There are two main reactions to Apple's second- generation AirPods Pro, which will be available in September for the same price as the original pair.

That is the first thing. The overall design has not changed. The new products look the same. The first model arrived almost three years ago. There was no shortening or elimination of stems. There are no new color options. You can see the same thing from a side view. It isn't hard to be underwhelmed.

Apple focused on improving the formula that is already successful rather than reinventing its wireless earbuds. The second-gen AirPods sound better than the first. Their noise cancellation is getting better. The volume can be adjusted from the earbuds. The charging case has a built-in speaker that makes it easier to locate. The battery life is not as long as before. Even if the outer design is old hat, these changes are exciting for many Apple customers. The second reaction was along the lines of, "these are what I have been waiting for"

  • Much better noise cancellation
  • New volume control works great
  • Improved sound quality and clarity
  • Case has speaker and pinpoint location finding
  • Same old design
  • Lightning connector (hopefully for the last time)
  • Sound is improved but not top tier
  • No major new software features
$239.00 at Amazon$249.00 at Apple$249.00 at Best Buy

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The second- generation AirPods Pro are facing more competition than before. Over the last few months, we have seen the release of excellent earbuds by two companies. The LinkBuds S is one of the newer products that Sony is in the mix with. Superb sound quality is demonstrated by the recently released earbuds from Sennheiser. Apple's rivals have succeeded in replicating what felt so "magical" about the AirPods.

Features like spatial audio with head tracking and hands-free voice controls are common in the industry. Bose announced its QuietComfort Earbuds II on the same day as Apple's September event, which means that Apple's noise cancellation performance has already been surpassed by Bose. I don't know what is going on with this market. The lesson is that Apple doesn't have it as easy as it did last year, when many tech players were still using true wireless earbuds.

There aren't any major software tricks added to Apple's arsenal with the new AirPods Pro. The priority was once again to improve on what was already there, and this time it was the transparency mode. Individualized spatial audio can be tailored to your ear shape for a better experience.

Apple’s second-generation AirPods Pro pictured on an airplane tray table beside an iPhone 14.
Noise cancellation is up to twice as powerful than before, making the second-gen AirPods a better travel companion than the originals.

It was not true that Apple was going to make a leap to high-resolution wireless audio. The AirPods Pro use the true and tried-and-true AAC technology. I don't think many buyers will pay attention to that aspect. It makes sense to have higher-quality audio with the next AirPods Max.

There are a few differences between the first and second generation of AirPods. One of the microphone inlets is no longer spherical. The only sign that you are holding the earbuds is that little grille. The skin detection sensor in the third-gen AirPods allows for more accurate auto-pause when removing a bud from one ear.

A close-up detail image of Apple’s second-generation AirPods Pro.
This concave mic inlet is one giveaway that you’ve got the new AirPods Pro.

An extra-small size is one of the new ear tips included in the box. A friend of mine who modeled the AirPods Pro for my photos mentioned that the small size of the tips made them feel more comfortable than the large ones. The way the AirPods Pro fit in your ears is the same as before so you know what to expect. These will be the same as the original Pros if you like them. Maybe you would be better off with the regular earbuds. Venting is included to reduce ear pressure.

Apple’s second-generation AirPods Pro pictured in a side profile photo of a woman’s head.
There’s no way to tell old and new AirPods Pro apart when they’re in someone’s ear.

The ear gunk filters on the new ones are slightly different from the old ones. I am here to give you some information. Is it any different? It seems that Apple doesn't consider ear tips cross- compatible. Second-gen replacement tips are not sold with the first-gen tips. If you bought aftermarket foam tips for the original earbuds, they should work fine on the new ones.

Sound quality is something we should be looking into. The amplifier and driver in the AirPods Pro are the same size as in the third-gen AirPods, but they sound better and produce the most dynamic output of any AirPods to date.

One of Apple’s second-generation AirPods Pro pictured in a person’s hand with the ear tip detached.
Apple redesigned the amplifier and drivers in the second-gen AirPods Pro.

Apple's audio tuning philosophy is to land on the most pleasing sound profile it can find that gives consistency across genres and audio formats. Everything ends up sounding good when you aim for a universal solution. The new AirPods Pro reach farther into high and low frequencies than their predecessors. These aren't skull rattlers with their bass response. Apple is getting more out of the drivers. Even though I am not a big fan of spatial audio, going through the sometimes tedious personalization process in iOS 16 can make the effect more convincing since Apple is now playing to its unique acoustic characteristics. The settings menu on the new AirPods Pro has a dedicated section that makes it easier to explore.

Apple’s second-generation AirPods Pro, Samsung’s Galaxy Buds 2 Pro, and Google’s Pixel Buds Pro pictured above the iPhone 14 Pro Max, Galaxy S22, and Pixel 6, respectively.
Many once signature AirPod features have been copied by competitors.

The AirPods Pro have smooth vocals, well-separated harmonies, and distinctly layers of string instruments. Big Thief's newest album, Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You, comes through with warmth and an extra layer of low end presence that is missing on the original AirPods Pro. These still sound similar to the AirPods Pro. The world's most popular earbuds aren't deviating too far from what people have come to expect.

That means that the AirPods Pro are still outclassed in sound fidelity by the likes of Sennheiser and some people will prefer the Buds 2 Pro. If you plan on using the AirPods Pro with your phone, be aware that there is a bug where you can't play back music. I have inquired about the issue but haven't heard back.

