Three years. This is for the moment the pace at which Apple is keeping to renew its headphones. After the AirPods 3, it is therefore up to the AirPods Pro to evolve. Apple assures it: this second generation – although it does not revolutionize the industry – upsets the established order. First thanks to an even better audio quality but above all an active noise reduction (and a transparent mode) without common measure.
If the design of these AirPods Pro 2 seems in all respects identical to the first generation, it has still been the subject of some adjustments. Apple promises that autonomy has also been improved and that new features come to complete an already very rich audio experience. In summary, the AirPods Pro 2 would be almost an AirPods Max in earphone format.
Is this really the case? We wanted to check it out for a few weeks. So, should you buy these AirPods Pro 2?
Yes for audio quality
When the AirPods Pro was released three years ago, Apple launched the first in-ear headphones with active noise reduction on the consumer market.
Today, the market has expanded with new reference brands such as Sony or Bose, to name but a few. And in three years, technologies evolve quickly. To stay one step ahead, Apple, therefore, had to improve its already very good recipe.
The AirPods Pro 2, therefore, has new transducers and new drivers (still 11 mm) that are more efficient. Do not ask us for the details, they are classified as “top secret”. To accompany this material, Apple inaugurates the new H2 chip.
More powerful, it improves sound quality and active noise reduction. Let’s take a look at the first part here.
Apple admits the improvements will be especially noticeable with specific musical styles: hip-hop, rock, and pop. In general, music with a lot of basses sounds better with the new generation.
In reality, Apple has mainly worked on the balance of low frequencies. The rendering of voices (low mids) and treble change little compared to the first AirPods Pro. This does not prevent the new generation from being convincing.
The advantage of bass sounds is that they flatter the ears of the greatest number. And that’s what Apple is looking for: to offer a sound that can please the majority, a universal sound. It is for this reason that no equalizer has been developed. The same experience for all is Apple’s watchword when it comes to audio.
By perfecting the bass, and adjusting the general balance, Apple improves the sound quality of its AirPods Pro and, above all, marks them with a signature. The spatialized sound is still impressive, even more so with the sounds developed to take full advantage of this feature.
In terms of sound, the AirPods Pro 2, therefore, does not upset Apple’s recipe but improves it further. The more present bass will delight fans of the genre and the better spectrum coverage makes the experience richer. Users of the AirPods Max headphones will also recognize the Apple signature.
Yes for active noise reduction
This is undoubtedly the best feature of these AirPods Pro 2. Apple has considerably improved the active noise reduction of its headphones. It promises a reduction twice as effective, as we want to believe it.
More specifically, Apple announces a reduction in ambient sounds of 20 to 30 decibels. Confident, the company even allows you to follow all this directly from the Apple Watch. We confirm that the noise reduction averages 30 decibels. We even saw reductions of more than 40 decibels with loud, continuous noises like the train or the plane.
The noise reduction of the AirPods Pro 2 is therefore impressive. The engineers promised that their algorithm could compensate for the lack of passive isolation found with the AirPods Max headphones. Without reaching this level, the AirPods Pro 2 comes close. Simply stunning.
Yes for trans
The AirPods Pro 2 introduces a new so-called adaptive transparency mode. Apple promises to improve the perception of outside noise while reducing the volume of aggressive sounds such as public works, horns, etc.
Guess what? That works. And very well. If it takes a little time to adapt when switching between ANC and Transparency mode, we find in a few seconds the sensations that we expect from a transparent mode. Music and ambient sounds regain their balance and sounds that could attack our ears are well attenuated.
The first AirPods Pro of the name already outclassed its competitors in this exercise. The AirPods Pro 2 widens the gap.
Okay, for autonomy
Thanks to the optimization of the new H2 chip, Apple promises 6 hours of continuous listening with activated noise reduction and up to 30 hours by recharging the headphones in their case. By deactivating the ANC you can even reach 7 hours of listening time and up to 35 hours in total.
These figures of course depend on the use you will have of the headphones, in particular the listening volume, the use of transparent mode or the number of telephone conversations.
