The AirPods Pro 2 are Apple’s premium true wireless pair, sporting an updated feature set and all-new MagSafe charging case.
How do they compare to the AirPods 3, and if you’ve been on the fence about upgrading from older AirPods, which model should you go for?
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The AirPods Pro 2 have an RRP of $249 / £249 / €299 / CA$329 / AUS$399, comparatively the AirPods 3 are less expensive at $179 / £169 / €199 / CA$239 / AU$279.
Prices have come down since both these wireless earbuds went on sale, but the AirPods 3 remain the cheaper pair of headphones. If you’re looking to save money they’d be the less expensive option, but they don’t boast noise cancellation, which the AirPods Pro 2 do…
The AirPods 3 were redesigned and the result was that they look similar to the AirPods Pro. The AirPods Pro 2 haven’t changed much so the biggest point of difference between the two is the same as it was with the older Pro model and the previous AirPods, which is that the AirPods Pro 2 come with ear-tips.
They come packaged with a XS size to find the best fit and seal for smaller ears. According to Apple, the passive noise isolation is better than before. With the AirPods 3, their design means more outside leaks in and meshes with what you’re listening to.
Apple has also stuck with the force sensor stem for playback and accepting calls, but the main difference between the Pro and the AirPods 3 is that there is a capacitive touch sensor onboard to adjust volume. On the AirPods 3 you must use Siri voice control or your source device to affect volume.
The difference here is whether you want to be shut off from the world or have awareness of it all the time. We would say that if you travel a lot, or come across loud noises on your commute, the AirPods Pro 2 are the better option. However, we understand that for some, true wireless don’t offer the best fit or feel uncomfortable, and if you are affected by the fit, the AirPods 3 would be more suitable.
Battery life for the AirPods Pro 2 has been extended over the original but compared to the AirPods 3 there are exactly the same: six hours per bud and 30 hours in total.
The main differences in the feature set are the H2 chip (the AirPods 3 have the H1 chip), with Apple claiming the chip offers more advanced computational audio processing that doubles the power of the noise cancellation and improves the audio performance.
The AirPods 3 don’t support transparency mode as their design is open, meaning sound is let in all the time. That’s not the case for the AirPods Pro 2, but sound can be filtered through its enhanced Adaptive Transparency. It reacts in real-time to sudden spikes to reduce high decibel sounds for a more comfortable experience.
The Personalised Spatial Audio that was announced with AirPods 3 is supported by the AirPods Pro 2. Also receiving an upgrade is the MagSafe charging case which has Qi wireless charging support, a lanyard loop to keep the case close by and a built-in speaker to deliver louder tones to help find them.
Users with a U1-enabled iPhone can now locate the case with guided directions. For added convenience, the AirPods Pro 2 can also be charged by an Apple Watch charger.
Each true wireless pair has a low distortion driver and custom amplifier for clearer, more detailed sound quality across the frequency range and richer bass performance.
The design is what will have the greatest impact on the audio, though. AirPods 3’s open design means it sounds worse in loud environments than the AirPods Pro 2, which can count on the seal it creates and noise-cancellation to keep the focus on audio.
The AirPods 3’s bass performance is better, deeper, warmer, and more accurate than before; but the AirPods Pro 2 offer a richer performance than the standard model is capable of.
We’d also say that there’s more clarity, detail, and definition with the AirPods Pro 2’s performance, and with that in mind, there’s no doubting that it is the better sounding of the two wireless earphones.
Both support Spatial Audio, but this is a feature we found to be hit and miss on both models. It depends on the quality of the spatial mix, with some songs more suited to it than others.
The AirPods 3 and AirPods Pro 2 are aimed at different people. The AirPods 3 are for those who want all-day awareness of their surroundings, while the Pro 2 offers isolation from the world. If you don’t like the feel of ear-tips, then the AirPods 3 would be the preferred option.
The feature set, aside from the noise cancellation and adaptive transparency mode, covers similar ground, the ANC and H2 chip is mostly what lifts the AirPods Pro 2 above the AirPods 3. Sound quality from the AirPods Pro 2 is also a big improvement on the standard model.