3 newly-launched Earphones on fit, comfort, style and sound, including the new Apple AirPods Pro 2nd Gen

It’s worth upgrading your earphones now if you’ve had them for a while. The second generation of the AirPods Pro came out a few weeks ago, and just before that, Huawei launched their competing version, the Huawei FreeBuds Pro 2. We tested each of them out for fit, comfort and sound. Read on.

Apple AirPods Pro 2nd Generation

Above: Apple AIRPODS PRO (2nd generation)

It’s been almost three years since the launch of the original AirPods Pro. This second generation version improves on everything such as having a H2 chip (more efficient!), better Active Noise Cancellation (it’s said to be double the noise cancelled compared to the original AirPods Pro), Touch Control (more intuitive), and Personalised Spatial Audio — an extension of Apple’s Spatial Audio, and a feature that’s supposed to precisely tune the surround sound experience to the user’s ears.

The Personalised Spatial Audio feature is interesting; it uses the TrueDepth camera on the iPhone to capture the shape of the user’s ear, and then tuning and optimising the audio to suit that ear. The sound is supposed to be more full and immersive. This customisation works differently from the NURATRUE earbuds that use sound waves to map the ear.

Above: it’s the same sized case as the 1st generation airpods pro, so you can reuse your favourite existing case cover.

Sound: Full, rich, with a strong and clear bass. Music sounds delightful to listen to.
Noise CancellingNoise cancelling is powerful. It silences the outside so the focus really is on the music. There’s a useful transparency mode, which blends in surrounding sound so you’re not totally unaware when crossing the road.
DesignIt’s sleek — after all, it’s an Apple design. The case is small and handy and has the same dimensions as the first generation AirPods Pro, so you can reuse your existing case covers.
Comfort & FitThere are four silicone ear tips with M fitted on as standard out of the box. The earbuds sit in the ear nicely and feel secure. There’s no need to fiddle with the angle of it in the ear since it’s obvious which way faces down.
Controls: It’s a swipe up swipe down touch control on each of the earbuds. It’s intuitive to use and you’ll likely get it right on your first try.
Wireless ChargingYes. Just place the case on any MagSafe charger, Apple Watch charger, or Qi-certified charger.
Battery LifeUp to 6 hours listening time on a single charge, and up to 30 hours with the MagSafe Charging Case.
Price: $359, available at apple.com.

Above: the earbuds are ergonomically shaped.

NYLON’s RecommendationIt’s quite a step up from the standard AirPods and even the first generation AirPods Pro. It’s worth getting if you’re an audiophile and really enjoy listening to your music while on the go; plus if you own an iPhone. Because pairing and connecting to Apple devices is instant; just open the case and you’ll be prompted to pair your gadgets together. You can switch easily between Apple devices as well — it’s the Apple ecosystem at work. Overall, the audio experience really is excellent; I’d save up and spring for these as a travel essential.

Above: (left to right) Apple AIRPODS PRO (2nd generation) and AIRPODS (3rd generation).

Above: the Apple AIRPODS PRO (2nd generation) earbuds vs. the AIRPODS (3rd generation) earbuds.

Huawei FreeBuds Pro 2

Above: Huawei FREEBUDS PRO 2 in ceramic white.

So out of the box, these look really similar to Apple’s AirPods Pro, with the small design differences being a rounder case, and flatter earphone arms. I could pair this easily with the iPhone by pressing the “sync” button on the side of the charging case (you have to really look for it, I promise you, it’s there), and  once it’s paired by Bluetooth, the connection is pretty seamless.

Above: Huawei freebuds pro 2 earbuds.

