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MG240

Airpods Pro or Bose QC35 II?

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Posted · Original PosterOP

So I want to get an active noise cancelling earphone/headphone that I can use at work (and no, people don't get fired at my work for wearing headphones/earphones). I can only afford one tho, it's either the Airpods Pro of QC35-II.

So what should I go for? I want great active noise cancellation coupled with good audio quality. Wearing a headphone doesn't bother me nor earbuds.

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have you considered the sony WH 1000 xm3?


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Rtings has their measurements for the Airpods Pro out: https://www.rtings.com/headphones/reviews/apple/airpods-pro-truly-wireless

 

vs. Sony WF-1000XM3 ANC Wireless In-Ears

vs. Sony WH-1000XM3 ANC Wireless Headphones

vs. Bose QC35 II ANC Wireless Headphones

 

Sound:

 

Although the stock frequency response is a bit skewed, the Airpods Pro look like they sound quite good. Bass is recessed but well-extended, and distortion throughout the entire audible range is very low, implying that it should perform well with EQ. There is some slight high treble peakiness in the chart, but this is most likely due to ear canal resonances, making this likely to not be a unique issue in practice. Due to the looser fit than standard in-ears, there is some variation in sound signature depending on how deep they are inserted, but it looks like the feedback loop does a reasonable job of keeping the bass response flat while the semi-in-ear design keeps the treble from varying too significantly. Like all ANC headphones (and in-ears), soundstage is expected to range from nonexistent to abysmal.

 

Compared the the WH-1000XM3, the XM3 most likely sounds better without EQ while the Airpods Pro could possibly sound better with. The XM3 has a high treble rolloff issue (audible as a rounded-off sound on fast percussive attacks and a subtly muffled quality to some other instruments), but its mild bass boost (following the updated Olive response target nicely) and well-balanced mids make it a good performer out of the box. It also has a nice subtle dip in the mid treble followed by a peak at the mid-high treble transition to reduce listening fatigue while maintaining an impression of good treble response. The Airpods Pro don't have as good tuning out of the box, but their distortion performance is significantly better and their response, while not flat, doesn't have any sharp peaks (no uncontrolled resonances), making it a good platform for digital tuning. Speaking honestly, I love to see tuning like that on the XM3; it's far from perfect, but there's a good reason for each tradeoff that it makes – it says a lot about the priorities of the engineers designing it.

 

The QC35's tuning sounds excellent aside from its treble performance – a minefield of many small peaks (and corresponding distortion spikes) that at times make recordings sound as if there were a balloon placed between the microphone and performer: subtle, but universally annoying. Bass performance on the QC35 is the best on the list – Bose has their low frequency feedback loop down to near-perfection. Personally, I found the QC35 to be (in some ways) technically better than the XM3, but the XM3 (slightly) more enjoyable to listen to; the many reasonable drawbacks and tradeoffs on the XM3 bothered me less than the one glaring flaw with the QC35. The QC35 is the only ANC headphone here that makes a reasonable pretense of having soundstage, but this comes at the cost of high frequency noise cancelling performance.

 

I have not listened to the WF-1000XM3, but the dip in the mids accompanied by a sharp spike in distortion at the same frequencies implies that there is a ringing resonance there. The rest of its performance looks reasonable, but that one aspect is a large enough dealbreaker for me that I've never been curious enough to want to try it out.

 

Comfort:

 

Strongly subjective. If you like loose-fitting in-ears, the Airpods Pro will likely be comfortable. I'll just say that the QC35 is supremely comfortable for people with normally sized ears and very comfortable for people with large ears (the cups are just small enough to put pressure on larger ears), thanks to its excellent-feeling (and surprisingly deep) pads and very light clamping force. It can heat up over time, which may make them uncomfortable in a warm environment. The WH-XM3 is similar to the QC35 but has a higher (less comfortable) clamping force and weight. Bending the headband outward can make it feel as comfortable as the QC35, at the expense of some stability on the head and a small danger of damaging the headphone if you're not familiar with its construction (The top of the headband contains a metal band and foam; you can bend it outward here to reduce its tension, making sure not to fatigue the "leather" covering too much).

 

In my experience, the "cabin pressure" ear popping sensation varies a good bit from headphone to headphone; both my best and worst experience have been with two different pairs of WH-1000XM3's. I suspect the Airpods Pro will do a better job than the over-ears, but I don't know for sure, and this experience tends to vary a good amount from user to user.

 

Noise Cancelling:

 

The WH-1000XM3 is king. The QC35 still does reasonably well, comparable even, at some of the worst airplane cabin noise frequencies, but does markedly worse with the higher frequencies that might be more commonly encountered on the ground. The wind reduction mode on the QC35 is slightly better than that on the XM3 in my experience, though both still do well in this aspect. On the flipside, in standard noise cancelling mode, the XM3 seems to suffer less wind noise than the QC35; in many cases the convenience of not needing to switch modes when it's not too windy out is an overall win.

