Oh the behind-the-scenes drama that I’ve been living to find the perfect wireless headphones in 2022!
I’ve been a huge fan of Apple AirPods from day one, starting with the first generation. After I left those in my pocket for the wash cycle, I upgraded to the second generation and bought a couple of those over the years.
I use these almost every day, and I found that little by little the battery life shortens until I only get about 43 minutes of a 45-minute podcast before they go out. Last year the audio quality was also slipping away (so my sister says). So I’ve been hunting for a new pair since last summer.
Searching for the Perfect Headphones
Although I’m an Apple Fan Girl, I wanted to truly find the best, best, best headphones. I have spent more than a year Googling reviews, browsing showcases and putting items in and out of my Amazon cart. But I finally found the headphones that make this nerdy heart sing.
Check out all my trials and errors (I may get a commission if you buy something).
Want more gadget recommendations?
See the Nerd-Approved List on Amazon!
If It Ain’t Broke: Apple AirPods Second Generation
I love the AirPods Second Generation! They stay in my ears (mostly), fit super well and let you tap twice to pause/start a podcast, call or whatever. Super easy, super affordable, and they just work. I actually bought these as a backup when I bought what ended up being the best pair ever. I just didn’t want to have to keep searching.
Ouch and Ugh: Bose QuietComfort Noise Cancelling Earbuds
I was at the checkout counter at an airport gadget store with my Apple AirPods Third Generation headphones, and a fellow nerd approached. He said, “I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I didn’t recommend the Bose QuietComforts to you.” He and I geeked out on specs as he detailed his own extensive research on headphones and said that the Bose were absolutely, 100% the best.
Who am I to argue with a super-duper nerd? I bought them. And oh my gosh…
I hated them so much.
First, they didn’t fit. They actually hurt my ears as soon as I put them in. But I figured I might be able to get used to them.
Then I called my sister, and she was shocked at how horrible they sounded on her end. She said, “Why are you calling from a festival?” when I was in a mostly empty area of the airport.
The gate agent said I had enough time to run back to the store (if I literally ran), so 20 minutes after the purchase, I had a refund.
I don’t know why I had such a negative experience with them. They are truly well reviewed. Maybe I had a faulty set? Beats me, but I wasn’t going to keep them. Ouch and ugh.
Logical Choice (But No): Apple AirPods Third Generation
Since I loved the Apple AirPods Second Generation so much, the logical choice was the Apple AirPods Third Generation, right? I bought a pair and assumed that they’d be just as wonderful.
Ummm. Nope. The part that sticks in your ear is bigger, and the dang things totally wouldn’t stay in, plus they hurt my ears. When I called my sister to do a test between my old Second Generation and the Third, she said the two-year-old Second Gen were clearer and better.
And the worst thing about the Third Generation was that one of my favorite Second Gen features was gone — the ability to tap twice to pause a podcast or answer/end a call. Instead I had to press a little spot on the sticky-downy part. Every time I tried, the dang thing would fall out again.
Almost Rans: Sony WF-1000XM4 and Anker Life P3
These two gadgets both spent time in my cart. The awkwardly named Sony WF-1000XM4 earbuds are on the top of most of the “best of” lists for wireless headphones. I almost bought them three times, but the price was steep (I blocked out the fact that I spent more than $300 on the Bose QuietComforts).
I also almost purchased the Soundcore Anker Life P3 headphones. Again, they have wonderful reviews, and the price is less than $100. I’m not a sound connoisseur, so I figured I could try a cheaper pair.
The Winner! Apple AirPods Pro
I know. I know. It’s probably no surprise to y’all that I went back to Apple. But I really didn’t plan on it.
I resisted buying Apple AirPods Pro for so long because a.) they were wicked expensive and b.) I didn’t think I was one of those people who needed noise cancellation and c.) I feared that noise-canceling headphones would cancel too much noise, and I’d miss plane announcements and the like. But after a year of searching, I needed to stop messing around and Googling and just buy something.
I felt it was a sign when the price dropped from $250 to $199, so I made the purchase (and bought the Second Gen just in case these again didn’t work).
Oh. My. Gosh. These rock! I like them so much that I’ve taken to wearing them around the house even when I’m not listening to podcasts.
Apple AirPods Pro Best Features
- Noise Canceling
When the noise-canceling feature kicked in the first time, I took them out of my ears immediately because I thought my air conditioning just conked out. There’s a kind of peaceful whoosh as they seal the canal and work their magic. I worried that they would cancel out too much noise and make me kind of oblivious to the world, but that’s not the case. I can hear conversations and announcements and the like when they’re in full noise-canceling status.
