Already extremely popular just as they were, Apple’s AirPods Pro wireless earphones weren’t really begging for very much improvement. But Gen 2 of these versatile buds brings quite a few refinements to make them even more of an object of desire.
Visually, there are very few and very tiny changes to the new AirPods Pro. As a reminder, these are the more advanced of Apple’s earphones. The AirPods (regular) are now in their third generation and cost ₹18,999. The Pro version, which has more advanced smart features, costs ₹26,900 - and to many, is entirely worthwhile.
The new AirPods Pro come in their usual packaging. There is a new extra-small ear-tip set in addition to the standard ear-tips in the box so that they fit more ear-shapes. Both the case and the pods are the design that one has been seeing for the past few years, unabashedly copied by just about everyone.
The settings (immediately visible if you update to iOS16) on the iPhone will guide a user to finding the right fit through their Ear Test. Android users will of course need to find their own way. A good ear-fit is really important for just about everything to work well. Noise cancellation won’t be effective unless there’s a proper in-ear seal, music won’t sound as good unless the position is just right, and the buds will feel as if they could fall out if you move actively. The user will need to take the trouble to choose the tips suggested.
These earphones do work with Android phones well enough, but most smart features are only accessible to users of other Apple products with which these will pair almost by themselves. The one thing that users in the Apple ecosystem truly value is how one never has to consciously think of connecting, moving from one device to the other. One can be making a video call on a MacBook, watching a movie on an iPad, going for a walk with the Apple Watch or iPhone — using the AirPods on all these is a seamless experience. This, and the total in-ear comfort combine to make the AirPods Pro an Apple ecosystem essential.
With the correct tips in place and the AirPods in your ears, you will find them to be more comfortable than ever, even easy to sleep with in the ears - for those who like to fall asleep listening to soothing music or nature sounds. The other thing that is immediately noticeable is the sheer strength of the noise cancellation. Isolation on a passive level is unsurprisingly good because of the in-ear design and seal, but active noise cancellation is strong enough to suppress everything around, including vacuum cleaners, construction noise, people talking, dogs, people on the street, etc. There is no uncomfortable pressure because of the seal and the silence.
But naturally, you do need to attend to certain sounds around you, for which all you need to do is long press on the stem of one earbud (whichever you set as preferred) to turn on Transparency mode. This immediately brings the outside world into focus and you can then hear whatever you need to. At this time, your ears will be protected from sudden loud sounds above 85 decibels such as car horns by dampening those somewhat. This type of Adaptive Transparency is a unique feature.
The AirPods Pro 2 do seem to sound better than well, all other AirPods (except the Max headphones). There’s a wide and open soundstage and the sound is clearer, free of distortion, louder and more dynamic. The bass is more refined in it and mids more prominent. The sound profile is one that can’t fail to please most users. Speech (such as on podcasts) sounds good and phone calls sound clear to both sides. You can now increase and decrease the volume by swiping up and down on the stem of the pods in a responsive and comfortable action.
A capability that has come to the new AirPods Pro 2 is what Apple likes to call Personal Spatial Audio. This is a 360-degree format that creates a surround sound effect. Apple Music has a growing list of music tracks that support the feature but it works most for watching video and movies for which sound (if supported by the creator) can come from different directions. This can happen even if one is moving or turning one’s head.
Apple says it’s the company’s new H2 chip that is responsible for many of the improved functions because it uses computational algorithms to deliver smarter noise cancellation, superior three-dimensional sound and more efficient battery life — all at once.
More features on these AirPods includes better battery life which is between five and a half to six hours on the buds and then up to 30 hours with in-case charges. The AirPods Pro 2 also work with the MagSafe charging case to make listening on the move more convenient. Charging can also take place with the cradle of the Apple Watch. Another new feature is that the AirPods’ case now chimes when you’re looking for them via the phone or when it signals low battery. The accessibility settings will show even more features one can opt to use.
Overall, the AirPods Pro 2 may be small but are packed with capabilities on top of great sound and excellent noise management.