AirPods 2 vs. Powerbeats Pro: Is Improved Sound Worth $100?
After a month of testing, I determined Apple AirPods 2 are the best true wireless earbuds overall. The sound quality is decent, and because they’re so lightweight, you’ll barely feel them in your ears. However, Powerbeats Pro provides better sound quality and noise isolation and fit more people.
I’ll explain how I reached my conclusion by comparing two true wireless earbuds (AirPods 2 vs. Powerbeats Pro) while evaluating six categories: sound, software, fit, design, battery, and exercise compatibility.
Apple AirPods 2
- Sound: The sound is not great, and there’s no isolation, but these earbuds aren’t made for audiophiles.
- Fit: If Apple EarPods (included with iPhone) fit you, AirPods will fit. But they don’t suit everyone.
- Design: AirPods are super light. The case fits in your pocket and provides wireless charging.
- Battery: You get five hours of playback and another 18 hours from the case.
- Exercise: If they fit while inactive, they should stay put during exercise.
Best for you if...
You want to wear them for long periods without any discomfort. The sound quality is nothing special, but it’s good enough for most people. The lightweight feel and overall intuitiveness make up for the lower audio quality.
- Sound: They offer better sound quality and noise isolation compared to AirPods.
- Fit: With four different tip sizes, they’ll fit everyone, but they can get uncomfortable after an hour or so.
- Design: Powerbeats Pro are heavier, less intuitive and have a larger case.
- Battery: You get nine hours of playback and another 13 from the case.
- Exercise: They’re guaranteed to stay in place and have easy-to-use volume and skip buttons.
Best for you if...
You want a secure fit or prioritize sound quality. They have easy-to-use playback controls, longer battery life, and better noise cancellation. You won’t get wireless charging, and the snug fit will tire out your ears over long periods.
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Powerbeats Pro & AirPods Software (A+):
- Normally, I write a dedicated “software” section for each product, but AirPods and Powerbeats Pro have the same H1 Chip to overcome many of the random and frequent issues that Bluetooth audio devices face, such as:
- Connecting to headphones during phone calls when it’s not supposed to.
- Difficulty connecting at random times.
- Multiple devices fighting to stay connected simultaneously, resulting in a lost connection.
- You need to use “forget a device” to repair the device.
- Device switching is a pain.
- The issues with Bluetooth can’t be fixed because Bluetooth is an open standard and most headphone manufacturers don’t have control over the phone hardware.
- Apple has a unique advantage over most headphone companies because they own the music playing devices (iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch) and the headphones (AirPods and Beats). Apple created their own communication parts inside both pieces of hardware (H1 Chip), which provides better software.
- The H1 Chip does the following on iOS devices:
- Setup is easy. Just tap the screen when a message appears after opening your case.
- You’ll never have to go into the Bluetooth settings to pair, and there’s no need to “forget a device.” Your music automatically plays in your headphones if they’re in your ears.
- You just tap the triangle button on your music controller and choose AirPods to switch devices.
- Other true wireless headphones have one “master bud” connected to the phone, which relays the signal to the other bud. With the H1 Chip, both buds are connected to the phone. You get a stronger connection, fewer dropouts, phone calls play through both ears, and there’s an option for single AirPod listening.
- When you pull AirPods or Powerbeats out of your ears, the music stops. When you put them back in your ears, it resumes.
- When you open the case, a giant interface appears on your device to show you the battery percentage left on your headphones and charging case.
- You get hands-free Siri, by just saying “Hey Siri” followed by a command.
- On AirPods, you can customize what you want the double taps to do. For instance, I made a double tap on my right Pod skip the track.
- AirPods and Powerbeats Pro work with Android devices. But, unfortunately, none of the benefits of the H1 Chip apply with Android.
- AirPods sound similar to the EarPods included with iPhone. The audio quality isn’t anything special.
- The high-end sounds are solid for vocals.
- The sound is lacking on the mid-range and low end because there’s next to no bass.
- Unless you’re an audiophile or you’re testing them side-by-side with another pair of headphones, the lower sound quality isn’t glaringly obvious.
- You’ve missed the point of AirPods if you’re worried about the sound quality. Even after testing lots of headphones that sound better, I end up using AirPods as my primary headphone set because of the seamless design and comfortable fit.
Fit & Comfort (A+):
- AirPods have a one-size-fits-all approach with no fins or other attachments to help keep them in your ears. They sit on your ears without a tight seal.
- The caveat is that many people can’t get them to stay in their ears. You’ll have to buy a different brand or a third-party attachment if the fit is a problem.
