The problem with charging $399 for a set of in-ear headphones is they have to meet so many expectations. There are very few headphones at that price and really only ultra-premium brands above that mark. Can Apple justify the pricetag of the new AirPods Pro 2nd generation? Just like the rest of their products, yes they can.
Justification doesn’t actually come from the features, but from the simplicity and the ecosystem. How AirPods just simply connect to Apple devices is staggeringly awesome and simple. Google and Android are making great progress in this space, but Apple pioneered it, and they continue to do it well. Where their product – the AirPods Pro had fallen behind in the three years since their launch, Apple has quickly made up ground with the 2nd generation.
Apple claims a two fold improvement in noise cancelling, and I’m sure that’s true, but without any flights to test it on, I’m just going to tell you that in the noisy areas I tested them, and with some strong ambient background playing I felt an impressive result from the Noise Cancelling on the AirPods Pro 2.
What’s far more impressive is the use of noise cancelling technology within the ambient or transparency mode. While the options really are still just “on” or “off” it’s when the transparency is on and noise cancelling is off that the real magic of the AirPods Pro are revealed.
It sounds like they aren’t in your ears. It legit sounds like you don’t have AirPods in, the silicon tip is in your ear blocking plenty of ambient noise, yet with it in your ear and transparency mode on – it sounds like the world around you is as normal, yet what’s happening is Apple’s H2 processor is taking in the sounds via the microphones and piping them back into your ears.
BUT – if that sound around you is too loud, it will still pipe it in, but it will reduce the decibel level so it’s not a dangerously loud sound. You still hear things normally and are safely walking around, but your ears are not at risk of damage.
I tried this by walking into a room with loud ambient sounds playing and there was no issue hearing what was going on, yet when I took the AirPods out the sound was really loud, you know that kinda loud when you’re thinking – I’ve gotta move away from this sound.
Impressive, really impressive stuff
Personalised Spatial Audio
The concept here is brilliant. Use the true-depth camera on the iPhone to take an image of your ear and use that to personalise the way the AirPods deliver the sound into your ears.
It’s not uncommon, Sony and others do this by playing tones into your ears while the headphones are in and use the frequency responses to customise the sound.
For me though, I’ve never really noticed how it’s different. I think an audiophile would be better explaining this, but for me, and I think for most AirPods owner this is a feature you’ll use but unlikely truly appreciate.
The small indent on each AirPod is still able to be pinched or squeezed to turn on and off Noise Cancelling, and double squeeze for track controls and more.
But why on earth has Apple never had volume controls on AirPods? They would say just “ask Siri” – but that’s ridiculous.
Finally, AirPods Pro 2nd Generation turn that indent into a touch surface that you can glide your finger on to adjust volume. Simple, easy and works on both ears.
This is one of those Apple being late to the party and catching up kinda features.
Find My AirPods
You’ve been able to use FindMy to locate your AirPods before, but it relied on the actual ear-bud emitting a sound loud enough for you to hear them, and if they were in the case – that gets harder.
For AirPods Pro 2 – the case now has a small speaker on the bottom, and that thing really makes a sound!
Open up FindMy on your phone, and choose the AirPods, Play Sound and this is loud enough for you to hear them if they’re buried under a pile of clothes. A great addition.
Six hours of battery life, though I barely got near that as I really don’t see a time when wearing any headphones for that long is a good thing, or something many people are doing.
That said, it’s an important metric for headphones and this helps elevate Apple into the space other similar earphones are.
The Verdict on Apple’s new AirPods Pro
These are a massive improvement from Apple. The touch controls for volume is a huge win, while the Ambient noise adjustment – reducing the volume of loud events, and still making you feel like you’re hearing the world around you as normal – works brilliantly.
They are not cheap, by any means whatsoever, but that little premium people are quite willing to pay because they are Apple, and work so well with Apple products – that’s the price you pay, and many will willingly do so.