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Home / Reviews / Apple AirPods Pro (2nd gen) review: a compelling upgrade

Apple AirPods Pro (2nd gen) review: a compelling upgrade

The second generation Apple AirPods Pro 2 promise a step forward in terms of sound quality and features. Do they deliver?

Apple AirPods 2 review

Stuff Verdict

Apple’s high-end wireless earphones just got way better, making the AirPods Pro 2 even more of a must-buy than their predecessor.


  • Even better than the excellent originals
  • Sound quality is excellent
  • Nicely improved feature set


  • We don’t like the swipe volume control
  • Might need to turn off case tones
  • Very Apple centric


Apple has come a long way from the basic ‘buds bundled with iPods and early iPhones. The original AirPods Pro earned coveted places on many a best headphones list, and were one of Stuff’s favourite products of recent years; the blend of convenience, excellent ANC and impressive audio made them a must-have for Apple owners. Do the AirPods Pro 2 improve the formula?

They look pretty much identical as before, but Apple has worked hard to improve noise cancellation and battery life. But there’s no shortage of true wireless competition. Here’s how the AirPods Pro (2nd Gen) stack up today.

Review originally published March 20 2023

How we test headphones

Every pair of earphones and headphones reviewed on Stuff is used for a minimum of a week’s worth of daily listening. We use a playlist of test tracks made up of multiple genres to assess sound, and use our years of experience to compare to other models. Manufacturers have no visibility on reviews before they appear online, and we never accept payment to feature products.

Find out more about how we test and rate products.

Design & build

Did previous AirPod generations drop out of your ears – even the original AirPods Pro, with their silicone ear tips? Apple has added a fourth, smaller set of XS ear tips, so you should finally get a secure seal. I found them to be super comfortable enough with the regular tips, which I hadn’t expected when trying the initial version. If you’re coming to the AirPods Pro fresh, you can always take the Ear Tip Test when setting them up to decide what fit is best for you.

What is immediately noticeable as you look around the charging case is that it now has a speaker. This initially comes across as a little odd, though comes into its own when you need to find your AirPods case via Apple’s FindMy app. They can now emit out a welcome, shrill tone from the back of the sofa, and they also support Precision Finding if your iPhone does (it’s baked into the iPhone 11 and later).

The tones are fine most of the time, but if you charge them in a quiet environment – like a bedroom at night – you probably want to disable them.

Managing your AirPods is easier than ever, thanks to a dedicated settings menu added in iOS 16. It appears when you’re connected, which isn’t always useful; I had mine on a wireless charging pad, and it kept pinging to say it was fully refuelled. Fine, but I was watching TV at the time and it was a trifle annoying.

The charging case also now comes with a small lanyard clip, so you can attach it to a rucksack or coat. It’s interesting that Apple hasn’t done this before but felt compelled to do it here. Coincidentally, the case is now sweat and water-resistant which is great – it wasn’t previously.


The boost to battery life is welcome, though not immediately noticeable If you’re coming from an original pair of AirPods Pro. You’ll now get a little shy of six hours if you’re listening to music; with the case there’s a combined 30 hours of juice.

One design element I wasn’t so impressed with was the touch-based volume controls built into the AirPods Pro 2’s stems. Like many earphone-based touch controls, it’s easy to make the wrong adjustment – especially if you’re moving about – and I’d rather this wasn’t added.

Apple AirPods 2 review

I’m surprised to see Apple add something that doesn’t impress on numerous rival ‘buds. It does, however, do a great job of distinguishing between presses of the stem (to pause/play or take calls, press and hold to change noise cancellation) and swipes.

Sound quality and spatial audio

Apple AirPods 2 review
There are some noticeable design changes from the older buds (top)

I was sceptical that the AirPods Pro (2nd Gen) could be much better than the originals – the first AirPods Pro were genuinely impressive in terms of comfort and sound quality. But it was immediately evident that these provide much beefier and punchier audio than the 2019 pair.

Noise cancellation is also much improved, partly thanks to the new Apple H2 chip running the show. It had no problem blocking out our other half’s TV watching while I watched the F1 on an iPad. The original AirPods Pro had problems blocking out conversation (especially from the TV) and while things aren’t so different it’s startling, there’s no doubt the cancellation is better.

The upshot of this is that you actually need to be careful walking down the street with full cancellation (versus transparency) switched on. It’s actually too good and you end up blocking out sounds you should be hearing.

Apple AirPods 2 review

Spatial Audio can now be personalised through analysis of your ears (you use your iPhone’s TrueDepth front camera) but this isn’t unique to this generation. It’s also available on the older model, as well as the AirPods 3 and AirPods Max, and the Beats Fit Pro, via a software update.

I’ll be honest, I’m not the biggest fan of head tracking spatial audio – some are pretty keen, sure, but I’d rather listen without. The personalisation is easy to do, at least – you do a front view and then turn to the left and then right using the guide and audio cues.

Apple AirPods Pro 2 verdict

If you’re thinking about the merits of a pair of these versus the standard AirPods 3, there really is no contest; these are way better.

Before starting this review, I was also expecting that discounted pairs of 1st generation AirPods Pro would be a no-brainer purchase in comparison – but that would do these 2nd Gen Pros a disservice.

The move forward in sound quality, battery life and noise cancellation are worth the extra outlay without question, and the addition of the case tones for use with FindMy is excellent (though you might need to turn the tones off as a rule). Overall these are a really compelling upgrade.

Stuff Says…

Score: 5/5

Apple’s AirPods Pro just got way better – as if they weren’t enough of a must-buy already.


Even better than the excellent originals

Sound quality is excellent

Nicely improved feature set


We don’t like the swipe volume control

Might need to turn off case tones

Very Apple centric

Apple AirPods Pro 2 technical specifications

Driver sizeNot specified
MicsThree on each AirPod Pro
ConnectivityBluetooth 5.3, Apple H1
Water resistanceIPX4 (buds and case)
Battery life6 hours / 30 hours (buds/case, ANC on)
Dimensions31x21x24mm, 5.3g (buds), 45x61x28mm, 51g (case)
Profile image of Dan Grabham Dan Grabham Editor-in-Chief


Dan is Editor-in-chief of Stuff, working across the magazine and the Stuff.tv website.  Our Editor-in-Chief is a regular at tech shows such as CES in Las Vegas, IFA in Berlin and Mobile World Congress in Barcelona as well as at other launches and events. He has been a CES Innovation Awards judge. Dan is completely platform agnostic and very at home using and writing about Windows, macOS, Android and iOS/iPadOS plus lots and lots of gadgets including audio and smart home gear, laptops and smartphones. He's also been interviewed and quoted in a wide variety of places including The Sun, BBC World Service, BBC News Online, BBC Radio 5Live, BBC Radio 4, Sky News Radio and BBC Local Radio.

Areas of expertise

Computing, mobile, audio, smart home

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