AirPods Pro or AirPods 3; which one to buy? – Gadgets – Techblog

In 2021 Apple announced the third generation of wireless earbuds, the AirPods 3. The headphone lineup hadn’t been renewed since 2019, the year the second generation and AirPods Pro were launched. With similar designs and features, understand what changes between headphones to know the best model to buy, assessing your needs.

Apple AirPods Pro on a table
Apple AirPods Pro (Image: André Fogaça/Tecnoblog)

Design and dimensions

The AirPods became more similar, although Apple continues to sell the 2nd generation model, the AirPods 3 adopted the larger head and the shorter shaft, based on the AirPods Pro, including the recharge case is similar. However, there are differences, the first of which is the fit of the ear.

While AirPods Pro has silicone tips to seal the ear canal, characterizing the model as in-ear, AirPods 3 remains in the earphone category — they fit in the ear, but without sealing the ear canal.

3rd generation AirPods
3rd generation AirPods (Image: Playback/ Apple)

This turns out to be the most notable difference between the two models, defining the features (we’ll talk about this in the next topic) for the pairs of headphones. However, you can already conclude something from this: if you are not comfortable with the in-ear design, with the tip that fits inside the ear canal, AirPods 3 already “sounds” like the best purchase option.

Regarding dimensions, little changes:

dimensions 3rd generation AirPods AirPods Pro
Height 30.79 mm 30.9 mm
Width 18.26 mm 21.8 mm
Depth 19.21 mm 24 millimeters
Weight 4.28 grams 5.4 grams
Dimensions of AirPods 3 and AirPods Pro

Features of AirPods 3 vs AirPods Pro

Before going into the specifics of each model, it is important to note that both the 3rd generation AirPods and the AirPods Pro have the same Apple H1 chip, that is, in processing, both have the same performance.

So what changes? Well, the active noise cancellation is something only present in the Pro line, due to the silicone tips for isolation of the ear canal. Thus, there are three ways to use AirPods Pro:

  1. With “Active Noise Cancellation”: which seeks to isolate external noises, allowing greater immersion in the sound;
  2. With “Ambient Mode”: which lets the external sound pass through the microphones, so that the user can hear what is around them;
  3. In “Disabled” mode: which does not apply any of the above filters, it only has passive isolation of the silicone tips.
AirPods Pro Tips
AirPods Pro features silicone tips for ear canal isolation (Image: Press/Apple)

3rd generation AirPods don’t have noise cancellation as they don’t have silicone tips. However, the headphones share a differential over previous models: Space Audio with dynamic head tracking.

This feature simulates audio in multiple directions, as if the listener were in a movie theater or something similar. It doesn’t work on all apps, but it’s already enabled on Apple TV+ and Apple Music, for example. Apple explains it as follows:

Spatial Audio with dynamic head tracking directs the sound around you. The feeling is to hear music, series, movies and whatever else reaches your ears in three dimensions. The sound comes from all sides and you are in the center, as if you were in the best place in the audience of a concert or cinema.

Running in the rain or sweating it out in the gym shouldn’t be a problem either, considering that both AirPod models feature IPX4 sweat and water resistance.

The sensor to identify when the earpiece is in the ear has been improved on AirPods 3. While it shouldn’t make much of a practical difference, it’s a welcome change. The AirPods Pro uses the same optical sensor as the second generation AirPods, while the third generation adopted a skin detection sensor. Apple justifies it like this:

An improved skin detection sensor understands the difference between your ears and other surfaces. While you are using the AirPods, they play. But if you put it in your pocket or on the table, they pause.

audio quality

The audio quality on 3rd generation AirPods and AirPods Pro should be the same, but the user should feel it differently, just by adjusting the tips in the ear canal, unless you are in a quiet environment. Both models feature the same high-amplitude driver and an amplifier with high dynamic range.

It is worth highlighting the Adaptive Equalization, a feature present in both headphones and which uses microphones facing the inside of the ear to detect, in real time, what the user is listening to and adjust the music frequencies, in order to improve the experience accordingly with the shape of the ear.

Apple AirPods Pro desmontado
AirPods Pro (Image: Disclosure/Apple)


The advantage in this regard goes to the 3rd generation AirPods, which reaches up to six hours of audio with a recharge (up to 30 hours of use if you consider the recharge case). The Pro model can even reach four hours and half per recharge (up to 24 hours of use considering the recharge case).

The difference is due to the active noise cancellation in the AirPods Pro, which uses more processing to isolate the user from external sound or let them through with Ambient Mode.

How much do AirPods cost?

3rd generation AirPods are sold by Apple for R$2,399. The Pro model sells for R$ 2,999. However, you can find them in retail stores for much less: around R$1,500 for AirPods Pro (prices consulted on the date of publication of this comparison).

Which iPhone, iPad or Mac can I use?

If you decide to buy a pair of AirPods, you need to be mindful of compatibility. Apple’s wireless headphones work on models starting with the 1st generation iPhone SE and iPhone 6s; 5th generation iPad, iPad Air 2, iPad mini 4 and 1st generation iPad Pro; Macs from 2012 onwards; and any Apple Watch.

Image of the AirPods lineup side by side
Line of AirPods (Image: Disclosure/Apple)

Which one to buy: AirPods 3 or Pro?

As explained, the main difference is in the active noise cancellation of the Pro model, present due to the silicone tips of the in-ear headphones. Regardless of price, AirPods Pro deliver more.

However, if the user feels any discomfort with this type of headphone, it is better to avoid and choose even the 3rd generation AirPods to take advantage of the latest Spatial Audio features and sound quality that Apple has put in the earbuds.

With information: Apple.

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