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Apple AirPods Pro (Gen 2) vs. Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2: Which Should You Buy?

Justin Duino / Review Geek

Apple’s AirPods Pro 2 and Bose’s QuietComfort Earbuds 2 have raised the bar for wireless earbuds thanks to next-gen noise canceling, convenient features, and excellent audio performance. But which pair are the best earbuds for you? We’ll break it all down to help you find the perfect pair.

Price and Value

Bose Quiet Comfort 2 earbuds top in open case above black desk
Ryan Waniata / Review Geek

  • Apple AirPods Pro (Gen 2): $249
  • Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2: $299

This category cuts some pretty clear lines right away. While both pairs have relatively similar specs, Apple’s starting price remains at $249, the same as the original AirPods Pro, while Bose’s latest pair raises the cost to a whopping $300.

As we’ll dig into further below, Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2’s higher price is all the more notable since the earbuds leave out extras you’ll find in the AirPods Pro, including 3D Spatial Audio, a wireless charging case, and a few other convenience features.

Bose’s buds do have one undeniable edge over Apple’s pair: thanks to an app for both iOS and Android, they’re equally equipped for either side of the mobile aisle. And depending on promotional pricing, there is often less discrepancy between the two models. That said, for those already hunkered down in the Apple ecosystem (and this won’t be the first time I make this point), Apple’s AirPods Pro (Gen 2) offer an obvious advantage in value.

The Best Wireless Earbuds of 2023

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II
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Design and Fit

Single 2nd-generation Apple AirPod Pro in fingers
Kris Wouk / How-To Geek

Apple AirPods Pro (gen 2) Design Specs:

  • Dimensions (each): 30.9 x 21.8 x 24mm (1.22 x 0.86 x 0.94in)
  • Weight (each): 5.3g (0.19oz)
  • Case Dimensions: 45.2 x 60.6 x 21.7mm (1.78 x 2.39 x 0.85in)
  • Case Weight: 50.8g (1.79oz)
  • IP Rating: IPX4

One of the most interesting things about the AirPods Pro’s second generation is that there’s virtually no discernable design change over the 2019 pair. There are a few new vents, and the case now offers a lanyard cutout and a speaker so it can make a chime when lost, but otherwise, this is an unabashed double-down on the original AirPods Pro design.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, given how much these earbuds have improved under the hood when it comes to performance, it’s downright impressive. The earbuds retain their feather-light weight of just over five grams, which makes them seem to almost disappear in your ears, while a smaller-sized ear tip provides a new fit option.

Otherwise, whether you loved or loathed the AirPods Pro’s original fit, you’ll be getting the same experience in the latest pair. And given how well they’ve sold, it stands to reason most prospective shoppers are on board with that.

Bose Quiet Comfort 2 Earbud in between fingers with stem back showing
Ryan Waniata / Review Geek

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2 Design Specs:

  • Dimensions (each): 30.48 x 17.27 x 22.35mm (1.2 x 0.68 x 0.88in)
  • Weight (each): 6.24g (0.22oz)
  • Case Dimensions: 66.29 x 59.4 x 26.67mm (2.61 x 2.34 x 1.05in)
  • Case Weight: 59.8g (2.11oz)
  • IP Rating: IPX4

Conversely, Bose’s latest QuietComfort earbuds were given a full revamp, and considering the original pair’s bulk and heft, that was all but inevitable. The QuietComfort Earbuds 2 are around 30% slimmer than their predecessors, while the charging case is much more pocketable. The revamp is impressive given that, like Apple, Bose has improved performance across the board.

The QuietComfort Earbuds 2’s new stem-shaped (i.e. AirPods-shaped) design also weighs nearly two grams less than the original, making them more comfortable and easier to take along. Their system of three sizes of ear tips alongside three stability bands may be a bit more complicated, but it’s also more flexible for a variety of ear shapes. And unlike Apple’s buds, the QuietComfort Earbuds 2 are available in either black or white color schemes.

Personally, I find the AirPods Pro with the medium ear tips to be comfier and stable enough for most activities, but Bose deserves credit for slimming down, lightening up, and creating a versatile fit system for multiple ear types.

Controls and Features

Both pairs of earbuds are pretty well-matched for controls. Each pair offers a variety of taps, holds, and slides that let you easily control play/pause, song skip, and voice assistant hailing, mirrored on either bud.

