Apple AirPods Pro 2nd Generation (USB-C) review: Do you need to upgrade?

Apple announced the AirPods Pro (2nd Generation) during its iPhone 14 event back in September 2022, and they were – and still are – excellent. At the time of their launch, they offered a range new features, a couple of design changes – like the addition of volume control to the stem – and they delivered excellent performance.

Fast forward a year on, and they’ve been updated. The main acoustic architecture remains the same – except for a couple of adjustments that will be beneficial in the future – but the charging case has had a makeover and some new software features have arrived. Should you upgrade if you have the AirPods Pro 2nd generation (2022)? Or should you buy them if you’re new to AirPods or have an older pair? Here’s my review of the AirPods Pro (2nd generation) with MagSafe Charging Case (USB-C) – or the new AirPods Pro 2nd Generation, for want of a catchier name.

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Apple AirPods Pro 2nd Generation (USB-C)

Editor’s Choice

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The beauty of AirPods is their convenience, and the AirPods Pro 2nd Generation (USB-C) are no different. The upgrade to USB-C only adds to this, while the extra features and additional software enhancements make for an overall excellent experience.


  • Excellent performance
  • Added controls for touch sensor
  • Extra features, like Precision Finding


  • No lanyard included
  • Not worth it for AirPods Pro 2nd gen Lightning owners

Familiar design

I’ll start with the new AirPods Pro 2nd Generation (USB-C) design because it’s pretty much identical to the 2022 model, certainly in terms of the earbuds themselves anyway. There are no differences to the earbuds, with white remaining as the only colour option (sigh) and the short stem and silicone ear tips continuing to differentiate these as AirPods Pro from the regular AirPods (3rd Generation).

Refinements were made to the AirPods Pro 2nd Generation (2022) compared to the AirPods Pro 1st Generation and these carry through to the 2023 model. That means you’ll find the same small and dainty design, measuring just 30.9 x 21.8 x 24mm and weighing just 5.3g, and four silicone tip sizes ranging from XS to L. I initially used medium for AirPods Pro 2nd Generation, but I have found that small is actually a lot better so do play around with the tips to make sure you get the best possible fit.

The stem still holds a touch control sensor on it, which is not only used for volume control if you slide your finger up and down, but a number of other functions like switching between Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) and Transparency modes. There’s also a new Adaptive Audio mode that I’ll cover a little further down this review, which you can choose to be included in these controls.

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The volume adjustment gesture can take a little bit of time to master, but if you place your thumb behind the stem and move your index finger up and down, it’s a little easier to get to grips with (literally). Apply more pressure than you think you will need, and you might find you need to swipe up or down a couple of times to get the volume you are looking for, but it’s something you get used to after a bit of practice.

The controls have expanded compared to the old AirPods Pro 2nd Generation too though. When the AirPods Pro 2nd Generation first launched in 2022, they offered volume control as mentioned, along with switching between ANC and Transparency modes by pressing and holding the touch sensor. You could also press once to play or pause music, or answer or end a phone call. Pressing twice would skip forward a track, while pressing three times would go back to the previous track.

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Now however, it’s also possible to mute calls, as well as add Adaptive Audio into the mode options that you can switch between with a long press. Keep in mind that these are software features so you don’t have to have the AirPods Pro 2nd Generation (USB-C) to get access to them – previous generations can get them too, though there are some exclusions.

For Adaptive Audio mode – which is effectively a combination of Transparency mode and ANC – you need the AirPods Pro 2nd Generation from 2022, or the latest model with USB-C that I’m discussing here. For muting calls, you need either model of the AirPods Pro 2nd Generation, AirPods 3rd Generation or AirPods Max, and your iPhone needs to be running iOS 17 or later. When on a call, you press once on the sensor (or Digital Crown on AirPods Max) to mute the call, and twice to end it.

What’s changed about the AirPods Pro 2nd Generation case?

