Apple's second-generation AirPods Pro will begin arriving to customers and launch in stores on Friday, September 23. In advance, the first reviews of the wireless headphones have now been shared by select media publications and YouTube channels.
Priced at $249, the second-generation AirPods Pro feature improved audio quality, longer battery life, and up to 2x as much noise cancellation compared to the original AirPods Pro. They also feature swipe-based volume control, an improved built-in skin-detect sensor that more accurately turns on or off audio playback, and a new XS ear tip option.
The new AirPods Pro come with an updated charging case with a built-in speaker and U1 chip for Find My support with Precision Finding, an opening to attach a lanyard for carrying convenience, and IPX4-rated water and sweat resistance. In addition to Lightning and MagSafe, the case can now be charged with an Apple Watch charger.
We have rounded up both written and video reviews of the new AirPods Pro below.
The Verge's Chris Welch said there are "substantial" improvements to active noise cancellation:
But Apple has made substantial gains with its active noise cancellation. The company says, on average, the new implementation is “up to” two times as effective as the original AirPods Pro. And while I lack any scientific measurement tools, that claim doesn't seem unrealistic. At our office, I recently moved desks and now sit near an air vent that emits a persistent whir. The original AirPods Pro leave a trace of that in noise-canceling mode, but it's completely hushed and imperceptible with the second-gen pair. I can still hear chatting co-workers if they walk directly next to my desk, but at most times, the AirPods Pro grant me plenty of serenity. I've also observed legitimate improvements when commuting on the subway, and less overall street noise makes its way through when traversing Brooklyn day to day.
Welch also noticed improved sound quality overall:
Let's dig right into sound quality. Apple completely redesigned the amplifier and driver in the AirPods Pro, and while those drivers are the same 11-millimeter size as what's in the third-gen AirPods, they sound superior and deliver the cleanest, most dynamic output of any AirPods to date.
Engadget's Billy Steele achieved around six hours of battery life as advertised:
During my tests, I managed six hours and fifteen minutes of use with a mix of noise cancellation, transparency mode and calls. That's more than the previous generation (4.5 hours) and it's on par with most of the competition these days. Sure, some companies offer 10-plus hours on a charge, but the average is around five to seven for the noise-canceling products I've tested. More battery life would always be nice, but the six or seven hours Apple musters is enough to get you through the workday if you take a short break.
Gizmodo's Andrew Liszewski said the new swipe-based volume control feature is a welcomed upgrade, but can be "a little finicky" on occasion:
It's a welcome upgrade, but unfortunately one that I found a little finicky to make work. It occasionally required a couple of swipes before anything happened.
As someone who generally hates having to touch my earbuds while I'm wearing them (it inevitably dislodges them a little) I will probably continue to stick to using Siri voice commands for volume adjustments or track skipping (the one thing Siri does very well).
MobileSyrup's Patrick O'Rourke said swipe-based volume control is his favorite new AirPods Pro feature, providing for a more convenient listening experience:
In my experience, the new AirPods Pro volume touch controls are extremely responsive and work with subtle changes. If you, for example, only want to lower or raise the volume by a notch or two, you can do that with a brief swipe. The controls are also marked with a slight clicking noise, indicating they're active and working. I didn't run into any accidental presses during my several days with the AirPods Pro (2nd-Gen), even while long-pressing on the stem to toggle Active Noise Cancellation on/off or double-pressing to jump between songs.
On-device touch volume controls are by far my favourite new AirPods Pro feature. The convenience and ease of use of shifting volume levels directly on the AirPods Pro (2nd-Gen) without the need to take out my iPhone, really can't be understated.
O'Rourke added that iOS 16's Personalized Spatial Audio feature is not very noticeable:
In theory, I like the idea of audio being tuned specifically to the shape of your ear, but in practice, it doesn't make much of a difference. It's also worth noting that while I really like Spatial Audio when watching movies or TV shows on platforms like Apple TV+, I find it hit or miss with music, especially when a track wasn't originally recorded with the technology in mind and has been remastered.
WIRED's Parker Hall said the charging case's new built-in speaker "rings quite loudly" to assist with Find My location tracking, but he wishes the case had a USB-C port for wired charging instead of the usual Lightning connector:
Need to find the case via Apple's Find My app? Now you can, and it rings quite loudly. It also makes a little jingle when it starts charging. Speaking of, you can wireless charge as usual (the case supports MagSafe too), but it's a shame to see Apple still relying on the Lightning port instead of USB-C.