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When Apple’s AirPods Pro first hit the scene in Oct. 2019, they very quickly took the market by storm. So much so that even with a bunch of competing true wireless earbuds hitting the market, the Cupertino-based tech giant didn’t have to massively update them for three years. That’s where the all-new second generation AirPods Pro come in.

I've been using them day-in and day-out for a full two weeks. Apple  (AAPL)  made some big promises like longer battery life, better noise cancellation, and a transparency mode that adapts to lower jarring and loud sounds around you. All really cool on paper and, even better, they keep the same $249 MSRP. Amazon is even discounting them to just $239 already.

I’m going to unpack the AirPods Pro thoroughly ahead, and Apple really delivered on the optimizations of an already quality pair of true wireless earbuds. The design hasn't changed, but the new Apple-made chip inside improves the experience and still offers the main convenience traits that make AirPods so popular.

  • Apple AirPods Pro second-generation ($239.99, originally $249.99 at Amazon)

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Comfortable Earbuds With a Classic Build

Those coming from standard AirPods or the first-gen AirPods Pro will be right at home. Asides from an upgraded stem and a newly placed vent at the top, AirPods Pro second-gen look just like the first. And that’s not a bad thing at all.

These sit very comfortably in my ears and since they don’t have a wingtip, they don’t apply extra pressure or pain inside the ear. The stems are also still quite compact and offer some sort of balance to ensure these don’t fall out. To aid in comfortability, Apple is now including four ear tips in the box.

New ear tip size

The ear tips are made from silicone and are easy to snap on or off. There is now a new size -- an extra-small ear tip along with the medium, large, and extra large. Once the AirPods Pro are paired with your iPhone, you can complete the ear tip fit test to ensure you’re using the right tip. If you tried the original AirPods Pro and found that they were frequently falling out, the extra-small tip might be a real game changer here also.

I’ll also call out that I rocked these with medium sized ear tips for a long-haul five hour flight from California back to New Jersey. I not only didn’t have them fall out with some light tossing and turning in my seat, but also didn’t feel the need to remove them from my ears because of any discomfort.

Takeaway on the AirPods Pro fit: Apple took the feedback on ear comfort seriously and made more size-inclusive changes to the latest gen AirPods. 

Small design changes

The only physical changes that you might notice on AirPods Pro is a new vent on the top of the left and right earbuds, and the optical sensor has been removed. 

The optical sensor was previously used to detect when the AirPods were in your ear, but now these have an Apple-designed skin detect sensor. This first premiered on the third-generation AirPods and they function a bit quicker with this detection process.

The force sensor in the stem is visibly the same. You can press and hold to use Siri, and tap it once to play, pause and accept a call. You can double tap to skip a track, and triple tap to go back. 

You can now swipe up or down on the earbud stem to raise or lower the volume. A single swipe in each direction adjusts it by one, and there’s a tone that chimes to confirm the sound adjustment. It’s a small upgrade, but it allows you the freedom to do more hands-on adjusting through the device instead of reaching for your phone.

There is a new custom-built by Apple chip powering the AirPods, the same battery cells as the original, and the buds each weigh just 5.3-grams. 

Takeaway on the AirPods Pro design changes: With more hands-on functionality improvements, there's less overall reliance on your phone to control your earbuds, making stopping, starting and sound adjustments a breeze.

It’s Hard to Lose the AirPods Pro Charging Case

AirPods have been findable in the FindMy app (you could ping the left and right earbuds). But if you ended up misplacing the case, you were out of luck. In a series of updates to the charging case in its second-generation AirPods Pro, Apple’s making it really hard to lose it.

For starters, the charging case now has the U1 Chip inside -- this means it can be tracked easily within the FindMy app. So when you open the app on your iPhone, you’ll see the location of the case as well as the left and right AirPods. We found this feature pretty handy; it gives you the ability to ping the case, and thanks to an onboard speaker and acoustic vent, it will play a chime to help you find it.

