The best Apple headphones and earbuds integrate complementarily into Apple’s ecosystem, delivering features that elevate the iOS/macOS experience. They also interconnect seamlessly with all Apple products. That’s not to say they won’t work with Android or Windows devices because they will; some functions just remain exclusive to Apple’s platform.
As far as options go, you’re looking at four different pairs of AirPods wireless earbuds, an over-the-ear AirPods headphone, and a massive Beats lineup (Apple’s greatest acquisition yet) that continues to welcome new critically acclaimed releases.
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After testing the company’s top offerings, we’ve ranked the best Apple headphones and earbuds. Scroll down to see which models suit your portable audio needs.
What are the best Apple headphones and earbuds?
Why you can trust Laptop Mag Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.
Sitting in first place on our best Apple headphones and earbuds list is the AirPods Pro 2. The first-gen model may have revolutionized wireless earbuds, but this noise-cancelling sequel took things a step forward with key additions such as Adaptive Transparency, Personalized Spatial Audio, and FindMy compatibility with the MagSafe charging case. Apple continues to roll out new features with every other iOS update, keeping these porcelain danglers in the best wireless earbuds conversation for a few more years.
A close second is the AirPods Max, Apple’s first noise-cancelling headphones that blend strong audio and ANC into a sleek, contemporary design. The price point might be more of an eye sore than the silly smart case. However, you're buying the wireless cans for their powerful tech. The 40mm drivers, 9 microphones, H1 processors, and a gaggle of sensors bring a level of functionality that only category leaders like the Bose 700 and Sony WH-1000XM4 can match.
Third place goes to the recently launched Beats Fit Pro, which miraculously takes most, if not all, of the AirPods Pro’s biggest hallmarks and stuffs them into a sporty package. We’re talking ANC, spatial audio, and several iOS perks like audio sharing, automatic switching, and “Hey Siri” voice activation. The wing tips also provide a proper fit and stability for workouts.
If you’re someone who wants to enjoy Apple Music playlists the best way possible, there is plenty to choose from. Let’s see where some of the other best Apple headphones and earbuds rank.
The best Apple headphones and earbuds right now
Despite most rumors around the AirPods Pro 2 being nothing more than hearsay, Apple’s latest wireless earbuds still live up to their hype. Personalized Spatial Audio enhances the 3D listening experience by scanning your ears via the iPhone’s TrueDepth camera and creating a sound profile that accurately places music, voices, and effects on the soundscape. ANC can now reduce twice as much noise as the first-gen AirPods Pro and Adaptive Transparency has been greatly improved to hear ambient noises and vocals clearly. Music sounds richer and more detailed, thanks to Apple’s new low-distortion driver. Cool features like Precision Finding also make locating your misplaced charging case easier by pinpointing its location in the Find My (AirPods) app.
Very few will complain about the mostly unchanged design or the performance struggles with Android devices, while those with an iOS device will be excited about having the AirPods Pro 2 as their go-to for music listening.
Read our full AirPods Pro 2 review.
Apple’s wireless headphones live up to the hype with exceptional audio and ANC performance. Underneath the sleek, clean-looking design are 40mm custom dynamic drivers that pump out near-audiophile-grade sound, balancing frequencies superbly well to enjoy rich mids, highs, and lows. Spatial audio helps create the illusion of a 360-degree soundscape when listening to music or watching movies. If you like the AirPods Pro’s noise cancellation, the AirPods Max is even more impressive, employing eight mics to effectively block out the majority of external sounds. Seamless iOS integration means you’ll not only connect to Apple devices with ease, but also gain access to numerous software perks including audio sharing, automatic switching, and “Hey Siri” voice activation.
It’s ballsy for Apple to price their headphones $150 higher than Bose. However, for Apple fanboys who live on iOS and macOS devices, these cans are the ideal audio investment, if you can afford them.
See our full Apple AirPods Max review.
