AirPods Pro 2 vs AirPods Pro comparison: What's different?

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AirPods Pro 2 vs AirPods Pro comparison: What's different?
Apple's new AirPods Pro 2, also known as AirPods Pro (2nd generation), are the 2022 successor to the first-gen 2019 AirPods Pro.

At first glance these two sets of true wireless earbuds from Apple are virtually indistinguishable, but as they say – looks can be deceiving. Should you upgrade to the new AirPods Pro 2? Have they got enough going for them to be considered a major update over their predecessor?

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Well, we've compared the old AirPods Pro against the brand new ones side-by-side to get the answers to these questions…

AirPods Pro 2 vs AirPods Pro: Main differences:
  • AirPods Pro 2 have a volume up/down touch gesture
  • AirPods Pro 2 have a newer H2 chip (as opposed to H1)
  • AirPods Pro 2 have longer battery life – up to 30 hours (as opposed to 24)
  • AirPods Pro 2 have stronger ANC and improved sound
  • AirPods Pro 2's case has a speaker and a lanyard loop, which the first-gen's case does not
  • AirPods Pro 2's case can magnetically snap to MagSafe chargers, holding to them, and can even be charged with Apple Watch chargers
  • AirPods Pro 2 come with four rubber ear tips sizes: XS, S, M, L (as opposed to three: S, M, L)

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Price and availability

The new AirPods Pro 2 came out on September 23, 2022, for the price of $249.

The first-gen AirPods Pro were released back in 2019, for the exact same price of $249.

Apple AirPods Pro 2

True Wireless Earbuds with Active Noise Cancellation, MagSafe Charging Case

Design, case differences

For the earbuds in particular, there are no major design differences to speak of, so let's summarize what both the AirPods Pro 2 and AirPods Pro are like.

The earbuds have fairly short, straight stems, which have touch-sensitive spots. Those can be used for music playback, summoning Siri, and (only on the AirPods Pro 2) changing the volume, without having to reach for your iPhone.

The earbuds also feature rubber tips, which may be irritating to some, but in general, offer superior fit and isolation over any alternatives. As mentioned earlier, the new AirPods Pro 2 come with four ear tips sizes to pick from, those being extra small, small, medium and large. The older AirPods Pro only come with three sets of ear tips – small, medium and large.

Both the AirPods Pro 2 and AirPods Pro come in glossy white, plastic, rectangular charging cases with rounded corners. They do not differ in size; the new AirPods Pro 2's case is not smaller. But to be fair, both AirPods Pro models' cases are perfectly pocketable, easy to fit inside and forget about.

Both their cases have an LED on the front, a Bluetooth pairing button on the back, a Lightning port on the bottom, and a metal hinge for the lid.

However, the AirPods Pro 2's case notably also has three new additions. First, we have a speaker next to the Lightning port, which is used for alerts such as low battery, or for locating the case if lost. It also makes the familiar "ding" sound when it starts charging, which your iPhone and Apple Watch also makes, adding to the whole Apple uniformity thing.

Second, the AirPods Pro 2 case has a metal loop on the side, for attaching a lanyard, which, again, the first-gen one does not.

Third, and least noticeable, is the fact that the AirPods Pro 2's case now has magnets that make it snap and hold on to MagSafe chargers, and it's holding pretty tight to them too! This adds convenience to charging your AirPods with a MagSafe wireless charger, as you don't have to hunt for the exact right spot to place the case on.

Speaking of convenience, if you have an Apple Watch, the AirPods Pro 2's case can now use its charging puck too! None of that for the first AirPods Pro.

As for the color options – there are none. Both the AirPods Pro 2 and AirPods Pro come only in glossy white, although there are third party sellers of skin wraps and cases that can add some flair to your headphones. Apple also offers engraving for the case, which could be a name, a phrase, an emoji, or even your Memoji.

Both sets of earbuds are IPX4 sweat and water resistant, so although that still doesn't make them suitable for water-based sports, they can resist sweat from heavy workouts just fine.

Sound quality

Starting with the original AirPods Pro, in our original review we found them to sound nice and full, if a bit lacking in the bass department, instead emphasizing the highs.

Still, years later, I can confidently say that they don't disappoint. Even today their sound is satisfyingly rich and full, and with tight (albeit not the strongest) bass, so they're holding up pretty well. I am noticing the highs and mids are a tad muffled, though, at least now when hearing them side-by-side with the new model. Speaking of which…

The new AirPods Pro 2 are clearly an improvement. Sounds are cleaner and more defined, vocals in music stand out more, the bass is tighter and hits harder (in a good way). They also sound wider, more spacious, making music feel that bit more exciting and lively.

