Apple AirPods Pro 2 vs. Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2: Which earbuds win?

The Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Generation) on left and the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2 (on left).
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

There's no denying that the AirPods Pro 2 and Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2 are the biggest true wireless earbuds of the year. Each certainly have some advantages over the other, but which one is the best for your money?

Apple’s latest wireless earbuds welcome several upgrades, including Find My support for the MagSafe charging case, Personalized Spatial Audio, and stronger active noise cancellation (ANC). They’ve also received touch volume controls and, finally, longer battery life. 

Meanwhile, Bose completely redesigned their wireless earbuds, adopting the long-stem form popularized by the AirPods, while also introducing a new ear tip kit for optimal fit. Underneath the hood lies powerful features such as adaptive ANC, Bluetooth 5.3, and sound calibration technology that adjusts music performance to your hearing.

Both make strong cases for being the market’s best noise-cancelling earbuds, but which is the better overall investment? Our AirPods Pro 2 and Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2 comparison has the answer for you.

Apple AirPods Pro 2 vs. Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2: Specs compared

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Row 0 - Cell 0 Apple AirPods Pro 2Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2
Price$249$299
Wireless charging caseYesNo
ChipH2Unknown
Battery life (rated)5.5 hours (Spatial Audio and Head Tracking on) 6 hours (ANC on); 7 hours (ANC off); 30 hours (charging case with ANC on); 34 hours (charging case with ANC off)6 hours; 24 hours (charging case)
Water resistanceIPX4 (buds and charging case)IPX4 (buds only)
Size1.22 x 0.86 x 0.94 inches (per bud); 1.78 x 2.39 x 0.85 inches (charging case)1.2 x 0.68 x 0.88 inches (per bud); 2.61 x 2.34 x 1.05 inches (charging case)
Weight0.19 ounces (per bud); 1.79 ounces (charging case)0.21 ounces (per bud); 2.1 ounces (charging case)
Special featuresANC, adaptive transparency mode, adaptive EQ, personalized spatial audio, automatic switching, Ear Tip Fit Test, physical volume controls, audio sharing, announced messages with Siri, Find My (AirPods), “Hey Siri” voice-activated assistance, Live Listen, MagSafe charging case with built-in speaker, Apple Watch charging, lanyard loop supportAdaptive ANC, ambient listening mode, ActiveSense, customizable EQ, CustomTune technology, digital assistant support, Eartip Fit Test, quick charging, Self Voice

Apple AirPods Pro 2 vs. Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2: Price and availability 

The $249 AirPods Pro 2 sells for the same price as its predecessor, while the $299 QuietComfort Earbuds 2 is marked up $20 from the original model.   

Neither come cheap. However, features alone make Apple’s buds more enticing. Bear in mind too that you can purchase the AirPods Pro 2 for $10 less on Amazon (opens in new tab) right now. There are no price drops for the QuietComfort Earbuds 2 at time of publishing.

Bookmark our best AirPods deals and best headphones deals pages to stay notified of the latest wireless earbuds sales.

WinnerAirPods Pro 2

Apple AirPods Pro 2 and Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2 side-by-side

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Apple AirPods Pro 2 vs. Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2: Design

As tiring as the AirPods design looks, Apple still finds ways to improve it, even if the changes are small. The AirPods Pro 2 resembles the previous version, donning the same plastic frame and details (e.g., aluminum accents, black grilles). These buds also come with the same skin-detect sensors as the AirPods 3 and are IPX4-rated for water resistance and sweat protection, which is now reflected on the MagSafe charging case. Another addition to the case is the built-in speaker that sends out a tone to inform users of charging statuses, low battery, pairing or to find the case when misplaced via the Precision Finding feature.

Close up image of reviewer wearing Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Bose made the right call revising their true wireless design. The QuietComfort Earbuds 2 is less obtrusive, lighter, and sleeker than the QC Earbuds. These buds are sturdy and capable of surviving hard spills on the concrete, as well as excessive sweat/water splashing (IPX4). The combo matte-and-shiny finish is a nice touch. Even the charging case has been shrunk down in size to be more portable friendly.

Comfort and fit go to the AirPods Pro 2. Apple’s Ear Tip Fit Test and new tips establish a secure fit to wear the buds for long stretches without any slippage. Bose’s ear tip kit and software test help form a tight seal, but there’s no avoiding the QuietComfort Earbuds 2’s discomfort after an hour of use.

Winner: AirPods Pro 2

Apple AirPods Pro 2 in hand of reviewer

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Apple AirPods Pro 2 vs. Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2: Controls

Apple builds on their phenomenal control scheme by integrating touch volume controls into the AirPods Pro 2’s force sensors. Slide gestures are used to increase/decrease volume effortlessly, while single/double/triple and long-hold presses execute functions on demand. The skin-detect sensors are highly responsive for enabling auto-pause when taking off the buds. “Hey Siri” voice activation steals the show, firing up instantly when saying the wake word phrase and responding accurately to voice commands. If only Apple allowed the digital assistant function to work on non-iOS/macOS devices.

