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Best AirPods alternatives

AirPods are convenient but there are plenty of worthy contenders out there.
By

Published onApril 30, 2024

The Best
Nothing Ear
MSRP: $149.99
8.1
Check price
Positives
Comfortable
Great sound
Awesome companion app
LDAC and LHDC support
Negatives
Mediocre noise canceling
ANC changes sound quality
Best sound
Creative Aurvana Ace 2
MSRP: $150.00
7.9
Check price
Positives
xMEMS drivers that deliver great sound
Latest and greatest Bluetooth tech
Unique design
Lightweight and comfortable
Negatives
Mediocre noise canceling
No auto play/pause
Best durability
Beats Fit Pro
MSRP: $199.99
7.7
Check price
Positives
Android and iOS compatibility
In-app ear tip fit test
Noise cancelling/Transparency
IPX4 rating
USB-C case with fast charging
Negatives
Price
Fairly large case
Known ANC and update issues
Best active noise cancelling
Samsung Galaxy Buds FE
MSRP: $99.99
7.8
Check price
Positives
Price
Small case
Good ANC
Negatives
Minimal moisture resistance
Information-hungry app
Too bassy
Bang for your buck
Anker Soundcore Liberty 4 NC
MSRP: $99.99
8.1
Check price
Positives
Price
ANC
Battery life
LDAC, AAC, SBC codecs
IPX4
Fast pair
Wireless charging
Negatives
Chunky case
Many EQ presets are too bassy

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 alternatives to the AirPods (3rd Gen) and AirPods Pro (2nd Gen) to match your needs and budget. If you want a wireless solution with better sound quality, here are the best AirPods alternatives.

  • This list of the best AirPods alternatives was updated on April 30, 2024, to add new top picks and adjust formatting.
  • If you have an iPhone, be sure to check out our list of the best earbuds for iPhone users for more options.

The Nothing Ear are the best AirPods alternative for most people

Nothing Ear earbuds and charging case with the case lid open.
Chase Bernath / SoundGuys
These are great all-around wireless earbuds.

The Nothing Ear is an excellent alternative to the Apple AirPods, offering several compelling features at a more affordable price point. For starters, it offers superior sound quality, surpassing many competitors in terms of timbre, distortion, and immersiveness in MDAQS results. The earbuds’ 11mm ceramic diaphragm drivers help to provide clarity and depth. You also get plenty of customization options with the Nothing X app, including a parametric equalizer and a personalized sound profile feature. This level of control allows users to tailor the sound to their preferences.

The Nothing Ear supports high-quality Bluetooth codecs like LDAC and LHDC, which provide superior audio quality compared to the AAC codec used by AirPods. This feature is particularly appealing to Android users seeking better audio performance.

These earbuds are packed full of features that will please casual listeners and audiophiles alike.

You also get noise cancelation and transparency mode. While the noise cancelation performance may not match the best in the market, it’s better than the complete lack of any isolation on the AirPods. Plus, the transparency mode is impressive for the price point, allowing users to enjoy their music or conversations in various environments.

Priced at $149, the Nothing Ear offers a compelling combination of features, sound quality, and customization options, making it an attractive alternative to the more expensive AirPods, especially for those seeking a more affordable option without compromising on performance.

Nothing EarNothing Ear
SoundGuys Editor's Choice
Nothing Ear
LDAC and LHDC • Comfortable • Advanced equalizer
MSRP: $149.99
Excellent earbuds for casual listeners and audiophiles alike.
The 2024 Nothing Ear brings new features while retaining the classic Nothing design.

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As you can see in the chart above, the Nothing Ear has a default frequency response that amplifies low frequencies above our headphone preference curve. There is also a drop in output around 470Hz and a boost around 5.5kHz compared to our preference. You can easily equalize these variances using the advanced equalizer.

The chart below shows how the sound of the Nothing Ear was assessed by the Multi-Dimensional Audio Quality Score (MDAQS) algorithm from HEAD acoustics.