Beats ramped up their true wireless production, putting out not one but two new models just last year, which came as a shocker to us all. The recently launched Fit Pro offers near-identical performance to the AirPods Pro and improves on Beats’ new and innovative design. Noise cancellation is highly effective, and sound is superior to all AirPods models. Having access to most iOS features is always appreciated. The installed wingtips and IPX4 rating make the Fit Pro a must-have for gym rats.
Be mindful that the Eartip Fit Test isn’t as reliable as the AirPods Pro version. Also, the Android app lacks extra features, though you’re still getting much of the meat and potatoes that come tied to Apple’s ecosystem.
The first-gen AirPods Pro is a much bigger deal than any of us could have predicted. Through some clever engineering, Apple managed to squeeze three microphones and six sensors into the tiny buds, redesigned the casing, and still had room for its lauded H1 chip. This all makes for one well-rounded experience that makes usability seamless across numerous verticals, from connectivity to sound personalization to voice activation (“Hey Siri”). Audio quality surpasses what previous AirPods models offered, and noise cancellation is undeniably great for blocking out incidental noises during commutes.
The stem design isn’t the most attractive, but at least it has been shrunk down to a more discrete size. You’ll also need to deal with the low battery life, granted the charging case does provide some relief when on the go.
Read our full AirPods Pro review.
The AirPods 3 is a definite step up from the AirPods 2. It gives listeners a more premium look in line with the AirPods Pro, though it stops just short of aping the top-tier product, falling more into the barely mid-tier range category. Thanks to Apple’s chip wizardry, the earbuds deliver clear, warm audio whether you listen to music, watch TV, or are on a video call. And I highly recommend taking the spatial audio feature for a spin.
You get many of the AirPods Pro’s premium features on the AirPods 3 at about $20 cheaper and nearly an hour more battery life with MagSafe charging capabilities. If you’re looking for a powerful update to the popular AirPods 2 without totally breaking the bank on the Pro, the AirPods 3 is the way to go, hands down.
Read our full AirPods 3 review.
Beats headphones get a bad rap for being more style than substance. While the company’s original noise-cancellers, the Studio 3, was a solid pair of sound blasters, they didn’t exactly live up to their promise as a potential category leader. The Solo Pro certainly changes that argument. This sleek pair of on-ears pumps out refined, balanced sound and features effective noise cancellation and a nifty transparency mode that filters in more ambient sound so you can be aware of your surroundings. You get a decent amount of battery life to work with at 22 hours, but Beats’ Fast Fuel technology helps speed up the recharging process when necessary, generating 3 hours of playtime on a 10-minute charge.
Apple also brings its H1 chip to the Solo Pro, which enables seamless pairing and a fun audio-sharing feature for when you want to listen with friends who also own pair of Beats headphones or AirPods.
See our full Beats Solo Pro review.
Platform-neutral performance on a pair of Apple earbuds was a pipe dream until the Beats Studio Buds came along. These super-tiny, cordless in-ear monitors play nicely with iOS and Android devices, operating on a new (and undisclosed) processor that provides true Find My Buds support and one-touch pairing to Apple or Android phones via Class 1 Bluetooth connection. Apple tweaked the soundstage to give these buds more refined sound than the Powerbeats Pro. ANC is also shockingly good on the Studio Buds and cancels out a wide number of ambient sounds. Battery life is rated higher than the AirPods Pro as well.
Some iOS users won’t be happy about unsupported features such as auto switching between iCloud-registered devices and Siri Announce Notifications; these are exclusive and tied to Apple’s H1 processor. Nonetheless, the performance and value these buds offer is too good to ignore.
Read our full Beats Studio Buds review.
Fast, smart, and longer-lasting than the first-gen model, the AirPods 2 remains a top-tier option for iPhones owners who want the true wireless Apple experience without spending extra on the AirPods Pro. A current price drop to $135 (check Amazon) makes them even more appealing. Apple gives people what they want with wireless charging and a hands-free approach to Siri. Other notable features include a Find My iPhone setting, Announce Messages with Siri, audio sharing between two AirPods or Beats headphones, and instantaneous connectivity to iOS/MacOS devices. The AirPods 2 are also set to receive automatic switching as part of the upcoming iOS 14 update, which is rumored to launch this September.
