AirPods Pro 2 vs Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II: whose silence is golden?

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II
(Image credit: Bose)

Apple isn’t the only audio giant promising to deliver the best noise-canceling earbuds: just hours after the launch of the AirPods Pro 2, Bose unveiled the QuietComfort Earbuds II. This is a very big deal indeed, because the previous QuietComforts topped our guide to the best noise-canceling buds, lifting the bar so high that even Sony’s marvellous WF-1000XM4s couldn’t reach it. So how do the two sets of flagship ANC earbuds compare? Let’s find out.

AirPods Pro 2 vs Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II: price and release date

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II held in hand

Bose has shaved a lot of weight from the design here, and that's great news.  (Image credit: Simon Lucas / Future)

The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II are available from September 29, with pre-orders starting September 8. They're priced at $299 / £279 / AU$429. They will be initially available in a ‘triple black’ finish with an alternative ‘soapstone’ colour variant to follow. It's worth looking at any Bose promo codes to bring the price down.

The AirPods Pro 2 pre-orders are available now and the earbuds will be released on September 23. They’re $249 / £249 / AU$399. You can have any color you want as long as it’s white.

AirPods Pro 2 vs Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II: features

Image of the AirPods Pro 2 in action during launch

AirPods Pro 2 don't look much different on the outside – but those stems can now alter volume (Image credit: TechRadar)

The AirPods Pro 2 promise better battery life than before – 6 hours individually and 30 hours with the charging case, which now works with the Apple Watch charger and has a lanyard loop to make it less easy to lose. The chip here is the new Apple H2, which Apple says delivers improved audio quality and improved noise cancelation. The case now has a speaker so you can find it more easily and the capacitive touch controls on the earbuds now enable you to swipe up and down to adjust the volume. 

The QuietComfort Earbuds II have a new Bose technology that intends to calibrate both sound and noise-cancelation to the unique shape of every individual ear. This ‘CustomTune’ sound calibration is activated each time the QuietComfort Earbuds II are taken from their charging case and positioned in the wearer’s ears. A proprietary tone will play and a mic inside the earbud assesses the ear canal’s acoustic response. The information is used to tailor both audio and noise-cancelation performance in under half a second. It then adjusts the frequency response to match the terrain of your ears, with one internal and three external microphones listening for external sounds for the ANC to process.

Another new feature is “Aware Mode with ActiveSense”, a smarter transparency mode that responds instantly to sudden sounds to protect your hearing – and the AirPods Pro 2 list exactly the same thing, with an Adaptive transparency which claims to dynamically reduces heavy noise, with readings taken 48,000 per second.

The QuietComfort Earbuds II and AirPods Pro 2 also both have Bluetooth 5.3 for wireless connectivity, but there's no aptX or other lossless audio support. Battery life in the Bose QC Earbuds 2 is six hours (again, same as the new AirPods Pro) plus another three charges via the USB-C charging case.

AirPods Pro 2 vs Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II: sound

Image of the AirPods Pro 2 in action during launch

AirPods Pro 2 now boast double the ANC of their predecessors, which is a huge claim.  (Image credit: TechRadar)

We haven’t had the opportunity to test either pair of earbuds yet, so we can only go by what the manufacturers claim. Apple promises improved sound quality via the new H2 chip and a new low distortion driver and amplifier. There’s the same camera-based Spatial Audio setup we’ve already seen in the AirPods Max, and that adaptive transparency mode promises to screen out invasive sounds such as road drills while also canceling up to twice as much ambient noise. 

The original AirPods fell far behind last year’s QuietComfort earbuds in terms of noise cancelation, but the claim in AirPods Pro 2 is double the noise cancelation of the inaugural AirPods Pro (yes, really), so we’re looking forward to seeing how the two newer models compare.

The lack of aptX adaptive in the Bose earbuds is a surprize (less so in Apple products), but the previous generation are fantastic-sounding earbuds so we’re not overly worried about audio quality. What we are interested in is the noise canceling, which already led the pack – and if it’s as effective and as responsive as Bose claims, it could make these the very best ANC earbuds you can buy.

AirPods Pro 2 vs Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II: design & fit

Image of the AirPods Pro 2 in action during launch

The AirPods Pro 2 case now has a speaker in the bottom to help you locate it should you lose it, and an attachment for a lanyard.  (Image credit: TechRadar)

Bose has shrunk the size of the QuietComfort Earbuds II by around a third over the model they replace, and at 6g each they’re also much lighter. There are three different ear tips and three different stability bands delivering nine different fitting options for each earbud. There’s IPX4 water resistance so they should be fine for fitness and inclement weather.

The AirPods Pro 2 are effectively identical to their predecessors with the exception of a new extra-small silicone tip, which should be more comfortable for people with smaller ears. Despite rumoured design changes the stems remain, although now they have swipe controls for volume. 

AirPods Pro 2 vs Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II: conclusion

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II

Bose's app for the new QuietComfort Earbuds II looks intuitive at first glance (Image credit: Bose)

It would be unfair to reach any kind of verdict when we haven’t had the opportunity to test these earbuds thoroughly yet – although we do have an initial Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2 hands-on review for your delectation. 

Based on what we know about the existing models, Bose’s earbuds will likely sound that bit better and have better noise canceling than Apple’s earbuds do, and we’d expect that to be the same with the second generation of the QuietComforts and AirPods Pro. 

The Bose earbuds are slightly more expensive, but Bose doesn’t have the same iron grip on retail that Apple does, so it shouldn’t be long before we see some discounts. 

Taking all of these things into consideration, it looks like the second generation QuietComfort earbuds will be the ones to beat, but of course we won’t know for sure until we’ve actually had them in our ears for a decent period of time – and that double-the-ANC claim from Apple is interesting, to say the least…

Carrie Marshall

Writer, broadcaster, musician and kitchen gadget obsessive Carrie Marshall (Twitter) has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to all kinds of magazines and websites as well as writing more than a dozen books. Her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, is on sale now. She is the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR.