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AirPods buyer's guide: Everything to know about Apple's headphones and earbuds

Apple's headphones and earbuds might be popular, but here are some things to consider before buying your own pair.
By
September 21, 2022
The Apple AirPods (2nd generation) case with the 'buds inside.
Zak Khan / Android Authority

Apple is known for creating a carefully coordinated suite of products, from iPhones to Macs and more. Naturally, it makes its own earbuds and headphones, too, all of which fall under the AirPods brand. In fact, Apple’s earbuds are so well-known they’re almost synonymous with the idea of earphones in general for many people.

Despite their near-ubiquity, if you haven’t already snagged a pair of AirPods, there are some things you should know before diving in. We’ll cover everything to keep in mind when considering Apple’s earbuds or headphones in this buyer’s guide.

Apple AirPods: An overview

The AirPods Pro earbuds in the wireless charging case next to an iPhone and digital camera.
Sam Smart / Android Authority

The first generation of AirPods debuted way back in 2016, as a Bluetooth true wireless earbuds version of the EarPods. You remember those, right? They were the wired earbuds that used to come with iPods and iPhones and were made famous by the dancing silhouettes in Apple’s TV commercials. And despite how widespread AirPods are these days, the original design was first met with some skepticism. Nevertheless, they have (obviously) proved quite popular.

Since then, you’ve probably heard of AirPods and seen them in the ears of many people on a train or bus. That sort of nearly-universal brand recognition is exactly what Apple is going far. Therefore, the company makes models to fit almost any kind of buyer.

Apple has made it easy to pop in a pair of AirPods and start listening to tunes right away — that's by design.

Apple clearly wants AirPods, no matter the specific variety, to tie in tightly with its other products. To that end, they’re positioned alongside the iPhone, iPad, and other Apple products as a comprehensive solution to all your audio needs. Credit where it’s due, it is indeed easy to pop any model of AirPods out of their case and sync them to an Apple device, ready to play your favorite tunes through Apple Music.

That vision for high adoption rates and tight ecosystem integration seems to be working well. It’s estimated that AirPods alone are a $10 billion (yes, with a “b”) business for Apple. In 2020 alone, Apple sold around 100 million AirPods of all types, so your perception that they seem to be everywhere is correct. For comparison, Apple sold 202 million iPhones in 2020 and it’s estimated around 50% of the entire company’s revenue comes from those sales. As you can see, AirPods are no small-time player.

To that end, Apple currently offers four models to choose from:

  • AirPods (2nd generation): Introduced in March 2019, these are Apple’s most budget-minded and basic earbuds. They offer the fewest features but also the cheapest price.
  • AirPods (3rd generation): Debuting in October 2021, they’re Apple’s middle-of-the-road earbuds. They give you slightly longer battery life, water resistance, spatial audio, and more, but not noise-cancelling.
  • AirPods Pro (2nd generation): Introduced in September 2022, these earbuds give you everything found in the third-gen AirPods but their big distinction is active noise-cancelling (ANC), and true ear tips for actual passive isolation, in contrast to the unsealed fit of previous models.
  • AirPods Max: Appearing in December 2020, the Max are Apple’s only pair of over-ear headphones. They offer ANC, lots of battery life, and plenty of high-tech features.

AirPods models: What are your options?

Now that we know what the intent behind AirPods is and the basics of each model, we can go over each of them in-depth to help you decide which, if any, would be right for you.

AirPods (3rd generation)

AirPods 3rd Generation in their case sitting next to a black flower pot on a wood table.
Sam Smart / Android Authority

The AirPods (3rd generation) contain basically the core feature list of every model of AirPods, and other varieties either add or subtract from this so we’ll start here. Here’s a basic rundown of what you’ll get:

  • Personalized Spatial Audio: This is Apple’s version of spatial audio. Basically, it simulates a surround sound experience as long as you have compatible content. As expected from Apple, you can find spatial audio tracks on Apple Music. “Personalized” means the buds scan your ears to tailor the experience to you.
  • IPX4 rating: The AirPods (3rd generation) are IPX4 rated, meaning they can stand up to sweat and splashes.
  • Lighting or MagSafe case: “Or” is the keyword here, as the AirPods (3rd generation) make you choose which one you prefer, you can’t have both.
  • H1 chip: The H1 chip is how Apple gets the nearly-seamless connectivity between the AirPods and other Apple products. You’ll find it (or its successor the H2 chip) in every model of earbuds and headphones from the company.