- Moderate Noise Canceling
When I am concerned that I might miss something, I can long press on the AirPods to switch to a moderate noise-canceling level. But I like the full-on version. It’s so peaceful.
After trying so many devices, I’ve come to realize I have weird ears (especially my left one — what’s up with that?). It’s tough to get a perfect fit in my ear canal. But the AirPods Pro have the best fit.
- All Kinds of Other Stuff
As I mentioned before, I’m not particularly discerning when it comes to audio experiences, especially since I lost quite a bit of the hearing in my left ear a couple of years ago (big drama). So I haven’t used a quarter of the special features that this device has. And since I’m an Apple user, it is even better.
Apple AirPods Pro Minor Annoyances
- The Tap-Tap Is Gone
It seems that Apple has eliminated the tap-tap gesture that stopped/started calls and audio. You have to press the right spot to do that on the AirPods Pro. But where the AirPods Third Gen’s right spot was stupidly hard to find and press (and made them fall out of my ears), the AirPods Pro location and sensitivity work just fine. I miss the tap-tap terribly, but pressing the spot is easy enough.
- Battery Life
Although Apple says the AirPods Pro have almost the same battery life of the AirPods Second Gen, I feel like the battery always needs charging. Luckily they charge very quickly, and it’s not too big of a deal. But I hate it when I’m almost through the end of a podcast then have to pop them out for a quick charge.
What if you don’t use Apple products?
Marcy, that is a GREAT question! First, Apple AirPods work with bluetooth, so you can use them on other devices. But second, since I’m giving you a gift card, you can buy whichever headphones you want. 🙂
Thanks so much for your research results of AirPods. I’ve had some issues and am ready to bug a set. Gonna hold off a couple weeks just in case I win your giveaway 😆 thanks Beth Z
Ha! I love it. Good luck! You never know. 🙂
For Android users, my daughter has Samsung Galaxy earbuds and she loves them. I tried them and the sound quality was amazing. I also like how they can detect if I’m talking to someone and it will reduce the sound of what I’m listening to until I finish my conversation. Thanks, Beth on the tip for Apple users.
This review is very helpful! I appreciate your thoughts on the minor annoyances!
Why did you not get the Soundcore Anker Life P3 headphones? I am someone who has never had good luck with Apple devices (I had an iPod, put a bunch of music on it, kept it charged when needed and it was terrible – hard to use, died too soon. I have also tried my Mom’s Mac and i-Pad and neither is intuitive nor logical to me).
That’s a great question, Lance. It was mostly my indecision. I was a wishy-washy waffler.
My biggest concern is wearing them when walking/running, etc. Do you feel like they stay put?
Hahaha! You’re assuming I get any exercise! Just kidding. I find that they’re great when I’m working in the garden or cleaning litter boxes. 🙂
Thanks Beth! Always in search if the perfect earbuds
Like you, I have resisted the temptation to purchase Apple AirPods because of the price. Guess it might be time to take advantage of a 4th of July sale or wait until Black Friday or Black Monday.
Beth, you are reading my mind! I desperately need to find new headphones. Not an Apple user, but if you say they can work with equipment in the non-Apple world, then bring it on!
XM4s are expensive for a reason. Best sound and ANC available. Sennheiser’s Momentum TW3 come very close and could be a decent alternative, especially if Sony’s offering is too big. Rest of the equal/better choices (Nura, Shure etc.) are almost double the price.
You may want to also look at Status products — what I love about them, besides the quality, which is superior to either my Bose headset or earbuds, is that they don’t put their brand on them. You are not a walking billboard. I’m a marketing person, so I wince a bit at that & also secretly rejoice. Price point is excellent, too. Love your e-newsletters, and books & constantly recommend your content… (I know, I’m being a bit of a fan girl here but can’t help it!) Nerd on, my Nerdy BFF!
Thanks for the giveaway. Reminded me to check out other stuff on your website again. It’s been a while since I’ve heard you speak…out of sight out of mind sometimes 🙂
I’ve struggled with in-ear devices over the years (falling out, itchy, just plain uncomfortable). I just ordered some memory foam tips to try with my Pixel Buds-A – they’re en route – haven’t tried them out yet, but the reviews are astounding.
I’m a big fan of reading reviews, and I check them out here first: https://www.fakespot.com/
Pick me! I want some air pods 😉
Just lost my right AirPod, winning a new pair will be super awesome 🙂
One of the best reviews I’ve seen! Beth like always you are totally awesome!
I tried the Air Pods and they always fall out and I can’t wear them long as they hurt. I may have first generation. Mine do not have the bumper on them. Does that help hold them in???
Yes… they did for me! It made all the difference.