On top of all of that, you’ll find much pleasure in knowing the AirPods 2 holds a longer charge (5 hours) than the AirPods Pro (4.5 hours). However, portable power is the same, with the charging case holding 24 hours of juice. And the fact that they offer 50% more talk time is the icing on the cake, especially since the original AirPods' was near-instantaneous.
Apple isn't making a fitness version of its popular AirPods, or so we think. Until then, the PowerBeats Pro is the best you will get in terms of a true sporty model. These buds pack great performance in a durable, water-resistant shell. The company's even gone as far as to include the new H1 chip, making seamless integration with all iDevices even faster. Automatic switching has been added as well via the iOS 14 update.
Audio is crucial for any pair of sports headphones, and fortunately, Apple has toned down the Beats' bass-heavy sound signature. The Powerbeats Pro has a more balanced presentation that blends emphatic lows and tighter mids and highs. Those who constantly complain about the AirPods poor battery life can breathe easy knowing these buds hold nearly double the amount of playtime on a full charge at nine hours. While not the most portable-friendly, the charging case gets you about two extra charges on the go as well.
The Studio3 Wireless remains a hot seller among brand enthusiasts and budget-conscious millennials who aren’t ready to splurge big on the AirPods Max. These stylish cans welcome some notable improvements on the sonic front that put Beats previous headphones to shame. Mids and highs are emphasized, blending well with Beats’ signature bass profile. Noise cancellation has been increased as well to provide acceptable results; it’s good enough to drown out construction equipment and hush rowdy pedestrians.
Apple users get the best experience, thanks to the W1 chip, which increases battery life and connectivity range on iPhone models. Android users aren’t afforded the same luxuries, as the headphones often have trouble connecting to non-iOS devices. That doesn’t mean you won’t be able to enjoy the Studio3’s quality sound and strong battery life.
How to choose the best Apple headphones and earbuds for you
It goes without saying that your Apple/Beats products should all support the most current iOS version. This gets you the latest software perks and enhances the user experience across all iOS/macOS devices. Note that some features won’t apply to every Apple-made headphone or wireless earbuds. Just make sure you get the essentials like audio sharing, instantaneous connectivity, and “Hey Siri” voice activation, just to name a few.
Next on the list is audio. You want the best sound and call quality, so having a model that boasts powerful drivers and microphones can help big time. Apple’s introduction of Spatial Audio, which uses dynamic head tracking to create 360-degree immersive sound, is available on select models.
Apple doesn’t have the greatest track record when it comes to battery life, but the company is responsible for setting the industry average time for wireless earbuds: five hours. Newer AirPods and Beats wireless earbuds either fall in the same range or offer higher playtimes. The company’s over-ear and on-ear ANC headphones also fall within the category’s industry average time (20 hours) and can extend playtime when ANC is off.
These products don’t come cheap, so to ensure their safety, seek out models that either have IPX4 sweat and splash resistance or have third-party covers available for full-on protection. Consider adding an AppleCare warranty (opens in new tab) too.
How we test the best Apple headphones and earbuds
When testing for the best Apple headphones and earbuds, Laptop Magazine evaluates several factors: design, comfort, sound, value, and multiplatform compatibility. Our selections are then compared to similar products in the category in terms of features, fit, and pricing.
Apple headphones and earbuds are worn over the course of a week for 2 to 3 hours at a time. We assess comfort, ease of use, and audio quality during this time. Sample tracks across several music genres (hip hop, rock, jazz, classical) are played, analyzing clarity, depth, imaging, and volume. Audiobooks, games, podcasts, and videos are taken into consideration. Any models supporting spatial audio are also tested using compatible hi-res streaming services (e.g., Apple Music, Deezer, Tidal).
Those who want to improve the sound quality on their laptop or mobile device may want to look over this audio codec FAQ to learn about FLAC files, MP3s, and other audio file codecs.
Once testing is completed, every model is rated based on our five-point system (1 = worst, 5 = best). Any truly exemplary product is awarded an Editor’s Choice.