Detailed review of Apple AirPods 2
The second-generation Apple AirPods are rumored to be packed with a host of new features. While the most notable change is a new wireless charging case, the earphones’ audio capabilities and battery life have apparently also improved. However, it remains to be seen if, and how, the addition of new features affected the audio capabilities of the new AirPods.
In the box
Wireless charging case
Standard Lightning Cable
Build and design
AirPods take the cake when it comes to build and design. The earphones are made of hard plastic which is not only durable but also shiny and quite glossy. They are made to grab attention and while reviewing I saw people dangling them from my ears. However, the only problem with their design is their solid shape without the ability to use earplugs. While the AirPods are shaped to fit almost everyone, I experienced discomfort after using them for only 15 minutes, which is definitely an anomaly. Trying to fit them properly in my ears to get the best audio experience was literally a painful experience. This could have been a one-off problem due to my smaller ear canals as none of my colleagues who tried them had the same problem. Still, I’d suggest you try them on before you buy them to make sure they aren’t uncomfortable.
They were suitable for all my team members, but hurt my ear and my feelings with it
The cans are not water or sweat resistant and there is very low passive noise sealing due to the design. Ambient noise easily creeps in, which can be a good or bad thing depending on the usage scenario. If you use them at work or while jogging, the intrusion of ambient noise can be a good thing. If you’re sitting next to a crying toddler on a flight, well, not so much. Personally, however, we would have preferred a better fit to ensure a better listening experience, as the Live Listen feature on an iPhone can be used to amplify ambient noise. The dual-beamforming microphones on the cans were able to pick up your voice in a fairly noisy environment, and we had no problems taking calls through the AirPods. Plus, one can only use one earphone if needed, and this has proven to be a great option for me when I want to be more aware of what’s going on around me, but still listen to some tunes.
Moving on to the charging case, it is small, compact and similar to the cans with a glossy complexion. It’s compact enough to fit in your pants without being obtrusive and is extremely convenient to open with one hand. We emphasize this because some other charging cases for truly wireless earphones, such as the Jabra Elite Active 65T, are quite difficult to open with one hand.
Small and compact AirPods case
The hinge of the AirPods charging case is also magnetic, which opens and closes smoothly. In addition, the build quality suggests that using the case for a very long time should not be a problem. One major caveat of the AirPods and their case, however, is that they are prone to scratches and attract dirt and grime. We found that the seams and edges of both the housing and the earphones retained dirt after a day of use.
Those shiny scratches aren’t so pretty
The lightning connector is on the bottom of the charging case, while a small button to pair it with devices is on the back. The new case with support for wireless charging has a small LED light on the front, which vaguely indicates the battery life of the earbuds and the case, unless you’ve paired the device with an iPhone.
After listening to the second-generation Apple AirPods for a few weeks, it’s clear that they sound their best when it comes to reproducing lower mids and higher mids. With a slightly relaxed V-shaped sound signature, the earphones place noticeably more emphasis on the lower and higher ends of the audio frequency spectrum. What is surprising, however, is that the cans still manage to maintain the midrange without losing too much accuracy, most of the time. The overall sound output of the earphones varies depending on the genre of music one is listening to, and can be understood by dividing the audio performance of the new AirPods into different segments.
Starting with lower frequencies, the new AirPods have strong bass, but without a fast response. This characteristic can be seen in titles like Chris Rea’s Call on Me, where some of the details in the lower audio segment are lost due to the weak thumping bass, prolonging the decay of the bass guitar riff a bit. As a result, there is some loss of detail, mainly due to the booming bass enveloping the lower-mid audio range. As a result, Chris Rea’s gravelly voice sometimes sounds toned down. However, we’ve listened to other bass-rich tracks such as Daft Punk’s Lose Yourself to Dance or Magic!’s Rude, where the vocalist’s vocals linger between the upper-mid and lower-high audio ranges and are rendered concisely. While the bass in these songs ranges from sub-bass to the lower mid-range, it does so without overwhelming the vocals or most other mid-range frequencies.
While we’ve already seen how the bass response of the second-generation AirPods affects the midrange response, here are a few more notes. As mentioned, the V-type sound signature of AirPods should downplay the midrange and it does when we talk about the lower mids. However, the mid-range and midrange are less affected by the device’s sound signature and thumping bass. Singers like Micheal Jackson and Adele sound pleasant and spicy without any shrill when they hit high notes in their songs, Billie Jean and Hello respectively.
The new AirPods are tuned to boost the upper range of the audio frequency, but the tuning is such that they aren’t loud or shrill. The sound in this segment is reasonably accurate and fast. However, it’s also somewhat relaxed with the higher trebles rolling off smoothly and being toned down compared to the higher mids. The smooth roll-off is perceived while listening to Labrinth’s Earthquake, while Coldplay’s Yellow sounds a bit more relaxed. However, a very slight fatigue starts to build up after a few hours of continuous listening to music through the earphones, which has us nitpicking. As for soundstage, it’s neither too wide nor too shallow on the AirPods. The tins manage to provide just about enough space between instruments when listening to Hunter from Bjork, without crushing them.
The new AirPods feature touch-based controls just like its predecessor. We paired the earphones with both Android phones and an iPhone and the controls worked well in both cases. However, these controls can only be adjusted when the AirPods are connected to an iPhone. When connected to an iPhone, you are presented with a number of options, such as the ability to invoke Siri, play/pause audio, and skip a track or go back. Unfortunately, there’s no option to control the volume, but since the new AirPods support Siri and, as we surprisingly discovered, also work with Google Assistant, you can ask the digital assistant to do that for you, along with a host of other commands. such as setting a reminder, an alarm or calling a contact.
In addition to the dirt, you can also see the small, round IR sensors on the sides of the AirPods
The AirPods are also equipped with dual optical sensors that pause audio playback when you remove one of the earbuds from your ear. This feature is limited to iOS devices and will not work when the cans are paired with an Android phone.
In terms of battery life, the new AirPods are quite good and last longer than the original AirPods. We were able to get about five hours of audio from them, with the volume set to 70 percent, and about 4.5 hours when putting in a few 20-minute conversations in between. The case can fully charge the AirPods nearly four times, meaning the new AirPods can deliver just over 20 hours of use. It takes about an hour and a half to fully charge the charging case if the earphones are also completely empty, which is in line with other true wireless earphones.
When you pair the AirPods with an iPhone, you will see the charge of the case and the AirPods
The Apple AirPods 2 comes with plenty of new features, such as the new H1 chip. These new additions make for a really great, truly wireless earphone, both in terms of design and usability. While the audio experience isn’t quite as good as what you’d get from a pair of wired earphones (in this price range), the new AirPods can be considered a well-rounded package for a truly wireless earphone.
While the new AirPods aren’t a device that audio purists flock to, they’re good enough for the average user and to meet their everyday audio needs, considering you’ll have around Rs 18,900 to spend. The value for money may be far from ideal for Android users, but for an iOS user, the convenience factor is enough to justify the price. If the price tag of Rs 18,990 is too high, you can buy the second generation AirPods without a charging case and save some money.