But what really makes the AirPods (3rd generation) stand out is what you don’t get: ear tips. This generation of AirPods is totally unsealed. That means environmental noises will readily make it through to your ears and potentially interrupt your listening experience, which we definitely experienced. It also means the earbuds rely on being jammed into your ear to stay in place. Therefore, they could tumble out. It may also make them less comfortable, depending on the shape and size of your ears. This could also have an impact on their sound quality because if you can’t get a good fit outside noises might cause auditory masking.

As a result of these factors, we found the AirPods (3rd generation) to be decent overall. They’re easy to use with Apple devices, lightweight, and portable, but it’s hard for us to fully recommend unsealed earbuds. They might work for you during exercise such as running if you need to be constantly aware of your surroundings, however.

AirPods Pro (2nd generation)

A product image of an AirPods Pro (2nd generation) earbud showing the selection of ear tips available from XS to L.
Apple

Apple got the memo about unsealed earbuds eventually, and in response, the AirPods Pro came along. The AirPods Pro (2nd generation) are the latest in this line and their biggest features are active noise-cancellation and silicone ear tips. They’re also the most recent AirPods in general, being introduced in September 2022. You get everything the AirPods (3rd generation) have to offer, plus:

  • Active and passive noise-cancelling: The AirPods Pro (2nd generation) come with four ear tip sizes, from XS to L, so listeners of varying ear sizes can achieve a good seal while the ANC takes care of even more distracting noises.
  • Mags Safe and Lightning case: You don’t have to make a choice with the second-generation AirPods Pro as both charging options are available in the same case. Plus, it has a handy lanyard loop and small built-in speaker to help you locate it.
  • H2 chip: The H1 chip is the secret sauce behind why it’s so easy to use AirPods with Apple’s other devices. It automatically handles device switching, so you don’t have to think about it, and the H2 chip is the latest version.
  • U1 chip: Apple brought the U1 chip to the AirPods Pro (2nd generation)’s case, which can help you find it easier if you lose it.

These may seem like small upgrades, but in our experience, the AirPods Pro (of any generation) are much better than any unsealed model. They fit better, feel comfortable, and their ANC does a decent job at blocking out the world while the silicone tips isolate effectively. These are also the only AirPods to support Bluetooth 5.3, meaning they should eventually have LE Audio support — we’ll have to wait and see to make sure.

Still, most people will enjoy the AirPods Pro (2nd generation) when paired with an iPhone, and they’ll probably sound great, to boot. We had no complaints about the first-gen AirPods Pro in terms of sound quality, and we don’t expect the second-generation AirPods Pro to change this. Being the latest model also means Apple is likely to support them for a while.

AirPods Max

The Apple AirPods Max and its smart case on a white desk.
Chris Thomas / Android Authority

True to their name, the AirPods Max are the biggest AirPods around. Unlike every other model, they are over-ear Bluetooth headphones, not earbuds.  Despite their different design, you still get Personalized Spatial Audio and ANC. In addition, these headphones offer:

  • Long battery life: A bigger pair of headphones means more room for batteries, and the AirPods Max can get up to 20 hours of listening time, according to Apple.
  • Smart Case: The Smart Case is not a charging case. It’s just a place to stow your AirPods Max when not in use.
  • Wired audio via Lightning: If you spend another $35, you can get a Lightning-to-3.5mm cable from Apple for wired listening.
  • Color options: The Max are the only model of AirPods to come in other colors than white (which Apple calls Silver), including Space Gray, Pink, Green, and Sky Blue.

