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Apple AirPods Pro 2 vs. Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II

When it comes to noise-canceling earbuds, Apple and Bose make some of the best products on the market. Comfortable, enduring, and featuring top-notch sound quality and customizable controls, there’s no beating the kind of performance you’ll get from these two reputable brands. But when it comes down to Apple versus Bose, which in-ear titan comes out on top?

To unpack the answer to this question, we compared the AirPods Pro 2 with the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II, weighing in on key criteria like sound quality, battery life, and controls, to help you decide which set of noise-canceling buds is best for you.

Want to see how Apple and Bose stack up against other adversaries? Check out our side-by-side comparisons of the Apple AirPods Pro 2 vs. Sony WF-1000XM4 and the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds vs. Jabra Elite 7 Pro.

Design and comfort

Apple AirPods Pro 2 beside an Apple AirPods 3 earbud.
Apple AirPods Pro 2 (left) and Apple AirPods 3. Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

Apple’s second-gen AirPods Pro (hereafter called AirPods Pro 2) come in a glossy white finish for both the buds and charging case. The earbuds themselves are light, sleek, and fairly iconic-looking, considering how often folks are choosing AirPods these days. And unlike other AirPods models, the AirPods Pro 2 now come with four sets of silicone eartips (extra small, small, medium, and large sizes) that can easily be swapped out. The overall fit of the buds is snug and comfortable, and Apple’s Ear Tip Fit Test will ensure you’re using the right tip size for your ear canals.

While we wouldn’t recommend the AirPods Pro 2 as a dedicated set of gym earbuds (they can feel a bit loose when exercising), they’re perfect for everyday wear.

Apple’s H2 chip is the driving force behind the AirPods Pro 2, delivering stronger noise-cancellation and richer overall sound quality than the previous generation. We also love that the charging case uses Apple’s U1 chip, which allows the case to be added to the Find My network (and includes a speaker for emitting a chime). There’s even a lanyard loop this time around, but Apple doesn’t provide an actual lanyard in the box.

Both the AirPods themselves and the case are IPX4-rated and the case is MagSafe-compatible. And iOS fans will also love the ability to seamlessly switch between connected source devices that use the same Apple ID just by opening the AirPods case near the device you’d like to connect to.

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II in Triple Black.
Bose

The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II (hereafter referred to as QCE II) are available in black and soapstone (an off-white), and are smaller and lighter than the previous generation, swapping the big clamshell case of the original set for a flip-top charging case. Out of the box, you’ll get two additional eartip sizes and silicone stability bands that can be easily swapped to suit your listening needs. Like the AirPods Pro 2s, they are IPX4-rated.

The fit is snug and comfortable, and those stability bands provide a little extra security, making the QCE II the better choice for going on a run or doing deadlifts. One thing missing from the Bose equation, though, is wireless charging.

To that end, we’ll award a point to the AirPods Pro 2.

Winner: AirPods Pro 2

Controls

The AirPods Pro 2 and QCE II use a number of haptic and voice assistant-based controls to create a seamless listening experience that prioritizes simplicity and customization.

With the AirPods Pro 2, earbud controls are mapped to the stems of each bud. Just grab and squeeze to elicit an audible click confirming your command went through. A single click will play and pause your media and answer/end calls, a double click will skip ahead one track, and a triple click will go back one track.

There’s also a press-and-hold command for both the left and right buds, which will either summon Siri or activate noise-canceling (you can customize each bud’s long-press command in the iOS Settings app). There’s also a swipe up-and-down gesture for adjusting volume. We have a whole post on AirPods Pro 2 tips and tricks if you want to dig deeper.

For the QCE II, controls are mapped to the back of each bud, with single-tap commands identical to that of the AirPods Pro 2. Using the Bose Music app (for iOS and Android devices), you can create a shortcut for the long-press command of both the left and right buds, with options including noise-canceling on/off and calling up your device’s voice assistant.

Winner: Tie

Connection

The AirPods Pro 2 and QCE II use Bluetooth 5.3 to connect with mobile devices and other hardware.

For the AirPods Pro 2, we were able to maintain a connection to our host device up to 25 feet away indoors, and between 35 to 40 feet when outside. With the Bose QCE II, we were able to get about 20 feet of uninterrupted indoor listening and close to 30 feet in the great outdoors.

While we’re going to award a point to the AirPods Pro 2 here, we’re remiss if we didn’t mention that both Apple and Bose are missing some great Bluetooth 5.3 features, including Bluetooth multipoint and LC3 codec support. Perhaps we’ll get these features through a firmware update down the line.

Winner: AirPods Pro 2

Sound quality

Apple AirPods Pro 2 inside their charging case.
Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

As far as noise-canceling earbuds go, both the AirPods Pro 2 and QCE II deliver some pretty exceptional audio, thanks in part to a dedication to customized listening by both brands.

On the Apple side of the playing field, the customized listening is a little feature called Adaptive EQ, and for Bose it’s called CustomTune.

Essentially, both sets of buds will automatically optimize performance based on how they fit in your ears. But beyond calibration, the foundational audio for both earbuds is also strong and well-balanced.

Rocking Apple’s H2 chip, the AirPods Pro 2 offer robust bass, excellent higher-frequency articulation, and an encompassing soundstage. And while there’s no LDAC or aptX compatibility to speak of — it’s missing on the QCE II as well — we were simply amazed at the kind of immersion the AirPods Pro 2 delivered. It’s a strength made even better by Apple’s Personalized Spatial Audio feature.

