This story is part of Holiday Gift Guide 2021, our list of ideas, by topic, by recipient and by price, to help you discover the perfect gift.

Waiting until Black Friday to buy a new pair of AirPods may actually work against you this year. We’ve already seen a bunch of early Black Friday AirPods deals, and stocks is quickly becoming an issue on them. Walmart’s flagship AirPods deal drops the price of the AirPods 2 down to just $89, and we’ve already competitors like Amazon sell out of their stock. In addition to the entry-level AirPods being on sale, we’ve seen discounts on the new AirPods Pro with MagSafe case, a small deal on the brand-new AirPods 3, and a savings on the over-ear AirPods Max.

There are a bunch of models in Apple’s AirPods lineup, so let’s break it down for you quickly so you know which ones you should be looking for deals on.

  • The second-generation AirPods (aka AirPods 2) are officially on sale at their best price ever. While supplies last between now and Nov. 14, Walmart is selling them at $89, an all-time low. Costco is selling them for $90 (membership required). Other retailers may match this price, but many of them are already showing as out of stock. 
  • The AirPods 3 were released in October (alongside new MacBook Pros). The new $200 true-wireless headphones include a case that’s compatible with MagSafe and wireless charging, and they offer better sound quality than the older AirPods 2 (see above).
  • The AirPods Pro ($249 list, often on sale for $190 or less) are still around, but they now include that same MagSafe-compatible case (if you buy the right one). The Pro models offer full noise isolation (via ear tips) and active noise cancellation, neither of which are available in the standard AirPods models.
  • The Beats Fit Pro were unveiled just a few days after the AirPods 3 were released. Like the AirPods Pro, the $200 Fit Pro offer an isolating design, active noise cancellation and water resistance. But they also add a stabilizing fin built into the design, making them better for active use for some.
  • The AirPods Max, Apple’s high-end full-size headphones that were released late in 2020, are still in the line, but are often on sale at closer to $449, versus the official Apple Store price of $549. It looks like Black Friday pricing will be at the $479 price from what we’ve seen so far.

Long story short, Apple now has three sets of true wireless headphones competing in the $180 to $200 range, plus an older entry-level AirPods model that will be selling for as low as $89 ahead of Black Friday. Except for those baseline AirPods, all of the other ones listed above are compatible with Apple’s new spatial audio features, but none of them will deliver the maximum quality of Apple’s upcoming lossless audio format, which is too rich for the current Bluetooth wireless standard to handle. 

AirPods pricing 2021

Model Apple Store price Best price right now Best all-time price
AirPods 2 $129 $89 $89
AirPods Pro 2021 $249 $190 $169
AirPods 3 $179 $175 $175
Beats Fit Pro $199 $199 $199
AirPods Max $549 $479 $429

We update this story frequently to reflect current pricing. 

In 2020, the entry-level AirPods hit $99 during Black Friday sales at Walmart. This year, Walmart has raised the bar by selling them for $89, an all-time low. Amazon and Costco (membership required) basically matched that price, but these are already dropping out of stock. Elsewhere, they’ve been selling for around $115.

Read our AirPods review.


David Carnoy/CNET

The newest 2021 AirPods deliver better sound quality than their predecessors while maintaining an open design. Because they’re brand new, we haven’t seen any serious discounts yet. Read our AirPods 3 review

Sarah Tew/CNET

Apple’s AirPods Pro were briefly as low as $169 at Walmart and $170 at Amazon for Black Friday 2020. More recently, the wireless headphones have been ping-ponging between $180 and $200. Right now, the new model — with the MagSafe case — is available for $190 at Amazon. The bottom line: The closer you can find these to $190 (or less), the better.

Read our AirPods Pro review.


David Carnoy/CNET

The newest Beats headphones aren’t AirPods, but — except for lacking a case with wireless charging — they pretty much pack most of features found on the AirPods Pro into a sportier design, available in multiple color options. You should definitely check these out before buying the AirPods 3 or AirPods Pro at nearly the same price. Read our Beats Fit Pro review

David Carnoy/CNET

Apple’s first full-size headphones are chock-full of high-end features like noise cancellation, spatial audio and easy integration with Apple devices. Yes, paying about the same as you would for a PS5 may sound crazy, but here’s the crazier thing: They’re actually kinda worth it, so long as you don’t feel burned by their lack of support for full lossless audio. As of early November, prices have dipped to as low as $430 on certain colors. More recently, they’ve been hovering around $480.

Read our AirPods Max review.


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