Yes, this is surprising to me as well. About a month ago, Apple announced the new Airpods Pro 2, after its predecessor has been on the market for about 3 years.
Apple is one of the most controversial brands in the tech world, there is no doubt about it. Some people love Apple, and some people hate them, but it’s really hard to pretend that it doesn’t exist.
A quick story of my experience with Apple: Years ago I’ve been using their iPhone 6S Plus, had it for about 2 years. I was pretty fine with it, but my next smartphone was a Samsung anyway. At the beginning of 2022, I needed a powerful laptop that will be able to edit 4k, 4:2:2, and 10-bit material fast and effortlessly for my work. I bought the 2021 Macbook Pro with an M1 Pro chip and I couldn’t be happier with it. It is absolutely spectacular, both in terms of hardware and software.
Next up, hours before leaving Poland for the Munich High-End show, I drove to the Apple Store and bought my second iPhone ever – the 13 Pro. Once again, this is just an extraordinary device. Quite small for today’s standards of flagship phones, super snappy, great photos and videos, and most importantly – the ecosystem. Having the iPhone and Macbook makes my life easier, and it’s not a stretch. This ecosystem just works.
So, I decided to take the next step. I bought the Apple Watch SE, for easier notifications management, connectivity, and that ecosystem improvement. Actually, I went with a Cellular model, so I can use it while working out, and leave my iPhone at home – this is a spectacular feature for me. Being able to leave my phone at home and still be connected to the world, listen to music, etc is just great, especially having in mind the price of the Watch SE.
And then, Apple announced the new Airpods Pro 2. Apple isn’t known for its audiophile-grade products, even though their Airpods MAX tried to change that – not really successfully. But, what Apple stated while announcing the Airpods Pro 2 on the stage was very promising – 2x better ANC, better sound, new Transparency Mode, and more. The decision was made quite quickly – let’s get them, see how good or bad they are, and launch this review as soon as possible for you guys to help you make a decision. Let’s dive in.
Packaging and Fit
When it comes to unboxing, this is just Apple. The Airpods Pro 2 come in a small, white box that is very minimalistic and clean. Their design language is probably the best in the world and once again – it shows.
In the box, you’ll find the Airpods with a charging case, four sets of eartips (XS, S, M, and L), and a lightning charging cable (yes, still no USB-C). That’s it. What’s worth mentioning though is the quality of the packaging itself – while using very basic materials, everything feels quite premium to the touch, intuitive, and clean. This is what an unboxing experience should look like with wireless IEMs.
Back to the case – it now has a built-in speaker, which helps with tracking the case down, in case you’ll ever lose it. It’s now also compatible with the Apple Watch charger, which is great, and I will definitely charge them with it. The case, even though made of plastic, feels good and I’ve got no complaints about its build quality. The hinge is metal, so it won’t wear out too soon, and most importantly – it’s small and handy, so you’ll have no problems fitting it in any pocket. The texture is smooth, so taking it out of your jeans pocket is easy.
The fit was THE THING that stressed me the most. I really like the wings system in my Drop + Grell TWS1x TWS IEMs, as it makes them stay in my ear no matter what. The Airpods Pro 2 are smooth to the touch, and the fit is rather shallow, so I was afraid that it won’t be a good fit for me. Luckily, the M eartips fit me just perfectly, resulting in a very comfortable fit. It’s definitely not the most secure fit out there, not even close. But when it comes to comfort – I can forget that I’m wearing them. I have absolutely no problems wearing them for 4-6 hours at a time, with no fatigue whatsoever. Very comfortable, but not very secure, so if you’re into some extreme sports, these might not be a good choice. For jogging or gym, more than fine in my opinion.
Design, Build and Tech
Now onto the build quality. The Airpods Pro 2 are made entirely of plastic, but good quality plastic. They are very smooth to the touch, with no imperfections. While certainly no the best-built IEMs on the market, there’s nothing wrong with them.
As for the design – once again, this is peak Apple. White, minimalistic, timeless. Luckily, they are quite a bit smaller than the original Airpods (non-pro), so they do not stick out of your ears that much. We all remember these memes with people inserting toothbrushes into their ears pretending they’re using the original Airpods. The Airpods Pro are much more stealthy when it comes to the design, something that I really like.
Let’s get into the tech now – these now use Apple’s H2 chip, which is told to improve ANC, Transparency mode, and sound quality. As for the driver – Apple is using a completely new Dynamic Driver, but no further information has been provided.
Let’s talk battery life – the AirPods Pro 2 can last up to 6 hours on a single charge, and the case adds up another 24 hours to it, making for a total of 30 hours of listening time with ANC turned on. This will EASILY survive a week of rather regular listening, traveling, plane trips, etc. This is more than enough.
