The AirPods Pro 2 are a fantastic upgrade and easily some of the best wireless earbuds I have ever tested – even when the high price is taken into account.
- Excellent ANC
- Rich, warm sound
- Charging case gets some neat features
- Many of the best features are iPhone and Mac only
- Top-tier ANCThe noise cancelling tech cuts out background noise fantastically well
- Multi device switchingPair with one Apple device and these buds will be available to use on all your others
- Clever CaseThe charging case has a new lanyard loop and a speaker for alerts
After what seems like a lot of waiting, Apple has finally released the AirPods Pro 2 – an update to its incredibly popular pair of noise cancelling wireless earbuds.
With virtually every part of the internal design improved, and a far smarter charging case included too, is there enough here to put Apple’s flagship earbud at the top of the crowded headphone market? Or are you better off saving some cash and going with the AirPods 3 or another set of the best wireless earbuds?
- The design is very similar to the previous model
- Lanyard connector added, but you won’t find one in the box
- Extra set of tips included
Glance down at the AirPods Pro 2 and you’d be forgiven for thinking they looked exactly the same as the original AirPods Pro Apple released in 2019. Apple hasn’t deviated too much from the blueprint it built before, so they’re still a stark white coloured pair of earbuds that magnetically slot into an equally stark white charging case.
The case charges via Lightning or USB-C depending on when you purchased the buds or which ones you chose with a small LED light on the front.
There are a couple of notable differences to take in. For one, there’s now a lanyard loop on the side for attaching a wrist strap. Apple doesn’t provide one, instead partnering with Incase to sell through its stores. It’s a nice touch for attaching the AirPods Pro 2 securely to a bag, though it wasn’t something I was crying out for with the previous model.
An addition I found far more appealing is the speaker on the case’s underside. This doesn’t turn the case into some sort of Bluetooth speaker, instead it’s there for numerous alerts. A sound pings when the AirPods connect or when they’re charged. I found the audible feedback here handy, though you can turn it off if you wish.
Arguably more useful is the sound that can be played from the Find My app if the small case is misplaced down the back of the sofa or inside a random pair of jeans. In a week of using these buds, I’ve already used this trick numerous times and I just wish Apple had added something similar to the Apple TV remote.
Flip the case open and the AirPods Pro 2 have a slightly different sensor and microphone arrangement but they’re basically the same as the previous version. Rumours suggested Apple would do away with the stemmed design and go for something more like the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro, but those rumblings were very much wide of the mark.
Apple has even doubled down on the stem, allowing a swipe up or down to control the volume. While it’s nice to be able to lower the volume without pulling out a phone or asking for Siri, I found the gestures finicky and very particular about when they worked.
One slight change that’ll be a great boon for anyone who found the original AirPods Pro too big is the new XS tip size that joins the standard S, M and L options. I’ve always found the default M tips work best for my ears – and the included ear tip fit test tells me the same – but having more options is always great for the consumer. Though maybe an XL option would be appreciated next time.
Both the case and the buds are IPX4 rated, giving protection from sweat (or some rain) if you’re working out. If you get an engraving on the case it’ll show up in the animations in iOS too. How cute.
- Some of the best ANC you’ll find on in-ear buds
- U1 chip allows for Precision Finding, similar to AirTag
- Seamless switching iOS devices
Before I delve into the improvements to the overall sound quality with the AirPods Pro 2, it’s worth looking at the huge number of clever features that are at play here – at least if you’re pairing them with an iPhone.
An embedded U1 Chip gives the AirPods Pro 2 AirTag-like skills, allowing an iPhone to precisely locate the case down to 0.1ft. The buds also appear across all your iOS and macOS devices as soon as they’re connected to a device, and you can quickly connect to multiple iOS devices at once with the sound moving between them depending on what’s playing.
Apple has been throwing out all the numbers in regards to the ANC performance here, claiming the AirPods Pro 2 have twice the amount of noise cancelling power as before, able to reduce background sounds 48000 times a second. I’ve never been a fan of marketing blurb and these numbers mean nothing if the performance doesn’t back them up – although thankfully it very much does.
I’ve been reviewing the AirPods Pro 2 alongside various competing buds such as the Pixel Buds Pro, Samsung’s very good – Galaxy Buds Pro 2 and Sony’s WF-1000 XM5. I always enjoyed the ANC on the first AirPods Pro, though the pair seemed to get less effective with every software update. The competition also got better, notably from Bose and Sony. After spending a week with the AirPods Pro 2 they have shot to the top of my favourite ANC buds list.
I spend a lot of the day commuting to and from an office, crammed into a loud London Underground carriage. Then there are loud offices, building works outside my flat and the general noise of a big city like London. In all these situations the ANC stands out, altering slightly depending on the environment and always ramping up when I need it to. On a tube train, for instance, this is the only pair I’ve tried that manage to almost completely drown out the rattle and high-frequency noises. The XM5 come close, but the AirPods Pro 2 just remove an extra element that the Sony model can’t.