- To test the fit, you should try the EarPods (included with iPhone). You can go a step further and cut the cord on an unused or broken pair of EarPods to fully test before you make an investment. AirPods have the same design but stay put better because there’s no cord pulling on them.
- While they may look like they’ll fall out easily, if they fit in your ears, they’re not going anywhere. My AirPods have fallen out once in two years during an extra intense workout.
- If AirPods fit your ears, their biggest advantage is they’re light and don’t require a tight seal, so you won’t feel them. I’m confident most people can wear them until the battery dies without noticing them or experiencing discomfort.
- They’re lightweight (0.02 pounds each), sleek, and come in white.
- AirPods don’t have physical buttons. Instead, you can double-tap either AirPod to perform playback actions. You have four options and each can be mapped to the left or right AirPod:
- Initiate Siri.
- Skip Track.
- Previous Track.
- There’s no button or gesture to control the volume.
- Keep in mind AirPods will stop and resume music on its own based on whether it is in or out of your ear.
- The case will fit in your pocket.
- The AirPods intuitively snap in.
- The case is 2.5 cubic inches and weighs 0.10 pounds.
- It charges with your iPhone charging cord, but you can also charge it with a Qi wireless charging mat.
- You’ll get five hours of music playback on a single charge.
- You can talk on the phone for three hours.
- The charging case provides an additional 18 hours of juice.
- The quick charge gives you an hour of battery after five minutes of charging.
- AirPods aren’t technically sweat-proof or waterproof, but I exercise with them every day and have had issues. If your ears sweat excessively, you may have issues with them falling out from being slippery, but I haven’t experienced it.
- For people who can get AirPods to fit, you won’t have issues during any kind of exercise, but because they’re not attached to your ears in any way, there’s always more risk than other options.
- For running and biking, they do a decent job of keeping air out of the ears compared to other earbuds.
- I found it easier to change songs with Powerbeats Pro while running because the double tap on AirPods can cause them to shift.
- The sound quality is an upgrade from AirPods, but it’s subtle.
- Powerbeats Pro has better clarity and sound separation with more bass than AirPods.
- The biggest advantage is the ambient outside noise isolation. While Powerbeats Pro aren’t close to noise canceling, they do a substantially better job at blocking out noise around you (i.e., loud coffee shops, planes, wind, or screaming kids).
- Powerbeats Pro doesn’t sound like previous Beats headphones (bass heavy) and has a much smoother and cleaner bass than Powerbeats 3.
- You get louder and clearer bass than AirPods, but you should look at Bose SoundSport Free if the bass is important to you.
Fit & Comfort (C+):
- You get four different-sized rubber tips to pick from, which provides a solid fit for anyone.
- The hooks add stability by wrapping around the outside of your ear.
- While you’ll get a tight seal, the rubber tips are hard and irritate the ear after extended use. For instance, if I was working out for a couple of hours, I wouldn’t notice them. But if I was working at my desk (stationary), I couldn’t go for more than an hour without discomfort.
- People with glasses should be fine because the Powerbeats Pro will slip over them, but it’s something to consider.
- The left and right headphones have identical tactile buttons that are easy to press. You get a volume rocker and Beats button. The Beats button can skip songs when you double-press it.
- I’d like to see the Beats button with programmable software. Rather than a double press for song skipping, a single press would be ideal. A single press pauses the song, but it’s unnecessary since the music automatically pauses when you remove the bud.
- The case is massive (7.8 cubic inches) and weighs 0.29 pounds, almost three times as bulky as AirPods.
- Just like AirPods, the case charges with a Lightning cable.
- Unlike AirPods, there’s no wireless charging option.
- Placing the Powerbeats back in the case isn’t as intuitive as AirPods and doesn’t have the same satisfying snap. You’ll get the hang of it after a few tries, but you need to be more cautious of whether the Beats are charging. My right Powerbeat didn’t charge on two occasions due to my poor placement.
- You’ll get nine hours of music playback on a single charge. This is the best in the industry and would be a gamechanger if you’re a marathon runner or need them for an extended time.
- The charging case gives you an extra 15 hours of playback.
- When your beats are dead, Fast Fuel gives you 90 minutes of music playback with just a five-minute charge.
- Not only do you get four tip options that go inside your ear, but each side also has hooks to go around the ear for extra stability. These should fit everybody and will not move, even during the most intense workouts.
- They’re sweat-proof.
- The buttons are easy to press while moving and you can easily control volume.
- They’re better than AirPods or Bose SoundSport for biking because not as much wind enters your ear.
- Powerbeats Pro is the best in the business for working out due to the stability, long battery life, and easily-accessible playback controls.