While the AirPods is the default for most iPhone users, the fact of the matter is that the true wireless market has matured to a point where you have your pick of the litter. There is a vast market of viable AirPods alternatives to match your needs. If you’re intrigued by Apple’s true wireless solution but want better sound quality, we’ve compiled this list of the best AirPods alternatives.
Editor’s note: this list of the best AirPods alternatives was updated on August 25, 2021, to replace the Google Pixel Buds (2020) with the Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen).
Related: Best AirPods Pro alternatives
The Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen) is the best AirPods alternative
The Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen) is designed very differently to the AirPods and doesn’t take a one-size-fits-most approach. Rather, it prioritizes a good fit and comes with silicone ear tips and ear stays, and includes an ear tip fit test in the Alexa app. The app includes a host of other features such as an equalizer, active noise cancelling adjustment, workout data, enabling wake words, and more. The earbuds also have all the Alexa functionality you could ask for, which is really what makes the product special.
Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen)Full Review
The default sound signature of the Echo Buds (2nd Gen) underemphasizes bass and midrange frequencies when compared to our SoundGuys‘ house curve, but the in-app equalizer should help you get it sounding the way you want. Assuming you’ve established a secure fit with the earbuds, the active noise cancelling feature will effectively dull the environmental sounds of cars or airplanes. At the same time, the buds’ passive isolation will mute people’s voices, though it won’t cancel them out completely.
Start here: Ultimate headphone buying guide
On a single charge, the Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen) lasts 4 hours, 42 minutes, assuming you’re playing music through it at 75dB. It has a certified IPX4 rating, supports mono listening with either earbud, and has voice assistant support. For its price, this headset is a pretty great AirPods alternative.
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 still improving
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 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-1000XM4
Sennheiser’s been flexing their noise cancelling technology demonstrated by the Sony WH-1000XM4 over-ear headphones. The company’s true wireless noise cancelling option is a nice, more portable option to have though.
Sony WF-1000XM4Full Review
These earbuds have an IPX4 rating and voice assistant support. You can also access more features such as an ear tip fit test, remapping the touch controls, and EQ-ing the sound signature via the Sony Headphones Connect app. The WF-1000XM4 have excellent noise canceling (for true wireless earbuds, anyway), and the sound quality is very good, though the default sound signature is a little unusual. The Sony buds use Bluetooth 5.2, and are in fact one of the first pairs of headphones out there to offer this. This means they support all the mandatory codecs in the 5.2 stack, including LE audio.
Battery life is pretty solid, clocking in at 7 hours, 43 minutes of listening time with the ANC turned on, but you’re bound to get some more juice out of it if you don’t use the ANC. The charging case also hold additional juice, bringing the total battery life to about 24 hours. You definitely get what you’re paying for with the Sony WF-1000XM4.
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The Beats Powerbeats Pro is the best workout buds
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.
Beats Powerbeats ProFull Review
Instead, the Powerbeats Pro is the headset bring on a run or to the gym. The hook design secures the buds to your ear, and the IPX4 rating makes the buds 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. The Powerbeats Pro sounds pretty good, at least when compared to other Beats headphones. While it still has that consumer-friendly bump to the lows, it’s not overpowering at all.
The Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro is feature-packed
The Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro is similar to the Apple AirPods when it comes to sound—they both have consumer-friendly frequency responses that highlight bass, but the Buds Pro features a more accurate sound profile. Samsung’s earbuds seal to the ear, which is key to its effective active noise cancelling performance.
Samsung Galaxy Buds ProFull Review
The Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro operates via Bluetooth 5.0, and if you have a Samsung phone, you’ll benefit from the Buds Pro over the AirPods due to the Samsung Scalable Codec. It also has the AAC codec for iPhone users but no H1 chip integration. If you have a non-Samsung Android, you can still stream over AAC but its stability depends on your hardware. The buds don’t support Bluetooth multipoint but do support automatic device switching among Samsung Galaxy sources that are all connected to the same Samsung account.
The Buds Pro has a solid mic system that transmits clear audio. Each earbud has a mesh bit covering the mics to reduce wind noise, which is helpful if you take calls outside. The earbuds support voice-activated Bixby if you have a Samsung phone but only if you download the Samsung Galaxy Wearable app.
This is the most durable set of Samsung Galaxy Buds to date as proven by the IPX7 rating. The earbuds last nearly 5 hours on a single charge, with the case providing an additional 13 hours of playtime. If you don’t need noise cancelling, consider the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus.
The Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 is a great value
The Liberty Air 2 true wireless earbuds had large shoes to fill, and it turns out these earbuds are as much of a hit as their predecessor. While it’s apparent that these earbuds don’t outperform top-tier alternatives, they’re not meant to. Instead, the Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 is for the listener in search of a jack-of-all-trades headset.
Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2Full Review
Each earbud has a touch-capacitive panel for controlling things like playback, and the controls can be remapped via the free Soundcore app. The app is also good for equalizing the sound, which you’ll want to do since these drivers are quite bass-heavy.
Battery life is standard with 7 hours, 5 minutes supplied from a single charge, and quick charging is supported. Inserting the buds into the case for just 10 minutes provides two hours of listening. Once the case is drained, you can recharge via included USB-C cable or atop a Qi wireless charging pad. If you’re a fan of Anker products, read up on our full review of the Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro.
