While I love my AirPods Max, Apple hasn't managed to tempt me with its best wireless earbuds, the AirPods Pro: I don't like the stems, I don't like the fit and I don't think at the price they're worth replacing my Cambridge Audio earbuds.
It's not that I'm anti-Apple; I'm just not a fan of Apple's earbuds. But I've been watching the rumour factory with interest because this year's version, the AirPods Pro 2, could solve some of the things that annoy me – the fit, for starters – and make them a must-buy for me. Here are the top three features I think matter most.
1. Gesture controls
First world problems, I know, but with touch controls on earbuds I can never get the balance right: I'm either too light to be detected or so strong that I send an earbud halfway down my ear canal. And I can never remember what controls do what. So the rumoured gesture controls for AirPods 2 sound great: being able to stop your music by cupping your ear isn't something I'm going to struggle to remember or get right: I already do it to silence my Apple Watch Series 7.
2. Better noise cancellation
The AirPods Pro's noise cancellation is good, but rivals do it better: the ANC in models such as the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds does a better job of silencing all ambient noise, not just the continuous stuff. In pure noise cancelling terms, the Bose are the best true wireless earbuds right now. ANC is the earbuds equivalent of the cameras in smartphones: the tech is constantly improving, making earbud years rather like dog years. So on that basis the AirPods Pro are 14.
3. Better sound
If you look at our AirPods Pro review we said that while they sounded good, rivals were better – the Bose QuietComfort earbuds got another namecheck here, alongside the Sony WF-1000XM4. We mentioned the Bowers & Wilkins PI7 too with the caveat that they cost a lot more, but since that review was written they've started to come down considerably in price. They're still more than the AirPods Pro, but they're no longer "HOW much?????" more.
I'm not hugely bothered by the rumoured higher-res, non-Bluetooth streaming: my AirPods Max don't have it and they sound phenomenal. But given that when they come out the AirPods Pro aren't going to be discounted, I want to be sure that I'm paying premium cash for premium sound. I don't really mind how Apple achieves it.