The AirPods Pro (gen 2) added much-needed volume controls, accomplished by sliding a finger up and down the stem’s interior, while the Bose pair carry over similar controls from the original QuietComfort Earbuds. Apple also offers “Hey, Siri” on command, which gives the AirPods Pro 2 a slight leg up if you’re a big Siri user.

Pairing the AirPods Pro 2 automatically with iPhone
Kris Wouk / Review Geek

When it comes to features, though, the AirPods Pro simply offer more. However, that statement comes with a notable caveat: you’ve got to own an iPhone (and preferably other Apple gear) to get the most out of your experience. That starts as soon as you open the package, as the AirPods Pro automatically appear on your iPhone’s screen for connection when you flip up the top.

The AirPods provide other major wins over the QuietComfort Earbuds 2 for iPhone users, too, including Auto-device switching between Apple devices, Audio Sharing, and the Find My function if you lose your buds (including a specific option for the case). Speaking of the AirPods case, it supports both wireless charging and Magsafe, while Bose’s offers neither. And, of course, there’s also 3D Spatial Audio, something Bose’s buds are notably missing on the performance side.

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds in open black case above black desk
Ryan Waniata / Review Geek

For their part, Bose’s QuietComfort Earbuds 2 offer some features Apple neglects, including a three-band EQ, adjustable presets for noise canceling and transparency modes, and even the ability to adjust your voice in calls (AKA sidetone). All of these features can be found within the Bose Music app which, again, is available for both Android and iPhone owners.

Otherwise, with a few notable exceptions, you simply get more with the AirPods Pro—as long as you’re using an iPhone.

Noise Canceling and Transparency Mode

Close up of man listening to Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2 in yard wearing gold jacket
Ryan Waniata / Review Geek

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2 Ambient Audio Specs:

  • Modes: Noise canceling, Aware, Custom (up to four presets)
  • Extras: ActiveSense

Bose’s QuietComfort Earbuds 2 aren’t without their advantages, of course, and when it comes to active noise canceling, they’ve got the AirPods Pro (gen 2) beat. In testing, they eliminate not only the very lowest frequencies but also the higher frequencies better than any pair of earbuds—or headphones, for that matter— that I’ve had the pleasure to test.

This is next-gen noise canceling, and it raises the stakes for all noise-canceling earbuds to come. Cars disappear in the street, vacuums are reduced to a whisper, and even TV dialogue nearly disappears into the ether from across the room.

Not to be outdone, Apple’s latest AirPods Pro’s noise canceling utterly smashes their predecessors and also outdoes every pair of earbuds I’ve tested not called the QuietComfort Earbuds 2. That includes the impressive original QuietComfort Earbuds. In other words, when it comes to great noise-canceling earbuds, this is currently a two-horse race.

Wearing the 2nd generation AirPods Pro outside near a hedge
Kris Wouk / Review Geek

Apple AirPods Pro (gen 2) Ambient Audio Specs:

  • Modes: Noise Canceling, Transparency (not adjustable)
  • Extras: Adaptive Transparency

Not only do Apple’s AirPods Pro (gen 2) hold their own at silencing the world around you, but they’re also the better pair when it comes to letting in the ambient world. They have the most natural-sounding Transparency mode in the business, allowing you to wear them nearly anywhere you go without missing a beat or being uncomfortable. Even your own voice sounds more natural than it does with competitors.

In addition, Apple’s Adaptive Transparency mode, designed to limit the loudness of ambient noise, is strikingly responsive and natural sounding, so much so that Apple’s representatives even recommended we try them when listening to loud music. While Apple doesn’t claim they can protect your hearing in such settings, they do audibly lower the loudness in real-time, thanks to the H2 chip.

Bose’s QC Earbuds 2 offer their own form of adaptive transparency, ActiveSense, but in my testing it didn’t quite seem to respond in real-time. I found myself occasionally triggering the feature with my own voice, which would kick off a distracting compression effect on ambient noises. While it will likely help if a siren comes by your street, it’s simply not as smooth or responsive as Apple’s version.

Audio Performance and Calling

Apple AirPods Pro in tree out of case
Kris Wouk / Review Geek

This is arguably the most subjective of all the aspects we test, and which you prefer will likely vary from person to person. The bottom line is that both pairs of earbuds sound worthy of their flagship status.