What about the AirPods Pro and Apple AirPods Max?
Despite the fact that they’re the obvious step-up in the AirPods family, we chose not to highlight the AirPods Pro because they don’t offer the same sound quality or battery life upgrades as some of the other picks here. Additionally, they’re one of those products that definitely have much more to offer Apple users than Android users. To be sure, they’re excellent true wireless earphones, and we recommend them often. However, they may be out of your price range, and the premium you’d pay for these may not be worth it to you. We figure that if you want AirPods, you’ll get AirPods—this list is for alternatives, not confirming a predetermined outcome.
The Apple AirPods Max is a niche product, solely based on its cost-prohibitive price. After taxes, these headphones cost around $600 USD and the features are limited to Apple devices. That said, Apple packed in plenty of advanced hardware into its debut headphones, including Spatial Audio and a convenient H1 chip. These cans also scored the highest in raw noise cancelling performance we’ve ever seen, and they also have incredible sound quality.
Notable mentions: Apple earbuds alternatives
- Beats Studio Buds: Beats hasn’t released anything in a while, but it’s made a splash with its comeback product. This headset has good sound quality, multiple listening modes, and is much more compatible with Android products than any Beats product before it.
- Bose QuietComfort Earbuds: Bose’s debut noise cancelling true wireless earbuds is a bit bulkier than the competition but it provides the most comfortable, secure fit. The StayHear Max ear tips effectively keep the earbuds in place, while making it feel like you’re not even wearing them. Sound quality is very good, though you can’t create a custom EQ.
- Edifier TWS1: If you’re looking for a much more affordable pair of true wireless earbuds, the Edifier TWS1 gets all the important things right. It has aptX support, an IPX5 rating, fine isolation, and decent sound quality.
- Google Pixel Buds A-Series: This is the budget-friendly version of the discontinued Google Pixel Buds (2020). It has a lot of the same features as the more expensive headset, though it is missing Qi-wireless charging and Fast Pair among a few other things.
- Jabra Elite Active 75t: This is one of our favorite workout earbuds as it’s IP57-rated and supports Bluetooth multipoint, letting you connect to two devices simultaneously.
- Jabra Elite 85t: This pair of earbuds is the latest Jabra has to offer, featuring adjustable noise cancellation and HearThru. It also features AAC codec support, IPX4 water resistance rating, USB-C and wireless charging options, and ergonomic ear tips for a proper fit.
- JLab JBuds Air Icon: This is more affordable than the already reasonable Executive earbuds. It affords similar features like IP55 resistance but is much bulkier.
- Microsoft Surface Earbuds: This open-fit pair of earbuds doesn’t seal to the ear but reproduces sound more accurately than the Apple AirPods. The proprietary ear tips are very comfortable and keep the earbuds stable whether you walk around or go for a run. If you want a minimalist design with better battery life and Bluetooth multipoint, upgrade to the Microsoft Surface Headphones 2.
- Mobvoi TicPods 2 Pro: Both aptX and AAC are supported, and the coolest feature is 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.
- Nothing Ear 1: This set of true wireless earbuds boasts active noise cancelling and a pleasant, consumer-friendly frequency response. The mobile app has limited features, but if you want a transparent pair of AirPods Pro or AirPods, it doesn’t get much more aesthetically pleasing than this.
- OnePlus Buds Z: For only $49.99, this pair of true wireless earbuds isn’t bad. This headset sports premium features like an IP55 rating, automatic ear detection, and Dolby Atmos support (limited). The sound quality is also fine and it supports fast charging.
- RHA TrueConnect 2: This pair of former best AirPods alternatives rocks a similar stem design with Bluetooth 5.0 support and IP55 certification. Listeners who want a sophisticated headset that can do everything well should get the TrueConnect 2.
- Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus: The Buds Plus has great sound quality, fit, battery life, and passive isolation. If you don’t care about the ANC of the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live or don’t like its lack of sealing ear tips, the Buds Plus is a great alternative.
- Sennheiser MOMENTUM True Wireless 2: Though pricey, this headset offers active noise cancelling, voice assistant support, an IPX4 rating, and great sound quality.
- 1MORE PistonBuds: This retails for $39.99, and though it doesn’t have many premium features, that’s forgivable considering the limited cost. If you want earbuds for listening to music on the bus or for working out, this is a great budget option.
- 1MORE True Wireless ANC: Noise cancelling true wireless earbuds are all the rage, and it’s hard to outperform 1MORE’s dual-driver solution. This may not have the most effective ANC of the bunch, but it’s a great value and incorporates Qualcomm’s True Wireless Stereo Plus technology for a reliable, lag-free connection.
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.
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The Google Pixel Buds (2020), Samsung Galaxy Buds Live, and Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 are the only devices on this best list that support wireless charging.
Any of our picks for the best AirPods alternatives will work with an Android smartphone, but if you want the most streamlined experience, get the Google Pixel Buds. Their performance on Android is analogous to the AirPods and AirPods Pro on an iPhone. Anyone with a Samsung device will have a similar experience with easy pairing and device switching when using the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live, Buds Plus, or Galaxy Buds. Plus, you get Samsung-exclusive features like Wireless PowerShare charging and the ability to stream over the proprietary scalable codec for optimal audio quality. For the best budget pick on an Android device, get the Anker SoundCore Liberty Air 2.