This chart shows the MDAQS results for the Nothing Ear in Default mode. The Timbre score is 4.9, The Distortion score is 3.1, the Immersiveness score is 4.8, and the Overall Score is 4.9).
An overall score of 4.9 is very impressive for wireless earbuds.

The Nothing Ear has three mics and an AI noise reduction algorithm to suppress background noise. While voices sound slightly muffled, the background noise reduction algorithm is one of the best we’ve heard. No matter where you are, the person on the other end of the line should still be able to understand what you are saying, which is reassuring.

The Creative Aurvana Ace 2 have excellent sound quality

The Creative Aurvana Ace 2 uses a new type of driver called MEMS, which offers significant performance boosts.
Christian Thomas / SoundGuys
The Creative Aurvana Ace 2 uses a new type of driver called MEMS, which offers significant performance boosts.

The Creative Aurvana Ace 2 earbuds stand out as another excellent alternative to the Apple AirPods, particularly for those who prioritize sound quality. The Creative Aurvana Ace 2 features an innovative dual-driver system with xMEMS speakers, delivering exceptional sound quality and detail. Designed with audio enthusiasts in mind, the Aurvana Ace 2 supports a range of high-quality Bluetooth codecs, including aptX Lossless, aptX Adaptive, and AAC. This ensures that users can enjoy their music at the highest possible quality, especially when paired with compatible devices.

These are for audiophiles that want high audio quality from their wireless earbuds.

The accompanying Creative app offers a parametric equalizer, allowing users to fine-tune the sound profile according to their preferences. With support for the latest Bluetooth 5.3 technology, including Snapdragon Sound and LE codecs, the Aurvana Ace 2 are well-equipped to handle current and future connectivity standards, ensuring longevity and compatibility.

While the Creative Aurvana Ace 2 may lack some features found in more expensive alternatives, such as comprehensive noise cancelation or spatial audio, their focus on audio quality and advanced audio technology make them an excellent choice for audiophiles and those seeking a superior listening experience from their wireless earbuds.

Creative Aurvana Ace 2Creative Aurvana Ace 2
SoundGuys Editor's Choice
Creative Aurvana Ace 2
xMEMS driver • aptX Lossless • Customizable app
MSRP: $150.00
Anyone interested in the best audio quality should consider the Creative Aurvana Ace 2.
With an xMEMS driver and the latest Bluetooth technology, the Creative Aurvana Ace 2 is making waves in the audiophile community.

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While the Creative Aurvana Ace 2 frequency response closely follows our preference curve in the mids and highs, it strays in the low frequencies. From 300Hz and lower, there is a significant bass boost, as shown in the chart.

The chart below shows how the sound of the Creative Aurvana Ace 2 was assessed by the Multi-Dimensional Audio Quality Score (MDAQS) algorithm from HEAD acoustics.

Bar chart showing MDAQS results for Creative Aurvana Ace 2
The Creative Aurvana Ace 2 scores highly for MDAQS, a testament to the MEMS speaker technology.

With six microphones and Qualcomm cVc noise cancelation technology, the Creative Aurvana Ace 2 can take calls on the go.

The Beats Fit Pro are the best workout earbuds

The Beats Fit Pro noise canceling true wireless earbuds in purple lay in the open charging case against a black fabric background.
Lil Katz / SoundGuys
The Beats Fit Pro is a great set of workout earbuds for those who swap between iOS and Android.

The Beats Fit Pro are your go-to earbuds for intense workouts. Equipped with various ear and wingtip options, they offer security that AirPods can’t match. No more pausing your workout to adjust your earbuds; these stay put no matter how hard you go. They also have the same IPX4 rating for water resistance.

The Beats Fit Pro features Apple’s H1 chip to allow for seamless connectivity and device switching on Apple devices and support the SBC and AAC codecs like the AirPods Pro. They also have great ANC performance, even if they aren’t quite as good as the AirPods Pro (2nd gen) in the midrange.

Whether you are on iOS or Android, the Beats Fit Pro are best for exercise.