When you’ve really misplaced it, the iPhone can give you turn-by-turn directions to find it through Precision Finding. It’s basically the experience of an AirTag now for your AirPods Pro case.

New charging methods

The other enhancement is a new way to charge the case, and no—not to burst your bubble— it’s not USB-C. You can still charge AirPods Pro via a Lightning cable, a MagSafe charger, or with a Qi-enabled wireless charger. But the ability to place it on an Apple Watch Charger is new.

This is made possible thanks to an extra set of magnets in the case. It includes a new inner circle to connect and align properly with the smaller Apple Watch puck, nestled inside the larger outer ring for proper charging with MagSafe. This is entirely a convenience-focused upgrade. 

There's a charging light on the front of the case, which will glow green and orange depending on the battery status.

And lastly, Apple’s added a spot on the right hand side of the case for attaching a lanyard. In previous generations, you would have to buy a specific case for a lanyard, however, Apple missed out on an opportunity to include one with the AirPods Pro kit.

If you don't have a case cover, you can opt for the Incase Lanyard (specifically designed for AirPods Pro 2), which can be easily attached to your wrist, bag, backpack, or purse.

The AirPods Pro second-generation case is the exact same size as the original as well.

Takeaway on the AirPods Pro charging case changes: Apple has made some very effective improvements -- largely to keep people from losing it quite so often, but also adding in some upgraded charging method options.

Robust and Vibrant Audio 

The best way to describe the listening experience on the new AirPods Pro is robust -- it works well with any genre, offers great clarity and vibrancy, no distortion, and it can really pack in some oomph to your ears.

These offer a much wider soundstage and an overall better listening experience over the original AirPods Pro, the third-generation AirPods, and the classic second-gens. With Adaptive EQ on board, it listens across all aspects (low, mid, and high frequencies) to optimize the sound for your ears. The H2 Chip in the AirPods pair with the ear-facing microphones, and work to customize the experience.

For instance a track like “Kiwi” by Harry Styles comes through crisp and roaring, as a rock-punk mix should. You won’t hear any added distortion, and even at just 50% to 70% max volume, the AirPods Pro gets considerably loud.

During my testing, I found the earbuds were also great with more calming tracks, with a wall-of-sound experience like “Born to Run” by Bruce Springsteen. You get the rush of a bevy of instruments in the beginning, but can clearly make out the different elements of a given track. Bass and high frequencies are noticeably improved, but I think you’ll find that they’re just really enjoyable to use.

Powering the sound, in addition to the H2 chip, is a new low-distortion drive and an upgraded amplifier, as well as the vent on top. The latter lets these both fire at full force and have enough space for the sound to breathe. The bass can also be really strong and aid in the immersion of a track.

Spatial Audio

The other impact to the listening experience is Spatial Audio, which essentially works to digitally place sound around you. So if you’re watching a Star Wars show or film on your iPhone or Mac, and the X-Wing or Falcon shoots across the screen from left to right, you’ll hear it from the left to right.

If you’re listening to music and you’re facing away from your phone, it’ll be like you're standing backwards at a concert with vocals coming from behind you.

The overall sound quality on the new AirPods Pro is quite good. With Personalized Spatial Audio you can customize sound to your ears. How it works: You scan your ears via your iPhone and it sticks across your AirPods. This isn’t exclusive to the new AirPods Pro, but comes via iOS 16.

Still the Best Transparency Mode

While other earbuds — Sony LinkBuds S and Google Pixel Buds Pro — have improved their transparency listening modes, nothing has quite reached the same performance of the first-generation AirPods Pro. The Adaptive Transparency mode lets in outside environmental noise around you, so basically the opposite of noise canceling.

Competitors don’t sound as natural and there is often a buzzing effect, but AirPods Pro sound clear and ultimately as if you aren’t wearing earbuds. And AirPods Pro second-generation still meet this level — you can comfortably wear these and play music at home, in a park, at coffee shop, and at the office while still hearing folks around you.

