Apple AirPods vs Apple Airpods Pro – Which is Best For You?

Apple’s AirPods and AirPods Pro are top contenders to anyone shopping for wireless earbuds. Both are incredibly popular with users who own Apple devices as well as those using other brands. While both are excellent choices, you may wonder how they matchup. The most important question is which is the better choice for you.

AirPods

Apple introduced the AirPods in 2016, bringing some of Apple’s best hardware to the ears of everyone who uses them. Their outstanding build quality and sound quality blew much of the competition away. 

Over the years Apple improved upon their original design, adding Siri support, longer battery life, and new charging options with the second-generation AirPods, often known as AirPods 2, in 2019. The third-generation AirPods (or AirPods 3) became available in 2021. They offer a redesigned exterior, added Spatial Audio and Dolby Atmos, water resistance, and even longer battery life. 

Apple offers both the second-generation AirPods 2 and third-generation AirPods 3 version of the AirPods on their site as of this writing. While much of the comparison applies to earlier editions as well, the following comparison is primarily for the third generation.

AirPods Pro

In 2019 Apple introduced an updated and more advanced version of their AirPods, the AirPods Pro. Not a direct replacement for the AirPods, which they are sold alongside, the AirPods Pro offers more advanced features, a different design, a better seal in the ear, and carries a higher price tag. 

Feature Comparison of AirPods and the AirPods Pro

While both AirPods 3 and AirPods Pro are impressive in their own ways, there are important differences. The AirPod Pro is meant to be the premium version, which shows in the included features. 

Fit

Your earbuds are going to sit in your ear for a long time, so the fit of your AirPods or AirPods Pro is important to your experience. In that respect, your experience with the AirPods will depend on how they happen to fit your particular ear. There is one size, and if it doesn’t fit your ear well then you are out of luck. Keeping your Airpods maintained and clean extends the comfort level of how they fit and feel.

But with the AirPods Pro you get multiple silicone ear tips to choose from. This allows you to custom fit for the best overall comfort for your particular ear.

Beyond comfort, though, is how the fit affects sound quality. A better seal against your ear is going to provide better overall balance from one side to the other, partially because a better fit provides better blocking of outside sounds. In this respect, the AirPods Pro shine. They allow the proper fit, sealing well into your ear, while the standard AirPods do not. 

Winner: Apple AirPods Pro

Noise cancellation

There are two types of noise cancellation to consider here: passive noise cancellation and active noise cancellation. In both cases, the AirPods Pro do a better job.

Passive noise cancellation is when the earbuds do a good job of sealing to the ear, effectively blocking unwanted outside sounds from entering past them. The better ear seal offered by the AirPods Pro provides much better passive noise cancellation than the standard AirPods.

Active noise cancellation is a step beyond that. With active noise cancellation there is an external microphone that detects the outside soundwaves. Upon detecting these outside sounds, the earbuds produce an equal and opposite sound wave, canceling out the intruding sound.

AirPods Pro offers active noise cancellation, where AirPods do not. This gives AirPods Pro a tremendous advantage in this area.

Winner: Apple AirPods Pro

Sound Quality

Sound quality is obviously a critical deciding factor when selecting new earbuds. The good news is that both AirPods 3 and AirPods Pro offer terrific sound. Both have Spatial Audio, Dolby Atmos, and Adaptive EQ, which adapts the frequency contour of the sound to fit your ear better. Both have good bass response and overall range.

Where you can see some difference is with the ability of the AirPod Pro to seal to the ear. This does an effective job of preventing the intrusion of outside sounds into the stream of audio you hear. That improves your sound quality by giving you a truer reproduction of what was intended. And the AirPods Pro gives a satisfactory all-around sound response.

But the AirPods Pro also provide active noise cancellation, which does even more than the air seal at countering outside sounds. This helps to increase your perceived sound quality much more, making for a greater overall sound experience. 

The AirPods 3 seem to provide more depth to their bass, besting the AirPods Pro. This can be inconsistent, though, because of the worse fit. You can have fantastic bass depth one time you put your AirPods in, but then lose some of that the next time because of how the AirPods are placed in your ear. 

When you add this to the better fit, better ear seal, and much better noise cancellation, AirPods Pro win this category.

Winner: Apple AirPods Pro

Microphone

AirPods Pro use dual beam-forming inward-facing microphones. These microphones do a fantastic job of filtering outside interference, transmitting only the voice of the user. This makes them ideal for anyone wearing them during phone conversations, even in noisy areas like the train or bus. AirPods 3 use the same dual beam-forming microphones as the AirPods Pro, making the two equal in microphone quality.

Winner: Tie

Connection Quality

AirPods 3 use Bluetooth 5, as do the AirPods Pro. This gives them the same connectivity to the same number of devices. Most Bluetooth devices work well with either version. Both of these earbuds have a long-range because of Bluetooth 5, and under the right circumstances could be up to several hundred feet away and still maintain a connection without dropping out. In the real world, interference can limit that range, but you still have a much longer range than earlier versions of Bluetooth.