Battery life is one area where the Beats Fit Pro has the AirPods beat. In our testing,  the Beats Fit Pro lasted 6 hours and 22 minutes with ANC on, while the AirPods Pro (2nd Gen) only lasted 5 hours and 43 minutes in the same conditions. That gives you a little more peace of mind for longer workouts or runs.

Lastly, the Beats Fit Pro, thankfully, has options on any OS. Android users can download the Beats app, where they can toggle listening modes, change some controls, get firmware updates, and more. iPhone users can do all of this in the iOS Settings app. Unfortunately, only iOS users get access to Spatial Audio for the Beats Fit Pro, but if you have an Android device, you can use Dolby Audio in Apple Music with the Beats Fit Pro.

Hold up! We anticipate the Beats Fit Pro 2 releasing in early 2024, so you may want to hold off to see what the newer model has to offer and for the Beats Fit Pro to see a price drop.

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This kind of frequency response does best with pop, hip-hop, and rap music, and it’s no coincidence that these are the most popular workout music genres.

The Beats Fit Pro is okay for phone calls, but callers on the other end of the line may hear background noise. Still, if you have a handful of personal calls to get through or more lax conference calls, the Fit Pro will serve you just fine.

Beats Fit Pro microphone demo (Ideal conditions):

Beats Fit Pro microphone demo (Office conditions):

Beats Fit Pro microphone demo (Windy conditions):

How does the microphone sound to you?

7073 votes
Beats Fit ProBeats Fit Pro
Beats Fit Pro
Good fit and stabilizing ear wings • Android and iOS compatible • In-app ear tip fit test • ANC and transparency
MSRP: $199.99
Beats Fit Pro are true wireless noise-cancelling earbuds that work just as well with Android devices
The Apple-owned Beats Fit Pro are just as easy to use with an Android device as they are with an iPhone, fitting well with multiple ear tips, and boosted bass sound quality. The only downsides are the price tag and ANC issues.

The Galaxy Buds FE have ANC that punches above their weight

The Samsung Galaxy Buds FE being worn by a man with longer hair.
Harley Maranan / SoundGuys
A stabilizer fin helps keep the Samsung Galaxy Buds FE secure.

The Samsung Galaxy Buds FE presents a compelling option for those seeking affordable yet capable true wireless earbuds, making them another good alternative to the Apple AirPods. Priced at just $99.99, the Samsung Galaxy Buds FE offers excellent value, providing features like active noise cancelation (ANC), ambient sound mode, and wireless charging at a budget-friendly price point.

Despite their affordability, the Galaxy Buds FE delivers surprisingly good noise canceling performance, making them well-suited for commutes, flights, or noisy environments where you want to block out ambient noise. With a tiny charging case and lightweight earbuds, the Galaxy Buds FE are highly portable and easy to carry around, making them a convenient choice for on-the-go listening.

As far as sub-$100 earphones go, the Samsung Galaxy Buds FE are pretty darn good

While the out-of-the-box sound signature may not appeal to everyone, the Samsung Galaxy Wearable app offers several EQ presets and customization options, allowing you to tailor the sound to your preferences. And with up to 4.5 hours of battery life on a single charge and additional charges from the compact case, the Galaxy Buds FE provide decent battery life for their price range.

While the Samsung Galaxy Buds FE may not match the audio quality or feature set of more expensive alternatives, they offer an attractive combination of performance, features, and affordability. For users seeking a budget-friendly option with decent noise cancelation and portability, the Galaxy Buds FE are worth considering as an alternative to the AirPods, especially for those already invested in the Samsung ecosystem.

Samsung Galaxy Buds FESamsung Galaxy Buds FE
SG recommended
Samsung Galaxy Buds FE
Up to 6 hours battery • ANC • SmartThings Find
MSRP: $99.99
Comfortable sound at a comfortable price
The Samsung Galaxy Buds FE are a capable set of true wireless earbuds. Don't let the small price fool you, these buds are equipped with ANC, Ambient mode, SmartThings tracking, and easy-pair with your Galaxy devices.

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Most people will probably enjoy the boosted bass when they’re out in the noisy world — it helps make sounds in your music that can sometimes get drowned out much easier to hear.

