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While some folks balk at the idea of purchasing such an expensive, diminutive and easy-to-lose product like Apple's AirPods, it's not hard to see why they're still such a best-selling accessory. The dual conveniences of having that wireless charging case and hands-free access to a Siri assistant are compelling reasons to make the purchase plunge. So too is the exceptional battery life these little beauties provide. That said, surely there's a cheaper option?
There are many reasons for not wanting to pay through the nose (or ear canals) for some decent wireless earbuds. Perhaps you're a rough and tumble, outdoorsy type whose battered gadgets frequently need replacing. Alternatively, you might just be a forgetful soul with a tendency to lose any item not stapled to your hand.
Officially-branded Apple gear sure doesn't come cheap. Having to make the somewhat ironic trip to your local Genius Bar to do yet another "repurchase of shame" gets old pretty quick.
A proactive solution would be to source yourself some cheap pseudo AirPods to use while you're doing activities or anything more physical with increased movement. In this guide, we've listed some cheaper alternatives to Apple's AirPods that are at the very least within striking distance of their performance. They'll also be much easier on your wallet – and your emotional state should they decide to go missing. We've also got different shape and fit alternatives to perhaps better suit the earholes of anybody who finds that they have some canal incompatibility with AirPods.
Basically, no matter what your needs might be for some alternative AirPods, we've got your inner ears covered.
Our editorial team selected the products on this list based on extensive research, real customer reviews and personal experience. For each category, we carefully selected parameters based on our research and identified the products with the highest review score within those parameters.
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If you're after some happy middle ground AirPods that provide impressive performance without wading into the deep end of price, the Anker Soundcore Liberty Neos come with a 4.4/5 star rating from 29,000 Amazon reviews. While we can't vouch for all of its products, Anker has garnered a reputation for earbuds that are widely considered to be reliable. Basically, these Soundcore Liberty Neos deliver clean sound and comfort at a dirt-cheap price.
When these AirPods were released to market in 2019, they benefited from a relatively new-at-the-time tech known as graphene drivers. In layman's terms, using a new breed of highly tuned driver diaphragm they allowed for greater precision and sharper clarity of sound, delivered across a wider range of frequency. Couple that with Anker's "BassUp" technology, essentially a clever thump-boosting algorithm, and the sound quality produced is some remarkably decent ear candy. Especially considering the modest asking price.
When it comes to keeping you wirelessly connected, Anker has gone with the always appreciated and reliable Bluetooth 5.0 standard. While obviously no communications tech can provide a 100% fully unbreakable signal, you'd have to be in a remarkably high traffic environment to experience any kind of audio hitches or full-on cut-outs. Anker's choice of LDS antenna makes de-synching with these even less likely.
Are these the AirPods for you? That all depends on how well you can manage your expectations. Obviously you won't be getting Apple-level results from these in terms of sound, but every other consideration is more or less up to the expected par. For a fraction of The Big A's RRP, Anker provides quite comparable battery life, comfort, build quality and connection reliability.
If you're short on funds or you simply want some utilitarian AirPods that get the job done, AUKEY True Wireless Earbuds come highly recommended with a 4.4/5 star rating after 2,800 Amazon reviews. Founded in 2010 and based in Shenzen, AUKEY certainly isn't some fly-by-night accessories manufacturer. Generally speaking, the company is held in reasonably high regard by online reviewers and professional tech critics, more or less in line with its closest competitor, Anker.
One quick warning for those of you buying these as a gift: Do expect these impressively valued goods to be delivered in a rather unimpressive brown box. That said, don't judge a pod by its cover – what AUKEY doesn't spend on glitzy packaging clearly gets redirected into designing low-cost, value-minded hardware.
Sound-wise, Bluetooth 5.0 will provide you with a quick, convenient pairing followed by a no-fuss wireless connection that won't be prone to hitching or audio cut-outs. The mid and treble range of the audio experience of these is most aptly described as crisp and solid – not amazing, yet pretty remarkable for AirPods at this price point. The volume levels are decent, however, the amount of bass you're getting is less impressive. If your ears crave thumps above all else, best stick with Apple.
Lastly, when it comes to comfort and design, AUKEY nails the basics but obviously doesn't rise to the premium feel that you get from higher-priced pods. Extras aren't skimped on. You get a micro USB charge cable and 3 sizes of silicone earbuds to appease anybody's ear canals. The build quality of the touch controls and microphones are perfectly fine as well, with the latter providing decent call quality.
The JBL Live Pro+ TWS true wireless headphones tick a lot of boxes when it comes to AirPod alternatives.
Firstly there's the form factor, which replicates the style made famous by Apple. So if you're a fan of stemmed earbuds that are super comfortable, they're a great choice.
But they also offer value when it comes to noise-cancellation and sound. There are a variety of noise-cancellation options to choose from, as well as custom EQ profiles. So if you find the default preset to be too bassy for your liking, you can easily tinker it in the app.
When it comes to battery, they do a fine job. Our tests got around 6 hours of playback from a single charge, plus 3 extra top ups from the charging case. This is quite standard for what's on the market at this price point.
The main bugbear is the inability to pair to multiple devices simultaneously, a key feature of regular AirPods that Apple users tend to enjoy.
