The best Apple headphones are a great investment for anyone who wants to get premium quality audio when listening to music and podcasts on their iPhone, iPad or MacBook. And the tech giant offers a wide range of headphone and earphone types for you to choose from.
There's Apple's own wireless range of AirPods, which come in in-ear and over-ear varieties, and have different models to suit a range of bugdets. There's also the classic wired Apple EarPods. And there's over-ear headphones from the Apple-owned Beats brand too. Whatever your budget, and whichever type you're looking for, we'll help you choose the best Apple headphones for you, in our guide below.
Meanwhile, you're after other devices to pair with your Apple headphones, see our guide to the best Apple deals. Also, if you want to investigate third-party headphones as well, check out our guides to the best noise-cancelling headphones and best headsets for working at home.
The best Apple headphones and best Apple earphones
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Best Apple headphones: Apple-branded models
As the name suggests, AirPods Max are the ultimate in Apple's AirPods range. That makes them pretty expensive, but there's a lot to love about them. In short, these over-ear headphones use all the computational audio tricks found in the AirPods Pro and kick them up a notch. That provides you with stunning high-fidelity audio, active noise cancellation and transparency mode, with a super-comfortable fit, long battery life and fantastic build quality.
That said, because they're not wired, we wouldn't necessarily recommend these for true audiophiles. The inherent latency of Bluetooth makes them less-than-ideal in terms of audio quality, and although latency is impressively low with these earbuds, you will get higher fidelity with premium headphones that are wired. For more info, read our Apple AirPods Max review.
While the AirPods Max (number one on our list) offer the best audio quality for wireless listening, they're very expensive. So unless you have money to burn, our top recommendation for most people looking for earbuds are the AirPods Pro, second generation.
Offering superb audio quality at a lower price, they deliver excellent noise cancellation and deep, rich sound. They're lighter and smaller than the vast majority of the competition, which will make them more comfortable for more people. Their battery life is first-rate, and they come with a great case too. For more details, see our full AirPods Pro 2 review.
First launched in 2019, the first generation of the AirPods Pro are still available, and more affordable than their second generation successors. So they offer a way to save a bit of cash, while still getting lovingly designed earbuds that offer excellent audio quality.
They're the same size and weight as the Pro 2s, and you get the same IPX4 rating, automatic switching and Siri support. So what exactly are the differences? Well, there are some added touch controls in the Pro 2s, along with better active noise cancellation, upgraded adaptive transparency and a redesigned charging case that's compatible with Find My. Perhaps most significantly, battery life in the original AirPods Pro is just 4.5 hours, compared with 6 hours in the Pro 2. For more details, see our Apple AirPods Pro review.
Released in 2016, Apple's AirPods are older and less high quality than the AirPods Pro. But they've been upgraded since and the third generation, released in 2021, still offers pretty good quality, tonally-balanced audio, without boosting the bass like other headphones (including Beats) do.
They also feature a built-in microphone that filters out background noise and allows phone calls, and you can also use them 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 good value at an affordable price.
First introduced in 2012, these wired headphones are the most old-fashioned type of Apple headphones still on sale today. So if all you really need is a cheap, no-nonsense pair of wired in-ear headphones that provide decent sound, these 'classic' wired headphones are worth a try.
They're basic, and 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.
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.
With these cool headphones, 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 AirPods Max (number one on our list), 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 exercising, 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.