You’re not going to be recording the next chart-topping banger on these (and if you do, please let us know), but the quality is about what we expect from a set of affordable earbuds.

The Anker Soundcore Liberty 4 NC is the best bang for your buck

The Anker Soundcore Liberty 4 NC shown with the case open and buds out on a table.
Harley Maranan / SoundGuys
In the Soundcore app, you can lock the controls or turn off in-ear detection.

The Anker Soundcore Liberty 4 NC earbuds stand out as a top choice for those seeking affordable noise canceling earbuds that don’t compromise on performance. They have adaptive noise cancelation that adjusts to your environment and boasts an impressive battery life, lasting nearly 10 hours with ANC on. The case provides about 50 hours of additional charge and supports wireless charging.

The earbuds offer a secure fit, the touch controls are responsive, and the earbuds come in multiple color options. Connectivity is reliable, thanks to Bluetooth 5.3 and support for LDAC, AAC, and SBC codecs, making them a good match for both Android and iOS users.

Overall, the Anker Soundcore Liberty 4 NC earbuds deliver excellent value for their price. While they may not be ideal for intense physical activities, and their sound profile is bass-heavy by default, they are a solid choice for students or budget-conscious users.

Anker Soundcore Liberty 4 NCAnker Soundcore Liberty 4 NC
SG recommended
Anker Soundcore Liberty 4 NC
Price ANC • Battery life • LDAC, AAC, SBC codecs
MSRP: $99.99
These are definitely a contender for some of the best affordable noise canceling earbuds based on performance and value. With an IPX4 rating, long battery life, and good ANC, these are worth a go. You might not want to go for a run with them, but otherwise they're decent.
See price at Amazon
Save $30.00
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Typical of most consumer wireless earbuds, the Anker Soundcore Liberty 4 NC boosts bass and treble compared to our headphone preference curve. The low end up through to about 200Hz is significantly louder, while mids follow our preference well. The frequency response also shows an added volume boost between roughly 5kHz and 8kHz.

Anker uses six microphones and an AI algorithm for the Liberty 4 NC. The results are okay, although the buds do best with lower-pitched voices. Voices are intelligible, although, in ideal circumstances, the resolution doesn’t exactly impress; it’s totally fine.

The Skullcandy Rail ANC is another smart budget pick

A close up the Skullcandy Rail ANC buds on a wood surface with accompanying spare ear tips.
Austin Kwok / SoundGuys
For $100 or less, the Rail ANC is worth looking at.

The Skullcandy Rail ANC earbuds emerge as a strong contender in the sub-$100 category for those seeking a balance of comfort, functionality, and affordability. These earbuds stand out with their IPX4 water resistance, making them suitable for workouts and everyday use. They also boast a modest battery life, offering 7 hours of playtime with ANC enabled, which is slightly above average for budget noise canceling earbuds. Additionally, the inclusion of Personal Sound by MIMI in the companion app is a unique feature, allowing users to optimize the EQ based on their hearing profile, enhancing the listening experience.

The chunkier design might not appeal to everyone, and the microphone quality is just okay. The default sound profile is bass-heavy, which might not suit all tastes, but the app offers flexibility with EQ adjustments. The touch controls are reliable, and the earbuds come with the convenience of Tile locating, adding value for those prone to misplacing their earbuds.

In terms of use, the Skullcandy Rail ANC offers a comfortable fit, secure enough for light activities like jogging, though it lacks additional stabilizers. They connect via Bluetooth 5.2, supporting AAC and SBC codecs.  If you’re an iOS user, then the AAC plays best with Apple devices. The noise cancelation is decent for the price, effectively reducing low-frequency noises like air conditioners, though some mid-frequency sounds may still penetrate. Overall, the Skullcandy Rail ANC earbuds deliver a solid performance for their price range, making them a viable alternative to AirPods for budget-conscious consumers seeking a combination of comfort, functionality, and good sound quality.

