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Apple AirPods Pro vs Apple AirPods (3rd Generation)

If you are thinking of buying the latest generation of Apple AirPods, you might be surprised to hear they are very similar to the Apple AirPods Pro. That’s the problem sometimes with Apple products. Although they are generally fantastic, they can seemingly lack variation from generation to generation. Unless you look at the smaller details and nuances.

This Apple AirPods Pro vs Apple AirPods (3rd Generation) argument is an interesting one. And it’s something you need to think about if you are looking for the best Apple AirPods model for features and affordable pricing. So, let’s pitch these two products against each other to see what direction the sparks fly and find the best deal for consumers.

Do the Apple AirPods Pro or Apple AirPods (3rd Generation) Fit Better?

Apple AirPods Pro vs Apple AirPods (3rd Generation)

The comfort levels of any earbud product are immensely important. How securely they fit is one of the first things you need to think about. If you look at both these Apple AirPods models, you can immediately see that the 3rd generation model has a different shape from previous models and the Pro version. It’s not dramatically different, but it is different nonetheless. 

However, new doesn’t always mean good…

Both AirPods models are well constructed. They are sturdy and solid and won’t break the first time you drop them. The touch controls on both are good, the charging functionality is great, and the audio quality is excellent. There’s not so much to separate the two across most areas, but there are some big differences between AirPods Pro and AirPods 3rd Gen in some categories.

Which model is most comfortable? 

The rounder shape of the Apple AirPods 3rd generation was designed for a more comfortable fit than the Pro model. And, in reality, they are easier to wear. The new shape, speaker setup, and even the software changes were an attempt to lessen bass loss when the seal isn’t great, and that’s what they do. But that doesn’t necessarily make them a better fit. Quite the contrary.

Although the 3rd generation is more comfortable, you can’t beat the Apple AirPods Pro for a tighter fit that aids better isolation. It has all the same controls and most of the same features as the 3rd generation, But the Pro fits better and also has active noise canceling (ANC) that creates even more isolation. 

So, if you are looking for comfort, choose the newer 3rd generation AirPods. But, if you are looking for tighter fits, better seals, and the best isolation, the Apple AirPods Pro outperforms Apple AirPods 3 every time.

Do They Both Have the Same Features?

It’s only sensible that a newer, updated next-gen model will have more features than previous versions. Otherwise, why would we bother buying the next-generation models? That’s a rhetorical question. 

The 3rd Gen Apple AirPods have a few more features, such as the inclusion of Apple’s Spatial Audio technology. This tech is supported by the iOS 15.1 system that is revamped when compared to the Pro. This allows you to spatialize audio that wasn’t made for Dolby Atmos. And, to be fair, it sounds very good. 

It might not match audio that has been mixed by sound engineers for surround sound, but it gives you a different angle to listen to audio even if it was mixed for mono use. The Pro version can also support spatial audio, but the operating systems are a bit different. 

Apple AirPods Pro vs Apple AirPods (3rd Generation): How Do the Controls Work?

Both products have very similar touch controls that are easy to use. The controls on the 3rd generation are essentially the same as the Pro, with just a few minor differences. You can customize these controls in your iOS setting app if you need something more exact. Please see the basic control of both versions below.

Apple AirPods (3rd Generation) Controls:

  • One Tap – Play/Pause track.
  • Two Taps – Skip to next.
  • Three Taps – Go back to the previous track.
  • Press & Hold – Connet to Siri.
  • “Hey Siri” – Playback control, request directions, change volume, get messages, etc.

The controls on the Apple AirPods Pro are virtually the same as the 3rd gen, but there are some small changes.

Apple AirPods Pro Controls:

  • One Tap – Play/pause track/answer call.
  • Two Taps – Go to the next track.
  • Three Taps – Go to the previous track.
  • Press & Hold – Change the ANC and Transparency modes.
  • “Hey Siri” – Playback control, request directions, change volume, get messages, etc.

Are There Differences in Charging?


You can charge the case of the 3d generation of the Apple AirPods with a simple Lightning cable. Or, you can take advantage of the reintroduction of the MegaSafe charging option that Apple uses for many of its devices. 

It’s essentially a new type of Qi wireless charging option that works on most mobile devices that utilize magnets to keep the case still when it’s charging. Before, you didn’t have this option with the Apple AirPods Pro. But, those manufactured after the launch of the 3rd gen model will also now have this charging functionality.

