Apple AirPods Pro 2 vs Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II

When it comes to noise canceling headphones, Apple and Bose make some of the best products on the market. Comfortable, durable and with premium sound quality and customizable controls, you can’t beat the kind of performance you get from these two reputable brands. But when it comes to Apple versus Bose, which in-ear titan comes out on top?

To unpack the answer to this question, we compared AirPods Pro 2 with Bose QuietComfort Earbuds IIwhich weighs in on important criteria such as sound quality, battery life and controls, to help you decide which set of noise-canceling knobs is best for you.

Want to see how Apple and Bose stack up against other contenders? Check out our side-by-side comparisons of the Apple AirPods Pro 2 vs. Sony WF-1000XM4 and Bose QuietComfort Earbuds vs. Jabra Elite 7 Pro.

Design and comfort

Apple AirPods Pro 2 next to an Apple AirPods 3 earpiece.
Apple AirPods Pro 2 (left) and Apple AirPods 3. Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

Apple’s second-generation AirPods Pro (hereafter referred to as AirPods Pro 2) comes in a glossy white finish for both the buds and the charging case. The earbuds themselves are light, sleek, and pretty iconic, given how often people opt for AirPods these days. And unlike other AirPods models, AirPods Pro 2 now comes with four sets of silicone ear tips (extra small, small, medium, and large sizes) that can be easily replaced. The overall fit of the buds is tight and comfortable, and Apple’s Ear Tip Fit Test will ensure you’re using the correct tip size for your ear canals.

While we wouldn’t recommend the AirPods Pro 2 as a dedicated set of gym headphones (they can feel a bit loose when working out), they’re perfect for everyday use.

Apple’s H2 chip is the driving force behind AirPods Pro 2, delivering stronger noise reduction and richer overall sound quality than the previous generation. We also love that the charging case uses Apple’s U1 chip, which allows the case to be added to the Find My network (and includes a speaker to emit an audio signal). There’s even a strap loop this time around, but Apple doesn’t provide an actual strap in the box.

Both the AirPods themselves and the case are IPX4 rated and the case is MagSafe compatible. And iOS fans will also love the ability to seamlessly switch between connected source devices that use the same Apple ID just by opening the AirPods case near the device you want to connect to.

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II in Triple Black.
Bose

Available in black and soapstone (an off-white), the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II (hereafter QCE II) are smaller and lighter than the previous generation, replacing the large clamshell case of the original set with a flip-top charging case. Out of the box you get two extra eartip sizes and silicone stability bands that can be easily swapped out to suit your listening needs. Just like the AirPods Pro 2s, they are IPX4 rated.

The fit is snug and comfortable, and those stability straps add a little extra security, making it QCE II the better choice for running or deadlifting. One thing missing from the Bose equation, however, is wireless charging.

To this end, we will give one point to the AirPods Pro 2.

Winner: AirPods Pro 2

Controls

AirPods Pro 2 and QCE II use a number of haptic and voice assistant-based controls to create a seamless listening experience that prioritizes simplicity and customization.

With AirPods Pro 2, headphone controls are mapped to the shafts of each knob. Just grab and squeeze to produce an audible click confirming your command went through. A single click plays and pauses your media and answers/ends calls, a double click skips forward one track and a triple click goes back one track.

There’s also a press-and-hold command for both the left and right buttons, which either summons Siri or activates noise cancellation (you can customize each button’s long-press command in the iOS Settings app). There is also a swipe up and down gesture to adjust the volume. We have a full post on AirPods Pro 2 tips and tricks if you want to dig deeper.

For QCE IIcontrols are mapped to the back of each bud, with single-press commands identical to AirPods Pro 2. The Bose Music app (for iOS and Android devices) lets you create a long-press command shortcut for both left and right buds, with options including noise cancellation on/off and to call your device’s voice assistant.

Winner: Tie

Connection

AirPods Pro 2 and QCE II use Bluetooth 5.3 to connect to mobile devices and other hardware.

For the AirPods Pro 2, we were able to maintain a connection to our host device up to 25 feet away indoors and between 35 to 40 feet when outdoors. With the Bose QCE II, we were able to get about 20 feet of uninterrupted listening indoors and close to 30 feet outdoors.

While we’ll give a point to the AirPods Pro 2 here, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that both Apple and Bose are missing some great Bluetooth 5.3 features, including Bluetooth multipoint and LC3 codec support. Perhaps we will get these features through a firmware update later on.

Winner: AirPods Pro 2

Sound quality

Apple AirPods Pro 2 in their charging case.
Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

As noise-canceling earbuds go, both the AirPods Pro 2 and QCE II deliver pretty exceptional sound, thanks in part to a commitment to tailored listening from both brands.

On the Apple side of the playing field, the custom listening is a little feature called Adaptive EQ, and for Bose it’s called CustomTune.

Essentially, both sets of buds automatically optimize performance based on how they fit in your ears. But beyond calibration, the basic sound of both headphones is also strong and well-balanced.

