For God’s sake Chris, go back to the Apple Store and ask to try a test fit with the AirPods Pro 2 and the various ear tips they supply, bring some alcohol wipes if you’re concerned about cleanliness, be sure to clean your ears of any earwax as well. This way you can give the AirPods Pro a proper chance.
The AirPods Pro offers an ear tip fit test to check the seal. If it fits and seals well, the difference between audible transparency and full noise cancelling is startling - I can be standing next to a noisy dryer or vacuum cleaner, trigger the noise cancelling and poof!, the noise is just gone. GONE!
IME, the AirPods Pro sounds very good, seals well in my ear canals, and offers a very good listening experience, especially with spatial audio, plus allows control of iPhone music and sound functions with various presses. They last about 3-4 hours of heavy listening yet can recharge to over 80% from 10% in less than 30 minutes, sometimes faster. The carry case / charger also charges quickly and has enough for 5-6 charges before needing its own charge.
Considering what some HiFi mags suggest one spends on various Audio devices, speakers, cartridges, turntables, sources, wire, etc., the cost of AirPods Pro 2 is a pretty good value for what it delivers. Plus you CAN precision track them with Find My and iOS 16.5 on your iPhone if you misplace one, both or even the case, and you can ping and have them sound off to help you find them.
I know you have an aversion to spend this much, but once you try them out, and assuming they can and will fit, IMO, you’ll be hard pressed to stay away from them. They really are that good and that well integrated into Apple’s audio ecosystem. Oh, and you can pair them with iPads, your iMac, and even an Apple TV 4K for private or after hours watching/listening.
So let me get this straight, your yearning for a pair of Airpods has nothing to do with the quality of the product, physical or auditory. The only reason seems to be aesthetic and an ovine tendency to merge with the rest with the rest of the flock.
Do I need to point out that the title of the site and magazine is 'What HiFi'?