Skullcandy Rail ANCSkullcandy Rail ANC
SG recommended
Skullcandy Rail ANC
Good sound • Long battery life • Noise cancellation
MSRP: $99.99
Hop on the Skullcandy train
If you want comfortable earbuds with good functionality and a companion app, the Skullcandy Rail ANC are a reliable option. If you can get along with the chunkier size, they reward with reliable touch controls and decent noise canceling.

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The Skullcandy Rail ANC follows our headphone preference curve roughly. They have some exaggerated low-end output and are about 4dB quieter in the mids than we’d like. Treble loosely apes our curve, except between 5kHz and 7500Hz, where it peaks at 6dB louder than our preference. All of these ingredients lead to a fun tuning with too much bass.

The Skullcandy Rail ANC captures deeper voices better than higher-pitched ones in all situations. In office settings, the noise gets attenuated okay, and voices remain intelligible, if a bit muffled. The same goes for street conditions with a seemingly more intense high-frequency cut. Have a listen below and let us know what you think.

The best Apple AirPods alternatives: Notable mentions

The Beats Studio Buds and Studio Buds Plus cases lean against a plant pot.
Harley Maranan / SoundGuys
The Studio Buds Plus have significantly better battery life than the Studio Buds.
  • Amazon Echo Buds (2nd gen) ($119 at Amazon): Amazon provides 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 canceling 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.
  • Anker Soundcore Space A40 ($79 at Amazon): With these, you get a pleasant sound and really impressive noise canceling, which is nice if you’re not willing to spend AirPods Pro amounts of money, but want to retain a lot of the functionality, except for surround sound.
  • Beats Studio Buds ($79 at Amazon): These earbuds stand out from other Apple-produced headsets because it works well on Android and iOS. Anyone can use the Beats app to control the ANC, customize the controls, and more. This headset has good sound quality and multiple listening modes and is much more compatible with Android products than any Beats product before it. You may also want to check out the Beats Studio Buds Plus, though that comes at a much higher price tag than the original Studio Buds. The upgraded model has a few upgrades worthy of note, but some may find that the added cost puts them a bit past the realm of a smart buy.
  • Beats Powerbeats Pro ($159 at Amazon): While the charging case leaves much to be desired, the Powerbeats Pro makes it so that you’ll rarely have to rely on it with a 10+ hour battery life on both iOS and Android.
  • Bose Sports Earbuds ($165 at Amazon): Listeners who want something comfortable and durable enough for daily use will love the Sport Earbuds from Bose.
  • Google Pixel Buds Pro ($119.95 at Amazon): The Pixel Buds Pro is tailored specifically for Android phone owners, who can use the Pixel Buds app to receive updates and control how the earbuds function.
  • Jabra Elite 3 ($59 at Amazon): The Elite 3 includes IP55-rated earbuds and a compact USB-C case. Listeners can stream over aptX or SBC, though there’s no AAC support to accommodate iPhone owners who want high-quality playback (see the next option for that.)
  • Jabra Elite 5 ($132 at Amazon): Gain an IP55 rating with support for AAC, aptX, and SBC codecs to cover all devices. There’s some noise cancelation, albeit it’s not the best, but it’s okay for the price and feature set.
  • JBL Reflect Flow Pro ($179 at Amazon): If you want a pair of earbuds that can withstand sweat and rain with lots of ear tip size options, the JBL Reflect Flow Pro is a good choice. It has IP68 water and dust resistance, an app that lets you adjust EQ and test the fit of the earbuds. Onboard noise canceling is mediocre, however. It also supports AAC and SBC Bluetooth codecs.
  • Microsoft Surface Earbuds  ($129.99 at Amazon): 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 ($29 at Amazon): 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 an H1 chip or Google Assistant integration, thanks to Mobvoi’s clever workaround.
  • Nothing Ear (a): If you have $99.99 at Nothing to spend on earbuds, the Nothing Ear (a) are a good option. These jack-of-all-trades earbuds don’t excel in any particular way but also don’t have any major drawbacks.
  • Nothing Ear (2) ($149 at Amazon): These wireless earbuds have an Android and iOS-friendly design. They feature the LHDC and AAC codecs alongside some luxuries like ANC and a comprehensive app.
  • Sony WF-C500 ($98 at Amazon): This is a great pair of earphones if you just want the buds to work reliably. The sound quality is quite good, and the earbuds have an IPX4 rating.

