AirPods Pro 2 vs OnePlus Buds 3: Which noise-canceling earbuds win?

OnePlus Buds 3 vs AirPods Pro 2 face of hero image
(Image credit: Future)

2024 already looks like shaping up to be a big year for the best wireless earbuds with this primetime matchup between the Apple AirPods Pro 2 versus the OnePlus Buds 3. Serving as flagship add-ons for their respective mobile devices, the OnePlus 12 and iPhone 15, each pair of wireless earbuds boast heavyweight features and platform-centric functionality in a portable-friendly design.

Active noise cancelation, Bluetooth 5.3, one-tap pairing, quick charging, spatial audio, and several sound-calibrating features are just some of the perks made available on Apple and OnePlus’ latest releases. They’re also different in many ways, from battery management to voice calling, to packaging and pricing.

Both are considered some of the best wireless earbuds money can buy. As for the superior choice, well, that’s what we’re going to find out. Our OnePlus Buds 3 and AirPods Pro 2 comparison breaks it all down.

AirPods Pro 2 vs OnePlus Buds 3: Specs compared

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Header Cell - Column 0 OnePlus Buds 3Apple AirPods Pro 2
Price$99 / £78 / AU$150$249 / £229 / AU$399
ColorsMetallic gray, splendid blueWhite
Size1.24 x 0.79 x 0.96 inches (per bud); 2.07 x 1.97 x 1.01 (charging case)1.22 x 0.86 x 0.94 inches (per bud); 1.78 x 2.39 x 0.85 inches (charging case)
Weight0.16 ounces (per bud); 1.43 ounces (charging case) 0.19 ounces (per bud); 1.8 ounces (charging case)
Battery life (rated)6.5 hours (ANC on); 10 hours (ANC off); 28 hours (ANC on w/charging case), 44 hours (ANC off w/charging case)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)
ConnectivityBluetooth 5.3 with SBC, AAC and LHDC 5.0Bluetooth 5.3 with AAC
DurabilityIP55 (buds); IPX4 (charging case)IP54 (buds + charging case)

AirPods Pro 2 vs OnePlus Buds 3: Price & availability

OnePlus Buds 3 vs AirPods Pro 2 face of hero image

(Image credit: Future)

The AirPods Pro 2 originally released for $249, though the buds can often be found discounted to $199 and we have seen them drop as low as $169. This applies to both Lightning and USB-C versions. Meanwhile, the OnePlus Buds 3 hit store shelves with a $99 MSRP, which is a huge markdown from the original Buds Pro ($149) and Buds Pro 2 ($179).

Both models are smart investments when factoring in price and performance. They’re also more affordable than luxury staples such as the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds ($299) and Sony WF-1000XM5 ($299).

Choosing between them is more a matter of platform, as the AirPods Pro 2 are fully integrated with all iOS/macOS devices, while the Buds 3 offer similar connectivity with OnePlus and third-party Android devices.

Winner: Tie

OnePlus Buds 3 vs AirPods Pro 2: Design

OnePlus Buds 3 in charging case held up outside

(Image credit: Future)

The Buds 3 are the more attractive and sturdier selection. OnePlus outfitted each bud with an all-aluminum stem, larger mic grille, plastic sound port, slim touch panel, and silicone ear tip. Two striking colorways with soft matte finishes provide a stylish appearance. These buds come with IP55 dust/water resistance, and the compact charging case is covered in IPX4 sweat/water-resistant coating. 

The AirPods Pro 2 don’t look much different than the original. Notable changes include indented volume controls and skin-detect sensors that were introduced on the AirPods 3. Apple’s MagSafe charging case now comes with a built-in lanyard loop and speaker that supports the Find My feature. The all-new AirPods Pro 2 with USB-C welcome IP54 dust-proofing and water resistance and the Lightning version comes IPX4-rated. Where the AirPods Pro 2 lose cool points is their mediocre plastic construction and lack of color options. 

Comfort and fit are equally pleasant.

Winner: OnePlus Buds 3

AirPods Pro 2 vs OnePlus Buds 3: Controls

Reviewer wearing AirPods Pro 2 for running and using touch controls

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Previous entries in OnePlus’ true wireless series took a page out of the AirPods Pro’s playbook by implementing force sensors on the stems. The Buds 3 ditch this input method in favor of standard touch controls that are highly responsive and support multiple functions for seamless operation. Wear detection is spot-on for auto-pausing content when removing the buds. Google Assistant and Siri perform well, thanks to an intelligible mic array that demonstrates great speech recognition. 

The AirPods Pro 2 bear a more practical and functional control scheme, highlighted by Apple’s exceptional haptic sensors that register single/multi-press and long-press gestures, plus volume sensors that raise/lower sound via swipe gestures. “Hey Siri” voice activation operates flawlessly, instantly turning on when speaking the wake-word phrase and executing voice commands without a hitch. Google Assistant is not compatible with the AirPods Pro 2, but you can get the feature working on Android devices through third-party apps.

Winner: Apple AirPods Pro 2

AirPods Pro 2 vs OnePlus Buds 3: Sound quality

OnePlus Buds 3 testing sound quality with Golden Sound feature in app

(Image credit: Future)

I preferred the Buds 3 for standard music listening. Their audio design consists of stronger specs, including Bluetooth 5.3 with LHDC 5.0, dual driver units (6mm tweeter + 10.4mm woofer), Hi-Res Audio certification, and multiple listening modes. Sound Master EQ is viable for adjusting frequencies to your liking and hosts three well-engineered presets (Balanced, Serenade, Bass), along with a BassWave setting to increase/decrease bass response. 

