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There’s no doubt that Apple’s AirPods completely changed the wireless earbuds industry almost overnight. But since then, the likes of Google, Samsung and seemingly every other tech company that wanted to be taken seriously has released some form of wireless earbuds, most of which now have premium features like long battery life and active noise cancelation.
Alongside the release of the iPhone 14 lineup, Apple also released the second-generation AirPods Pro, the company’s high-end wireless earbuds that Apple touted as providing a better experience across the board.
After a few weeks of testing Apple’s latest and greatest wireless earbuds, we’re inclined to agree. The $250 AirPods Pro are worth every dollar.
• 6 hours of listening time with ANC
• 30 hours of listening time with the charging case
• Active Noise Cancellation and Adaptive Transparency
• Bluetooth 5.3
• Apple H2 headphone chip
• Apple U1 chip in MagSafe Charging Case
• Active noise cancellation (ANC). Is there anything better than putting wireless earbuds in your ears and immediately hearing all of the ambient noise surrounding you fade away while you’re left with only your favorite music or podcasts? We think not. And with the second-generation AirPods Pro, Apple has taken the ANC we know and love from the original Pro model and cranked it to 10. On a recent flight from New York to Colorado we couldn’t believe the difference when turning ANC on and off. Even the constant engine hum that almost always gets through wireless earbuds and ANC more or less disappeared.
• Transparency mode is a feature on AirPods that makes it possible to tune into your environmental noise while still listening to music. The idea is that you can use transparency mode while walking along a busy street to hear passing cars, or in an airport to hear gate announcements. Well, with the New AirPods Pro, Apple unveiled Adaptive Transparency which takes the AirPods Pro transparency mode and puts it on steroids.
Apple touts a bunch of achieved technical feats in order to make this happen, but we’ll save you from all of the jargon and just say this: Apple figured out a way to reduce loud noises such as cars driving by, kids screaming, or even construction equipment — while simultaneously allowing you to still hear announcements, or a lower volume version of that car and still hear your music or podcast without struggling to find the right volume level.
Using the AirPods Pro in Adaptive Transparency Mode is an experience that has yet to stop amazing us, and has quickly become our preferred setting for most listening sessions unless there’s something really annoying you don’t want to hear, then you just turn on ANC.
• Swiping on the stem of the AirPods Pro to control volume is a feature we wish would have been there from day one on the original AirPods Pro.
• Ever lost your AirPods case? You can now use the Find My app and Apple’s Find My network to locate it. You can even play a sound on the case itself to help you find it. Even if it’s just lost in your couch cushion, which it probably is.
What kind of works:
• The New AirPods Pro have practically the same exact design as the first generation model, except the New AirPods Pro comes with an extra small ear tip to ensure a better fit for more people. For the first few days of our testing, the preinstalled medium tip felt comfortable and like a good fit. However, since then, we’ve found ourselves feeling like the AirPods Pro are randomly going to fall out, requiring somewhat regular adjustments.
You can conduct an ear tip fit test in the AirPods section of your iPhone’s settings app, but we’ve run it a few times with results stating that we’re wearing the right size tips. We’ve heard good things about the $25 Comply Foam Earbud Tips for the AirPods Pro and are considering getting some of those to see if we can’t get a better fit.
What needs work:
• Battery life. Don’t get us wrong, 30 hours of total use with a full charging case and 6 hours of listening time — with active noise cancelation turned on! — is great. But then you look at Google’s Pixel Buds Pro and their 11 hours of listening time, and you can’t help but feel like your AirPods Pro could benefit from longer battery life. Granted, that’d likely mean a redesign to make room for a larger battery. On second thought, maybe the current battery life is acceptable?
• Random device switching is still something we struggle with. If you own multiple Apple devices and have used AirPods in the past, you know our pain: You start by playing some music to your AirPods, using your Mac. A few minutes later, you get distracted by a notification on your iPhone and your AirPods instantly switch their connection to your iPhone — pausing music on your Mac in the process. Sure, there’s a toggle switch to prevent automatic switching in the AirPods settings section, but we shouldn’t have to take that extra step.
At $250, the AirPods Pro aren’t the most affordable wireless earbuds. But they’re among the best money can buy.
The second-generation AirPods Pro took a previously proven formula and improved on it in nearly every way. From better noise cancellation to an adaptive transparency mode that’s akin to black magic. Even battery life is better, although it falls short of what the Android-influenced competition can achieve.
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