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Apple AirPods Pro 2 vs AirPods Pro 1: Should you upgrade?

Incremental upgrades seem to be the theme when it's Apple versus Apple.
By
August 25, 2023
Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Generation)
MSRP: $249.00
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Positives
Effective ANC
Great sound quality
Great auto-wear detection
Water-resistant buds and case
Good fit with four ear tip options
Negatives
Charges via Lightning cable
Many Apple-exclusive features
No way to customize the EQ without third-party app
The Bottom Line.
The Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) modestly improves upon the first-generation AirPods Pro and features the same iconic look. Apple's upgraded H2 chip begets better active noise canceling (ANC) and battery life, while the case's U1 chip and integrated speaker lets you precisely locate it from the Find My app. If you own an iPhone, the new AirPods Pro is an obvious choice but you do have others too!Read full review...
Apple AirPods Pro (1st generation)
MSRP: $249.00
Check price
Positives
Good fit with three ear tip options
Sound quality
Good active noise canceling
The pressure-sensitive stems for controls
Portable charging case (Lightning/wireless)
MagSafe charging
Negatives
Price
Charges via lightning cable
Design not for everyone
The Bottom Line.
For just $50 USD more than the original model with the wireless charging case, this is definitely the pair of buds to get. The AirPods Pro (1st generation) sounds better than the originals and has a way better fit and active noise canceling to boot. If you have an iOS device, just get this.Read full review...

Apple’s AirPods are iconic, and the company broke new ground with the AirPods Pro (1st generation). When the AirPods Pro (2nd generation) hit the shelves, Apple pulled the first-gen buds off. If you own Apple’s original active noise canceling (ANC) earbuds, you’ll feel right at home with the new ones. Let’s pit the AirPods Pro 2 vs AirPods Pro 1 to see how these premium earbuds differ, and if those differences make the upgrade worthwhile.

Apple AirPods Pro 2 vs AirPods Pro 1: At a glance

The AirPods Pro (1st generation) and AirPods Pro (2nd generation) are more similar than dissimilar. Here are the main differences between these earbuds:

  • The AirPods Pro 2 earbuds and case have an IPX4 rating, while only the AirPods Pro 1 earbuds are IPX4-rated.
  • The AirPods Pro 2 have onboard volume controls that you won't find on the original AirPods Pro.
  • The AirPods Pro 2 house the H2 chip and the case houses the U1 chip, while the AirPods Pro 1 use the H1 chip.
  • The AirPods Pro 2 have better noise canceling and tracking support than the AirPods Pro 1.
  • The AirPods Pro 2 are still available from big box stores, but the AirPods Pro 1 are only available refurbished or secondhand.

