Apple AirPods 2 Review: WORTH IT in 2024? (2nd Generation)

Odi Productions Mar 21, 2024
50 People Read
Apple AirPods 2 generation earbuds in charging case held in hand

Disclosure: Some of the links in this article may be affiliate links, which can provide compensation to me at no cost to you if you decide to purchase. 

In this article, I'm going to share my HONEST Apple AirPods 2 review (2nd generation) for those who are wondering whether they are WORTH IT in 2024. These were originally released in 2019, but continue to be a best-seller to this day. I've owned a few pairs of this model for years, and can also compare them to the AirPods Pro 2 and AirPods Max.

For this review, I have put hundreds of hours into testing the AirPods 2 throughout the years, so I'm very familiar with how they sound and operate on a daily basis.

I'll be sharing my critical opinion as an audiophile and professional music producer.

Let's dive right in!



Should you buy Apple AirPods 2?

Hand holding AirPods 2 in charging case

Buy if

  • Comfort is your #1 priority

  • You are an Apple ecosystem user (iPhone, iPad, MacBook, Apple Watch)

  • The newer AirPods 3 don't fit you as well

  • You don't like how the AirPods Pro enters the ear canal

DON'T Buy if

  • You need noise cancellation

  • You want the best sound quality (and are willing to pay more)

  • You are not ready to replace these in 2-3 years when the battery lifespan degrades


Apple AirPods 2 Pros and Cons

AirPods 2 earbuds next to charging case

Pros

  • Amazing all-day comfort

  • Decent sound quality

  • Works seamlessly with Apple devices

  • Detailed highs, audible sub-bass

Cons

  • No noise cancellation or isolation

  • Lack of bass impact

  • May need to be replaced in 2-3 years


Apple AirPods 2 (2nd Generation) Price

At the time of this writing, the AirPods 2 are priced at $129 retail, but available on Amazon below for as low as $99.

Want to save an additional $12? Order the Renewed Version below which is currently around $87.

Order the Apple AirPods 2 for the LOWEST PRICE AVAILABLE (Do NOT pay retail): 

Disclosure: These links may provide a discount and in return, give us a commission in order to run the website 🙂


Comfort: 5 / 5

When it comes to comfort, they're called "AirPods" for a reason. You drop them in your ears and they barely feel like anything is there.

You can wear these all day and barely even notice it.

Traditional full-sized, over-ear headphones typically have 3 points of contention when it comes to comfort: the top headband pressure, the clamping force of the earcups, and ears getting sweaty and hot inside the earcup.

I've worn some fairly comfortable over-ear headphones, but you simply can't ignore the 300-500 grams of added weight being pushed down by gravity on your head.

In addition, clamping force tends to err on the side of too strong, hopefully alleviating over time.

Most headphones that enclose your ear are also going to build up warmth within 1-2 hours, some hotter than others, leading to sweat or discomfort.

On the other hand, the regular AirPods also has a comfort advantage over the AirPods Pro or other earbuds and IEMs. AirPods Pros and IEMs have to enter your ear canal and create a seal, which is uncomfortable for some people and create a "pressurized" feeling.

I largely avoided earbuds that enter my ear canal for the same reason. I only got over the hump once I started finding memory foam eartips that improved comfort significantly.

So for the reasons stated above, the AirPods 2 scores a perfect score for comfort.


Features / Battery Life / Noise Cancelling: 2.5 / 5

AirPods 2 Charging Case orange LED light

Features

In the grand scheme of things, the regular AirPods 2 are relatively feature-light compared to the bevy of available products today.

Let's start with the positives.

One reason I love the regular AirPods line (and thus have owned a few pairs) is simple practicality.

I am mostly an Apple ecosystem user, frequently switching between iPhone, iPad, MacBook, and back again.

AirPods and Apple devices are a match made in heaven, seamlessly switching between devices with little fuss.

I do own a few Windows machines and haven't had any problems with connectivity, but it requires having to click "Bluetooth", click "Connect" every time. Between Apple devices, sometimes the switch happens without pressing anything. Magic.

Lastly, these little devices actually do contain built-in mics and can be used for phone calls and Zoom. Although the mic quality is terrible in my opinion, with the in-built MacBook mics sounding like studio mics in comparison.

