Apple has given its top earbuds an upgrade, adding improved noise canceling, new touch controls for volume and a case that makes sounds to the AirPods Pro. But the problem of repairability continues to dog them.
The £249 ($249/A$399) second-generation Pros come in at the same price as their predecessors, sitting above the £179 AirPods 3 and £220 Beats Fit Pro, which Apple also makes.
Side by side with their predecessors it’s difficult to spot what has changed. Some of the black vents have been moved on the earbuds while the still-very-pocketable case has a few new elements, including sweat resistance.The case chimes during pairing, when placed on charge or when the battery is too low to fully charge the earbuds. If you misplace them it has a U1 chip for precise finding in the Find My app on an iPhone and can ring out to help you locate them.
The earbuds fit the same as their predecessors, held in place by a silicone tip with the stalk hanging down towards your earlobe. I find them secure and comfortable for extended periods, but a lack of any stabilizing wing makes them less suitable for exercise.
They have the same good squeeze controls on the stalks for playback and noise canceling as their predecessors. But they also have a new swipe gesture for turning the volume up and down that works very well.
Better battery life means they last for a good six hours of playback with noise canceling or just under five for calls. The case can fully charge the earbuds up to four times for a combined playback time of 30 hours, which compares favorably with rivals.
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.3, SBC, AAC, H2 chip, UWB
Battery life: six hours ANC playback (30 hours with case)
Water resistance: IPX4 case and buds (splash resistant)
Earbud dimensions: 30.9 x 21.8 x 24.0mm
Earbud weight: 5.4g each
Charging case dimensions: 45.2 x 60.6 x 21.7mm
Charging case weight: 37.9g
Case charging: Lightning, Qi wireless (MagSafe), Apple Watch
Better sound and noise canceling The earbuds have Apple’s new H2 chip, which supports the latest Bluetooth 5.3 standard and improves sound and noise canceling. They work best with Apple devices, automatically switching between them, but worked fine with a Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 and various other Android devices and PCs. The new AirPods Pro sound really good with more bass and a little more clarity across the range than their predecessors. They produce solid separation between tones, super clear vocals and handle complex and overlapping tracks well. They sound fairly balanced and rounded, doing a good job with most music genres for general listening.
Used with an Apple device they can also create a virtual surround effect, called spatial audio. With the iOS 16 update, you can also customize the spatial audio using scans of your ear taken with an iPhone’s front-facing camera creating a more realistic sound based on your unique ear shape. Note both of these features are available on other recent AirPods.
For music it piles on the bass and sounds more spacious, which is an acquired taste. For films, particularly those with Dolby Atmos soundtracks, it sounds fantastic giving you a much more immersive experience more akin to a cinema than earbuds.
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