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The AirPods Pro 2 gets even better with USB-C and excellent adaptive audio.

October 19, 2023
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It only made sense for the AirPods to make the switch to USB-C now that the iPhone has officially made the switch. The updated AirPods Pro 2 with USB-C are exactly what they claim to be: the same fantastic premium earphones that Apple released last year, but with a new charging port that works well with the variety of cords you most certainly already own.

However, adaptive audio, which combines the best of active noise cancellation (ANC) with transparency mode to automatically give you the optimal sound profile for wherever you are, is the true star of the show this year. If you update your phone to iOS 17, it works with both models of the AirPods Pro 2.

Who should actually purchase the USB-C AirPods Pro, therefore, given all of this? Are these new features valuable enough to warrant a software update for current owners? Here is a day in the life of someone who uses adaptive audio to assist you in making a decision.

The AirPods Pro 2, now with a new port.

The AirPods Pro 2, now with a new port.

Everything I mentioned in my original evaluation of the AirPods Pro 2 applies equally to the new USB-C version, which is functionally identical to the Lightning type Apple introduced last year. These Apple earbuds are among the best yet, with superb audio quality, notably improved noise cancellation (ANC) over the first-generation model, and a case that’s a little less easy to lose owing to a built-in lanyard loop and full Find My Phone support.

The AirPods Pro 2 are the earbuds I always find myself going back to, even after evaluating practically every major rival that has been released since, thanks to their convenient touch-based volume controls, fantastic overall performance, and dependable battery life.

Of course, USB-C is the one significant update to this year’s AirPods Pro 2. You can charge your AirPods Pro with the same USB-C cable you probably already have for your MacBook, iPad, and a long list of non-Apple devices, from game controllers to power banks, now that they have abandoned Lightning in favor of this well-liked global standard.

A lovely braided cable is included in the package, and if you purchase the iPhone 15 (which also embraces USB-C for the first time), you can even charge your headphones case with your phone. In my tests, it performed as testing, and I can see myself using it the next time my portable charger fails on a protracted flight when I need a rapid power boost. Given how common these cords are, most people will probably benefit from the migration to USB-C. However, owners of earlier iPhonewhoels who prefer using the same cable for their phone and headphones may choose to continue with Lightning.

With adaptive audio, listening takes precedence over fiddling.

With adaptive audio, listening takes precedence over fiddling.

The main improvements to the AirPods Pro 2 are in the software, not USB-C, and you don’t even need to purchase the new device to use them. You can benefit from Adaptive Audio, a new feature that combines ANC and Transparency mode based on your surroundings, so you can spend less time squeezing your buds as you go about your day, as long as you have any version of the AirPods Pro 2 and have upgraded your phone to iOS 17.

Does the new USB-C AirPods Pro 2 sound any better?

Does the new USB-C AirPods Pro 2 sound any better?

The new USB-C AirPods Pro 2 had some minor adjustments from Apple aside from the addition of a charging port. Does that affect how they sound in any way?

Since Apple’s WWDC in June, we have known that iOS 17, which goes on sale on September 18, will include several new capabilities for the AirPods Pro 2. Adaptive audio, conversation awareness, and personalized volume are a few of the AirPods Pro 2’s free enhancements.

You should absolutely give them a try if you own an AirPods Pro 2 after updating to iOS 17 because they are really good enhancements that increase the usefulness of the device. However, as I was experimenting with these novel features on the “new” AirPods Pro 2 with MagSafe Charging Case (USB-C), which was unveiled alongside the new iPhone 15 models, I began to wonder: Does the USB-C version of the AirPods Pro 2 sound any better than the previous Lightning version? 

The problem is this. The new AirPods Pro 2 USB-C version and the older Lightning variant are quite similar but not the same. First, the updated earbuds and charging case offer greater resistance against dust (IP54 rating as opposed to IPX4). Second, you can use the supplied USB-C cable to charge the USB-C AirPods on your iPhone 15 in an emergency.

Last but not least, and perhaps most intriguingly, Apple has introduced support for 20-bit/48 kHz lossless audio with a “massive reduction of latency” for its upcoming $3,499 Vision Pro headset. It should be noted that Apple Lossless Audio actually goes up to 24-bit/192 kHz. In order to provide that support, Apple has revealed it has created a “groundbreaking wireless audio protocol.” However, several bloggers and YouTubers, such as former CNET editor Brian Tong, have criticized the company. I have mentioned that the AirPods Pro 2 comes with a new “acoustic architecture.” 

What does that actually mean? It’s not obvious if that represents a change in the hardware, the program, or both. However, every time I see the phrase “new acoustic architecture” on a pair of earbuds or headphones, I wonder if the sound has actually changed.

The AirPods Pro 2 with USB-C are intended to sound better with the Vision Pro Headset, so is it possible that the new acoustic architecture makes the buds sound slightly different from existing devices like the iPhone? To put it another way, they are supposed to sound better with the Vision Pro Headset. Granted, the main goal of that new architecture might very well be to increase wireless bandwidth. Additionally, Apple hasn’t mentioned that the new USB-C AirPods Pro 2 will produce better sound when connected to current Apple devices. However, it is still possible that they sound just a little bit different.

