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Rebuilt from the sound up! AirPods Pro 2

My most used bit of Apple tech seems to have just got better with the release of AirPods Pro 2

AirPods Pro 2
image courtesy of author

Easy pickings

AirPods…what’s all the fuss about? Until two years, I was happily plugging in an old pair of cabled earbuds. Then, I got my first pair of AirPods, and suddenly, I got it!

I am hoping the same will be true with Apple Watch. Again, for years, I haven’t really got it, but now, I have succumbed! I will be dipping my toes in to Apple Watch 8 next week, and I’ll be sure to let you know what I make of it!

The experience with AirPods took surprised me. My background is audio, and I have made many videos about studio grade headphones. My audiophile snobbiness had got the better of me, and I was judging AirPods without even trying them out! I was used to high-quality headphones, with a full, flat, dynamic delivery. How could these tiny AirPods possibly compare?

The wired version were ok, but a bit of a phaff! The wire always seemed to be in the way, or getting caught on something at precisely the wrong moment. The fit was not so good, and annoyed me after wearing them for a short time. And, most importantly, the audio had not impressed. Thin, little range, useless mids and little or no bass. All-in-all, I was not impressed, certainly not enough to buy a pair of AirPods. Until…

I love a freebie!

I happened to be in the right place, at exactly the right time (for once). I had to get a replacement MacBook Air for my daughter, and part of the student offer, was a free pair of original, Generation One AirPods. She already had some, so I was the lucky recipient!

It happened to coincide with lockdown, and so found myself out for walks, with time on my hands. Ah – remember those days? AirPods amazed me, if I am honest. Decent battery life, great fit & durability and a way better audio experience than I’d thought possible. Suddenly, they had some audio presence.

It was clear to me, that, Apple had decided that AirPods were to be a serious audio item in their own right. No longer the free set of headphones to take calls on, rather something you’d want to complete your Apple ecosystem and make the day that little bit brighter and better.

They convinced me so much, in fact, that earlier this year, I traded up, to AirPods Pro.

Another level

Those original, first pair of AirPods had convinced me of their merit. The biggest flaw in them, was the lack of ANC (Automatic Noise Cancelling). I still try to get out most mornings to do some cardio, and traffic noise ruined my listening experience, with that pair.

The ANC on AirPods Pro is mighty impressive. The moment you put them in, and turn on ANC, AirPods get to work on masking the unwanted sounds from the outside world. I was dubious as to how well the ANC could possibly work, on something so small.

Going back to my audiophile days, I figured that you’d need over ear headphones to make any difference to blocking out unwanted sounds. AirPods were tiny, how could they possibly make any difference at all? Before placing the order for my AirPods Pro, I had placed some AirPods Max in the basket. I figured they would definitely do the job…and, I figured, in for a penny! The only thing was, I knew they were heavy to wear, were really more designed for studio or indoor use, and I didn’t want to be that guy wearing AirPods Max! Even now, I have hardly seen anyone wearing them in the real world. Have you? I still take a double look…

The audio, was yet another giant step forward. Helped in no small measure by the ANC and the fact you get three sets of silicon tips to ensure a better fit. You find yourself locked in to your own space & audio world. But, the actual audio delivery, is much more complete as well. Present mids, better bass (lacking a little in the sub-bass of course), and easy highs. I have endless headphones I could reach for, yet AirPods Pro are what make the cut every day, both outdoors, and here in the studio.

Their adaptability and convenience, is what makes them so unique. The only downsides that I have any reason to complain about are the fit and pairing.

Don’t get me wrong, they pair to your phone super-easily, but it’s just they try to pair to every other Apple device as well. No matter what I do, I can’t seem to disable the auto-pairing, regardless of what I try – any help on that would be greatly appreciated.

And the fit – they are not as good as the OG ones I had, requiring constant adjustments & nudging. That said though, I love ‘em, and they are in now, as I write this blog.

Soon, however, they will be redundant, as I have some AirPods Pro 2 on the way. Just checking my order, informs me they should be with me 23rd September. If I am so happy with my current pair, why did I buy a replacement pair? Good question.

What am I hoping for?

An even better form of ANC is high on my wish-list for the AirPods Pro 2 when they arrive. I may be travelling soon, and the more noise-cancelling, the better is my mantra! Apparently, it is meant to be twice as good on AirPods Pro 2…I will let you know…

This week, when I upgraded to iOS 16, it prompted me to activate Personalised Spatial Audio. Using the true depth camera, you take a scan from each side of your head. The camera will measure your ear, ear shape and size. All this is to create an even more immersive sound & listening experience. Once set, these settings will sync across all devices – the ecosystem at work once again! This feature has also meant, I now listen more to Apple Music that Spotify, so I can utilise Spatial Audio – they’re no fools, are they?

And, when you need to switch off ANC, the new Adaptive Transparency mode looks to be both intriguing and clever. By measuring, and assessing noises from your environment 48,000 times per a second, it will seek and neutralise loud, harmful sounds before they get to your ear. This is all the result of some mighty impressive audio algorithms!

The audio, although great already, should be improved with the latest drivers and a new, custom amp. The H2 chip will improve bandwidth and connectivity with all Apple Silicon devices. And, although lossless audio is not yet available on AirPods Pro 2, who knows what the next firmware update will hold?

Fit and function

AirPods Pro 2 look pretty much the same from the outside, and the iconic stem remains. But, the stem is now even more useful. Volume adjustment is finally added to the stem, with the aid of some new track force sensor wizardry. Not only that, but you’ll be able to pause/play, answer & end calls, and even switch between ANC and transparency modes.

I think the ’new, listening Apple’ have heard the complaints about the iff’y fit on AirPods Pro, and have now included a pair of extra-small silicon tips. Don’t forget, you can check on the fit of your tips, with the AirPod app on your phone, telling you if you have the best, possible fit.

The icing on the cake

The other highlighted features, are not grabbing my attention, but, I guess they are all iterative improvements. The U1 chip, and speaker in the case, means finding lost AirPods will be more precise using the FindMy network. Speaking of the case, using the speaker, it will also let you know when AirPods or running low on battery, when they are pairing or charging. Oh, and there is a lanyard loop – not that I can see myself using that!

You can charge them with your Apple Watch charger, as well as MagSafe. Seems I bought an Apple Watch just at the right time, eh? The SharePlay tech is better, something I do use, and both case & AirPods are IPX4 sweat & water-resistant. Power and battery life is even better. As much as the battery life is already good, the amount I am using them these days, I will always take more juice. I mean, I even wear them as I am falling to sleep nowadays!

Wrapping up

The next few weeks are going to better than Christmas for me! I have both the Apple Watch and AirPods Pro 2 arriving next week, within days of one another.

I can’t wait to get my hands on them and find out what they are all about. I mean, soon, I will be able to listen to music from my watch on my AirPods!

Now that is cool!

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Get in the vibe and listen along to today’s chosen soundtrack. I wrote this whilst listening to https://music.apple.com/gb/album/seeds/1551089219

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