Apple reveals the hidden upgrades that improve audio on the AirPods Pro 2

AirPods Pro 2 in use
The AirPods Pro 2 (Image credit: TechRadar)

Apple has managed to significantly improve the audio quality on the AirPods Pro 2 without the need for support for lossless audio – and in a new interview, Apple engineer Esge Andersen reveals some of the secrets about how that was done.

In short: it's all about the airflow, Andersen told What Hi-Fi? in a wide-ranging discussion. Andersen works for the acoustics team at Apple, and describes how the company wanted to give everybody "an AirPods Max in their pocket".

While the overall design of the AirPods Pro 2 almost identically matches the original AirPods Pro, they have redesigned vents to optimize airflow for the audio drivers, and that was apparently key to getting the improvement in sound.

"How we move the air"

"When we talk about good sound, it's all about how we move the air in the product – which is kind of weird because it's not talking about the enclosure or how it looks – but it's about ensuring that we also design for airflow," says Andersen.

There was a particular focus on improving the high frequency response apparently, but the AirPods Pro 2 offer both cleaner highs and deeper, more precise bass. There's also delicate tuning at each volume level.

Andersen also revealed how the earbuds are engineered to act slightly differently depending on the device that they're connected to – and that there's a panel of "expert listeners" who help make sure the sound is as impressive as possible.

Analysis: the AirPods standard

Apple has been developing its AirPods wireless earbuds since back in 2016, and the introduction of the first pair kickstarted a new wave of technology: pretty much every manufacturer now has a pair of wireless earbuds on sale.

Despite there now being a lot of competition in the space, the AirPods remain the tech to beat here, not least because of the high fidelity and supreme response offered by the AirPods Pro 2 (which we gave four-and-a-half stars out of five too).

Add in the more affordable AirPods 3 and the more expensive AirPods Max, and consumers are well covered in terms of what they can pick up – although in this latest interview Andersen admits that it's impossible to make the audio output perfect for every listener.

The next step would be that support for lossless audio (which is available in Apple Music, don't forget). Apple has previously said that it might have to develop its own alternative to the Bluetooth codec to make its headphones and earbuds ready for lossless.

David Nield
Freelance Contributor

Dave is a freelance tech journalist who has been writing about gadgets, apps and the web for more than two decades. Based out of Stockport, England, on TechRadar you'll find him covering news, features and reviews, particularly for phones, tablets and wearables. Working to ensure our breaking news coverage is the best in the business over weekends, David also has bylines at Gizmodo, T3, PopSci and a few other places besides, as well as being many years editing the likes of PC Explorer and The Hardware Handbook.