Apple’s AirPods have been a huge success in the world of personal audio. While the tiny white beans weren’t the first truly wireless earbuds on the market, they were the most stylish and seamless. In the years since their initial release, the AirPods have served as the basis for countless knock-offs and wannabes.
There’s nothing like the real thing, though. This year, Apple is launching another entry in the AirPods lineup, the AirPods 3. How do these new earphones stack up with the other entries in the premier audio line? Let’s take a closer look.
The third-generation AirPods are an upgrade over the AirPods 2. That should come as no surprise, but it’s worth noting that these are still a step down from the higher-end AirPods Pro. The Pro model, unlike the base lineup, sports silicone ear tips and active noise canceling.
The AirPods 3 retail for $179, marking them as the step between the $129 base AirPods and the $249 AirPods Pro. Stylistically, the third-generation earbuds have more in common with their Pro cousins. They sport shorter stems, almond-shaped ear tips, and a slimmer charging case. Unlike the base model, the AirPods 3 sport spatial audio and water resistance.
The AirPods Pro’s biggest selling point continues to be active noise cancellation. This feature remains as revolutionary now as it was when the Pro model launched two years ago. The ability to tune out nearby sounds with tiny earbuds that fit in your pocket will probably always feel futuristic.
The AirPods 3 are slightly lighter than their Pro cousins, and they don’t bear the same adjustable silicone tips. Like the original AirPods, the third-generation entry is one-size-fits-all. If your ear isn’t the right shape, expect the AirPods 3 to slide out during vigorous activity.
The AirPods 3 are excellent. Their sound quality is top-notch. Songs sound full and rich, and movies benefit greatly from the digital spatial sound. This is as close to theatrical surround sound as you can get with a set of earphones.
The question that remains is whether you should opt for the AirPods 3 or the more robust AirPods Pro. Essentially, this is a question of noise canceling. If active noise cancellation is something you find useful, then you want the AirPods Pro. Users who just want a top-of-the-line listening experience without breaking the bank, meanwhile, should go with the AirPods 3.