The design of the AirPods Pro 2nd Generation earbuds themselves have remained the same despite adding new controls, but the case they come in for 2023 has changed quite a bit. Sure, when you look at the case for the AirPods Pro 2nd Generation (USB-C), you would likely be hard-pressed to tell the difference from a distance but look a little harder and you’ll see the connector at the bottom is now USB-C instead of Lightning. The ports aren’t too dissimilar in size so it is pretty difficult to tell them apart – USB-C is around 1mm wider – but the difference is there nonetheless.

There are a couple of other things to note on the case too though – they are just changes that don’t necessarily meet the eye. The AirPods Pro 2nd Generation (USB-C) case is also MagSafe compatible now. I can’t tell you how pleased this makes me – the number of times I went to charge my AirPods Pro 2nd Generation (2022) with my iPhone’s MagSafe charger only to realise I couldn’t, would be too many to count, so this is an upgrade I’m delighted to see.

Elsewhere, the case now offers Precision Finding. The 2022 AirPods Pro 2nd Generation’s case has a U1 chip and so it always worked with Find My but it didn’t offer Precision Finding like AirTags do. This meant I regularly got notifications to tell me I’d left them behind even when they were in my bag or pocket, leading me to panic more times than I care to admit.

Precision Finding on the new AirPods Pro 2nd Generation (USB-C) is great though, giving me very clear instructions to where I’d left that little white slippery case. Your iPhone screen will go green when you’re within couple of feet and it will guide you with arrows too in the direction you need to head.

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Last but not least on the case – I know, I’ve surprised myself at how much I’ve been able to say about a case – is the IP rating has increased for the AirPods Pro 2nd Generation (USB-C) from IPX4 on the 2022 model to IP54. This means it is more resistant to dust particles than previously. You still get the lanyard loop – though no lanyard in the box sadly – and you also get the built-in speaker, which is handy for a number of things, from playing a sound when you’ve lost your AirPods to letting you know they are charging.

Hardware and performance

I’ve mentioned a couple of hardware changes for the AirPods Pro 2nd Generation case – which is where a lot of the changes can be found – but there is another change to note for the earbuds themselves. It’s just inside rather than outside.

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The latest AirPods Pro 2nd Generation (USB-C) feature a H2 chip, like the 2022 AirPods Pro 2nd Generation, but Apple has said there is also an improved acoustic architecture that will make it possible for Lossless Audio with ultra-low latency when used with Apple Vision Pro.

Now, this isn’t something I could test as yet, unless you know of somewhere with a Vision Pro hanging around, but when the headset does appear, those with both the headset and new AirPods Pro 2nd generation will be able to benefit from 20-bit, 48kHz Lossless Audio with a big reduction in wireless audio latency. That’s thanks to a new wireless audio protocol that uses the H2 chips in each product – something I test as soon as I’m able.

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Elsewhere, things are as they were for the new AirPods Pro 2nd Generation compared to the 2022 model. There’s ANC, as mentioned, which was improved for the 2022 model and remains excellent in use, drowning out the majority of unwanted noise when switched on, from screaming babies to more general hums and bustling sounds.

I mentioned the Adaptive Audio mode too, which is new for these AirPods Pro, but also the 2022 AirPods Pro 2nd Generation. It’s effectively a half-way point between full ANC and Transparency mode, meaning it allows some sounds through, like a car horn, or a doorbell, but it will drown out irritating noise, like a busy road, or a blender, for example. I love it because while I like ANC – especially in certain situations – sometimes I like to hear a little bit. I don’t always want to hear as much as Transparency mode allows through however, so Adaptive Audio feels like it is the perfect compromise between the two.

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In terms of audio performance, the AirPods Pro 2nd Generation (USB-C) deliver an identical experience to the 2022 model from what I could tell and that’s a brilliant one. There’s a custom high-excursion Apple driver and custom high-dynamic range amplifier, along with a vent system pressure equalisation. The result is a lovely wide soundstage – wider than the original AirPods Pro – and there’s consistency across all volumes and frequencies too. I listened to a range of tracks, from bass heavy to those with more focus on vocals and the AirPods Pro 2nd Generation (USB-C) coped well across the board. There’s more richness in the bass and improved detail and clarity through the midrange compared to the original AirPods Pro, helped by the low-distortion audio driver and custom amplifier and dynamically, they are more expressive too, offering an improved ability to communicate the tempo shifts.

