Bose QuietComfort Earbuds vs. AirPods Pro: Which should you buy?

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds (Image credit: Bose)

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds

Bose Quietcomfort Earbuds Case

Bose came back with a pair of true wireless earbuds that deliver possibly the best active noise canceling (ANC) performance in this market, though you will have to deal with bigger buds in your ears.

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds

Big and comfy

Superb sound quality
Outstanding ANC performance
Solid ambient mode
Comfortable fit
Wireless charging case
Large in size by comparison
Case is also much bigger
Less discreet

AirPods Pro

AirPods Pro render

Apple doesn't hit it out of the park with the battery life on the AirPods Pro, but they've got some other things that perform really well, like solid ANC, great microphone quality, and a comfy fit.

AirPods Pro

Apple flavored

Longer battery life with charging case
Solid sound quality
Great ANC performance
Spatial virtual surround sound option
Excellent phone call quality
Proprietary ear tips
Low battery life with ANC on
Can't customize on non-Apple devices
Lightning for wired charging

Bose edges out Apple with better earbud battery life at up to six hours, but it's hardly a runaway victoty. The gap closes tighter whenever active noise-canceling (ANC) is on. The real differences here pertain to how effective ANC is and what you can expect from the sound quality.

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds vs. AirPods Pro Setting the stage

AirPods Pro in their case

Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central)

The size of the buds and charging case is the most obvious physical difference between these two. Apple managed to squeeze in a lot of tech into a smaller frame, including its H1 chip and ANC to go with its multiple microphones. That contrasts with the bulkier design that makes the QuietComfort Earbuds so noticeable. Spec-for-spec, you wonder why they aren't smaller, but you may forgive that once you take a listen.

The AirPods Pro case gets a full six hours more battery life (24 vs. 18 for the Bose case), though you will need to charge Apple's earbuds more often because they won't last as long. Still, the gap isn't huge. Bose does have an advantage in using USB-C, which helps you get a 15-minute fast charge for up to two hours of playback, whereas Apple uses its own Lightning port. Neither side holds any edge on wireless charging.

It is curious why Bose made its earbuds and case so much bigger without offering more in battery life. There are significantly smaller cases that have more, not to mention there are earbuds that routinely offer as much or more per charge. Even the water resistance isn't any different here. Under those circumstances, performance and comfort are the only potential saving graces.

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Header Cell - Column 0 Bose QuietComfort EarbudsAirPods Pro
Bud battery life (with ANC on)6 hours4.5 hours
Charging case battery life18 hours24 hours
ConnectivityBluetooth 5.1Bluetooth 5.0
Wireless charging caseYesYes
Charging connectorUSB-CLightning
Digital assistant supportGoogle Assistant, SiriSiri
Speaker size6mm drivers6mm drivers
Supported audio codecsSBC, AACSBC, AAC
Active noise cancelation (ANC)YesYes
Transparency/ambient sound modeYesYes

Despite their size, the QuietComfort Earbuds are surprisingly comfortable. They don't feel as cumbersome or unwieldy in your ears as you might think. The larger size explains why there's both an ear tip and wing to maintain stability. If you wanted people to notice you were wearing earbuds, you won't be getting these past them.

The AirPods Pro are already standouts in the looks department, certainly when compared to the AirPods 2. You still get the standard stem sticking out, but the real gem is the custom locking mechanism that lets the tip contour to your ear without feeling a pinch.

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds vs. AirPods Pro Sounding the right tones

Bose has a pedigree for sound that, frankly, Apple can't reach. It shows when pitting these earbuds against each other because the sonic difference is evident.

What Bose does well here is produce a sound signature that doesn't go off the rails, even when you raise volume. The crisp clarity and balanced sound makes the QuietComfort Earbuds sound more dynamic than their size would indicate. Bass isn't needlessly amplified to mask weaknesses in the mids and highs, making room for a noticeable thump that doesn't come off as overpowering.

