New AirPods Pro 2 (2023) vs AirPods Pro 2 (2022) — what’s the difference?

The AirPods Pro 2 vs the AirPods Pro 2 with USB-C
(Image credit: Future)

Just announced at Apple’s September Wonderlust event, the AirPods Pro 2 (2023) with USB-C charging became available on September 22, 2023. From this point on, they’ll be the only AirPods Pro 2 model on Apple store shelves. 

That being said, they won't totally replace the older model everywhere all at once and, for a while, you’ll still see the older 2022 AirPods Pro with the Lightning charger on sale at your local electronics retailer. 

With their window of availability quickly coming to a close, is it worth picking up the older AirPods Pro 2 before they disappear? And what if you have the older model and are thinking about upgrading — is that worth it?

We’re breaking down all the differences between the models, just in case you want to leave Lightning behind for the new-and-improved USB-C model. 

Difference #1: The charging port and IP55 rating

The AirPods Pro2 with new USB-C charging case on a white background.

(Image credit: Apple)

The biggest and most obvious difference between the two models is the charging port. While this will make a difference on the amount of cords you’ll need to carry around with you, it actually doesn’t have any tangible impact on the battery performance of the earbuds — both ports offer fast-charging. 

Apple does list an IP54 dust-proof rating on the newer AirPods Pro 2, but that's probably due to extended certification testing rather than a change in the design. Still, warranties being what they are, if you do plan on being around a lot of dust — maybe because you work in construction — then you should err on the side of caution and stick with the newer AirPods.

Difference #2: Lossless audio support (for Vision Pro)  

Apple Vision Pro

(Image credit: Future)

The second advantage of opting for the newer AirPods Pro 2 model is that they come equipped with lossless audio support — albeit very limited lossless audio support. 

For now, Apple says that the AirPods Pro 2’s lossless audio will only work with the Apple Vision Pro headset, due out sometime in the next six months or so. How, exactly, Apple’s new lossless audio protocol works is still a bit of black box, but from what we can tell it requires that both devices have an H2 Wireless Chip and the software for the protocol. 

While having the ability to play lossless audio is a huge boon for the new AirPods — and one of the best reasons to opt for them instead of their predecessors — the fact that they’ll only have lossless audio support when paired with the Vision Pro is a bit disappointing. Hopefully, one day in the near future, the iPhone or iPad will get the ability to play lossless audio with the new AirPods, but unfortunately Apple hasn’t said anything to that effect.

Difference #3: Acoustic architecture  

Apple AirPods Pro 2 with case open placed next to iPhone

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Here's the real wildcard of the AirPods Pro 2 with USB-C charging: Apparently, there's a difference in the acoustic architecture of the newer model. 

How much of an impact that will have on your music remains to be seen. Our Audio Editor, Lee Dunkley, says that he noticed a small uptick in quality with the newer AirPods Pro 2 model, but he admits that could be the power of suggestion. 

If you fancy yourself an audiophile and notice little intricacies in your music, it might behoove you to go for the newer model in case there's really something to the new acoustic architecture. If you can't tell your MP3s from your FLACs, however, then there's probably not enough a difference between the models to make a difference.

Difference #4: Price 

Depending on where you shop for electronics, you might see that the AirPods Pro (2nd generation) with MagSafe Case (USB‑C) costs more than the older AirPods Pro (2nd Generation) — the former will set you back $249 while the latter will cost $199. 

Saving $50 is nothing to sneeze at and that gap could widen even further if retailers with extra stock of the older model decide to put them on clearance. That's a distinct possibility and could be worth looking out for come Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Some retailers like Best Buy, however, make no price distinction between the two models and sell both for $199. So just be careful about where you shop. 

New AirPods Pro 2 (2023) vs old AirPods Pro 2 (2022): What should you buy? 

In short, there’s not a major difference between the two versions of the AirPods Pro 2. There are some, of course, but they’re limited in their practicality. If you plan on buying the Apple Vision Pro or feel like you have a good enough ear to tell the difference in sound quality, then the newer AirPods Pro 2 (2023) are the overall better choice.

However, if you can find them at a discounted price before they go out of stock, then the cheaper and equally impressive AirPods Pro with Lightning charging port offers 99% of the same experience at a lower price. For first-time AirPods owners, that’s the one to pick.

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Nick Pino
Managing Editor, TV and AV

Nick Pino heads up the TV and AV verticals at Tom's Guide and covers everything from OLED TVs to the latest wireless headphones. He was formerly the Senior Editor, TV and AV at TechRadar (Tom's Guide's sister site) and has previously written for GamesRadar, Official Xbox Magazine, PC Gamer and other outlets over the last decade. Not sure which TV you should buy? Drop him an email or tweet him on Twitter and he can help you out.