Memorial Day may be over but the Memorial Day sales have continued for these true wireless earbuds. For most people the standard Apple AirPods are more than good enough, but if you want next-level sound and premium features such as noise-canceling and sweat-resistance, the souped-up AirPods Pro and Powerbeats Pro should be right up your alley. Get them today starting at $130.
Apple AirPods (2nd Gen) — from $130
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 (you can take the Galaxy Buds to the gym, and they cost less). Right now, you can get the AirPods 2 with the standard wired charging case for $130 (down from $159) at Amazon and $150 (down from $199) for the model with a wireless charging case.
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 adding it, 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 fall under the “Not bad” category. It 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. 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.
AirPods (2nd Gen) with Charging Case — $130, was $159:
AirPods (2nd Gen) with Wireless Charging Case — $150, was $199:
— $228, was $249
It’s probably pretty obvious that we weren’t all that impressed with the standard AirPods. There are just several other true wireless earbuds out there that offer better value for your hard-earned money. So when Apple announced it was going to release the souped-up AirPod Pro, we were naturally skeptical. Will the company be able to deliver this time and improve on all the areas that the AirPods failed at? The answer is a resounding yes. The AirPods Pro are shockingly good and a huge win for Apple. Their sound quality has improved tremendously, their noise-canceling is spectacular, and they’re extremely comfortable to use even for a long time. The only problem we foresee is their questionable long-term battery life. Right now, you can score the AirPods Pro at Amazon for $230 instead of $249 – a cool $19 off.
Love it or hate, the AirPods’ golf-tee design is iconic, so Apple didn’t stray too far away from it when designing the AirPods Pro. They just now sport a shorter stem, which brings us to this major concern: Battery life. While the AirPods Pro offer the same battery performance as the standard AirPods (roughly 4.5 to 5 hours of listening time and/or 3.5 hours of call time per charge), we fear that their smaller batteries might not last in the long run. Unlike the Airpods, the AirPods Pro come with three sets of silicone eartips that snap on with a satisfying click instead of sliding onto a little nubbin as so many other in-ear buds require. This change not only offers a more secure and comfortable fit but also contributes to a better bass response.
The AirPods Pro inherit the original AirPods’ controls which means they’re ridiculously easy to operate and, as expected, Siri is always listening and ready to obey your every command. As with most true wireless buds with active noise-canceling, you have the option to either shut noise out or let it all in. Apple calls the latter feature “Transparency Mode” and activating this allows sounds from the outside world to arrive in a very natural way, almost as if you’ve taken the buds themselves out. Noise-canceling is decidedly top-notch and almost on par with what over-ear ANC headphones offer. Last but certainly not least, the AirPods Pro deliver a pretty impressive sonic performance. Their sound signature is terrific, rich in subtle details with some zesty treble, rounded-up by a full-bodied bass.
We tip our hats to the Apple AirPods Pro. These are absolutely the best true wireless earbuds that you can get if you’re an iOS user. Get them for $228 at Amazon today.
— $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.
- The best AirPods Pro alternatives
- Amazon discounts Apple AirPods and AirPods Pro for Black Friday
- Apple AirPods, Samsung Galaxy Buds discounted before Black Friday
- Buying AirPods Pro? Shop at this retailer to save $50 on your purchase
- AirPods and AirPods Pro prices slashed before Black Friday — from $129