For Apple devotees, AirPods rule music’s airwaves. These earbuds pair with your iPhone and Apple devices with seamless integration. And it’s easy for users to stay within the product family, since the company makes everything you need to stay connected.
You already know Apple headphones stay at the top of all the best headphone lists for a good reason. Their sound quality rocks, they’re comfortable, and their wireless charging case keeps you moving.
But how do you know which model or generation is the best for you? Unfortunately, all the Apple AirPod options make choosing complicated. And that’s why we’re breaking it down.
We’re looking at multiple AirPods, AirPods Max, and AirPods Pro generations. And we’ll even look at Apple’s EarPods, so you can see what 20 bucks can buy. We’re making it easy for you to choose the best AirPods on Earth today!
- Best Overall: Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Generation)
- Best OG Pro: Apple AirPods Pro (1st Generation)
- Best Budget Option: Apple AirPods (2nd Generation)
- Best New Generation: Apple AirPods (3rd Generation)
- Best Over-Ear: Apple AirPods Max
- Best Cheap Wired Option: Apple EarPods with Lightning Connector
Best Overall: Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Generation)
- Apple-designed H2 chip
- Low-distortion, custom-built driver
- Up to 2x more Active Noise Cancellation than the previous AirPods Pro
- Personalized spatial audio
- Up to 6 hours of battery life or 30 hours with the charging case
Our selection as the best overall Airpods are the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Generation). The 2nd generation AirPods Pro benefit from Apple’s H2 chip. It delivers more efficient battery power, which is great for getting an extra hour of playtime. But this microprocessor shines in its Active Noise Canceling (ANC) functionality. So, you’ll get twice the glorious silence as H1 chip products.
Not only does ANC provide modern silence, but the custom-built amplifier and driver work with the H2 chip. And that makes for deeper bass tones with vivid high notes.
In addition to the music sounding better, so will you! The microphone got a redesign, so it now faces inward. Also, voice enhancement algorithms make you sound more natural on video and phone calls.
To top it off, silicone tips come in four sizes for a customized fit that holds the AirPods in place and creates an acoustic seal to hold in sound. So, if you’ve got a new pair of AirPods in your immediate future, you’ll love these 2nd generation Pros.
Check out the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Generation) on Amazon.
Best OG Pro: Apple AirPods Pro (1st Generation)
- 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
Now, you might be wondering why you should buy the first-generation AirPods Pro when we just sang the praises of the newer option. And the simple answer is that it all comes down to personal preference.
These are still excellent headphones. Even though they don’t have the 2x noise-canceling technology of the newer ones, they do an adequate job of keeping out annoying background sounds. The silicone ear tips help cut down on ambient noise, also.
Music sounds richer with deeper overtones when the ANC is turned off. So, if you don’t need it on, you might appreciate the tones more.
Apple no longer sells them, but they are still hugely popular on Amazon and other online retailers. Honestly, we’d say to choose these only if you find them at a discounted price — otherwise, spring for the AirPods Pro 2.
Check out the Apple AirPods Pro (1st Generation) on Amazon.
Best Budget Option: Apple AirPods (2nd Generation)
There’s no shame in creating a budget and sticking to it! In fact, we applaud it. So, if you’re looking for a nice set of AirPods at an affordable price, consider getting the second-generation AirPods. You’ll only fork out about half the price of AirPods Pro and will save a considerable amount compared to the 3rd-gen.
These 2nd generation AirPods use the H1 chip, so they’re a step up from the original W1s that Apple used initially. You won’t get all the functionality delivered by the other best AirPods on Earth today, but if you’re happy with the fit and sound of your current pair and need a replacement, you can’t go wrong with these headphones.
Check out the Apple AirPods (2nd Generation) on Amazon.
Best New Generation: Apple AirPods (3rd Generation)
- Personalized Spatial Audio with dynamic head tracking
- Single fit
- Force sensor
- Sweat-and water-resistant
- Lightning Charging Case or MagSafe Charging Case
The third-generation Apple AirPods give you personalized spatial audio. As a result, music surrounds you, creating a three-dimensional sound experience — like you’re at the movies.
Gen 3 gets a sleek design with a shorter stem, so the sound is directed into your ears. Plus, they look sexier. So, that’s an improvement. We like the AirPods 3rd Generation for workouts and dancing.
Or, if you live in the rainy Pacific NW, these AirPods hold their own against liquid sunshine. The headphones, MagSafe, and Lightning charging case all have IPX4 water- and sweat-resistance.
And, finally, with up to thirty hours of battery time, you’ll be dancing in the rain or sweating to the Oldies until you drop from exhaustion. So, go ahead and put these Apple earbuds to the test.
Check out the Apple AirPods (3rd Generation) on Amazon.
Best Over-Ear: Apple AirPods Max
- Apple-designed dynamic driver for high-fidelity audio
- Active Noise Cancellation
- Transparency mode
- Spatial audio with dynamic head tracking
- Designed with a knit-mesh canopy and memory foam ear cushions
The best over-ear Airpods are the Apple AirPods Max. Apple’s high-end headphones deliver sound like you won’t believe. AirPods Max use cutting-edge audio technology for a first-rate listening experience. They sound good, and they look even better. These over-ear headphones make Bose look cheap.
