Search results for

All search results
Best daily deals

Affiliate links on Android Authority may earn us a commission. Learn more.

Apple AirPods Pro (2nd gen) vs AirPods (3rd gen): Which should you buy?

Both sets of buds are from Apple, but which ones are golden?
By

Published onAugust 25, 2023

Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Generation)
MSRP: $249.00
Check price
Positives
Effective ANC
Great sound quality - Lossless Audio
Great auto-wear detection
Water-resistant buds and case
USB-C charging
Good fit with four ear tip options
Negatives
Many Apple-exclusive features
No way to customize the EQ without third-party app
The Bottom Line.
The Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) modestly improves upon the first-generation AirPods Pro and features the same iconic look. Apple's upgraded H2 chip begets better active noise canceling (ANC) and battery life, while the case's U1 chip and integrated speaker lets you precisely locate it from the Find My app. If you own an iPhone, the new AirPods Pro is an obvious choice but you do have others too!Read full review...
Apple AirPods (3rd Generation)
MSRP: $195.00
Check price
Positives
H1 chip
Portable
Adaptive EQ (iOS, Android, Windows)
Spatial Audio with head tracking
MagSafe case with wireless charging
IPX4 rating
Negatives
Poor fit, no isolation
Sound quality
Features limited to iOS
The Bottom Line.
The Apple AirPods (3rd generation) improves upon the 2019 model with its more ergonomic, yet unsealed, fit, water-resistant build, MagSafe charging case, and advanced software features. You can enjoy a wholly immersive movie experience with the new AirPods' spatial audio with head tracking, and enjoy HD audio during FaceTime calls. Of course, most of these features are limited to Apple hardware, so Android owners can keep moving.Read full review...

Apple is the top dog when it comes to flagship earbuds, and each of its AirPods sell like hotcakes. In our AirPods Pro 2 vs AirPods 3 face-off, we’ll compare these two famous earbuds. The AirPods Pro (2nd generation) are pricier and more premium, but the AirPods (3rd generation) may fit your lifestyle better. Let’s review the earbuds’ design, performance, sound quality, and more to see which ones make the most sense for your needs.

Apple AirPods Pro 2 vs AirPods 3: At a glance

By and large, the AirPods Pro (2nd generation) and AirPods (3rd generation) are quite similar. Here's a brief introduction to their main differences:

  • The AirPods Pro 2 have ear tips, and the AirPods 3 do not.
  • The AirPods Pro 2 have active noise canceling (ANC) and Adaptive Transparency, both of which the AirPods 3 lack.
  • The AirPods Pro 2 charging case has a U1 chip and speaker for more location tracking options than the AirPods 3 case.
  • The AirPods Pro 2 cost $249, and the AirPods 3 start at $169.

Apple AirPods Pro 2 vs AirPods 3: Specs

AirPods Pro (2nd generation)AirPods (3rd generation)
Dimensions
AirPods Pro (2nd generation)
Earbud: 30.9 x 21.8 x 24.0mm
Case: 45.2 x 60.6 x 21.7mm
AirPods (3rd generation)
Earbud: 30.79 x 18.26 x 19.21mm
Lightning/MagSafe case: 46.40 x 54.40 x 21.38mm
Weights
AirPods Pro (2nd generation)
Earbud: 5.3g
Case: 50.8g
AirPods (3rd generation)
Earbud: 4.28g
Lightning/MagSafe case: 37.91g
Bluetooth connectivity
AirPods Pro (2nd generation)
Bluetooth 5.3
SBC, AAC
AirPods (3rd generation)
Bluetooth 5.0
SBC, AAC
Water resistance
AirPods Pro (2nd generation)
Earbuds: IPX4
Case: IPX4
AirPods (3rd generation)
Earbuds: IPX4
Case: IPX4
Listening time
AirPods Pro (2nd generation)
Earbuds, ANC on: 6 hours
Earbuds, personalized Spatial Audio and head tracking: 5.5 hours
Earbuds and case: up to 30 hours
AirPods (3rd generation)
Earbuds: 6 hours
Spatial Audio: 5 hours
Earbuds and case: 30 hours
Talk time
AirPods Pro (2nd generation)
Earbuds ANC on: 4.5 hours
Earbuds and case: 24 hours
AirPods (3rd generation)
Earbuds: 4 hours
Earbuds and case: 20 hours
Charging
AirPods Pro (2nd generation)
Lightning
MagSafe
Wireless
AirPods (3rd generation)
Lightning or Lightning and MagSafe, depends on variant
Audio hardware
AirPods Pro (2nd generation)
Custom high-excursion Apple driver
Custom high dynamic range amplifier
Vent system for pressure equalization

