When a tech product thumps rivals for years, you appreciate its true worth. That has been the case with the AirPods Pro, which released in 2019 and it saw us through the pandemic, ensuring it’s worth every penny even after three years. At the same time, three years is a long time in the tech world, which brings me to Apple AirPods Pro 2. To put things in context, when the first generation sound cans appeared, there was (almost) nothing similar in the market. The second generation AirPods Pro can simply take the crown over from its predecessor. It’s simply a box of computational joy.
A solid case for all seasons
There are two aspects to look at — the changes on the case and those on the wireless in-ear headphones. At a glance, the dimension of the box remains the same. What makes a difference is the U1 chip in the charging case, which makes losing the earbuds almost impossible.
Not only does it permit Find My network integration, giving you the case’s approximate location but the case itself can now communicate with your phone via Find My even without the buds inside. This is a big step forward. The case now has its own speaker but don’t expect to channel Go home, get ahead, light-speed Internet/ I don’t wanna talk about the way that it was; it’s not for playing music. The speaker can chirp when the case is placed on the charger, and beep (quite loudly) when the case is being searched for.
Now that AirPods are everywhere, users in a group often mix up earbuds like cocktails. No longer. If you put the wrong earbud in your case, there will be a chime and you will get a mismatched AirPods notification on the phone.
Staying with the hardware, there is an extra small silicone ear tip in the box, besides small, medium and large, ensuring the sound cans meet every ear size. For most, the default medium will work.
Powering the new AirPods is the H2 headphone chip. It’s so powerful that all the computing takes place on the headphones
The other interesting addition is a set of little metal holes at the right side meant to accommodate a lanyard, so that you don’t lose the device. Apple Store in the US is selling an option but you can use any lanyard available locally. It will come in handy for those who like to attached the AirPods Pro to an inside zipper of the backpack.
Another reason for buying the in-ear headphones is the increased battery life. If you have bought the earbuds in 2019, the battery life may have dipped slightly. What the new generation AirPods Pro does is increase battery life substantially, so that even after three years you won’t have room to complain. AirPods Pro offers up to six hours of listening time with a single charge (up to 5.5 hours with Spatial Audio and Head Tracking enabled), up to 4.5 hours of talk time with a single charge and up to 30 hours of listening time with the MagSafe charging case. Plus, five minutes in the case offers around one hour of listening time or around one hour of talk time. And there’s one more thing: You can now charge the AirPods using the Apple Watch charger (or MagSafe charger/ Lightning connector).
By the way, volume can now be controlled easily with a swipe on the earbuds. The controls haven’t failed me while using the device over two weeks.
H2 or the heart of the AirPods
If that’s not interesting enough, here goes. This is where AirPods Pro 2 takes a giant leap. Powering the new AirPods is the H2 headphone chip. It’s so powerful that all the computing takes place on the headphones. This is the chip that does the audio processing, noise cancelling and so on. Apple has got it spot on, making AirPods Pro 2 a worthy upgrade.
Of course, there is big leap in active noise cancellation, which is twice as powerful as its predecessor’s noise canceling. A lot depends on how tight a seal you get from the ear tips, so make sure you use the right size. There are enough vents on the AirPods to tackle the vacuum-y feel when you use ANC. This is a feature that can’t be explained but only experienced. Even after using ANC for hours, we didn’t experience any headache, which is often the case when the technology is poorly implemented.
It’s easy to work around the different audio modes from the settings menu. Also, check the audio level on the Noise app on Apple Watch
In the previous generation, there was a slight tunneling effect while running or walking… the thuds were at times felt in the eardrums because of bone conduction. This time, there is zero tunneling effect. Not only is the ANC is twice as powerful, noise canceling is improved across all frequencies, more so with high- and mid-range frequencies which are difficult to muffle, meaning a drastic improvement while muffling people’s voices, for example.
To the feature that’s making me use AirPods Pro 2 all the time — Adaptive Transparency. When you are walking outdoors, there are lots of noises that you want to drown out but not completely. For example, while riding a bike you don’t want to hear the ear-piercing levels of an ambulance siren or drilling on the road. Yet, you don’t want to drown them out completely because it’s safe to be aware of one’s surroundings.
The H2 chip can sample outside noise 48,000 times per second. What does it mean? You enter a zone where drilling is taking place. The earbuds can handle it real-time or before any sound reaches your ears. All the outside noises are being allowed to pass through but anything harsh or loud gets tackled to a point that it doesn’t hurt your ears.
That’s not it. Say you are listening to music while walking around the city. Instead of muffling the music, only harsh outside noises are muffled real time while the level of music remains steady. All this is helpful when it comes to handling the rumbling of air conditioners or plane engines. It also talks to the Noise app on the Apple Watch real-time to show you how much noise is being cancelled.
On to audio quality. The first thing that immediately stands out is sub bass; there is a lot more of it. At the same time, there is enough sparkle to the sound and low-end sounds are dynamic. When A Day in the Life’s orchestral swell happens, I’m enjoying it thoroughly on these tiny earbuds. Even The Beatles wouldn’t have complained about it. Or take the example of Good Vibrations by The Beach Boys. The in-ear headphones capture the essence of the avant-garde experiment. And particularly impressive has been my time listening to Johann Straus II compositions. The AirPods shine while playing classical music, capturing the delicate and spontaneous notes on The Emperor Waltz or The Blue Danube. There is more space around instruments.
There is still no lossless audio on the AirPods but you still get 16 bit/48 kilohertz bit rates and that’s very good. Lossless audio in the future? Getting new feature upgrades is anybody's guess.
There is an option for personalised audio, which can be enjoyed after a depth scan of your ear using the cameras on the phone.
When you listen to Spatial Audio (only on Apple Music) it allows you a 3D feel. There is a lot going on in front, back, side and top and the mixes that are more recent sound great. The H2 chip helps with Spatial Audio while the overall sound feels cohesive.
With all the big changes on the inside, AirPods Pro 2 easily retains the best wireless earbuds crown. I can see myself using it for years to come.
There is a speaker on the charging case which beeps when you are searching for the device using Find My network
At a glance
Device: Apple AirPods Pro 2
Price: Rs 26,900
- The best implementation of Adaptive Transparency technology
- It’s easy to find the AirPods if you lose it
- Active noise cancellation is the best on any wireless in-ear headphone
- Excellent battery life
- Bluetooth 5.3 wireless technology
- Sweat and water resistant (IPX4): AirPods Pro and charging case
- Lightning connector