Another new thing is the “Personalized Spatial Audio”. Basically, before using the AirPods Pro 2 for the first time, you’re going to use your iPhone to scan the shape of your head and both your ears. Thanks to that, the advanced DSP will then create a unique, custom profile based on your head’s geometry. Sounds like witchcraft to me, but it improves the soundstage, so it works. I tried the AirPods Pro 2 with and without this function, and trust me – just set it up and don’t look back.
As for the controls, you can change between ANC and Transparency by simply pressing and holding the left earphone’s stem. You can pause and resume music by pressing the right earphone’s stem and change the volume by swiping up and down on it. Overall, the controls are intuitive and easy to use.
The personalized spatial audio also works with Dolby Atmos content, where it introduces head tracking. I will be completely honest with you: I turned it off. Yes, it’s very impressive and actually pretty fun, but I just don’t see the point. The music sounds weird with head-tracking mode on, even though the shape and physicality of the bass get crazy. This is just a weird sensation for me, that I don’t see using on a regular basis.
It’s different in movies though. The head-tracking gives you a more immersive feeling while using the AirPods Pro 2, and I highly recommend trying it out. With music, I think that this function will appeal more to non-audiophiles, as they will be able to appreciate the 3D aspect of the sound, and just not care that much about the quality alone. For me, the aspect of the balance constantly changing, going from left to right earbud, feels just weird and kinda unnatural.
ANC + Transparency Mode
This is a huge thing about the new AirPods Pro 2. As I said in the beginning, Apple claims 2x better Active Noise Cancellation compared to the first gen AirPods Pro. While I don’t have the original one, I’m unable to test if this statement is true, but I can rate the ANC as it is.
So, the ANC is very, very good. It is absolutely spectacular with low-frequency noise, such as AC hum, cars passing by on the street, and just a “background noise”. It’s not as impressive with higher-pitched sounds, such as human voice, rain, etc, but it’s good enough for these. To be totally honest – I expected more when it comes to high frequencies, but the low frequencies cancellation exceeded my expectations, so to summarize, the ANC is very, very good. I’m yet to try it on an airplane, but I’m pretty sure that it’s going to be absolutely fantastic.
The transparent mode is a different story – this is class-leading. When compared with my Drop + Grell TWS1x, the AirPods Pro 2 does it way more natural and lifelike. The TWS1x sounds weirdly artificial and harsh with its transparency mode, while on the AirPods Pro 2, I can barely notice the difference between using the transparency mode and not having anything in my ears at all. This is mental.
Last but certainly not least, let’s talk about the Apple Ecosystem. This is the best aspect of the AirPods Pro 2 if you’re using Apple products of course.
The pairing, switching between devices, and ease of use are just spectacular. The first setup with my iPhone couldn’t have been easier – upon opening the lid of the charging case, they just popped up on my iPhone, I clicked one button, and boom – done. This is so polished and easy, that only Apple could have done it.
If I want to get some work done (just like now), I just open up my MacBook Pro, put the AirPods Pro 2 into my ears and hit play – done. If someone calls me in the meantime, I can just answer the phone on my MacBook and continue the call with AirPods. No switching between the devices, no putting the earphones out of my ears, this just works perfectly. If you’re in the Apple Ecosystem and you’re considering getting TWS earbuds, these are the ones to get, no questions asked.
The AirPods Pro 2 are definitely not just about audio quality. If you’ve read this review up until this point, you know how functional and convenient these are. A true game changer for Apple users.
But, you’re reading Ear Fidelity, an audiophile-grade review site of audio products. If you wanted to check out the functionality and the overall presentation of the AirPods Pro 2, you’d be better off watching Marques Brownlee or Unbox Therapy on YouTube. You’re here for a sound review, and you’ll get one.
So, the AirPods Pro 2 are surprisingly good, like for real. I bought them thinking more about the functionality, the ecosystem qualities, and that ANC, but I find myself just listening to music and appreciating the sound quality of these. I wasn’t expecting that, and I’m really pleased with what these sound like.
So, let’s start with the bass. It’s certainly quite physical and it reaches all the way to the subbass with no problems. It’s definitely not the most emphasized, which is actually a good thing. I watched one reviewer on YouTube who claimed these to be worse than the competition when it comes to the audio quality because he finds the bass not big enough. Listen up, while this is a highly subjective aspect, they just simply have to appreciate the sole QUALITY of the bass, which is snappy, hard-hitting, and well extended. It never gets bloated, the resolution is very good, and overall, it’s just a blast to listen to. The amount of dynamics these little things output puts some high-end planars to shame, resulting in a very punchy, dynamic, and fun listening experience. The AirPods Pro 2 are meant to appeal to the masses, and they certainly will.
