Most of us are now working from home and even if you’re not, you may benefit from quality audio wherever you are. So it’s important to have a good pair of headphones or earbuds to make or answer phone calls, keep in touch with your family and friends, and of course listen to music. The most important thing to consider in a headset for home office use is comfort – you wouldn’t want to be stuck in a meeting wearing a heavy pair of headphones that clamp painfully tight, would you? We recommend getting true wireless earbuds, and if you’re a big fan of Apple there’s nothing better to get than the AirPods. Unfortunately, the AirPods aren’t sweatproof, so if you need a pair for working out opt for the Powerbeats Pro instead. Save up to $50 when you get them today.
— $140, was $160
Since hitting stores back in December of 2016, Apple’s AirPods have dominated the market for true wireless earbuds. And why wouldn’t they? They’re astonishingly easy to operate (well, for iOS users anyway) and have rock-solid connectivity, making these the must-have earbuds for diehard Apple fans. Unfortunately, if you already have the wired EarPods (you do if you’ve got an iPhone), you probably won’t be impressed with the AirPods’ sound quality – because they sound almost exactly the same. What you’re really paying for is the complete freedom from wires. Right now, you can get the AirPods with wired charging case at Best Buy for $140 instead of $160.
The AirPods look like the EarPods with the wires cut off. This design has been quite polarizing, having its own fair share of admirers and detractors. While their lack of cords and compact size is quite convenient, it’s important to know that these aren’t sweatproof (take a look at the PowerBeats Pro below if you want a pair that you can take to the gym) and are extremely prone to falling out. And unlike most true wireless earbuds, the AirPods don’t come with differently sized silicone eartips that you can attach so they’ll fit your ears perfectly. And this brings us to another very important consideration: If you’re absent-minded or clumsy, you may want to steer clear of these. Lose the case and you’ll have no way to charge them. Lose one AirPod and you’ll have to purchase a new one, though you’ll still be able to take calls and listen to music or podcasts with just one AirPod.
The AirPods come with a white charging case and a standard-issue USB-to-lightning charging cable. You won’t find a USB wall plug here, but that’s fine since you probably already have plenty of those lying around. Out of the box, the AirPods already have a fair amount of juice in them, and this is where the magic happens. If your iOS device’s Bluetooth is activated, simply opening the case and taking the AirPods out will make a pop-up appear on the screen for immediate pairing. The AirPods are also very easy to operate. Inside them are accelerometers and other sensors that determine when the buds have been inserted and removed from ears. Removing one AirPod will automatically pause music, and tapping the exterior of either AirPod will summon Siri. You can ask her to set a reminder, schedule an alarm, place a call, or adjust the volume of your music up or down. Weirdly enough, you can’t command her to skip a track on your Spotify playlist or make her do any type of song navigation. You’ll have to do that manually.
As mentioned, the AirPods aren’t the most impressive-sounding true wireless earbuds out there. These certainly won’t appear on any audiophiles’ list. The bass has adequate presence but lack punch, treble sparkles but is not particularly refined or detailed, and the mids left us wanting more presence and warmth. Still, the bottom line is, if you like the sound of EarPods, you’ll be perfectly happy with how the AirPods sound.
In terms of battery life, the AirPods are touted to deliver up to five hours of listening time and two hours of talk time on a single full charge. Of course, it all boils down to the degree of usage. With multiple charges from the AirPods case, Apple says you can expect a total of 24 hours of listening time or 11 hours of talk time. Perhaps most notably, the AirPods charge fairly quickly – just 15 minutes of charging will provide three hours of listening time or an hour of talk time.
If you’re a fan of the EarPods’ sound but hate wires, then the AirPods should be right up your alley. Get them with a wired charging case for $140 on Best Buy today.
Apple AirPods 2 with Wireless Charging Case — $175, was $200
What’s the difference between the first and second generation of AirPods besides the wireless charging case upgrade? Not much, to be honest. They look exactly the same, although there are some notable improvements underneath the hood, including the H1 chipset, longer talk time, and support for voice-activated Siri. They also remain ridiculously easy to operate and set up for iOS devices, although the lack of waterproofing or workout features is baffling considering the price point. Right now, you can get the AirPods 2 with wireless charging case for $175 (down from $200) at B&H Photo Video.
