Home Editorials AirPods Pro 2 vs. AirPods Pro: Should you upgrade?

AirPods Pro 2 vs. AirPods Pro: Should you upgrade?

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How do the AirPods Pro 2 compare to Apple’s active noise-cancelling earbud original?
With Apple recently launching the AirPods Pro 2, some people are ready to splurge on the upgrade, while others are wondering if it’s better to pick up the original AirPods Pro for a lower price.
Truthfully, choosing between the two products is a win-win for iOS users. It really depends on your preferences.
If enriched sound, improved active noise cancellation (ANC), and more features mean that much to you, then the AirPods Pro 2 are the way to go. Otherwise, the first-gen AirPods Pro can suffice as your daily buds, delivering similar performance on multiple fronts (e.g., connectivity, fast charging, iOS integration) and even outperforming its successor in one specific category.
This comparison breaks down both models to help you choose the right AirPods for your noise-cancelling and budgetary needs.
In what was a surprise announcement, Apple unveiled the AirPods Pro 2 at the same launch price as the original: $249 (with free engraving). You can purchase a pair on Apple’s website (opens in new tab) or at major online retailers like Amazon (opens in new tab), which currently has them for $10 less at launch.
Anyone hoping to grab the standard AirPods Pro with MagSafe charging case for considerably less can pick them up at Amazon (opens in new tab) or Best Buy (opens in new tab) for as low as $179. Take advantage of the markdown because all signs point to the original version being discontinued; Apple no longer lists the Pro on their website. That means they will likely be unavailable once retailers run through their stock.
Both are fantastic noise-cancelling investments, and the extra perks on the AirPods Pro 2 justify the MSRP (which is $50 less than the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2 — a near ANC rival).
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Winner: AirPods Pro

They look identical to one another and share many of the same details.
In terms of the buds, notice the aluminum accents, angled sound ports, black grilles, force sensors, and small stems have all gone untouched. The only differentiator is the skin-detect sensors on the AirPods Pro 2, which were previously featured on the AirPods 3. Build quality remains subpar, with the all-plastic exterior still easily cracking if dropped or stepped on.

Design changes were made to the AirPods Pro 2’s MagSafe charging case and they are substantial. A lanyard loop is placed on the side and a built-in speaker sits at the bottom. What’s the speaker for? It plays a loud chime to indicate charging statuses, low battery, pairing, or to help locate the case when misplaced via Precision Finding in the Find My feature. Like both sets of AirPods, the cases aren’t very durable and take on lots of scuffs and scratches. One thing we did notice is that the AirPods Pro 2’s case has stronger magnets.
Comfort and fit are equally great, though Apple’s new ear tips provide the AirPods Pro 2 a tighter grip around the canal. That’s about it. Both models make for pleasant wear, and the Ear Tip Fit Test still delivers accurate results for optimal fit.
Winner: AirPods Pro 2

The force sensors and “Hey Siri” voice activation work flawlessly on both the AirPods Pro and Pro 2. Expect responsive input when performing the single/double/triple and long-hold gestures. Saying the Siri wake word phrase out loud instantly fires up the AI bot for use, while Apple’s mics capture every syllable and verbal request with precision, resulting in accurate responses.
Wear detection operates slightly quicker on the AirPods Pro 2 because of the skin-detect sensors. Apple also introduced touch volume controls on the latest model, which can be activated by sliding up or down on either force sensor — the feature works incredibly well.
Winner: AirPods Pro 2

Apple showed us the AirPods audio capabilities with the AirPods Pro. Its adaptive EQ creates clearer and more consistent sound. The soundstage is wider and warmer than the AirPods 2, and frequency range is better balanced. In addition, this version introduced the world to spatial audio, Apple’s 3D sound format that does a convincing job of delivering immersive sound on Dolby Atmos-enabled music and movies.
Many of the AirPods Pro’s audio features are available on the AirPods Pro 2. Headphone Accommodations lets users tune audio for balance, range, and brightness, as well as boost or decrease the presence of soft sounds. Headphone Audio Customization scans your ears and creates a sound profile based on your hearing preferences. Let’s not forget the EQ in iOS to choose from 20 different presets that cater to different music genres.

