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AirPods Pro vs. AirPods Pro 2: Should you upgrade?
Just how much better are the second-generation AirPods Pro?
Almost three years after the original AirPods Pro were released, Apple has launched a second-generation model said to improve sound quality, noise cancelling, and battery life. These changes all sound great on paper, but how significant are they? And if you've already got a first-generation pair of AirPods Pro, is it worth upgrading?
AirPods Pro vs. AirPods Pro 2: Sound Quality
To get into the real nuance of how the new AirPods Pro compare the original model, I've put both pairs through the sound testing playlist we use to review earbuds. You can listen to it below:
I Didn't Just Come Here To Dance - The second-generation AirPods Pro offer a more robust low-end on this Carly Rae Jepsen banger. While the original AirPods Pro don't have any issue keeping up with the layered bass frequencies, the new model have a fuller sound.
3005 - The difference between the old AirPods Pro and the new AirPods Pro here is massive. The sub-bass hits in the opening sound pretty decent on the older model, but the second-generation buds add so much more resonance to that deep, deep low-end.
Feeling Good - The brass horns in the chorus sound just a bit bigger on the new AirPods Pro, but at the expense of Nina's vocals or the synths in the high-end.
While My Guitar Gently Weeps - The second-generation AirPods Pro make every element in this song sound just that little bit clearer.
Humming - Here, the kick drum is a bit more resonant on the AirPods Pro 2, and the high-end just that little bit sweeter. You still don't get any sibilance, however.
Do It Again - There's not a huge difference in how this Steely Dan track sounds on either pair of AirPods Pro - you can effortlessly follow the layered high-end on both.
The National Anthem - This Radiohead tune is one of our clarity tests, and while the original AirPods Pro easily passed, add a little extra dynamic range to the song. There's just a little more space between each instrument.
The Funeral Portrait - This death metal doozy is another one of our clarity tests, but there isn't a huge amount of difference between the pair. The second-generation AirPods Pro add just a little extra meat to the kick drum, but it's hardly revelatory.
Swerve City - Once again, there's very little difference here. Both pairs sound great.
Comfortably Numb - The new AirPods Pro have an ever so slightly wider soundstage, making the swooshy synth bits at the start of this Pink Floyd classic more enveloping.
Blinding Lights - Once again, you get a slightly wider soundstage here, and the bass in the track has more oomph on the AirPods Pro 2.
Overall, the second-generation AirPods Pro tend to consistently sound better than their predecessors. How much depends just on what style of music you listen to, and the effect will be felt more on bassier tracks.
The second-generation AirPods Pro also don't degrade as much at lower volumes. For example, you still get some sub-bass on "3005" when you've got the new AirPods Pro turned all the way down, whereas it's non-existent on the original AirPods Pro.
Microphone quality is also just a little cleaner on the second-generation AirPods Pro.
AirPods Pro vs. AirPods Pro 2: Noise Cancelling
Apple says the new AirPods Pro cancel twice as much noise as their predecessors. That's a bit of a weird way to measure noise cancellation, but in practice, the updated pair certainly block out more sound.
At my gym, there's a noisy heavy metal fan (a literal one mounted to the wall, not me). When working out on the stair master, I used to be able to hear it pretty clearly through the original AirPods Pro. When wearing the AirPods Pro 2, it's barely a whisper. It's a massive difference.
Similarly, I can normally tell if my partner is trying to talk to me if I'm wearing the original AirPods Pro. With the second-generation model, I genuinely have no idea unless I can see her lips.
AirPods Pro vs. AirPods Pro 2: Battery
The second-generation AirPods Pro benefit from a slightly longer battery life than their predecessors. Apple says you can get up to six hours of listening time on one charge with noise cancelling on, with up to 30 hours of total listening time with the charging case.
For comparison, the original AirPods Pro offered up to 4.5 hours of listening time on a single charge with noise cancelling on. You could get a total of 24 hours of battery with the charging case.
That's a pretty solid upgrade on paper, but it could be even more significant if you've had your original AirPods Pro for a while. Batteries degrade over time, and if you got your pair back when they came out in 2019, there's every chance they don't last as long as they used to.
Apple doesn't provide an easy way to check the battery health of your AirPods, so this is something you'd need to test yourself with an extended listening session. If you don't want to upgrade to new AirPods, Apple does offer a battery replacement service for $75.
Both the original AirPods Pro and second-generation AirPods Pro offer identical fast charging speeds: a five-minute charge when flat should give you enough juice for one hour of music playback.
What has changed, however, is charging methods. In addition to Lightning and wireless charging, you can also top the new AirPods Pro up with an Apple Watch charger.
AirPods Pro vs. AirPods Pro 2: Design
Apple hasn't made any drastic changes when it comes to the AirPods Pro design. The only notable aesthetic difference on the buds is slightly different microphone grill positioning.
There is however a new gesture control for adjusting volume. Swiping up and down on the stem of either bud will increase or decrease the volume. It can take a little bit of effort to work out the exact motion the first time, but it works well thereafter.
You also get new extra-small tips in the box, incase the small tips from the original were too large.
The second-generation AirPods Pro has some more significant changes. It's now rated IPX4 for splash resistance, just like the AirPods Pro themselves. It also has a speaker in the case that can chime if you're trying to locate it using the Find My app, and there's a mounting point for a lanyard loop, because the 90s are back.
AirPods Pro vs. AirPods Pro 2: Should I upgrade?
The second-generation AirPods Pro represent a solid update on an already great product. Apple has genuinely delivered better sound quality, noise cancelling, and battery life. That being said, I don't think everyone needs to rush out and upgrade.
The improved noise cancelling is my favourite improvement, and if you need a cone of silence, the step up in quality will be sure to impress, and everything else is a bonus. And if you've had your original AirPods Pro for a while and the battery is starting to go, why not?
But if you've only had your original AirPods Pro for a short time and you don't want or need the improved noise cancelling, you probably don't need a new pair.
If you're thinking about getting your first pair of AirPods, the original AirPods Pro are still available at some retailers for a discounted price. You can get them for $317 at Amazon, for example, and if you want to save money, they're a pretty good buy.
The new AirPods Pro are naturally still only being sold at full price. You'll pay $399 for them at most retailers.
And if neither seems quite right for you, here is our guide to the best earbuds.
Disclosure: This author owns shares in Apple