We were certainly impressed by the AirPods Max noise-cancelling, which beat out the Sony WH-1000XM4 upon the Max’s introduction. Since then, they’re mostly on par with the likes of the Sony WH-1000XM5, which means they have some of the most effective ANC out there.

However, we do have some complaints about the Max. Namely, the fact you have to buy an additional, proprietary cable to get wired listening is annoying. Also, the Smart Case is effectively the “off” button. That’s right, you cannot turn the AirPods Max off via a simple button press. You have to put them back into the case as if they were earbuds. Otherwise, they only enter a low-power sleep mode after remaining on for a few hours.

In general, we liked the build and sound quality along with the comfort of the AirPods Max, and if you want excellent ANC and an over-ear form factor, they’ll do great. It’s just that they have some weird quirks we didn’t expect to see from flagship headphones.

AirPods Pro (1st generation)

A pair of Apple AirPods Pro (1st generation) held in someone's palm.
Sam Smart / Android Authority

The AirPods Pro (1st generation) were Apple’s first noise-cancelling true wireless earbuds, and they made a big splash upon their introduction.  And for good reason; we finally had Apple earbuds with the ability to seal into our ear canals.

While the second-generation AirPods Pro are here now, the first-gen is now likely to be cheaper while offering similar features. Here’s what you get if you snag a pair, in addition to the usual set of AirPods (3rd generation) features such as Personalized Spatial Audio and an IPX4 rating:

  • ANC and ear tips: The AirPods Pro (1st generation) do a decent job cancelling out noise while the three sizes of ear tips provided take care of high-frequency noises.
  • MagSafe and Lightning: No need to choose which case you want, the AirPods Pro (1st generation) come in a case that supports both.

The AirPods Pro (1st generation) are rated for shorter battery life than the follow-up second-generation Pro at five hours. Apple’s estimate is accurate according to our tests, so that’s a plus.

If it seems like that second-generation AirPods Pro are an incremental update, you’d be right. Still, the AirPods Pro (1st generation) give you almost the same experience at what may be cheaper prices now that their successor is here. If you choose them, you’ll likely be happy with their sound quality and overall feature set. They don’t do ANC as well as the AirPods Pro (2nd generation), so keep that in mind if you need to keep out as much noise as possible.

AirPods (2nd generation)

The AirPods (2nd generation) on top of an iPad and next to the Google Pixel 3.
Zak Khan / Android Authority

All of the other models of AirPods we have discussed so far refine upon the AirPods (3rd generation) by including ear tips and ANC or morphing into over-ear headphones. In contrast, the AirPods (2nd generation) stand out for subtracting features from this base formula. However, they are the least expensive earbuds in Apple’s lineup.

It’s actually more informative to talk about what the AirPods (2nd generation) don’t do than what they can do:

  • Unsealed design: No ear tips or ANC to be found here.
  • No spatial audio: These are the only model of AirPods to not offer Personalized Spatial Audio support.
  • No water resistance: You won’t find an IP rating on the AirPods (2nd generation).

Like all models of AirPods, you still get the H1 chip, so using the second-generation AirPods with other Apple devices should be simple enough. But otherwise, we liked the third-generation AirPods slightly more, at the end of the day. Additionally, both are unsealed, so sound quality might be impacted by auditory masking with the AirPods (2nd generation).

However, if you just want to casually listen to tunes or audiobooks and don’t want to think too much about getting your earbuds working with an iPhone, the AirPods (2nd generation) can do that. And they are cheaper than any other AirPods model, so you won’t have to shell out much to get the experience.

