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There’s lot to like about the new 2nd Generation AirPods Pro, from the more detailed and realistic audio, to its improved noise cancellation technology and even a use for those stems that dangle from your ears.
Released in September, the new AirPods Pro (2nd Gen) up the ante when it comes to what a pair of wireless earbuds can do, giving you an all-in-one device for listening to music, streaming movies, gaming and just taking everyday calls (they’re on sale right now at Amazon too).
Speaking to Rolling Stone in a rare, on-the-record interview, Apple audio engineer Esge Andersen, and product marketing’s Eric Treski outline nine specific features of the new AirPods Pro that you may not be aware of.
1. Better Performance Thanks to H2 Chip
The AirPods Pro (2nd Gen) use Apple’s all-new H2 chip, which replaces the H1 chip that was used in previous models. The H2 chip is the third generation of Apple silicone designed specifically for AirPods, and the upgrade is immediately noticeable with incredibly dynamic 3D-like sound, improved noise cancellation and the ability to use a new “Adaptive Transparency” (more on that later).
Apple also put a U1 chip inside the charging case which helps with what the company calls its “Precision Finding” feature — essentially a more accurate way of locating where your (lost) earbuds are.
2. Improved Audio
Of course, what you really want from a pair of earbuds is solid audio quality, and the new AirPods Pro deliver in spades.
Treski credits the earbuds’ brand new driver and brand new amplifier that powers it. “Essentially what we’re able to do is get into much more detail because we’re extending much further in the lower range as well as in the higher range of frequencies,” Treski tells Rolling Stone. There’s also a lot more clarity in the audio coming through, Treski says, thanks to the lower THD (total harmonic distortion). “Those are kind of the three aspects and attributes of the sound quality [improvements],” he says.
Apple’s Personalized Spatial Audio feature, meantime, uses what it calls “dynamic head tracking” to float the sound all around you rather than directly at you in one spot. What that means: you can dance around and move your head to your heart’s content without missing any detail from the track.
And then there’s Apple’s Adaptive EQ, which is, in a word: incredible. Treski says the technology “uses the inward-facing microphone to actually monitor what you’re hearing — based on any variability of fit — compared in real time to what you’re supposed to hear.” The earbuds can then make “adjustments in frequencies” to ensure that you’re listening to audio the way it’s intended. It’s not just music either — the Adaptive EQ is great for listening to conversations (I.e. TV news or video calls) and great for getting the most out of your gaming experience too.
3. Double the Amount of Noise Cancellation
One of the first things you’ll notice about the new AirPods Pro is just how good the noise cancellation technology is at creating a seal inside your ears (seriously, it’s sort of like a suction effect). Apple says the AirPods Pro (2nd Gen) have “double the amount of noise cancellation versus the original AirPods Pro” and that means an even more immersive and focused listening experience. The AirPods Pro are the only Apple earbuds with both active noise cancellation and Adaptive Transparency (more on that below), which gives you new options when it comes to letting in — and blocking out — different environmental sounds.”
4. Adaptive Transparency
Adaptive Transparency is one of the best features in the 2nd-Gen AirPods Pro. In short, Andersen explains, “it’s trying to give you a natural experience.”
The regular noise cancellation feature is so effective that it can block out the majority of outside sounds, but what if you’re on the subway, say, and you want to block out the screech of the tracks but also want to hear when announcements are made? That’s where Adaptive Transparency comes in.
Andersen compares the feature to being at a loud concerts — you want to prevent your ears from getting blown out by the speakers, but you still want to hear the crowd singing and clapping along next to you.
Andersen says it also creates a more “natural” sounding way to cancel noise. “We’re trying to get people to a point where it doesn’t feel like we’re [just] blocking your ears,” he shares. “When the environment gets really, really loud, we bring it down to a level that is not, you know, shocking or surprising.” In short: the noise levels will drop, without leaving you in a cone of silence.
“You know, as an engineering team, we’re really, really proud of this,” Andersen admits, “because it’s kind of like a sleeper feature, right? It’s like one of those that you didn’t realize you have until suddenly you experience it.”
I use the main noise cancellation feature when I’m trying to focus on getting some writing done, or zoning out in bed with a good playlist or Netflix show. I use Adaptive Transparency when I’m at work, at the airport or going on a run (so I can be aware of the traffic around me).
5. Better Battery Life
The new AirPods Pro get you up to 30 hours of battery life — six hours more than the original AirPods Pro model (and in line with the AirPods (3rd Gen) model). To get the max battery life, you’ll want to pay attention to what you’re using the wireless earbuds for: Apple says you get up to 30 hours of listening time and up to 24 hours of talk time. What we like: a quick five-minute charge in the case gets you up to one hour of listening time or one hour of talk time.
Another new feature of the AirPods Pro (2nd Gen) is the ability to charge with an Apple Watch charger. Essentially a way to wirelessly charge your buds without needing another cord, the MagSafe case uses magnets to easily connect to the Apple Watch charger or other MagSafe compatible accessories and chargers.
6. Touch Controls
While the new AirPods Pro still let you control settings via Siri, Apple has also introduced Touch controls to the wireless buds. You can now use your finger to gently swipe up or down on the stem (the hanging part of the earbuds) to adjust volume, answer calls, switch between listening modes and more.
In our hands-on testing, it took a little while before we got our finger placement right for the Touch controls to work so don’t be alarmed if you can’t get the swiping motion down on the first try. Our tip: use your thumb to hold the stem still, before pressing down and swiping with your index finger.
7. Fourth Ear Tip
Apple previously only had three ear tips included with its wireless earbuds, but the AirPods Pro (2nd Gen) box includes a fourth ear tip, so you can better secure your buds in place.
“Comfort and fit is so foundational to our device,” Treski says, “so we had to make sure that you accommodate that first and foremost.”
The new ear tip (size XS) is great for those with smaller ears, helping to “lock in” the AirPods so they don’t fall out or shift around, even when you’re on the move.
8. Improved Water Resistance
While previous models of Apple earbuds were always water-resistant, both the earbuds and case on the AirPods Pro (2nd Gen) are IPX-rated for water and sweat resistance. Apple says both the inside and outside of the case are resistant to light splashes, giving you one less thing to worry about when taking your ‘Pods on the go.
9. Lanyard Loop
In addition to being water-resistant, the new AirPods Pro case comes with a lanyard loop, so you can add a lanyard and secure the case to your backpack, belt buckle and other hook-able places.