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Apple AirPods Pro vs Bose QuietComfort Earbuds

For this battle royale, we’re taking it back to the old school. Yes, you heard me – the old school! You know, the first generation of true wireless earbuds with ANC? Yeah, that old-school of two to three years ago when the world of earbuds was still young and innocent.

Both of these buds have been updated. But, you can still find their 1st generations available at a discounted price that some will find well worth the bargain. So, it’s Apple AirPods Pro vs Bose QuietComfort Earbuds in a 1st generation battle that will pit them head-to-head for sound, features, comfort, and more. Who will win? Which earbuds will reign supreme? Let’s find out…

Apple AirPods Pro vs Bose QuietComfort Earbuds


Apple AirPods Pro – Overview

After updating the AirPods to their 2nd generation earlier in 2019, Apple made a splash by adding ANC and other features like water resistance to their AirPods. Enter the AirPods Pro, a fancier, more expensive model of true wireless earbuds.

They were released on 30 October 2019 and are still on the market, these days retailing for about $200. An improved 2nd generation was released last year and sells for about $250.

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds – Overview

Other brands simply had to follow and develop their own ANC earbuds in the next couple of years. The Bose speaker brand was booming, so they also threw themselves into headphones. On 5 October 2020, they, too, released ANC earbuds. As well as a range of wireless headphones called their QuietComfort Line.

The QuietComfort Earbuds were also updated to a 2nd generation in 2022. The 1st generation sells now for about $200, while the newer model is priced the same as the 2nd-generation AirPods Pro. Likely, not a coincidence.

The Main Event – Apple AirPods Pro vs Bose QuietComfort Earbuds

Now that you’ve met the two competitors, it’s time to pit them against each other in a test to see which are the best Gen 1 ANC true wireless earbuds. Will Bose’s reputation for great sound give them the upper hand? Or, will Apple’s focus on intuitive control hand them the victory?

We can find out by asking a bunch of questions and giving a clear winner for each category we’re going to examine. So, let’s get started.

Which Earbuds Sound Better?

If we’re not going to start with sound, why even bother reviewing headphones at all? If your earbuds don’t sound good, there’s no point in using them despite any bells and whistles they might have.

Luckily, both of these pairs of earbuds sound good. But there’s a clear winner here, and it’s not hard to guess who. Apple is a computer company, while Bose is an audio equipment company. So, you should have a clear idea of where these two brands would focus more of their energy.

At the same time, Apple is a massive company with a way bigger share of the market. And absorbing brands like Beats by Dr. Dre helped them in the sound department. With that said, the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds sound better than the AirPods Pro.

But what does that mean?

Well, first of all, The Bose buds have a more natural-sounding, fairly flat frequency response curve. This means that they produce a sound that is very close to the original input. So, as long as you have great sound going in, you’ll get great sound coming out.

They do have a slight bump in the bass which gives them a little bit more thump. This can add some excitement to your music without it getting too overpowering. The bass and mid accuracy are excellent, but the treble accuracy isn’t as good as with the AirPods Pro. They have a bit of a treble boost which can make some instruments and voices sound a little bit harsh, especially at high volumes.

On the other hand…

The Apple buds still have decent accuracy in the bass and mids and do very well in the treble range. They don’t sound harsh at all. However, the bass sounds a little bit flat, at least in comparison to Bose. Still, Apple does give you a fairly accurate, neutral sound at about the level you’d expect in this price range. So, Bose QuietComfort sounds better than AirPods in general.

There is an extra feature that’s included with the AirPods Pro, though, that Bose doesn’t have. This is Spatial Audio. It’s a feature that essentially tracks your head movements and splits up the incoming sound so that it seems to come from different directions. This is basically virtual surround sound.

However, while it works all right on the 2nd generation buds, the Spatial Audio on the Airpods pro 1st generation is unconvincing. It does little to give you the immersive feel it’s intended for. So, it hardly adds to the appeal of these buds.

Which Earbuds Give Better ANC?


The biggest selling feature of both of these earbuds is active noise cancellation. If this isn’t a big deal to you, you’re better off stopping right here and checking out the regular Apple AirPods or many different options from Bose.

But, if you have to travel, commute, or work in a noisy environment and you’d love nothing more than to tune it out and escape into your music, ANC is a must. These are both the 1st generation earbuds with ANC from these respective companies, so you can’t expect miracles. However, you’ll be happy to know they both do a pretty darned good job…

By themselves, AirPods Pro don’t block out any bass but can isolate you from some mid-range, and lots of treble with the ANC turned off. When it’s turned on, they block more bass, but not a huge amount, and the mid and high-ends are very effective. Overall, their ANC can reduce outside sound by -21 dB, which is very good.

