Apple AirPods Pro 2 vs. AirPods Pro: What’s new?

If you were a loyal AirPods Pro user waiting for the next-gen to drop, we have good news for you. Apple finally launched the upgraded, second-generation AirPods Pro at their September 2022 event, leaving fans wondering if the new version is worth the investment. To make the decision easier for you, we break down the major differences between the new AirPods Pro 2 and their predecessor so you can clearly see what’s new and decide if you’d like to pick up a pair of the new buds. But let’s be honest, this second-generation of AirPods Pro basically pick up where their sibling left off and pretty much make them better in every way. For comparison’s sake, though, here we go.  

Further AirPods Pro 2 reading



Design and comfort

apple airpods pro 2 next to first-gen airpods pro.
First-gen Apple AirPods Pro (left) and second-gen AirPods Pro. Can you tell the difference? Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

The AirPods Pro 2 haven’t received much of a design update compared to the originals — you’d have to look hard to see the differences, such as the repositioning of the pressure-relief vents to be higher up on the second-gen buds. You do also get some extra features, though, like the addition of a new wear sensor that can tell the difference between your skin (like when they’re in contact with the inside of your ear) and, say, the inside of your pocket, should you forget your charging case and have to stuff them in there. The AirPods will know they’re not in your ear and not power on.

The original AirPods Pro were already some of the most comfortable earbuds we’ve ever tried. That still rings true with the AirPods Pro 2. The first-gen AirPods Pro come with three eartip sizes: small, medium, and large. Narrow-eared listeners will be glad to know that the AirPods Pro 2 come with an extra-small tip size to ensure a better fit. If looks and personalization matter to you, you’ll also enjoy the fact that you can custom engrave your AirPods Pro 2 case. You can add emoji, initials, and numbers — whatever suits your style. This way, your case will be 100% unique to you. Speaking of the case, the AirPods Pro 2’s charging case has some pretty great upgrades, too, including the addition of Apple’s U1 chip that now allows for precise locating in the Apple Find My app and support for charging via MagSafe, Watch, and Qi wireless chargers.

Winner: AirPods Pro 2

Controls

the touch control on the airpods pro 2.
Apple

Much-awaited physical volume controls that the first-gen AirPods Pro lacked are here with the new AirPods Pro 2. Now you can adjust the volume by moving a finger up and down on the bud’s stem. You also get a satisfying confirmation tone so you know for sure when the volume has changed. The other controls remain the same, though. The squeeze-to-click gestures to play/pause and call/answer remain the same as the AirPods Pro, so you don’t have to spend a lot of time figuring out how everything works.  

The AirPods Pro 2 also get Apple’s Find My feature to help you track down lost earbuds. The case also has a speaker that makes a loud beep when you’re trying to find it and a lanyard loop so you can keep it close at all times. 

Winner: AirPods Pro 2

Sound quality 

the airpods pro 2 audio drivers.
Apple

One of the biggest upgrades to the AirPods Pro 2 has been with sound quality and the number of features that promise to enhance your listening experience. The AirPods Pro 2 boast Apple’s new H2 chip, which offers “richer sound with more clarity and consistency across volumes and a wider range of frequencies,” as Apple says. New drivers and amplifiers also promise low distortion and high dynamic range capabilities.

You also get something called “Personalized Spatial Audio,” which means you can use the iPhone’s TruDepth camera to create a custom listening profile based on your ear and head shape. This data is used to adjust the sound rendering to enhance your listening experience. In simple words, the music will be customized to your unique features so you enjoy the highest possible sound quality. Unfortunately, the previous AirPods Pro didn’t sport any of these features, so this upgrade is 100% worth it. 

Winner: AirPods Pro 2

ANC and transparency mode

man wearing apple airpods pro 2.
Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

Along with sound quality, the new H2 chip has also improved noise cancellation for a truly immersive experience. Apple says that the AirPods Pro 2 deliver twice the active noise cancellation of the first-gen version. Transparency mode has received a massive upgrade with what Apple calls Adaptive Transparency, which constantly monitors the abrasive noises around you and adjusts accordingly, so you can immerse yourself in the sound while also maintaining an optimal level of environmental awareness. You can also turn this adaptive transparency feature off if you find it disruptive, but our review found it quite helpful. While the original AirPods Pro also offer some of these features, they are nowhere near as powerful as the ones you see in the AirPods Pro 2. 

Winner: AirPods Pro 2

Call quality 

simon cohen wearing apple airpods pro 2.

If you frequently use your earbuds to take calls, you’ll be glad to know that the second-generation AirPods offer excellent call quality owing to their upgraded noise-cancellation features. You no longer hear random vehicles and construction sounds in the background, so you can fully focus on the person on the other end. 

Winner: AirPods Pro 2

Battery life

apple airpods pro 2 charging case suspended from its lanyard loop.
Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

Another major area that has been upgraded in the AirPods Pro 2 is the battery life. The original AirPods Pro offer about four to five hours of listening time on a single charge and up to 24 hours with the charging case. The AirPods Pro 2 will run much longer, offering six hours of listening time on a single charge and up to 30 hours with the charging case. This can make a huge difference if you’re using the AirPods on a commute, on your vacation, while working out, or just away from the charger for a long time. 

Winner: AirPods Pro 2

Water resistance

apple airpods pro 2 close-up.
Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

If you wear your earbuds during a sweaty workout or just live in a humid environment, you’d want to prioritize investing in water-resistant buds. Both the AirPods Pro and AirPods Pro 2 are IPX4 water-resistant, but the AirPods Pro 2 go a step further to offer the same water resistance in the case as well, so you don’t have to worry about every little bead of sweat and spill. 

Winner: AirPods Pro 2

Price 

If you’re working with a tighter budget, price is obviously a deciding factor. While the original AirPods Pro are now discontinued by Apple and can no longer be purchased from Apple.com, you can still find them with third-party retailers such as Amazon for around $180. The AirPods Pro 2 will run you $250. The $70 difference can be a quick decision-maker for some, but we recommend looking at more than just the price. The AirPods Pro 2 offer massive upgrades with much better sound quality, so they’re worth the extra $70. But for price alone, the win goes to the original model, for as long as you can find them. 

Winner: first-generation AirPods Pro

The bottom line

The AirPods Pro 2 are the obvious winners here. With enhanced sound quality, personalized audio experience, improved noise cancellation, improved case, and longer battery life, you get everything you could possibly ask for from earbuds. The price is a little steep, but you get several upgrades that’ll take your listening experience to the next level. 

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