RS Recommends: The Best Apple AirPods for Casual Listeners and Audiophiles Alike

·6 min read

Apple’s AirPods have been around for years now and the brand has consistently rereleased new iterations of its original buds. Whether it’s stellar noise cancellation you’re looking for or a comfortable, ergonomic fit, there’s an AirPod style out there that will suit you. But, with so many models on the market, it might be hard to decide which AirPods are worth your buck.

To make it easier, we’ve listed all the best AirPods models below, including who they would be best suited for.

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Best AirPods Buying Guide: How to Pick the Right Pair

Noise Cancelling: If you’re primarily looking for a pair of AirPods that features a noise-cancelling mode, you’ll need to get the AirPods Pro or the AirPods Max. As of right now, no other AirPods feature noise cancellation features.

Sound: In our experience, every pair of Apple AirPods boasts clear-sounding audio, even after months of usage. That said, the AirPods Pro deliver better bass, thanks to their “sealed” fit. Newer AirPods also feature Adaptive EQ, which the brand says adjusts the sound to the shape of your ear.

Fit: Newer AirPods are far better fitting than the original AirPods, especially if you’ve got smaller ears. The AirPods Pro, for example, come with three silicone ear tips, allowing you to find the right fit for your ears. Apple even uses an ear tip fit test for the AirPods Pro, allowing you to see for yourself which fit delivers the best sound for you. AirPods Max also have a comfortable, over-ear fit that can be adjusted to fully envelop your outer ear.

Battery Life: While all the AirPods feature decent battery lives, this category is won by the AirPods Max which offer up to 20 hours of battery life on a single charge. In the earbud category, the newer AirPods 3rd Gen are the clear winner, boasting about six hours of battery life on a single charge — in comparison, the AirPods Pro hold about 4.5 hours of charge.

Sweat Resistance: Both the AirPods Pro and AirPods 3rd Gen feature an IPX4 rating, meaning you can wear them while you work out without damaging the components. The AirPods 3rd Gen take this a step further, now featuring a sweat-resistant case as well, meaning your wireless charging case can endure a few light splashes while you hit the gym.

Voice Assistance: Every pair of AirPods is compatible with Siri, which means you can say “Hey Siri” to access your notifications, make a call, send a text and more.

1. Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Gen)

You’ll get four tapered silicone tips with these buds, allowing you to choose the fit that’s right for you. Use Apple’s ear tip fit test to make sure you’ve got the right size. We’ve gotten the chance to test the 2nd gen Apple AirPods Pro for ourselves, and we’ve been able to run, hit the weights, and even take a stroll through the city without them ever falling out our ears.

As for sound, you get both noise cancellation and an adaptive transparency mode — tune out or into your surroundings as you go about your day. The AirPods Pro also features the last generation’s spatial audio, now combined with Adaptive EQ that automatically tunes your favorite songs to the shape of your ear. Overall, this makes for a more immersive, all-encompassing music listening experience. The newest gen also blocks out twice the ambient noise, according to Apple, and in our tests we’ve found this to be true (especially on public transit).

You’ll also like that the AirPods Pro (2nd gen) feature sweat and light water resistance, meaning you can wear them to the gym or on your next hiking trip. Plus, you’ll get 6 hours of battery on a single charge, beefed up from the previous AirPod Pros — the companion charging case holds another 24 hours.

. - Credit: Amazon
. - Credit: Amazon


Buy: Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Gen)

2. Apple AirPods (3rd Gen)

While these AirPods don’t have a sealed fit like the AirPods Pro, they do have an IPX4 rating, meaning they’re sweat and water-resistant, allowing you to wear them to the gym or while you’re jogging in light rain.

Their sound is decent too, with Adaptive EQ for a more personalized listening experience and spatial audio which uses dynamic head tracking to make it sound like the audio is coming in from all around you. There’s no noise cancellation mode though, but if that’s not a dealbreaker for you, the AirPods 3rd Gen are a great option.

They’ve even got the best battery life amongst other Apple earbuds, running for six hours on a single charge — the wireless charging case holds a total of 30 hours, according to the brand.

airpods 3rd gen
airpods 3rd gen

Buy: Apple AirPods (3rd Gen)

3. Apple AirPods Max

Available in five colors including a muted blue and bright coral, these wireless headphones make a great accessory for when you’re traveling or commuting and just need to zone out.

Similar to the AirPods Pro, you’ve got noise cancellation features as well as a transparency mode, in case you need to hold a conversation while listening to your favorite tunes.

The padded earcups and adjustable headband are comfortable too, allowing you to wear these headphones for multiple hours with ease. You’ll get up to 20 hours of battery life on a single charge, enough to get you through an entire workday or red-eye flight.

As for sound, you’ve got many of Apple’s best features, including spatial audio for immersive sound and Adaptive EQ for a more personalized listening experience. These headphones also have the biggest sounding bass and feature more definition across mids, lows and highs. There’s barely any distortion, even while you’re listening to say, “Back in Black” by AC/DC at high volumes.

They naturally come at a higher price point than other AirPods options, but they’re worth your buck, especially if you want a pair of great-sounding headphones.

Airpods max
Airpods max

Buy: Apple AirPods Max

4. Apple AirPods (2nd Gen)

These wireless earbuds are extremely light and feature up to five hours of battery life on a single charge — you’ll get 24 hours of battery life stored in the case. These AirPods are also quick to set up and function with Siri, like every other option on this list.

The sound is decent too, although you won’t get noise cancellation features or a secure, plugged-in fit. That said, your audio will still sound better than most other wireless earbuds at the same price point.

If you’re looking for a pair of high-quality buds but have a budget to stick to, grab the AirPods 2nd Gen.

Airpods 2nd gen
Airpods 2nd gen

Buy: Apple AirPods (2nd Gen)

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