APPLE AIRPODS ARE one of the rare premium devices that doesn’t adhere to an annual update cycle.
The tech giant, which releases new iPhones and Apple Watches every year, has only sparingly updated its true wireless earbuds. AirPods debuted in 2016 and only received updates in 2019 (some hardware and charging case tweaks) and 2021 (a complete design overhaul). AirPods Pro, the premium option with in-ear tips and noise cancellation, launched in 2019 and has remained the same for the better part of three years.
That changed when the next generation AirPods Pro they were announced at Apple’s fall main event earlier this month. The new headphones promise to offer better performance, personalized sound, and more, but the design doesn’t look much different to the untrained eye. Two men’s health Staff members Gear and Commerce editor John Thompson and fitness editor Brett Williams, NASM got a few pairs to try and see how true wireless earbuds have improved, and if the improvements are worth the long wait a time they come out this Friday.
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Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) quick stats
●Adaptive transparency mode that adjusts to outside noise
●Enhanced active noise cancellation function
●Custom Spatial Audio
●Battery estimate up to 6 hours (with ANC enabled); estimate up to 30 hours per charging box
● MagSafe charging case (now works with Apple Watch chargers), with lanyard attachment and is sweat and water resistant
●Built-in speaker (in the case) to accurately find
●New touch control for volume
●New sizes of silicone in-ear tips for an improved fit
John’s take: If you take a look at the 2nd generation AirPods Pro, you will quickly realize that there is not much difference in design compared to the previous version. This same style was kept on purpose, as Apple believes that changing the look of such an iconic headset would be counterproductive. I agree; now that people are used to seeing those around them walking around with stalks dangling from their ears, it makes sense to keep leaning towards aesthetics.
Instead, the Apple team redesigned the entire makeup of the technology. inside the AirPods Pro. The clearer, fuller sound is due in part to Apple’s new H2 chip, which works in conjunction with a custom driver and amplifier to produce the sound with less distortion. The chip’s processing power also enables Adaptive Transparency mode, a much better noise cancellation than the previous generation and superior audio quality thanks to Custom Spatial Audio, which takes advantage of iPhone’s TrueDepth front-facing camera to map your ears, FaceID-style, customizing sound for your ears to create a tailored listening experience.
I used my AirPods Pro for everyday use (think commuting, on hikes, at home) and at the gym. The two features that stood out the most were the new touch control and adaptive transparency mode noise cancellation.
I found the touch control feature most useful while working out. Apple says you can slightly slide the stem to control the volume, but I’ve found that gently tapping up or down works best for me (like the previous generation, pressing and holding the stem toggles between Active Noise Cancellation and Adaptive Transparency modes ). It takes a second to get used to gradually turning up the volume, but the logic makes a lot more sense compared to a smoother volume function, which could result in you inadvertently maxing out the volume and blowing up your ears by unintentionally turning it up that much. ). The other (minor) positive of touch control is the style points, as gently swiping your finger over your ear indicates to those around you that you are, in fact, using the latest generation.
Adaptive transparency mode is unreal. I found it most useful when traveling or walking around my neighborhood. That’s because the headphones will automatically muffle any loud or harsh noise, so ambulance sirens and loud music coming from cars or retail stores are reduced to a level your ears (and brain) will appreciate. with pleasure.
Overall, the second generation AirPods Pro are a significant improvement over the first generation. The sound is certainly superior, with noticeably deeper bass when listening to genres like hip-hop and sharper instruments when listening to rock. Battery life is also on par with what Apple claims, and I found that it needed a charge less often than I was used to with my previous-gen pair. So if you’re looking for the latest and greatest in headphone technology, look no further. If you loved your first pair of AirPods Pro, you’ll definitely want to try them out.
Brett’s opinion: Fortunately, John handled the really essential parts of the wear test. While I’ve also used the new 2nd-gen AirPods as my daily earbud at the gym, on commutes, and everywhere else (verdict: awesome, like he said), I’ve also tried some of the other features that required me to break out of my routine. typical.
I took a flight shortly after receiving the new AirPods Pro, so I was able to put Active Noise Cancellation and Adaptive Transparency modes to the test right away. Once the plane took off, I put on the headphones and turned on the ANC function. The drone of the plane’s engines faded away completely, and all I could hear was my go to sleep on a plane playlist, essentially all of Sufjan Stevens’ smooth indie tracks. Once I closed my eyes, I felt like I was sealed in my own space with the calm and subtle melodies. At one point, I could feel my seat mates shifting; it was time for a complimentary drink. I went into Transparency mode. I was immediately struck by the noise of the engines, but then I could hear exactly what the stewardess was asking me, headphones on and all. I had my ginger beer and went back to the music.
I was able to try a more extreme test a few days later. I had tickets to see one of my favorite bands, My Chemical Romance, on their long-awaited reunion tour. This was the perfect opportunity to test Adaptive Transparency mode’s ability to muffle dangerously loud noises. Think of this as a much smarter (and more expensive) earplug, which some concertgoers rely on to protect their hearing at shows. I put the AirPods in my ears during the opening set, and when I turned on the Noise app on my Apple Watch, I was able to see exactly how effective the AirPods were at reducing the sound level.
That’s a 10 decibel swing and it keeps me out of the danger zone. I didn’t catch other moments on video, but the range was even higher at times. I could still hear Thursday playing “War All the Time” almost as clearly as when I didn’t have the AirPods (which wasn’t as great, but more so because Brooklyn’s Barclays Center is a bad place for a rock show, and I was in nosebleeds). I didn’t put the headphones on for the header though. I wanted the full experience.
In all other use cases, the AirPods Pro performed as well as you’d expect. I took them on a 16-mile run through Brooklyn and Manhattan and had no issues with the fit or my audiobook narration, even while dodging pedestrians and traffic and switching between ANC and active transparency mode, according to my environment. Yes, I listen to books when I exercise. I’m weird.
While I’ve enjoyed using other truly wireless earbuds, like the Google Pixel Buds A-Series and the Jaybird Vista line, my experience with the AirPods has been better. A Pixel Bud stopped working after just a few months of use, and the Vista, while sturdy for workouts, starts to feel uncomfortable for long-term use outside the gym. There are other options as well, but at the end of the day, I use an iPhone and the AirPods connect to the phone with no problem. That’s the Apple advantage.
If you’re on the fence about the new AirPods Pro, consider their use case. If you live in a city and travel by public transport I would recommend them for the ANC only. If you have the first-gen model, you’ll lose some performance points, but overall the experience (minus the new volume controls) is similar, so an immediate upgrade to the second-gen shouldn’t feel urgent. That said, your buds may be getting a bit elongated. In that case, your money would be well spent on an upgrade to improve battery power.
If you are not often in noisy public spaces, professionals are not totally necessary. In fact, I prefer to use the standard 3rd-gen AirPods when I’m hanging around my apartment, since I can give my inner ears a break from the silicone tips. But make no mistake: professionals are the cream of the AirPods. They are the best model available, so if you want the best, that’s what you should get.
Brett Williams, fitness editor at Men’s Health, is a NASM-CPT-certified trainer and former professional football player and technical reporter who divides his training time between strength and conditioning training, martial arts, and running. He can find his work elsewhere on Mashable, Thrillist and other outlets.
John Thompson is the Gear and Commerce Editor at Men’s Health, where he covers fashion, personal care, equipment and technology. He was previously the editor of Style & Gear in BroBible.comand a trade writer for TheManual.com. His interests include buying rare vintage clothing and following his favorite baseball team, the Kansas City Royals.