Here's why the USB-C AirPods Pro 2 are required if you want lossless audio from your Vision Pro headset

AirPods Pro 1 and 2 side by side
(Image credit: iMore)

When Apple announced the new USB-C AirPods Pro 2 during the September 12 iPhone 15 event, there was one curious fact — the new earbuds offer a lossless audio connection when paired with the Vision Pro headset.

The new lossless audio connection is only available on the new USB-C AirPods Pro 2, though, meaning those with current Lightning-powered ones are left out in the cold. It wasn't clear why that was the case, either. Apple had suggested the new earbuds were the same as the old ones and that a new USB-C connector was the only change of note, causing mass confusion about why these AirPods Pro 2 are so special.

And now we know. Turns out not all AirPods Pro 2 earbuds are created equal and the new ones have a little trick up their sleeve — more bandwidth.

5 is more than 2.4

In an interview with TechCrunch, Apple VP of Sensing and Connectivity Ron Huang explains that it's all about bandwidth — the new AirPods Pro have it, and the old ones don't.

“Bluetooth typically runs on 2.4 gigahertz, and that airspace is very, very noisy,” Huang told the outlet. “Everybody’s running on 2.4. That’s why routers Wi-Fi routers, for example, are typically dual-band if not tri-band, because the 5GHz spectrum is that much cleaner. To get to really, really low latency audio, and to get to really high fidelity, lossless audio — it’s all about a very, very clean and real-time channel between two. The combination of 5GHz and the fact that they are very proximal allowed us to do that. We’re able to basically redesign a brand new audio protocol over the 5Ghz for AirPods.”

The thing is, only the USB-C AirPods Pro 2 can make use of that 5GHz spectrum, which explains why the ones you're already wearing won't benefit from lossless audio, even if they're connected to the Vision Pro headset.

Of course, whether it's actually lossless is another matter, but for now the gist is simple — future Vision Pro owners will need new AirPods when the headset finally arrives in early 2024.

Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too. Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.