Winner: Tie

Durability

When you look at durability, there are a couple of considerations. You have to consider the ability of the earbuds to withstand physical impacts, typically caused when you drop them on a hard surface. In this respect, both the AirPods and AirPods Pro do a great job.

The second thing to consider when you think of durability is how well they hold up to sweat and moisture. This can be important if you plan to wear your earbuds during active workouts or in a light rain. Both the AirPods 3 and AirPods Pro provide sweat and water resistance. AirPods 2 do not offer this, so keep that in mind when selecting your AirPods. 

Winner: Tie

Controls

AirPods 3 and AirPods Pro both have Siri voice commands, allowing you to control nearly everything with vocal commands. They also have touch controls. If you opt for the older second-generation AirPods 2, you should know that they have slightly different touch controls than AirPods 3 and AirPods Pro, but offer similar access to control your AirPods overall. 

Winner: Tie

Battery Life

When you are listening to your favorite song on the bus or during your workout, you don’t want your earbuds to die. This is an understandably important feature to many people. 

AirPods 3 offer a battery life of up to 6 hours while listening. This exceeds the 4.5 hour listening time for AirPods Pro. While both are reasonably decent listen times, this is an area where AirPods 3 outperform their costlier counterpart.

AirPods 2 offer similar battery life to the AirPods Pro. 

Winner: Apple AirPods 3

Charger

All versions of AirPods use cases that double as a charger. The case contains a battery of its own, which you charge up, then it recharges the pods when you place them back inside to store them.

With the AirPods Pro you get an Apple-rated 24 hours of charge from the charging case between each time you recharge it. Apple claims AirPods 3 get up to 30 hours of charge from their charging case. It’s important to note that AirPods 2 match the AirPods Pro, giving 24 hours of charge.

AirPods 3 and the AirPods Pro cases offer MagSafe charging, which is a magnetic wireless charging system. They also have an Apple Lightning connection, to charge them in a wired mode. 

Winner: Apple AirPods 3

Price

While everyone loves to get a deal, what qualifies as a good deal is very subjective. What you can do is compare the features most important to you, see which versions have those features, and weigh that against your budget.

Apple’s site currently lists second-generation AirPods 2 at $129, third-generation AirPods 3 at $179, and AirPods Pro at $249. Which one is the best deal depends on your uses and what features you care about.  

Winner: Depends

Who Should Buy AirPods and Who Should Buy AirPods Pro

As you can see above, there are some areas where AirPods Pro outshine AirPods 3, some areas where AirPods 3 are better, and many areas where they are equal. This shows that both are excellent choices when you are looking for new earbuds. But there will always be some people who are better off with one or the other.

Buy AirPods 3 If…

You should buy the AirPods 3 instead of the AirPods Pro if your budget is more limited. The $70 difference in price is fairly significant, and if you have limited funds this can be one area you can save some money. You’ll give up a few features and get slightly lower sound quality overall, but you’ll end up with something you can afford. 

Battery life is also better on the AirPods 3, so if you listen for longer periods of time then the AirPods 3 are better for you. 

AirPods 3 also provide better bass sound. This may depend a lot on the way they fit your ears, but if they fit well for you then you can get consistent bass that is better than what you’ll get with AirPods Pro.

Buy AirPods Pro If…

Anyone who really values high-quality sound should opt for the AirPods Pro over the AirPods. They offer better sound in part due to their better ear seal.

If you are concerned with comfort or a solid and snug fit then AirPods Pro are your best bet. They have multiple ear tip sizes that allow you to custom fit them to your ear, meaning they will stay in place better. They also will help seal off outside sounds better because of it.

AirPods Pro offer active noise cancellation, so if you listen to your earbuds around a lot of people or in noisy areas, AirPods Pro are much better for you. They will not only counter outside noise with their active noise cancellation, but also offer better passive noise cancellation because of their snug ear seal. 

Overall, both are great options for the right person. Decide how you plan to use your new earbuds, consider your budget, then buy appropriately. 

Which AirPods Are More Comfortable?

Many people find AirPods Pro more comfortable than AirPods 3. AirPods Pro offers multiple silicone ear tips that you can change out to provide the best comfort for you. But some people may not like the feel of the silicone or the way it seals into your ear. If you are one of those people, the third-generation AirPods 3 may be more comfortable for you. And some people even find the older AirPods 2 to be more comfortable than either the AirPods 3 or the AirPods Pro. 

It all really comes down to which of the various AirPods models fit your ear the best and whether you like the sealed fit provided by the silicone tip of the AirPods Pro.

Can I Use A Qi Charger For My AirPods 3 Or AirPods Pro?

While Apple uses a MagSafe wireless charger, they are also compatible with the Qi charging systems. Use it as you would any other Qi-compatible device, making sure it is aligned correctly, and you will have no problems. 

MagSafe is an improvement upon Qi. It uses magnets to help align the charger, and it allows for a higher charge rate of 15 watts vs. Qi’s 7.5 watts. This improved wattage allows Magsafe chargers to charge your AirPods 3 or AirPods Pro case in about half the time as you would with Qi.

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