The AirPods Pro 2 feature I'm happiest about is also one of its smallest

Apple AirPods Pro 2 suspended above a hand, on black background
(Image credit: Apple)

Huge news, portable music lovers! Apple's AirPods Pro 2 true wireless earbuds are here – a follow up to the Cupertino giant's 2019 flagship noise-cancelling, personalized Spatial Audio-toting AirPods Pro earphones, now with the H2 chip. 

The second-generation Pro in-ear 'Pods have arrived unexpectedly early, at Apple's September 7 Far Out event (many predicted them to land in late October, as is traditional, but Tim Cook's behemoth was having none of it!) and the headline-grabber for me is the AirPods Pro 2's incremental upgrades, since we didn't get any lofty temperature sensors or wild fitness tracking software. 

As a result of that new H2 chip, the new perks include (but are not limited to) double the noise cancellation compared to original AirPods Pro, a new extra-small eartip in the box to improve the fit and a new adaptive transparency mode to dynamically reduce heavy noise, with readings taken 48,000 per second.

You're also getting a longer battery life, at up to 6 hours per bud, which is an increase from 4.5 in the original AirPods Pro. This adds up to 30 hours with the charging case, a welcome 6 hours more than the original Pro-suffixed AirPods. 

But that's not the part I'm most excited about! Although a smaller eartip option will probably stop users with petite ears from considering Avery's customized ear tips to fix their AirPods' fit issue, Apple's main upgrade to the AirPods Pro is something I've long-chastised Apple's headphones (and others) for omitting to include. 

The feature is on-ear volume control. In what constitutes a massive improvement for me, when the AirPods Pro 2 hit shelves on September 23 (although AirPods 2 Pro preorders are open now) for $249, they'll come with the ability to alter volume by touching the stems. Big. Huge! 

Opinion: Apple's back to basics approach is a winner

Screengrab from Apple's Far Out event

It's a case of back to basics for the upgrades in AirPods Pro 2 – and I for one love it.  (Image credit: Apple)

It's no secret that Apple's AirPods haven't historically been the most secure earbuds on the market – and this is why an extra-small ear tip is a super-smart inclusion. 

As someone afflicted with smaller ears who is also very active and gestural, I know full well the sonic gains to be had from achieving a secure, pain-free seal betwixt earbud and ear canal. A decent seal means clarity, bass clout and active noise cancellation are all improved leaps and bounds. Also, I have lost more earbuds than I care to admit to that gap between the train carriage and the platform edge by using unhelpful ear tips, and it's a horrible moment – particularly if I'm actually testing them. 

Promoting a better fit is one easy win for Apple, and I'm grateful. 

But on-ear volume control is the biggie as far as I'm concerned. The AirPods Pro 2 join the inexpensive JLab Go Air Pop as well as the Honor Earbuds 3 Pro and Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro (and that's just for starters) by implementing it and as far as I'm concerned, that means the AirPods Pro 2 will likely join the best noise-cancelling earbuds on the market – although I'll have to hear that new low-distortion driver with custom amp configuration first, of course. 

And personalized Spatial Audio with head-tracking from an Apple device is on the menu again in the AirPods Pro 2 – aka immersive Dolby Atmos processing plus directional audio filters that change what each ear hears as you move around your source device. So, to be able to tweak the volume without having to mess about with the display on my iPad (my chosen source device) is a huge bonus, even though it's a relatively small upgrade in the grand scheme of things. 

I think any chance to improve on Apple's mind-blowingly impressive ecosystem and push towards an easier user experience should be grabbed with both hands – and today, I feel heard by Tim Cook's behemoth. 

Apple's engineers have not rejigged this winning design extensively, nor have they added hifalutin fitness software aiming to render personal trainers obsolete. What Apple has done is upgraded the basics. And I for one love it. 

I'm genuinely excited to hear the AirPods Pro 2. 

Becky Scarrott
Audio Editor

Becky became Audio Editor at TechRadar in 2024, but joined the team in 2022 as Senior Staff Writer, focusing on all things hi-fi. Before this, she spent three years at What Hi-Fi? testing and reviewing everything from wallet-friendly wireless earbuds to huge high-end sound systems. Prior to gaining her MA in Journalism in 2018, Becky freelanced as an arts critic alongside a 22-year career as a professional dancer and aerialist – any love of dance starts with a love of music. Becky has previously contributed to Stuff, FourFourTwo and The Stage. When not writing, she can still be found throwing shapes in a dance studio, these days with varying degrees of success.