Should You Buy AirPods Pro?
The second-generation AirPods Pro are Apple's premium in-ear wireless earbuds, offering a range of features including precision finding, touch volume controls, and more. Refreshed in September 2023 with a USB-C port, the second-generation AirPods Pro are new in Apple's product lineup and the company does not release new AirPods models often, so it is a good time to buy.
Apple has now debuted six different versions of the AirPods, giving a sign of how often AirPods are updated. Apple released new AirPods Pro in October 2019 and September 2022, indicating that the company updates the product around every three years - a time frame that aligns with the other AirPods models. Apple did, however, update the AirPods Pro 2 with a USB-C port in 2023 alongside the iPhone's transition to USB-C.
With a $249 price tag, AirPods can be more expensive than some of its direct competitors, but it's important to note that the H2 chips inside the AirPods offer a seamless and fully integrated pairing and device-switching experience for iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple TV users, which competitors are unable to match. The H2 chips also enable features like Adaptive EQ and spatial audio with dynamic head tracking. This means that when used with Apple devices, AirPods seem to be the best option for earbuds when it comes to features.
If you are looking for AirPods without an in-ear design, there are the third-generation AirPods, which start from $179. For an even higher fidelity AirPods experience and an over-ear design, there are the AirPods Max which start at $549. On the other hand, if you feel that the AirPods Pro are too expensive, but you would still like Apple's seamless pairing and device-switching experience, the second-generation AirPods or Beats headphones are also viable options, with prices starting from as little as $69 for Beats Flex.
- AirPods Pro vs. AirPods Pro 2 Buyer's Guide: Should You Upgrade?
- AirPods 3 vs. AirPods Pro 2 Buyer's Guide
- AirPods Pro vs. AirPods Max Buyer's Guide
To get MacRumors readers the best prices on the AirPods Pro, we have a dedicated AirPods Pro deals guide that highlights the best sales each month.
AirPods Pro 2
Apple in September 2023 refreshed the AirPods Pro, introducing a new version of the AirPods Pro 2 that initially came out in September 2022.
Apple did not introduce any design changes for the updated AirPods Pro 2, but they do have a USB-C port instead of a Lightning port. Apple also added support for Lossless Audio when the USB-C AirPods Pro 2 are paired with the upcoming Apple Vision Pro headset, and improved dust resistance. Aside from these features, the USB-C AirPods Pro 2 are identical to the AirPods Pro 2 with Lightning port that came out in 2022.
The AirPods Pro feature a rounded design with silicone ear tips and a short stem that harken back to the first AirPods. As with all AirPods, the AirPods Pro come only in white, with no other color options available.
Apple added an updated H2 chip that enables new capabilities, including Active Noise Cancellation that's twice as good. Noise-cancelling microphones and a rear vent detect sound coming in, countering it before it reaches the ear. Apple says the second-generation AirPods Pro reduce noise by sampling incoming sound at 48,000 times per second.
Transparency mode has been updated with an Adaptive Transparency feature that is designed to reduce loud environmental noise without blocking out all sound. It can cut down on the sound of a passing vehicle siren, construction tools, loud speakers at a concert, and more. This is done using on-device processing enabled by the H2 chip.
Along with an H2 chip, the AirPods Pro 2 are equipped with a low-distortion audio driver and a custom amplifier, which Apple says bring richer bass and crystal-clear sound across a wider range of frequencies.
For a more customized fit, AirPods Pro now have silicone ear tips in XS, S, M, and L sizes, with XS available as the new size option.
Personalized Spatial Audio is available for an optimized, immersive surround sound experience with dynamic head tracking, and Adaptive EQ customizes the sound so you hear songs as they were intended based on how the AirPods Pro fit in your ears.
The AirPods Pro 2 stems now include Touch control, adding physical media playback and volume adjustment options that can be accessed right on the earbuds. A swipe up or down on the AirPods Pro touch sensor enables volume adjustments, and a press can change the music or answer phone calls, plus "Hey Siri" support is included.