Bose offers up a full suite of media controls that can be activated through tap and slides gestures (volume only); the latter is most reliable for operation. Wear detection is slower on the QuietComfort Earbuds 2. Furthermore, Bose only lets you assign the Shortcut function (long press), whereas Apple grants more control customization. At least these buds work with your device’s native assistant, be it Google Assistant, Bixby, Alexa, or Siri. All of them perform well, thanks to Bose’s intelligible mic array that demonstrates excellent speech recognition.

Winner: AirPods Pro 2

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2 in reviewers hand

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Apple AirPods Pro 2 vs. Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2: Sound quality

Three words for you: Personalized Spatial Audio. Is it that revolutionary? Not really, but the feature is still a significant one to have, giving sound a more immersive feel when indulging in Dolby Atmos-supported content. The iPhone’s TrueDepth camera scans your head and ears, while iOS creates a 3D sound profile for you that places effects and vocals accurately on songs and movies, something it does very well. Apple didn’t stop there with audio enhancements. A new low-distortion driver and custom amplifier were developed for richer bass and clearer frequency response. There are other cool audio features hidden in iOS like Headphone Accommodations to tune audio balance/range/brightness and Headphone Audio Customization for tailoring audio to your hearing.

AirPods Pro 2

(Image credit: Future)

The QuietComfort Earbuds 2 sounds better than the first-gen entry. Bose’s active EQ balances audio extremely well for full frequency range, plus you have a customizable three-band EQ to tweak bass and treble. CustomTune technology plays a pivotal role in how you enjoy ANC and sound by calibrating both to the unique properties of your ears. The results are satisfying. However, we noticed the low end can become overzealous on bass-heavy tracks. Moreso, it’s the lack of a spatial audio alternative that doesn’t help the QuietComfort Earbuds 2’s case.

Winner: AirPods Pro 2

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2 worn by reviewer using touch controls

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Apple AirPods Pro 2 vs. Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2: Active noise cancellation

Both companies stepped up their ANC game, but nothing beats Bose’s noise neutralization. Once CustomTune maps the contours of your ear canal, the QuietComfort Earbuds 2 creates an algorithm that “custom tunes” the noise-cancelling filters and blocks out midrange tones at a higher level. ANC is also more personalized. There are two standard modes: Quiet (acoustic noise cancellation) and Aware (aka transparency mode), or you can select a custom mode to adjust between 10 ANC levels. We found performance exceptional when set at max level, blocking out 95 percent of external sounds. Bose says Quiet mode should do the same thing. We beg to differ. Aware mode distinctively picks up external sounds without compromising audio and enabling ActiveSense enhances the effect.

Apple claims it engineered the AirPods Pro 2 to deliver twice as much ANC as the original. The average consumer probably won’t notice much of a difference, but the technology remains highly effective and handles high frequencies better this time around. Where these buds see a major improvement is in ambient listening. The new Adaptive Transparency feature keeps listeners aware of their surroundings and reduces harsh environmental noise at the same time. If you’re not fond of this, Apple has other modes you can try, such as Conversation Boost to emphasize vocals during chats and Live Listen, which transforms your iPhone into a live mic and picks up ambient noises that are sent to your AirPods.

WinnerBose QuietComfort Earbuds 2

AirPods Pro 2

(Image credit: Future)

Apple AirPods Pro 2 vs. Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2: Special features and apps

Features are in abundance on the AirPods Pro 2. Adaptive Transparency, Personalized Spatial Audio with SharePlay support, Precision Finding for the MagSafe charging case, and the skin-detect sensors are already accounted for. Other iOS favorites return, including automatic switching, audio sharing, announced messages with Siri, Ear Tip Fit Test, “Hey Siri,” Headphone Accommodations, Headphone Levels, and Live Listen. Check out some of these other AirPods Pro tricks as well. Best of all, Apple added a dedicated AirPods section in iOS to easily adjust device preferences.

Bose gave their buds some noteworthy extras, the majority previously discussed in detail: Quiet (ANC)/Aware mode, ActiveSense, CustomTune, EQ, Eartip Fit Test, and Shortcut. Another feature you’ll find in the Bose Music app is Self Voice to adjust how loud you sound on calls.

The AirPods Pro 2 and QuietComfort Earbuds 2 both run on Bluetooth 5.3 and provide lengthy range for wireless listening. Apple’s ecosystem operates flawlessly, instantly connecting the buds to iOS devices, though they struggle to pair with Android devices. The QuietComfort Earbuds 2’s pairing process is a breeze, no matter the platform. 

