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

AirPods Pro 2 and AirPods Pro side by side among grass with daisy flowers
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

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.

Apple AirPods Pro 2 vs. AirPods Pro: Specs compared

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Row 0 - Cell 0 Apple AirPods Pro 2Apple AirPods Pro
Price$249$249 (originally); $179 (currently)
Wireless charging caseYesYes
Battery life (rated)5.5 hours (Spatial Audio and Head Tracking on) 6 hours (ANC on); 7 hours (ANC off); 30 hours (charging case with ANC on); 34 hours (charging case with ANC off)4.5 hours (ANC on), 5 hours (ANC off), 24 hours (with charging case)
Water resistanceIPX4 (buds and charging case)IPX4 (buds only)
Size1.22 x 0.86 x 0.94 inches (per bud); 1.78 x 2.39 x 0.85 inches (charging case)0.9 x 0.85 x 1.2 inches (per bud); 1.8 x 0.9 x 2.4 inches (charging case)
Weight0.19 ounces (per bud); 1.79 ounces (charging case)0.19 ounces (per bud); 1.6 ounces (charging case)
Special featuresANC, adaptive transparency mode, adaptive EQ, personalized spatial audio, automatic switching, Ear Tip Fit Test, physical volume controls, audio sharing, announced messages with Siri, Find My (AirPods), “Hey Siri” voice-activated assistance, Live Listen, MagSafe charging case with built-in speaker, Apple Watch charging, lanyard loop supportANC, transparency mode, adaptive EQ, spatial audio, automatic switching, Ear Tip Fit Test, audio sharing, announced messages with Siri, Find My (AirPods), “Hey Siri” voice-activated assistance, Live Listen, MagSafe charging case (2021 version)

Apple AirPods Pro 2 vs. AirPods Pro: Price and availability

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 or at major online retailers like Amazon, 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 or Best Buy 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).

Bookmark our best AirPods deals and best headphones deals pages to stay up-to-date on the latest wireless earbuds sales.

WinnerAirPods Pro 

AirPods Pro and AirPods Pro 2 in charging case and placed side by side for face-off test

Apple AirPods Pro 2 (left) with original AirPods Pro (right) (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Apple AirPods Pro 2 vs. AirPods Pro: Design

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.

AirPods Pro 2

Lanyard fixing point on AirPods Pro 2 (Image credit: Future)

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

AirPods Pro 2 earbuds in reviewer's hand

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Apple AirPods Pro 2 vs. AirPods Pro: Controls

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

AirPods Pro 2

(Image credit: Future)

Apple AirPods Pro 2 vs. AirPods Pro: Sound quality

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.

review testing out sound quality on AirPods Pro

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

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

An image showing the AirPods Pro 2 up against the AirPods Pro.

(Image credit: Future)

AirPods Pro 2 vs. AirPods Pro: Active noise cancellation

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.

WinnerAirPods Pro 2

Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Generation) next to 1st generation AirPod Pro

Lanyard fixing point on AirPods Pro 2 (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Apple AirPods Pro 2 vs. AirPods Pro: Special features and apps

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.

WinnerAirPods Pro 2

Reviewer using AirPods Pro for making Facetime calls

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Apple AirPods Pro 2 vs. AirPods Pro: Call quality

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

AirPods Pro 2 in charging case in reviewer's hand with red brick paving in background

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Apple AirPods Pro 2 vs. AirPods Pro: Battery life

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

Apple AirPods Pro 2 vs. AirPods Pro: Verdict

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. 

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Row 0 - Cell 0 Apple AirPods Pro 2Apple AirPods Pro
Price and value (5)45
Design (15)1211
Controls (10)109
Audio quality (20)1817
Active noise cancellation(20)1716
Special features and apps (15)1312
Call quality (5)35
Battery life (10)86
Total score (100)8682

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.

Next: I just tested the AirPods Pro 2 for workouts — and I was surprised.

Next: Check out the best noise-cancelling earbuds to find out where each ranks compared to the rest of the models we've reviewed.

Alex Bracetti

A lifestyle journalist with an affinity for consumer products, Alex has over a decade of experience and has worked with popular publications such as Complex, Thrillist, Men’s Health, Gear Patrol, AskMen, and Hoop Magazine. He currently focuses on audio, reviewing the most coveted headphones in the market for both Tom’s Guide and Laptop Magazine.