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

AirPods Pro (2nd generation)AirPods Pro (1st generation)
Dimensions
AirPods Pro (2nd generation)
Earbud: 30.9 x 21.8 x 24.0mm
Case: 45.2 x 60.6 x 21.7mm
AirPods Pro (1st generation)
Earbud: 30.9 x 21.8 x 24.0mm
Case: 45.2 x 60.6 x 21.7mm
Weights
AirPods Pro (2nd generation)
Earbud: 5.3g
Case: 50.8g
AirPods Pro (1st generation)
Earbud: 5.4g
Case: 45.6g
Bluetooth connectivity
AirPods Pro (2nd generation)
Bluetooth 5.3
SBC, AAC
AirPods Pro (1st generation)
Bluetooth 5.0
SBC, AAC
Water resistance
AirPods Pro (2nd generation)
Earbuds: IPX4
Case: IPX4
AirPods Pro (1st generation)
Earbuds: IPX4
Listening time
AirPods Pro (2nd generation)
6 hours with ANC (5.5 hours with Personalized Spatial Audio and Head Tracking)
With case: up to 30 hours
AirPods Pro (1st generation)
4.5 hours with ANC
With case: up to 24 hours
Talk time
AirPods Pro (2nd generation)
4.5 hours with ANC
With case: up to 24 hours
AirPods Pro (1st generation)
3.5 hours with ANC
With case: up to 18 hours
Charging
AirPods Pro (2nd generation)
Lightning
MagSafe
Qi wireless
AirPods Pro (1st generation)
Lightning
MagSafe
Qi wireless
Speakers and microphones
AirPods Pro (2nd generation)
Custom high-excursion Apple driver
Four microphones
AirPods Pro (1st generation)
Custom high-excursion Apple driver
Four microphones
Device compatibility
AirPods Pro (2nd generation)
Latest versions of iOS, macOS, Apple Watch, Apple TV
Android: Limited Bluetooth features only
Windows: Limited Bluetooth features only
AirPods Pro (1st generation)
Latest versions of iOS, macOS, Apple Watch, Apple TV
Android: Limited Bluetooth features only
Windows: Limited Bluetooth features only
Chipset
AirPods Pro (2nd generation)
Earbuds: H2
Case: U1
AirPods Pro (1st generation)
Earbuds: H1
Ear tip selection
AirPods Pro (2nd generation)
XS, S, M, L
AirPods Pro (1st generation)
S, M, L
Colors
AirPods Pro (2nd generation)
White
AirPods Pro (1st generation)
White
Price
AirPods Pro (2nd generation)
$249
AirPods Pro (1st generation)
$249 (Discontinued)

The AirPods Pro (1st generation) and AirPods Pro (2nd generation) look nearly identical. Both sets of earbuds have stems and ear tips, but Apple adds extra-small tips to the AirPods Pro 2. You only get small, medium, and large tip sizes with first-gen AirPods Pro.

Apple’s force sensors return on the AirPods Pro 2, and I loved using them during the AirPods Pro 2 review. It was easy for me to slide up or down on the sensors to adjust volume, which you can’t do with the original AirPods Pro. Instead, you need to use your phone or ask Siri to change the volume. Both sets of buds have an IPX4 water-resistant rating. The AirPods Pro 2 case also has an IPX4 rating, making it more durable than the older case.

There are physical differences between the cases, too. For one, a lanyard loop and speaker holes decorate the newer AirPods Pro 2 case. No, you can’t use the newer case’s speaker for playing music, but you can use it to emit a sound for locating it within the same room as you. Apple also added its U1 chip, the very chip found in its AirTags, to the AirPods Pro 2 case. I like having the option to find the AirPods Pro 2 case on a map through the Find My app. If you lose the AirPods Pro 1 case, you only have your memory to help track it down.

The AirPods Pro (2nd generation) and AirPods Pro (1st generation) have Transparency mode, but only the newer model has Adaptive Transparency. Transparency mode pipes background noise through your earbuds to keep you situationally aware. This is a great safety feature, but it has its downsides. For instance, it can be painful to hear the loud crash of an active construction site while you walk by. To mitigate this, Apple developed Adaptive Transparency, which reduces the loudness of unexpected sounds in real time. This way, you’ll still hear warning sounds like car horns, but they won’t be so blaring.

The first and second-generation AirPods Pro share more similarities than differences.

Perhaps the biggest difference between the AirPods Pro 1 vs AirPods Pro 2 is that the former are no longer available. Meanwhile, you can find the AirPods Pro (2nd generation) at your local Target or Best Buy without a problem.

There are also some similarities to address. Both sets of the AirPods Pro support Apple Spatial Audio with head tracking. You also get “Hey, Siri,” battery optimization, and automatic device switching on Apple’s AirPods Pro series. To take advantage of all this, you need an iPhone with the latest version of iOS.

Apple AirPods Pro 2 vs AirPods Pro 1: Noise canceling

The Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) case is open and laying at an angle to show the earbuds and their sensors.
Lily Katz / Android Authority

For the best active noise canceling between these earbuds, go with the AirPods Pro (2nd generation). With the newer AirPods Pro 2, you benefit from Apple’s H2 chip. Distracting noises like construction outside or a train car will sound a tad quieter with the AirPods Pro 2 than the first-gen buds.

