For many of us, a good pair of headphones is essential, not only for our entertainment, but also for work. Whether you find your concentration increases when listening to music or you need sturdy headphones for frequent video calls, high-end headphones can make a real difference.
And when it comes to headphones, Apple makes some of the best: AirPods 3 and AirPods Pro. But what are the best audio qualities? Which offer the most features? And is it worth paying extra for the AirPods Pro? Our guide will help you find the answers. And once you’ve decided, we can help you find a great AirPods deal, too. For more on Apple’s deals, check out our best Apple headphones guide.
AirPods 3 vs. AirPods Pro: Design
It used to be easy to tell the difference between regular AirPods and AirPods Pro just by looking at them because they had such different designs. The AirPods had the longest stems of the original product design, while the AirPods Pro took on a much chunkier appearance. Now, AirPods 3 have the same short-stem look as AirPods Pro, meaning both sets of earbuds only protrude slightly from your ears.
There has always been a way to tell the difference, and it’s still true today: ear tips. AirPods Pro have rubberized tips, which allow for a snug fit in your ears, which is essential for enabling their active noise cancellation (ANC). Since the AirPods 3 don’t have ANC, they skip the rubber tips and just use the same plastic molding as the rest of the device instead.
AirPods 3 vs. AirPods Pro: Battery life
When thinking about AirPods battery life, there are two things to consider: the battery life of the earbuds outside of their charging case, and the total battery life you’ll get. before everything has to be reloaded. Indeed, the MagSafe charging cases for both AirPods products charge the earphones whenever they are placed inside. Each case can do this several times before it needs recharging itself.
AirPods 3 last up to six hours of listening time on a single charge, five hours with ANC on, or four hours of talk time. You will then get four additional charges from the charging case.
For the AirPods Pro, those numbers are slightly lower: five hours of listening time on a single charge, 4.5 hours with ANC on, or 3.5 hours of talk time. Apple says you’ll get “over 24 hours of listening time” including case charges.
AirPods 3 vs. AirPods Pro: Features
The most obvious difference in features is that the AirPods Pro have active noise cancellation, which helps eliminate distractions so you can focus on what you’re listening to. A similar feature only found on AirPods Pro is Transparency mode, which does the opposite of ANC by letting in more sound when you’re wearing the earbuds, helping you be more aware of the world around you. .
Both products feature spatial sound with head tracking, which means you get enveloping sound that changes depending on your head position, and both also come with a MagSafe charging case, which boasts 15W charging speeds.
Either way, you also get the Apple H1 chip, which works with Bluetooth 5.0 and lets you launch Siri with your voice (rather than using the device stem like on the first-gen AirPods). This chip also enables quick and easy connections to other Apple devices.
AirPods 3 vs. AirPods Pro: sound quality
While neither the AirPods 3 nor the AirPods Pro are likely to convince serious audiophiles of their merits — they’re not $1,000 headphones, after all — they both offer superb sound quality for just about everyone. world.
Both models offer a feature called Adaptive EQ. Apple says this uses a microphone to monitor the sound inside your ear, then adjusts the audio output based on the fit of the headphones. That should mean you get great sound no matter what shape your inner ears are.
You also get spatial sound with AirPods 3 and AirPods Pro. This creates a virtual space around your head when using the headphones, giving you 360-degree sound in everything you listen to.
Despite the similarities, we think the AirPods Pro go a step ahead with their ANC, which can help you deliver a more immersive listening experience. It’s extremely close, however, and the AirPods 3 still deliver superb sound quality.
AirPods 3 vs. AirPods Pro: Price
Price is one area where the AirPods 3 win the prize. For one, they’re more affordable, costing $179 (£169) to the $249 (£239) AirPods Pro. Neither are exactly cheap, but if you’re on a more limited budget, the AirPods 3 are definitely the more wallet-friendly option.
But there is another aspect to this: the price-performance ratio. When Apple added some of the best features from AirPods Pro to AirPods 3, including adaptive equalizer and spatial audio, they narrowed the gap between the devices dramatically. If you don’t care too much about active noise cancellation, the AirPods 3 are a very tempting option and represent excellent value for money, considering the price you get.
It’s also a good idea to watch out for AirPods deals. While Apple rarely drops the price of its line of AirPods, third-party retailers frequently put them on sale. Our summary page will keep you up to date.
AirPods 3 vs. AirPods Pro: the verdict
The decision to buy AirPods 3 or AirPods Pro largely depends on how much you’re willing to pay. If money’s no object, AirPods Pro will give you the most features and the best performance Apple has to offer – not to mention the $549 (£549) AirPods Max, of course. If, on the other hand, price is more of an issue, the AirPods 3 will more up the ante without forcing you to miss out on much.
And that last part is relevant. Apple has managed to make the AirPods 3 invaluable: not only do they have almost all the same features as the AirPods Pro, but they also have better battery life. If active noise cancellation is essential to you, get the AirPods Pro. For everyone else, the AirPods 3 will probably be the best choice.