But, seriously, the knit-mesh canopy provides innovative comfort and a sexy vibe. Plus, the foam ear cushions fit your ears like a glove. Can ears even wear gloves? You better believe it!
AirPods Max delivers sound quality that makes it feel like listening to live music. So, it’s a mini-concert just for you. And they also make movie-watching spectacular. The spatial audio feature has dynamic head tracking, giving you a surround-sound theater experience.
We can’t say enough about the sound quality of the AirPods Max. And their Active Noise Cancellation properties make them all the sweeter. So, hear what you want, how you want it.
Is there a downside? That would be the price. These headphones represent a significant expense since their high-end sound comes with a high-end cost. And, of course, with all things Apple, you get the most features when you use AirPods Max within the product family.
Check out the Apple AirPods Max on Amazon.
Best Cheap Wired Option: Apple EarPods with Lightning Connector
- Answer calls, play music on the go
- Impressive, high-quality audio
- Stylish, and more comfortable than traditional earbuds
- Work with iPads and iPhones
- Built-in remote to adjust the volume
Sometimes, you just need cheap wired headphones, and the Apple EarPods with Lightning Connector fit the bill. But, hey, don’t look at us like you don’t have a junk drawer full of wired headphones that no longer work. We’re looking right back at you!
The EarPods design fits your ear’s geometry, unlike traditional earbuds. So, they are comfortable to wear, and they sound good, too. You’ll get high-quality audio for less than $20; we’d call that a bargain every day of the week.
Check out the Apple EarPods with Lightning Connector on Amazon.
How to Pick the Best AirPods: Step by Step
When choosing your new best AirPods headphones, there are four primary considerations (beyond price) for most buyers:
- Listening Activity
- Earbuds, Earbuds with tips, or Over-ear
- Noise Cancellation
- Apple H1 or H2 chip
Let’s review each one in more detail.
Knowing what you plan to use your Apple earbuds for helps you decide which headphones to choose. For example, we like Beats for working out, but they also sound great when listening to music. The AirPods Max are our choice for hi-fi audio, whether for music or movies.
And then, the second-gen Apple AirPods Pro keep you on your audio-book toes with crisp, clear sound. It’s almost like you can hear the page turn. Your best AirPods features can easily differ between activities, so the choice is yours.
Earbuds, Earbuds with Tips, or Over-ear
Since AirPods only offer one over-ear choice, it makes it easy if you’re choosing that style. We don’t know about you, but, sometimes, we like fewer choices!
When it comes to the earbud style, the best Apple earbuds for you are the ones that give you the most comfortable fit. So, do you prefer the original kind that snugs into your ear?
Or do the AirPods Pro feel softer and better over long listening times? Choose between earbuds, those with tips, or over-ear headphones for your best fit and listening style.
The AirPods Pro 2nd generation offers twice the Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) as the previous Pro. That makes it dramatically quieter when you’re working, commuting, traveling, or need to focus.
In addition, the Adaptive Transparency feature prevents missing important sounds while letting you hear the world without the most intense noises. Determine whether noise-canceling technology is essential for your listening preferences.
Apple H1 or H2 chip
Many users are hard-pressed to understand, or even care about, which chip makes their AirPods work as long as they do work. So, if that’s you, then go ahead and skip this part.
Microprocessors tell the Apple earbuds to connect to each other and your device through Bluetooth. They also let you switch between devices, deliver sound to the drivers and amplifiers, and provide digital signal processing (DSP).
- Gen-1 AirPods use Apple’s W1 chips
- Gen-2 AirPods use Apple’s H1 and newer H2 processors
W1 to H1 give better pairing speed, Bluetooth upgrade compatibility, lower latency, audio sharing, and Siri voice command activation. H1 to H2 give all the same goodness and more.
The new chips bring ANC, longer battery life, and an adaptive transparency mode. In addition, Apple says the H2 microprocessor cancels twice as much noise compared to the first-generation AirPods Pro models.
What to Know Before Buying Apple AirPods
The best AirPods on Earth today provide excellent audio performance and noise cancelation. You’ll hear musical notes with crisp precision. And you’ll get the high standards we’ve all come to expect from Apple.
The company focuses on personal electronics that integrate seamlessly with one another. So, the user experience is unparalleled. We’ve owned the original Apple AirPods since 2017! The battery life is down to about two hours before we need to recharge, but the sound quality is still good!
Using AirPods: What it’s Like
The best AirPods for you depend on your preferences and whether or not you already own an iOS device. Apple’s products are designed to work together for the best functionality. So, you’ll get more out of the headphones if you’re already an Apple buyer.
For in-ear AirPods, choose between 2nd and 3rd generation standards or 1st and 2nd generation Pros. Remember that only AirPods Pro offer Active Noise Cancellation.
Apple’s premium AirPods Max are your only choice if you’re an over-ear headphone person. But these exceptional beauties come with an expensive price tag. They are at the top of the ANC headphone range, including those offered by Bose and Sony.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©Devetyarov/Shutterstock.com.