Apple has made a lot of gains with its noise cancellation. The new implementation is up to two times more effective than the original one. I don't have any scientific measurement tools but that claim seems realistic. I moved my desk and now sit near an air vent that emits a noise. There is a trace of that in the original AirPods Pro, but it is completely hidden with the second-gen pair. If co-workers walk next to my desk, I can still hear them, but at most times, the AirPods Pro give me peace of mind. I have seen improvements when I commute on the subway and less street noise when I travel through Brooklyn.

Apple’s second-generation AirPods Pro pictured next to Bose’s QuietComfort Earbuds II.
The new AirPods Pro already trail Bose’s QuietComfort Earbuds II at noise cancellation.

I can't tell you that Apple is the leader. Bose took the noise-cancellation crown with its $300 QuietComfort Earbuds II. Apple is in a better place now than it was previously, and it is possible that the company will be able to make up for the gap as it uses the H2 chip in the new AirPods Pro. The ANC is on par with Sony's WF-1000XM4s, but they use bulky foam ear tips that people don't like.

It's the same as before, but now comes with some hearing protection. You won't have to switch back to noise-canceling mode or take any action if the AirPods Pro detect loud noises when in transparency mode. The transparency mode doesn't listen for specific noises or frequencies, but anything above a certain decibel level seems totrigger the adjustments in real time. In my testing, that includes sirens, obnoxiously loud motorcycles, and so on. It is impossible to verify Apple's claim that it processes 48,000 times per second. You can adjust the amount of sound coming through transparency mode through the accessibility settings.

A close-up detail image of the touch sensor on Apple’s second-generation AirPods Pro.
You can adjust volume by sliding a finger up or down the touch sensor.

The addition of onboard volume controls is the most significant change to the hardware. If you want to increase or decrease volume, you can slide a finger up or down the force sensor section of the stem. You can hear a click sound in one ear as you adjust volume. The feedback click is always one volume and doesn't previews what level you're at. The bloop at zero and the maximum volume bloop are the same. I wish Apple would have given the new volume control to the original AirPods Pros. With gesture controls on other headphones and earbuds, I have not accidentally paused or skipped a track when changing volume. I don't have to reach for my phone or ask for volume changes. I'm on board.

There is a lanyard on the right side of the carrying case. Apple doesn't include a lanyard in the box, nor is it manufacturing one of its own. Apple is selling a $12 Incase Lanyard instead. You can't even tighten it to your wrist, but there is a way to loop it onto a bag or backpack. When hanging like that, I switched to a Peak Design Anchor and put it into one of my backpack's pockets for more security.

A close-up photo of the case for Apple’s second-generation AirPods Pro. The new speaker is pictured.

The speaker at the bottom of the case can help you find it.

A photo of Apple’s second-generation AirPods Pro attached to a backpack with the new lanyard loop.

Attach a lanyard to the case.

The U1 chip in the AirPods Pro case is the same one used in the AirTag. The Find My app has the same augmented reality interface with arrows pointing the way to your case. There is a speaker in the case. When you plug it in for charging or when the battery is low, the speaker makes little noises. If you misplace the case, the speaker can emit a sound so you can find it. If they are all within the range, you can find the case and each ear bud by themselves.

You can be notified if other Apple devices cross your path if you misplace your AirPods away from home. It is nice to see that Apple continues to improve the ease of locating them, as they are linked to your Apple ID account, which is a clever anti-theft measure. I have noticed that the battery levels for both earbuds and the case are still present in my phone, much longer than they used to be. They would usually disappear after being in the case for a while. You will have a better idea of when to take a break.

A photo of Apple’s iPhone 14 Pro Max displaying the new animation that appears in the Dynamic Island when AirPods are connected.
There’s an animation in the Dynamic Island whenever your AirPods connect.

Both the AirPods Pro and wireless charging case are rated IPX4 for water / sweat resistance, and you can now juice up the case with an Apple Watch charging accessory. Apple estimates 4.5 hours of continuous talk time on calls if you use head- tracking spatial audio, but this drops to 3.5 hours if you use ANC. The first-gen Pros had an estimated 30 hours of listening time.

The voice call performance seems to have improved from the first one. The second-gen model is a step up from the first model, but Apple hasn't made any big claims in this area.

A photo of the iPhone 14 next to Apple’s second-generation AirPods Pro. Both devices are wet with visible rain drops on them.
The buds and case offer IPX4 water and sweat resistance.

Apple didn't make any big changes with the second generation of AirPods. The company tried to perfect a product that millions of people already know how to use. Apple was able to improve sound quality with its second attempt. Improvements, along with a more helpful case, will be enough for many to upgrade.


Every smart device has a set of terms and conditions that you have to agree to before you can use it. It is not possible for us to read and analyze all of them. Since these are agreements most people don't read and can't negotiate, we're going to start counting how many times you have to agree to use the device.

The AirPods Pro can be used without you agreeing to anything in the software. You agree to use them.

There is a final tally.

The AirPods Pro are now flanked by serious competitors from Apple's tech enemies. They are not the best sounding wireless earbuds you can buy and they are not class-leading in ANC thanks to Bose. The second-gen AirPods Pro are likely to be more popular than most other options due to their reliability and Apple's benefits.

Chris Welch is a photographer.