AirPods Pro features like seamless switching between devices signed into the same iCloud account, quick one-tap setup, and audio sharing are all supported.
Battery life is improved and the AirPods Pro 2 last for up to six hours on a single charge when Active Noise Cancellation is turned on. The included charging case provides a total of 30 hours of listening time, six hours more than the prior-generation model.
The AirPods Pro 2 MagSafe Charging Case can be charged using Qi, MagSafe, or the Apple Watch charging puck, a new feature. The case is IPX4 sweat and water resistant and it is now equipped with a lanyard loop so you can add an optional lanyard.
There's also a built-in speaker in the case so you can find your AirPods Pro charging case with Find My should it become lost, and with Precision Finding that uses the new U1 chip, the Find My app can direct you right to your lost AirPods Pro case.
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How to Buy
The AirPods Pro launched on September 23 and can be ordered from the Apple online store or purchased in an Apple retail location. AirPods Pro are priced at $249, and can be customized with a Memoji, Animoji, or emoji engraving.
Initial reviews of the second-generation AirPods Pro praised the device's improved audio quality, longer battery life, and up to 2x as much noise cancellation compared to the original AirPods Pro. They also discussed the swipe-based volume controls, skin-detect sensors that more accurately turn on or off audio playback, and the new XS ear tip option.
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.
AirPods Pro Design
The second-generation AirPods Pro feature the same design as the original AirPods Pro, despite rumors that we could see some major changes. There were rumors of a stemless design, but that did not pan out, and Apple is continuing to use the same rounded in-ear bud with flexible silicone tips and a short stem.
Apple designed the silicone tips to confirm to the contours of each individual ear, ensuring a comfortable fit and a good seal, an important factor for noise cancellation. The AirPods Pro 2 tips come in extra small, small, medium, and large, and the tips click into place on the AirPods Pro for easy swapping.
The AirPods Pro measure in at 30.9mm tall and 21.8mm wide, identical to the original AirPods Pro. They weigh 5.3 grams.
There is a new skin-detect sensor in the AirPods that is designed to better detect when the AirPods are removed from the ears in order to preserve battery life.
The new AirPods continue to feature a vent system for pressure equalization when using Active Noise Cancellation. It is designed to minimize the discomfort that can happen with other earbud designs.
MagSafe Charging Case
Apple is selling the AirPods Pro 2 with an updated MagSafe Charging Case that has a magnet inside for use with MagSafe charging accessories.
The case measures in at 60.6mm wide, 45.2mm tall, and 21.7mm thick, so despite the addition of a new charging feature, the case is identical to the first-generation AirPods Pro case, though it is slightly heavier. The AirPods Pro MagSafe Charging Case weighs 50.8 grams for a total weight of 56.1 grams with the AirPods Pro inside. The original AirPods Pro case weighed 45.6 grams.
New to the Charging Case this year is a lanyard loop for attaching third-party lanyards, and a speaker that can allow the case to play a sound when used with the Find My feature.
There is a U1 chip in the MagSafe Charging Case which allows it to work with Precision Finding in the Find My app with an iPhone that has a H1 chip.
Apple says that the AirPods Pro and the MagSafe Charging Case are "sweat and water resistant," offering IPX4 water resistance. IPX4 water resistance was also a feature of the original AirPods Pro, but the case is more water resistant now.
IPX4 water resistance means the AirPods Pro and the case can hold up to sweat and light rain, but they should not be submerged and liquid exposure should be avoided when possible. Apple's warranty does not cover water or sweat damage.
Ear Tip Fit Test
To get the perfect fit and best audio experience, Apple offers an Ear Tip Fit Test for the AirPods Pro. After placing the AirPods Pro in each ear, Apple uses advanced algorithms and the microphones in each AirPod to measure the sound level in the ear and compare it to what's coming from the speaker driver.
The algorithm then detects whether the ear tip is the right size and has a good fit, or if it should be swapped out for another size to create a better seal. AirPods Pro silicone tips come in XS, S, M, and L, with XS offered as a new option.