Golden Sound creates a sound profile based on your hearing. OnePlus users also have the option to enable backend features like Dolby Atmos on their smartphone. Music sounds vibrant with LHDC streaming content at a high bitrate (up to 900kbps) for faster streaming and greater clarity. OnePlus 3D Audio is a decent spatial audio format that produces more expansive sound, but the results sound less natural.  

Apple’s Personalized Spatial Audio makes the AirPods Pro 2 the better 3D audio buds. Music and movies sound livelier. The iPhone’s TrueDepth camera can scan your ears to create a personalized sound profile that accurately places effects and voices on songs and movies. A low-distortion driver and custom amplifier create richer bass and clearer frequency response when listening to Apple Music tracks. There are also hidden iOS features designed to enhance sound quality: Headphone Accommodations tunes audio balance/range/brightness and Headphone Audio Customization can tailor audio to your hearing. 

Overall, Apple delivers a better audio package.

Winner: Apple AirPods Pro 2 

AirPods Pro 2 vs OnePlus Buds 3: Active noise canceling performance

Reviewer testing ANC performance on OnePlus Buds 3

(Image credit: Future)

Adaptive ANC on the Buds 3 is some of the strongest in the category. Four modes are available that block out incidental sounds at different levels. The Max setting is best for daily noise reduction and eliminates many external sounds across the frequency spectrum. Only a handful of high-frequency sounds (e.g., bird chirping, sirens) make their way onto the soundstage, but they aren’t distracting. Transparency mode comes in handy for increasing situational awareness.

Apple’s noise cancelation is just as effective against unwanted noises and supports multiple ambient-listening modes. Adaptive Transparency keeps listeners aware of their surroundings, while reducing harsh environmental noise at the same time. Conversation Boost emphasizes vocals during chats and Live Listen can transform your iPhone into a live mic that picks up noises and sends them to the AirPods. Conversation Awareness and Personalized Volume were recent additions introduced in an iOS update that automatically lower volume when detecting someone’s voice and adjust sound based on noise levels around you, respectively.

Winner: Apple AirPods Pro 2 

OnePlus Buds 3 vs AirPods Pro 2: Call quality

Reviewer testing OnePlus Buds 3 call quality

(Image credit: Future)

The Buds 3 are one of the best headphones with a mic for voice and video calls. OnePlus’ mic array produces loud and crisp voice calls. ANC minimizes background noise and wind interference (whooshing effects sound less harsh). The AirPods Pro 2 are a sufficient calling headset for voice and FaceTime chats. Unfortunately, they don’t cancel out external sounds as good as the original model does, nor do they share same noise cancellation or wind resistance on calls.

Winner: OnePlus Buds 3

AirPods Pro 2 vs OnePlus Buds 3: Connectivity

Apple AirPods Pro 2 in hand of reviewer

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

We have yet to test a pair of wireless buds that surpass the AirPods connectivity. Apple’s H2 processor is such a dynamic component that instantly pairs the AirPods Pro 2 with iOS/macOS devices. Furthermore, it’s designed for efficient battery usage, smarter noise neutralization, stronger sound, and other software perks (e.g., automatic switching, audio sharing, “Hey Siri” voice activation). Here are 10 AirPods Pro 2 hidden features you should be using that are also powered by the H2 chip.

It's unknown what chipset the Buds 3 run on. All we know is that the buds operate fast and support multiple wireless features, from one-tap Fast Pairing (Google/OnePlus) to multipoint technology for pairing to two devices simultaneously. They’re also compatible with iOS/macOS, providing greater platform support than the AirPods Pro 2.

WinnerOnePlus Buds 3

OnePlus Buds 3 vs AirPods Pro 2: Battery life

OnePlus Buds 3 shown connected to a USB-C charging cable

(Image credit: Future)

Playtimes are decent on these two competitors. The AirPods Pro get you between 5.5 to 7 hours per charge and the Buds Pro 2 pulling between 6.5 to 10 hours per charge. Battery capacity is larger on OnePlus’ USB-C-powered charging case (44 hours), but Apple’s MagSafe charging case (30 hours) supports more charging solutions: Lightning, USB-C, MagSafe, and Apple Watch charger. Quick charging seems equal based on specs. The AirPods Pro 2 generate 1 hour on a 5-minute charge and the Buds 3 muster up 2 hours on a 10-minute charge. Where the AirPods Pro 2 have their rival beat is power management. Apple’s buds squeeze every drop of juice from the battery when employing special features. Playtimes on the Buds Pro 2 drop by 2 hours after enabling battery-draining features like ANC, LHDC, and spatial audio.

Winner: Apple AirPods Pro 2

AirPods Pro 2 vs OnePlus Buds 3: Verdict

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Header Cell - Column 0 OnePlus Buds 3Apple AirPods Pro 2
Price and value (5)55
Design (15)1412
Controls (10)910
Sound quality (25)2023
Active noise cancelation (20)1718
Call quality (10)98
Connectivity (5)54
Battery life (10)67
Total score (100)8586

This could have easily been a draw, but the AirPods Pro 2 win this battle based on their more polished presentation. Apple’s control scheme is more intuitive, spatial audio sounds more immersive, and battery management remains elite. ANC and sound quality are solid. Recent updates to both the design (USB-C compatibility) and software (e.g., Adaptive Audio, Personalized Volume) have also extended the product’s shelf life for another 2 to 3 years, or until the long-rumored AirPods Pro 3 make their debut. 

OnePlus put their all into creating the Buds 3 and it shows. The significant improvements in call quality and noise cancellation alone rank them No.1 on our best cheap wireless earbuds list. Sleek design changes, stronger connectivity, and a plethora of sound-enhancing features add to their value, which is unbeatable at $99. 

Either choice makes for an excellent investment, but the AirPods Pro 2 bring more reliable performance to the table.

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Alex Bracetti

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.