Battery (buds): 6 hours
spatial sound: yes
Water Resistant: IPX4
Apple’s flagship earbuds feature active noise cancellation, in-ear noise isolation — and the ANC is among the best you can get. The sound quality is a huge step up in detail and richness compared to the AirPods 3 as well, especially for vocals. The case can make a noise when you lose it, and your iPhone can point you at it, too.
- Awesome noise blocking
- Much better sound quality
- non-losable condition
- The more expensive of the two
- Not everyone likes a fit in the ear
Battery (buds): 6 hours
spatial sound: yes
Water Resistant: IPX4
Apple’s latest regular AirPods retain the outer ear fit, which some prefer for comfort, but allow outside sound to enter. They match the Airpods 3 with six hours of battery in the buds, and support for spatial audio. But the sound quality isn’t as strong, and Find My support is more basic. This is the payoff for the cheaper price.
- cheaper of the two
- Same battery life as the Pro
- Spatial audio support
- There is no noise isolation
- Weaker sound quality
With the launch of the AirPods Pro 2, Apple now has a range of AirPods to choose from. But with the AirPods Max price still rising, most of us will be wondering which is the better option: Apple AirPods 3 or AirPods Pro 2?
The differences between the original Apple AirPods (2019) and AirPods Pro were significant, and the same can be said for the AirPods Pro 2. The new Pro version offers noise cancellation, custom in-ear tips (including a new very small option for smaller ears), a Transparency mode Adaptive processing that handles ambient sound, support for spatial audio with the new personalization feature, and capacitive touch control for adjusting volume with a swipe.
While none of the aforementioned features can be found on the original AirPods, the AirPods 3 have added several of them, though they are generally less advanced than what you’ll find with the new AirPods Pro 2.
We’ll give you a rundown of the features that can be found on each of Apple’s wireless earbuds, and compare and contrast each to provide a better sense of what you can expect. Take a look at our Apple AirPods Pro 2 review and Apple AirPods 3 review for more in-depth information on Apple’s greatest wireless earbuds.
Apple AirPods 3 vs. AirPods Pro 2: Noise Cancellation
As with the AirPods Pro (2019), the AirPods Pro 2 have Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) — a feature not found on the AirPods 3. Using any earbuds at all will give you some form of protection against noise, but ANC will better filter out annoyances. As effective as the noise of a commuter train, bus or plane engine, nearby chatter, and bad music playing over your home gym sound system.
For AirPods Pro 2, ANC has been upgraded with a new H2 chip that delivers advanced computational audio. During testing, we found this to be very impressive. In our AirPods Pro 2 review, we wrote: “The world reigns supreme, and you instantly enter a soft, comfortable studio where it’s just you and your music. The effect is stark and worth the cost of the headphones alone.”
We also noticed that the vast majority of sounds are canceled out here, including wind, trains, and those annoying low-frequency sounds of fans and air-conditioning units. According to Apple, the inclusion of the H2 chip allows for twice the level of noise cancellation compared to what is found in the AirPods Pro (2019).
A related feature is the adaptive transparency mode which is effective enough to have a conversation with a friend and then drown out the sound of heavy machinery as you pass them on your walk to or from work.
Apple AirPods 3 vs. AirPods Pro 2: Design and Comfort
The new AirPods 3 and AirPods Pro 2 have the same prominent stick design, so you’ll need to feel comfortable with that theme to choose either.
What differs between the two models are the interchangeable ear tips that come with the AirPods Pro 2, which help find the best and most secure fit in the ear. A secure on-ear fit may not seem like a deal breaker, but you’ll understand why it’s important if you ever go for a run and your earphones spill on the floor.
For the AirPods Pro 2, Apple has added a tiny ear tip option. In our review, we called this “a much-needed change that we should commend Apple for making” because now more people can wear them.
Apple AirPods 3 vs. AirPods Pro 2: Battery Life
The AirPods 3 already offered superior battery life compared to the original AirPods Pro, but the new Pro 2 matches the AirPods 3 in providing 6 hours of listening time and 30 hours total with the help of the included charging case. And that’s when using ANC, a feature that reduces battery life.
While the AirPods 3 use the Lightning connection to charge, the Pro 2 offers the option of MagSafe charging.
The charging case that comes with the AirPods Pro 2 also has a built-in speaker that provides feedback when it detects a low charge, or when you search for it using the Find My feature in iOS. We think this is a useful upgrade, and the previous method on older models was to have the buds themselves play really loud noises, which didn’t work.
Apple AirPods 3 vs. AirPods Pro 2: Price
If you’re primarily looking to save money, the AirPods 3 are easily the best deal at $179 / £169 / AU$279. And while the $249 / £220 / AU$399 Apple is asking for the Pro 2 isn’t a huge price jump – and it’s very much worth it if you need ANC – the AirPods 3 are an affordable mainstream option, and you’ll be more for it if I scored them for Black Friday or any other holiday deal.
Since the AirPods Pro 2 are so new, we expect their price to remain stable for some time, making the choice between the two models even more difficult.
Which model is best for you, AirPods 3 or AirPods Pro 2, will ultimately meet your needs and budget.
The AirPods Pro 2’s Active Noise Cancellation and Adaptive Transparency alone make it a superior offering to the AirPods 3, though not everyone will need those features.
While both models offer Spatial Audio, the Pro 2 adds a customization feature that adjusts the sound based on the shape of your head and ear. The Pro 2 also has an upgraded case with audio feedback, and the on-ear controls can be used to adjust volume by swiping.
While the AirPods 3 aren’t quite as feature-packed as they do offer some basic functionality as the Pro 2, it’s hard to argue with their price, especially if they go on sale.