Rocking Apple’s H2 chip, AirPods Pro 2 offers robust bass, excellent higher-frequency articulation, and a comprehensive soundstage. And while there’s no LDAC or aptX compatibility to speak of—it’s also missing from the QCE II—we were simply amazed at the kind of immersion the AirPods Pro 2 delivered. It’s a strength made even better by Apple’s Personal Spatial Sound feature.

The Bose listening is also sweet and includes some extra rumble in the overall mix. The QCE II really digs out the details of whatever music you’ve chosen to listen to. Using the Bose Music app, listeners can also adjust the EQ across four unique presets.

While full-on EQ adjustments are missing from the AirPods Pro 2, the default mix is ​​a little louder out of the box (compared to the QCE II), and while both Apple and Bose are both top-shelf when it comes to sound quality, we’ll give one more AirPods Pro 2 because it just sounds a little better than QCE II overall.

Winner: AirPods Pro 2

Active noise reduction

A calling card for both the AirPods Pro 2 and QCE II are the active noise-cancelling (ANC) features of these wireless buds. Far from your traditional set of ANC in-ears, Apple and Bose’s headphones use advanced microphones and algorithmic compression to detect and remove unwanted sounds from your listening environment.

Thanks to Apple’s H2 chip, the AirPods Pro deliver a beautifully hissing ANC experience, with almost all low-frequency distractions wiped out, giving you nothing but crisp and clear music or podcasts, along with the ability to still hear what the person sitting next to you is saying.

The Bose QCE II also offers some pretty phenomenal ANC, and with the Bose Music app you can adjust how weak or strong the earbuds are when it comes to dialing down unwanted noise. But Bose’s calculation method leaves some inherent hiss in the mix, and while it’s barely noticeable when listening to music, it’s still there. Therefore, we will give another point to AirPods Pro.

Winner: AirPods Pro 2

Transparency mode

If you want to let in ambient noise when using your wireless buds, but without the noise becoming obtrusive, you’ll want to enable the Transparency mode. Transparency essentially turns your earbuds into amplifiers that help detect things like what your friend is saying or the sirens of oncoming emergency vehicles.

AirPods Pro 2s has an incredible transparency mode that captures the sounds you want will to hear in the outside world, while denying everything that is harsh and distracting. Apple’s H2 chip also allows for an extra special version of this feature called Adaptive Transparency, which allows the AirPods Pro 2 to analyze, amplify and mute better than ever before.

Bose’s QCE II also has a great openness setting. For Aware mode, the QCE II uses a technology similar to Apple’s Adaptive Transparency – Bose calls it ActiveSense – to pick up harsh sounds and tone them down.

Winner: Tie

Call quality

Apple AirPods Pro 2 and Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II
Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

In addition to normal media listening, the other key feature of all wireless headphones is the ability to take and make phone calls. Both the AirPods Pro 2 and the Bose QCE II are excellent choices when it comes to chatting with someone remotely, but in our testing of each product, we quickly found a clear winner in this category.

Apple’s call quality is definitely the best between the two. While compression is par for the course when it comes to Bluetooth-powered phone calls, the AirPods Pro 2 delivered only a minor amount of attenuation, while the second caller sounded crystal clear otherwise. And with Adaptive Transparency enabled, our own voice was also easily heard, even during a jubilee of loud outdoor noise.

The QCE II did a decent job of handling phone calls, but when it came time to chat with someone outdoors, the earbuds failed to keep up. The QCE II filtered less noise than the AirPods Pro 2, which is quite the limiting factor when it comes to commuting to and from work, or simply walking in and out of a building on a busy street.

Winner: AirPods Pro 2

Battery life

Wireless earbuds simply don’t have the battery capacity of traditional headphones, but the AirPods Pro 2 and QCE II are pretty top notch when it comes to bud and charging case life.

In our testing of AirPods Pro 2, we were able to get about five hours of ANC-powered listening before the earbuds gave us a low-battery warning. But with the charging case’s 30 extra hours of power and Apple’s five-minute charge (for another hour of listening), we were good to go again in no time.

The QCE II lasts for about six hours with ANC enabled, and while the charging case allows for up to 24 hours of extra listening, it doesn’t beat AirPods for a full day plus six hours.

Winner: AirPods Pro 2

Award

AirPods Pro 2 can be found in stores and online for $250, while QCE II are currently available for the same price, down from their usual $300.

While these are the latest wireless earbuds from both companies, we’ll likely continue to see markdowns on the AirPods Pro 2 and QCE II, so keep an eye out for a sale.

Winner: Tie

The verdict

Apple AirPods Pro 2 next to the first generation AirPods Pro.
First-generation Apple AirPods Pro (left) and second-generation AirPods Pro. Can you tell the difference? Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

When it comes to all the key criteria we analyzed for this comparison, the Apple AirPods Pro 2 outperformed the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II in almost every category. Keep in mind that there are no huge gaps in quality or performance.

Both the AirPods Pro and QCE II are some of the best earbuds you can buy, and if you’ve been a devoted Bose listener for years, switching to a new brand might not be the easiest change. Also, we have to give it to Bose for allowing you to customize so many aspects of your listening experience through the Bose Music app.

But at the end of the day, we have to declare a winner. So without further ado, we’re awarding our top prize to the AirPods Pro 2.

Winner: AirPods Pro 2

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