 

Surprisingly, neither of the in-ears appear to perform as well as the over-ears, though the Airpods Pro get close. At most frequencies their performance is even on-par with the QC35; the only drawbacks are the worse treble performance (it looks like the bandwidth on the feedforward microphones is set too high, in some cases quietly repeating outside sounds rather than perfectly cancelling them when the phase cancellation isn't quite right) and worse performance in the lower mids where a good amount of an airplane's cabin hum resides. The WF-1000XM3 appear to trail well behind the rest of the pack, with the notably poor low frequency performance indicating something off with the feedback loop.

 

None of them are going to provide perfect silence in a noisy environment on their own; ANC headphones are still a long way from being able to do that. They will manage to do a decent job of reducing background noise to make listening to music easier. In-ears with good tips do a better job of doing the former, if that's what you're really looking for (sample comparison here).

 

Interface:

 

A lack of real volume control is terrible. The WH-1000XM3 has its gesture controls, but these are finicky enough (especially with them failing spectacularly with large temperature changes) that I usually still end up adjusting volume with my device rather than on the headphones themselves (which sucks, since there's a ~2 second delay). The QC35 with its physical buttons has been my favorite overall. The Airpods are somewhere between the two, using more reliable gestures while still lacking realistic volume control.

 

The XM3 also requires a fairly long press to turn on and off, while the QC35 and Airpods have more-or-less instant on/off. The hand over ear to temporarily listen to the outside function on the XM3 would be useful if it didn't have such high latency; in practice with all of the above it's usually easier to take them off than to use the transparency modes.

 

All of them have usable but fairly bad-sounding mics. The QC35 is the only one with good multi-device support. All have high latency.

 

 

Overall, I'd recommend the same thing as with all other devices: see if you can try them out in a store before making a decision. Words can only help point you in the right direction; the decision will in the end come down to what's the best fit for you.

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Well, if you need it to be anc, I would probably get one the wh 1000xm3, Bose QC35 II, but AirPods pro would work as well, especially if you are in the Apple ecosystem. But if you change your mind about anc, maybe give the Audeze Mobius a shot? Getting it used should be in your range, plus it has an excellent mic. Idk, just a suggestion 


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13 hours ago, MG240 said:

 I want great active noise cancellation coupled with good audio quality. Wearing a headphone doesn't bother me nor earbuds.

This makes me lean towards Bose or as others have suggested, the Sony headphones. Personally, I have never felt like earbuds have as good audio quality, no matter the brand.

 

I'm very biased towards Bose, but that's because I have the QC35 myself and I LOVE them. The most comfortable thing I've ever worn - if I'm not wearing a hat or anything like that, I only know they're on because I am blasting tunes. Perhaps look into Bose or Sony, as I think you may be disappointed with air pods. I think air pods serve a more "mobile" purpose, like for workouts, walking to class, etc, because they're so small and fit in your pocket.


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Friend says the ANC on his Airpods pro are "80% as good" as on his QC35... no idea about sound quality though. 

I've never found earbuds that I can wear comfortably for more than an hour or so, so I'm over-ear only and really like my QC35, they sound great and I have no problem wearing them for >10h on long flights.


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Posted · Original PosterOP

Hi All,

 

thanks for the feedback. As for those recommending the Sony, sorry I'm only choosing between QC35 II or Air Pods Pro, I never liked audio quality of Sony headphones.

 

18 hours ago, Nimrodor said:

Rtings has their measurements for the Airpods Pro out: https://www.rtings.com/headphones/reviews/apple/airpods-pro-truly-wireless

 

vs. Sony WF-1000XM3 ANC Wireless In-Ears

vs. Sony WH-1000XM3 ANC Wireless Headphones

vs. Bose QC35 II ANC Wireless Headphones

 

Sound:

 

Although the stock frequency response is a bit skewed, the Airpods Pro look like they sound quite good. Bass is recessed but well-extended, and distortion throughout the entire audible range is very low, implying that it should perform well with EQ. There is some slight high treble peakiness in the chart, but this is most likely due to ear canal resonances, making this likely to not be a unique issue in practice. Due to the looser fit than standard in-ears, there is some variation in sound signature depending on how deep they are inserted, but it looks like the feedback loop does a reasonable job of keeping the bass response flat while the semi-in-ear design keeps the treble from varying too significantly. Like all ANC headphones (and in-ears), soundstage is expected to range from nonexistent to abysmal.

 

Compared the the WH-1000XM3, the XM3 most likely sounds better without EQ while the Airpods Pro could possibly sound better with. The XM3 has a high treble rolloff issue (audible as a rounded-off sound on fast percussive attacks and a subtly muffled quality to some other instruments), but its mild bass boost (following the updated Olive response target nicely) and well-balanced mids make it a good performer out of the box. It also has a nice subtle dip in the mid treble followed by a peak at the mid-high treble transition to reduce listening fatigue while maintaining an impression of good treble response. The Airpods Pro don't have as good tuning out of the box, but their distortion performance is significantly better and their response, while not flat, doesn't have any sharp peaks (no uncontrolled resonances), making it a good platform for digital tuning. Speaking honestly, I love to see tuning like that on the XM3; it's far from perfect, but there's a good reason for each tradeoff that it makes – it says a lot about the priorities of the engineers designing it.

