Although they look almost identical to the first version, the $249 (£249, AU$399) AirPods Pro 2 have enough significant upgrades to make them the most polished Apple earbuds yet. Sound quality and battery life are better, and the updated design means they should fit more comfortably in your ears. After spending two months listening to a range of musical genres and jumping across Zoom and phone calls with the AirPods Pro 2, I'm surprised at how much more I prefer these to the originals. They're not perfect, but they come pretty close -- especially for people seeking the best earbuds for Apple devices.
You can read more about how the AirPods Pro 2 compare to other top wireless earbuds in my colleague David Carnoy's review.
AirPods Pro 2 eartips and design
One of my issues with the original AirPods Pro was how they fit. With particularly small ears, like mine, the smallest silicone ear tip wouldn't stay put in my ear canal for long. I got around it by using third-party foam tips, but that's an added expense and, depending on the size you need, sometimes they need more adjusting to fit in the charging case.
The AirPods Pro 2 come with a new XS eartip size in the box, which is so much better. I can actually wear the AirPods Pro 2 during walks, runs and workouts without feeling like they're going to slip out.
Bonus: if you're not quite sure you want to upgrade from the original AirPods Pro for fit reasons alone, you don't have to spend big. I found that the second-gen XS tips fit on the first-generation AirPods Pro, and they cost $8 from Apple for two sets. My next request is for Apple to make an XL size, for people who have larger ears.
New AirPods Pro 2 stem volume controls
Many AirPods users asked Apple for volume controls on the stem, and the AirPods Pro 2 don't disappoint on that front. But for the way they fit in my ears, precise finger placement is key. Make sure you swipe on the force sensor rather than the stem itself. It takes some time to commit to muscle memory.
Once you land that placement, though, the controls are precise and responsive. I appreciate hearing a little click in my ear to tell me the volume is going up or down. Surprisingly, even after two months using the AirPods Pro 2 on a daily basis, I'm still in the habit of adjusting the volume on my phone or with the crown on the Apple Watch, as I did with the original AirPods Pro.
All about the AirPods Pro 2 sound
Sound quality can be subjective, but the AirPods Pro 2 truly feel like a step up from the previous generation. To my ears, they definitely sound the most rounded of all the options you can choose from in Apple's earbud lineup, including the newer AirPods third-generation.
There's more emphasis and definition on the bass, but it is balanced in such a way that I don't feel like I need to crank the volume to hear definition in mids and trebles, like I do on some other wireless earbuds. Still, I would love a user-adjustable equalizer accessible from the settings app.
Active noise canceling also gets a boost. I wasn't expecting it to make as much of a difference as it actually does. In all the situations I've used ANC -- even to mute out the sound of the waves at the beach when on a phone call -- it's a noticeable improvement over the first version.
Adaptive transparency mode still feels like a magic trick, as it helps lower the volume of external sounds above an 85-decibel threshold. It's helpful on walks and runs, which is when I rely on transparency mode to keep an ear out for my surroundings. Loud trucks or sharp noises like construction sites are reduced to a comfortable level, but I'd love for the effect to be more subtle. Sometimes it kicks on so suddenly that I feel like I've accidentally turned on ANC without realizing.
Battery life is better than the original's in terms of overall listening time. I averaged between five-and-a-half and six hours with moderate volume using transparency mode, although using ANC drops that a little further. I also love how I can now charge the case using an Apple Watch charger.
AirPods Pro 2: A wish list
The AirPods Pro 2 are almost perfect, but there are extra features I'd love to see. I'm holding out hope that Apple adds high-resolution audio playback in a future update. After all, the first-gen AirPods Pro magically got spatial audio support a year after launch.
Having true multipoint connectivity would also be a really nice option for syncing with two devices at the same time. Apple's quick switching between devices signed into the same Apple ID already does a great job the majority of the time. But having multipoint connectivity could be useful for jumping between personal and work devices that can't be logged into your own Apple ID.
The AirPods Pro 2 offer the most refined Apple earbud experience yet and fortunately don't cost a premium over the first-generation. They're hard to pass up if you're looking for the best option for iPhone, iPad or Mac.