The $179 AirPods 3 and $249 AirPods Pro are both in the upper echelon of Apple’s earbuds lineup, so knowing the upsides and downsides to each are critical. Both of these have a shorter stem with a contoured head and deliver better audio quality over standard AirPods. The real differences come down to noise cancellation and what type of ear tip you prefer.
We’ve gone ears-on with AirPods Pro for well over two years, and AirPods 3 for well over a week. So let’s break down what you need to know to figure out which Apple earbuds are right for you.
The best mix of features for the price
Get the AirPods 3 if you want quality sound and extra features like Spatial Audio and don’t mind a more open design.
Premium noise cancellation and fit
Get the AirPods Pro if you want active noise cancellation (ANC), a transparency mode and swappable ear tips with a more secure fit.
Jacob Krol/CNN You care about battery life
AirPods 3 offer the longest battery life of any true wireless earbud from Apple. With listening volumes in between 60% and 70%, we clocked AirPods 3 at six hours and 10 minutes of listening time. The case itself provides four additional recharges, which equates to about 30 total hours of listening. Better yet, five minutes in the charging case gives you about an hour of listening.
AirPods Pro, on the other hand, last for about four hours and 30 minutes with ANC on and only five hours with it off. AirPods 3 are the clear winner if you care about battery life.
You want a fully water- and sweat-resistance experience
The physical left and right AirPods Pro carry a water- and sweat-resistant rating — IPX4, to be specific, but that doesn’t extend to the companion case. That changes on AirPods 3, as it’s the first time that both the earbuds themselves and the case are designed to endure a few splashes.
So what’s the advantage here? Well, you don’t have to worry about getting the case wet or keeping it on your body — like in a pocket — while you’re working out. We got plenty sweaty during a 45-minute endurance Peloton ride and had the case in our pants pocket, and had peace of mind that we wouldn’t cause lasting damage.
You want ‘Pro-level’ features for less
AirPods 3 are $70 cheaper than the AirPods Pro, and you’re only giving up silicone ear tips, noise cancellation and a transparency mode. The newest AirPods deliver on great, robust sound, thanks to a new driver and Adaptive EQ, which adjusts the mix in real time for your ears (just like on the Pro). They sound nearly as good and support Spatial Audio with head tracking. If you’re cool with a looser fit that doesn’t seal off your ear and no noise cancellation, AirPods 3 are the way to go.
Jacob Krol/CNN You want noise cancellation and a transparency mode
AirPods Pro are our top earbuds pick for Apple users for a number of reasons, and their listening modes are a big reason why. Whether you need silence while flying, taking the commuter rail or just at your desk, AirPods Pro’s ANC
AirPods Pro vs. AirPods 3: Which Apple earbuds are for you?
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