This story is part of Focal Point iPhone 2023, CNET's collection of news, tips and advice around Apple's most popular product.
The long-rumored AirPods Pro (2nd generation) are official. Apple unveiled its latest noise-canceling true wireless headphones as part of its "Far Out" iPhone 14 event. They're available for preorder now and will ship starting Sept. 23 for $249 (£249, AU$399).
The new AirPods Pro follow the original noise-canceling model that debuted in October 2019. They're powered by Apple's new H2 chip, which delivers more processing power while being more energy efficient, according to Apple. The new chip, combined with new low-distortion drivers, allows for improved sound that should offer better clarity and depth. The noise canceling is also improved -- Apple says the new AirPods have "double" the noise canceling of the original AirPods Pro.
Preorders for the 2022 AirPods Pro model commence on Sept. 9, with the first sets of the new earbuds beginning to ship on Sept. 23.
My early hands-on impressions
I got a chance to try the AirPods Pro 2 for a limited time at the launch event in the noisy demo area, with hundreds of people around me. The noise canceling does seem improved, though it was only able to muffle the din in the room so much. I also thought the earbuds sounded cleaner and clearer than the original AirPods Pro while listening to a few tracks on Apple's iPhone 14 demo phones. (I wasn't able to use the buds with my own iPhone and the tracks I normally use to test headphones.)
I do think it's really important to get a tight seal to get optimal noise canceling and sound quality. Apple hasn't changed the design of its ear tips -- with the original AirPods, I use the large size tips and also use third-party foam tips -- but it will now include a fourth, extra-small ear tip for those with smaller ears.
Some people were hoping that the new AirPods Pro would be able to stream Apple Lossless tracks over wireless. Apple didn't mention anything about that, but it is possible that some features will be revealed at a later date. With the original AirPods Pro, for example, Apple didn't introduce Spatial Audio until months after they were released.
On the Spatial Audio front, Apple says the AirPods Pro now have personalized Spatial Audio that creates a more tailored listening experience for your ears. The transparency mode is also enhanced and adapts to ambient noise you encounter, and there's a new personalized spatial audio feature along with touch swipe controls on the stems to add to the pinch controls.
Battery life is now up to six hours on a single charge (up from five), and the case gives you an additional four charges. Additionally, the case now has a built-in speaker, which allows it to play sounds for use with Apple's precision Find My feature.
While some people may be disappointed Apple didn't do more to upgrade the design of the AirPods Pro 2 (there are some tweaks to the microphone configuration and some other small refinements including the vents), the AirPods Pro 2nd generation are largely what I expected them to be: better sounding AirPods Pro with better noise canceling, better battery life and a wireless charging case with some enhanced features.
I'll have a lot more to say about them in my full review -- stay tuned -- in which I'll compare them to some other top noise-canceling earbuds, including Bose's new QuietComfort Earbuds II that were also unveiled this week.
AirPods Pro 2 key features
- Same design as previous AirPods Pro
- Powered by Apple H2 chip
- Improved sound with new low-distortion drivers
- Improved noise canceling (Apple says double the amount of ANC)
- Adaptive transparency mode
- Personalized spatial audio
- The charging case now has a built-in speaker on the bottom that allows it to play a sound using Precision Find My feature
- 6 hours of onboard battery capacity (1 hour more than the original AirPods Pro) with an extra 24 hours in charging case
- Touch swipe controls added to pinch controls on stems
- Can now charge with Apple Watch charger along with Qi wireless chargers
- Lanyard can be connected to case (lanyard not included)
- Price: $249, £249, AU$399
- Ship date: Sept. 23 (available for preorder Sept. 9)
Read more: Best Wireless Earbuds for 2022