The first AirPods Pro were a revelation. It felt like Apple was finally all in on doing a pair of earbuds right — a big change from the days of those questionable headphones that came in the iPhone box. The sound quality, the active noise canceling and — perhaps most importantly, the comfort level — were all a major step up from the standard AirPods.
As it to be expected, the new Pros aren’t transformational in the same way, but two and a half years after the introduction of the originals, they do bring some nice features into the mix. Buildwise, they look an awful lot like the originals. There were some rumors swirling that the company might be eyeing a more dramatic redesign, akin to what you get with Beats earbuds, but it seemed unlikely the company would drop the stems — the line’s signature design element.
Like their predecessors, they’re extremely comfortable. AirPods Pro are among a small handful of buds I’m comfortable wearing in my ears for hours on end. The addition of extra small tips is a nice touch, as well, expanding the line to a broader potential customer base. The biggest physical change is the addition of a small touch strip on the stem. This, at least somewhat, addresses one of the biggest shortcomings of the AirPods design: the lack of touch pad.
At the moment, at least, the function is limited. It’s mainly designed to adjust audio up and down — which, admittedly, is a big thing missing from earlier versions. It takes a little getting used to, especially since the pad lays flush against your face. It’s perfectly responsive, however.
Apple says the active noise canceling is 2x better than the original Pros. That’s a difficult thing to quantify, though I did notice a big improvement trying them out in the extremely cacophonous setting that is the Apple hands-on scrum. The audio sounds great, too, though the company has chosen to focus on spatial rather than high-def audio of late, which isn’t the choice I would have made.
Apple has sacrificed the extreme minimalism of the case to add a lanyard connector for tethering the product, and a three-hole speaker. The latter is designed for Find My functionality, emitting a chirp when the product is lost — same as the company does with the AirPods themselves. Oh, and like the iPhone 14, the Lightning port is, unfortunately, sticking around until next year.
I anticipate getting a review unit in fairly soon, so expect something more thorough then. For now, I’m comfortable saying that they’re a nice upgrade over the very good AirPods Pro Gen 1, though not really worth the $249 upgrade if your current pair still works fine.