AirPods Pro 2 will arrive as Apple's most uncool earbuds – just ask Instagram

one EarPods and one AirPods 3 earpiece side by side on black background
(Image credit: TechRadar)

You've probably heard that the AirPods Pro 2 are coming, possibly even at Apple's September 7 event. Well, come they may (or perhaps they'll actually come a bit later as I suspect, in October), but I'm not sure they're the height of aspirational audio desires any more.

Why? Because anything or anyone that becomes ubiquitous (Coldplay, James Corden, the word "doggo", pouting selfies taken from impossibly high angles) can become deeply passé in a heartbeat, since popular taste is hardly ever good taste – and herd-followers are rarely the most stylish of creatures.

I believe this is what is happening to Apple's hugely popular AirPods Pro (simply go on any public transport network and count the ears they're sticking out of, like little ice-white tadpoles) – just as the AirPods Pro 2 are due to arrive.

I pinned my colors to the mast months ago, explaining why I still think Apple's $30 wired EarPods are better than any AirPods, even though these are far from the best headphones on the market in 2022.

My reason? Easy access to Apple Music's own brilliant Lossless and Hi-Res Lossless audio output – the resolution no current AirPods (no, not even the best Apple AirPods) can deliver, all available at no extra cost with your excellent-value Apple Music subscription (see? I'm not an Apple hater).

Recently, I was able to get hold of a pair of $1300 Audeze Euclid in-ear headphones, and rarely have I experienced such pride of ownership and uniqueness on my commute – and I still get messages from readers who share my love of the old iPod Classic I tote around, despite the lossy MP3 files it largely houses.

And why shouldn't we revel in an unusual earpiece? We're talking music here, one of the greatest and most diverse forms of expression! Music shapes us; the myriad bands and genres we enjoy amplify our identities and heighten our sense of belonging to something bigger – so I believe our headphone of choice should reflect that.

Music is not a one-size fits all affair, so the product that brings our chosen recipe (our sonic medication, if you will) to our ears surely shouldn't be either.

Opinion: AirPods Pro 2 will happen, but I wish Apple would consider wired over-ears and DACs

Apple AirPods 3 and EarPods with Lightning connection side by side on black background

There are a lot of wired headphones on Insta lately, Apple…  (Image credit: TechRadar)

Is the future truly wireless? Is it though? It's been wild and we've all had a lot of fun, from marvelling at how small the earbuds are to those increasingly impressive-sounding Bluetooth versions, but I'm a little tired of testing earpieces that often fall out…

And the Instagram account @WiredItGirls, which lists some 11.5k followers at the time of writing, agrees. With headphone-wearing celebrities such as Naomi Campbell, Nina Kraviz and Jennifer Lawrence papped looking chic with the wind beneath their wires (and some starlets even talking about how 'clear' their physically connected in-ears sound compared to AirPods) a fresh generation of analog audio lovers are having more than just a moment.

Look, as a 42-year-old woman, I do not think wired headphones are retro. I remember them first time around, hooked up to the Sony walkman I shared with my sister, listening to Janet Jackson or Kate Bush and dancing around our room in the mid-’80s. But this is not a nostalgia trip either – I genuinely prefer wired listening for sound quality and security.

It's not that I've yet to be wowed by wireless audio quality, just see my Honor Earbuds 3 Pro and Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro reviews, or read my thoughts on LG's Tone Free T90 with head-tracked spatial audio and JBL's Live 2 Pro with adaptive ANC for starters.

It's just that I think the trade-off for innovation (amazing no-wire listening for which you have to take a hit on truly hi-res, anaolg audio) no longer resonates with many of us. To put it another way, it feels far less cool now. Yes, Apple's AirPods Pro 2 will likely come with a raft of new features that'll upgrade the user experience tenfold to prove me wrong, but still the niggle persists. 

One of my favorite wired setups involves the Astell & Kern A&norma SR25 MKII with a set of Austrian Audio Hi-X55 over-ears. And, if I need it, I also have an A&K DAC that I supplement in for harder-to-drive cans. 

The thing is that every time I use these products, I cannot help but think that with all of its global resources and its pool of undeniable talent across the globe, Apple could make some of the best portable DACs, hi-res audio players (case in point: the iPod) and supreme wired audiophile-grade cans, if only it wanted to. Only, it doesn't want to, and I think that is a shame… why so anti-wire, Apple? 

Becky Scarrott
Senior Audio Staff Writer

Becky is a senior staff writer at TechRadar (which she has been assured refers to expertise rather than age) focusing on all things audio. Before joining the team, 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.