How do Apple's first iteration of high-end earbuds, the AirPods Pro, compare to the latest AirPods Pro 2? You'd be forgiven for thinking there's not much difference between them—they certainly look similar, right? But don't be fooled. The Pro 2 come with a whole host of upgrades and the good news is, the price is the same.
It's hardly a secret that the Apple AirPods Pro are some of the best true wireless earbuds on the market, but now Apple has upgraded them with the AirPods Pro 2 the big question is: should you upgrade if you have the original Pro version? How do you choose which are right for you, especially if the original Pros get discounted?
Well, after spending a lot of time with them, we can safely say that the AirPods Pro 2 are some of the best noise-cancelling earbuds you can buy today. There are some smaller improvements to design—hello, all new small eartips—but the most significant upgrade is the phenomenal H2 chip, bringing us better sound, ANC and battery life.
Read on for all of the major differences between Apple's best wireless earbuds and find out which is better, Apple AirPods Pro 2 vs AirPods Pro (2019).
Apple AirPods Pro vs AirPods Pro 2: release date and price
The Apple AirPods Pro 2 were released on September 23, 2022. They're priced at $249 / £249 / AU$399.
Remember, AirPods 3 cost $179 / £169 / AU$279 at launch, on October 26 2021, so the AirPods Pro 2 are every inch Apple's flagship offering when it comes to earbuds.
The outgoing Apple AirPods Pro arrived on October 30, 2019. They cost ($249 / £239 / AU$399) officially. However, you may find the original AirPods Pro a little cheaper considering they're now the older version.
AirPods Pro 2 vs AirPods Pro (2019): design
Take a little look at the images all over this page. Yep, the aesthetic and driver housings have stayed almost completely the same externally between Pro model iterations, though there has been a drastic internal redesign for the AirPods Pro 2—starting with Apple's H2 chip, which boasts high-bandwidth connectivity and Bluetooth 5.3, paired with a new low-distortion driver with custom amp.
So Apple has kept the protruding stems, although there's a great little feature upgrade here too—which we'll go into later.
What is new is the speaker on the base of the MagSafe Charging Case, to aid with Find My helping you locate the case when it's lost. During our testing, we decided this was a small but significant upgrade—the previous method of finding the case was playing sound directly from the buds, which didn't work.
You're also getting a lanyard connector and a new extra small ear tip option to promote a more secure fit if you have extra-small ears. In our AirPods Pro 2 review, we called this: "a much-needed change and one that Apple should be applauded for making." That's because many people complained they couldn't get the AirPods Pro to fit their ears before, hopefully most people no longer have that issue.
AirPods Pro 2 vs AirPods Pro (2019): battery life
Another open goal for AirPods Pro 2 is longer battery life—and they do come bearing it. You're now getting up to six hours per bud, up from four-and-a-half in the first-generation AirPods Pro.
And you're also getting 30 hours with charging case, six hours more in total—the original AirPods Pro’s charging case will give you 24 hours of listening time when fully charged.
It's good rather than revelatory, but then, even the best noise-cancelling earbuds don't tend to be as long-lasting as regular true wireless earbuds—ANC tech can be a real battery drain—so even these few extra hours of playback are very welcome.
Even the excellent Honor Earbuds 3 Pro (four hours of ANC playtime before needing a charge) and the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro (at five hours of continuous playtime with ANC on, or eight without it, and up to 18 hours in the cradle) can't offer much in the way of stamina—so the fact that Apple's AirPods Pro 2 bring a jolt of fuel injection is welcome news indeed.
Did the battery perform as well as promised during testing? Mostly. With ANC on and both head tracking and spatial audio enabled, Apple says the battery would last closer to five hours, but we found that a bit generous and with one hour's listening the battery life dropped by about 25%.
AirPods Pro 2 vs AirPods Pro (2019): features
As any Apple faithful knows, the Cupertino giant's in-ear AirPods are sitting pretty above its Beats subsidiary brand range. Thus, suitably flagship features are a given, kicking off with active noise cancelling (ANC).
The claim now is double the noise cancellation compared to original AirPods Pro. Yes, you read that correctly, Apple says twice as much noise is blocked. And, oh boy, did that deliver during our testing.
In our review, we wrote: “The world goes quiet, and you instantly enter a soft, comfortable studio where it's just you and your music. The effect is stark and worth the cost of the headphones alone.” Honestly, the noise cancellation here is easily among the best we've tried, especially from a pair of true wireless earbuds.
Apple has also included a more tailored adaptive transparency sound experience in the AirPods Pro 2, which dynamically reduces heavy noise, with readings taken 48,000 times per second.
Another difference between the Pro and the Pro 2 is you get on-device volume control with the latest buds, finally! Although during testing we did note that it's not ideal to use: "while the feature is nice to have and one we use regularly, it’s not well implemented enough to be flawless."
AirPods Pro 2 vs AirPods Pro (2019): sound quality
Now, sonic chops. While the original AirPods Pro sound good, they are no match for the Sony WF-1000XM4 or Honor Earbuds 3 Pro in terms of audio fidelity—and Apple has made some changes to the AirPods Pro 2 to entice reticent audiophiles.
Aside from improving the drivers inside the AirPods Pro (which it has done), Apple could do this by adding support for lossless audio—which has recently been achieved by the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro and the NuraTrue Pro.
Unfortunately, there's no lossless audio in the Pro 2 buds, which is a huge shame. Although our opinion is that if a lack of lossless meant the cost of the Pro 2 could be kept the same as the originals, we can stomach it.
But just because there's no lossless audio here doesn't mean the sound performance of the Pro 2 isn't a huge improvement and, in general, fantastic. In our review we wrote: "The overall soundscape is wide, expansive and the AirPods Pro 2 are excellent at pulling out different instruments in the audio. The vocal tones are clear, the bass thudding but not dominant - we found ourselves reaching for them just to sink into a sonic world when we had an idle moment.”
The Apple AirPods Pro 2 are by far the better earbuds compared to the original AirPods Pro (2019). The latest buds might not wear their upgrades on their exterior, but look inside and the H2 chip brings a better experience across the board.
It's the excellent audio quality and truly fantastic ANC that impressed us the most when we tested the AirPods Pro 2, so if you're looking for good sound that blocks out almost all ambient noise, these are a great option. In our review we wrote: "The AirPods Pro 2 sound brilliant and shut out the real world so well - if you want to treat yourself, then you'll really appreciate it. It's a little on the 'safe and stable' side, but it's still an enjoyable experience."
It might be worth considering the AirPods Pro (2019) if you find them discounted during the sales season, but you'd have to find a big reduction to justify picking these over the Pro 2, which we think is unlikely.