In Apple’s arsenal of tech, there are currently two earbud models that are truly wireless: the second-generation AirPods that they list at $159 but generally get discounted to $139, and have the option of wireless charging; and the AirPods Pro that you can pick up for $249 and come with active noise cancellation. When David Carnoy looked at both of them for cnet, where this article first appeared, he came down on the side of AirPods Pro, giving them a higher score in his review. Yet, with a price difference of £110 between the Pros and the standard form without wireless charging, and a lot of users being none-too-keen on the silicone ear tip stuck into your ear canal just to achieve the noise-isolating feature, there is still a decision to be made. AirPods have a looser fit, which can have advantages, and a lot of consumers aren’t into spending $250 dollars on small earbuds that are easily lost.


AirPodsAirPods Pro
list price$139$249
active noise-cancellation?noyes
noise-isolating design?noyes
battery life (between in-case charges)4.5 hours5 hours
wireless charging?In $199 modelyes

To put it simply, that’s the reason why quite a few people don’t really know which AirPods to go for. Even with all of the really great, non-Apple, truly wireless earbuds that are on the market – check out our article covering just that – you’re going to be reading this article because you’re still split down the middle over buying AirPods or AirPods Pro. Hopefully, once you’ve read everything you’ll find the decision a little easier.

AirPods 2019

Affordable and comfortable

Iconic indeed. Airpods 2019

If you’re on a budget, you need to be buying the standard AirPods. To get a set with a regular charging case will set you back $139, and for the set that has the wireless charging case, you’re paying $169, or $199 if you have to buy from your local Apple Store. Sometimes you can find the normal charging ones for $130 and there are “renewed” versions that come in at around $120. Carnoy isn’t alone in thinking that wireless charging is a bit overrated for a set of headphones, and like many, he wouldn’t pay the extra for the feature. If you’re looking to invest in the standard AirPods, you’re going for value and want to be spending the absolute minimum possible. 

Having a piece of silicone protruding into your ear isn’t for everyone, and that’s why the original AirPods have remained so popular. They don’t invade your ear canal, they just tuck themselves comfortably into your ear and are super comfy when they sit right. Even with the better sound quality achieved with the AirPods Pro, Carnoy reports that his colleagues still generally prefer the way regular AirPods fit. 

Not everyone has the right shaped ears for AirPods, and there are stabilizing wings that you can buy from third parties to keep them in place. Having to take the wings off to get them back into the charging case is a pain you just have to live with if you need them. For this reason, you might still want to invest in the AirPods Pro.  

When weighing up the good and the bad, the biggest cross in the “bad” column is the leakage of ambient noise when using standard AirPods, and this is due to their open design. When you use them in quiet environments, the sound quality is decent, and there’s not much to distinguish them when looking at their performance for making phone calls against the Pros. Go somewhere noisy and your listening experience takes a big knock.

$139 at AMAZON

AirPods Pro

Fit well, sound great

Aren’t they awesome? Airpods Pro

If you’re one of the lucky ones who have no trouble with the fit of standard AirPods, you’re in a better position than those who can’t run with them or even keep them in situ at all. There are loads of people who just can’t get a secure fit, and if that’s you then you should find the extra cash to invest in the AirPods Pro. The design on the new iteration fit the ears of many more people than the original AirPods. Universal might be pushing it a little, but they’re way more inclusive than the older ones. 

The compromise of the better fit is the silicone bit that sticks in your ear, as we’ve already mentioned. It doesn’t matter how pliant, squeezy, and soft they are, there’ll always be some that just can’t deal with it. You get a very slight pressure sensation in your ear with the AirPods Pro, which is a byproduct of the active noise canceling feature, and a fair few people are pretty sensitive to the pressure caused by the seal. 

When you first put them in your ears, you’re going to notice the improved sound quality with the AirPods Pro as compared to standard AirPods. This is mainly down to the extra bass in the newer version, and that extra bass comes down to the noise-isolating design as well as new drivers that are fine-tuned to work with the design. Using standard AirPods gives a decent sound when it’s a quiet area, but because they have an open design the bass frequencies get drowned out in places with lots of outside noises. The effective noise cancellation in the AirPods Pro cuts out the external noises, as does the seal created by those pesky silicone tips. All of these factors mean that when you’re on a busy train or walking down the street you’re going to get a much better sound. 

When it comes to making phone calls, the normal AirPods are good. The second-generation version that came out in 2019 has improvements in noise reduction features that cut out most of any wind noises you’d get. However, the AirPods Pro are an improvement again, with an array of three microphones in each bud; one of them is a beamforming mic, meaning that it’s designed specifically to pick up your voice. The noise reduction features are much the same, and you get a vent system that’s there to relieve the pressure build-up in your ear that’s inherent with noise-isolating and noise-canceling features, with the added bonus of cutting down wind noise even more. When using the AirPods Pros you even get a better phone call experience due to the noise-isolating design, too.

$249 at AMAZON