The AirPods Pro 2 are the pinnacle of Apple's earbud technology. They're my go-to ANC earbuds for work commutes (despite having plenty of other earbuds options to choose from), and they even make a mostly great companion for my gym workouts.
Apple's 2nd generation flagship are pretty much everything I loved about the first generation noise-canceling earbuds taken to the next level. I love the design (although an alternative color choice would be welcome), the improved fit and battery life, personalized spatial audio — and they sound pretty good too.
In fact, they almost deliver the best of everything, but there’s one area where I think the original AirPods do better than their successors. And that's the way adaptive noise cancelation tech works on the AirPods Pro 2 when I'm in challenging environments with dynamically changing levels of background noise.
Here's more on what the AirPods Pro 2 get right — and the one area that still needs work.
What I love about the Apple AirPods Pro 2
Personalized spatial audio
One of the best features on the AirPods Pro 2 is the way the new earbuds convey Dolby Atmos spatial audio. As its name suggests, personalized spatial audio makes an individual sound profile adjusted to your head and ears using an iPhone TrueDepth camera to take the measurements. The feature first appeared on the AirPods 3, but it works better on the fully in-ear Pro 2 design in my opinion.
Sounds stretch beyond the confines of the earbuds and have a far greater sense of spaciousness around instruments, without interfering with the placement of individual elements within the soundstage. Compared to rivals, the AirPods are miles ahead with spatial audio technology and music simply transforms into a three-dimensional experience.
Control volume levels directly from the 'buds
Our AirPods Pro 2 review highlighted the inability to change the volume on the original earbuds. Before, if you wanted to change the volume, you’d either have to ask your Siri vice assistant or go to your phone and change it yourself via the playback app screen or volume buttons on the side.
That’s no longer the case with the AirPods Pro 2 (although controlling the volume can still be carried out in the same way as before). The touch controls on each earbuds support swiping up and down on the stems to raise or lower the volume. It's a pretty neat facility, and very useful when your iPhone is out of reach tucked away in a pocket, say.
Beyond the volume controls, you can tap the earbuds once to play or pause music, skip or rewind tracks with two or three taps, respectively, and hold to toggle active noise cancellation.
Improved battery life and charging case
As outlined in the AirPods Pro 2 review, Apple has managed to cram plenty of upgrades into its next-gen flagship model, including 6 hours of battery life on a single charge. And not only are the earbuds IPX4-rated for water splashes and sweat resistance, but the case is too.
Even better, the AirPods case can handle wireless charging via Apple Watch chargers and has a built-in microphone to help you locate it, should it get lost.
Although I've heard of some wearers having difficulty keeping the original AirPods Pro in place during physical activities, the latest generation has slightly different silicone ear tips (although they look identical) that feel slightly more compliant to gently conform to the ear canal. They certainly had a reassuring fit in my ears, and felt comfortable and secure despite the continuous vibrations of my feet pounding the treadmill's moving conveyer belt.
The AirPods Pro 2 also come with an extra small set of ear tips as well as small, medium and large tips originally supplied. The medium-sized tips worked best for my ears, and this was confirmed by the AirPods Pro Ear Tip Fit Test. But my colleague Kate Kozuch found the XS eartips are a big improvement and provided a much better fit.
Having the right ear tips to form a proper seal is essential for a secure fit as well as to achieve effective noise cancellation and the best audio performance.
AirPods Pro 2 price hasn't changed
Despite several earbuds rivals including next-gen versions from Samsung and Bose upping the price of their updated ANC models, Apple kept the AirPods Pro 2 launch price at $249, which is the same price as the original version launched at in 2019.
In these financially challenging times, this makes the Pro 2 even more attractive. Plus, although they've only been on sale for six weeks, we've already seen the AirPods Pro 2 discounted via online retailers including Amazon, and we're sure to see further reductions as we get deeper into Black Friday sales — so it's a good idea to stay ahead of the best deals with our Black Friday deals live blog.
What I don't love about the Apple AirPods Pro 2
AirPods Pro 2 and 'audio drift'
Apple says that noise cancellation is twice as effective on the AirPods Pro 2 as the original offered. That's a difficult claim to verify, and one that my own experience would challenge, particularly in constantly shifting noisy environments such as a gym studio.
So far I've tried two AirPods Pro 2 models, and both have the similar "audio drift" I experienced when wearing the earbuds during my workouts. The unusual audio effect appears to shift the sound from one earpiece to the other, with a rapid fluttering effect that makes the sound of voices and vocals appear to bounce back and forth from one side to the other.
I have a theory about what the problem might be, although I have yet to receive official acknowledgement of the issue or comment from Apple on the matter. The problem seems to occur most frequently when loud background music is playing through the gym's PA system near to where I'm working out. This may suggest that the ANC is finding it hard to cope with canceling out the background sound of music track blasting out through the gym's speakers.
Gyms are notoriously difficult acoustic environments for noise cancelling headphones to handle due to reflective surfaces that energize soundwaves, jarring sounds from a weighty kettlebell, say, being put back on its stand and music with a high BPM being played to motivate gym goers. Despite the challenges, though, I haven't experienced any similar audio drift issues with rival ANC earbuds, including the original AirPods Pro, which is intriguing to say the least.
Could a software update be coming soon?
Apple is not alone in having software problems with a newly launched model. Software updates are regularly used to evolve a product and enhance its features, as well as to fix any bugs that arise throughout its lifespan.
So far, Apple hasn't acknowledged the audio issues reported by myself and other AirPods Pro 2 users. From what I've experienced, it does seem like this could be a software issue, and one that could easily be rectified with an update.
Despite this one issue under tough circumstances, the AirPods Pro 2 are still my go-to 'buds, and very nearly the perfect true wireless earbuds around.
Get the BEST of Tom’s Guide daily right in your inbox: Sign up now!
Upgrade your life with the Tom’s Guide newsletter. Subscribe now for a daily dose of the biggest tech news, lifestyle hacks and hottest deals. Elevate your everyday with our curated analysis and be the first to know about cutting-edge gadgets.
As a former editor of the U.K.'s Hi-Fi Choice magazine, Lee is passionate about all kinds of audio tech and has been providing sound advice to enable consumers to make informed buying decisions since he joined Which? magazine as a product tester in the 1990s. Lee covers all things audio for Tom's Guide, including headphones, wireless speakers and soundbars and loves to connect and share the mindfulness benefits that listening to music in the very best quality can bring.