-gen in-ear ANC buds.

While the majority of the details leaked are similar to those heard previously, we are now starting to get a fairly comprehensive picture as to what Apple’s second version of its high-end in-ear buds will be.

Big upgrades look set to include a rejigged design, possibly more in line with the Samsung Galaxy Buds or Beats Studio Buds style, an upgraded chip for better connectivity and even some fitness tracking skills. All fairly welcome upgrades, I am sure you’ll agree.

But there’s certainly more that I would like to see particularly as, if the rumoured Q3 2022 release turns out to be true, it’ll have been nearly three years since the AirPods Pro were initially launched.

I had used the AirPods Pro pretty much every day since that 2019 launch, right up until the moment I was tempted to pick up a pair of Sony’s WF-1000XM4 in the recent Black Friday sales. I’d been recommended those buds from our Audio whizz (and usual writer of this column) Kob Monney, who awarded them a perfect 5/5 score in his review. With a hefty discount applied I took the plunge – assuming they’d be a little bit (but not too much) better than the AirPods Pro.

Sony WF-1000XM4 touch area
Sony WF-1000XM4

A few weeks on and I can’t see myself ever going back to Apple’s ANC buds. Everything is just better on the Sony’s. The sound is richer and more immersive, the noise-cancelling is better at diminishing the rattle of the morning commute and the battery life far longer.

Considering both earbuds cost roughly the same (taking frequent sales and price drops into account) the current AirPods Pro are something of a hard sell.

There are numerous things I would like from the next-gen AirPods Pro if they are going to dislodge the XM4’s from my ears, but the biggest is an improvement to the audio quality.

That’s not me saying the AirPods Pro sound bad, because they certainly don’t, but the warmth and the detail achieved by the XM4’s are a step above. Before things like fitness features are added, sound quality needs to be the very best that it can be.

An updated chip will likely help with sound quality and I am already optimistic about big jumps here after spending some time with the cheaper AirPods 3. The advancement in terms of sound quality from the previous AirPods to the AirPods 3 is monumental and this makes me think that an improvement of a similar scale is likely for the Pro buds.

I’d also like Apple to implement some form of higher-res streaming support for the next AirPods Pro. While Apple Music has a huge amount of high-res and lossless content, these can’t be streamed to the AirPods due to a lack of support for the right codecs. If Apple could add support for these then that would be another boost for audio quality (and make Apple Music more of a tempting choice). Many Android phones support higher-quality streaming over Bluetooth and it’s a feature missing completely on iOS.

MagSafe charging was added on the AirPods Pro shortly after the AirPods 3 were announced, but aside from the magnetic aspect, the quicker wireless charging that made the tech interesting on the iPhone 12 was absent. I’d like to see some form of quicker wireless charging added to the next buds.

We also know the iPhone 13 can use a form of reverse wireless charging to juice the MagSafe Battery Pack, so being able to charge the AirPods by just magnetically attaching them to the iPhone seems like it would be a great addition.

Finally, I think the AirPods Pro 2 need to take a page from the XM4’s book and go with foam tips. The current AirPods are comfy, but the foamy tips used by Sony feel so much comfier for long periods and seem to do a much better job at staying in my ears.

There will likely be a lot more rumours surrounding the next Apple AirPods over the coming year, but with these features added they could very well be the best wireless headphones around.

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