AirPods, compared

Here’s every model of AirPods at a glance, including their basic design features and what you get if you choose a particular pair:

AirPods (3rd generation)AirPods Pro (2nd generation)AirPods MaxAirPods Pro (1st generation)AirPods (2nd generation)
Dimensions
AirPods (3rd generation)
Earbud: 30.79 x 18.26 x 19.21mm
Lightning/MagSafe case: 46.40 x 54.40 x 21.38mm
AirPods Pro (2nd generation)
Earbud: 30.9 x 21.8 x 24.0mm
Case: 45.2 x 60.6 x 21.7mm
AirPods Max
Headphones: 168.6 x 83.4 x 187.3 mm
AirPods Pro (1st generation)
Earbud: 30.9 x 21.8 x 24.0mm
Case: 45.2 x 60.6 x 21.7mm
AirPods (2nd generation)
Earbud: 40.5 x 16.5 x 18.0mm
Case: 53.5 x 44.3 x 21.3mm
Weights
AirPods (3rd generation)
Earbud: 4.28g
Lightning/MagSafe case: 37.91g
AirPods Pro (2nd generation)
Earbud: 5.3g
Case: 50.8g
AirPods Max
Headphones: 384.8g
Case: 134.5g
AirPods Pro (1st generation)
Earbud: 5.4g
Case: 45.6g
AirPods (2nd generation)
Earbud: 4.0g
Case: 38.2g
Bluetooth connectivity
AirPods (3rd generation)
Bluetooth 5.0
SBC, AAC
AirPods Pro (2nd generation)
Bluetooth 5.3
SBC, AAC
AirPods Max
Bluetooth 5.0
SBC, AAC
AirPods Pro (1st generation)
Bluetooth 5.0
SBC, AAC
AirPods (2nd generation)
Bluetooth 5.0
SBC, AAC
Water resistance
AirPods (3rd generation)
IPX4
AirPods Pro (2nd generation)
IPX4
AirPods Max
None
AirPods Pro (1st generation)
IPX4
AirPods (2nd generation)
None
Listening time
AirPods (3rd generation)
6 hours (5 hours with Spatial Audio)
With case: up to 30 hours
AirPods Pro (2nd generation)
6 hours with ANC (5.5 hours with Personalized Spatial Audio and Head Tracking)
With case: up to 30 hours
AirPods Max
20 hours with ANC
AirPods Pro (1st generation)
4.5 hours with ANC
With case: up to 24 hours
AirPods (2nd generation)
4.5 hours with ANC
With case: More than 24 hours
Talk time
AirPods (3rd generation)
4 hours
With case: up to 20 hours
AirPods Pro (2nd generation)
4.5 hours with ANC
With case: up to 24 hours
AirPods Max
20 hours
AirPods Pro (1st generation)
3.5 hours with ANC
With case: up to 18 hours
AirPods (2nd generation)
3 hours
With case: up to 18 hours
Charging
AirPods (3rd generation)
Lightning or MagSafe depending on case choice (but not both)
AirPods Pro (2nd generation)
Lightning
MagSafe
Wireless
AirPods Max
Lightning
AirPods Pro (1st generation)
Lightning
MagSafe
Wireless
AirPods (2nd generation)
Lightning
Speakers and microphones
AirPods (3rd generation)
Custom high-excursion Apple driver
Four microphones
AirPods Pro (2nd generation)
Custom high-excursion Apple driver
Four microphones
AirPods Max
Apple-designed dynamic driver
Nine mics total (eight for ANC, two of which are shared for voice calls, plus one for voice calls)
AirPods Pro (1st generation)
Custom high-excursion Apple driver
Four microphones
AirPods (2nd generation)
Apple-designed driver
Dual microphones
Device compatibility
AirPods (3rd generation)
Latest versions of iOS, macOS, Apple Watch, Apple TV
Android: Limited Bluetooth features only
Windows: Limited Bluetooth features only
AirPods Pro (2nd generation)
Latest versions of iOS, macOS, Apple Watch, Apple TV
Android: Limited Bluetooth features only
Windows: Limited Bluetooth features only
AirPods Max
Latest versions of iOS, macOS, Apple Watch, Apple TV
Android: Limited Bluetooth features only
Windows: Limited Bluetooth features only
AirPods Pro (1st generation)
Latest versions of iOS, macOS, Apple Watch, Apple TV
Android: Limited Bluetooth features only
Windows: Limited Bluetooth features only
AirPods (2nd generation)
Latest versions of iOS, macOS, Apple Watch, Apple TV
Android: Limited Bluetooth features only
Windows: Limited Bluetooth features only
Chipset
AirPods (3rd generation)
H1 (earbuds)
AirPods Pro (2nd generation)
H2 (earbuds)
U1 (case)
AirPods Max
H1
AirPods Pro (1st generation)
H1 (earbuds)
AirPods (2nd generation)
H1 (earbuds)
ANC?
AirPods (3rd generation)
No
AirPods Pro (2nd generation)
Yes
AirPods Max
Yes
AirPods Pro (1st generation)
Yes
AirPods (2nd generation)
No
Ear tip selection
AirPods (3rd generation)
None
AirPods Pro (2nd generation)
XS, S, M, L
AirPods Max
Replaceable, one-size pads
AirPods Pro (1st generation)
S, M, L
AirPods (2nd generation)
None
Price
AirPods (3rd generation)
$169.00
AirPods Pro (2nd generation)
$249.00
AirPods Max
$549.00
AirPods Pro (1st generation)
$249*
No longer directly available from Apple
AirPods (2nd generation)
$129.00