AirPods (3rd generation)
Custom high-excursion Apple driver
Custom high dynamic range amplifier
Sensors
AirPods Pro (2nd generation)
Dual beamforming microphones
Inward-facing microphone
Skin-detect sensor
Motion-detecting accelerometer
Speech-detecting accelerometer
Force sensor
Touch control
AirPods (3rd generation)
Dual beamforming microphones
Inward-facing microphone
Skin-detect sensor
Motion-detecting accelerometer
Speech-detecting accelerometer
Force sensor
Device compatibility
AirPods Pro (2nd generation)
Latest versions of iOS, macOS, Apple Watch, Apple TV
Android: Limited Bluetooth features only
Windows: Limited Bluetooth features only
AirPods (3rd generation)
Latest versions of iOS, macOS, Apple Watch, Apple TV
Android: Limited Bluetooth features only
Windows: Limited Bluetooth features only
Chipset
AirPods Pro (2nd generation)
H2 (earbuds)
U1 (case)
AirPods (3rd generation)
H1 (earbuds)
Personalized Spatial Audio with head tracking
AirPods Pro (2nd generation)
Yes
AirPods (3rd generation)
Yes
Noise canceling
AirPods Pro (2nd generation)
Yes
AirPods (3rd generation)
No
Transparency
AirPods Pro (2nd generation)
Yes, adaptive
AirPods (3rd generation)
No
Ear tip selection
AirPods Pro (2nd generation)
XS, S, M, L
AirPods (3rd generation)
None
Release date
AirPods Pro (2nd generation)
September 23, 2022
AirPods (3rd generation)
October 26, 2021
Price
AirPods Pro (2nd generation)
$249
AirPods (3rd generation)
$169 / $179

The AirPods Pro (2nd generation) and AirPods (3rd generation) share a similar look and feel. The AirPods 3 are basically the AirPods Pro 2 without ear tips. Due to the AirPods Pro 2’s ear tips, you get a more stable fit than the AirPods 3. When reviewing the AirPods Pro 2, I found the more stable fit proved better for exercise. Further, with the AirPods Pro 2, you get the added benefit of passive isolation from the ear tips, which is necessary for the earbuds’ excellent ANC.

When you want to hear your surroundings with the AirPods Pro 2, there’s Adaptive Transparency. This amplifies background noise through the earbuds to keep you aware of your surroundings. The AirPods 3 lack Transparency because they don’t block out background noise. Instead, you’re constantly hearing your surroundings with the AirPods 3.

Although both sets of buds have force sensors, only the AirPods Pro (2nd generation) support onboard volume controls. To adjust the volume of your AirPods 3, you need to reach for your phone or ask Siri to adjust it.

The AirPods Pro 2 come with ear tips, which promote a more stable and comfortable fit.

Another difference: the AirPods Pro 2 case houses Apple’s proprietary U1 chip for location tracking. Apple also integrated a speaker into the AirPods Pro 2 case, a first for the AirPods line. With the Find My app, listeners can see the case’s location on a map and force its speaker to emit a sound. You cannot locate the AirPods 3 case on a map through Find My, just the individual AirPods.

Both sets of earbuds support Apple’s Spatial Audio with head tracking. Spatial audio is a catch-all term for 360-degree audio playback. It can make movies, TV shows, and even music more immersive. You also get the same IPX4 water-resistant rating with the AirPods and their cases. This means both sets of AirPods can endure water sprays, just don’t drop them in the sink or a pool.