Active Noise Cancellation
Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) has been notably improved, and the AirPods Pro 2 cancel up to twice as much noise as the prior-generation AirPods Pro.
ANC uses the microphones built into the AirPods Pro along with Apple's software algorithms to adapt sound to each person's ear. The outward-facing microphone detects external sound so the AirPods Pro can analyze environmental noise, while the inward-facing microphone listens to the sound coming toward the ear. ANC adapts the sound signal reaching the ears 48,000 times per second.
The second-generation AirPods are equipped with a new driver and improved acoustic algorithms to reduce more unwanted noise.
Apple updated the AirPods Pro with a new Adaptive Transparency feature that builds on the Transparency mode introduced with the first-generation AirPods Pro.
Transparency Mode is designed to allow AirPods Pro users to hear the world around them, listening for traffic, train announcements, and more while also not blocking out music, podcasts, and other audio content.
Apple's new Adaptive Transparency uses on-device processing to reduce loud environmental sounds to a more comfortable level. It can lower the volume of a passing vehicle siren, construction tools, or loud speakers at a concert.
Apple's second-generation AirPods Pro are outfitted with an updated custom high-excursion low-distortion Apple driver and a custom high dynamic range amplifier, which Apple says brings richer, deeper bass and crystal-clear sound at all volume levels.
There are two dual beamforming microphones and an inward-facing microphone for Active Noise Cancellation purposes.
Adaptive EQ is designed to improve sound quality by taking into account the shape of the ear. The feature uses computational audio and an updated internal microphone pointed toward the ear to optimize sound for each person.
Sound is tuned in real time based on the fit of the AirPod in the user's ear, with the AirPods Pro adjusting and tuning the low and mid frequencies for consistent playback every time.
Apple says the new H2 chip uses new adaptation algorithms to process sound more quickly, tuning audio at the precise second that it is heard, for higher-fidelity sound. Phone calls also sound more natural thanks to voice enhancement algorithms.
Apple introduced Spatial Audio in 2021, bringing a surround sound like experience to Apple Music, the Apple TV app, and more. With Dolby Atmos tracks in Apple Music, the AirPods Pro can provide a multi-dimensional audio experience that makes it so the sound comes from all around you.
Spatial audio applies directional audio filters and subtly adjusts the frequencies that each ear receives to place sounds virtually anywhere in space for an immersive listening experience. The feature uses sensors in the AirPods Pro along with sensors in the iPhone or iPad to track the motion of a person's head as well as the position of their device, comparing the motion data and remapping the sound field so that it stays anchored to the device even as the head moves.
Dynamic head tracking works with spatial audio and on Group FaceTime calls so it sounds like the FaceTime participants are right in the room with you.
The AirPods Pro also support Personalized Spatial Audio, which is an iOS 16 feature. With Personalized Spatial Audio, you can use your TrueDepth camera to scan the area around you to create a custom sound experience.
Vision Pro Lossless Audio
When paired with the Apple Vision Pro, the 2023 AirPods Pro with a USB-C port support 20-bit 48kHz lossless audio. Lossless audio with the Apple Vision Pro will be limited to the newest version of the AirPods Pro 2, and this feature will not be available on the original AirPods Pro 2.
There is a new H2 chip inside the AirPods Pro 2, which is an improvement over the prior H1 chip. The H2 powers all of the features in the AirPods, including Active Noise Cancellation, Transparency Mode, and Adaptive EQ.
The H2 chip also continues to enable the features AirPods have come to be known for, including fast switching between Apple devices that are signed into the same iCloud account, "Hey Siri" support, instant pairing, and Audio Sharing, which allows more than one set of AirPods to be paired to a single device.
The AirPods Pro support the latest Bluetooth 5.3 specification. Bluetooth 5.3 includes enhancements that can improve reliability and energy efficiency. The specification also includes LE Audio, but Apple does not yet appear to have implemented support for LE Audio.