Bose listening is sugary-sweet, too, and includes a bit of extra rumble in the overall mix. The QCE II really dig out the details in whatever music you’ve chosen to listen to. Using the Bose Music app, listeners are also able to adjust the EQ across four unique presets.

While full-on EQ adjustments are missing from the AirPods Pro 2, the default mix is a little stronger out of the box (when compared to the QCE II), and while both Apple and Bose are both top-shelf when it comes to sound quality, we’ll give a point to the AirPods Pro 2 for sounding just slightly better than the QCE II overall.

Winner: AirPods Pro 2

Active noise-canceling

A calling card for both the AirPods Pro 2 and QCE II is the active noise-canceling (ANC) capabilities of these wireless buds. Far from your traditional set of ANC in-ears, Apple and Bose’s headphones use cutting-edge microphones and algorithmic compression to detect and cancel out unwanted sounds from your listening environment.

Thanks again to Apple’s H2 chip, the AirPods Pro deliver a beautifully hiss-free ANC experience, with nearly all lower-frequency distractions eradicated, leaving you with nothing but crisp and clear music or podcasts, along with the ability to still hear what the person sitting next to you is saying.

The Bose QCE II offer some pretty phenomenal ANC too, and using the Bose Music app, you can customize how weak or strong the earbuds are when it comes to dialing down on unwanted noise. But Bose’s computational approach leaves a bit of inherent hiss in the mix, and while it’s barely noticeable when listening to music, it’s still there. Thus, we’ll award another point to the AirPods Pro.

Winner: AirPods Pro 2

Transparency mode

If you’re looking to let in environmental sounds when you’re using your wireless buds, but without the noise becoming overbearing, you’re going to want to turn on Transparency mode. Transparency essentially turns your earbuds into amplifiers that help to detect things like what your friend is saying or the sirens of oncoming emergency vehicles.

The AirPods Pro 2s have an incredible Transparency mode, grabbing the sounds you would want to hear in the outside world, while negating whatever’s harsh and distracting. Apple’s H2 chip also allows for an extra-special version of this feature called Adaptive Transparency, allowing the AirPods Pro 2 to analyze, amplify, and dial down better than ever before.

Bose’s QCE II have a great Transparency setting, too. For Aware mode, the QCE II utilizes a similar technology to Apple’s Adaptive Transparency — Bose calls it ActiveSense — to pick up on harsh sounds and tone them down.

Winner: Tie

Call quality

Apple AirPods Pro 2 and Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II
Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

Outside of normal media listening, the other key feature for any set of wireless earbuds is the ability to take and make phone calls. Both the AirPods Pro 2 and the Bose QCE II are great choices when it comes to chatting with someone remotely, but in our testing of each product, we quickly found a clear winner in this category.

Apple’s call quality is definitively the best between the two. While compression is par for the course when it comes to Bluetooth-powered phone calls, the AirPods Pro 2 delivered only a minor amount of dampening, with the other caller sounding crystal clear otherwise. And with Adaptive Transparency enabled, our own voice was easy to hear too, even amid a jubilee of egregious outdoor noise.

The QCE II did a decent job of handling phone calls, but when it came time to chat with someone outdoors, the earbuds failed to keep up. The QCE IIs filtered less noise than the AirPods Pro 2, which is quite the limiting factor when it comes to commuting to and from work, or simply walking in and out of a building on a busy street.

Winner: AirPods Pro 2

Battery life

Wireless earbuds simply don’t have the battery capacity of traditional headphones, but the AirPods Pro 2 and QCE II are pretty top-notch when it comes to bud and charging case life.

In our testing of the AirPods Pro 2, we were able to get about five hours of ANC-powered listening in before the earbuds gave us a low battery warning. But with the charging case’s 30 extra hours of power, and Apple’s five-minute recharge (for one additional hour of listening), we were good to go again in no time.

The QCE II last about six hours with ANC enabled, and while the charging case allows for up to 24 hours of additional listening, that doesn’t beat the AirPods’ full day plus six hours.

Winner: AirPods Pro 2

Price

The AirPods Pro 2 can be found in stores and online for $250, while the QCE IIs are currently available for the same price, down from their usual $300.

While these are the newest wireless earbuds from both companies, we’ll likely continue to see markdowns on the AirPods Pro 2 and QCE II, so keep your eyes peeled for a sale.

Winner: Tie

The verdict

Apple AirPods Pro 2 next to first-gen AirPods Pro.
First-gen Apple AirPods Pro (left) and second-gen AirPods Pro. Can you tell the difference? Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

When it comes to all the key criteria we analyzed for this comparison, the Apple AirPods Pro 2 outshone the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II in pretty much every category. Keep in mind that there aren’t enormous gaps in quality or performance though.

Both the AirPods Pro and QCE II are some of the best earbuds you can buy, and if you’ve been a dedicated Bose listener for years, switching over to a new brand may not be the easiest change. Plus, we’ve got to give it to Bose for allowing you to customize so many aspects of your listening experience through the Bose Music app.

But at the end of the day, we need to declare a winner. So without further ado, we award our top prize to the AirPods Pro 2.

Winner: AirPods Pro 2

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