Someone recently asked me on Twitter if I was still enjoying my AirPods Pro 2.
The answer was a resounding “yes”.
I also pointed out that, if it hadn’t been for the Apple Watch Ultra, the second-generation AirPods Pro would have been Apple’s product of the year.
If you’d told me at the start of the year that I’d reach that conclusion in November, I’d have laughed you out of the building. Surely Apple would release something more exciting, interesting, and downright incredible than a new pair of AirPods Pro in 2022?
1. The noise-cancelling
Since I bought the AirPods Pro 2, I’ve been using over-ear noise-cancelling headphones less. Don’t get me wrong – I still grab the latter during my early morning writing sessions, but that’s only because I’m sat at home at the coffee table and don’t have to worry about carrying them around.
When I head out on the road, or, sometimes, even just to the local coffee shop, I’m more inclined to take Apple’s latest earbuds with me. This is because they come frighteningly close to matching the noise-cancelling performance of every pair of over-ear headphones I have at my disposal.
There are some limitations, of course. AirPods Pro 2, just like every other pair of in-ear noise-cancellers, can’t beat over-ears when it comes to keeping wind noise at bay. But a moderately busy coffee shop? A rush hour train? No problem.
Oh, and the transparency mode is stellar, too. Because of course it is.
2. The sound
Whatever Apple has done with the second-generation AirPods Pro drivers and that spanking-new H2 chip has worked wonders, sonically.
There was nothing specifically wrong with the first-generation AirPods Pro when it came to the sound they produced. It did the job. It coped with most types of music admirably.
It just wasn’t particularly exciting. These new AirPods Pro are exciting. They also offer a much richer frequency response across the board and, as noted in my comparison with the AirPods Max, are even capable of beating far more expensive headphones when it comes to sound.
3. The brilliant case
I get a fair bit of stick on YouTube for my incessant rambling about the importance of headphone and earbud cases, but I really couldn’t give two hoots.
A bad case can ruin the ownership experience. It’s the thing you rely on to protect your expensive purchase and it ensures you can transport your headphones or earbuds with ease. In the case of AirPods Pro, it also keeps them juiced up to the maximum.
Apple has made some key improvements with the new AirPods Pro case (albeit with one glaring omission, which I’ll get to later). It’s the exact same dimensions as the previous version, which is no bad thing, but it now comes with a speaker and a lanyard connection.
The speaker provides feedback during a successful charging connection, and the option to attach a lanyard offers some personalisation beyond the age-old engraving option. It provides surprising utility, too. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve more easily retrieved the AirPods Pro 2 from the depths of my rucksack thanks to the cute little lanyard.
Oh, and the second-generation AirPods Pro case is water and sweat resistant now, too!
Finally, let’s not forget that you can charge it via the Apple Watch puck, which was another entirely unexpected but wonderfully convenient upgrade!
4. The Apple ecosystem
This isn’t specific to the second-generation AirPods Pro 2, but they’ve definitely upped the game when it comes to the way in which they tie into the Apple ecosystem.
We’ve always been able to switch between Apple devices relatively easily with AirPods Pro, but these new pair appear to have removed all of the frustrations that were present before. I rarely encounter instances where they don’t switch, or when they unexpectedly connect to another Apple device without my say-so (or expectation).
I have a feeling this is, once again, something to do with the H2 chip, but it really does make the ownership experience far more pleasurable.
5. There’s limited competition
I briefly flirted with the brilliant OPPO Enco X earbuds earlier this year and even claimed that they were better than AirPods Pro. I maintain they are, but that’s only applicable to the first-generation; the Enco X can’t beat the second-generation AirPods Pro at all, I’m afraid.
This is because they’re now on a level par when it comes to sound, but also because OPPO’s effort doesn’t come anywhere close in terms of noise-cancelling and transparency, and they obviously lack all of the Apple ecosystem benefits.
Beyond the Enco X, there are some genuinely fantastic earbuds out there from manufacturers like Sennheiser, Google, Soundcore, and even Beats, but none of them come close to the second-generation AirPods Pro if you’re an iPhone owner.
AirPods Pro have never been the most budget-friendly noise-cancelling earbuds on the market, nor have they been flawless.
The second-generation are no different. At £249 they are typically Apple-expensive and don’t make for a casual purchase. They also feature one big miss on Apple’s part, which is the absence of USB-C charging. For many users, this won’t matter (they can be charged wirelessly, as noted earlier) but it’s something I’ve struggled to come to terms with given that every other headphone and earbud manufacturer has adopted USB-C. It’s even more ludicrous when you consider that the new Siri Remote for the Apple TV has been granted USB-C charging.
These are, however, relatively minor, reviewer-influenced gripes. If you give Apple £249 in exchange for the second-generation AirPods Pro, you will be immediately delighted. I promise.
They’d make for quite the Christmas present, too.