Sound: Volume levels are louder than the AirPods Pro; these would work great for those who love to blast their music, and the audio doesn’t crack at all at these high levels. Quality of the audio is decent. It’s not as clear as what the AirPods Pro produces, but you do get more bass — and it can go louder.
Noise CancellingGood noise cancelling, but not as powerful as the feature on the AirPods Pro. But do you really need to create a sound vacuum in your ear? Do you? That’s up to you and your wallet.
DesignCan’t go wrong with this all-white design. The larger black accents on the sides of the earbuds work too and make this one stylish little gadget. This also comes in Silver Frost and Silver Blue colour options.
Comfort & FitThese feel like they sit in the ear more securely than the AirPods Pro — like they won’t fall out as easily. But that also means that you can “feel” these more in the ear. With the AirPods Pro, it’s like they aren’t even there. Good and bad.
Controls: Controls are meant to be straightforward with a swipe up and down to change volume and a squeeze and press to pause and play. On my first try, I couldn’t tell where the sensors were and got frustrated trying to get my music to play. It’s not terribly intuitive and could definitely be better.
Wireless Charging: Yes, with any Qi-certified charger. Strangely, it wouldn’t charge with my MagSafe charger.
Battery LifeUp to 4 hours listening time on a single charge with ANC enabled, and up to 18 hours with the charging case. With ANC off, you get up to 6.5 hours on a single charge, and up to 30 hours with the case.
Price: $298, available on Shopee.

NYLON’s Recommendation: This is a good $61 less than the AirPods Pro, plus Shopee always has some promotion going on (the earphones are $273 at the time of writing). It’s not an “AirPods Pro killer” as some other reviews have called it, but both products are appealing in their own way. Get the Apple one if you’re an iPhone user, and get this Huawei version if you want to save a bit of money and don’t need a fancy case cover for it (most earbuds case covers are made for the AirPods line). It’s not a bad choice at all, considering you can choose the cool Silver Frost (dark grey) or Silver Blue (pale blue) colour options this is available in.

Jabra Elite 5

Above: Jabra ELITE 5 in Gold Beige.

I’ve always liked Jabra earphones. They are comfortable, feel secure, look good, and sound pretty good too for its price. The Elite 5 came out not too long ago last month and is positioned as an all-rounder that’s good for listening to media or taking calls.

Above: Jabra elite 5 earbuds.

Sound: Just when I thought that the Huawei FreeBuds Pro 2 was bassy, along come these Jabras that take it up another notch. The sound is full and feels like it’s pumping — which makes this great for workouts! Music and audio isn’t as clear and nuanced as the AirPods Pro, so if you’re getting earphones just for the listening pleasure of music, consider forking out more for the ones from Apple.
Noise CancellingThere’s ANC and it works well, but it’s not as powerful as noise cancelling with the new AirPods Pro.
DesignI really love the earbud design; it’s compact and looks beautiful when worn (especially this Gold Beige version). I do like the matte finish as well, which sets it apart from many earbuds in the market now. This comes in a full black version too, which is very sleek.
Comfort & Fit: These fit so snugly in the ear, I have no fear of them dropping out. Undoubtedly, they’d be the pair I’d take when I go jogging. They are extremely comfortable too! It feels very satisfying popping these in.
Controls: Just to be sure how the controls work, I read the instructions, and once I knew, I knew. It’s not hard at all to operate these; the earbuds are controlled with the large button on the flat end that faces out, which is very convenient.
Wireless Charging: Yes, with any Qi-certified charger. It charges standing up rather than lying flat on its side. Tried it with a MagSafe charger and yes it charges with it.
Battery Life: Up to 7 hours with ANC on, and up to 28 hours with the case.
Price: $228, available on Shopee.

NYLON’s Recommendation: I’d be less “precious” with these earbuds than the glossier versions from Apple and Huawei. I’d take these running and on the airplane, and I’d appreciate the longer battery life that it offers. It took me a while to figure out how to pair it with the iPhone (press and hold both top buttons on the earbuds to trigger the sync mode), but once I got them connected, there have been no hiccups. If you don’t need to wear a “branded” pair of earphones (eg. Apple), or just don’t like those “drop-down” arm designs, these earbuds are for you. Sound is good, connection is stable, it fits nicely, so all is well.