Three reasons to buy AirPods

Before you hit “buy” on a pair of AirPods, it’s worth considering why you might want them. Other than the obvious answer of needing headphones or earbuds, you may want to take stock of what’s important to you and how you plan on using your AirPods before purchasing. Here are some reasons why you’d want to go ahead and make the jump.

You ride and die for Apple’s ecosystem

AirPods Pro in their case with the lid open next to an iPhone with an a pop up prompting to connect them.
Chase Bernath / Android Authority

Do you always buy the latest iPhone the instant it drops? Are you obsessed with Apple silicon? If you answered yes to any of these questions, the AirPods would be an obvious yes for you. All models of AirPods work nearly perfectly with other Apple products. As mentioned, the H1 and H2 chips make that certain, and Apple’s walled garden has plenty of fruits for you, too.

Within Apple’s ecosystem, you get seamless spatial audio support, device switching, and even customer service. You can stick all your Apple devices including your AirPods under the same Apple account and they’ll all recognize each other. That means your Apple TV can automatically sync with your AirPods, for instance, without you having to go through a pairing process.

And if all your friends are Apple die-hards, too, you can use audio sharing with any model of AirPods to enjoy tunes together. That’s not easily done with other brands of earbuds or headphones in general.

You care about sound quality but don’t want to worry about it too much

Silver Apple AirPods Max lying with the ear cups facing up.
Adam Molina / Android Authority

We liked the sound quality of every model of AirPods except the unsealed second- and third-generation AirPods. None of the sealed or over-ear AirPods crank up the bass too much or assault you with wonky frequency response curves. It’s that kind of set-it-and-forget-it quality that Apple is known for, and the AirPods keep on track.

That does mean no model of AirPods, even the Max, comes with an equalizer. You can use Apple Music to EQ your AirPods, but the changes won’t stick through a power cycle or across devices. But you likely won’t feel compelled to EQ the AirPods we liked the vast majority of the time. As mentioned, they sound pretty good right out of the box.

You’re not all that tech-inclined

The Apple AirPods (2nd generation) on an arts magazine with the case above it, shut.
Zak Khan / Android Authority

Maybe you don’t always wait in line for the latest iPhone and your Mac isn’t the latest and greatest, even then, the AirPods are still going to be an easy choice for casual Apple users, too. Despite all the technology that goes into them, most people won’t have to worry about the specifics during daily use.

If you find the thought of syncing Bluetooth headphones headache-inducing and meddling around in headphone manufacturer’s apps all day just to get your buds working sounds exhausting, the AirPods avoid all this. You can just pop them out of the case and into your ears and get about your day. If they don’t work, the steps to troubleshooting AirPods are also usually straightforward, so that should save you more frustration.