As for the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds…

They can passively block out a fair bit of bass and treble, but almost no mid-range when the ANC is off. Yet, when it’s turned on, you get a huge bass attenuation that continues into the mids and treble. They reduce incoming noise by -23 dB, which is excellent.

Bose also gives you way more flexibility in controlling your ANC. Apple gives you just three options – ANC on, ANC off, and Transparency mode. Bose gives ten different options. So, if you want precise control of your ANC levels, this is a better way to go.

You can access all ten options, but only through the app. However, you can load up to 4 different options to the multi-function button if you want to have quick scroll-through access. Overall, Bose QuietComfort earbuds have better ANC than Apple AirPods. As well as more control over ANC options.

Which Earbuds Have Better Battery Power and Charging?

When it comes to battery and charging, there’s no clear winner. Each has its strengths and weaknesses, so it all depends on what your preference is for battery and charging.

Let me explain…

The battery in the Apple AirPod Pro earbuds doesn’t last as long. But careful – I did say in the earbuds. Apple advertises that these buds last up to five hours on a full charge with their ANC on. The truth is, they last a bit longer, something like 5¼ hours. That’s not very impressive by today’s standards, and this is one area where people have criticized Apple.

At the same time, however, their earbuds do charge quickly. Going from flat to fully charged in only 1.1 hours. And, the charging case holds a lot more charge. You get five more full charges in the box, equal to about 26¼ hours. This gives you a total of 31.5 hours’ worth of playback power, which is pretty decent.

On the flip side…

The Bose QuietComfort earbuds are advertised as lasting for six hours. But they seem to last even longer – up to 7.25 hours on a single charge. That said, they charge slower, taking 1.5 hours to get fully charged up. Not a huge difference, but still worth noting.

The bigger point to be aware of is that the charging case carries a lot less power than the AirPods Pro. Bose gives you only two additional charges in the case, bringing your total battery power to only 21.75 hours. That’s far less than what Apple provides.

So, you have to think about this as a trade-off. Do you want your buds to last longer on a single charge? Or, is it more important for you to have lots of power in the case with you?

On the plus side…

Both earbuds have power-saving built-in, so the buds don’t waste energy when they’re not playing audio. You can also charge one bud at a time and listen with the other with both brands. However, we’ll see that this is a little more complicated with Bose.

Which Brand Has Better Connectivity?

When it comes to connectivity, these two models of earbuds are pretty darned close. The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds use Bluetooth 5.1, which is pretty close to the latest and greatest version, 5.3.

This gives them an extended range of 219 feet (67m) line of sight, though this is a lot less around corners and through walls. They have nice low latency on Android and iOS devices, though they have noticeable latency when used with PCs (172ms). This means that they’re not suited for gaming since you’ll notice lag between your video and audio.

The Apple AirPods Pro has Bluetooth 5.0, which is also a fairly recent version. But, the range here is less than Bose at 177 feet (52m). The latency is lower on Android devices and iOS devices, too. It’s still very good, though. However, on PCs, the lag time is 186ms and is quite noticeable.

At the same time…

The AirPod Pro includes Apple’s H1 chip, which helps it interact with other Apple devices for seamless connections. That’s a bonus if you’re a big Apple user. Neither pair of earbuds supports multi-point connections, which can be disappointing. But it doesn’t make either one better than the other.

Which Earbuds Have Better Controls?

As 1st generation earbuds, neither of these models has great controls. Bother companies were still figuring things out, although Apple had more experience. They had already put out two generations of the regular AirPods. The AirPods Pro has OK controls. There’s a pressure sensor on the stem of the earbud that controls things like play/pause, skip track forward or back, or cycling between ANC options.

These controls all work for both Apple and Android devices. You can’t press a button to access your voice assistant. However, Siri is always on (you decide if that’s a pro or a con), and you can access her by saying, “Hi Siri.” Other voice assistants can’t be accessed with these earbuds.

How about the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds?

They have a combination of tap and swipe controls that work a little better than the Apple controls. You can swipe up and down on the right earbud to change volume, double-tap to play and pause, or press and hold to activate your voice assistant.

On the left, you can tap to cycle through ANC settings. However, read that back carefully – the controls are different on the two different earbuds. That’s fine if you are using them as a pair. But, if you want to use only one (especially if the other is charging), you will have limited control.

Which Earbuds Have a Better Mic?

Better Mic

Here’s another toss-up. There are two microphone features on ANC earbuds that you want. One, clear sound, and two, good noise blocking. Funny enough, neither of these two models has both. That said, the mic on the Bose buds is better. Your voice sounds clearer and more natural than on the Apple buds. That is to say that neither sounds particularly good or clear, but Bose is better.

On the other hand, Apple does a better job of picking your voice out of background noise. The Bose buds struggle in even a moderately noisy environment, and it can be quite hard for your caller to hear you. Apple isn’t great, but they at least do a better job of blocking out some of this interference.