According to Apple, the new H2 chip inside the AirPods Pro 2 should help them deliver "crisp, clear high notes and deep, rich bass in stunning definition — so every sound is more vivid than ever."

And I agree – the AirPods Pro 2 sound very crisp and clear, but honestly, the AirPods Pro (first-gen) aren't that much behind, especially considering their age.

Both AirPods Pro models have support for Apple's Spatial Audio feature, which is enabled by default and makes music and movies sound wider, and… well, more spatial.

I definitely recommend keeping this feature enabled on either AirPods Pro, unless you're planning to mix or produce music with your earbuds. In which case, turning Spatial Audio off will make the AirPods Pro sound more traditional and flat. Which is, of course, desirable for music mixing.

Active noise canceling (ANC)

Again, we'll start with the older, first-gen AirPods Pro. They already have amazing ANC that manages to block most sound frequencies, up to the very high ones. So if you have them on, with no music playing, but ANC enabled, you will indeed be happy with how much of the surrounding noise they manage to block – be it people's voices, rumbling car engines or clacking keyboards.

You'll only hear the high frequencies from these sounds, and only if their source is close to you. Once you play some music – you'll hear no background noise at all.

So what about the AirPods Pro 2, then? After all, Apple claims "up to two times more noise cancellation than their predecessor" – an absolutely bold claim!

Well, yes, they do block even more noise, meaning to an even higher frequency extent. In the same scenario as before, you'll hear even less of the tiny high frequencies of any surrounding sounds – it's very, very impressive.

But "two times more noise cancellation"? It could technically be true, but it's far from noticeable.

All in all, most people will be plenty happy with either AirPods Pro's ANC. Objectively, the new ones are a slight improvement on the old ones' already-excellent ANC, but I wouldn't say that's a reason enough to rush and upgrade to them.

Touch controls

Both the AirPods Pro 2 and the original AirPods Pro have touch-sensitive areas on their stems, which you can press to play and pause your music, switch between ANC and Transparency mode, or to summon the Siri virtual assistant.

However, what makes the new AirPods Pro 2 unique among any AirPods before them is the fact that their stems also support a sliding touch gesture for changing the volume.

On the original AirPods Pro, to change the volume you have to either ask Siri to do it for you, or you'll be reaching for your phone and using its volume keys.

On the AirPods Pro 2, however, you can slide your finger up or down over their touch sensitive area to raise or lower the volume. At first, I expected that to be finicky, but it's actually been working perfectly. So if that bit of new convenience matters to you – there we have it!

It's actually a big new feature, to be honest, as at least I find myself often needing to change the volume of my music. As basic as it is, this volume touch gesture makes things quite a bit quicker and more convenient.

Battery life

This is another area where the new AirPods Pro 2 offer more – up to 30 hours of battery life with the case. Or if using just the earbuds standalone – up to 6 hours on a single charge.

In contrast, the original 2019 AirPods Pro can last up to 24 hours with the case, or up to 4.5 hours on a single charge.

Both the AirPods Pro 2 and AirPods Pro earbuds charge from their cases when stored inside. Their cases can be charged either via the Lightning port on the bottom, or wirelessly with Qi charging or MagSafe. Both come with a charging cable out the box, but no charging brick, so you'll have to either buy one, or use your iPhone's charger.

However, as we mentioned earlier, the AirPods Pro 2's case has some new quality-of-life charging improvements. It not only snaps magnetically to MagSafe chargers now, but it can even be charged with your Apple Watch charging puck, making things, once again, that much more convenient.

Which should you buy? AirPods Pro 2 or AirPods Pro

It's a no-brainer to get the new AirPods Pro 2, as they're starting at the exact same price and offer longer battery life, better sound with stronger ANC, plus that new volume touch control gesture.

They also feature other neat new features like a lanyard loop, a speaker that can guide you to find them easily if misplaced, magnets on the case so you can place it even easier on MagSafe chargers, plus the convenience of Apple Watch charger support. If you already have an Apple Watch, it can share its charger with your new AirPods Pro 2!

However, if you don't mind the slightly more muffled sound of the original first-gen AirPods Pro, and you can find them with a good price discount now that they're older, you'll likely be happy with them too. They're holding up very well in 2022.

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