Apple even offers replacement AirPods if you lose one — you will have to pay for a replacement bud, though. And third-party suppliers have stepped into this realm as well, so if you are always misplacing earbuds, you can get another one. On a similar note, Apple’s Find My service makes it simple to locate lost headphones and earbuds using your Apple account.

Three reasons to avoid AirPods

On the flipside, there are some downsides to owning AirPods you should think about. Whether you’re an Android user or concerned with pricing, the drawbacks of AirPods can’t go ignored, either. Here are some of the top reasons you may want to avoid AirPods.

You’re an Android user

A Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 sitting on a green chair's armrest with its home screen visible.
Ryan Haines / Android Authority

Android is obviously not Apple’s key market — they’re competitors after all. As a result, the AirPods don’t work all that great on Android devices. They are Bluetooth headphones or earbuds, so they will connect, but that’s about all you get.

Android users don’t get spatial audio, automatic device switching, and a whole host of other perks that iPhone owners enjoy. Most crucially, AirPods of any model only offer the SBC and AAC Bluetooth codecs. AAC works great on iOS, but it’s less consistent on Android. That might mean latency leading to audio and video no longer being in sync, for instance.

You also cannot update the AirPods firmware without an iOS device or Mac nearby. So, if Apple releases new features or bug fixes, you won’t get to enjoy them. In short, if you’re on Android, there are better options out there.

You want to save some cash and don’t care about status symbols

The AirPods Pro (1st generation) in their case with the lid open being held by a hand.

AirPods are expensive, there’s no getting around that. Apple seldom puts them on sale, though sometimes you can snag them for slightly lower prices on Amazon, for instance. Still, there are cheaper true wireless earbuds around.

A lot of these alternatives have more to offer than the AirPods, too, though they may not look as sleek. For instance, the Sennheiser CX Plus True Wireless have ANC, aptX Bluetooth codec support, a useful app, and an IPX4 rating. If you do have some lingering AirPods envy, the Nothing Ear 1 exist to fill that niche.

You demand the ability to tinker with your headphones and earbuds

Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro sitting in their case on a wood surface with the lid open.
Zak Khan / Android Authority

Apple isn’t known for configurability and customization much these days. While the AirPods work well out of the box, you don’t get to tweak them all that much. If you’re the kind of person that demands fine-grained control over your listening experience, AirPods likely won’t fit the bill.

For that, you can turn to options like the Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro. You get an equalizer in their app along with various ANC settings to tinker with. And the inclusion of nine ear tip sizes means you can achieve just the right fit. Along with all this, LDAC Bluetooth codec support not only means reliable Android connectivity but even more chances to customize your sound.

Similarly, the awkward quirks and limitations of the AirPods Max might bother people who demand their over-ear headphones work the way they want. Instead, you could snag the Sony WH-1000XM5 and get more customizability, not to mention an EQ and LDAC support, too.

Alternatives: What to buy if AirPods aren’t your thing

Upon reflection and deciding that AirPods aren’t for you, there are still many other options to consider. The world of true wireless earbuds is vast, and here are some recommendations you could consider instead of Apple’s offerings.

The Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen) are a similarly tightly-integrated experience

A pair of Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen) sitting next to their case on a wood surface outdoors.
Zak Khan / Android Authority

If you want tight integration with other products in the manner of Apple, you may find the Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen) to be a good pick. Here’s quick glance at what you’ll get if you choose them:

  • Great ANC: The Echo Buds (2nd Gen) actually do ANC better than the first-generation AirPods Pro, and the addition of ear stays helps keep them secure.
  • Alexa integration: The Alexa app gives you handy features like an ear tip fit test, along with bonuses like workout tracking and smart device control via voice. If you want an ecosystem as tightly-integrated as Apple’s you can find it here.