Apple AirPods Pro 2 vs AirPods 3: Noise canceling and isolation

AirPods Pro 2nd generation water
Lily Katz / Android Authority

If you want to enjoy your music in silence, get the AirPods Pro 2 instead of the AirPods 3. I’ve used the AirPods Pro 2 on several flights and am always grateful for their ANC. That said, noise canceling isn’t the be-all, end-all. Sometimes, it’s beneficial to hear what’s going on around you. After all, there’s an entire market dedicated to open ear headphones. If you want to hear your music and your environment simultaneously, the AirPods 3 make more sense than the AirPods Pro 2.

The AirPods (3rd generation) cover your ear canals but don’t create a cogent seal to isolate you from the world. You can see how this affects isolation performance in the comparison chart below. To interpret the data, know that the higher the line, the more noise the earbuds block out. Blocking out frequencies from 0-2,040Hz is the most important for good isolation.

A chart compares the Apple AirPods Pro 2nd generation noise-cancelling to the AirPods 3rd generation isolation performance.

The dashed pink line represents the non-ANC AirPods 3. As you can see, the AirPods 3 line blocks out 0dB of noise until just shy of 2,000Hz. Compare that to the AirPods Pro (2nd generation), represented by the solid cyan line. The AirPods Pro 2 do much more to block out all frequencies. In use, you’ll notice that low rumbles from traffic outside your office window or airplane engines are quieter with the AirPods Pro 2 (ANC on). Listening to the AirPods Pro 2 with ANC quiets these low frequencies by up to 91% compared to the AirPods 3.

Apple AirPods Pro 2 vs AirPods 3: Sound quality

The Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) sensors decorate the earbuds which lay on a yellow, textured surface.
Lily Katz / Android Authority

The AirPods Pro (2nd generation) sound better than the AirPods (3rd generation). With the AirPods Pro 2, you get a louder sub-bass response and can feel a thumb from your favorite song’s bass line. You’ll still hear vocal and higher-pitched instrumental detail from the AirPods Pro 2, too. In contrast to the AirPods Pro 2, the AirPods 3 severely lack sub-bass, and the treble is a touch too loud. This significant difference in loudness between the sub-bass and treble can make music sound unnatural. For instance, cymbal hits may come through louder than expected with the AirPods 3.

A chart compares the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd gen) vs AirPods (3rd generation) frequency responses.
Lily Katz / Android Authority

You can see how both AirPods’ frequency responses differ in the chart above. The cyan line represents the AirPods Pro 2; the yellow dotted line represents the AirPods 3; and the pink line represents SoundGuys‘ Target Curve. (SoundGuys is our audio-focused sister site.) SoundGuys posits the Target Curve as the ideal frequency response for consumer headphones and earbuds. Neither set of earbuds perfectly matches the Target Curve, but the AirPods Pro 2 are much closer.

With some earbuds, you can adjust the sound with a complimentary app, but that’s not the case with the AirPods. Even if you own an iPhone, you can’t customize the sound through the Settings app. The only way to create a custom EQ with the AirPods is with a third-party app or your music app’s equalizer.

Apple AirPods Pro 2 vs AirPods 3: Microphone quality

A person wears the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) in profile view.
Lily Katz / Android Authority

The AirPods Pro (2nd generation) and AirPods (3rd generation) have sufficient microphone quality for phone calls. In ideal conditions, the AirPods Pro 2 relay louder audio but drop the speaker’s voice occasionally. On the other hand, the AirPods 3 relay slightly quiet audio but rarely drop the speaker’s voice in ideal conditions.

In our demos with simulated street noises, neither set of AirPods excels. The AirPods 3 transmit more background noise than the AirPods Pro 2, but the latter tends to lose the speaker’s voice slightly more often.

Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) microphone demo (Ideal conditions):

Apple AirPods (3rd generation) microphone demo (Ideal conditions):

Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) microphone demo (Street conditions):

Apple AirPods (3rd generation) microphone demo (Street conditions):

Apple AirPods Pro 2 vs AirPods 3: Battery and charging

Apple Airpods Pro 2nd generation vs Apple Airpods 3rd generation case comparison 1
Lily Katz / Android Authority

According to Apple, a single charge of the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) lasts six hours with ANC, or you can get five hours, 30 minutes of talk time. The case provides an extra 24 hours of listening time, or 19 hours, 30 minutes of talk time. Officially, the AirPods (3rd generation) provide six hours of media playback on a single charge and four hours of talk time. The AirPods 3 case supplies 26 extra hours of music playback or 14 more hours of talk time.