When it comes to sensors, there are no changes compared to the AirPods Pro 2nd Generation (2022), so you’ll find a skin-detect sensor, motion-detecting accelerometer and a speech-detecting accelerometer – all of which the AirPods 3rd Generation also offer. Dual-beaming microphones are also on board the AirPods Pro 2nd Generation (USB-C), as well as an inward-facing microphone for better call quality.

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Battery performance is the same as the AirPods Pro 2nd Generation (2022) too, which delivers around six hours of listening time, or around 4.5 hours of talk time. You’ll also get around 30 hours of listening time from the case or 24 hours talk time. As with the AirPods 3rd Generation and AirPods Pro 2nd Generation (2022), five minutes in the Charging Case will deliver around one hour of listening time.

The AirPods Pro 2nd Generation (USB-C) are perfect commuting headphones. If you’re on a long-haul flight, using them with something like the AirFly dongle, you’ll need to put them back in their case at some point, but day-to-day, they will get most people more than what they need. There’s also plenty of ways to charge the case now, with USB-C, MagSafe and the Apple Watch puck all options.


The best thing about Apple’s AirPods are their convenience when using with other Apple devices and this remains true for the AirPods Pro 2nd Generation (USB-C). Many of the features transfer across all AirPods models, from one-tap connection with Apple devices, to automatic switching between them, whether that’s Apple Watch to Mac, Mac to iPhone or iPhone to iPad. Switching is a little quicker and more seamless with the AirPods 2nd Generation, and there are a couple of extra features too, like Conversation Awareness and Adaptive Audio, as mentioned.

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Conversation Awareness is a feature you can turn on, after which your AirPods 2nd Generation – whether the 2022 or 2023 model – will reduce audio whenever they detect conversation. They will then gradually increase audio again if no conversation is heard for a few seconds. It works brilliantly and it’s very useful for situations like walking your dog and meeting other dog walkers, when commuting, or when you head to the shops for example. There’s also Personalised Volume, which uses machine learning to adapt audio to your preferences by learning what you like over time.

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In terms of other features, there’s an entire list (head to our AirPods tips and tricks). Hey Siri is helpful for finding out battery levels or reading out your notifications if you have turned on Announce Notifications, while automatic ear detection will pause audio if you take one AirPod out and restart it when you put it back in.

AirPods are compatible with Android devices too – though you don’t get as many features as you do as when they are connected to an Apple device, and you may find something like the Beats Studio Buds+ a better option.

Overall though, there is plenty on offer and the new features, like Conversation Awareness, Adaptive Audio, Personalised Volume and existing features like Personalised Spatial Audio, all make for a very comprehensive offering.


The beauty of AirPods is their convenience. I’ve used them for years and I adore them – the AirPods Pro 2nd Generation (USB-C) included. The upgrade to USB-C adds to the convenience, while the extra features, like Precision Finding and the additional software enhancements like Conversation Awareness and Adaptive Audio make for an excellent experience.

When it to comes to audio performance and battery performance, the AirPods Pro 2nd Generation (USB-C) are on par with their 2022 predecessor so there’s no real reason to upgrade at this stage – particularly with a lot of the new features coming through to them via a firmware update too.

If you have plans to buy Vision Pro though, if you are prone to losing your AirPods case or you’re looking to get yourself an iPhone 15 and you only want one charging cable, then there’s an argument to invest in the new AirPods Pro 2nd Generation.

For those with AirPods 3rd generation or older, or AirPods Pro 1st Generation, the argument is far greater though – the upgrades on offer here are clear, making the AirPods Pro 2nd Generation (USB-C) make even more sense.

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Apple AirPods Pro 2nd Generation (USB-C)

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