Personalized Spatial Audio is the killer feature Apple’s promoting heavy on the AirPods Pro 2, though it’s also available on the original AirPods Pro. Like Headphone Audio Customization, which uses a series of tests to create a sound profile, this feature does so by scanning the size and shape of your head and ears using the iPhone’s TrueDepth camera. iOS 16 does the rest. The feature performs better on the AirPods Pro 2, along with dynamic head tracking.
But it’s not all about 3D sound on the AirPods Pro 2. A new low-distortion driver and custom amplifier were stuffed into the buds to pump out crisper mids and deeper bass. Highs are also more present, especially on orchestral tracks with complex arrangements.
Winner: AirPods Pro 2

We’ve tested the AirPods Pro’s ANC in numerous settings, pre- and post-pandemic. Our experiences have been mostly positive, with the buds neutralizing common noises such as bird chirping, co-worker chatter, landscaping tools, loud TVs, and airplane engine rumble. Apple claims the AirPods Pro 2 has double the noise cancelling. We wouldn’t go as far as saying that, but it does block out external sounds better, specifically high frequencies.
Where the AirPods Pro 2 receives a significant boost is in ambient listening. Adaptive Transparency is a grand achievement for Apple, reducing loud environmental noise and keeping it discernable enough without compromising audio quality. The results are impressive. We like the AirPods Pro’s transparency mode too, but the newer version makes a significant difference when passing by extremely loud settings.
Winner: AirPods Pro 2

The AirPods Pro 2 inherits all its sibling’s special features. On the list: ANC toggling, adaptive EQ, automatic switching, audio sharing, announced messages with Siri, Conversation Boost, Ear Tip Fit Test, Find My, “Hey Siri,” Headphone Accommodations, Headphone Levels, Live Listen, and instantaneous connectivity with iOS/macOS devices.
As for what’s new and exclusive to the AirPods Pro 2, you’re looking at a handful of enticing extras. The new H2 processor is at the center, powering ANC/Adaptive Transparency and the new audio driver and amplifier. It also works with Bluetooth 5.3 to deliver high-bandwidth connectivity and improved audio processing. Apple even stuffed a U1 processor into the AirPods Pro 2’s case to pinpoint the location of your device in the Find My app.
Neither set of buds are platform neutral. However, we noticed two things: the first-gen version is easier to pair with Android devices and demonstrates stabler audio performance. For some odd reason, the AirPods Pro 2 would mute audio after 30 seconds of playback whenever using streaming apps (e.g., Spotify, YouTube) on Google-operated smartphones.
Winner: AirPods Pro 2

Call it a controversial take, but we prefer the original AirPods Pro as a calling headset. Voice and video calls sound louder and clearer, plus the mics do a better job of minimizing incidental sounds. Muffle is common on the AirPods Pro 2 during voice and video calls, and wind resistance is weaker too.
The AirPods Pro 2 do have one advantage here: headtracking on FaceTime calls. As unique and serviceable as the feature is, we prefer less background interference, which the AirPods Pro provides.
Winner: AirPods Pro

The original AirPods Pro have some of the worst ANC playtime at around 4.5 hours. Turning off ANC extends battery life to around 5 hours, while the charging case holds a max of 24 hours. Thankfully, Apple has increased the portable power usage for the AirPods Pro 2 and the new buds hold between 5.5 to 7 hours, while the charging case stores up to 34 hours when fully charged.
A 5-minute charge generates 1 hour of playtime on both models. The charging cases also support Lightning, MagSafe, and Qi-enabled charging, while Apple Watch owners can also use their smartwatch charger to top up the AirPods Pro 2.
Winner: AirPods Pro 2
There is a new heir to Apple’s true wireless throne: the AirPods Pro 2. Updates to ANC, ambient listening, battery life, controls, spatial audio, and the MagSafe charging case (now with Precision Finding compatibility) make the latest entry more appealing for iOS users.
We’re still fans of the original AirPods Pro, (especially if Apple continues rolling out iOS updates that extend functionality) and is currently great value discounted via online retailers while stocks last. Ultimately, though, the AirPods Pro 2 are more future-proof, and with the older version already removed from Apple stores, the smart option for any potential AirPods Pro buyers is to grab the 2nd Generation version with longer shelf life.