Three years later, Apple’s AirPods Pro update will be visible to the ears, less so for the eyes.
Premium noise cancellation earphones are being an updated entrant in the next few weeks, and it could really make the category interesting.
That’s the feeling you might get upon learning about Apple’s updates to a pair of earphones seeing an update after three years.
Yes, it’s been three years since Apple added silicone tips to its AirPods, and that wasn’t all. The first-gen AirPods Pro thrust Apple into a battleground of truly wireless noise canceling earphones, and throughout that time, we’ve seen some solid players. Sony typically scores strong marks from our reviews, but it’s not alone, with great truly wireless ANC from Sennheiser, Jabra, and others, also.
This year, the Beats Fit Pro managed to surprise by getting more or less what Apple offered in the AirPods Pro for a hundred bucks lower, sans wireless charging case. And frankly, that should’ve been the signal we all needed in knowing a new AirPods Pro generation was on the way.
What’s different in the 2023 AirPods Pro?
Upon first glance, not much has changed, as Apple retains the look of the first-ten AirPods Pro for the second. You can’t tell these are new with a simple look.
Rather, the changes are under the hood, using a new chip to handle sound and noise cancellation, coming in the H2. That’s another of Apple’s headphone and earphone processors, different from even the H1 chips found in the AirPods Max. A new chip for a new pair of earphones, it seems, and we bet we can guess what’ll be in the next-gen Max model when that rocks up, as well.
Apple says the H2 works with a custom amplifier and low-distortion driver to provide cleaner sound with a richer bass experience, while that chip will also support adaptive noise cancellation in the form of an adaptive transparency mode. That sounds a little like what Google offers on its Pixel Buds where the volume changes as you walk past different situations and sounds, providing the audio at a pleasing level while listening through the microphones on the earphones.
It’ll join some other features, such as upgraded Find My support, volume support on the touch controls, IPX4 water resistance, and instant pairing on iOS and macOS, though these will work on all Bluetooth gadgets, Android phones included, just hold off on any expectations of an app on either Android or Windows. It hasn’t happened previously, and it probably won’t happen here.
One big feature is definitely focused on the Apple crowd, with an addition to Apple’s Spatial Audio support. Simply put, you’ll be able to use the Face ID True Depth camera on most current iPhones (except the iPhone SE) to snap pictures of your head, and create a custom and personalised spatial profile for how you listen.
Apple’s Personalised Spatial Audio feature sounds slightly reminiscent of something Sony offers on its headphones and earphones, snapping pictures of your head and changing the sound in Tidal using 360 Reality Audio to match a profile made of your own visage. We’re not sure what will change here in the AirPods Pro, but we’re checking with Apple to find out.
However, head-tracked spatial audio is a part of the package, providing movie audio and music on Apple Music in a way that moves with your head.
And it’ll come in a pair of earphones with up to 6 hours per charge, with an extra 24 hours in the charge case. That’s essentially 30 hours of charge on offer in the AirPods Pro 2nd-gen, up from the four hours of charge in the original with 24 hours of charge all up in that first-gen case.
The new case also comes with a neat trick: while it will charge on a Lightning cable like the rest of the iPhone range, it will also support wireless charging over Qi, MagSafe’s magnetic charging, and even take a charge from the recent Apple Watch charger, as well. It seems there are plenty of ways to keep a pair of AirPods Pro topped up with battery life this year.
Australian availability for the AirPods Pro 2nd-gen
Of course, the new AirPods Pro were announced alongside the iPhone 14 Pro models, but interestingly, it won’t hit retail at the same time.
While the new premium iPhone models are expected in retail from September 16, the second-ten AirPods Pro will land in Australia from September 23, and will retain the price of the original, set at $399 locally.