In our testing, we subjected the AirPods Pro 2 and AirPods 3 to constant music playback peaking at 75dB (SPL). We enabled ANC on the Airpods Pro 2, and these were the battery life results:

  • AirPods Pro (2nd generation), ANC on: Five hours, 43 minutes.
  • AirPods (3rd generation): Six hours, 21 minutes.

A five-minute charge of either set of AirPods provides one hour of listening or talk time. By default, both AirPods cases support Lightning charging. The AirPods Pro 2 come with a MagSafe charging case. To get a MagSafe case with the AirPods 3, you’ll pay $179 instead of $169.

Apple AirPods Pro 2 vs AirPods 3: Price

Apple Airpods Pro 2nd generation vs Apple Airpods 3rd generation case and earbuds comparison
Lily Katz / Android Authority
  • Apple AirPods Pro 2: $249
  • Apple AirPods 3 (Lightning case): $169
  • Apple AirPods 3 (MagSafe wireless charging case): $179

The AirPods Pro (2nd generation) retail for $249, matching the original AirPods Pro. The AirPods (3rd generation) are much cheaper and start at $169 for the Lightning charging case. If you want a MagSafe wireless charging case, the cost bumps up to $179. Don’t worry: the MagSafe variant also supports Lightning cable charging.

Around shopping holidays, we’ve seen the AirPods Pro 2 drop as low as $199 from big box retailers. Likewise, the AirPods 3 have gone on sale for as low as $149. If you don’t want to wait for a sale, both AirPods models are readily available from the Apple Store and other retailers like Best Buy, Target, and Amazon.

Apple AirPods Pro 2 vs AirPods 3: Which earbuds should you buy?

Apple Airpods Pro 2nd generation vs Apple Airpods 3rd generation hero case comparison
Austin Kwok / Android Authority

The AirPods Pro (2nd generation) and AirPods (3rd generation) are excellent earbuds, particularly for iPhone owners. The noise canceling, fit, and onboard controls are all better with the AirPods Pro 2, though. Plus, the AirPods Pro 2 have more advanced location tracking for the case.

The AirPods Pro 2 are the better earbuds for commuting, but the AirPods 3 keep you aware of your surroundings at all times.

For listeners in need of earbuds to cover their commute, conference calls, and gym sessions, the AirPods Pro 2 are the better buy. That said, some people just prefer unsealed earphones. If that resonates with you, go ahead and buy the AirPods 3. These earbuds offer an AirPods Pro-like experience without ear tips and noise canceling. Let’s not forget that the more affordable price of the AirPods 3 is appealing too.

If you already have the AirPods (3rd generation), it could be worth upgrading to the AirPods Pro (2nd generation) for ANC and better sound quality. Should you decide to upgrade, I recommend waiting for the AirPods Pro 2 to go on sale. Wireless earbud batteries rarely last longer than two years of daily use, so you’re better off avoiding the full price if you can.

Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Generation)Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Generation)
AA Recommended
Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Generation)
Impressive ANC • Comfortable fit • Wireless charging
MSRP: $249.00
One of the best true wireless earbuds for iOS users.
The Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) modestly improve upon the first-generation AirPods Pro and feature the same iconic look. Apple's upgraded H2 chip begets better noise canceling and battery life, while the case's U1 chip and integrated speaker let you precisely locate the case. If you own an iPhone, the AirPods Pro 2 are an obvious choice.
Apple AirPods (3rd Generation)Apple AirPods (3rd Generation)
Apple AirPods (3rd Generation)
H1 chip • Easy for iPhones • Deep Apple integration
MSRP: $195.00
These work with Android, but iPhone users will see the best results
The Apple AirPods (3rd gen) are just a slight upgrade over the second-generation models, but iPhone users will be quite happy with the deep integration and ease of use these earbuds provide.

You might like