Skip to main content
Headphones

Apple AirPods Pro vs AirPods Pro (2nd gen): Time to upgrade?

The latest flagship Apple buds have some impressive new tricks.

The white AirPods Pro case sits open next to the very similar AirPods Pro (2nd gen) case Credit: Reviewed/Ryan Waniata

Recommendations are independently chosen by Reviewed’s editors. Purchases you make through our links may earn us a commission.

After nearly three years, Apple has finally updated its beloved AirPods Pro. The AirPods Pro (2nd generation)—aka AirPods Pro 2—add new features, a boost in battery life, and a full makeover for active noise canceling and transparency mode. While the design is nearly identical, under the surface, Apple’s got a whole new bag.

There’s no doubt the latest AirPods Pro are much improved, but are they worth the upgrade? Below, we break down the differences between the AirPods Pro 2 and the original AirPods Pro so you can decide whether you’re ready to move up or hang on.

Get the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd gen) from Amazon

Get the Apple AirPods Pro (original) from Amazon

Price

Unlike the second-gen Watch SE, Apple has not reduced the starting price of its latest AirPods Pro, holding at $249 MSRP. The company is also replacing the old pair, meaning there’s an expiration date for how long they’ll still be available. That said, until they’re gone, you can expect to find the former pair on sale for up to $50 less.

Our pick: AirPods Pro (original)

Features and design

Two white AirPods Pro earbuds face each other on a braided bar.
Credit: Reviewed/Ryan Waniata

The AirPods Pro 2 (left) and the original AirPods Pro are nearly identical in design.

There’s very little difference between these models visually. They look nearly identical, with just a few variations in venting, and even bear the same 5.4-gram weight per bud. I guess when you have the most popular earbuds on the planet, you’re not apt to make big design changes.

That’s mostly a good thing for many buyers. While the AirPods aren’t as secure as sports-ready models like Jabra’s Elite 7 or the Beats Fit Pro, they stay put for me in the majority of situations and stay comfortable for hours. There is one obvious change in the charging case; Apple has added a speaker and lanyard on the outside along with internal tracking tech so you can locate it separately with the Find My app.

The two white AirPods Pro cases sit next to each other on a braided bar.
Credit: Reviewed/Ryan Waniata

The AirPods Pro cases are also nearly identical on the exterior, but the new mode (right) offers a speaker and a lanyard connector.

Apart from the new noise canceling and adaptive transparency modes (which we’ll get to below), the other big change is the addition of volume adjustment in the controls. Alongside squeezing and holding for calling, playback, and ambient sound modes, you can now slide your finger up or down the AirPods Pro 2’s control notch to raise or lower volume. It works quite well, and it’s one of the primary updates we were hoping for.

Otherwise, while the new AirPods Pro employ the latest and greatest H2 chip over the previous H1 silicon, you’re getting the same flight of iOS-friendly features. Those include iCloud/Audio Sharing, Hands-free “Hey Siri,” and Automatic Switching between iCloud-connected devices. You’ll also get basics like auto-pause when you pull a bud out, wireless/magsafe charging for the case, and IPX4 water resistance in both pairs.

Our pick: AirPods Pro 2

Noise canceling and transparency mode

This is where the game, as they say, has changed. The AirPods Pro 2 have upgraded noise canceling that stands tall against virtually every pair we’ve tested. That includes top buds like the Sony WF-1000XM4 and Bose QuietComfort Earbuds, which the AirPods meet or beat in noise canceling across frequencies. They even hold up well against the top noise-canceling over-ears, Sony’s WH-1000XM5.

A man in a green park listens to a white AirPods Pro earbud.
Credit: Reviewed/Ryan Waniata

The AirPods Pro 2 offer vastly superior active noise canceling.

This performance blows the previous AirPods Pro out of the water. In fact, the only pair that outperformed the latest AirPods Pro’s in our battery of tests is Bose’s similarly impressive QuietComfort Earbuds 2 (though I’ve yet to go ears on to A/B them personally, Reviewed’s A/V Editor John Higgins has compared the two).

The performance upgrade is all the more impressive since the new AirPods keep the same slim chassis and light weight, something Apple’s engineers attribute to the new H2 silicon.

Similarly, the new Adaptive Transparency mode not only sounds clearer, more natural, and less plugged up than the previous version, it also limits the loudest sounds in your environment to 85dB to help keep out dangerous environmental sounds. While neither Reviewed nor Apple can endorse the AirPods Pro 2 as ear protection, I was able to test them in both a raucous NFL stadium and a rock show, and they worked nearly as well as my custom earplugs.

Our pick: AirPods Pro 2

Battery life

This is a nuts-and-bolts answer: the new AirPods Pro get better battery life. The new buds offer up to 6 hours per charge with noise canceling (we got a bit more in testing), while the old pair peaks at 4.5 hours with ANC. Neither number will be turning heads, and you can get a lot more from options like Sony’s WF-1000XM4, but 6 hours is respectable. You can push that to 7 without ambient sound modes, while the new charging case adds up to 30 hours total.

Our pick: AirPods Pro 2

Audio and calling performance

The AirPods Pro old and new sit open in their white cases on a braided cable, shot from the side.
Credit: Reviewed/Ryan Waniata

The latest model wins once again when it comes to audio performance.

While calling is great and audio solid for both pairs, the AirPods Pro 2 provide better sound performance. There’s better stereo imaging, increased fidelity, and richer, more powerful bass response. They also now offer personalized Spatial Audio, though that hasn’t produced a huge change in performance in our testing so far.

Either pair is great for calling—I even tested the new pair next to an ongoing construction site with my hearing-impaired mom without issue—but the new pair seems to have an edge there too, letting me make calls even in extremely noisy surroundings with no issue.

There are better options available when it comes to audio performance, including Sony’s aforementioned WF-1000XM4 and Sennheiser's Momentum True Wireless 3. Still, the sound is respectable, and the improvements are enough to tally another win for the latest pair.

Our pick: AirPods Pro 2

And the winner is …

The white AirPods Pro earbuds sit in a hand with a wedding ring above leafy grass.
Credit: Reviewed/Ryan Waniata

The latest AirPods Pro model are a great buy, and even worth the upgrade for their impressive new features.

This is an obvious win for the AirPods Pro 2, but the real question is whether you need to upgrade. In my opinion, the new AirPods Pro 2 offer good reason to at least consider moving up, especially if either the vastly improved noise canceling or the excellent adaptive transparency mode sounds appealing.

When it comes to which to purchase out of the gate, while you can certainly save some money on the former pair (while still available), I’d still usher most folks to the newer pair. With better battery, they’ll last longer overall, and the advancements in ambient sound modes and controls are major usability upgrades that are worth the investment.

In other words, it’s the new AirPods Pro all the way. They’re a marked improvement, offering next-gen features that should keep them competitive for another long stretch between pairs.

Get the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd gen) from Amazon

Get the Apple AirPods Pro (original) from Amazon

Related content

The product experts at Reviewed have all your shopping needs covered. Follow Reviewed on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, or Flipboard for the latest deals, product reviews, and more.

Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.