It's just a shame Bose didn't think to put an EQ in its Music app. You can already use the app to adjust settings on the earbuds, so it could've at least thrown that in. It's the one thing that would put even greater distance between it and the AirPods Pro. However, if you turn on ANC, the results are still excellent, which is a great sign.

Apple definitely paid more attention to sound on the AirPods Pro than the other AirPods models, but it was a pretty low bar to clear. The neutral sound is a safe zone for these earbuds — they won't stand out for one genre over another, but they also won't stand out against the competition, either. Apple also didn't provide an EQ so you can tinker with the sound. One thing you would get is spatial audio, which Apple added with the iOS 14 update, giving you a virtual surround effect. It's great for watching shows and movies.

Call quality is about the same on both, though Apple may have a slight edge because of how well the AirPods Pro microphones work to pick up your voice. You shouldn't run into problems with Bose's pair, which is why it's hard to see one above the other here.

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds vs. AirPods Pro Cancel that noise

AirPods Pro on a Daniel Bader

Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central)

When comparing ANC performance, Bose wins, not just because of the technical side of things, but also from the practical side. The QuietComfort Earbuds use ear tips that do a great job at passive noise isolation, which is really half the battle for ANC. Apple's AirPods Pro are good at that, too, but not as good as what Bose did.

With a tight seal and ANC on, noise canceling on Bose's earbuds is fantastic. In fact, it's a serious contender on par with Sony's WF-1000XM3, which are regarded as the best noise-canceling earbuds available. You get the same 11 levels of ANC Bose has for its other headphones, letting you set three settings as favorites you can toggle through by tapping the left earbud or through the Music app. The higher you go, the better it is at canceling out both low-frequency and high-frequency sounds.

When comparing ANC performance, Bose wins, not just because of the technical side of things, but also from the practical side.

Apple Isn't that far behind, but it doesn't quite match what Bose pulled off here. The AirPods Pro are consistently good at blocking out ambient noise, and prove it when dealing with wind gusts or even moderate clapping. You can't really adjust its potency, but you may not care to anyway. And when it works at opportune times, like phone calls, you're just glad it's there without much effort.

You do get transparency/ambient modes in both models, letting you bring in outside noise for the convenience of hearing your surroundings. It's great for quickly chatting with someone or going our running without removing the earbuds. Apple does a great job in this area, though Bose is perfectly adept at it as well. You can also remove one of the QuietComfort Earbuds to automatically pause audio. The AirPods Pro also do that.

On the other hand, onboard controls are unique between them. Bose has the advantage of a larger surface area to include touch-sensitive controls, though they're only on the left earbud, and they're all made up of double-taps or holding a finger there to engage. That includes accessing Google Assistant or Siri for voice assistance. With the AirPods Pro, just saying "Hey Siri" is enough to get things going, except that won't work on an Android phone. Same with replying to iMessage and text messages by voice, as that's only for iPhones.

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds vs. AirPods Pro Which one should you choose?

Your choice really comes down to what you prioritize. If you want the best possible sound, Bose's QuietComfort Earbuds tick off the right boxes in that regard, and manage to do it with top-class ANC performance to go with it. You do have to sacrifice some battery life and a smaller form factor to get those things, but there's no denying the audio fidelity is among the best true wireless headphones. It's just a shame Bose couldn't manage better battery life and an EQ in the app. Those two things would've really made these earbuds even more compelling.

With the AirPods Pro, you're already playing from behind if you're using an Android device. Some of the signature features don't apply, and while the ANC and call quality are solid, they won't play audio as dynamically as Bose's pair will. But they're still among the best available, too, so it depends on what your tolerance is for missing out on the full gamut of features.

That's less of a concern with Bose's QuietComfort Earbuds, and for that and the other reasons above, they are the winner in this tough battle between great true wireless earbuds.

Ted Kritsonis
Contributor, Audio Reviewer

Ted Kritsonis loves taking photos when the opportunity arises, be it on a camera or smartphone. Beyond sports and world history, you can find him tinkering with gadgets or enjoying a cigar. Often times, that will be with a pair of headphones or earbuds playing tunes. When he's not testing something, he's working on the next episode of his podcast, Tednologic.