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Apple introduced the original AirPods Pro back in 2019. They were a step up from the standard AirPods, with innovations like active noise cancellation (ANC), transparency mode, and Apple’s first wireless in-ear earbud design. And with the second-gen AirPods Pro, Apple has upped it to 11 with improved ANC, adaptive transparency, longer battery life, and improved controls.
Both AirPods Pro models are excellent. If you have the first-gen AirPods Pro, you don’t necessarily need to upgrade. But if you’re curious how the two models compare, we’ve taken a close look at them below.
design and charging case
The biggest change you’ll notice between the first and second generation AirPods Pro is the charging case. Starting with the basics, the case will now charge using the iPhone’s MagSafe connector or the Apple Watch charger. This is in addition to wired charging via a Lightning cable. The original AirPods Pro case supported standard wireless charging. But if you bought your AirPods Pro after October 2021, the case has been redesigned to also support MagSafe charging.
Unfortunately, the charging speeds between the first and second generation cases are the same (there is no fast charging). But hey, at least you have more ways to charge it!
Beyond charging, the case has undergone some notable changes related to Find My. While the first-gen AirPods Pro supported Find My Tracking, it only worked when the AirPods were out of the case and within range of your personal Apple devices. But with the AirPods Pro 2, both earbuds and the case are Find My capable. And to take it a step further, Apple added a speaker and U1 chip to the case for precise and easy tracking even when you’re not nearby.
It’s also worth noting that while you can put your second-gen AirPods Pro in a first-gen case and vice versa, Apple’s software won’t let them charge. If you try this, you’ll get a warning on your iPhone that your AirPods are in the wrong case, and you’ll have to put them back in the original case.
Sound quality is very subjective and personal. Unfortunately, Apple doesn’t give us any frequency response graphs to refer to. However, acc Apple’s AirPods Pro 2 announcementAirPods Pro 2 feature upgraded drivers and amplifiers for an overall better audio experience.
As someone who has used the first generation AirPods Pro for three years, I would describe their sound as balanced but without highs, with a non-obtrusive and friendly sound. With the second generation AirPods Pro, I can say that Apple has boosted the treble and bass to create a more balanced sound signature.
Apple’s adaptive EQ, which attempts to adjust the EQ to compensate for how your AirPods fit in your ears, has also been improved, according to Apple. In practice, this is hardly noticeable with the AirPods Pro. Adaptive EQ is more notable on Apple’s larger AirPods Max, as there’s more variability in how you can wear them.
One of the defining features of the AirPods Pro and what sets them apart from the standard AirPods line is Active Noise Cancellation (ANC). Both the first and second-gen AirPods Pro feature ANC, but Apple improved its algorithms with the second-gen model. Apple claims AirPods Pro 2 offer up to 2x better noise isolation than the originals.
And from my experience of owning both the first and second generation models, I can confirm that the ANC is much better on the newer AirPods Pro. For example, if the faint hum of an airplane engine was easily heard on the first-gen AirPods Pro, the second-gen almost completely muffles that sound. Whether the second generation is twice as good is hard to say, but it’s definitely a step up from the originals.
The AirPods Pro 2 also feature Adaptive Transparency, which dampens extremely loud noises in transparency mode. For example, if you’re walking down the street and passing a construction site, your AirPods Pro 2 will turn down the loud jackhammer volume to a more comfortable level. The original AirPods Pro still have a great Transparency mode that sounds lifelike but doesn’t reduce the volume of louder sounds.
Both AirPods Pro generations use force sensors on the stems of the earbuds. By default, a single click will play or pause your audio, or answer or hang up a call. Double-clicking jumps forward, triple-clicking backwards. And a click and hold toggles between ANC and transparency modes.
However, the new AirPods Pro have a trick up their sleeves. In addition to the click gestures, Apple has added a new swipe gesture. This way you can change the volume by swiping up or down on the touch area of the stick. Swiping up or down increases a predetermined amount, meaning you’ll need to swipe multiple times if you want to change the volume significantly.
The first generation AirPods Pro don’t have a physical volume control and require you to reach for your iPhone or use Siri to change the volume. So if you’ve asked for a change there, it may prompt you to upgrade.
While battery life is pretty good on the first-gen AirPods Pro — offering 4.5 hours with ANC on and 24 hours total with the charging case — the second-gen AirPods Pro take it up a notch. They add 25% more battery to get up to 6 hours of juice with ANC enabled and around 30 hours with the charging case.
In these times, of course, assume that your AirPods Pro and case are brand new with fresh batteries. Battery degradation is bound to happen with all rechargeable batteries, and since you’ll be using both your AirPods and the case, you’ll need to rely on tips to keep your AirPods from losing battery too quickly. Still, it’s better to start with more of what you get with the AirPods Pro 2.
Both AirPods Pro models cost $250, but since the first generation AirPods Pro are no longer sold by Apple and have been on the market for several years, you can often find them at a discounted price. You can often snag a new set of first-gen AirPods Pro for $199. Or, if you’re looking to save even more money, you can sometimes find them refurbished for around $150.
Finding a new set of first-gen AirPods Pro might prove difficult, however, as most major retailers have moved to exclusively shipping the second-gen buds. If you don’t want to spend $250 on new earbuds, your best bet might be finding a used or refurbished pair, or finding the first-gen AirPods Pro new at a discounted price.
Should you upgrade to the AirPods Pro 2?
If you’re generally happy with your first-gen AirPods Pro and don’t have any complaints about them, there’s no real reason to buy the second-gen. However, if you’ve found battery life to be falling short or you’ve been craving better ANC, the second-gen AirPods Pro could be a smart buy.
Even then, you have to ask yourself whether you want to shell out another $250 for a set of true wireless earbuds. This is especially true if your current set is not very old.
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