- AirPods Pro are more expensive than Airpods 3 but have active noise cancellation.
- AirPods 4 have better battery life and talk time than Airpods Pro.
- AirPods Pro has interchangeable silicone ear tips which fit more comfortably and completely fill your ear canal for improved ANC performance.
The difference between the Apple AirPods Pro and the regular AirPods lineup used to be obvious. AirPods Pro has a lot more features that justify the higher price point. That was until the release of the AirPods 3, which did a lot to close the gap between the AirPods and AirPods Pro. They have a lot of the same features as the Pro version and come at a lower price. So, the question is: are AirPods Pro still worth it?
The short answer is yes, but there are still a few things that set the AirPods Pro apart from the rest of the Apple earbuds on offer. Namely, design, a few features you can’t get on AirPods 3, and sound quality. So, let’s dive in a see which earbud is the best for you.
AirPods Pro vs AirPods 3: Side-by-Side Comparison
The AirPods 3rd generation has upgraded to the same H1 Headphone chip as the AirPods Pro, so you are basically going to get the same performance from both. The biggest differences we found are noise-canceling and battery life.
|AirPods Pro||AirPods 3|
|Chip||H1 Headphone Chip||H1 Headphone Chip|
|Noise-Canceling||Yes, Full ANC and Transparency Mode||No, but they do include passive noise cancellation|
|Battery Life||4.5 hours listening and 3 hours talking with ANC on, 5 hours listening and 4 hours talking with ANC off||6 hours listening and 4 hours talking|
|Water Resistance||IPX4, excluding charging case||IPX4, including charging case|
|Ear Tips||Interchangeable silicone tips||None|
|Price||$249 ($169 at Amazon for a limited time)||$179 ($159 at Amazon for a limited time)|
AirPods Pro vs AirPods 3: What’s the Difference?
So, now we’ve got a look at the specs for each earbud. There are only a few factors that really separate the Airpods Pro and the Airpods3. It is true. But those few can make a huge difference depending on what you need or want out of your Airpods. Here’s how it all breaks down.
The Airpods 3 have adopted a similar design to the Airpods Pro with one major difference, the silicon ear tips. The Pro comes standard with this feature, while the Airpods 3rd generation does not. This gives the Airpods pro a tighter fit that makes the earbuds more comfortable and less likely to fall out. The silicon tips are interchangeable, so you can reasonably expect that they will fit your ears.
This isn’t to say that the Airpods 3 are uncomfortable; they are about the same size and weight as the Pro earbuds. But they lack the malleability of the silicon tips. This means that folks with small or big ears might have trouble finding a good fit. Earbuds that are too tight can cause irritation, and earbuds that are too loose can easily fall out.
With the AirPods 3, Apple is showing some progress, though. They shortened the stems from the previous model and mirrored the slim earpiece of the pro. It’s just hard to compete with the AirPods Pro in the comfort department. In fact, we gave the AirPods Pro “Most Comfortable” in our list of the best noise-canceling earbuds of 2022. This brings us to our next feature, which gives the AirPods Pro an edge.
The AirPods Pro didn’t just rank on our list due to comfort; they have impressive active noise cancellation as well. The AirPods 3, unfortunately, don’t have any noise-canceling at all. Other than the design and the price, this is the biggest divide between these two earbuds.
The AirPods Pro also has a transparency mode which allows ambient noise. These ANC features give you a lot of control over the noise around you, which is a definite feather in the AirPods Pro’s cap. AirPods 3 do have a more limited version of ANC called passive noise isolation. But this is not true noise cancelation and is a result of the AirPods 3 filling your ear canal.
Active noise cancellation is a big draw for the Air pods Pro, but there is a tradeoff. The battery life on the AirPods 3 is 6 hours per charge, much better than the AirPods Pro’s 4.5 hours. The ANC feature on the AirPods Pro is constantly analyzing and blocking sound. Since this feature is “always on,” it drains the battery life much more quickly than the AirPods 3, which doesn’t have this feature.
You can turn ANC off to get a little more juice out of your charge, but it still doesn’t reach the 6-hour default of the AirPods 3. That said, they both have over 24-hour charges with the case, so you don’t really have to worry about battery life on the go as long as the case stays charged.
The features are very similar between these two earbuds. Both have spatial audio, which purports to give you a movie theater surround sound listening experience. They also both have adaptive EQ and IPX4 water resistance. Actually, both earbuds have IPX4 water resistance, but the AirPods Pro case does not. The AirPods 3 case does. An interesting choice not to extend this resistance to the Pro case, but that’s the reality of it.
AirPods Pro does have another feature you can’t find on the AirPods 3, Conversation Boost. This can help boost the sound of someone you are talking to. This is not meant as a hearing aid but just a feature that can amplify your conversation partner’s voice. While this feature is neat, the uses are pretty limited so outside of ANC, the feature category is too close to call.
At $249, the AirPods Pro is $70 higher than the AirPods 3, which is $179. That extra $70 buys you ANC and, by extension, Transparency Mode and a more comfortable fit. But that’s really it. AirPods 3 has Spatial Audio, adaptive EQ, and the same chip as the AirPods Pro. The audio quality is virtually identical, and the water resistance and battery life are actually better on the 3rd generation. So, there is definitely still value in the AirPods Pro, but with the AirPods 3, Apple really is offering a great alternative for the price.
We were able to track down a great deal going on right now at Amazon.com for both AirPods Pro and AirPods 3. Right now, you can get AirPods Pro for $179 and AirPods 3 for $159. So, if you have your heart set on AirPods Pro, now is the time.
- Active Noise Cancellation
- Transparency mode for hearing and interacting with the world
- Spatial audio with dynamic head tracking
- Adaptive EQ automatically tunes the music to your ears
- Spatial audio with dynamic head tracking
- Adaptive EQ automatically tunes music
- Contoured design
- Force sensor
- Sweat- and water-resistant
AirPods Pro vs AirPods 3: 5 Must-Know Facts
Before we get into final thoughts, let’s do a quick run-down of the facts.
- AirPods Pro has active noise cancelation, AirPods 3 does not.
- Both sets of AirPods have IPX4 Water Resistance, but only the 3rd generation AirPods case is water resistant.
- AirPods 3 have better battery life at 6 hours of listening and 4 hours of talk time. AirPods Pro only has 4.5 hours of listening time and 3 hours of talk time (5 listening and 4 talking with ANC turned off.)
- AirPods Pro has interchangeable silicone ear tips which fit more comfortably and fully fill your ear canal for improved ANC performance.
- If you buy straight from Apple, AirPods Pro are $249, and AirPods 3 are $179.
I must give credit where credit is due. Apple is not known for catering to budgets. They make high-quality products, but in turn, you pay high-quality prices. With the AirPods 3rd generation, I see Apple doing a little more to meet consumers where they are at. No, you aren’t going to get ANC or silicone ear tips with the 3rd generation, but for a lot of people, that’s not a deal breaker.
It really comes down to those two things, noise-canceling and comfort. If you are someone who works in a noisy place or who needs or wants the benefit of noise cancellation, get the AirPods Pro. They fit great, and with the interchangeable tips, it is hard not to find the right fit for you. All others, you really can’t go wrong with the AirPods 3rd generation. Same chip and performance, the same audio quality, nearly identical design, and an impressive list of features. If no ANC is a deal breaker, run, don’t walk to Amazon, and take advantage of that deal!
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The image featured at the top of this post is ©Fadhli Adnan/Shutterstock.com.