Apple’s finally, since the AirPods Pro released in 2019, ready to update its premium wireless earbuds with a 2nd generation. In the time since, competition has been fierce. Sony’s LinkBuds have brought open back design to the space, while Google’s Pixel Buds Pro have introduced comparable noise canceling for $50 cheaper than AirPods Pro. Eyes have been on Apple to keep up, and while the Cupertino giant has fallen a touch behind given complaints about the fit on the AirPods Pro, it’s finally playing its hand with new features like a dynamic transparency mode and custom spatial audio profiles.
The H2 chip
The big improvement here, which powers most of the 2nd Gen AirPods Pro’s new features, is the H2 Chip. Apple didn’t tell us much about how it’s built during the reveal at Sept. 7’s Far Out event, but given that the H1 debuted in 2019, we’re ready to believe the company when it talks about improvements. Whether or not we know its specs, we do know that the H2 chip will come alongside support for new “high bandwidth connectivity,” improved active noise canceling with a promised 2x performance boost, and a dynamic transparency mode that will continue to cancel damaging high-frequency sounds like jackhammers while still allowing voices through.
Noise canceling, high bandwidth connectivity, dynamic transparency, personalized spatial audio
It’s difficult to go into detail on these features without testing them, but given that Apple’s already keeping pace with Sony on noise cancellation, promising ANC that’s twice as good is a serious “throwing down of the gauntlet.” Dynamic transparency is also promising to be reliable, given that the H2 chip can check on incoming sounds 48,000 times per second. Meanwhile, Apple didn’t go into detail on the higher bandwidth support, but we’re willing to guess that it has something to do with Apple Music’s high resolution audio options. That service can reach a sample rate up to 192 kHz after being upgraded with a new codec option in 2021.
Custom spatial audio profiles are the other big new content feature here, though they’re not powered solely by the H2 chip. Instead, working in tandem with an iPhone running iOS 16, the AirPods Pro 2nd Gen can supposedly build a spatial audio experience that’s tailored to your ear shape, which you can do by taking pictures of your ears with the TrueDepth camera— the same one that powers FaceID. Sony’s adopted a similar spatial audio solution on some of its own devices, albeit without requiring a specialized camera, so this is another aggressive move from Apple.
How do the new AirPods Pro look and feel?
Listening experience aside, not much else has changed about the AirPods Pro 2nd Gen. They’ve still got the same general look and build, though there’s a new XS ear tip option to help address fit complaints. There’s also a new touch slider for controlling volume on each AirPod, and estimated battery life is up to 6 hours without the case and 30 hours with it.
The case, however, has gotten a bit of an upgrade. It has a speaker now, which not only plays noises to indicate successful pairing or a low battery, but also works with Find My. In a similar vein, you can now attach a lanyard to it. And in a nice bonus for anyone buying the new Apple Watch Series 8 or SE or even Ultra, it’s magsafe charger compatible and works with the charger included with Apple Watches.
New AirPods Pro Price and Release Date
Maybe the best bit of AirPods Pro 2nd Gen news to come out of today is the lack of a price hike, though. The AirPods Pro 2nd Gen will cost $249, the same as their predecessor, and will be available for pre-order on Sept. 9, with shipping starting on Sept. 23.