While it's handy if you’re waiting on a pumpkin spice latte, it's also really helpful as a general safety feature. So whether you've gone for a run or you're walking at night, you can still be aware of your surroundings. 

Adaptive Transparency

Apple’s introducing Adaptive Transparency mode which is made possible by the one billion plus transistors in the H2 chip. The AirPods Pro will now be able to lower more jarring loud sounds from your surroundings. 

During my testing as I was walking past a jackhammer churning away on a construction site, the new AirPods Pro lowered the volume but kept other ambient sounds (like cars passing and people talking) at the same volume.

How it works: If the microphones pick up anything over 85-decibels it will lower the volume of that sound, but not change the tune of it. It was noticeably quieter than the previous-gen AirPods. While in this mode, it will not change your voice during phone calls. 

During my next round of testing on the long-haul flight, the AirPods Pro second-gen in Transparency mode allowed me to hear the flight attendant or pilot announcements, but lowered the roar of an engine on a Boeing 777 aircraft.

Really Good Active Noise Cancelation

While Transparency and the new adaptive functionality is a win, Apple’s active noise canceling is still one of the best I’ve ever tested. It’s also pretty close to being on-par with Sony’s high end in-ear buds. Apple claims that it’s up to twice as good at canceling out sound, thanks to the H2 Chip and algorithms in the AirPods Pro. It’s also across the entire mix of sound, not just improvements on one end of the spectrum.

And on that same airplane with ANC on and volume at about 50%, it effectively blocked out the sound of the engine and other plane noises. That’s not an easy feat for earbuds; it appeared to still focus on blocking out very loud sounds and the higher, more tinny frequencies that can sometimes sneak through. Really impressive for a pair of true wireless earbuds. And even in the hands-on space at The Steve Jobs Theater, it did effectively and efficiently block out a majority of the crowd. Same goes for working at a nearby coffee shop and for in my apartment while carpets were being replaced outside and the HVAC system was chugging along.

Long Battery Life

First-generation AirPods Pro lasted for about four and half hours on a full charge, but second-gen AirPods Pro stretched that number to six hours. Or well, that’s at least Apple’s promise and it’s with a listening mode like ANC or Transparency engaged. I’ve been getting closer to seven hours and 15 minutes with various volumes and going in and out of the two listening modes.

With none of those engaged and AirPods Pro just playing tunes in your ears, Apple says it’s about seven hours but I got closer to eight hours with this mode. So mileage will vary, but I suspect that many of us will find that these can over deliver on the battery life estimates.

Setup is a Cinch and Quick Switching is Great

One of the main calling cards of AirPods Pro is easy setup and just a deep integration with all Apple devices, and that remains the same here. I was set up in under a minute with AirPods Pro quickly pairing with an iPhone 14 Pro Max. I just flipped the lid open and saw the splash screen a second or two later on the iPhone. I said connect, I named them, and even got a quick tour of features.

From there, they also instantly sync with my iCloud account so I can quickly swap between them being connected to my iPhone to a Mac, an iPad and even an Apple TV. The H2 chip also kept things simple and I didn’t experience any accidental drop outs with these.

Bottom Line: Are AirPods Pro Second-Gen Worth It?

So, are the AirPods Pro second-generation worth buying? Simply put, yes. AirPods Pro second-generation are the best earbuds on the market today. While great for iPhone users, you can also pair these with an Android smartphone and still get to use the listening modes.

If you especially value noise cancelation or transparency modes, the AirPods Pro punch well above their weight. Audio quality is still great, battery life is longer, and they keep a design that fits for a day at home, at the gym, or on the go.

For $249.99 you’re getting a lot of value and given that many folks are still using AirPods Pro from three years ago, myself included, there aren’t really any longevity concerns here. You can currently save $10 by getting them from Amazon for $239.

Apple’s second-generation AirPods Pro are up for order now and will begin arriving to customers on Sept. 23.

  • Apple AirPods Pro second-generation ($239.99, originally $249.99 at Amazon)

Prices are accurate and items in stock at time of publishing.