Best AirPods to Buy in 2024: find the model that fits your needs

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Best AirPods to Buy in 2024: find the model that fits your needs
Even though there is no official information about new AirPods models in 2024, popular industry analysts that are well-versed in Apple insider information such as Mark Gurman and Ming-Chi Kuo expect the big A to update the regular AirPods, the AirPods Pro, and (finally) the AirPods Max!

For now, however, we have the AirPods Pro 2, AirPods 3rd and 2nd-gen, and the OG AirPods Max. Which one you should buy? Well, that's exactly what we are here to help you with. Keep reading on to get an idea of which model best fits your needs and budget. Of course, feel free to also check out our best wireless earbuds article for some other brand options!

The Best AirPods at a glance:

Apple AirPods Pro 2 - best overall


Make sure you check out our article about how to spot fake AirPods Pro, if you decide to go for that model.

The AirPods Pro 2 are arguably the best earbuds recommendation for iPhone users. They come with amazing sound that is clean and wide, allowing for better separation of vocals and instruments, and there there is a pinch of bass sprinkled. What makes them truly special, however, is their superb active noise cancellation, which is probably the best we have tested so far on a pair of earbuds.

One of the biggest upgrades we noticed in our review is without a doubt the option to adjust your volume with just your touch. This was a feature that was painfully lacking from the previous generation, and in AirPods in general, so we are happy it's finally here with the 2nd generation of the AirPods Pro.

The case of the AirPods Pro 2 has also been upgraded to now feature a metal lanyard loop and its own speaker that can alert you when the battery is low, or help you find the case via the Find My app. Additionally, the case can now magnetically snap to MagSafe chargers, just like every iPhone since 2020.

Get your AirPods Pro 2 here:

Apple AirPods Pro 2

True Wireless Earbuds with Active Noise Cancellation, MagSafe Charging Case


The AirPods Pro 2 come in at the same price as their predecessor, which is $249. Obviously, these are no cheap earbuds, but it would be difficult to find a better pair for this price point. The seamless integration with other Apple products alongside the really good audio quality and myriad of useful features justify each dollar in that price tag in our opinion.

Read More: Apple AirPods Pro 2 review

Pros

  • Exceptional sound with Spatial Audio on
  • Great ANC
  • Light and comfortable
  • Touch-adjustable volume
  • Case has a speaker and lanyard loop
  • Case compatible with MagSafe chargers

Cons

  • Microphone quality should be better
  • Case still uses Lightning port instead of USB-C


Apple AirPods 3 - the go-to AirPods for most


Apple refreshed its current non-Pro AirPods lineup in 2021 with the new AirPods 3 model. This pair of earbuds feature the company's new Spatial Audio technology, among other improvements all around.

The Spatial Audio feature, though, deserves all the credit here as we found out during our review - our sound guy Rado tested the AirPods 3 and he was genuinely impressed with the way Apple has implemented this technology. You can check out our full AirPods 3 review, of course, but the TL;DR version is that "Apple's new 3rd generation AirPods are a worthy pick if you're looking for truly wireless earbuds with fantastic sound, a stylish, curvy and portable design, solid battery life and Apple's newest gimmick – spatial audio."

Get you AirPods 3 here: 


The AirPods 3 hover around $179 and they're a good option if you don't require any of the "Pro" features like ANC. 

Pros

  • Portable package
  • Good-looking earbuds with small stems
  • Comfortable in-ear fit
  • Great sound, especially with spatial audio
  • IPX4 sweat and water resistance

Cons

  • No active noise cancelling


Apple AirPods (2nd gen) - best on a budget


The AirPods Pro price can be sometimes hard to swallow, especially if there aren’t any deals around. That’s why the best AirPods if you’re on a budget, are the second-gen AirPods - the ones Apple calls - AirPods with wireless charging case.

These ones utilize the design of the original AirPods, the “hanging-from-the-ear” thing, and many people swear by the comfort this design offers. Some of us on the PhoneArena team agree that the AirPods 2 have a comfortable fit, and some of us don't, so it is a personal thing really. You would just have to try them out for yourself, if you haven't already, to find out.

Get your AirPods (2019) here:

AirPods with wireless charging case: now $144 at Walmart

The AirPods 2nd gen are currently experiencing a price drop and are retailing at $144.
$144 99
Buy at Walmart


Even though we are now in 2024, and the second-gen AirPods are more than three years old, this model is still a viable option and also very popular. The sound is nice, and the battery life is actually better than the Pros, as our testing has confirmed.

Granted, there’s no ANC or Adaptive EQ magic, but the H1 chip inside offers great connectivity and low latency, you can activate Siri with your voice, and most importantly, these are way cheaper than the Pros.

Are they the best AirPods out there in 2024? No, of course not. But if you want to stay inside Apple’s ecosystem and get something on a budget, these are a great choice.