According to our 01Lab laboratory tests (simulating versatile use), the AirPods Pro 2 has a battery life of 4:39 ANC active and 4:48 without. We are therefore far from the 6 hours announced by Apple.
However, we observe that the H2 chip manages to contain the energy consumption when the noise reduction is activated. But the set is too fair compared to what can be found on the market, including in such compact formats.
However, in real conditions, you will never really worry about whether your headphones can accompany you during the day. If we consider that we remove them when we arrive at our workplace (in favor of a helmet, for example, for those who work in open space), then we even last several days.
To recharge them, Apple now offers several solutions: wired charging with a Lightning cable, and induction charging. If you opt for a wireless solution, know that the AirPods Pro 2 is compatible with MagSafe chargers and, for the first time, the Apple Watch.
Boom for custom audio
Apple announced custom audio to complement spatialized audio with great fanfare. If the latter is still stunning, we are not convinced by the personalized audio.
Certainly, adding a smaller earmold will make the experience more enjoyable for smaller ears. A real lack of the previous generation. But we have a hard time understanding the method used by Apple to personalize the sound.
Indeed, you have to use the front camera of the iPhone to draw a 3D model of your ear. Except it’s the outside of the ear and no sound is emitted inside to model the ear canal, where it all happens (sound being nothing but the repercussion of the waves on the walls, roughly speaking).
So we didn’t particularly feel any difference once the sound was customized. Nothing serious since the quality of the spatialized sound is already stunning and the audio experience very pleasant.
No for the unchanged design
Even if it means buying a new generation of AirPods Pro, we would have liked their design to change a little. At the risk of disappointing you, Apple doesn’t see it that way.
For Apple, the design of the AirPods Pro meets the needs of the majority of users. So why change them? To mark the occasion, Apple still made some adjustments.
The most important is undoubtedly the addition of the volume control on the branches. Interestingly, it is not possible to go from a low volume to a high volume in one gesture. With the AirPods Pro 2, the volume changes in stages, so as not to surprise your fragile eardrums. We appreciate the gesture.
The biggest aesthetic changes are actually on the case. On the side, a small fixing allows to hang a wrist strap. At the bottom, next to the Lightning port, a loudspeaker allows you to indicate when the box is charging but also to trigger a ringtone when you try to locate it.
Why only one color? Because white has been the symbol of Apple headphones since the first iPod. A color that could almost be described as iconic. For those who would like a little fantasy, there are three options: buy shells for the case, have their AirPods repainted by specialists, or buy Beats headphones, owned by Apple for a few years now.
No for phone conversations
It was one of the weak points of the first edition and it is still present here. Some tell us that they manage to hold clear and quality conversations with the AirPods Pro, this is not our case. If the AirPods Pro 2 improve the experience, it’s still not that.
When you ride around town, on a bike, on a skateboard, or on foot, holding a conversation is a real challenge. If we hear our interlocutor well, our voice is hardly perceptible, even inaudible. Apple may have replaced its microphones and developed a more efficient algorithm, “the accounts are not good”. Each time, we had to pick up our iPhones to finish our conversations.
The physics are formal: a microphone is only effective if it picks up the sound coming out of the mouth. However, with microphones positioned near the ears, there is no miracle either. This is the case for Apple, but also for all manufacturers. Admittedly, the AirPods Pro 2 does better than its competitors, but we remain unsatisfied.
Our opinion on the AirPods Pro 2
How not to be seduced by the AirPods Pro 2? Provided they are equipped with an iPhone, they have established themselves as a reference in the market for noise-canceling wireless headphones.
After an impressive first generation, Apple confirms three years later with an even more convincing AirPods Pro 2. With the exception of autonomy, which is still too average, Apple has managed to improve its recipe.
Sound quality is better, spatial audio is better than ever, and active noise reduction is simply stunning.
Add to that a Transparency mode that knows no equal on the market. New (big) box in sight? Probably among Apple lovers. Among others (that is to say all those using an Android smartphone), equally attractive models or even more (hello the Galaxy Buds Pro 2) also exist.