Still, this may be a small price to pay when the price tag sits at $249.95, with the ability to find it cheaper online.
Here's our full review of the JBL Pro Live+ TWS earbuds.
Audio aficionados searching for a superior soundscape will find Sennheiser's Momentum True Wireless 2 headphones are on their particular wavelength, thanks to a 4.4/5 star rating from 2,000 Amazon reviews. If you're new to audio tech, Sennheiser is a Germany-based company that is held in particularly high regard by audiophiles. By overwhelming account, these Momentum 2 headphones reap the benefits of more than half a century's worth of audio engineering experience.
What's here is also the product of iteration and careful consideration. As the name would suggest, this is Sennheiser's second run at premium AirPods. These "sequel" AirPods come in a tidier, more streamlined footprint that keeps the all-important weight factor down while also reportedly fitting more ears better. There's largely been an "if it ain't broke don't fix it" approach to the V1's aesthetics. You're still getting that stylish matte finish plus grooved metal plate flourishes on the back. In short, a premium look for a premium product.
As you'd expect, where the Momentum 2s impress the most is in their auditory output. Provided that your ears are the right fit and a decent seal can be achieved, you can expect impeccable isolation and ANC performance. The pleasing thumps in the basement level bass can also be felt a little higher up the steps into your mid-range. Everything higher still comes out as crisp and clean as you please.
Do these rise above the current zenith that is the Apple AirPods Pro? The overwhelming consensus is that the official variants still sound superior, but that Sennheiser is within striking distance. Being able to equalise your sound signature while getting more effective active noise cancelling from these is still seen as a step above Apple's offerings.
Anybody looking to have comfy ears above all else ought to wrap their cartilage around these Bose QuietComfort Earbuds, a product that boasts a 4.5/5 star rating from 3,300 Amazon reviews. For the uninitiated, Bose is one of the big deal producers in this industry. It's a US-based company that's been going since 1962 and it's a company known for innovation and high-quality products. These QuietComfort Earbuds are no exception to the rule.
What did Bose prioritise in the design of these AirPods? Well, it's all in the name there. In a sea of uncomfortable, ill-fitting in-ear headphones, the QuietComforts champion wearability above all else. We're talking a comfortable, secure fit that's a touch larger than Apple's AirPods Pros (which quite a number of critics and Amazon reviewers feel are slightly too diminutive). Most of the increased comfort-factor can be laid at the feet of Bose's StayHear Max tips, a sort of integrated silicone wing system that provides exceptional stability, even when you're out doing intense exercise.
Just as important, these QuietComfort earbuds deliver on the sound and noise-cancelling fronts as well. Users and critics alike laud these for providing a punchy, rich bass that's quite comparable with the AirPods Pros and other third-party premium competitors. That said, and though these deliver high-quality results all the way up through the range, Bose's dedicated app doesn't provide much in the way of EQ adjustment (something Sennheiser Momentum 2 owners can currently enjoy). We're hoping that changes in a future update, but if you're an audiophile who values tweaking above excellent sound wrapped in a lovely snug fit, perhaps head in another direction.
If you're after spectacular audio performance and active noise-cancellation (ANC) with a great battery to boot, look no further than the Sony WF-1000XM4 true wireless headphones.
They are one of the priciest options available in the market, but for good reason. Like the previous generation XM3s, these buds are future-proofed.
The cutting edge ANC is coupled with truly beautiful sound that will have you noticing parts of your favourite songs that you may not have noticed before. Just a few years ago this kind of performance was reserved for over-ear headphones only, so these are truly a wonder to behold.
The battery life is the same as the XM3s, which is great since they were already very good at 7 hours with ANC toggled on. The charging case also offers an additional 18 hours. And if you need a quick top up, you can get an hour of playback from 5 minutes of charge.
This time around the WF-1000XM4s have an IPX4 water-resistance rating, which is a welcome improvement. While this does make them splash, dust and sweat-resistant, they are not waterproof so be careful.
While the XM4s are certainly more comfortable than the previous generation, more could be done here. The same goes for feeling secure in the ear.
If you want to learn more you can read our full review of the Sony WF-1000XM4 true wireless headphones.
And if you want a really similar experience for less money, the Sony's WF-1000XM3s are still great earbuds that are definitely worth considering.
When it comes to fake AirPods, Beats are by definition the closest you can get. This is because Apple actually acquired Beats a number of years back. So technically, they're Apple products.
And to be perfectly honest, the Beats Studio Buds are superior to the AirPods Pro when it comes to Active Noise Cancellation and sound quality. While they're not as great as the Sony XM4s (though they are more comfortable), they also sit at a very different price point.
But for a sub-$200 set of true wireless buds that are cheaper than AirPods, they do a fantastic job.
The only real downsides are that they have a smaller battery than the AirPods Pro and lack the seamless connectivity between Apple devices. This is because unlike previous Beats products, they have been designed with Apple and Android users in mind. They're also missing the customary W1 or H1 chip that allows for Apple's customary instant connectivity and easy swapping between devices.
That being said, if you're looking for AirPod alternatives, this probably won't bother you. In every other way these things are great.
Here is our full review of the Beats Studio Buds.
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