The in-ear fit of the Apple AirPods Pro 2 won’t suit everyone when exercising, but otherwise they deliver across the board, with better sound and battery life than the original AirPods Pro, and some of the best active noise cancellation you’ll find in truly wireless buds.
- Great sound quality
- Best-in-class ANC and transparency
- Can come loose during exercise
- More expensive than rivals
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Without making a drastic change to the design, there wasn’t a lot that Apple could do to improve the original AirPods Pro, which I rate as among the best workout headphones. All the same, the updates made to the AirPods Pro 2 are impressive: the new headphones last longer, sound better and offer improved active noise cancellation.
If you’re looking for a set of running headphones that are great to use when not exercising as well, the Apple AirPods Pro 2 are a top option. You’ll need to get on with the wingless, in-ear fit though, because I did find the buds could come loose during exercise.
Apple AirPods Pro 2: Price And Availability
The Apple AirPods Pro 2 launched in September 2022, with an updated version released in September 2023. The buds cost $249 in the US and £249 in the UK. This makes them one of the most expensive pairs of truly wireless buds and there are cheaper options worth investigating, such as the Jabra Elite 8 Active, which are $199.99/£199.99, while the Apple AirPods 3 are $179/£169.
How I Tested These Headphones
I’ve used the Apple AirPods Pro 2 regularly since they launched in September 2022, as well as testing the 2023 update. I’ve had the AirPods Pro 2 in during a variety of workouts, including runs, cycles and strength sessions; I’ve tested them out in all weathers, too, during those runs. I have tested the original AirPods Pro, every generation of the AirPods, and a variety of the best workout headphones available.
Apple AirPods Pro 2 2023 Update
Most of the updates launched with the new version of the AirPods Pro 2 in 2023 will be available on the 2022 AirPods Pro 2 buds via a software update. The only hardware change is that the case for the new headphones is charged via a USB-C cable to bring it in line with other Apple products, whereas the 2022 buds are charged via a lightning cable.
The software update makes the AirPods Pro 2 smarter in three main ways. The first is an adaptive audio mode that blends the transparency and ANC modes on the buds to adjust the amount of external sound you hear automatically in different situations. The chief benefit of this is that some sounds in loud environments, like traffic or building work, can be filtered while still allowing in some external noise to increase awareness—as opposed to a simple on/off ANC toggle.
Conversation awareness is a new feature. Turn this on and the AirPods Pro 2 detect when you start talking and will automatically lower the volume of your audio, while also enhancing sounds from in front of you, and reducing background noise. So, you can have a conversation without having to take your headphones out or turn on the awareness mode manually. I’m still of the opinion that politeness dictates you should take your headphones out to talk to someone even though you can hear them clearly with this feature.
One downside of conversation awareness is if you, like me, sing along to songs, as at times the volume will automatically turn down. I turned the feature off for this reason.
The AirPods Pro 2 now offer personalized volume, which means they will raise and lower the volume in line with your environment and your preferences, which they learn over time. It works well, with the volume rising when you step into a loud environment and lowering when you move into a quiet one, saving you the minor inconvenience of changing the volume yourself.
Design And Fit
The Apple AirPods Pro 2 have a very similar design to the originals, with an in-ear tip and a short stalk that hangs from the ear and houses the controls on the headphones.
Under the hood the new H2 chip and an updated audio driver deliver improvements in sound quality, and the ANC and transparency modes on the buds. The headphones still have an IPX4 water resistance rating, which means they are not fully waterproof but will withstand any sweat and rain you encounter. The carry case is also IPX4 rated.
Along with the stem squeezes that control playback, you can now swipe the stem of the buds to increase or decrease volume. The carry case has a new lanyard loop (though no lanyard is included with the headphones) and a U1 chip that means you can find the case with the Find My app.
Apple has added XS ear tips to the selection of S, M and L size tips that came with the original AirPods Pro. The silicone tips are comfortable to use for hours on end, but the in-ear fit was not always secure enough during exercise.
I tend to struggle with this kind of fit, especially when running, and frequently had to prod the AirPods Pro 2 back into place. Others won’t have this problem but, if you do, there are a couple of methods I found to solve it. One is to buy a cheap set of third-party silicone wings, which immediately creates a secure fit. The downside of this is that you have to take the wings off to get the buds back in their case.
