AirPods are great if you have an iPhone and prioritize ease of use over sound quality. As the true wireless market has developed, though, there are more viable AirPods alternatives than ever. This means you don’t need to buy into the Apple ecosystem to have a streamlined listening experience. If you’re intrigued by Apple’s true wireless solution but want better sound quality, we’ve compiled a list of the best AirPods alternatives.
Editor’s note: this list was updated on February 3, 2020, to replace the JLab JBuds air Executive with the Mobvoi TicPods 2 Pro.
Related: Are the AirPods 2 worth it?
The best AirPods alternatives are the Samsung Galaxy Buds
The Samsung Galaxy Buds are the ideal complement to the Samsung Galaxy S10 suite of smartphones. Although the earbuds don’t support aptX, they do provide AAC and the scalable Samsung codec. The latter works flawlessly with the Samsung S10e, intelligently balancing bitrate and connectivity. Additionally, if you have a Galaxy S10 device, you can wirelessly charge the earbuds by placing them atop the phone; nifty.
Additionally, the earbuds operate via Bluetooth 5.0 and maintain a reliable connection within the 10-meter range. The earbuds support Google Assistant; so you can tell it to skip tracks or create an event. With the dual-microphone array, your respective assistant will always hear your commands.
Although the Galaxy Buds are only IPX2-certified, they withstood my runs and gym visits without issue. By far the best feature of the Buds is the insane battery life: these allow for 6.53 hours of constant playback on a single charge. Plus, when the battery does deplete, just 15 minutes in the case provides an additional 1.7 hours of listening.
Audio quality is excellent if you’re using the Galaxy Buds with a compatible Samsung device. Unfortunately, AAC on Android leaves a lot to be desired, but the AKG-tuned drivers deliver a clear, neutral-leaning sound that bodes well for a variety of genres.
What you should know about AirPods alternatives
If you want to get the abridged version of everything you need to know about the best Apple earbuds alternatives, then read through our quick sections below. For those who have more time and want to learn more, be sure to click through our more comprehensive features linked throughout the following sections!
Wireless headphones don’t compare to wired when it comes to audio quality
It’s true. If you want the best audio quality, you need to kick it old school and connect via a TRRS plug. We have a handful of Bluetooth codec-related articles for you to take in on your own time, but for now, know this: If you’re an iPhone user looking for AirPods alternatives, you’ll want to look at ‘buds that support AAC. If, on the other hand, you’re an Android user who’s drawn to the AirPods but don’t actually want them, go for picks with aptX support. Android can’t yet efficiently encode the AAC codec, meaning its performance varies drastically depending on what Android smartphone you’re using.
True wireless connectivity is unreliable across the board
Everything has its pros and cons and true wireless earbuds are no different. What we gain with convenience and freedom of movement, we sacrifice with regards to reliability. Even though companies are making strides, namely Apple with its H1 chip, when it comes to stable connectivity, there remains a long way to go. If you need a guaranteed stable, wireless connection, standard wireless earbuds are likely a better choice. Either that or the new AirPods for iPhone users.
A proper fit can make or break sound quality
One of the most common gripes about the AirPods is their complete lack of seal. Not only does this make them fairly uncomfortable for many to wear, but it also has a significant, negative impact on audio quality. Since the AirPods are unable to isolate you from your surroundings, environmental noise can permeate through the earbuds and severely mask your audio. The first thing to go? Bass response. This is why the AirPods have such a strong bass response: it’s compensatory.
The recently-released AirPods Pro seem to have been an attempt to rectify the situation, and they’re leagues better than the AirPods in that regard. Not only do they offer a full seal for your ear canals, but they also have active noise cancelling—addressing the main shortcomings of Apple’s first crack at true wireless earphones.
While all of our best AirPods alternatives picks have distinguished nozzles that truly insert into the ear, sometimes the included ear tips just don’t jive well. If that’s the case, there are plenty of third-party ear tips you can choose from. Memory foam options tend to yield the best results by improving bass response and clarity.
Ignore chatty neighbors with the Sony WF-1000XM3
Sony’s been flexing their noise cancelling technology demonstrated by the WH-1000XM3 over-ear headphones. The company’s true wireless noise cancelling option is a nice, more portable option to have though.
These earbuds are excellent for features, but does not have a water or dust resistance rating. They have excellent noise canceling (for true wireless earbuds, anyway), and the sound quality is very good for Sony. It’s a little disappointing that the WF-1000XM3 do not support LDAC or aptX, their implementation of SBC and AAC codecs is top-notch.
Battery life isn’t anything to brag about but at just under 5 hours of listening time: they’re still better than the AirPods by a mile. The charging case is slick and the earbuds snap right in, which is befitting a $200+ product. You definitely get what you’re paying for.
The Beats Powerbeats Pro has the best battery life
If you want a pair of true wireless that will last you the longest, go with the Beats Powerbeats Pro which in hour testing passed 10 hours of constant playback on both Android and iOS. That’s enough for a cross-country flight from New York to California including the ride to the airport. That said, you still might not want to use these on the airplane as the isolation isn’t that great so the engine sound of the airplane will have no trouble finding its way to your ears. For that, we suggest you check out a pair of noise-cancelling headphones.