We did find that the Echo Buds (2nd Gen) amped up bass notes a bit, which is fine though not ideal. Still, they don’t sound displeasing or anything, and you get an EQ through the Amazon app to handle it if it bothers you.

The Sony WF-1000XM4 don’t mind what device you use

sony wf 1000xm4 review case pairing

On the other hand, if you want platform-agnostic earbuds that deliver top-notch noise-cancelling and a comfortable fit, there are the Sony WF-1000XM4. These flagship earbuds give you lots to enjoy:

  • Excellent ANC and foam ear tips: Not only do the Sony WF-1000XM4 do a great job noise-cancelling, but they also come with foam ear tips. That means they can fit into your ear canals quite well and take care of high-frequency noises effectively.
  • Handy app: The Sony Headphones Connect app is cross-platform, so you can use these buds on Android and iOS alike.
  • Bluetooth codec options: With AAC, SBC, and LDAC Bluetooth codec support, the WF-1000XM4 have an option that works well with almost any device.

It is important to note that the default frequency response curve for the Sony WF-1000XM4 is a bit odd out of the box. Thankfully, the Headphones Connect app has an EQ that you can use to tweak this.

The Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro build their own walled garden

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro and Galaxy Z Flip 4
Robert Triggs / Android Authority

Another walled garden looms large in the earbuds world, and that’s Samsung’s. The Galaxy phone lineup has been around for a while now, and Samsung has its own earbuds to go with them, too. The latest of these are the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro, and they give you a similar experience to the AirPods Pro on an iPhone, including:

  • Spatial audio: Samsung calls its spatial audio implementation 360 Audio and it is only for Samsung devices, much like Apple’s spatial audio.
  • Easy device switching: Samsung device owners get easy device switching for their devices registered under the same account.
  • Outstanding ANC: The Galaxy Buds 2 Pro deliver some top-notch ANC that challenges even the Sony WF-1000XM4. And anyone can enjoy this regardless of device.
  • High-bitrate audio: The Samsung Scalable Codec in the Buds 2 Pro lets you enjoy up to 24-bit audio on the newest Samsung devices.

Much like the AirPods, the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro are primarily built for Galaxy owners, though the app works on all Android devices — but not iPhone. Another similarity to Apple and the H1 or H2 chip is the fact that the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro only give Samsung device users the Samsung Seamless Codec and automatic switching. Everyone else gets AAC and SBC, which are the same as what the AirPods offer.

Frequently asked questions about AirPods

That depends on what you think you should get for $500. To put it shortly, we liked the AirPods Max in general, but there were some small things that had us shaking our heads. While these wouldn’t bother us on cheaper headphones, when you spend a lot on a pair of cans, you’d want them to be practically flawless, after all.

We really liked how well the AirPods Max handle noise-cancelling and found that they offer some of the best ANC you can get. But if you are the kind of person that thinks spending this much money on headphones means you should be able to control your ANC experience, you might find some annoying hiccups. Namely, you can only turn off ANC entirely if you connect the AirPods Max to an iOS device. Otherwise, you can only enter transparency mode using the button on the AirPods Max by default. You can change it to another option with an iOS device, however.

On a similar note, the AirPods Max sound great out of the box. Their frequency response curve isn’t objectionable in any major way. That means all sorts of music should sound great, from country to classical. But just like their ANC, the Max don’t offer much in the way of customization. If you demand the ability to tweak your sound, there is no EQ that comes with the AirPods Max. You can find one in Apple Music on an iOS device, but any settings you make won’t stick around through power cycles.

Likewise, audiophiles that spend a lot on headphones to get lossless audio may not be entirely satisfied. That’s because there is no 3.5mm jack on the AirPods Max, so you have to buy a Lightning-to-3.5mm cable from Apple at $35. And because it’s Lightning, you’re going from analog to digital, then back to analog again before the sound leaves the headphones. That’s not technically lossless, and while a drop in quality may or may not be noticeable, there could be latency issues.

