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Apple AirPods Pro (1st generation) vs Bose QuietComfort Earbuds

What are the major differences between these earbuds?
By

Published onJune 6, 2023

The Apple AirPods Pro and Bose QuietComfort Earbuds in a blended image with versus text overlaid.

It seems like everyone has the Apple AirPods Pro these days, but plenty of competitors have risen out of the shadows. The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds are related to their over-ear counterparts, the QuietComfort 35 II and QC 45, and the buds share many of the draws of the AirPods Pro (1st generation). Let’s explore whether one of these competing active noise canceling (ANC) earbuds are the better buy.

Editor’s note: this versus article was updated on June 6, 2023, to add new comparison charts, add more microphone samples, and add a controls section. We also ensured that all information is current and updated the format to match our current style.

Apple AirPods Pro (1st generation) vs Bose QuietComfort Earbuds: Which earbuds have a better design?

The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds noise canceling true wireless earbuds rest next to the closed charging case on a wood surface.
Lily Katz / SoundGuys
You can quickly switch between devices if you download the Bose Music app.

The Apple AirPods Pro (1st generation) and Bose QuietComfort Earbuds take very different design approaches to what makes a good pair of earbuds. The AirPods Pro (1st generation) have stems and includes a variety of silicone ear tip sizes. This combination means they are comfortable and stable in your ears. Each Bose earbud is shaped like a bulky pill. Bose features its StayHear Max wing tips, which are comfortable and maintain a stable fit. The Apple and Bose buds in question have an IPX4 rating, so they make for suitable workout earbuds.

How do you control the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds and Apple AirPods Pro?

The AirPods Pro have a lot of helpful touch controls. Rather than administer the controls with taps, you must squeeze an AirPod stem. You can squeeze the stems to activate Transparency Mode — which is like the opposite of ANC — play or pause music, or skip songs.

AirPods Pro controls:

INPUT (stems)ACTION
One press
Play/pause/answer call
Two presses
Next track
Three presses
Previous track
Press and hold
Toggle ANC/Adaptive Transparency modes
"Hey Siri"
Change volume, request directions, playback control, receive messages, and more

The QuietComfort Earbuds also have touch controls and Transparency mode. The biggest difference between the AirPods Pro (1st gen) and Bose QC Earbuds controls are that Bose lets you adjust the volume from the earbuds. To change the volume on the AirPods, you need to say “Hey Siri,” when paired with an iPhone or reach for your phone.

Bose QC Earbuds controls:

ActionLeft sideRight side
Action
Two taps
Left side
Cycle through favorites (ANC modes)
Right side
Pause/play music
Action

Left side

Right side
Pickup/end phone call
Action
Hold
Left side
Skip song
Right side
Access smart assistant
Action

Left side
Check battery level
Right side
Reject incoming calls
Action
Remove/insert
Left side
Pause/play music
Right side
Pause/play music
Action

Left side
Auto Transparency mode (remove)
Right side
Auto Transparency mode (remove)
Action
Swipe
Left side

Right side
Volume up/down

Does the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds or Apple AirPods Pro have better connection?

The Apple AirPods Pro noise canceling true wireless earbuds rest on a smartphone.
The AirPods Pro is hard to beat for iOS users.

The AirPods Pro use Bluetooth 5.0 and supports the SBC and AAC codecs. Connection quality is generally good, but some users have reported issues. Updating the firmware version usually fixes these issues, but if you’re still experiencing problems you’ll need to contact Apple’s customer support. Unfortunately, firmware updates are only available to iPhone users, occurring automatically when the iPhone updates.

The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds connect the same way to iOS as it does to Android. This uses Bluetooth 5.1, which is slightly more energy-efficient than the AirPods Pro with Bluetooth 5.0. This doesn’t matter much if you’re using an iPhone with the AirPods Pro because the H1 chip works wonders for energy efficiency. Like the AirPods, the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds support the SBC and AAC codecs, which means Android users won’t have a reliable, high-quality codec. AAC streaming quality is historically spotty on Android.

One of the main perks of using an iPhone with AirPods is streamlined connectivity.

Connecting the AirPods Pro to an Apple device is very easy, thanks to the embedded H1 chip. Once you open the AirPods Pro case a card on your iPhone will pop up, prompting you to connect the device. After establishing this connection, your AirPods Pro will connect to all devices attached to your iCloud account. Once you do this, you can set up things like Find My AirPods.