Before we move on to talking about the software, I just wanted to mention the “Find My AirPods” feature that can help you to find your earphones when you’ve lost them. Well, as long as you have this feature enabled. Both the Pro and 3rd gen versions have this Apple feature, so no differences there. 

Do 3rd-Gen Apple AirPods and Apple AirPods Pro Have Identical Software?

Earbuds software has never been more important. Both the AirPods Pro and 3rd generation have access to the iOS and iPadOS Settings app, where all the controls and audio playback options can be controlled, customized, and configured. But, this is only for Apple device users for updating firmware, customizing Spatial Audio settings, and using hands-free Siri. 

Using this app is the same no matter what Apple device you own… 

All you need to do is go into your Bluetooth settings and then click on the “I” options next to your device. From here, you can name your pods, alter the touch settings, and even alter the automatic ear detection feature. Setting the mic defaults to configure them for phone calls is also available in the app.

Toggling ANC and Transparency Modes

Via the iOS settings app, you can alter or toggle the noise canceling options and choose to turn the ANC or the Transparency modes on or off on the Pro version. Just remember that you can only have two of these three options selected at the same time. So, you’ll have to decide whether to use the pods in ANC or Transparency mode. That choice will depend on your personal audio and playback needs.

Are The Apple AirPods Pro and 3rd Generation AiPods Easy to Connect?

Both models have H1 chips that make connecting to the iOS a painless experience. When you place the case near your phone or device and open it, you should get a pop-up card on the screen of your device that ensures a super-fast connection. This might be an obvious statement, but because these are Apple Pods, they both are compatible with the AAC and SBC codecs you get with Bluetooth. 

Both AirPods versions are wireless and easily connect via Bluetooth 5.0. At the time of writing, they don’t support LC3 codecs, but they are expected to in the future. If you’re using an Android device, this connection experience is much different. There is simply less access to the software when connecting these Apple AirPods to Android devices, but that’s only to be expected. 

You can connect them via Bluetooth using AAC codecs, but they will be inconsistent. So, if you are an Android device user, it might be better to opt for using the SBC codecs instead. 

Which Apple AirPods Model Blocks Out the Most Noise?

Isolation and noise-canceling features are very important when buying earbuds. This is a massive point of contention when comparing similar earbuds. But, before I go any further, I have to point out this is not a competition but more of a comparison. 

The truth is that the Apple AirPods Pro has better noise isolation than the Apple AirPods (3rd generation) by far. It’s not just that the Pro model has ANC because even if it didn’t, the isolation qualities would still be far superior. After all, the Pro uses silicone ear tips, and that makes a massive difference. 

The harsh reality is that the 3rd Gen Airpods are not that great for blocking out external noises. In my opinion, the seal is inadequate, and it doesn’t have any ANC features. This one is a no-brainer. 

Which Model Has Better Battery Life?

Wireless earbuds and headphones of all types are only as good as their battery life. If the sound quality is excellent, but the battery only lasts an hour, they are pretty much useless as wireless listening devices. If you’ve been reading this Apple AirPods review, you’ll already know that the Pro version is kicking the 3rd Gen model’s ass at the moment, but not when it comes to battery longevity. 

This is where the 3rd Gen AirPods come into their own…

The 3rd Gen AirPods have a consistent output of around 75dB, and the battery lasts approximately six hours and 20 minutes on a single charge. The battery life on the previous generation only lasted around four hours, so it’s a massive improvement. The battery life of the Pro version is around five hours using similar settings with the ANC not on. 

The expanded charging case capacity of the 3rd Gen essentially gives you a listening time of around 30 hours. On the other hand, the AirPods Pro case is closer to 24 hours of listening time. Both are quite impressive in the grand scheme of things, so it’s hardly a deal breaker. 

Apple AirPods Pro vs Apple AirPods (3rd Generation) – Sound Quality

Sound Quality

I might have indirectly already answered this question earlier when I talked about the seal and isolation factors. Good seals are the hallmark of the best audio quality. In most cases, a bad seal can cause issues regarding bass frequency response. That can make users turn up the sound louder to unsafe levels, which is not a good thing. 

Fortunately, the AirPods Pro has an excellent seal. And that makes the audio quality very consistent and accurate across all frequency spectrums from low to high. Although, the highs are a bit lesser emphasized. 

