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I chose AirPods Pro 2 over AirPods Max for travel – here’s why

Published Feb 13th, 2024 8:06PM EST
AirPods Pro 2 with USB-C open case
Image: Joe Wituschek

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Before AirPods Max came out, I was using the AirPods Pro for everything. Whether it be phone calls, listening to music, or flying on a plane, the earbuds got used for everything. That changed when AirPods Max were released and they became my go-to headphones for traveling. It seemed like a no-brainer to use over-the-ear headphones for flying, especially in the historically Bose-dominated world we lived in.

While the AirPods Max sounded great and served as a real competitor to the over-the-ear headphones that Bose became famous for with traveling, I couldn’t help but feel a drawback to the AirPods Pro. The AirPods Max, being that they can not fold, aren’t the easiest or most convenient headphones to travel with. They also are heavy, and after a while, I’ve found myself needing to take them off.

AirPods Max Noise Cancelling HeadphonesImage source: Christian de Looper for BGR

Despite those issues, I kept sticking with the AirPods Max because, in comparison to the first-generation AirPods Pro, their noise cancellation was much better — over-the-ear headphones will do that for you. However, that changed when Apple released the AirPods Pro 2.

AirPods Pro 2 are a traveling marvel

When AirPods Pro 2 came out, I noticed the noise cancellation upgrade immediately. Apple advertises that the earbuds have twice as good noise cancellation performance compared to their predecessor, and while it’s not totally unclear what that means, I noticed a huge difference — so much so that I realized the noise cancellation rivaled or even beat my AirPods Max.

The real test, though, came when I took both of them on a plane. I wanted to hear with my own ears if Apple’s upgraded earbuds were actually comparable to using its $549 over-the-headphones — a seemingly ridiculous idea. And ridiculous it was — after one trip, I found myself convinced that I’d be taking my AirPods Pro 2 over my AirPods Max anytime I’m taking to the skies.

AirPods Pro 2 with USB-CImage source: Joe Wituschek

For one, the AirPods Pro 2 are obviously much more convenient to travel with. That may be an obvious statement since it’s easy to see, but the experience unfolds when you actually go through a trip. From packing to using them, the earbuds are so much easier to work with. The AirPods Max feel clunky and bulky in comparison. I love being able to keep them in my pocket, where them through the airport and on the plane, and then store them back in my pocket when I’m at my destination. My backpack also appreciates the extra space for luggage.

The thing that really shocked me, though, is just how good the noise cancellation is. It actually is just as good if not better than the AirPods Max at tuning out certain frequencies. I did not feel much of a material difference, so bravo to Apple’s hardware and software engineers for working this miracle.

They’re not perfect, but they are close

Of course, the only issue you’ll run into in choosing the AirPods Pro 2 over the AirPods Max is battery life. Depending on the length of your travel, you may need to put your earbuds in their charging case for a bit. Other than that, you might choose the AirPods Max if you aren’t a fan of in-ear earbuds. All of the reasons in the world can’t beat personal preference for some people.

If those things don’t bother you, though, I can’t recommend using the AirPods Pro 2 for travel enough. I’m so bought in that I even sold my AirPods Max. The only thing that could turn me back in the direction of the Max again will be what happens when Apple announces the AirPods Max 2. If the company can make an even bigger jump in noise cancellation and comfort (meaning dropping the weight), that could pull me back.

Until then, I am going to enjoy the heck out of these earbuds on my next flight.

Joe Wituschek Tech News Contributor

Joe Wituschek is a Tech News Contributor for BGR.

With expertise in tech that spans over 10 years, Joe covers the technology industry's breaking news, opinion pieces and reviews.