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Apple AirPods Pro vs Bose QuietComfort Earbuds
It seems like everyone has the Apple AirPods Pro these days, but plenty of competitors have risen up out of the shadows. The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds is clearly related to its over-ear counterparts, the QuietComfort 35 II and QC 45, and the in-ear version shares many of the draws of the AirPods Pro. Let’s explore whether one of these competing active noise cancelling (ANC) true wireless earbuds is a better buy.
Editor’s note: this versus article was updated on March 18, 2022, to add expandable FAQs throughout the article and to add an FAQ section at the end of the article.
Which pair of earbuds has a better design?
The Apple AirPods Pro and Bose QuietComfort Earbuds take very different design approaches. The AirPods Pro has stems and comes with 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. Both the Apple and Bose buds in question have an IPX4 rating so they are great for wearing during workouts.
Start here: Ultimate headphone buying guide
The AirPods Pro has a lot of useful touch features. If you want to activate Transparency Mode, which is like the opposite of active noise cancelling, play or pause music, or skip songs, you can do so all by squeezing or tapping the AirPods Pro stems. The QuietComfort Earbuds also have touch controls and Transparency mode.
Does the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds or Apple AirPods Pro have better connection?
The AirPods Pro uses 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, and they occur automatically when the iPhone updates.
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.
The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds doesn’t care whether you have an iPhone or an Android device—it connects the same way. This uses Bluetooth 5.1, which means it’s slightly more energy-efficient than the AirPods Pro with Bluetooth 5.0. This doesn’t matter so much if you’re using an iPhone with the AirPods Pro because the H1 chip does wonders for energy efficiency. Just like the AirPods, the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds supports the SBC and AAC codecs, which means Android users won’t have a reliable high-quality codec, given AAC’s spotty integration with non-Apple platforms.
What software features do you get with the AirPods Pro and Bose QC Earbuds?
The AirPods Pro is known for its expansive array of software features, most of which are only available to iPhone users. Its 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.
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The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds doesn’t have a lot of crazy specialized features like the AirPods Pro, but it has classic premium features like automatic ear detection, selecting varying levels of noise cancelling, and quick charging. The Apple AirPods Pro also has all these features, except it only has three active noise cancelling 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.
How does the active noise cancelling compare?
Both the Apple AirPods Pro and the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds provide active noise cancelling. The AirPods Pro can’t quite keep up with the very best on the market, and won’t outperform the Bose QC Earbuds. As you can see in the charts below, the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds’ isolation and active noise cancelling blow the AirPods Pro out of the water.
Ten levels of noise cancelling performance is a very useful 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.
Remember, active noise cancelling 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 each pair of earbuds is comparable
True wireless earbuds are notorious for having poor battery life, and neither the Apple AirPods Pro nor Bose QuietComfort Earbuds are exceptions to this. The AirPods Pro lasts 5 hours, 6 minutes on a single charge, and the QuietComfort Earbuds lasts 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 also supports quick charging.
True wireless earbuds tend to also 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 for when you tend to 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.
How do these two compare in terms of sound quality?
The AirPods Pro and QuietComfort Earbuds take similar approaches, both having sound signatures that follow our target curve (shown in pink on the chart below) quite closely.
As the chart above shows, the measured frequency responses of these two products aren’t actually that different. The Bose earbuds’ response (represented by a yellow dashed line) 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, although this is unlikely to be audible to most people.
Learn more: What is frequency response?
Do Apple or Bose’s microphones sound better?
The AirPods Pro does 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):
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds microphone demo (Ideal):
Which microphone sounds better to you?
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 very easy thanks to the H1 chip. Plus, you’ll benefit from battery optimization, firmware updates, and Spatial Audio. If you have an Android phone, don’t splurge on the AirPods Pro.
If you decide to go for 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 has the best ANC of any true wireless earbuds.
Which pair of earbuds’ sound you prefer largely depends on your tastes, but if you’re looking for strong bass, go with the Bose earbuds, and if you mostly care about vocals, go with the AirPods Pro. If you have a Samsung smartphone, consider the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro instead.
Frequently asked questions about the Apple AirPods Pro and Bose QuietComfort Earbuds
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.