For the main negatives, the AirPods 2 don't have any active noise cancellation or Spatial Audio.

Active noise cancellation is only available on the AirPods Pro line or full-sized AirPods Max.

Spatial Audio was introduced in the 3rd generation of regular AirPods onwards.

If you ask me, Spatial Audio is not a deal-breaker, but noise cancellation can certainly be.

You're not going to be wearing these on an airplane without maxing out the volume and risking hearing damage, but even then, the sound won't come through clearly due to fighting with outside noise.

On the other hand, being able to hear all of your surroundings may actually be a "feature", not a bug, for those who need to be aware of their surroundings when walking around.

But the AirPods Pro 2 and AirPods Max do have a very capable "Transparency" mode that passes through ambient noise.

Looks

Let's be honest here, the AirPods' iconic "white sticks" sticking out of everybody's ears these days changed the game.

Why should we be surprised? Apple has been THE premier leader in innovative design for decades.

The pure white aesthetic from the Jony Ive era harkens back to the days of classic iPod, with wired earbuds included.

Except now we are teleported to the future, a final frontier that has taken the early days of the Bluetooth "hands-free" headsets of the early 2000s, now condensed into 2 tiny white sticks.

You look at other earbuds and IEMs, and they all look the same.

You know when someone is wearing AirPods, even if they're fake clones from eBay, the design itself is unmistakeable.

AirPods 2 Battery Life

Apple claims the AirPods 2 has a battery life of up to 5 hours of listening time or 3 hours of talk time on a single charge.

If you include the multiple charges with the included charging case, the battery life rises to 24 hours of total listening time and 18 hours of total talk time.

Like other AirPods, there is a 15-minute "quick charge" feature that grants up to 3 hours of listening time, or 2 hours of talk time.

I find the AirPods 2 battery life to be fair considering its tiny form factor, and the quick charge function being convenient in times of when the battery dies.

The real drawback with the AirPods 2 is the overall battery lifespan, before it fails to hold a charge and needs to be replaced.

As with any lithium-ion device, the battery will inevitably degrade and fail to hold 100% capacity as it did when new.

If you've owned a smartphone like an iPhone, then this should unfortunately be a familiar phenomenon to you.

In my testing, I have found the AirPods 2 to last about 3 years before the battery inevitably degrades and struggles to hold a charge.

So the price of the tiny form factor and convenience is also having much smaller lithium-ion batteries that probably have even more limited charge cycles as opposed to a phone or full-sized Bluetooth headphone.


Do Apple AirPods 2 have good sound quality?

Apple AirPods 2 generation left earbud up close with AirPods Pro 2 in background

Judging the regular AirPods 2 sound quality from an audiophile perspective would seem like a fruitless endeavor, but the truth is, these sound surprisingly decent all things considered.

Consider that they don't form any seal at all, so these are fighting much more with physics as opposed to the in-ear AirPods Pro or traditional over-ear headphones.

Despite this, the AirPods 2 actually have surprisingly audible sub-bass, which I did not expect at all coming from this form factor. There are full-sized headphones that don't even have very audible sub-bass.

To nitpick, although the sub-bass is indeed audible, it lacks the visceral impact and slam of true in-ears, like the AirPods Pro 2, and full-sized headphones. This is to be expected...

The sound signature of the AirPods 2 is pleasing and somewhat engaging as it emphasizes the bass and highs, with mids being pulled back a bit.

The highs have a surprising amount of detail, albeit sounding artificial in timbre, and I would prefer a bit more body to the overall sound, while smoothening out the highs in trouble frequencies.

Dynamics is where the AirPods 2 falls short, and I have to think it is hamstrung by the lack of seal. For a product like this, you have to make a lot of tradeoffs, and the best decision is to focus on emphasizing bass and treble. That's good enough for most consumer listeners.

Also, the soundstage is not as wide or immersive as the AirPods Pro 2 or over-ears like the Max. With the AirPods 2, you will always be aware that you are just listening to quite compressed and flat audio, whereas the Pro and Max will immerse you with a more "open" and immersive sound that is 3D-like.

Overall, the only important question that really matters is, "Can you enjoy listening to music with these?"

