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Apple AirPods Pro vs AirPods Pro 2: Should you upgrade?

Incremental upgrades seem to be the theme when it's Apple versus Apple.
By
September 9, 2022
Apple Event 2022 Airpods pro 2
Apple

The AirPods Pro introduced several key features to the AirPods line, including ANC, isolation, and many others. It’s been nearly three years since the first-gen model hit the scene, though. How do things shake out when it’s the AirPods Pro (2nd generation) vs the AirPods Pro (1st generation)? After all, both of these earbuds promise a pro experience, so does Apple introduce enough new features to make the leap worth it?

We’ll see how Apple’s new true wireless earbuds compare to the first-gen AirPods Pro.


AirPods Pro (2nd generation) vs AirPods Pro (1st generation)

Design

The new AirPods Pro have the same overall design as their predecessor. They feature small, oval-ish ends where the ear tips attach and stems that extend down from there. White is your only color option, and you’ll find only minimalist markings on each.

The AirPods Pro (1st generation) come with three ear tip sizes, from small to large, while the AirPods Pro (2nd generation) add an extra-small option to the selection. That will be beneficial if you have especially small ear canal openings and can help you achieve better isolation.

Design-wise, the AirPods Pro (2nd generation) don't make any radical departures from the first-gen AirPods Pro.

Apple has not strayed too far from the center regarding the case design. However, you can now choose to engrave it with emoji and text if you wish. The more significant changes to the case come from what you can’t see. It includes Apple’s U1 chip with Precision Finding, which can assist you in locating your case if you lose it. A built-in case speaker can also play a sound to help you find it. Plus, a built-in lanyard loop lets you attach the case to a bag or keychain. The charging case and earbuds retain the same IPX4 rating as the first-gen AirPods Pro.

According to our tests, the AirPods Pro (1st gen) got five hours, six minutes of playback time with ANC enabled. Apple claims the AirPods Pro (2nd gen) can achieve six hours of battery life, but we’ll have to see if that’s the case. With the case, they are supposed to reach 30 hours total. In comparison, the first-gen AirPods Pro got 24 hours with their case. Both models let you use a Qi-compatible charger, MagSafe wireless charger, or a Lightning cable to recharge the case and buds. The AirPods Pro (2nd gen) bump up the talk time to 4.5 hours (24 hours with the case) versus 3.5 hours (18 hours with the case) from the AirPods Pro (1st gen) as well.

With the launch of the new AirPods Pro, Apple also says the rare earth magnets used in the product are from 100% recycled sources. Furthermore, you can recycle all AirPods models by mailing them in or bringing them to an Apple Store.


Features

Apple is known for its product ecosystem, and the new AirPods Pro (2nd generation) make an improvement here. Namely, it’s the H2 chip, the successor to the H1 chip. Apple claims it promises “smarter noise-cancellation” and “three-dimensional” sound. The H1 chip in the AirPods Pro (1st generation) makes it simple to sync Apple devices with the earbuds and gives them some ecosystem-exclusive features like spatial audio. The H2 chip retains these benefits and likely helps the earbuds achieve their longer battery life by being more efficient.

The AirPods Pro (1st generation) only support the SBC and AAC Bluetooth codecs, which is not likely to change with the AirPods Pro (2nd generation). That makes both of them less than ideal for use on Android. The AirPods Pro (2nd generation) bump up their Bluetooth version to 5.3, while the AirPods Pro have 5.0. That might mean support for some features down the line, but it remains to be seen.

Controls

The AirPods Pro (1st generation) let you use touch controls thanks to the pressure-sensitive stems, and the AirPods Pro (2nd generation) retain this. New to the second-generation AirPods Pro is the ability to control volume by sliding up and down the stems. However, you can already find this feature on other true wireless earbuds, such as the Nothing Ear 1.

Other than that, the usual set of features returns, including Apple’s Find My service. As mentioned, the AirPods Pro (2nd generation) case has a speaker and a chip to help you locate it, which the previous AirPods Pro (1st generation) case didn’t have.

Apple is clearly still targeting its walled garden first with these earbuds. The first-generation AirPods Pro were quite a success, and it appears nothing has been radically altered from them overall.

Noise-cancelling

The AirPods Pro (1st generation) made a splash because they were the first AirPods in the lineup to have active noise-cancelling (ANC). They aren’t the only ones out there, and Apple has improved the AirPods Pro (2nd generation).

The AirPods Pro (2nd generation) claim that they “double” the ANC performance compared to the first-generation AirPods Pro. We’ll have to test them to see what exactly Apple means by this. In comparison, we found that the first-generation AirPods Pro’s ANC made low rumbling noises about half as loud as they would be otherwise. That’s good, but it didn’t meet the performance of the Sony WF-1000XM4, for instance.

Apple also claims that the Adaptive Transparency mode in the AirPods Pro (2nd generation) can automatically detect harsh noises such as construction sounds and respond accordingly. We’ll have to see how well they do, but this might be helpful if you want to be aware of your surroundings and not experience jarring interruptions. Plus, as mentioned, the new XS small ear tip size could help people with smaller ear canal openings get better isolation.