You don’t have much direct control over the ANC, though. There are no modes to tweak – it’s either on, off or in Transparency mode. The transparency is improved too, piping through a very realistic rendition of the outside world. I think some people would prefer manual levels of ANC, and that’s not an option here.
Battery life is good if not class-leading. Apple claims six hours of charge for the buds (ANC on) and that matches up with my tests. I’d even say you can get more than that if you’re listening to audiobooks or podcasts. The case provides a total of 30 hours of charge, so around four extra charges.
That case supports Apple’s MagSafe chargers, traditional Qi wireless charging and it can even be charged via an Apple Watch charger. The quickest way to charge is via a wired method, but it’s still nice to have alternatives.
Apple first released the AirPods Pro 2 with a Lightning case, however alongside the iPhone 15 this was updated to USB-C. Some outlets, Amazon for example, sell both versions whereas Apple focuses solely on the USB-C pair. You can also buy the USB-C case separately.
Connectivity is fantastic as you’d expect from AirPods. Walking through a rush hour Waterloo, the audio didn’t cut out at all and there was no annoying crackling – something I experienced a lot with the Galaxy Buds Pro 2 and Google Pixel Buds Pro. I’ve only got praise for the microphones too, which pick up my voice fantastically well in calls.
- Full, rich sound
- Spatial Audio works great for some songs, less so for others
Powering the AirPods Pro 2 is Apple’s H2 chipset which includes a bevvy of custom drivers and amplifiers. The H2 powers all the skills of these buds and it helps for some truly fantastic audio. They’re a clear improvement over the original.
I noticed the first time I put the AirPods Pro 2 in my ears just how much the clarity of vocals had improved. Alex Turner’s crooning in Arctic Monkey’s There’d Better Be A Mirrorball popped even more than on the Sony WF-1000XM4, with every word clear, detailed and the arrangement pulling me in.
It’s a similar story listening to London Grammar’s Lord it’s a Feeling. Here the softer vocals show the adaptability of these buds, letting the instruments stand on their own and the vocals shine.
Pipe in something a bit more lively and the richness of the AirPods Pro 2’s sound makes itself known. The rapturous synths running through Editors’ Heart Attack don’t get muddled as much as they do on the Pixel Buds, while the jazzy saxophones and toe-tapping guitars at the start of The 1975’s Happiness each standout on their own. Add in Matty Healy’s vocals and the song feels even more like a warm hug when listened to on the AirPods Pro 2.
The AirPods Pro 2 manage bass excellently, both Kendrick Lamar’s Alright and Billie Eilish’s Bad Guy rumble my ears just the right amount without the bassline overtaking the rest of the song. Eilish’s whispering vocals still shine through, something that isn’t always the case with earbuds like these.
I found that I wasn’t pumping the volume up as much as was doing with the first AirPods Pro, meaning distortion was far less frequent.
Spatial Audio is a skill possessed by many AirPods now, and, for me, it remains very hit or miss. Find a song that’s been properly mixed for the Dolby Atmos 360-degree tech and it’s eye-opening – find something that hasn’t, and it sounds like you’re listening to a song from a speaker on the other side of the room.
Wet Leg’s Wet Dream uses Spatial Audio well, adding far more separation between the differing vocals and giving everything an extra level of depth. The organs at the start of George Michael’s Faith sound fuller and grander with the addition of Spatial Audio and the strings kicking off Here Comes the Sun are more immersive.
For me, Dolby Atmos and Spatial Audio are still better utilised in movies and TV shows. Watching an episode of Andor on Disney Plus, the atmospheric soundtrack really helped to create an immersive experience.
Should you buy it?
You want excellent ANC: The ANC here is great, especially for cutting out the whir of trains and tubes. Considering the size of the buds, it’s impressive how much noise can be cut out and how smartly it adapts to the environment.
You’re not in the Apple ecosystem: The AirPods Pro 2 still sound great on Android phones, but features like seamless switching between devices, the ear tip test and the like are all missing.
The sound quality is rich and warm, with a wide soundstage and just the right amount of bass. The extra clarity added to vocals is welcome too.
These buds are so good in other areas too. The ANC performance is top-notch, the seamless connectivity with iOS remains the best around and the case has picked up a couple of useful tricks.
How we test
We test all the headphones we review thoroughly over an extended period of time. We use industry-standard tests to compare features properly. We’ll always tell you what we find. We never, ever, accept money to review a product.
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Used for a week
Tested in outdoor and indoor situations
Music streamed from Apple Music and Spotify
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They work with anything that supports Bluetooth, however some features – including quick pairing – will be missing.
The AirPods Pro 2 support Bluetooth v5.3
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Qi Wireless Charging
The most common format for wireless charging and the one supported by the majority of devices. Charge speeds vary a lot by the phone.