Audio, Review

Apple AirPods Pro (USB-C) Review: Small, But Meaningful Upgrade

When Apple introduced the new 2nd generation AirPods Pro with a USB-C MagSafe charging case, it seems like only the port was changed. But there are actually more changes under the hood, including a more durable design, and lossless audio support with the new Apple Vision Pro headset.

If you’re planning to get a new pair of premium wireless earbuds, the updated AirPods Pro is certainly worth considering. However, the same cannot be said for those who already own the previous 2nd generation model with the Lightning charging case, even if the new version does bring some noteworthy (albeit small) improvements.

What It Is

The USB-C port on the MagSafe charging case is really the biggest change with the new AirPods Pro, along with an improved IP54 rating. It’s worth noting that this is quite a bit better than the previous Lightning model’s IPX4 rating, so basically, the new AirPods Pro and its charging case are more resistant to dust now.

You don’t have to pay more for these upgrades either. Here in Malaysia, the updated AirPods Pro retains the same RM1,099 price tag. As for other specifications of the wireless earbuds, they remain the same, including the H2 chip for “up to double the noise-cancelling power” of the original AirPods Pro, along with up to six hours of use on a single charge with ANC activated.

The Good Stuff

Naturally, the USB-C charging case of the new AirPods Pro is a big quality of life improvement. I personally have more USB-C cables lying around in comparison to Lightning cables, which makes it quite a bit easier to charge up the wireless earbuds whenever I need to.

But as much as I appreciate the new USB-C charging case, I don’t think it’s worth getting it as a standalone purchase for RM449. Well, unless you somehow lost your Lightning charging case, in which case, it would be a no-brainer purchase.

And then there’s the improved IP54 rating of the AirPods Pro. While the water resistance rating remains the same (4), there’s actual dust resistance now, which should make the earbuds and charging case more durable. This is not a huge change, to be sure, but it is definitely a welcome one.

There is also one other feature that the new USB-C AirPods Pro has over its Lightning counterpart: lossless audio support with the new Apple Vision Pro. The H2 chip in the two products, along with a “groundbreaking wireless audio protocol, unlocks powerful 20-bit, 48kHz lossless audio with a massive reduction in audio latency,” as Apple puts it.

Sure, the Apple Vision Pro headset itself is not widely available yet, though lossless audio support is still a good feature for the new AirPods Pro to have.

Beyond these new features, the USB-C AirPods Pro still has all the great qualities of the previous Lightning model. The sound signature, for one, is still as fun as I remember it to be. The wireless earbuds’ custom‑⁠built driver and amplifier can produce strong, punchy bass; forward, full-sounding vocals; and subdued highs to avoid sibilance.

That is to say the AirPods Pro has a warm, “soothing” sound signature that’s right up my alley. Its technicalities are quite good too, in my opinion. It sounds more resolving than other wireless earbuds I’ve tried, even right now in 2024.

Not surprisingly, battery life of the USB-C AirPods Pro is comparable to the previous Lightning version. I can still easily get six hours of battery life with ANC activated, and the charging case can quickly top up the earbuds in between my listening sessions.

The Bad Stuff

As much as I enjoy the various improvements to the new AirPods Pro, these upgrades are still…well, marginal. Granted, it is certainly a better buy now for those who haven’t upgraded to the new wireless earbuds yet, and it’s great that the RM1,099 price tag is still maintained.

But what is also maintained are the AirPods Pro’s proprietary ear tips, which I am still not a fan of. After all, it prevents users from using aftermarket tips with these wireless earbuds.

Don’t get me wrong, I can get a good, comfortable seal with the AirPods Pro’s medium ear tips; it comes bundled with four different ear tip sizes from XS to L. But there are bound to be some folks who may find that none of them fit their ears adequately, and aftermarket tips would’ve easily solved this conundrum.

Is It Worth It?

At the end of the day, the new 2nd generation AirPods Pro is still an excellent pair of wireless earbuds that are now better than ever with the same RM1,099 price tag. While it’s not made for folks who already have the Lightning model, it’s a great buy for those who are looking to get a new pair of premium earbuds.

While the AirPods Pro’s RM1,099 asking price is a little steep, it is worth every ringgit, in my opinion. From its warm sound signature with punchy bass to respectable battery life, the updated wireless earbuds are now further improved with a USB-C MagSafe charging case and a more durable design without having to pay extra – that’s a win in my book.

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