Apple announced its shiny new audio offering during its September event, the AirPods Pro for 2022 (2nd generation), and with that announcement, claimed it was bringing users the most advanced AirPods ever.
Since the announcement, I’ve been lucky enough to give the 2nd generation AirPods Pro a try, and I’ve pulled together my thoughts on the experience for you here.
Real Life Reviews: AirPods Pro 2022 (2nd generation)
To begin, let’s take a look at some of the key specs from these babies.
- Personalised Spatial Audio with dynamic head tracking
- Active Noise Cancellation and Adaptive Transparency
- Sweat and water-resistant
- MagSafe Charging Case with speaker and lanyard loop
- Up to 6 hours of listening time with a single charge
Okay, so for context’s sake, it’s worth noting this is my first experience using AirPods Pro. I reviewed the 3rd generation AirPods in 2021, but my ears were Pro virgins up until now. The difference between the 2021 AirPods and the 2022 Pros is considerable so that obviously frames my opinions here.
To begin, the ear tips (which now have an additional size option) make the fit of the AirPods Pro really quite comfy. They feel super secure in ear, and I’ve never had any concerns about them falling out, whether I’m wearing them on a stroll or while working out in the gym.
Now, onto sound. Good lord. The first time I wore the AirPods Pro I was taking the bus to work, and no word of a lie, when the Active Noise Cancellation kicked in, I thought the bus had been turned off. I was eventually driven to take one of the AirPods out so I could double-check when the hell was going on. And when I did that, all the environmental noise flooded back in.
It was truly shocking how significant the difference in sound was.
I felt as though I was sitting inside a sound bubble, and listening to music this way was this wildly immersive experience. I’m generally a Spotify gal, but I do have to admit that listening to music like ‘Landslide’ by Fleetwood Mac or ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’ by Paul McCartney, or anything by SZA with Apple Music was mind-blowing. There is detail that you can pick up with the AirPods Pro in Noise Cancellation mode that I’ve previously missed, and it truly does give you the closest possible experience to hearing the music up close in real life.
Phone calls are also clearer, and watching videos is next level with this feature.
In saying all that, I have found I prefer using the Adaptive Transparency mode for day-to-day use. Its ability to blend environmental noise with your audio experience allows me to feel a little more confident in my ability to remain attuned to what’s happening around me, while still offering consistently impressive sound.
The ability to set up Personal Spatial Audio (by having your phone frame your face and adjust the audio accordingly) is pretty damn incredible, too. A personalised audio experience for your ears only? What is this brave new world? The simplest way to describe this if you’re new to it is that the sound coming out of your AirPods sounds like it is surrounding you, rather than coming from left and right. It’s phenomenal. And the personalised feature means Apple can better tailor the sound to match your unique hearing experience.
Other clear positives were the longer battery time, which is useful for me – someone who can spend entire days working with headphones in. I also really love that I can juice up the case on the Apple Watch charger; it just makes the process a little more simple when I need to charge multiple devices.
Additionally, there is now a satisfying little sound to indicate your AirPods Pro case is charging, and while this is a tiny detail, it just means I don’t have to look back and check that the green light is on – nice.
What’s not so good
I’m not someone who uses noise-cancelling headphones often, so the partial loss of this sense for me was a little disorienting at first. In fact, I oddly felt kind of sick. It gave me the kind of blocked ears sensation as when taking off during a flight.
From a personal perspective, that’ll just have to be something I get used to – or I can stick to Adaptive Transparency instead of Active Noise Cancellation when using the 2022 AirPods Pro. It’s really not a dealbreaker.
I also do think Active Noise Cancellation is not the best idea when walking home or in any public setting – the volume of what’s happening around you really is turned right down, so I’d suggest only using that option in private, secure environments.
Another small detail that hasn’t quite worked for me is the slide volume adjustment on the stem of the AirPods. This may be a me thing, but I’ve found that when trying to use it, I can’t really land on the volume I want. In the end, I always just use my phone to control the volume.
And it is worth noting here that while spatial audio is not explicitly limited to Apple Music, you won’t find tracks tailored to take full advantage of this feature anywhere else. Sure, listening to music on Spotify is still enjoyable, but the god-tier experience comes at an added cost with Apple Music and its Spatial Audio playlists (the same goes for Apple TV+).
The price mark of $399 does also bring the AirPods Pro for 2022 into the higher range of earbuds. The sound quality is truly impressive, but the cost is something you’ll have to weigh up if you’re considering taking them home.
AirPods Pro 2022 (2nd generation): The verdict
Look, the TL;DR of it is that the 2022 model of AirPods Pro offers a stupidly impressive listening experience, especially for folks stepping up from more entry-level earbuds or headphones. Every time I use them, I am shocked anew at how good they are.
Yes, they’re pricey. And you will not experience the full quality of the sound if you don’t have an Apple Music subscription, but the comfy fit, ability to switch between Noise Cancellation and Adaptive Transparency mode and the overall audio quality are strong enough to let those details slide — if your budget allows.
You can shop the 2022 AirPods Pro from Apple now for $399.
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