Read More: Apple AirPods (2019) review

Pros

  • Unrivaled comfort
  • Extremely compact
  • Good battery life
  • Wireless charging

Cons

  • Sound quality could be better
  • Checking exact battery levels is a hassle


Apple AirPods Max - best for audiophiles


When Apple first announced the AirPods Max there were riots on the streets. People dug up their pitchforks, lit up the torches, and went berserk. Joks aside, the $550 price tag that Apple slapped on the AirPods Max was a bit of a worry.

Fortunately, after the reviews started to come in, people realized that there’s substance behind the high asking price. For starters, the design and build quality of the AirPods Max is amazing. They are elegant, clean, simplistic — very, very Apple-looking all around. These headphones are also made of metal, and while a bit on the heavy side because of that fact, they’re very comfortable.

DISCLAIMER: It has been quite a while since Apple launched the OG AirPods Max in 2020, and rumor has it that we will be getting a second generation in 2024, so you might want to hold your horses on that purchase if you can spare the patience.

Get your AirPods Max here:



The mesh canopy on the headband is extremely soft and gentle on the top of the head, while the cushions embrace your ears like a soft feather-stuffed pillow. Now, you’re looking at the subheading and thinking - where’s the audiophile bit? Here it comes:

“The AirPods Max sound so, so clean and detailed. You can make out every instrument, every little pluck, reverb, delay, and even shoddy compression done in the production work if you have the ear for it.”

The above is just an excerpt from our review, and Preslav is not one that’s easily pleased in the audio department (or anywhere else, for that matter), so it is safe to say that we are happy with with the way Apple has handled the AirPods Max' audio profile.

And then there is the noise cancelation, which is very good on the AirPods Max, with “the best Transparency Mode out there, hands-down,” as Preslav calls it.

The battery life is decent maxing out at around 18-20 hours, and you also get other bells and whistles such as Spatial Audio, easy switching between paired devices, a magnetic carrying case, and more. Whether or not all these perks justify the $550 price in 2024 is up to you to decide. Our take is that they still are.

Pros

  • Pretty, clean design
  • Outstanding sound clarity and detail, no distortion
  • iCloud device pairing is always convenient
  • No on/off — they are always ready for use
  • Best Transparency Mode on the market

Cons

  • Hardware controls are in an awkward spot
  • Not the strongest noise cancellation out there
  • EQ is kind of bland and bass-heavy. Basically no user control over EQ
  • The case is just not a case
  • Price-to-value ratio is arguable


What is the difference between AirPods and AirPods Pro?


If you put the new AirPods 3 next to to the AirPods Pro 2 it might be a bit difficult to spot what exactly differentiates the two models from each other. For $80 more the new AirPods Pro offer buyers silicone ear tips and a vent system that prevents that nauseating pressure you get with regular in-ear buds.

Another seemingly tiny but very important difference is that users can adjust the volume with the AirPods Pro 2, which is not possible on the third generation regular AirPods. You also get noise cancelation and Bluetooth 5.3 (compared to 5.0), which increases the range at which you can stream to the earbuds, as well as the connection stability.

Not to mention the H2 chip, which allows for features such as Adaptive Transparency (automatic toggle of the transparency mode) and Conversation Boost (isolating background noise when on a call).

To top it all off, there is about half an hour difference of battery life for the earbuds and 4 hours more with the new MagSafe charging case. The case comes with a built-in speaker, as well as the U1 chip for Precision Tracking, making it much easier to discover if lost. In contrast, the case of the AirPods 3 only has Find My support.

So, as you can see, there is much that separates the two models despite how similar they might appear at a first glance, and we think the extra 80 bucks are quite justified in this case.

Can AirPods work with Android devices?


Yes, to some extent. You are able to use AirPods with Android devices but their usefulness starts and ends with being used as a simple pair of headphones or, in other words, for listening and speaking. Other functionalities like Siri, Spatial Audio, Find My, Conversation Boost, even things as simple as the battery life status indicator simply don't work. Suffice it to say, you are most likely better off getting a different pair of earbuds/headphones for you Android device.

Which AirPods offer the best noise-canceling?


If noise cancelation is a must-have feature for you, than you have just two options as far as AirPods go, really. Those are the AirPods Pro 2 and the AirPods Max. Now, the AirPods Max, being over-ear headphones and all, do offer better audio quality, but in terms of active noise cancellation both models are stellar!

If you don't need that extra level of audio quality or simply don't like over-ear headphones, and mind you the AirPods Pro 2 have pretty good audio quality, than you might as well save the $300 and get the AirPods Pro 2. There's also the fact that the Max are pretty old now, and we expect Apple to release a new generation in 2024, so it might be better to wait for the next generation if you really dig this model.

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