My answer is yes. It's got a consumer-friendly sound signature that emphasizes the bass and the highs, with a surprising amount of detail.

I'd much rather have this tuning than mid-centric with anemic bass and dark, veiled highs that are too conservatively pulled back.

For gaming and watching TV or movies, I'd say you probably want something a little more immersive and 3D-sounding like an in-ear or over-ear headphone.

But I actually love using these for casually watching YouTube videos or podcasts in the background, as being immersed in the audio is not nearly as important as for a 2-hour blockbuster movie.

I've owned multiple pairs of these over the last 3 years for a reason (mainly comfort), but if the sound quality wasn't good enough to my ears, then I simply wouldn't have been compelled to do so.

AirPods 2 Sound Quality: 6.8 / 10


Is the Apple AirPods 2 (2nd Generation) worth it?

Currently sitting at around $99, I think the AirPods 2nd generation actually sits at a great place in the lineup.

The newer AirPods 3 (3rd generation) is currently $149, with the AirPods Pro 2 being on sale for $199.

Compared to the AirPods 3, I'd argue they are probably not 50% more headphone, I mean earbuds, for the money.

But considering the AirPods Pro 2, at twice the price, I would actually argue are worth the premium. They come with active noise cancelling, Spatial Audio, and a much more impressive sound quality, even for audiophiles.

Then we have the much more expensive AirPods Max still retails at $549, but is usually available for around $479 these days. I doubt many people are cross-shopping these?

All in all, this is currently the cheapest AirPods in the current lineup, and it excels at enough things (comfort, practicality, "good enough" sound quality) to be worth a buy.

The only glaring drawbacks to the AirPods 2 would be the lack of noise cancellation if you need it, and also that they will probably need to be replaced within 2-3 years depending on your use due to the limited battery lifespan.

Value: 3.5 / 5


Scoring Breakdown

Comfort: 5 / 5

Features / Battery Life / Noise Cancelling: 2.5 / 5

Sound Quality: 6.8 / 10

Value: 3.5 / 5

Total: 17.8 / 25

Our Rating: 7.1 / 10

AirPods 2 earbuds sitting next to lightning charging case on desk


At the time of this writing, the AirPods 2 are priced at $129 retail, but available on Amazon below for as low as $99.

Want to save an additional $12? Order the Renewed Version below which is currently around $87.

Order the Apple AirPods 2 for the LOWEST PRICE AVAILABLE (Do NOT pay retail): 

Disclosure: These links may provide a discount and in return, give us a commission in order to run the website 🙂


Apple AirPods 2 Frequently Asked Questions

Which is better between the Apple AirPods 2 and 3?

Although the AirPods 3 have improved upon the 2 in sound quality, battery life, and adding features such as Spatial Audio, some may still prefer the fit of the AirPods 2 along with the price. The AirPods 2 is currently $50 cheaper than the AirPods 3.

Is it worth upgrading from the AirPods 2 to 3?

For some people it may be worth upgrading from the AirPods 2 to 3 if you want slightly improved sound quality, longer battery life, and new features such as Spatial Audio. Otherwise, the $50 price difference for the upgrade may not be worth it for most people. In my opinion, I'd rather spend double and upgrade to the AirPods Pro 2.

Are AirPods 2 louder than AirPods 3?

Both the AirPods 2 and 3 should have similar volume levels as long as they are updated to the latest firmware. You may need to check the Sound settings on your phone to see if there is any limit placed on listening volumes to avoid hearing damage. You can turn OFF this setting to get the maximum volume.


How We Tested and Our Methodology

RecordingNOW.com is a 100% independent publisher with over 10 years of experience testing and reviewing consumer electronics and headphones.

We currently purchase the products we test with our own money, and are not paid by any company or manufacturer to influence our opinions or decisions.

After purchasing the product, we conduct up to hundreds of hours of detailed hands-on testing in a controlled, acoustically-treated environment.

ODi Productions is our resident expert and author of this article, with 10 years of experience as a professional music producer, tech journalist, and audiophile.


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Disclosure:  Some of the links in this article may be affiliate links, which can provide compensation to me at no cost to you if you decide to purchase.