Apple AirPods Pro 2
The new AirPods Pro (second generation) are powered by Apple's new H2 chip, which delivers more processing power while being more energy efficient, according to Apple. The new chip, combined with new low-distortion drivers, allows for improved sound that offers better clarity and depth. The noise canceling is also improved -- Apple says the new AirPods have "double" the noise canceling of the original AirPods Pro. Additionally, the new AirPods add an extra hour of battery life, up from five to six hours with noise canceling on. Plus, a speaker in the case that emits a sound that helps locate your buds via Find My should they decide to hide from you.
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2
Bose's second-generation QuietComfort Earbuds 2 are not only about 30% smaller than their predecessors, but their case is about 40% smaller and truly pocketable. They feature best-in-class noise canceling and improved sound, thanks to Bose's new CustomTune sound calibration system that customizes the sound for your ears. Voice-calling performance is also significantly better than that of the original QuietComfort Earbuds.
The other big change is to the ear tips. Bose has ditched its one-piece StayEar wing tips for a two-piece Fit Kit system that features separate ear tips and "stability bands" in three size options, giving you more flexibility to get a secure fit and tight seal.
The buds initially ship in the Triple Black Color with the Sandstone color to follow later in the year. Like the originals, they're IPX4 splash-proof
Sony's flagship WF-1000XM4 buds were arguably the top overall earbuds for 2021 and part of 2022. They feature excellent sound and great noise-canceling with decent voice-calling capabilities and good battery life. They're still great earbuds but they've been surpassed in some ways by both Apple's AirPods Pro 2 and Bose's QuietComfort Earbuds 2. That doesn't mean you shouldn't consider them, but look for them at a discount.
Earfun Air Pro 3
Earfun has put out a series of wireless earbuds over the last couple of years with one important commonality: They're very good values, made more so by frequent discounts. The company's new-for-2023 Earfun Air Pro 3 earbuds feature the latest Qualcomm QCC3071 system-on-a-chip with aptX Adaptive for Android and other devices that support the new LE Audio standard and LC3 audio codec, which is superior to the SBC codec (they also support AAC for Apple devices).
Lightweight and comfortable to wear -- I got a good seal with the largest ear tip size -- these aren't a huge upgrade over the Earfun Air S, but they are better. They have slightly larger wool-composite drivers (11mm versus 10mm), slightly improved noise canceling and better battery life (up to seven hours with noise canceling on, according to Earfun).
In short, the Earfun Air 3 deliver strong performance for their modest price, with robust bass, good clarity and a relatively wide soundstage. They also pack in a lot of features, including a wireless charging case and "multidevice" connectivity. (I could pair them to two devices simultaneously but had to pause the music on one device and hit play on the other for the audio to switch.) They're IPX5 splash-proof and also work well (though not exceptionally well) as a headset for making calls.
Note that after you activate the instant 10%-off coupon at Amazon, adding the code EAP3CNET at checkout gives you an additional 20% off, bringing the buds' price down to $56.
Beats Fit Pro
While the Beats Fit Pro ($200) technically aren't AirPods, they're built on the same tech platform as the original AirPods Pro (yes, Apple owns Beats). Unlike Beats' earlier and less expensive Studio Buds, the Beats Fit Pro include Apple's H1 chip and have most of the original AirPods Pro's features (the AirPods Pro 2 have the H2 chip), including active noise canceling, spatial audio and Adaptive EQ. I'd venture to call them the sports AirPods you've always wanted. And for those folks looking for a more secure fit for a little less money, they might be a better fit than the AirPods Pro 2, especially when on sale.
Bowers & Wilkins PI7 S2
Bowers & Wilkins has upgraded its fantastic-sounding PI7 noise-canceling earbuds. The new S2 model has better battery life and Bluetooth range, now up to 25 meters (double the previous range). Additionally, the buds now integrate into the new Bowers & Wilkins Music app for iOS and Android and have a much improved setup experience.
While not a major upgrade from the originals, the PI7 S2s, which feature a dual-driver design, are easily among the very best-sounding true-wireless earbuds. The step-down PI5 S2s, which have a single driver design, don't sound quite as good but are more affordable.
Earfun Air S
Earfun Air S may be the best of the trio, with multipoint Bluetooth pairing, the latest Qualcomm QCC3046 SoC (system on a chip) with the AptX audio codec for Android and other devices that support it. It has the same 10mm wool drivers as the AirPro SV and features surprisingly impressive sound for its modest price point. They also work well as a headset for making calls with decent background noise reduction.
The buds have an IPX5 water-resistance rating, which means they're splashproof and can withstand a sustained spray of water.
Galaxy Buds2 Pro
The Galaxy Buds 2 Pro offer improved noise canceling along with very good sound and voice-calling performance, plus support for high-resolution wireless audio streaming if you're a Galaxy device owner with the right setup. That said, their biggest upgrade may their new design and smaller size, which make them a better fit for more ears. Aside from their somewhat high price, their only drawback is that some of their key features only work with Samsung Galaxy devices.
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