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Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) vs Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II
Two recent arrivals in the active noise cancelling (ANC) wireless earbuds space, the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) and Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II are both updates to already beloved earbuds. ANC performance is neck and neck, but earbuds are more than just noise cancellers, they’re music-listening and smart wearable devices. We put both headsets head-to-head to see how they differ, and where the similarities lie.
Editor’s note: this article was published on October 17, 2022, and is the first version of the article. Updates will follow as the market changes.
What’s it like to use the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) compared to the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II?
The ever-recognizable Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) is a glossy white stemmed pair of true wireless earbuds. The case is also white, shaped like a rounded rectangle, and sports a silver lanyard loop and a speaker for locating the case through the Find My app. The earbuds and the case are IPX4 rated to handle water splashes—no problem. The earbuds come with four ear tip sizes, extra-small, small, medium, and large, so you can find the best fit.
The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II eschews the thin cylindrical stem for a flatter oval shape. You get three sizes of ear tips and “stability bands” (small, medium, large). The silicone stability bands work with the ear tips, keeping the earbuds secure in your ears. This makes the fit more stable and reliable than the AirPods Pro. While this can be good, we’ve experienced a loosening of these bands, which can cover the charging connectors. If your Bose earbuds aren’t charging properly, check the wraparound stabilizers before contacting support. Bose’s earbuds also merit an IPX4 rating and this, paired with the stabilizers, makes them a better pair of workout earbuds than Apple’s.
Like the AirPods Pro (2nd gen), the Bose case is also rounded and has a pairing/multi-function button on the back. You won’t find a lanyard loop or speaker built into the Bose QC Earbuds II case, though. Unlike the AirPods, which only comes in white, you get your choice of black or white with the Bose QC Earbuds II. You don’t really get to express your style with either set of wireless earbuds.
How do you control the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) and Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II?
Controlling the AirPods Pro (2nd generation) requires you to use the earbud stems, which react to various presses and swipes. When paired with an Apple device, saying “Hey, Siri” allows you to make hands-free commands. Controls are customizable in the iOS or iPadOS Settings app.
Press and hold
Toggle ANC/Adaptive Transparency modes
Change volume, request directions, playback control, receive messages, and more
Similarly, the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II has a capacitive touch surface on the back of each earbud, using taps and swipes to control it as well. You can change controls in the Bose Music App.
|INPUT||ACTION (music)||ACTION (phone)|
Play / Pause
Answer call / hold current call and answer new call
End call / Decline incoming call
|ACTION (music)ACTION (phone)|
Volume up / down
|ACTION (music)ACTION (phone)|
Should you use the apps of either Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) or Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II?
The Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation), like all other Apple earbuds, uses the iOS or iPadOS Settings app as its software. This means if you use an Android device, you won’t be able to access software features for the AirPods Pro. In the Settings app, you can access an ear tip fit test, toggle listening modes, customize controls, enable personalized Spatial Audio, get firmware updates, and more.
For more universal appeal, the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II uses the Bose Music App, which you can install on iOS and Android. Here you can change your EQ, adjust ANC intensity and create custom ANC settings for different places, install firmware updates, and access new features as they come up. Strangely, even though you can adjust ANC levels, you can’t turn it off completely. The best you can do is enable Aware mode with ActiveSense; this is equivalent to Apple’s Adaptive Transparency mode on the AirPods Pro (2nd gen).
If you have an Android phone and want to access software features, the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II is the way to go here. The AirPods Pro won’t be as enjoyable on Android devices due to restricted software features.
It’s also worth noting that both earbuds will require some personal data from you, like location data. Features may not work if you deny permissions.
How do the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) and Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II connect?
Both the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) and Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II connect using Bluetooth 5.3, and support the SBC and AAC Bluetooth codecs. There isn’t a high-bitrate option on either of these buds. The lack of high-quality codec support isn’t a huge issue, but if you want aptX or LDAC support, you’ll have to look elsewhere.
The AirPods Pro has an H2 chip that supports what Apple calls “high bandwidth connectivity,” but it still doesn’t provide lossless audio. The H2 chip also allows for quick pairing when you open the case near an iOS or iPadOS device, as well as quick switching between Apple devices logged into the same iCloud account.
Pairing the AirPods Pro to an iPhone just requires opening the AirPods Pro case beside the phone, which will prompt a card on your screen to connect. If you’re using another OS, it’s the same as pairing any other Bluetooth device:
- Make sure Bluetooth is enabled on your device.
- Open the AirPods Pro case and hold the setup button on the back for 5 seconds, until the white LED flashes.
- In your device’s Bluetooth menu, choose the AirPods Pro in the devices list.
To pair the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II, the process is similar to any other Bluetooth device:
- Make sure Bluetooth is enabled on your device.
- Open the charging case and hold the pairing button
- Choose the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II in the devices list to pair.
Is battery life better on the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) or Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II?
In our standard battery test, where each product endures constant music playback peaking at 75dB(SPL), the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) lasts 5 hours, 43 minutes with ANC on, just a bit less than Apple’s claim of 6 hours. The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II lasts 7 hours, 15 minutes with ANC on, and so is the clear battery life winner.
Both earbuds last a fine amount of time, but neither is particularly impressive. With a short battery life per charge, the overall lifetime of batteries in true wireless earbuds is small due to the number of charge cycles they experience. This quick degradation contributes to battery e-waste. If you care about the environment, it’s better to get earbuds with longer battery life or go for a wired option instead.