Apple’s H2 chip is responsible for the improved noise canceling in the AirPods Pro 2. Meanwhile, the AirPods Pro 1 use the company’s H1 chip. Again, both have very good noise canceling, but you’ll get better ANC performance from the newer model.

Apple AirPods Pro 2nd gen vs 1st gen ANC Chart FIXED

Let’s look at the chart above to get into the nitty-gritty of our AirPods Pro 1 vs AirPods Pro 2 noise canceling comparison. The cyan line represents the second-gen AirPods Pro 2, and the dashed pink line represents the first-generation AirPods Pro. The higher each line, the more noise the respective model cancels out.

The frequency 0-2,040Hz frequency range is the most important for good isolation and ANC. These frequencies can degrade sound quality if your earbuds can’t block them out. As the chart above shows, the AirPods Pro 2 line is consistently higher than the AirPods Pro 1, indicating better ANC.

Apple AirPods Pro 2 vs AirPods Pro 1: Sound quality

Apple Airpods Pro Gen 2 vs. Apple Airpods Pro Gen 1 Buds Comparison.
Lily Katz / Android Authority

Both generations of Apple’s AirPods Pro earbuds have excellent sound quality. The AirPods Pro (2nd generation) have a slightly louder bass response than the AirPods Pro (1st generation). It requires a trained ear to identify the differences in sound quality here. Suffice it to say, you’ll be happy with either set.

When reviewing the AirPods Pro 2, I didn’t mind the lack of a custom equalizer. Don’t get me wrong: on principle, I believe every set of flagship earbuds should come with the option to customize the sound profile. That said, the AirPods Pro (2nd generation) sound very good for wireless earbuds. I didn’t feel compelled to equalize the sound for casual use.

Both generations of AirPods Pro sound so good that I didn't miss the absence of a custom equalizer.

Both sets of earbuds use Apple’s Adaptive EQ. This keeps the sound consistent based on the shape of your ear canals and how well the buds fit. This way, we can all enjoy consistent audio quality from the AirPods Pro series with every wear. Adaptive EQ is always on and works on any OS, including Android, iOS, and Windows.

A chart depicts the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) and AirPods Pro (1st generation) frequency responses, revealing the newer pair has a louder bass response.

You can see in the frequency response comparison chart above that the AirPods Pro earbuds sound similar. The pink line represents the SoundGuys Target Curve from our audio sister site. The cyan line represents the AirPods Pro 2, and the yellow dotted line represents the AirPods Pro 1. Neither set of earbuds is a perfect match to the Target Curve, but both come very close. Both sets of AirPods have a quieter bass response than SoundGuys‘ curve suggests, but this shouldn’t put a damper on your music.

Apple AirPods Pro 2 vs AirPods Pro 1: Microphone quality

Either set of AirPods Pro will work for phone and Zoom calls. Under ideal conditions, the AirPods Pro 2 relay voices clearer and louder than the original AirPods Pro. Neither set of earbuds is perfect for phone calls, even in ideal conditions. In the demos below, both lose the speaker’s voice slightly.

Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) microphone demo (Ideal conditions):

Apple AirPods Pro (1st generation) microphone demo (Ideal conditions):

In the second set of demos with simulated street noise, the AirPods Pro 2 mics exceed the AirPods Pro 1. The second-gen AirPods Pro suppress more background noise. We experienced fewer voice dropouts with the newer AirPods Pro, too.

Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) microphone demo (Street conditions):

Apple AirPods Pro (1st generation) microphone demo (Street conditions):

Apple AirPods Pro 2 vs AirPods Pro 1: Battery and charging

On a single charge, the AirPods Pro (1st generation) have an official battery life of four hours, 30 minutes with ANC. They have three hours, 30 minutes of talk time with ANC. The case provides an extra 19 hours, 30 minutes of listening time, or 14 hours, 30 minutes of talk time. The AirPods Pro (2nd generation) have an official listening time of six hours with ANC or four hours, 30 minutes of talk time. The case adds 24 hours of media playback or 19 hours, 30 minutes of talk time.