The latest AirPods rock the same golf-tee shape of their predecessors. A lot of people seem to like this design (considering how immensely popular they are), although if you ask us they look like the old EarPods with the wires cut off. Compared to its wired counterpart, the wireless charging case now has its LED lights on the front, which allows you to see charging status when the case is placed atop a Qi charging pad. Apple claims that the case can carry the same amount of reserve charging it did three years ago, offering up to 24 hours, which still beats most competitors.
The onboard controls are the same as before – for better or worse. Each AirPod works autonomously, which means they don’t run out of juice at the same time. They auto-pause audio immediately when you take one out — but only with Apple devices. As usual, they don’t have volume and song-skipping default controls, offering only play and skip forward with a double-tap. You can assign play/pause, next track, and previous track controls in your iPhone’s Bluetooth settings on either earbud if you want to, though. To change the volume, you can simply ask Siri to turn it up or down for you. If you have an Android phone, though, you’re stuck with doing it manually.
Speaking of Siri, voice-activated control wasn’t possible with the old AirPods. You can thank Apple’s new H1 chip for this, alongside lower gaming lag, and its “50% faster” connection for phone calls — although we didn’t really notice any difference compared to other true wireless earbuds, including the original AirPods. Apple also claims that the chip can significantly reduce the distortion of your voice in windy conditions for superior call quality. We tested this in moderate wind, and it actually worked. Despite all these extremely welcome new additions, it’s hard to forgive Apple for the fact that it still hasn’t made the AirPods sweatproof. For that, you’ve got to pay a premium price for the Airpods Pro, which also boast active noise-canceling.
When it comes to sound quality, the AirPods 2 fall under the “Not bad” category. The sound quality reminded us a lot of the wired EarPods. It’s far from terrible, and we do appreciate the softness and warmth it lends to certain songs, but that’s not exactly what you’re looking for when you’re listening to hip-hop, rap, and other beat-driven genres. It’s a very safe sound signature, designed not to offend anyone.
You get a modest update with the AirPods 2. If you’re an iPhone user, these are the best true wireless earbuds to get, especially if you’re after convenience. If you already have the old AirPods, you don’t need to buy these.
— $200, was $250
The Powerbeats Pro totally wireless earphones have a lot going for them, starting with a thin and unobtrusive design that’s perfect for working out. With an IPX4 rating, they are protected against sweat and the occasional splash of water. Their secure and comfortable fit is courtesy of ear hooks and four pairs of detachable ear tips in varying sizes. Unfortunately, these earphones don’t offer passive noise isolation, so you’ll be able to hear everything around you. This can be a good thing though, especially if you’re jogging in high-traffic areas.
These wireless earphones boast intuitive touch controls and Class 1 Bluetooth technology that offers an extended range and fewer dropouts. Apple’s H1 Chip is also responsible for quick and easy pairing and allows iOS users to instantly pull up Siri. Although the AirPods prove better when it comes to seamless connection, the Powerbeats Pro offer better sound quality, with punchy bass and impressive instrumental separation, detail, and dynamics. Vocal clarity for calls is likewise guaranteed, supported by a speech-detecting accelerometer and multiple microphones that target voice and filter out external noise.
For each full charge in the charging case, these earphones can provide up to nine hours of music playback. Furthermore, the case is capable of juicing them up an additional two charges more, for a total of 24 hours of use. Even five minutes of quick charging can fuel the Powerbeats Pro for at least 1.5 hours. With built-in motion accelerometers, these earphones automatically enter sleep mode when not in use to help you conserve power.
For those who lead an active lifestyle and don’t want to part with their favorite tunes, the Powerbeats Pro totally wireless earphones are for you. They usually come with a $250 price tag but take advantage of Best Buy’s $50 discount and get them for $200.
Digital Trends may earn commission on products purchased through our links, which supports the work we do for our readers.
- Best cheap AirPods deals for March 2021: AirPods and AirPods Pro
- Apple AirPods vs. AirPods 2
- Powerbeats Pro wireless headphones are super cheap at Amazon today
- The best true wireless earbuds for 2021
- AirPods are down to just $110 at Amazon for Presidents Day