Trying to connect the QuietComfort Earbuds 2 to the Bose Music app is frustrating due to buggy performance. The AirPods Pro 2 isn’t immune to connectivity issues either. Audio issues are common on Android smartphones (music would mute after 30 seconds of playback), and there’s some occasional stutter when streaming music on MacBooks.

WinnerAirPods Pro 2

Showing reviewer making a call using Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Apple AirPods Pro 2 vs. Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2: Call quality

Only one of these makes our list of the best headphones with a mic for voice and video calls. It is the QuietComfort Earbuds 2. Expect great clarity and vocal capture on both ends. ANC does diminish a bit, though voices remain prominent over background interference. Self Voice also comes in handy for increased vocal presence.   

Calls made on the AirPods Pro 2 sounded a bit muffled. In addition, ANC doesn't cancel out external sounds as well as the original, and wind resistance was weaker.

Winner: Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2

Apple AirPods Pro 2 with Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2 on child's building bricks

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Apple AirPods Pro 2 vs. Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2: Battery life

Apple finally beat someone in battery life. A full charge gives the AirPods Pro 2 between 5.5 to 7 hours, depending how you use the buds. The charging case can hold up to 34 hours when ANC is disabled. Not only do these buds have stronger quick charging (5 minutes = 1 hour), but they also support more charging solutions: Lightning cable and MagSafe/Qi-enabled/Apple Watch charging.

Playtime remains at 6 hours on the QuietComfort Earbuds 2. There is no way to disable ANC. The charging case is capped at 24 hours. Quick charging is slower with 20 minutes getting you just 2 hours of listening time. Lastly, there is no wireless charging.

Winner: AirPods Pro 2

Apple AirPods Pro 2 vs. Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2: Winner

Your winner: the AirPods Pro 2. Apple focused on improving its strengths such as ANC, controls, spatial audio and iOS integration. Adaptive Transparency is fantastic for amplifying ambient noise without ruining audio quality. Precision Finding makes finding a lost MagSafe charging case much simpler. The increase in battery life is appreciated. Personalized Spatial Audio completes the package for immersive 3D sound.

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Row 0 - Cell 0 Apple AirPods Pro 2Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2
Price and value (5)53
Design (15)1211
Controls (10)108
Audio quality (20)1817
Active noise cancellation(20)1720
Special features and apps (15)1311
Call quality (5)35
Battery life (10)87
Total score (100)8682

The QuietComfort Earbuds 2 might be the best wireless earbuds for noise cancellation, but it falls short of being the category’s best true wireless model overall. Class-leading ANC, dynamic sound, and a more stylish design are praiseworthy. What keeps these buds from winning the battle are finicky controls, fewer features, and mediocre battery life.

Next: Check out the best noise-cancelling earbuds to find out where each ranks compared to the rest of the models we've reviewed.

A lifestyle journalist with an affinity for consumer products, Alex has over a decade of experience and has worked with popular publications such as Complex, Thrillist, Men’s Health, Gear Patrol, AskMen, and Hoop Magazine. He currently focuses on audio, reviewing the most coveted headphones in the market for both Tom’s Guide and Laptop Magazine.

  • zone99
    Nice review.

    Has Apple solved the problem with using AirPods microphone for things like Zoom meetings on a Mac? That's probably the biggest issue with older AirPods where using the AirPod microphone drains the AirPod in under an hour and forces use of the laptop microphone. Not sure why and doesn't seem to be an issue when on a phone.

    This has been the biggest limiter for me upgrading to newer AirPods.
    Reply
  • Mathewthegreat
    Mine donmt drain in under an hour but it is significant on for example Teams. I think it's because they are only rated for 3 hours talk.
    zone99 said:
    Nice review.

    Has Apple solved the problem with using AirPods microphone for things like Zoom meetings on a Mac? That's probably the biggest issue with older AirPods where using the AirPod microphone drains the AirPod in under an hour and forces use of the laptop microphone. Not sure why and doesn't seem to be an issue when on a phone.

    This has been the biggest limiter for me upgrading to newer AirPods.
    Reply
  • blargh4
    I can't speak to the Bose buds, but between me and my girlfriend we've gone through 3 pairs of Airpod Pros within 2 years. If you're okay spending $250 on earbuds that will fail within 1-2 years, be my guest, they are nice while they work, but after my experience with gen 1 I'm not touching these things. All three pairs developed a very irritating rattling/buzzing in response to external noise after a while (this was within warranty, so we got our first pairs replaced... no such luck on the second set). The buzzing might be particular to the first generation, I have no idea what fails there, but the design is just fundamentally busted. If you use these daily and your skin is anything like mine, the microphone vents - which are flush with the outer surface of the earbuds - will collect and get clogged with skin oils within a couple of years and then neither the mic nor the noise cancelling work. There's no convenient way to handle them to avoid this, nor have I found a good way to clean them.
    Reply