The AirPods Pro (2nd generation) case requires either a Lightning cable or a wireless charging pad, while the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II uses the more common USB-C and does not support wireless charging. The lack of wireless charging on Bose’s buds is surprising given the original Bose QC Earbuds case supports it. Both cases fast charge the earbuds, with the AirPods Pro yielding 60 minutes of playback from 5 minutes of charging, and the Bose earbuds get 2 hours of playback from 20 minutes of charging.
Does the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) or Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II block noise better?
Both the AirPods Pro (2nd generation) and Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II have excellent ANC, and are among the best of what’s currently available. The two products are both strong in this category, although our measurements reveal some performance differences worth considering.
The AirPods Pro (2nd generation) does a great job cancelling out low-end noise, with good isolation to help block high-frequency noise as well. The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II does a better job at dealing with those difficult low-end noises below 100Hz, and a bit of the high end, but there is a significant dip in the mid-range where it doesn’t match up to the AirPods Pro’s abilities.
To get the best noise attenuation from either, you’ll need to make sure you have a proper fit. If your ear tips don’t fit your ears properly, outside noise will leak in. This can lead to you turning up the volume to dangerous levels, which over time can result in noise-induced hearing loss. To avoid this, do the in-app ear tests and try out different ear tips to make sure you’re letting as little outside noise in as possible.
Does the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) sound better than the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II?
In our testing, the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) shows a frequency response that closely follows our target curve, for the most part, providing an enjoyable sound for most people and genres. The AirPods Pro (2nd generation) always has Adaptive EQ enabled, which maintains the sound profile to account for your in-ear fit and ear shape.
The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II takes a similar approach to the AirPods Pro, adjusting its performance to your ear canal using a test signal. The process is repeated every time you use the earbuds since your fit could change every time you put them in. The frequency response leans very bass-heavy, far from our target range. The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II also has EQ presets to choose from, including bass boost, bass reducer, treble reducer, and treble boost. All presets are somewhat similar, with bass being overemphasized compared to our target curve, even in the bass reducer EQ. You can also make a custom sound profile to address this.
Does the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) or Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II have a better microphone?
The Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) has a good microphone in ideal conditions, but background noise definitely causes issues. Voices can drop out completely when the earbuds try to reject background noise, and wind can make voices nearly inaudible.
Like the AirPods Pro, the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II sounds okay in ideal conditions, but the microphone isn’t quite as good. It has a similar problem with background noise as the AirPods Pro, making voices very difficult to hear when noise is present.
Neither is good for taking calls outdoors if there’s going to be unpredictable background noise like wind or cars. When using either for phone calls, take things indoors to a quiet space for the best results.
Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) microphone demo (Ideal conditions):
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II microphone demo (Ideal conditions):
Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) microphone demo (Windy conditions):
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II microphone demo (Windy conditions):
Which microphone sounds better to you?
Editor’s note: Our standardized test setup plays back pre-recorded phrases from a calibrated artificial mouth in our test chamber, either with or without simulated background noises, simulated reverberant spaces, or artificial wind. This means that samples from every product can be directly compared, which makes it far easier to make meaningful comparisons between products in terms of the raw speech quality or the product’s ability to reject noise. While this setup is consistent, it’s unable to allow the AirPods Pro (2nd gen) earbuds to detect speech as they would in the real world (using vibrations), so you’re likely to experience something different than our demos above.
Should you get the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) or Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II?
One thing that bears repeating whenever discussing Apple products is that you should not get them if you don’t have an iOS device as your daily driver. If you buy the AirPods Pro intending to use it with an Android device, you will miss out on firmware updates, Spatial Audio support, the ear tip fit test, and more—probably not worth it. The AirPods Pro (2nd generation) is pretty expensive at $249 USD, and there are many other Android-friendly choices in this price bracket.
That being said, the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) is an excellent pair of noise cancelling earbuds. The ANC is excellent, the sound profile is versatile and enjoyable, and the H2 and U1 chips bring more great features to the AirPods Pro line. It’s worth getting if you want a pair of earbuds that will perfectly integrate with your Apple ecosystem.
The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II is also a great pair of earbuds, though the default sound signature can be polarizing. However, knowing the EQ can be customized, and the software is OS-agnostic, this is a better pair of earbuds for Android users or anyone who wants the ability to change phones without worrying about compatibility. However, it’s more expensive than the AirPods Pro (2nd generation) at $299 USD, so it may still be worth shopping around.
What should you get instead of the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) and Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II?
With so many great true wireless and noise cancelling earbuds on the market, finding an alternative to either is easy, with great options out there for everyone.
The Sony WF-1000XM4 is easily one of our favorite noise cancelling earbuds, with excellent ANC, an OS-agnostic app with great features, and comfortable foam ear tips. It’s expensive at $278 USD, but it goes on sale for cheaper from time to time.
Android users may enjoy the Google Pixel Buds Pro, which is cheaper than all of the above at $199 USD, and has great features like live Google Translate support, good ANC, and Bluetooth multipoint. It also has a water-resistant case and earbuds.
The Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro is a great option for Samsung phone owners, with amazing ANC, a good sound profile, and IPX7 water resistance. It integrates best with Samsung phones, allowing you to use Samsung’s 360 Audio and the Samsung Seamless Codec. For $229 USD, it’s more affordable than both the AirPods Pro and the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II.
Frequently asked questions
No, you will not be able to install firmware updates on an Android device for the AirPods Pro (2nd generation).