While Apple is best known for their laptops, smartphones, and tablets, they also make sleek headphones with a minimalist design. Their headphones are geared toward people who already use Apple products and fit into the ecosystem seamlessly. Their lineup isn't very extensive, and they have limited functionality on Android, but they effectively deliver the simple yet premium user experience that Apple is known for.
The Apple AirPods Max Wireless are the best Apple headphones for noise cancelling we've tested. These sleek and premium over-ears have an outstanding active noise cancelling (ANC) feature, which can reduce bass-range noise like bus or plane engines, ambient chatter, and higher-pitched sounds like the hum of an AC unit. They also have a sleek aluminum design that feels well-built. Their neutral sound profile offers a touch of extra thump and rumble that fans of EDM and hip-hop will especially enjoy. They also have a continuous battery life of over 21 hours, and Apple advertises that a five-minute quick charge can give you up to 1.5 hours of additional playtime, though we don't currently test this feature.
Unfortunately, there isn't a way to turn them off, and when you put them in their carrying case, they enter a low-power mode. The carrying case is mediocre, as it's only a sleeve that covers the two ear cups. It's by design, meaning you can use the headband as a carrying handle. While they use premium materials like aluminum and silicone, the mesh screen surrounding the headband seems fragile and prone to damage, especially if you use the headband as a handle. They're a suitable choice if you're looking for sleek Apple headphones that deliver a powerful noise cancellation performance.
The Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) Truly Wireless are the best Apple earbuds we've tested. These earbuds are the updated version of the Apple AirPods Pro Truly Wireless and offer similar overall performance with some improvements. Their ANC offers better overall performance, so they do an excellent job of reducing noise during your commute or at the office. By default, they have a warm sound profile suitable for a variety of genres and types of content. The manufacturer advertises their 'adaptive EQ' to adjust their sound profile based on the buds' fit and your ear shape. They also have a 'Spatial Audio' virtual surround sound feature meant to create a more immersive listening experience. They lack sound customization features like an EQ.
They have a comfortable and stable fit that suits them for long listening sessions. They don't leak a lot of noise, either, so you can crank up the volume without annoying those around you. The earbuds' onboard controls now provide clicky feedback and include a volume function, which the original model lacks. Their roughly 5.9 hours of continuous battery life is a small improvement over the previous generation's, although the case now holds four charges instead of five. On the plus side, the case has a U1 chip that allows you to find it using the 'Find My' app if you misplace it.
If you're looking for the best of Apple's more affordable offerings, look at the Apple AirPods (2nd generation) Truly Wireless. While they aren't cheap, products in the AirPods line-up are more budget-friendly than the AirPods Pro models. They have an open-back design and lack ANC, so they aren't well-suited for use in noisy places. The 2nd generation AirPods are also missing some features compared to the newer 3rd generation, but they have a smaller, sleeker design and are much more comfortable for most people. They also have a great build quality. Their sound lacks bass, but they have a very accurate mid-range response well-suited for content like podcasts or classical music.
They have an H1 chip for easier pairing with other Apple products and low latency with iOS devices, so you won't notice audio lag when you're watching a video on your iPhone. They block out virtually no ambient sound, but that can be a plus if you like to stay aware of your surroundings when you're walking around. Unfortunately, at around four hours, they have the shortest battery life of all the products listed here. That said, they come with a small case that holds five extra charges. If you don't want to worry about running out of power or want a less expensive option, the Apple EarPods are basic, cheap wired earbuds. Like the AirPods, they don't block out ambient sound and don't reproduce much bass, so they work best for content like audiobooks.
Bose and Apple are strong competitors in the world of premium in-ears and often trade between first and second place on most "best of" lists. While Apple's headphones offer seamless integration with the rest of the brand's product ecosystem, Bose provides more variety in its lineup, with better customizability and a top-of-the-line active noise cancellation (ANC) system that's made them a go-to for peace and quiet. However, they lack other Apple-exclusive features, like Spacial Audio and Adaptive EQ.
Sennheiser and Apple both produce premium earbuds for everyday use. However, Sennheiser has a greater variety of products. You can find everything from affordable gym earbuds to audiophile-standard over-ears, all of which have great sound quality and come with a wide set of features. However, their earbuds' design and controls aren't as intuitive as Apple's.
Google and Apple both manufacture earbuds intending to pair seamlessly with other products in each brand's respective ecosystem. As a result, Google's buds are a little less pricey than Apple's and feel slightly less premium in their build. However, they're more customizable and come with a graphic EQ and presets via the companion app. Ultimately, your preference depends on which ecosystem you're already subscribed to.
Bowers & Wilkins and Apple are two very different companies. Bowers & Wilkins is a dedicated audio manufacturer. They produce high-end speakers and headphones for audiophiles and home cinemas. Apple produces a wide range of consumer electronics that create a tech ecosystem. While both produce high-end headphones, Apple's tend to have better battery life and more robust controls. That said, neither of these companies offer sound customization settings for their audio products.
Apple makes compact, portable earbuds and in-ear headphones suitable for casual, daily use. They're comfortable and easy to use with other Apple products. With the addition of the over-ear Apple AirPods Max Wireless, they've also set themselves apart from their competitors by using premium build materials. Unfortunately, the company's commitment to simplicity results in mediocre controls and a lack of customization options. Their lineup is small, and most of their products look more or less the same. They have both open and closed-back models, which is rare for a brand with such a small lineup.
Apple's headphones lineup is relatively small. They offer one pair of over-ear headphones and one pair of wired buds. The rest of their limited selection are premium wireless in-ears sold under the AirPods name, which have a few notable subcategories:
Mar 01, 2023: Added comparisons to other high-end in-ear headphone manufacturers and included an in-depth explanation of Apple's AirPods lineup.
Nov 28, 2022: Replaced the Apple AirPods Pro Truly Wireless with the newly-reviewed Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) Truly Wireless.
Apr 05, 2022: Checked that picks represent the best recommendations and that the products are in stock.
Jan 05, 2022: Checked that picks represent the best recommendations and that the products are in stock.
Oct 06, 2021: We've checked our picks for product accuracy and availability. However, we haven't changed our recommendations.
Apple are known for their commitment to simplicity—things should "just work" without complex features or unnecessary user intervention. They don't have many models in their lineup yet, but the headphones they've released fit the company's vision and perform well overall. Their headphones have sleek, minimalist designs and tend to sound pretty decent. They can also be pricey, especially the more feature-packed models, but their wired earphones are cheap.