There's never been a better time to invest in the best true wireless earbuds: thanks to firms such as Sony, Apple and Bose, sound quality and active noise cancellation has never been better.
Having now tested both the AirPods Pro 2 and the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2, I think the Bose ones are better for most people despite the higher RRP. And here are 5 reasons why.
1. The noise cancelling is better
Bose have led the noise cancelling pack for decades, so it's hardly a surprise to discover that the QuietComfort Earbuds 2's noise cancelling is amazing. Not only is the active noise cancellation incredibly effective, but you can also adjust its sensitivity across multiple custom modes – so for example I can have one mode with very aggressive noise cancelling for when I'm on the Tube, and have modes with less aggressive noise cancelling for listening at home or in the office.
2. They sound better
This one's personal preference, I know: one of my esteemed colleagues prefers her music to be without too much bass and prefers the AirPods Pro 2 to the Bose, but I like my bass to vibrate my cheekbones and that makes the Bose my favourite. There's a low-end heft to the sound here that the AirPods Pro 2 don't deliver, and it's not at the expense of clarity like you often find in cheaper buds that boost the bass to distract from their shortcomings. The bass here is punchy, not flabby, and while the sound is perhaps a little warmer than it technically should be I really like it. You can also adjust it with the app's three-band EQ.
The Bose sound very close to the audiophile Astell & Kern UW100s, which I think have slightly better sound but which lack the noise cancelling I need for urban listening. Whether it's electronic pop, hard rock or ethereal ambience, the Bose make your favourites sound spectacular. The sound stage feels more natural, too, and while there isn't Spatial Audio like there is on AirPods I don't miss it.
3. They don't look like AirPods
I know the AirPods' stems are iconic, but I hate looking like a walking advert – especially when it makes my expensive and potentially very steal-able earbuds very obvious. So the Bose's more sober black design suits me better and makes me feel a little less paranoid too.
4. They don't feel like AirPods
I don't really get on with the AirPods and AirPods Pro, which never feel quite right in my ears even when the app says they're fitting perfectly. After an embarrassing switch-up where I put them in the wrong ears and couldn't work out why they felt so odd, I put the Bose buds into the correct ears and immediately liked the feel: in addition to the more oval tip in your ear canal there's a seal around the body of the buds that I found more comfortable and reassuring than the fit of Apple's earbuds. After prolonged wear I can definitely confirm that in my ears at least, they fit much better and more comfortably.
5. They're not just for Apple users
I'm all-in on Apple, but if you aren't then AirPods reserve many of their best features for iPhone users. That's not the case with the Bose earbuds, which offer support for multiple digital assistants (including, but not exclusively, Siri) and whose app is the same on both iOS and Android.
Don't get me wrong. If you like AirPods you'll love the AirPods Pro 2, which are definitely a big improvement on their predecessors. But if you're not already wedded to a particular headphone brand and you want the best of both worlds in terms of sound quality and noise cancellation, the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2 are the ones I'd recommend.