 

The QC35's tuning sounds excellent aside from its treble performance – a minefield of many small peaks (and corresponding distortion spikes) that at times make recordings sound as if there were a balloon placed between the microphone and performer: subtle, but universally annoying. Bass performance on the QC35 is the best on the list – Bose has their low frequency feedback loop down to near-perfection. Personally, I found the QC35 to be (in some ways) technically better than the XM3, but the XM3 (slightly) more enjoyable to listen to; the many reasonable drawbacks and tradeoffs on the XM3 bothered me less than the one glaring flaw with the QC35. The QC35 is the only ANC headphone here that makes a reasonable pretense of having soundstage, but this comes at the cost of high frequency noise cancelling performance.

 

I have not listened to the WF-1000XM3, but the dip in the mids accompanied by a sharp spike in distortion at the same frequencies implies that there is a ringing resonance there. The rest of its performance looks reasonable, but that one aspect is a large enough dealbreaker for me that I've never been curious enough to want to try it out.

 

Comfort:

 

Strongly subjective. If you like loose-fitting in-ears, the Airpods Pro will likely be comfortable. I'll just say that the QC35 is supremely comfortable for people with normally sized ears and very comfortable for people with large ears (the cups are just small enough to put pressure on larger ears), thanks to its excellent-feeling (and surprisingly deep) pads and very light clamping force. It can heat up over time, which may make them uncomfortable in a warm environment. The WH-XM3 is similar to the QC35 but has a higher (less comfortable) clamping force and weight. Bending the headband outward can make it feel as comfortable as the QC35, at the expense of some stability on the head and a small danger of damaging the headphone if you're not familiar with its construction (The top of the headband contains a metal band and foam; you can bend it outward here to reduce its tension, making sure not to fatigue the "leather" covering too much).

 

In my experience, the "cabin pressure" ear popping sensation varies a good bit from headphone to headphone; both my best and worst experience have been with two different pairs of WH-1000XM3's. I suspect the Airpods Pro will do a better job than the over-ears, but I don't know for sure, and this experience tends to vary a good amount from user to user.

 

Noise Cancelling:

 

The WH-1000XM3 is king. The QC35 still does reasonably well, comparable even, at some of the worst airplane cabin noise frequencies, but does markedly worse with the higher frequencies that might be more commonly encountered on the ground. The wind reduction mode on the QC35 is slightly better than that on the XM3 in my experience, though both still do well in this aspect. On the flipside, in standard noise cancelling mode, the XM3 seems to suffer less wind noise than the QC35; in many cases the convenience of not needing to switch modes when it's not too windy out is an overall win.

 

Surprisingly, neither of the in-ears appear to perform as well as the over-ears, though the Airpods Pro get close. At most frequencies their performance is even on-par with the QC35; the only drawbacks are the worse treble performance (it looks like the bandwidth on the feedforward microphones is set too high, in some cases quietly repeating outside sounds rather than perfectly cancelling them when the phase cancellation isn't quite right) and worse performance in the lower mids where a good amount of an airplane's cabin hum resides. The WF-1000XM3 appear to trail well behind the rest of the pack, with the notably poor low frequency performance indicating something off with the feedback loop.

 

None of them are going to provide perfect silence in a noisy environment on their own; ANC headphones are still a long way from being able to do that. They will manage to do a decent job of reducing background noise to make listening to music easier. In-ears with good tips do a better job of doing the former, if that's what you're really looking for (sample comparison here).

 

Interface:

 

A lack of real volume control is terrible. The WH-1000XM3 has its gesture controls, but these are finicky enough (especially with them failing spectacularly with large temperature changes) that I usually still end up adjusting volume with my device rather than on the headphones themselves (which sucks, since there's a ~2 second delay). The QC35 with its physical buttons has been my favorite overall. The Airpods are somewhere between the two, using more reliable gestures while still lacking realistic volume control.

 

The XM3 also requires a fairly long press to turn on and off, while the QC35 and Airpods have more-or-less instant on/off. The hand over ear to temporarily listen to the outside function on the XM3 would be useful if it didn't have such high latency; in practice with all of the above it's usually easier to take them off than to use the transparency modes.

 

All of them have usable but fairly bad-sounding mics. The QC35 is the only one with good multi-device support. All have high latency.

 

 

Overall, I'd recommend the same thing as with all other devices: see if you can try them out in a store before making a decision. Words can only help point you in the right direction; the decision will in the end come down to what's the best fit for you.


Thank you too for this very detailed response.

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Linus posted his review of the Airpods pro a few days ago BTW.


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Headphones will always have better sound quality than earbuds

 

I’d always go with the headphone unless you prefer earbuds

 

One thing to consider is that bluetooth audio devices are almost like consumables especially if you use it everyday.

 

another option is to get an earbud with removable cable like shure se215 and get bluetooth cable that you will need to replace every 2 years rather than spending another $300 for a whole headphone because the battery pooped itself

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