Sound

According to our tests, the AirPods Pro (1st generation) had a good frequency response that most people find enjoyable. It doesn’t kick up the bass too much, so you can easily distinguish instruments and voices when listening. We don’t expect the AirPods Pro (2nd generation) to change this too much, but we’ll have to test them and see.

The AirPods Pro (2nd generation) update Apple’s spatial audio implementation with the introduction of Personalized Spatial Audio. This is basically an ear scanning feature like you’ll find when using Sony 360 Reality Audio. You take photos of your ears, and the earbuds create a personalized profile based on the data collected. This appears to be part of the updated spatial audio implementation, however, as the third-generation (non-Pro) AirPods also claim to offer this now.

The first-generation AirPods Pro have Adaptive EQ, an automatic equalizer that tailors the earbuds’ sound to your ears. The second-generation AirPods Pro also have this. Apple claims the second-generation AirPods Pro also have a “new low-distortion” driver and “custom amp,” but we’ll have to see what this means and if they make a big difference.

Apple has not directly claimed that the AirPods Pro (2nd generation) can achieve lossless playback, only “high bandwidth” with the H2 chip. Likewise, the AirPods Pro (1s generation) don’t make this claim, either.

Neither model has much in the way of hands-on equalization. You can use the Apple Music app on an iOS device to do so, but the changes won’t stick around.


Price and Colors

The Apple AirPods Pro (1st generation) launched at $249 and have remained at that price since. They will likely be on sale where you can find them now that the second-generation AirPods Pro are here. They only come in Apple’s signature white color.

Likewise, the AirPods Pro (2nd generation) are $249; you can start pre-ordering them on September 9, 2022, at 8:00 am Eastern time. General availability begins September 23, 2022. They also only come in white


Specs

AirPods Pro (1st generation)AirPods Pro (2nd generation)
Dimensions
AirPods Pro (1st generation)
Earbud: 30.9 x 21.8 x 24.0mm
Case: 45.2 x 60.6 x 21.7mm
AirPods Pro (2nd generation)
Earbud: 30.9 x 21.8 x 24.0mm
Case: 45.2 x 60.6 x 21.7mm
Weights
AirPods Pro (1st generation)
Earbud: 5.4g
Case: 45.6g
AirPods Pro (2nd generation)
Earbud: 5.3g
Case: 50.8g
Bluetooth connectivity
AirPods Pro (1st generation)
Bluetooth 5.0
SBC, AAC
AirPods Pro (2nd generation)
Bluetooth 5.3
SBC, AAC
Water resistance
AirPods Pro (1st generation)
IPX4
AirPods Pro (2nd generation)
IPX4
Listening time
AirPods Pro (1st generation)
4.5 hours with ANC
With case: up to 24 hours
AirPods Pro (2nd generation)
6 hours with ANC (5.5 hours with Personalized Spatial Audio and Head Tracking)
With case: up to 30 hours
Talk time
AirPods Pro (1st generation)
3.5 hours with ANC
With case: up to 18 hours
AirPods Pro (2nd generation)
4.5 hours with ANC
With case: up to 24 hours
Charging
AirPods Pro (1st generation)
Lightning
MagSafe
Wireless
AirPods Pro (2nd generation)
Lightning
MagSafe
Wireless
Speakers and microphones
AirPods Pro (1st generation)
Custom high-excursion Apple driver
Four microphones
AirPods Pro (2nd generation)
Custom high-excursion Apple driver
Four microphones
Device compatibility
AirPods Pro (1st generation)
Latest versions of iOS, macOS, Apple Watch, Apple TV
Android: Limited Bluetooth features only
Windows: Limited Bluetooth features only
AirPods Pro (2nd generation)
Latest versions of iOS, macOS, Apple Watch, Apple TV
Android: Limited Bluetooth features only
Windows: Limited Bluetooth features only
Chipset
AirPods Pro (1st generation)
H1 (earbuds)
AirPods Pro (2nd generation)
H2 (earbuds)
U1 (case)
Ear tip selection
AirPods Pro (1st generation)
S, M, L
AirPods Pro (2nd generation)
XS, S, M, L
Colors
AirPods Pro (1st generation)
White
AirPods Pro (2nd generation)
White

New AirPods Pro vs AirPods Pro (1st gen): Which should you buy?

We have a few things to test and see regarding the new AirPods Pro. Still, they bring some welcome, incremental updates to the AirPods line. They also cost $249, so they’re not any pricier than the AirPods Pro (1st generation) at launch.

But because the AirPods Pro (2nd generation) are here, the AirPods Pro (1st generation) are likely to be on sale if you want to save some cash. You’ll still get many of the same features, too. If you already have the first-generation AirPods Pro and are happy with them, there might not be enough in the AirPods Pro (2nd generation) to tip you over, however.

Of course, you should use either model with an iOS device for the best results.

Apple AirPods Pro
23%off
Apple AirPods Pro
Immersive audio features
Great sound quality
Good ANC
Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Gen.)
Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Gen.)
Wireless and large battery
Better ANC
Upgraded SoC