The bass frequency and low end on the 3rd Gen Apple AirPods are very underwhelming, to say the least, but it’s not as bad as it could be. Bass leaking using this model is standard, especially if you have a bad seal. Although, it does manage to contain sub-bass quite impressively. 

Comparing them under the same conditions…

When you compare the sound quality of Apple AirPods Pro vs Apple AirPods 3 under the same conditions, the ANC and isolation of the Pro version easily make it a winner. 

These functions massively reduce unwanted noise, especially if you are using them outdoors on a busy street. The 3rd Gen AirPods might sound great when indoors. But, as soon as you use them outside on the street, you’ll immediately know that the Pro version is much better for sound quality.

Which AirPods Have the Best Microphone?

For some users, microphone quality is not that important. But, for some, it could be a real deal clincher. This is a category where the newer 3rd Gen Apple AirPods excel. For sure, there is nothing so bad about the mic quality on the Apple AirPods Pro. However, the mic on the newer version is a little bit better and clearer. It’s a clear step up, so if that’s important to you, the 3rd Gen just shortened the gap. 

Are There Alternatives to Buying Apple AirPods?

Apple does not have a monopoly on earbuds or headphones products. Although, they are better if you are using Apple devices and not Android ones. Apple AirPods are sometimes seen as very expensive, and if the price tag gives you nervous twitches, some alternatives match them in quality but are a bit more affordable. 

You could check out these Beats Studio Buds that come equipped with excellent seals and half-decent ANC functions. Although this is also an Apple product, they work just as effectively with Android devices as they do on iOS.

Earbuds for Android and iOS…

If you happen to be using Android devices, you might want to look at your options. You could buy these Sennheiser CX True Wireless buds. And, although they don’t have ANC, they are very affordable, support lots of Bluetooth codecs, and have great isolation and audio quality. Android device users who seriously need excellent ANC should check out these Sony WF-1000XM4 buds, but they are pricey. 

I’m a stickler for Bose Earbuds. So, if you are looking for products that have excellent noise-canceling features and work great on Android and iOS, you should opt for these Bose QuietComfort Earbuds. Or, a more affordable option, these Bose Sports Earbuds. You can’t go wrong with Bose, and although they are expensive, you pay for what you get. 

Have Other Questions About Apple Airpods?

If so, take a look at our detailed articles on Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) vs Apple AirPods (3rd generation)Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Generation) vs Beats Fit ProApple AirPods (2nd generation) vs Apple AirPods (3rd generation)What’s The Difference Between AirPods 1 and 2How to Make Your AirPods Louder, and AirPods Connected But No Sound for more useful information.

Also, check out our in-depth reviews of the Best AirPods Alternative, the Best Lightning Headphones for iPhone & iPad, the Best Apple AirPods Pro Alternatives, the Best iPhone Earbuds, and the Best True Wireless Earbuds you can buy in 2023.

Apple AirPods Pro vs Apple AirPods (3rd Generation) – Conclusion

Now, we have reached our final destination in this AirPods Pro vs AirPods 3 comparison. And I think it’s quite obvious which one you should buy. The 3rd Gen model is newer, has a more comfortable design, a longer battery life, and a better quality mic. But that’s where the competition ends.

Regarding important features like sound quality, isolation, and active noise canceling (ANC), the Apple AirPods Pro is the better choice. They play better quality audio, especially if you are outdoors in noisy environments. 

They both work ideally on iOS systems, and both have the same controls and access to the iOS Settings app. If you want quality, buy the Pro versionif you want comfort, opt for the 3rd Gen model. But, if you are an Android user, you might have to choose an alternative.

Until next time, happy listening.

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About Joseph L. Hollen

Joseph is a session musician, writer, and filmmaker from south Florida. He has recorded a number of albums and made numerous short films, as well as contributing music to shorts and commercials. 

He doesn't get as much time to practice and play as he used to, but still manages (just about!) to fulfill all his session requests. According to Joseph, it just gets harder as you get older; you rely on what you learned decades ago and can play without thinking. Thankfully that's what most producers still want from him.

He is a devout gear heat and has been collecting musical instruments all his life. As his wife, Jill, keeps on saying, "You're very good at buying nice instruments, but terrible at selling them!".

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