AirPods Pro (2022)

AirPods Pro 2nd generation in review: Music on, world off!

Improve an already excellent product even further? Apple tries to square the circle with a new AirPods Pro generation. And it has succeeded.

Von   Uhr

In the past 15 years of Apple product history (which is not lacking in events), a lot has happened beyond the introduction of the iPhone. Yes, there is the Apple Watch, and yes, there is the iPad. But for me, the AirPods Pro are the bigger success story. Also, and above all, because the tiny white earbuds gave me new life to the fun of listening to music.

The two AirPods Pro generations look very similar, and only those who look closely will discover slight differences. Inside, however, is new hardware: The H2 chip comes with a doubled number of transistors, for example, and the charging case integrates the U1 "thing finder" chip known from the AirTags.
The two AirPods Pro generations look very similar, and only those who look closely will discover slight differences. Inside, however, is new hardware: The H2 chip comes with a doubled number of transistors, for example, and the charging case integrates the U1 "thing finder" chip known from the AirTags. (Bild: Stefan Molz)

Thanks to the charging case, they are always ready to hand with enough battery charge and live in my pocket, proving themselves almost daily as well-fitting and balanced-sounding speakers to put in my ears. A big bonus point is the excellent noise reduction. But the practical transparency mode of the AirPods Pro also deserves praise: The sound carpet of everyday life interweaves with my favorite music.

About three years have passed since the release of the first AirPods Pro generation. And yes, the battery, which you cannot replace at a reasonable price, is slowly but surely running out of steam. So a replacement is needed: Remarkably, the second AirPods Pro generation does contain not only cosmetic product updates, but also substantial innovations.

The reviewer's ears harmonize with the silicone earpieces in size M. Those with narrower ear canals will be happy about the XS earpieces that are now also included in the box.
The reviewer's ears harmonize with the silicone earpieces in size M. Those with narrower ear canals will be happy about the XS earpieces that are now also included in the box. (Bild: Stefan Molz)

New wine in old skins

The 2nd generation AirPods Pro feature a new chip, the "H2". According to Apple, it contains twice as many transistors as its predecessor. The new chip improves the in-ears with more performance in almost all areas where computing power is required: The noise reduction is more effective, the adaptive equalizer works more accurately, and the transparency mode, which now also works adaptively, wants to help protect the hearing. 
The new models also have more battery life, not least thanks to the change to Bluetooth 5.3, as well as a newly designed charging case that integrates the technology of an AirTag. And people with small ears will be happy to know that a set of even smaller silicone earplugs is now included in the box.

This is the AirPods family

AirPods (2nd generation)
Apple still offers the classic earbuds. However, you must do without many familiar details in the higher-priced models. There is no skin detection sensor that could potentially extend the runtime, the device is operated via tapping gestures, and 3D audio with dynamic head tracking is missing.

AirPods (3rd generation)
In the fall of 2021, the classic AirPods entered their 3rd generation. From the AirPods Pro, these inherit 3D audio with dynamic head tracking and the "pinch" operation via pressure sensor. They are also IPX4 rated, which means they are protected from sweat and water.

AirPods Pro (2nd generation)
This review is about precisely those AirPods. They primarily differ from the cheaper versions in their active noise cancellation, better sound, and the (now adaptive) transparency mode. The new AirPods Pro are the first Apple headphones with an H2 chip.

AirPods Max
The AirPods Max stand out from the crowd. Unlike their in-ear siblings, the Max are true over-ear headphones. They are superior in terms of sound and battery life due to their design – but that comes at a price, both in terms of size and weight, as well as at the checkout.

First things first

Ideally, headphones do not "sound" by themselves. Instead, the source material, i.e., the music, should be reproduced as accurately as possible. The smaller the headphones, the more of a challenge this becomes in terms of physics. It is and remains impressive how well the AirPods Pro sound despite their design and size. The new generation also sounds balanced from the basses to the mids and trebles, with details and without distortions. In a direct comparison, the new AirPods Pro score over their predecessors with more precision, especially in displaying lower frequencies. Thus, a difference is indeed audible.

Earplugs Ultra

Noise is not only annoying. It can even make you ill. Whether it's the everyday patchwork of different sounds in the office, noise on the bus or train, the tornado unleashed by the air conditioner in the home office, or even – the supreme discipline – the roaring of jet engines on a transatlantic flight. Active noise cancellation takes the horror out of annoying noise. At its core, the principle is as simple as ingenious: a phase-rotated counter signal is generated in the headphones, which cancels out the noise. This technology already worked well in the AirPods Pro from 2019 – so well that I have used them as earplug replacements ever since.

