Review of the new Apple Airpods Pro 2
I’ve been an Apple guy since my studio days, as Mac was the only platform that supported ProTools Digital Audio Workstation (DAW). That was in the 90s, and it was definitely a love/hate relationship largely due to the intricacies of the Mac OS prior to OSX. It was equal parts blind tech-drill and computer voodoo keeping it running day-to-day, but it was what I knew and liked it because didn’t realize how much better it could be.
There has been a similar path with Apple’s Airpods. I liked the early versions for the convenience and superior performance compared to other products in the space. I looked past the poor fit in the old ear canal and the tendency to fall out, lost forever, into the grass while mowing the lawn. I loved them…right up until I bought the next version and stuffed the old ones into the glovebox for all eternity.
With the release of the Airpods Pro a couple years ago, I saw the opportunity to resolve the fit problem as they now had a soft silicone tip (in 3 sizes) that provided a substantially better seal in the ear canal. Bass stayed in, room noise stayed out. And what…active noise cancellation as well? This was a game-changer! I’d tested out some Bose units with this feature a couple years back and wasn’t that impressed, but I was blown away at how well it was implemented on the Pros.
Active noise cancellation isn’t just masking the sound; it involves a microphone monitoring incoming soundwave at your ear, and then producing the exact opposite soundwave out of the speaker pointed towards your eardrum. The result is that the incoming sound is nullified. And, all this can be done while at the same time playing whatever music you happen to be listening to. The benefits are numerous. Once unwanted noise is removed it is possible to listen to music at much lower (and healthier for your hearing) levels. One of my daughters finds it hard to concentrate on schoolwork in a room full of pencil-chewers, gum-poppers, finger-tappers, and snot-sniffers, so she will often just use her iPod Pros to reduce the clamor to its least annoying level. I often use them in high sound level environments, like mowing the lawn or using power tools. Haven’t tried them at the gun range yet; not sure they would have the amplitude to compensate for that level of sound, but I may experiment!
So they sound great, fit better in the ear, cancel noise, as well as work amazingly as part of the Apple ‘experience’. Handing-off calls, managing playback, etc. Long list of intuitive features that you kind-of expect from Apple but don’t fully appreciate until you use something else. I was happy, but then one night I put the charging case on the third-party mag charger on my nightstand, and Poof! They were done. Not sure what happened, but they would no longer hold a charge.
At Costco the next day I discovered the Pro 2 version had been released for a mere $50 more, so I was all in. I hadn’t done any research or heard about any improvements over the previous version, but it had to be better, right? Yes, right! Better in every way! First of all, four sizes of silicone tips to choose from. I didn’t have many complaints from the first version, but it does help dial it in even further. And what about the sound? Substantially better. I mean a LOT. There is a space and clarity that I have only experienced in really good/great stereo speaker set-ups. I ran across an article interviewing one of the Apple engineers who worked on this release, and he mentioned that one of the major design breakthroughs was managing airflow through the unit. Not sure what that means, but I will say that you can almost hear the air in music. Not sure how else to describe it. Almost like layers you can discern in the mix.
Better fit? Check. Better sound? Double-check. What about noise cancellation? Much better as well, along with better microphone functionality in phone calls.
With the constant media barrage pushing us to the latest/greatest version of whatever widget they are selling, it’s hard not to get a little jaded. Personally, I’m not even tempted by the latest iPhone seduction anymore. But I find the Apple Airpods Pro 2 to be an order of magnitude better than past offerings. And they fill well in a stocking.