We subjected both AirPods Pro generations to our standard battery testing. During this, we played music peaking at 75dB (SPL) until the batteries depleted. Here are our battery test results:

  • AirPods Pro (2nd generation), ANC on: Five hours, 43 minutes.
  • AirPods Pro (1st generation), ANC on: Four hours, 20 minutes.

When in a pinch, you can fast-charge either set of AirPods Pro in the case. Five minutes of charging nets one hour of playback with either earbuds.

The AirPods Pro 2 and AirPods Pro 1 cases charge via Lightning cable or Qi wireless charging. MagSafe charging debuted with the AirPods Pro 2 but didn’t make its way to the AirPods Pro 1 until September 2022. When Apple started selling its AirPods Pro 1 with a MagSafe charging case, it did so at no extra cost.

Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) vs AirPods Pro (1st generation): Price

The Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) case open with one of the earbuds on a burlap sack, and the Nothing Ear 1 case in the background.
Lily Katz / Android Authority
  • Apple AirPods Pro 2: $249
  • Apple AirPods Pro 1: $249 (discontinued)

The Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) launched at $249 and have remained at that price since. That said, we’ve seen them go on sale around holidays like Christmas and Valentine’s Day as low as $199.

Likewise, the AirPods Pro (1st generation) debuted for $249 and kept the same official MSRP throughout their life cycle. Apple discontinued these earbuds soon after the AirPods Pro 2, but there are still ways to buy them. You can still find them renewed through sites like Amazon or Best Buy. The refurbished price usually goes from $160 to $179.

Apple AirPods Pro 1 vs AirPods Pro 2: Should you upgrade?

Apple Airpods Pro Gen 2 vs. Apple Airpods Pro Gen 1 Hero Image
Lily Katz / Android Authority

Any iPhone owner will find plenty to love about the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) and AirPods Pro (1st generation). Both buds have excellent noise canceling, sound quality, and controls. The AirPods Pro 2 pull ahead of the original earbuds when it comes to ANC, device tracking, and battery life. If you have smaller ears, you may also prefer the XS ear tips that come with the AirPods Pro 2. Further, listeners who plan to take phone calls with their earbuds will get better performance from the newer AirPods Pro.

Which earbuds would you rather own?

58 votes

The AirPods Pro 2 are technically more impressive than the AirPods Pro 1, but upgrading models may not be worth it. The AirPods Pro 1 are still very good earbuds that sound almost identical to the AirPods Pro 2. Both AirPods Pro buds share the same Apple-exclusive perks. Plus, you get spatial audio with head tracking on either set of buds.

You give up two things when buying renewed AirPods Pro 1: tracking for the charging case and a more advanced Transparency mode. If you’re comfortable with slightly less effective ANC and mildly quieter bass, the AirPods Pro 1 are the better value.

If you think both versions are a bit too much for your needs, you should also check out our AirPods Pro 2 vs AirPods 2 vs AirPods 3 comparison.

Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Generation)Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Generation)
AA Recommended
Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Generation)
Impressive ANC • Comfortable fit • Wireless charging
MSRP: $249.00
One of the best true wireless earbuds for iOS users.
The Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) modestly improve upon the first-generation AirPods Pro and feature the same iconic look. Apple's upgraded H2 chip begets better noise canceling and battery life, while the case's U1 chip and integrated speaker let you precisely locate the case. If you own an iPhone, the AirPods Pro 2 are an obvious choice.
Apple AirPods Pro (1st generation)Apple AirPods Pro (1st generation)
Apple AirPods Pro (1st generation)
ANC support • Perfect for iPhones • Deep Apple integration
MSRP: $249.00
For iPhone users, not much else can compare
The Apple AirPods Pro offers more features and accessories than the base AirPods, including ANC. A worthy upgrade for any iPhone user if you can afford it!