Apple highlights the improved active noise reduction in the AirPods Pro (2nd generation) as a new feature. It is supposed to filter out up to twice as much unwanted noise as the predecessor. 
The Mac Life editorial team could not prove this scientifically, but we could subjectively hear it compared to the test. We paired both the new AirPods Pro and the 2019 model with the same iPhone and inserted one earpiece of the 1st and 2nd generation into the ear canal. Monitor speakers (Adam A3X) simulated airplane noise, construction site clatter, and crowd; the robot vacuum cleaner was also allowed to play loudly for the review. In most of the listening tests, two people could clearly identify which earpiece was the one that could swallow more sound. In short: Yes, noise reduction is more effective – and Apple has fulfilled a marketing promise here.

Apple also revised the transparency mode in Generation 2. Until now, this has basically worked like a "reverse noise reduction": Ambient noise is mixed into the music playback so that you can perceive the outside world despite the button in the ear. 

The new adaptive transparency intercepts level peaks and thus combines transparency mode and noise cancellation in a sensible way. You could experience this with effectively lowered siren wailing, for example. This remained audible, but was reproduced in a gentle form on the ears. With a view to the "Conversation Boost" introduced in iOS 15, the AirPods Pro have become more than just in-ears; the way to a full-fledged hearing aid is not far.

While we are on the subject of volume: Music playback can now be adjusted by swiping gestures on the "stem" of the AirPods Pro. To do so, the part of the in-ears that protrudes from the ear is placed between the thumb and the index finger. And the latter is then used to swipe either away from the ear (quieter) or toward the ear (louder). This works with both the left and right AirPod. If you want to turn the volume up or down another way, you can also deactivate the gesture with iOS 16.1 to avoid operating errors.

Appearances

The new hardware lives in an improved charging case. With up to 30 hours of additional playback, it provides up to six hours more runtime and is fully integrated into Apple’s "Find my?” system. Thanks to the integrated U1 chip, the case can be located to the centimeter like an AirTag. It's a pity you can't individually find the earbuds this way. 

The charging case integrates a speaker, and the latter draws attention to the case when you ping it via the iPhone’s "Find my?" app. It also "comments" on a low charge level or the pairing process with corresponding beeps, among other things.

Another one for the collection: The scope of delivery includes a USB-C to Lightning cable.
Another one for the collection: The scope of delivery includes a USB-C to Lightning cable. (Bild: Stefan Molz)

Another new feature: The small white case has an attachment point for lanyards on the right side. The lanyard from Incase, which is available in the Apple Store, is sportily priced at around 15 Euros, but the metal eyelet is wide enough to attach other lanyards as well. Apple also added an IPX4 rating for the case and earbuds. This means that the AirPods Pro are now "officially" protected against sweat and splashing water. 

New on the charging case: an eyelet for attaching a lanyard. Another charming feature is the option to have your own Memoji engraved on the white AirPods Pro case.
New on the charging case: an eyelet for attaching a lanyard. Another charming feature is the option to have your own Memoji engraved on the white AirPods Pro case. (Bild: Stefan Molz)

In addition, Apple now offers the option to engrave Memojis on the case – a charming way to individualize your AirPods. One drawback, however: Charging is still done via the Lightning connector; a USB-C to Lightning cable is included. Alternatively, the new charging case now supports charging via the Apple Watch charging puck in addition to Qi and MagSafe.

The price question

Uncritical adulation? Not at all. The AirPods Pro simply defend their status as our reference true wireless in-ears in the 2nd hardware generation. No other true wireless in-ears offer such a complete package of balanced sound, active noise cancellation, excellent battery life, and clearly the best integration into the Apple ecosystem. There may be better-sounding earbuds out there, but nowhere else is the total package more coherent for iPhone, iPad, and Mac users.

The new AirPods Pro are clearly better than their predecessors due to the improvements in sound, noise reduction via anti-noise, the adaptive transparency mode, and the revised case. However, the predecessors are still fabulous headphones: No one has to upgrade. 

If you are planning to buy a new pair of AirPods because of the dwindling battery life of your first-generation Pro, or if you are thinking about buying them for the first time, you have our word: The new AirPods Pro are currently the best in-ears for Apple users!

Testergebnis
ProduktnameAirPods Pro 2nd Generation
HerstellerApple
Preis299 EUR, 249 GBP, 249 USD
Webseitehttps://www.apple.com
Pro
  • balanced sound, improved ANC, adaptive transparency mode, revised charging case with “Find my?” integration
Contra
  • case with Lightning connector instead of USB-C
Bewertung
1,1 sehr gut

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