The midrange is very surprising. It’s smooth, well-controlled, and quite natural actually. Vocals sound rich and present, but they have that natural smoothness and lushness to them which makes the AirPods Pro 2 great with basically every genre and mastering quality. These are never shouty, harsh, or too firm sounding, they are more about a dynamic, big but at the same time, smooth and pleasant listening experience. This is a fantastic set of features for a product like that, which (once again) is meant to appeal to the average consumer who knows nothing about audio. Crisp without being tiring, big and dynamic without being bloated and muddy, accurate without being too splashy or bright sounding. Apple just did a fantastic job tuning these. The overall resolution and detail retrieval are both very good as well, even though the AirPods Pro 2 doesn’t use a lossless Bluetooth codec. Apple shows that it’s not about frequencies and bitrate, and not all compressions are equal. Well done.
The treble is once again, smooth and natural at the same time. It’s certainly not veiled or pushed back, but it’s never harsh or peaky. Everything sounds accurate and well-extended, but it’s just delicate, and pleasant to listen to. The resolution is so good that the treble never gets splashy or artificial sounding. This will, once again, let you listen to a lot of different music genres and mastering qualities. Watching Youtube, listening to lossy music, doing random things on the internet – you don’t have to worry that you’ll be attached with harsh and peaky little needles in your ears that will ruin the experience for you. This is just the type of sound profile Apple should have gone with, and they knew exactly what they were doing. Someone really intelligent was in charge of this project.
Lastly, the soundstage, which is the most impressive aspect of the new AirPods Pro 2. While the depth is okay, but definitely nothing to brag about, the width is just exceptional. This is with the Personalised Spatial Audio, keep that in mind. So, the AirPods Pro 2 stage is like a pair of open-back full-size headphones when it comes to width. It feels very immersive and huge, easily being able to cast a sound 10 meters to the right or left of you. Additionally, the imaging and separation are both fantastic, which further extends that very impressive and immersive listening experience. The depth is okay, but it’s the width that takes the crown as the best aspect of the AirPods Pro 2. This is one of the widest-sounding sets of IEMs I’ve tried, and you know that I tried a lot.
These have been my go-to TWS IEMs for about a year now, so this comparison is very natural for me. Our review of the Drop + Grell TWS1x here.
First of all, the build quality. The TWS1x feels more premium in the hand, is slightly less comfortable for me, but definitely A LOT more secure in my ears. The overall quality of materials and the shape and size all make for a more premium experience.
With the controls, I definitely prefer the AirPods Pro 2. The TWS1x is just too easy with accidental touches, and actually, every time I put them in or out of my ears, I end up pressing “something”, whether it’s ANC/Transparent mode toggle or play/pause. Also, the AirPods Pro 2 pauses the playback every time I put one earphone out of my ear, which the TWS1x doesn’t do.
As for the ANC and Transparency mode, the AirPods Pro 2 are much better with both. The ANC is stronger, more natural and there’s definitely a lot less hiss with this mode than in the TWS1x. This is not even a competition. The Transparency Mode is even more brutal, with the AirPods Pro 2 being much more natural and less artificial sounding. If you really care about the ANC and Transparency mode, the AirPods Pro 2 are much, much better.
Lastly, the sound quality. Once again, I feel like the AirPods Pro 2 are more natural sounding, smoother, and more extended, with a better soundstage. The TWS1x is by no means a bad-sounding TWS, quite the opposite actually, but the AirPods are just better tuned, and more capable when it comes to resolution and detail retrieval, resulting in an overall more pleasant and natural listening experience.
The TWS1x has been tuned by legendary Axel Grell, who is responsible for the most legendary products of Sennheiser, so he’s definitely not easy to beat when it comes to sound reproduction. Having that in mind, the fact that the AirPods Pro 2 are better sounding shows how impressive of a job Apple did with this product.
The Apple AirPods Pro 2 are going to change the TWS market, mark my words. To say that Apple has caught up to its competitors would be an understatement. This is probably the best wireless earbud that you can buy right now, and if you are in the Apple ecosystem, then it’s not “probably”, but certainly.
Great ANC and Transparency mode, comfortable fit, impressive tech, and most importantly, a fantastic sound quality tuned so well that it’s going to appeal to basically everybody, hardcore audiophiles included. This might just be the best audio product that Apple has ever released, and it’s certainly a game-changer. To see such a controversial brand releasing such a good product into our niche market is just superb, as it will make our hobby so much more interesting and tech-oriented in the future. Bravo.
Disclaimer: I bought the Apple AirPods Pro 2 with my own money, and all of the above is my subjective, unbiased opinion.
You can buy the Apple Airpods Pro 2 here.