Pairing the AirPods Pro with an Android or Windows PC is a little more complicated, but not any more than any other brand of Bluetooth earbuds.

What software features do you get with the AirPods Pro and Bose QC Earbuds?

A hand holds the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds noise canceling true wireless earbuds open charging case.
Lily Katz / SoundGuys
You can easily open the charging case with one hand.

The AirPods Pro are known for their array of software features, most of which are only available to iPhone users. Their Spatial Audio with head tracking mimics the experience of movie theatre surround sound. This feature is pretty advanced, as it can differentiate between you moving your head and the car or airplane you’re in making a turn, and adjusts the sound experience accordingly. Additional features include an ear tip fit test via your iPhone’s Settings app, automatic device switching via iCloud connection, and a battery optimization feature that helps protect the long-term health of the buds’ battery.

The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds don’t have a lot of specialized features like the AirPods Pro. Still, they have classic premium features like automatic ear detection, varying noise canceling levels, and quick charging. The Apple AirPods Pro also have all these features, except it only has three active noise canceling settings: On, Off, and Transparency Mode.

If you download the Bose Music app for the QuietComfort Earbuds, you can seamlessly switch between source devices and equalize the sound. The AirPods Pro doesn’t allow for customized EQ settings. The Bose earbuds do have a feature called Active EQ which adjusts the earbuds’ sound based on your surroundings. Similarly, the AirPods Pro has Adaptive EQ which adjusts the sound based on the shape of your ears.

Do the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds have better noise canceling than the AirPods Pro?

The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds noise canceling true wireless earbuds next to the Bose Sport Earbuds for a size comparison.
Lily Katz / SoundGuys
The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds (left) and Bose Sport Earbuds (right) both stay in place thanks to Bose’s ear tips.

Both the Apple AirPods Pro and the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds provide active noise canceling. The AirPods Pro can’t quite keep up with the best on the market, and won’t outperform the Bose QC Earbuds. As you can see in the chart below, the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds’ isolation and active noise canceling are more effective than the AirPods Pro out of the water.

Ten levels of noise canceling performance is a handy feature on the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds that allows you to tailor the amount of audio passthrough in any given environment. At the highest level, the ANC successfully blocks out loud droning sounds just as well as anything else on the market.

A chart compares the Apple AirPods Pro and Bose QC Earbuds' total attenuation, showing the QC Earbuds' low-frequency ANC is better than Apple's.
The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds block out much more noise across the board than the AirPods Pro.

Remember, active noise canceling is most useful for predictable low-end sounds like the rumble of traffic, or the droning sound of an airplane. For isolation from more dynamic high-end sound, a rubber tip with a good seal is the best defense against unwanted noise. Both the Apple AirPods Pro and Bose QuietComfort Earbuds offer this.

The battery life of Apple and Bose’s earbuds is similar

A man wears the Apple AirPods Pro against a gray background.
The Apple AirPods Pro address listeners’ complaints about a lack of seal from the previous generations.

True wireless earbuds are notorious for having poor battery life, and neither the Apple AirPods Pro (1st gen) nor Bose QuietComfort Earbuds are exceptions. The AirPods Pro last 5 hours, 6 minutes on a single charge, and the QuietComfort Earbuds last 5 hours, 29 minutes. Luckily, the AirPods Pro case holds 24 hours of additional charge and supports quick charging. On the other hand, the QuietComfort Earbuds case holds 12 hours of additional charge and supports quick charging.

True wireless earbuds tend to have long-term battery problems because the constant partial depletion and over-charging that occurs in the cases can wear out the battery over time. Apple has tried to combat this issue by including a battery optimization feature on the AirPods Pro, which prevents the battery from charging to 100%, except when you use them for longer listening periods. The AirPods technology learns your usage patterns to plan this out, but you can disable the feature if you don’t want it.

Apple AirPods Pro (1st generation) vs Bose QuietComfort Earbuds: Which buds sound best?

A chart compares the Apple AirPods Pro and Bose QC Earbuds' frequency response.
Bose and Apple’s earbuds sound similar.

The AirPods Pro and QuietComfort Earbuds take similar approaches, with sound signatures that closely follow our target curve.

As the chart above shows, the measured frequency responses of these two products aren’t actually that different. The Bose earbuds’ response dips slightly below our target in the lower midrange (200-500Hz), which can help with the perception of better bass performance. Above that, the Bose follows our target quite well, before rolling off in the high frequencies slightly earlier than the AirPods Pro; this is unlikely to be audible to most people.

