Which are the best Apple headphones for you? The tech brand has a range of superb headphone and earphone options that offer quality audio, especially if you're pairing them with an Apple device. Many Apple headphones are designed to deliver enhanced sound that'll improve your listening experience, whether you're playing music, following a podcast or enjoying an audiobook.
The best Apple headphones include the brands own range of AirPods, but there's also the Apple-owned Beats. You also need to decide if you want wired or wireless Apple headphones, and whether you want in-ear or over-ear? This guide aims to help you choose with an overview of the best Apple headphones available now and direct links to the best Apple headphones deals.
If you're after other devices to pair with your Apple headphones, see our guide to the best Apple deals, and make sure you also see our guide to Apple Black Friday 2021. If it's not necessarily Apple headphones you want, check out the best noise-cancelling headphones and best headsets for working at home.
The best Apple headphones and best Apple earphones
Best Apple headphones: Apple-branded models
Released in 2016, Apple's AirPods quickly became a must-have accessory. They offer high quality, tonally-balanced audio, without boosting the bass like other headphones do (such as Beats). They also feature a built-in microphone that filters out background noise and allows phone calls, and you can also use it to talk to Siri.
By tapping your AirPods twice you can pause audio, and audio is automatically paused when you take them out of your ears. Battery life is pretty good; you'll get about five hours of listening time or three hours of talk time on a single charge from the included charging case. All in all, the AirPods represent excellent sound quality and great performance.
Apple announced the release of its new third-generation AirPods in October. With shorter stems and a sleeker design, they boast some of the features of the AirPods Pro, including water and sweat resistance and a squeeze function to control audio. That makes them the best Apple earphones yet for the price. You can order them directly from Apple for $179/£169.
If you have a wireless charging pad and you're willing to pay a bit extra, AirPods with a wireless charging case will save you having to spend $79/£79 on buying the wireless case separately. This beautifully-designed device is lightweight, sturdy and easily pocket-sized, and it works with all generations of AirPods. A tiny LED lets you know how much charge your AirPods have left, and the case itself can be charged either wirelessly using a Qi-compatible charging mat or with the Lightning connector. Honestly, though, if you want a wireless charging case, we'd recommend spending just a little bit more on...
Apple's AirPods Pro are a higher-end version of the standard AirPods, with a number of must-have improvements, and bring with them a convincing argument for being crowned the best Apple headphones. They feature silicone ear tips in three sizes, giving you a much better fit and drastically reducing the chances of them falling out. They're sweat and water-resistant too, making them ideal for using when you're exercising. The real selling point, though, is the audio quality.
Using built-in H1 chips to deliver computational audio, the AirPods Pro have an Adaptive EQ system that gives you the best possible sound at all times. You also get incredible active noise cancellation as well as a transparency mode that lets you hear what's happening around you. Playing and pausing audio, as well as other controls, can be done by squeezing the stems, and you can activate Siri by simply saying, "Hey Siri". They're easy to set up and come with a wireless charging case as standard; if you can afford it, they're well worth the extra expense.
If you thought AirPods Pro were pricey, AirPods Max would like to have a word. There's a lot to love about them; they use all the computational audio tricks found in the AirPods Pro and take them up a level to give you stunning high-fidelity audio, active noise cancellation and transparency mode, with a super-comfortable fit, long battery life and fantastic build quality.
That price, though. If they supported high-resolution audio, let you use a 3.5mm cable and weren't effectively tied to Apple gear, they'd be properly impressive headphones, capable of besting the sort of ludicrous audiophile cans that cost thousands. As they are, though, they're top-quality wireless headphones that cost a bit too much.
First introduced in 2012, the EarPods are the most old-fashioned type of Apple headphones still on sale today. If you've bought an iPhone over the past ten years then you probably have a pair gathering dust on a shelf somewhere. But if you don't, and all you really need is a cheap, no-nonsense pair of wired in-ear headphones that provide decent sound, these 'classic' wired headphones are still worth a try.
They're basic (the lack of silicone ear tips will be a massive turn-off for many) but EarPods do have some useful features. They'll let you adjust the volume, control the playback of music and video, and answer or end calls with a pinch of the cord, and they'll work with all devices that have a Lightning connector and support iOS 10 or later, including iPod touch, iPad and iPhone.
Best Apple headphones: Beats-branded models
The Beats Studio 3 Wireless headphones are full-size, over-ear cans that cover your whole ear, just like classic headphones did back in the 1960s and 1970s. One of the best reasons to buy these, to be frank, is to look cool, but they also come with enveloping sound. With their retro-modern looks and distinctive logo, Beats remains a deeply hip brand across the globe, and a strong addition to this list of the best Apple headphones.
In these new headphones, released at the end of 2019, you also get active noise cancellation, the rechargeable battery lasts for up to 22 hours (40 hours when noise cancellation is turned off), and the sound quality is really good and not over-bassy like previous Beats. If it wasn't for the pesky AirPods Max, these would be the best full-size Apple headphones; now they're simply the best full-size Apple headphones that don't require a second mortgage.
Also released at the end of 2019, the Beats Solo Pro headphones basically contain the same clever tech as the Beats Studio 3 Wireless headphones (above), but in a more compact form factor that makes them look more 80s than 70s. Despite their reduced size, though, they're very sturdy and feel very comfortable in use. Also note that they don't actually feature a power button: they automatically switch on when you unfold them.
If you want to listen to music, podcasts or whatever when you're out for some exercise, Beats Powerbeats Pro are worth a look: Wireless, ear-hook headphones made specifically for such purposes. Their slim nozzles and choice of four different ear tips mean that they'll fit snugly and stay in place, however much you move about. There's a volume rocker and play/pause/skip button on the logo, so you can control your listening without having to fish your phone out of your pocket. In addition, they're sweat and water-resistant.
The Powerbeats Pro offer crisp, clear sound that's not too heavy on the bass, up to nine hours of listening time, and the same kind of controls and fast connectivity you find in the AirPods (not surprising, as the internal tech is the same). On the downside, there's no wireless charging or noise cancellation, as there is in the AirPods Pro, so we've positioned them on our best Apple headphones list accordingly.
Best Apple headphones: All you need to know
The best Apple headphones come in three main lines. The headline brand at the moment is Apple's range of wireless AirPods. These used to be strictly in-ear headphones, but that changed late in 2020 with the introduction of AirPods Max, a premium set of wireless over-ear cans.
The original AirPods were released in 2016 and updated in 2019 and now again in 2021. The AirPods Pro hit the market in 2019, but note that while they offered big improvements on the original AirPods, the third-generation AirPods released in 2021 now boast some AirPods Pro features.
A separate group of the best Apple headphones are those that come under the Beats umbrella. Previously known as Beats by Dr. Dre, this brand was bought by Apple in 2014 for a reported $3.2 billion, and has since become a subsidiary of the company. Beats headphones are designed explicitly to optimise the listening experience for hip-hop and pop music.
The third group of the best Apple headphones are EarPods. These wired earbuds, first launched in 2012, were originally designed to be used with the iPhone 5. The most recent model was introduced way back in 2016 with the iPhone 7, but it's still on sale today.