I’ve been testing Apple’s new $249 AirPods Pro (second-generation) for a few weeks. They are available to order now and will hit stores on Friday. Out of all of the things Apple unveiled earlier this month, these excite me the most.
I love my old set of Pros, but the upgraded headphones have features I didn’t even know I wanted.
Here’s why I think you need to buy the Airpods Pro (second-generation).
Transparency mode is actually transparent
When you’re using your AirPods Pro and you’re not in noise cancellation mode, you’re in what Apple calls transparency mode. When you press and hold the stem of your AirPods and you can hear the sound of volume being sealed out, or filtering in, you’re toggling between noise cancellation mode and transparency mode.
Noise cancellation and transparency settings for AirPods Pro (2nd generation).
What’s great about the new AirPods Pro is that when you’re in transparency mode, you can really hear what’s going on around you. The older version blocked some sound out even when you weren’t in transparency mode. Oftentimes when wearing my old Pros, I would have to take one out in the middle of conversation. Now I can hear everything clearly as long as the transparency mode is turned on.
This advancement is made possible by Apple’s new H2 chip. Thanks to H2, there’s also a feature called adaptive transparency mode, which automatically blocks out harsh noises such as a siren or motorcycle. This feature can be turned on or off. I like having it on to protect my ears from very loud decibels when I’m walking around in a busy city.
Noise cancellation is even better
The H2 chip has also made active noise cancellation even better. Apple says the new-generation AirPods Pro deliver up to double the noise cancelled, and I could hear the difference.
While on a plane, which usually has a lot of loud ambient noise, I was able to completely tune out the loud humming of the engine and air conditioner while watching Netflix. When the person sitting next to me started trying to make small talk, I couldn’t hear him and just pointed to my headphones. Phew.
There’s a new feature that even shows you how much noise is being cancelled. When you use your AirPods Pro (second-generation) with Apple Watch, you can see noise level reduction in real time.
When you use AirPods Pro (2nd generation) with Apple watch you can see the noise level reduction in real time.
Volume control directly on the AirPods
A touch control on the new Pros allows you to lower or raise the volume by lightly swiping up or down on the stem of the AirPods.
I was initially afraid this would be too sensitive, but after a few weeks of use, I’m happy to report I’ve never accidentally activated this feature. I often fall asleep with my AirPods in, so I was impressed that the volume controls weren’t activated when I was tossing and turning.
Charging case works with Apple Watch charger
The new AirPods also come with a new MagSafe charging case. You can even use your Apple Watch charger for the new Pros, which is very convenient.
You can now charge AirPods Pro (2nd generation) with your Apple Watch charger.
Aside from easier charging, the battery life on the new AirPods is noticeably better. Overall, Apple says battery life has improved by 33%. You now get up to 30 hours of total listening time while active noise cancellation is on. That’s up six hours from the previous generation.
The speaker in the case is great for lost AirPods
If you’ve read my prior reviews, you may have noticed a common theme: I lose things a lot. There’s a built-in speaker in the new AirPods Pro that plays a sound so you can locate your lost AirPods.
The new AirPods case also comes with a new U1 chip, so you can use the Find My app to see the exact location of where you last left your AirPods.
There’s a lanyard loop on the side of the case that allows you to attach your AirPods to your wrist or a handbag. I haven’t tried out a lanyard yet since they’re sold separately by third parties, but I can see how this would help me keep up with them.
Audio quality is superior
The new AirPods Pro have superior audio for a few reasons. First, there’s a new extra small ear tip, so hopefully people who say AirPods fall out of their ears or who don’t get a good seal will see this as a solution.
There’s also a new feature called personalized spatial audio. By using your phone’s front-facing camera, your iPhone remembers the size of your ears and helps ensure the sounds you’re hearing are tailored to your individual ear size.
In AirPods Pro (2nd generation) settings, you can see and hear how spatial audio works.
In Apple Music there are songs that are specifically designed for spatial audio, and you can really hear the difference. When you’re in your AirPods settings, you can even play a sound by navigating to the tab under Spatial Audio that says See & Hear How It Works. You can see how much more immersive the sound quality is when spatial audio is being activated.
You can test the spatial audio feature in your AirPods Pro (2nd generation) settings.
Bluetooth switches seamlessly between devices
One complaint I hear a lot about AirPods is that the previous generations claim to seamlessly and intelligently switch between whatever device you’re using, but this feature doesn’t work well. I think this may have been fixed with the new Pros.
I was in my kitchen cooking, watching the iPad with my AirPods. When I received a call, I was able to seamlessly switch to the call, and then when the call was over, I was back to watching my show. When I was done watching my show, I asked Siri to play the podcast I wanted to hear on my iPhone, and I was able to stop listening to my iPad and pick up right where the podcast last left off.
I really appreciated this seamless transition. Having difficulty connecting to Bluetooth and switching between devices can be maddening, especially when you’re working remotely. Being able to jump around on different devices without doing a hard Bluetooth reset was a luxury that was not lost on me.
Should you buy the new AirPods Pro?
I don’t have a single bad thing to say about the new AirPods Pro. They’re comfortable to wear, the noise cancellation and transparency modes are noticeably better, and the battery life has improved. You’ll have a hard time losing them with all of the new features, you can control sound without having to touch your phone, and, most importantly, the quality of the sound is excellent.
When I was too lazy to dig through my bag and get my new AirPods Pro, I listened to an audiobook with the older AirPods. I could totally hear and feel the difference. Not only do I recommend buying the new Pros, my advice to owners of the prior-generation AirPods is to upgrade if you have the money. I think you’ll notice the big difference.
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