The $249 AirPods Pro 2 and the $169 AirPods 3 are your two options if you want to spend money on the greatest earphones Apple has to offer.
With excellent noise cancellation (ANC), fantastic sound quality, and convenient touch controls, the most recent AirPods Pro are the best there is. This makes them an easy choice for the best wireless earbuds for Apple customers. The AirPods 3 incorporate some of the Pros’ standout features, such as their sophisticated appearance and immersive Spatial Audio, but do it more compactly and cost-effectively at the expense of ANC and a snug silicon fit.
Although these two earbuds are comparable at first glance, after rigorous testing, one stands out as the superior option. How to choose between the AirPods Pro 2 and the AirPods 3 is provided here.
You should get the AirPods Pro 2 if…Do you care about active noise cancellation?
Active noise cancellation is the primary benefit of the AirPods Pro over the regular AirPods, and this is doubly true of the updated version. The AirPods Pro 2 boast some of the greatest active noise cancellation (ANC) we’ve yet tested in earbuds, turning busy environments like construction sites and chatty subway vehicles into a pleasantly silent hum. Additionally, the AirPods Pro 2’s Transparency mode amplifies nearby sounds more effectively than ever when you do need to hear the outside world so you don’t miss that crucial airport announcement.
These two features are absent from the AirPods 3. While they have an open design that naturally lets in outside sounds and can get loud enough to block out some noise, you won’t be able to amplify or quiet your surroundings nearly as much as you do on the Pros.
You want a secure, customized fit
Additionally, the AirPods Pro 2 offer the benefit of a better fit. Compared to the all-plastic AirPods 3, Apple’s higher-end earbuds have a set of interchangeable silicon tips that fit snugly within your ear. In contrast to the most recent Pros, I always worry that the AirPods 3 might slip out. This is particularly important to keep in mind if you frequently exercise and need gym-safe headphones (fortunately, both sets are IPX4 rated to endure daily sweat, but we’d suggest the Beats Fit Pro for more serious sports).
Along with the current small, medium, and large ear tip options that come in the package, the most recent AirPods Pro 2 also provide a new extra-small ear tip choice. This allows you to experiment with multiple sizes to see which one works best, in contrast to the AirPods 3, which feature a one-size-fits-all design and no interchangeable tips.
You want the best controls a set of AirPods can offer
The addition of touch controls, which allow you to quickly slide up or down the stems to change the earbuds’ volume, is one of the AirPods Pro 2’s more modest enhancements. In my testing, a simple tweak has resulted in a huge improvement because I seldom ever need to pull my phone out to adjust the audio playback any longer. However, once you’ve utilized touch controls, it’s difficult to switch back. The AirPods 3 otherwise offer the same excellent pinch controls you’ll get on the Pro (as well as hands-free Siri support).
You should get the AirPods 3 if…You’re looking to spend less than $200
The AirPods 3 start at $169, which is over $100 less expensive than the $249 AirPods Pro 2 — at least at full retail. For that price, you get a lot, including the same customized Spatial Audio as the AirPods Pro, which lets you enjoy supported movies and TV shows and Apple Music tracks in immersive 360-degree sound. The AirPods 3 are surprisingly comparable in sound quality given their somewhat lower pricing, even if the AirPods Pro 2 sound slightly louder and more full-bodied.
The AirPods 3 have the same 6-hour battery life and wireless charging as their more costly sister, and they both have the same water resistance (for the case and the buds themselves). Additionally, if you choose the $179 model, you’ll receive a MagSafe Charging Case for compatibility with the several MagSafe chargers on the market, much like with the Pro.
Do you prefer a more open design?
Although I favour the silicone fit of the AirPods Pro, I am aware that many others would rather not have something inserted far into their ear canal. The AirPods 3 are ideal for those who belong to the latter group. For people who prefer not to be completely blocked off from the outer world when listening to music or podcasts, they feature a more open design that naturally lets a good bit of outside noise in. Even though I’ve grown accustomed to the snugger Pro models, I still think the AirPods Pro 3 are incredibly pleasant, even though they don’t feel nearly as secure.
I’d strongly advise investing in the AirPods Pro 2 if you have the funds or the patience to wait for a deal. Smaller features like on-ear volume controls and a more difficult-to-lose case can have a significant influence on daily use in addition to their excellent noise cancellation, which makes a great difference (particularly for commuting and working from home). The AirPods Pro 2 have been on sale for as little as $199, which is a great deal for the best Apple earbuds available even though they aren’t inexpensive at their full retail price of $249.
With the $169 AirPods 3 (which had previously cost as little as $139), people on a tighter budget may benefit significantly. But for everyone else, the AirPods Pro 2 are well worth the extra cost, especially because you don’t often have to buy them brand new anymore.