Sizing up two exceptional wireless earbuds offering active noise cancellation

Apple’s AirPods Pro are a worthy successor to their incredibly popular AirPods wireless earbuds that originally debuted in September of 2016. The main enhancements included in this 2nd generation product are active noise cancellation, so-called “audio transparency”, and water resistance. However, for Android users or those looking for a slightly more feature-rich set of wireless earbuds, perhaps it’s time to consider an AirPods Pro alternative.

Nuheara’s IQbuds2 MAX are the company’s 3rd truly wireless earbuds, and a next-generation successor to the original IQbuds and IQbuds BOOST featuring an entirely new design. In addition to the inclusion of hybrid active noise cancellation, the new IQbuds have upgraded from Bluetooth 4.2 to 5.0 and 5x the digital signal processing power of the previous product design.

Both products represent extremely well-designed truly wireless earbuds with active noise cancellation technology. However, the products also have their differences, from form factor to color to speech enhancement capabilities and more.

IQbuds2 MAX feature a higher price point but offer a fuller set of features and capabilities. For anyone in need of mild-to-moderate hearing assistance or those on Android devices, they represent a very worthy alternative to AirPods Pro. Read on below to see how two of 2020’s best true wireless earbuds stack up:

Form Factor

Truly wireless in-ear earbuds designed to achieve a tight in-ear seal.

“When used on a busy street, you’ll hear all the ambient sounds of the street and then, over the course of perhaps 10 seconds, you’ll hear the traffic noise fall away, leaving you only with other sounds, like footsteps. I was quite impressed. The person I was with was easy enough to hear as well and their speech was quite crisp.”

Hearing Aid Know
IQbuds² MAX

Truly wireless in-ear earbuds with “open” design.

“While their performance may be decent in quiet environments, the listening experience deteriorates in the presence of background noise. This is largely due to the AirPods’ open design and imperfect in-ear fit, which allows ambient sound to leak in and offers very little noise isolation.”

Engineering.comAirPods Pro

Noise Cancellation Technology

“And without hesitation, we can say the noise-cancelling betters any earbuds or headphones we’ve ever reviewed.”

Australian Financial Review
IQbuds² MAX

“With the AirPods Pro, the noise canceling technology makes low-frequency noises about half as loud as they would be sans-ANC.”

AirPods Pro

Operating System Compatibility

Fully compatible with Android and iOS systems
IQbuds² MAX

Fully compatibe with iOS. Not all features available on Android
AirPods Pro

Sound Personalization & Enhancement

IQbuds² MAX earbuds auto-calibrate to enhance sound and speech based upon the user’s personal Ear ID profile. Fine-tune surrounding world noise and speech even further via manual controls as desired.
IQbuds² MAX

Limited personalization functionality now available vis “Headphone Accommodations” featured debuted with iOS 14 update.
AirPods Pro

Blended Hearing / Audio Transparency

“Nuheara goes further than most earphones because they also offer a function called World, which can boost external sounds for better hearing by removing background noise and amplifying the sounds”

IQbuds² MAX

“When you switch to Transparency mode, you’ll be able to hear some of your environmental sounds, but still hear the audio in your AirPods Pro without issue.”

AirPods Pro

Directional Hearing Control

“Audio beamforming technology to isolate and enhance sounds directly in front” of the user.”

Hearing Health Matters
IQbuds² MAX

Feature not included.
AirPods Pro

Built-in Hearing Check

Nuheara’s built-in Ear ID Hearing Assessment measures your relative strength of hearing at different frequency ranges for each ear to create a unique “Ear ID” hearing profile for your IQbuds2 MAX.
IQbuds² MAX

Feature not included.
AirPods Pro

Battery Life

– Music streaming playback time: 5 hours
– Ear ID sound enhancement only (without music streaming): 8 hours
– Additional “on the go” recharges provided by charging case: 3
– Total charge time available “on the go” with charging case: 20 hours
IQbuds² MAX

– Music streaming playback time: 4.5 hours
– Music streaming playback time (with noise cancellation and audio transparency off): 5 hours
– Total charge time available “on the go” with charging case: 24 hours
AirPods Pro

Tap Touch Controls

Separately customize six different tap-touch controls on left and right earbuds (single tap, double tap, and long tap on each ear)

Available commands include:

– Play/pause audio
– Activate Siri or Google Assistant
– Turn on/off augmented hearing (transparency mode)
– Turn up/down volume
– Next track or previous track
– “Focus” directional hearing on or off
– Answer phone call
– Hang up on phone
– Toggle between surrounding world audio equalization configurations (i.e. “restaurant, office, home, etc.).
IQbuds² MAX

– Single tap to play, pause, or answer a phone call
– Double tap to skip forward
– Triple tap to skip back
– Long tap/hold to  toggle between Active Noise Cancellation and Transparency mode
Voice-activated controls available by using command, “Hey Siri”
AirPods Pro


IQbuds2 MAX boast large 9.2mm drivers with vented acoustical design for clear sound with robust bass.
Qbuds² MAX

AirPods Pro feature what Apple calls an “innovative vent system” to equalize pressure in the ear to and minimize discomfort.
AirPods Pro

Included Accessories

– 3 pairs of silicone ear tips in S, M, L sizes
– 3 pairs of Comply foam ear tips in S, M, L sizes
– Charging case
IQbuds² MAX

– 3 pairs of silicone ear tips in S, M, L sizes
– Charging case
AirPods Pro


$399 USD
IQbuds² MAX

$249 USD
AirPods Pro

How IQbuds2 MAX Stack Up as an AirPods Pro Alternative

As a consumer seeking out truly wireless earbuds with active noise cancellation and great sound quality, both AirPods Pro and IQbuds2 MAX are great options. The AirPods Pro make a compelling case given the massive strength of the Apple brand name and a slightly lower price point.

However, when looking at the full scope of features, IQbuds2 MAX offer a significantly higher range of features that more than offset the price differential. From more robust noise cancellation, to more advanced sound augmentation, directional hearing controls, the availability of a full suite of hearing enhancement features, to the customization of the tap-touch controls, IQbuds2 MAX truly are the world’s most advanced hearing bud.

May 12th, 2020