Another solution is to buy a cheap set of third-party memory foam ear tips. You’ll need to get ones made for the AirPods Pro 2 because of the way tips click into place on the headphones. With these on, I have found the fit to be secure enough for runs and core workouts. For me, the memory foam tips are not as comfortable as Apple’s own, but I still found they were fine to use for hours at a time.
When you set up the AirPods Pro 2 you can use your iPhone to scan your ears to create a Personalized Spatial Audio profile on the buds. I didn’t notice a huge difference to the sound, aside from beefing up the bass a little.
The headphones have a very balanced sound profile, and those who do enjoy booming bass will perhaps prefer the sound of the Beats Fit Pro in Apple/Beats range. You can’t tweak the EQ to match your preferences either, which is a shame.
I prefer balanced sound myself and the clarity in the higher ranges on the AirPods Pro 2 is excellent, especially when listening to tracks made for Dolby Atmos spatial audio. You don’t need to seek out Dolby Atmos tracks to enjoy great sound with the AirPods Pro 2, though – I enjoyed listening to music from a variety of sources alongside Apple Music, such as a Spotify free account and YouTube music.
The sound quality on the AirPods Pro 2 lives up to the high price, and though there are better-sounding options like the B&O Beoplay E8 Sport and Master & Dynamics MW08 Sport buds, the AirPods Pro 2 are smaller and more comfortable to wear for long periods.
ANC And Transparency Modes
Apple says the ANC on the AirPods Pro 2 cancels out up to twice as much noise as on the original buds, and in tests I found there has certainly been a substantial improvement on this front. The headphones filter out most of the noise from trains and traffic and, unlike many in-ear buds with ANC, you’ll immediately notice how much noise is cancelled out when you turn ANC off.
The transparency mode is exceptional, and I would often use it during runs and other workouts. A common problem with the truly wireless buds I’ve tested is that the awareness mode is essentially a wind mode. However, the AirPods Pro 2 does a fine job of filtering out the sound of wind, even when running, and you can hear your surroundings quite clearly. The AirPods Pro 2 stands head and shoulders above the competition on this front.
The squeeze controls on the buds work well in all situations, with a small sound and some haptic feedback to let you know how many presses have been registered by the buds. Even while running I could reliably pause or skip tracks, or hold a long squeeze to change between ANC, transparency and off modes.
However, the new volume control is hard to use while active. You have to stabilise the bud with one finger while swiping up and down the inside of the stem. This is easy when stationary, but a nightmare while running, because the surface area you’re aiming for is pretty small and it’s easy to dislodge the headphone in the attempt. Being able to simply swipe the outside of the bud with one finger would be simpler, but it’s still useful to have the volume control added.
Customisation of the controls on the buds is limited to choosing what the squeeze and hold command does, which can be set to changing sound mode or activating Siri.
The battery life has been significantly improved on the AirPods Pro 2 compared with its predecessors. You get six hours of juice on the buds even when listening with ANC on and there’s another 24 hours in the case. That compares with 4.5 hours on the AirPods Pro and 19.5 hours in their case.
I found that even with the ANC on and volume up near the max for long periods, the drop in the battery was in line with the six hours claimed. You can also charge the buds quickly, with five minutes in the case giving you an hour of playback, and the case charges wirelessly. You can even use an Apple Watch charger for this, though it does charge more slowly in this case than when plugged in or using a Qi charging mat.
Are The Apple AirPods Pro 2 Worth It?
The Apple AirPods Pro 2 are a notable upgrade on the original AirPods Pro, though if you already have a set of those or spy them in a sale with $100/£100 knocked off the price I’d say they’re still excellent headphones for sports and general use (if you can get on with the in-ear fit).
While I rate the AirPods Pro 2 very highly, there is better value available if you’re willing to take a small hit on the sound quality or ANC. The Jabra Elite 4 Active in-ear headphones are less than half the price and are excellent for sports and lifestyle use, with a more secure fit than the AirPods Pro 2 in my experience and longer battery life, even if they don’t sound quite as good.
Compared with the AirPods 3, these sound much better and offer ANC, but the open-fit design of the AirPods 3 is comfortable and secure in my experience, and also allows in some external noise which is handy for staying aware of your surroundings during exercise.
The AirPods Pro 2 are much more comfortable than the Beats Fit Pro, which do have a wing to create a secure fit, but this wing irritated my ear during use. The Powerbeats Pro are getting on a bit now but their earhook design offers the most secure fit for sports in the Apple/Beats range; however, the smaller frame and better sound of the AirPods Pro 2 makes them more appealing in general.
Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.