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. Settling on one is just as difficult as picking out your next iPhone or MacBook. Hence, we compiled this list to make the selection process a little easier on your mind and wallet.
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?
Sitting in first place on our best Apple headphones and earbuds list is the AirPods Pro. The original may have revolutionized wireless earbuds, but its noise-cancelling sibling took things a step forward with key additions such as an adaptive EQ, active noise cancellation, installed ear tips for optimal fit, and Spatial Audio. 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, or at least until the rumored AirPods Pro 2 drops.
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 eyesore than the silly smart case. However, you’re buying the wireless cans for their powerful tech. The 40mm drivers, nine 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 wingtips also provide a proper fit and stability for workouts.
If you’re someone who wants to enjoy Apple Music playlists the best way possible, here’s a look at all of the best Apple headphones and earbuds.
The best Apple headphones and earbuds right now
Apple finally made AirPods that you can wear to work out. Built-in sweat- and water-resistance, interchangeable ear tips and a new Transparency Mode offer the functionality and freedom to exercise how you want. While there’s no companion app to create custom audio profiles, Apple added more audio-focused touch controls, which work when the earbuds are paired with an Android phone. We are also fans of Apple’s active noise cancellation, which is great for when you want to block everything out. Transparency Mode, which pipes in ambient noises, comes in handy when you need to be more aware of your surroundings.
iOS 14 brought spatial audio to the AirPods Pro for immersive listening when watching movies on the exercise bike. Newer software updates have expanded functionality, bringing impressive features like Conversation Boost for those who are hard of hearing and Find My support, which makes locating lost buds easier when out of range and turned off.
Read our full AirPods Pro review.
You may think Apple is crazy for pricing their ANC headphones higher than Bose or Sony, but your attitude will change quickly after experiencing the AirPods Max’s robust noise cancellation and audio performance. Nine mics are stuffed into these cans, eight of which are used to dramatically reduce ambient noise and allow a vast number of external sounds into the soundscape when enabling Transparency Mode. These over-ear beauties also embody the brand’s design ethos with bold, clean lines and premium materials that complement the sophisticated appearance of other Apple products. Unique features like audio sharing, “Hey Siri” voice activation, and spatial audio to enjoy 360-degree sound add to their value.
Besides the extremely high MSRP, our only complaint about Apple’s headphones is the silly handbag-inspired carrying case that offers zero protection.
Read our full 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 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.
The first on-ear noise-cancellers in the Beats lineup are feature-laden cans with stylish good looks. The Solo Pro has noteworthy noise cancellation that should put Bose on notice; the technology does a resilient job of minimizing ambient sounds. Audio has also been fine-tuned to create a full sound that lends itself well to most music genres. You can expect that same thumping Beats bass, but with cleaner mids and highs coming through the soundstage. Battery life is steady as well at 22 hours.
Thanks to Apple’s H1 chip, these headphones also give you seamless pairing and integration with iOS devices, all in a sophisticated take on Beats’ brightly colored aesthetic. Fashion-forward audiophiles who love accessorizing their wardrobe with their headphones will find several attractive colors available, including Black, Dark Blue, Gray, Ivory, Light Blue, and Red.
See our full Beats Solo Pro review.
If you’re someone who loves AirPods or Beats headphones but wants something that is more platform-neutral, here is your solution. The Beats Studio Buds are explicitly designed to play nicely with Android while maintaining fast, and reliable performance on iOS, a balancing act that Beats executes well due to a brand new (and undisclosed) chipset. ANC is shockingly good for the price and blocks out most ambient sound. The proprietary 8.2mm, dual-element diaphragm driver and custom-built transducers produce great audio. Battery life with ANC on is higher than the AirPods Pro at 5 hours, and turning it off extends it to 8 hours. The design is unique and different from the ear-hook silhouette that has become synonymous with Beats wireless earbuds.
Since the Studio Buds don’t run on the H1 chip, they miss out on some exclusive iOS features such as auto-switching between iCloud-registered devices and Siri Announce Notifications. Call quality and transparency mode aren’t anything to write home about either, but the performance you get from these buds still surpasses their MSRP.
Read our full Beats Studio Buds review.
As phenomenal as the AirPods Pro may be, there’s no denying the model that came before it. The AirPods II still delivers a next-level true wireless experience that makes connecting to iOS and macOS devices instantaneous while offering signature features like “Hey Siri” voice activation. You’re also getting Announce Messages with Siri, audio sharing between two AirPods or Beats headphones, and automatic switching. Adding some third-party ear tips into the mix can help provide a more pleasant and secure fit.
Investing in Apple’s second-gen buds also means you’re fine living without some modern features like ANC and ambient listening mode. Those same sentiments carry over to battery life, which, while slightly better than the AirPods Pro, won’t last you long on flights.
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.
We didn’t think Beats would ever release $50 wireless headphones, but they did, granted inflation has recently raised its MSRP to $69. Nonetheless, the final product is surprisingly good. Think of the Beats Flex as a revamped version of the popular BeatsX, but with longer battery life, slightly better mics, and a flashier design. Apple’s W1 chip runs the show and gives iOS handset owners a handful of cool features to work with, including audio sharing, easy pairing with iDevices, and Fast Fuel technology to get 1.5 hours of use on a 10-minute charge. The several color options available are enticing as well: Black, Flame Blue, Smoke Gray, and Yuzu Yellow.
While the Flex is great for listening to movies and podcasts, we felt the audio for music was 50/50, as the flat sound signature lacked the hard-hitting bass that we’ve become accustomed to hearing from Beats. The fact that there is no IP rating shouldn’t bother you much, and if it does, just look at the MSRP one more time.
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 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.