Apple’s AirPods Pro Gen 2 are a vast improvement over the previous pair, offering more natural-sounding instrumentation, better stereo separation, improved high-end detail, and more robust bass response. Unlike the previous AirPods Pro or the Beats Fit Pro, I found myself actively leaning into my favorite tracks when listening to the AirPods Pro 2.

I still wouldn’t place them in the same class as Sony’s excellent WF-1000XM4 or Sennheiser’s Momentum True Wireless 3, but there’s improved stereo spacing, better instrumental timbres, and overall higher fidelity than any pair of Apple earbuds I’ve tested previously. And for those who love to watch movies or listen to Dolby Atmos Music mixes, the 3D Spatial Audio is now personalized for even better instrumental placement. It’s not really my thing, but it’s a nice addition.

For their part, Bose’s QuietComfort Earbuds 2 offer similarly clear and detailed audio, and once again, I enjoyed their sound better than their predecessors. Bose’s CustomTune technology—which also helps the earbuds optimize noise canceling—is designed to offer a tailored sound signature, and it’s an impressive step up for the brand.

Bose earbuds and headphones have the tendency to sound a bit sharp and sibilant in the upper midrange, and while that’s still the case, it was toned down in my recent audition. The buds do sound a bit stylized, but I found myself enjoying instrumental timbres across genres, from the gold buzz of acoustic guitars to the clean and zippy runs of synths and keyboards.

If you liked what you’ve heard before from either Bose or Apple, this is an improvement for both pairs, and they should satisfy most listeners even when considering their high cost. For my money, Apple’s sound signature is overall more accessible, but Bose’s earbuds are a fun listen as well.

When it comes to calling, I’ll give Apple the slight edge. They’re the best pair I’ve found when it comes to neutralizing wind and other noises without disturbing the caller on the other end. That said, both earbuds do a good job with phone calls, and even when I stepped outdoors or took them under loud fans, I had no complaints from callers.

Battery Life

Apple AirPods Pro 2 case in tree
Kris Wouk / Review Geek

Apple AirPods Pro (gen 2) Battery Specs:

  • Playback time: 6 hours with ANC
  • Quick Charge: 5 mins for 1 hour
  • Playback time (with case): 30 hours

This is another category in which the AirPods Pro (gen 2) and QuietComfort Earbuds 2 are (perhaps unsurprisingly) well-matched. Both earbuds offer six hours per charge with noise canceling engaged, and multiple recharges in the case. It’s far from the best battery life available, but it’s enough to get the job done in most scenarios, especially when you can quick-charge the buds.

Bose QuietComfort 2 earbuds case charging on piano
Ryan Waniata / Review Geek

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2 Battery Specs:

  • Playback time: 6 hours with ANC
  • Quick Charge: 20 minutes for 2 hours
  • Playback time (with case): 24 hours

Apple’s pair claims up to 30 hours of total charge time with the case, while Bose’s QC Earbuds 2 have just 24 hours. Still, it’s a pretty close contest, and not one I’d expect will sway users one way or the other.

Which True Wireless Earbuds Should You Buy?

As with most such decisions, the answer as to which are the best earbuds for you depends on a few determining factors. But in this case, it’s a pretty simple equation.

If you have an iPhone, Apple’s AirPods Pro 2 are more than likely the best buds for you. They offer great sound, incredible noise canceling, Adaptive Transparency mode that sounds uncommonly natural, and they’re chock full of iOS/iPadOS/macOS-friendly features that make them intuitive to use.

If you’re an Android user and/or you want the absolute best noise canceling available, Bose’s Quiet Comfort Earbuds 2 are the better option. While they skip a few flagship features, they offer excellent performance, a slim and secure fit, and world-crushing noise canceling. They’re more expensive, but for the most part, they live up to their premium price tag.

In either case, you’ll be getting a great pair of earbuds. Now you just need to decide where your priorities lie and pull the trigger.

Ryan Waniata Ryan Waniata
Ryan Waniata has been a professional writer, editor, and product reviewer since transitioning from the wild world of audio engineering in 2012. His portfolio spans the gamut, from entertainment op-eds and trends pieces to gadget how-tos and reviews on TVs, audio gear, smart home devices, and more. His work can be seen on Digital Trends, Reviewed, How-To Geek, and others. Read Full Bio »