Do Apple or Bose’s microphones sound better?

A cat paw reaches for the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds case as a woman inserts it into her pants pocket.
Lily Katz / SoundGuys
Even cats are fans of the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds.

The AirPods Pro (1st generation) do a very good job of relaying speech through the microphone. Regardless of the pitch of your voice, you shouldn’t have a hard time coming through clearly. The AirPods Pro also employs a speech-detecting sensor that, combined with the beam-forming microphones, effectively reduces background noise. You should come through fine whether you’re talking inside or on a busy street.

The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds has a decent microphone, too, though its tone is a bit harsher than the AirPods Pro microphone. The QuietComfort Earbuds mic also sometimes clips audio, which means slight distortion occurs.

After listening to the samples, let us know your preference for each. Then you can see how the rest of the world thinks!

Apple AirPods Pro microphone demo (Ideal conditions):

AirPods Pro (1st generation) microphone demo (Street conditions):

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds microphone demo (Ideal conditions):

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds microphone demo (Street conditions):

Which microphone sounds better to you?

13915 votes

Should you buy the Apple AirPods Pro or the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds?

If you’re already neck-deep in the Apple ecosystem, you should probably get the AirPods Pro over the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds. Switching between listening to music from your MacBook and answering calls on your iPhone will be effortless, thanks to the H1 chip. Plus, you’ll benefit from battery optimization, firmware updates, and Spatial Audio. Don’t splurge on the AirPods Pro if you have an Android phone.

Apple AirPods Pro (1st generation)Apple AirPods Pro (1st generation)
Apple AirPods Pro (1st generation)
ANC support • Perfect for iPhones • Deep Apple integration
MSRP: $249.00
For iPhone users, not much else can compare
The Apple AirPods Pro offers more features and accessories than the base AirPods, including ANC. A worthy upgrade for any iPhone user if you can afford it!

If you choose the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds instead, you’ll benefit from a more stable, workout-oriented fit in your ears, custom EQ, and Bluetooth 5.1. Save for the Sony WF-1000XM4, the Bose QC Earbuds have the best ANC of any true wireless earbuds, which makes sense, given Bose’s track record.

Which earbuds’ sound you prefer largely depends on your tastes. If you’re looking for strong bass, go with the Bose earbuds, and if you mostly care about vocals, go with the AirPods Pro. There are newer versions of both of these earbuds. The Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) (on the product’s website) have replaced the first-gen AirPods Pro, and the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II ($189 at Amazon) replaced the original QC Earbuds. Bose’s QC Earbuds II have stellar ANC but the default bass response is ridiculous.

If you have a Samsung smartphone, consider the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro ($179 at Amazon) or cheaper Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 ($99 at Amazon) instead.

Bose QuietComfort EarbudsBose QuietComfort Earbuds
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds
Customizable ANC • 5h battery life • Various tip size
MSRP: $279.00
Bose QuietComfort earbuds offer high-quality sound. You can choose the degree of noise canceling and enjoy premium features like automatic ear detection.

Frequently asked questions about the Apple AirPods Pro and Bose QuietComfort Earbuds

On a wood surface the Google Pixel Buds Pro case is open with the buds out, and the two spare sets of ear tips.
The ear tips are easier than most earbuds to swap out and fit on the Pixel Buds Pro.

If you have an iPhone, there’s really no point to paying a premium for the Pixel Buds Pro when you won’t be able to take advantage of many of their features. As far as Android earbuds go, the Pixel Buds Pro are a strong contender among ANC wireless earbuds. You get direct voice access to the Google Assistant, excellent ANC, and a more durable build than other options. The earbuds have an IPX4 rating, which is pretty standard, but the Pixel Buds Pro case has an IPX2 rating. We rarely see earbuds’ cases with durability ratings unless it’s something like the Jaybird Vista 2, known for its abnormal toughness.

Some may turn up their noses at the bass-heavy sound coming out of the Pixel Buds Pro, but it has its place. Plus, Google lets you equalize the sound through the Pixel Buds app for Android.

Yes, you can use either set of earbuds in mono mode. You can use either the left or right earbud for mono listening.

No, neither the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds nor the AirPods Pro supports multipoint. You can, however, use the AirPods Pro to seamlessly switch between devices associated with the same iCloud account.

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