The Max also don’t offer aptX or LDAC Bluetooth codec support. Therefore, using them with an Android device may not be ideal, either.

Finally, the fact that they don’t have a real “off” button is odd. To turn them off, you have to put them back in their smart case. Otherwise, they stay on and drain the battery for a long time before entering sleep mode.

But as you can see, these are mostly quibbles. We found a lot to like with the AirPods Max, including their ability to auto-pause music if removed from your head and the 20 hour battery life is great (even if without a power button). Overall, we’ll say that the AirPods Max do feel a bit overpriced, but only because if you’re spending this much, you’d expect perfection, not near-perfection.

The AirPods Pro (2nd generation) don’t radically change the AirPods Pro (1st generation) in terms of design or features, so their biggest draw for you will likely be better ANC. If you have small ear canals, you will also appreciate their new XS ear tip size.

To elaborate, the first-generation AirPods Pro don’t have the best noise-cancelling you can get from true wireless earbuds, even if they’re famous for having ANC. Apple likely noticed this, and they promise that the new second-generation AirPods Pro have “double” the ANC capabilities. We’ll have to test them and see what Apple means by this, but it’ll likely be a good upgrade. Otherwise, you get the same set of features. That includes Personalized Spatial Audio and automatic device switching.

Something else that could tip you in the direction of the second-generation AirPods Pro is the fact that their case has the U1 chip and a small speaker. These things combined can help you find your earbuds if you lose them. The case also has a lanyard loop to anchor it to a bag or keychain to further aid in keeping track of them.

To put it shortly, the biggest draw of the AirPods Pro (2nd generation) will be their better ANC, the H2 and U1 chips, and the fact Apple is more apt to support them longer. Unlike the AirPods (2nd generation) and AirPods (3rd generation), Apple does not offer the AirPods Pro (2nd generation) alongside their predecessor. Rather, they replace the AirPods Pro (1st generation). But if you don’t mind that, you should be able to find the first-generation AirPods Pro on sale and get a similar experience.

For AirPods that have ANC, namely the first- and second-generation Pro and the Max, the answer comes down to the AirPods Pro (2nd generation) and AirPods Max.

The first-generation AirPods Pro had good ANC, but since their introduction, many other manufacturers have come out with true wireless earbuds that do ANC just as good if not better than them. We will have to test the AirPods Pro (2nd generation), but they promise improved ANC so they are likely the safer bet in that regard.

When it comes to the AirPods Max, they offer excellent ANC that beats the likes of the Sony WH-1000XM4. They don’t do as well as the newer Sony WH-1000XM5 when it comes to blocking out high-frequency noises via isolation, but they’re still impressive. That puts them among the best ANC over-ear headphones out there.

Basically, any of the Pro models or the Max sound great. The other flavors of AirPods are not sealed, and that design might make it hard for you to get a good seal. That could lead to auditory masking and problems with sound that you can easily avoid by choosing the Pro or Max.

Apple itself doesn’t often put the AirPods on sale. But if you keep a keen eye on places like Amazon or Best Buy, you might snag a pair for a few bucks off during Black Friday promotions or other events. Additionally, when a new pair of AirPods replaces a previous version, like the AirPods Pro (2nd generation) replacing the AirPods (1st generation), the older version is likely to go on sale at other retailers even if Apple no longer directly sells them.

Apple itself offers refurbished iPhones and Macs among other things, but not AirPods. You’ll have to turn to third-party suppliers like therightpod.com for that. Another reason you may have to do this is if you lose an older AirPods model earbud or case because Apple only supplies replacement AirPods Pro and AirPods (3rd generation) components.

AppleCare+ does not cover replacements for lost AirPods, but it does cover battery replacements if your device holds less than 80% of its original charge for both the case and earbuds or the battery in the Max. Otherwise, battery service for wear from normal use comes with a fee. Additionally, Apple charges you for replacement earbuds and cases if you’ve lost them, and as mentioned you can only buy replacement AirPods Pro and AirPods (3rd generation) parts.