Instead, the Powerbeats Pro are the headphones to bring with you on a run or to the gym. The hook design means these will have a hard time falling out and they come with an IPX4 certification making them sweat and water resistant which is more than can be said for the AirPods.
Then there’s all the extra stuff that you’d expect from a pair of AirPods that you also get here thanks to the built-in H1 chip. Pairing is a breeze on iOS and isn’t half bad on Android either, plus the connection strength is top notch so you won’t experience too many annoying drops or stutters in your music playback. Surprisingly, the Powerbeats Pro also doesn’t sound half bad, at least when compared to other Beats headphones. While they still have that consumer-friendly bump to the lows, they’re not overpowering at all. Microphone quality is also pretty great and Apple included a nifty feature that uses the accelerometers in the headphones to know when your jaw is moving and when you’re talking. When it detects that you’re not talking it will shut off the microphone when you’re on a call, helping to avoid any unwanted background noise mid-conversation. Pretty sweet.
Indulge in the handsome Master & Dynamic MW07
Master & Dynamic, a New York-based premium audio company, also tried its hand at true wireless with the MW07. Everything from the stainless steel charging case to the acetate housings scream extravagance. Heck, even the 10mm beryllium drivers are sleek even if invisible from the outside.
It’s not only about form, however; the MW07 can stand a bit of water as proven by its IPX4 rating. What’s more the functionality of the playback controls makes blind commands easy and convenient. If we had to nitpick one thing, it would be the battery life, which is average for true wireless earbuds.
That said, if you want your truly wireless earbuds to be recognized as a piece of modern art, the MW07 is the opulent choice.
The Mobvoi TicPods 2 Pro is a great value
The Mobvoi TicPods 2 Pro offer aptX and AAC support, which is great news for iPhone and Android users. The TicPods 2 Pro are even sleeker and slimmer than the Mobvoi TicPods Free and the coolest feature: AI technology which enables head gestures and hands-free access to Google Assistant or Siri. That’s right: you no longer have to pay a premium for H1 chip or Google Assistant-integration, thanks to Mobvoi’s clever workaround.
By saying, “Hey Tico,” you can directly access Google Assistant or Siri; during testing, this worked effectively and just as quickly as saying “Hey Google.” The only difference worth noting is that Google Assistant’s voice was relayed louder when prompted via “Hey Tico” as opposed to “Hey Google.”
The IPX4 rating means these are a water-resistant pair of earbuds, so feel free to work out in them if you can get them to stay in. Isolation leaves plenty to be desired since these mimic the original AirPods fit, which unfortunately means that high-quality Bluetooth codec support doesn’t matter too much aside from a marketing standpoint.
Battery life is standard with 3 hours, 39 minutes supplied from a single charge, and sound quality isn’t great either; again, due to poor isolation. But you’re not paying for sound quality with the TicPods 2 Pro; rather, you’re paying for neat AI tricks and direct access to your favorite assistant.
Notable mentions for the best Apple earbuds alternatives
- Apple AirPods Pro: They’re AirPods, but they don’t have all the worst parts of AirPods. Unfortunately, they’re also $100 more expensive.
- Crazybaby Air 1S: These true wireless earbuds are sleek and water-resistant but are a bit expensive for their performance which is outshined by the TrueConnect and TicPods.
- Rowkin Ascent Charge Micro: These earbuds don’t support aptX or AAC and may be uncomfortable for some small- to- average sized ears. They do include an AirPods-like charging case though.
- Earin M-2: If you’re interested in the idea of premium true wireless earbuds but think the MW07 too bulky, the Earin M-2 feature a sleeker, arguably sexier design.
- Jabra Elite 65t: These true wireless earbuds still stand as the best all-around true wireless earbuds available, but they beat out by our top picks when it comes specifically to AirPods alternatives.
- Anker Soundcore Liberty Air: These true wireless earbuds support AAC and offer excellent battery life for the sub-$80 price.
- RHA TrueConnect: This pair of former best AirPods alternatives rocks a similar stem design with Bluetooth 5.0 support and an IPX5 certification. If you want kicking bass, this is the pair to get.
- Mobvoi TicPods Free: If your top priority is something that most resemble’s Apple’s AirPods, then the Kickstarter-conceived Mobvoi TicPods is a favorable choice.
- JLab JBuds Air: These are more affordable than the already reasonable Executive earbuds. They afford similar features like IP55 resistance but are much bulkier.
- Creative Outlier Air: These true wireless earbuds offer everything you could need for less than $100. The buttons are difficult to press, however, and they don’t feel or operate quite as smoothly as the Samsung Galaxy Buds.
- JLab JBuds Air Executive: These true wireless earbuds took a hint from Apple’s playbook with their stemmed design. The Class 1, Bluetooth 5.0 firmware makes these an effective alternative for less than $100.
How we chose the best AirPods alternatives
We strive to provide our readers with practical and reliable picks for our best lists and understand that audio is both an objective and subjective experience. The former is why we champion our in-house testing which we subject as many products to as possible, and the latter explains why we’re cover as much as possible about a particular product for its respective review.
As you can see, the frequency responses of the selected picks vary widely, which can be good since it provides an array of sound signatures for readers to choose from. Some picks isolate better than others, though; take, for instance, the RHA TrueConnect, which do an excellent job at isolating external noise by seal alone.
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