AirPods 3 vs AirPods Pro: What’s New With 2021’s Wireless Earphones?


Apple’s AirPods have been a smashing 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.

AirPods 3

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 more advanced Pro model has numerous advantages, like active noise canceling. 

The new AirPods 3 launched with an intro price of $179. This price point marks 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.

So, what exactly are the AirPods 3’s features? They sport shorter stems, almond-shaped ear tips, and a slimmer charging case. The AirPods 3 also sport spatial audio and water resistance.

What’s Different?

The AirPods Pro’s most notable 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.

Are They Worth It?

The AirPods 3 are excellent. Their sound quality is top-notch. Songs sound full and rich, and movies benefit immensely from the digital spatial sound. This spatial audio is as close to theatrical surround sound as you can get with a set of earphones.

The question 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 vital, then you want the AirPods Pro. Meanwhile, users who need a top-of-the-line listening experience without breaking the bank should go with the AirPods 3.