Best Apple AirPods for 2022: Top Picks Across Generations     – CNET

Best Apple AirPods for 2022: Top Picks Across Generations – CNET

If you already use Apple devices, it’s tough to beat the convenience of AirPods, which are specifically designed to work seamlessly with other Apple devices. However, there’s more than just one kind of AirPods on the market right now, which can make it tough to know which are the best AirPods for you. Fortunately, CNET is here to help, and we’ve tested out all of Apple’s earbuds and rounded up the best models across the different generations below. 

There’s a reason AirPods always top best headphones lists for the year. But shopping for AirPods has become a lot more complicated now that Apple’s released multiple generations and versions of its AirPods. These different versions include standard AirPods, AirPods Pro and AirPods Max. Confused? Don’t be: I’ll run down the differences and benefits of each. Note, too, that we’re pulling the Beats Fit Pro into this conversation — they’re certainly not “AirPods,” but that model of the Apple-owned brand is worth considering if you’re considering AirPods and looking for earbuds in the $150 to $200 range. 

Great sound quality, a variety of ear tips for a snug fit, noise-canceling technology and extended battery life thanks to a wireless charging case are aspects that undoubtedly contribute to AirPods’ perpetual appeal. I’ll compare their feature highlights below to help you pick the best AirPods for your needs. Many times, choosing the best AirPods involves striking a balance between function and price, so we’ve mapped out the most current pricing for you as well. Here are the best Apple AirPods deals you can find this year.

Read more: Best True-Wireless Earbuds for 2022

AirPods pricing 2022

Model Apple Store price Best price right now Best all-time price
AirPods 2 $129 $100 $90
AirPods Pro 2 $249 $239 $223
AirPods 3 $179 $169 $150
Beats Fit Pro $200 $200 $160
AirPods Max $549 $450 $429

We update this story frequently to reflect current pricing. 

David Carnoy/CNET

Battery Life

Rated up to 6 hours

Noise Canceling

Yes (ANC)

Multipoint

No

Headphone Type

Wireless earbuds

Water-Resistant

Yes (IPX4 — splash-proof)

The new AirPods Pro (2nd generation) are powered by Apple’s new H2 chip, which delivers more processing power while being more energy efficient, according to Apple. The new chip, combined with new low-distortion drivers, allows for improved sound that offers better clarity and depth. The noise canceling is also improved — Apple says the new AirPods have “double” the noise canceling of the original AirPods Pro. Additionally, the new AirPods add an extra hour of battery life, up from five to six hours with noise canceling on. Plus, a speaker in the case that emits a sound that helps locate your buds via Find My should they decide to hide from you.

Note that while Apple has discontinued the original AirPods Pro, they’ll remain on sale at discounted prices until supplies are exhausted. However, most people should get this newer model if they can afford it. 

Read our Apple AirPods Pro 2 review.

You’re receiving price alerts for Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Gen, White)

David Carnoy/CNET

Battery Life

Rated up to 6 hours

Noise Canceling

Yes (ANC)

Multipoint

No

Headphone Type

Wireless earbuds

Water-Resistant

Yes (IPX4 — splash-proof)

Made by Apple, the newest Beats headphones aren’t AirPods, but — except for lacking a case with wireless charging and MagSafe compatibility — they pretty much pack most of the features found on the AirPods Pro in a sportier design and are available in multiple color options. You should definitely check these out before buying the AirPods 3 or AirPods Pro at nearly the same price. Read our Beats Fit Pro review

You’re receiving price alerts for Beats Fit Pro Earbuds (White, 2021)

David Carnoy/CNET

Battery Life

Rated up to 20 hours

Noise Canceling

Yes (ANC)

Multipoint

No

Headphone Type

Over-ear wireless headphones

Water-Resistant

No IP rating

Apple’s first full-size headphones are chock-full of high-end features like noise cancellation, spatial audio and easy integration with Apple devices. Yes, paying about the same as you would for a PS5 may sound crazy, but here’s the crazier thing: They’re actually kinda worth it, so long as you don’t feel burned by their lack of support for full lossless audio and lack of included cable for wired listening (which must be purchased separately).

We’ve occasionally seen the Apple AirPods Max prices dip as low as $429 in certain colors, but right now they’re hovering around $450 at most retailers. 

Read our AirPods Max review.

You’re receiving price alerts for Apple AirPods Max (Gray)

David Carnoy/CNET

Battery Life

Rated up to 6 hours

Noise Canceling

No

Multipoint

No

Headphone Type

Wireless earbuds

Water-Resistant

Yes (IPX4 — splash-proof)

The newest 2021 AirPods deliver better sound quality than their predecessors while maintaining an open design. Slightly larger and shaped more like the AirPods, they should be a better fit for more people’s ears, but at the same time, they may not fit those with very small ears who got a perfect fit with the AirPods 2nd Generation. Read our AirPods 3 review

You’re receiving price alerts for Apple AirPods 3 (MagSafe Case)

What are the newest AirPods?

The newest AirPods are AirPods Pro (2nd generation), which hit stores on Sept. 23, 2022, and feature Apple’s new H2 chip along with better, sound, noise canceling and battery life. The third-generation AirPods with enhanced functionality, improved sound and an updated design arrived in stores in October 2021 Meanwhile, the Beats Fit Pro — which share most of the same features as the original AirPods Pro — arrived in November. While they’re not AirPods by name, we and others have referred to them as “the sports AirPods you always wanted.”

Are the AirPods Pro 2 better than the Beats Fit Pro?

With their integrated wingtips, the Beats Fit Pro may offer you a more secure fit than AirPods Pro 2 and they do cost $50 less (and sometimes even less when they go on sale). Otherwise, the AirPods Pro 2 are better — they have slightly better sound qiality and noise canceling along with better voice-calling performance.

Also note that the Beats Fit Pro are missing wireless charging and the MagSafe compatibility found in the AirPods Pro 2.

Should I buy AirPods in the Apple Store?

If you can help it, no: The various AirPods models typically sell for less online at other retailers like Amazon and Walmart. Amazon, meanwhile, typically matches the lowest price at other retailers. Generally, we’d only buy AirPods at the Apple Store if we want engraving, which isn’t available elsewhere. That said, if you opt to go into an Apple Store for Apple deals, you should ask about price matching. While Apple doesn’t seem to have any official policy, it’s been reported that it will offer up to 10% price matching. As an example, that would be $25 off the AirPods Pro, which list for $249. That’s not much, but it’s worth asking to see if you can get 10% off. 

Does spatial audio sound different on different AirPods?

The short answer is, not really when you’re talking about spatial audio with head tracking for movie and TV watching. While the AirPods Max offer the best sound overall, using the spatial audio virtual sound feature is largely the same experience on all the AirPods that support it.

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David Carnoy

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