There's a motion-detecting accelerometer and a speech detecting accelerometer in the AirPods Pro in addition to the skin-detect sensor. All of these sensors work together to power AirPods features like ear detection.
- Swipe up or down on the stem to adjust the volume
- Press once to play/pause
- Press once to answer an incoming phone call
- Press twice to skip forward
- Press three times to skip back
- Press and hold to swap between ANC and Adaptive Transparency
On their own, the AirPods Pro 2 offer up to six hours of listening time, or 5.5 hours with Spatial Audio and Head Tracking enabled. When used for talking, the battery lasts for a total of 4.5 hours. The AirPods Pro 2 earbuds feature a battery capacity of 49.7 mAh, up 15 percent from 43.2 mAh capacity of the prior-generation AirPods Pro earbuds, which accounts for some of the difference in battery life.
The MagSafe Charging Case has a battery capacity of 523 mAh, up just 4 mAh over the prior-generation case. With the MagSafe Charging Case, the AirPods Pro 2 offer up to 30 hours of listening time and 24 hours of talk time before needing to be recharged. Charging can be done using a MagSafe charger, a Lightning cable, a Qi-based charger, or, new this year, the Apple Watch charger.
Apple says that five minutes in the charging case provides the AirPods Pro with one hour of listening time or one hour of talk time.
Both the AirPods Pro 2 and the MagSafe Charging Case work with the Find My app, so if any component is lost, it can be located using another Apple device. The Charging Case has a U1 chip so it can be tracked down with Precision Finding on a compatible iPhone, and with the new built-in speakers, the case can play a sound so it's easier to find.
Apple regularly updates the software that runs on the AirPods Pro. The current firmware is version 6A301, released in September 2023.
iOS 17 Features
With iOS 17, Apple enhanced the functionality of the AirPods, introducing new features that work on devices running iOS 17.
For the second-generation AirPods Pro, an Adaptive Audio option blends the Transparency and Active Noise Cancellation modes into one, automatically tailoring noise control based on your environment and interactions throughout the day.
Adaptive Audio is meant to drown out the environmental sounds that you don't want to hear like construction noise or the noise of an airplane, while letting you hear important announcements and conversations.
Personalized Volume adjusts the sound of what's playing based on your personal preferences and the sounds around you, with the iPhone learning more about the volume you like over time. With Conversation Awareness, when someone is speaking, media volume is lowered, background noise is reduced, and the voices in front of you are enhanced.
Other AirPods Features
- Mute and Unmute - Press on the stem of the AirPods Pro (any model) or third-generation AirPods to mute and unmute yourself on a call. On AirPods Max, press on the Digital Crown.
- Automatic Device Switching - Automatic Switching between Apple devices is quicker and more reliable. This is limited to AirPods Pro 2 paired with an iPhone XR/iPhone XS or later.
- Dark Mode - When connecting the AirPods to the iPhone, if your iPhone is in Dark Mode, the connection popup will also be in Dark Mode.
AirPods Pro How Tos
Other AirPods Options
Apple's third-generation AirPods are similar to the AirPods Pro, but without silicone ear tips and without Active Noise Cancellation technology. The AirPods Max do feature ANC, but are larger over-ear headphones made from aluminum.
What's Next for the AirPods Pro
In the future, Apple could add a new hearing test feature for the AirPods Pro that could detect possible hearing issues. There are new health sensors in development as well, and next-generation versions of the AirPods Pro could do things like read body temperature from the ear canal and boost features for improving hearing such as Conversation Boost and Live Listen.
Based on Apple's patent filings, a future version of the AirPods or AirPods Pro could include a built-in interactive touchscreen display that would let users control audio sources and interact with apps associated with the connected device.
AirPods Pro Roundup Changelog
- September 29 -Refreshed buying advice.
- September 7 - More info on USB-C charging case.
- August 29 - Added info about Apple event and possibility of USB-C charging case.
- July 6 - Information on rumored USB-C charging case update added.
- May 23 - Updated Buyer's Guide information.
- May 2 - New firmware released.