A/B testing

A/B testing

I synced both the old and new AirPods Pro 2 to my iPhone 14 Pro (which is still running a version of iOS 16) and switched them in and out of my ears while using the identical large ear tips on both buds in an effort to determine whether there are any differences. For the record, the USB-C model number is A3048, and the Lightning model number is A2698, both of which are running software version 6A301.

I tried my best to match the volume levels on the earbuds, didn’t switch on any additional capabilities, such as spatial audio, and only used noise-canceling. I then repeatedly played a few tracks on Apple Music and Qobuz, which do offer high-resolution songs for gadgets that support high-res wireless streaming via audio codecs like LDAC, including Ed Sheeran’s Shivers, Monday by Imagine Dragons, Florence and the Machine’s Choreomania, and Knock Knock Knock by Spoon. 

I should point out that I’ve just had the new USB-C AirPods for a short while and have had the previous AirPods Pro 2 for about a year, so usage-wise, my two samples are not exactly the same. However, because I test many earbuds, I don’t use the AirPods Pro 2 on a daily basis; instead, I just use them occasionally, so they aren’t as well worn as a pair that has been used as a daily driver for a year.

Early verdict

Early verdict

Let me begin by stating that it will be difficult for the typical listener to tell the difference between the old and new AirPods Pro 2 in terms of sound quality. They both have exceptional audio quality considering how little and light they are, which is in part why we gave the first AirPods Pro 2 a CNET Editors’ Choice award in 2017. However, after testing the two earbuds, I also got the impression that they don’t sound precisely the same and that maybe, just maybe, the new USB-C AirPods Pro 2 seems a little bit more polished and cleaner.

The only issue I have is a small amount of ingrained bias. I’ve been unable to truly believe the two buds sound exactly the same since learning there was some change to the acoustic construction. Therefore, I could be mistaken, or my mind could be deceiving me. Then again, perhaps not. 

If they do, why wouldn’t Apple claim that they sound better than the originals? Well, sometimes Apple prefers to keep things a little hazy and enigmatic and reserves full disclosure of a product’s features until months after it has launched. As an illustration, the iOS 17 upgrade now makes the AirPods Pro 2’s adaptive audio, conversation awareness, and personalized volume features available. We only recently learned about these features.

Conclusion

The AirPods Pro 2 is a high-end Apple earbud that has been updated with USB-C charging port compatibility. The new AirPods Pro 2 offers excellent audio quality, better ANC than the first-gen model, a built-in lanyard loop, and full Find My Support. The USB-C charging port allows users to charge the AirPods Pro 2 with the same USB-C cable they use for other devices, such as MacBooks and iPads.

The switch to USB-C is likely beneficial for most users, but older iPhone owners may prefer the Lightning cable. Adaptive Audio, a new feature that blends active noise cancellation (ANC) and transparency mode based on the user’s surroundings, allows users to spend less time squeezing their buds as they go about their day. The AirPods Pro 2 is functionally identical to the Lightning model released last year, but with USB-C charging, users can enjoy the benefits of adaptive audio.

Apple’s new USB-C AirPods Pro 2 has been compared to the Lightning model, which is available as of September 18. The new AirPods Pro 2 features adaptive audio, conversation awareness, and personalized volume, which enhance the functionality of the AirPods Pro 2. However, the new USB-C version of the AirPods Pro 2 does not sound any better than the previous Lightning model. The new buds and charging case add increased dust resistance (IP54 rating instead of IPX4), and the included USB-C cable can be used to charge the USB-C AirPods.

Apple has also added support for 20-bit/48 kHz lossless audio with a “massive reduction of latency” for the upcoming $3,499 Vision Pro headset. Some bloggers and YouTubers have noted that the AirPods Pro 2 features a new “acoustic architecture,” which may make the buds sound subtly different from current devices like the iPhone. While Apple hasn’t stated anything about the sound being improved when paired with current Apple devices, it doesn’t rule out the possibility that they sound slightly different.

FAQS

Will the AirPods Pro 2 have USB-C?

Unboxing and Overview of USB-C AirPods Pro 2 Apple just unveiled the AirPods Pro 2, which now uses USB-C for charging. You can use all of the new iOS 17 AirPods capabilities while charging your AirPods Pro 2 from your iPhone 15 or iPhone 15 Pro.

Which charger is best for AirPods Pro 2?

The best USB-C chargers for the most recent Apple AirPods Pro 2 are listed below.

  • Nano USB-C Charger from Anker The Anker Nano…
  • Nexode 45W Dual Charger by Ugreen
  • 220W USB-C charger from Mekiojeo
  • Satechi USB-C Wireless Charging Dock. …
  • Spigen Dual USB-C Charger. …
  • Visit More.

Are the AirPods Pro 2 actually better?

When it comes to audio performance, the most recent model succeeds once more. While both sets’ calling and audio quality are excellent, the AirPods Pro 2 offer superior sound quality. Better stereo imaging, greater fidelity, and a deeper, more potent bass response are all present.

Is USB-C better than Lightning?

cheaper, stronger, and more rapid

Simply put, USB-C is quicker and more dependable. Compared to Lightning, it sends more data and power to a wider variety of devices. While USB-C can carry data at 40 Mbps, Lightning could only do it at 480 Mbps—an 85 times quicker rate.