So, ultimately, if you need to take calls in noisy places, Apple is your better bet. If not, Bose is a bit better.

Which Brand Has Better App Support?

Well, to start, Bose actually HAS an app to support the QuietComfort Earbuds. That’s Bose Music, and you can get it for both iOS and Android devices. The Airpods Pro doesn’t use a support app. Instead, you can play around with them in the settings of your iOS device, aka iPhone and iPad.

Bottom line, Bose gives you much better app support…

Bose Music lets you do a whole bunch. You can adjust your volume and set your buds to do different things when they sense your ears. Like play and pause when put in and out. You can access ten different ANC settings and link four of these to the ANC button on the left earbud. You can also check your battery life. And, very importantly, you can adjust your EQ with presets or a 3-band graphic equalizer.

Apple devices let you access some settings for your AirPods Pro…

Yes, you can use the setting to do a few things, but it’s not all that versatile. You can toggle between ANC and transparency modes, or set your long press and hold command to either activate Siri or toggle through ANC modes.

If you are using any device that supports iOS version 14 or higher, you can go into Headphone Accommodations, and access EQ presets or listening modes (like Voice or Music). You can also assign different settings to calls and listening modes, which is cool.

But, in general, Apple doesn’t give you a lot of support with this earbud model. And Android users are out of luck. The AirPods Pro is just plug-and-play if you’re not on an Apple device.

Which Is More Comfortable and Durable?

Last but not least. Comfort is a big deal for most users because in-ear buds can cause discomfort. I think both of these buds are OK, although neither has a fabulous comfort level. But, overall, Apple AirPods Pro is more comfortable than Bose QuietComfort earbuds.

They’re lighter (just 0.16 ounces each), smaller, and less conspicuous. They don’t go too far into your ears, and generally, you’ll put them in and forget they’re there. Once you get a good fit, anyway.

Some users may find that they work their way out frequently, and you have to keep plugging them back into your ears. They come with S, M, and L-size silicone ear tips. However, if you need bigger or smaller ones that will stay put, you can find them online cheaply and easily enough. Foam tips will help with slipping.

In contrast…

Bose’s QuietComfort Earbuds tend to stay in place better. They use a wing/stabilizer tip design that helps to lock the tips into your ears solidly, and these come in three sizes as well. However, some people will find these stabilizers uncomfortable. The big thing is that these buds weigh 3x what the AirPods Pro does at 0.48 ounces each. They’re bigger, bulkier, and heavier, and therefore, not as comfortable.

As for durability…

There’s no real difference between these buds that I could see. Both models are rated IPX4, which means they can resist sweat and splashes of water. This means you can use them for running, even if it rains, or workouts at the gym. They’re both made of durable plastic and don’t have any parts that are obvious points of failure. I think both buds would last you a pretty long time.

Apple AirPods Pro vs Bose QuietComfort Earbuds – Quick Summary

Apple AirPods ProBose QuietComfort Earbuds
Thinner, less natural soundBetter, warmer overall sound and better bass
Good ANCBetter ANC
Shorter battery life; more chargesLonger battery life; fewer charges
Faster chargingSlower charging
Shorter Bluetooth range; more latencyLonger range; less latency
Better mic in noisy placesBetter mic in quiet places
No app, only settingsGood app support
Smaller and lighterBigger and bulkier

Interested in Great Products From Apple and Bose?

Well, check out our in-depth Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 Review, our Bose SoundSport Free Review, our Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II Review, our Bose QuietComfort Earbuds Review, and our Bose SoundLink On-Ear Wireless Review for more awesome Bose items you can buy in 2023.

Also, have a look at our detailed Apple AirPods Max Review, our Apple AirPods Pro Review, our Apple Beats Powerbeats Pro Review, and our Beats Solo3 Wireless Review for superb Apple items currently on the market.

And don’t miss our comprehensive reviews of the Best Noise Isolating Earbuds, the Best Sound Quality Earbuds, the Best Bass Earbuds, the Most Comfortable Earbuds, and the Best True Wireless Earbuds to find more amazing products you can purchase today.

Apple AirPods Pro vs Bose QuietComfort Earbuds – The Verdict

These two models of popular true wireless ANC earbuds are very similar. They’re priced the same. They’re both 1st generation models. And they both have decent sound and solid ANC. Of course, they have different strengths and weaknesses. So, the choice between them probably comes down to personal preference more than anything else.

But, if I had to choose, I think the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds have a slight advantage. They sound better and have stronger ANC, plus many more modes to choose from. They also have a significantly longer battery life, even if their case doesn’t carry as much charge.

But, as I said, you have to look at your usage patterns and decide which factors are most important. Then you can make your final decision.

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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