What’s new with the Apple AirPods (3rd generation)?

A hand holds a Apple AirPods (3rd generation) earbud by the stem to reveal the open-type fit and embedded sensors with the open case in the background.
The Apple AirPods 3rd generation has a more rounded speaker element opening, which means a better fit in the outer ear and a worse fit at the ear canal opening.

The Apple AirPods (3rd generation) combines some of the best features from the AirPods Pro, like Dolby Atmos-powered spatial audio, onboard force sensor stem controls, and an IPX4 build. The new AirPods also come with a MagSafe-compatible charging case and a 6-hour battery life.

Unfortunately, you still get the worst feature of the standard AirPods — an unsealed fit. Just like the first and second-generation AirPods, the AirPods (3rd generation) earbuds keep the ear canal open and allow you to hear what’s going on around you. This has its safety perks, though, and listeners who want better sound quality and isolation can save for the AirPods Pro.

The Apple AirPods (3rd generation) open case holds the earbuds and sits on a wood surface.
The Apple AirPods 3 case diverges from previous generations’ cases, more closely mirroring that of the AirPods Pro.

While you can read all about how the AirPods (3rd generation) compares to second-gen AirPods, we don’t recommend either. They both share the same open, unsealed fit and aren’t that much cheaper than the more value-packed AirPods Pro, which delivers better sound quality and isolation.

If you decide that none of the best AirPods alternatives are for you and want to go with either the second or third-generation AirPods, the AirPods (3rd gen) is the better long-term investment. It has more advanced software like spatial audio with head tracking Adaptive EQ built into the headset and will likely receive firmware updates longer than the AirPods (2nd gen).

Should you get the AirPods Pro or AirPods Max instead of the AirPods?

The Apple AirPods Max and Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) on a wooden slab next to each other.
The AirPods Pro and AirPods Max are completely different in form but have similar features.

Despite the fact that it’s the obvious step up in the AirPods family, we chose not to highlight the AirPods Pro. It doesn’t offer the same sound quality or battery life upgrades as some of the other picks here, though it does outperform the AirPods (3rd generation). Additionally, it’s one of those products that has much more to offer Apple users than Android users. To be sure, the Pro is an excellent set of true wireless earphones. We figure that if you want AirPods, you’ll get AirPods — this list is for alternatives, not confirming a predetermined outcome. There’s a separate one for AirPods Pro alternatives.

The Apple AirPods Max is a niche product solely based on its cost-prohibitive price. After taxes, these headphones cost $549, and the features are limited to Apple devices. That said, Apple packed 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 have incredible sound quality.

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!

What is frequency response?

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A frequency response just indicates how well a pair of earbuds reproduces all tones within a given range (usually 20Hz-20kHz). When you view a frequency response chart, it’s just a visual depiction of how that product sounds. It’s not the whole story, but it is illuminating information. There is no “perfect” frequency response because that depends on what you like. We have, however, created our own in-house target curves for consumer and studio headphones to best match what we believe fits that particular use case and target demographic.

How do you wear true wireless earbuds?

Wireless earbuds can be difficult to fit, though few are more difficult than the unsealed design of the AirPods (2nd generation) and AirPods (3rd generation). Each pair of earbuds wears a little differently than the next, but all you really need to do is make sure you find the proper ear tips for your ear canals.

Companies usually provide something within the range of small, medium, and large, and then some extras if you buy fancy earphones. Even with this standard three-size selection, most listeners should find something comfortable that seals to their ear canals. While all of our best AirPods alternative 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.

Why is a good seal important? Well, it blocks out background noise, which may otherwise make it hard for you to hear your music. Background noise masks your music’s detail, which can cause you to increase the volume to dangerous levels. Don’t do that. Prolonged periods of exposure to loud volume outputs could irreversibly damage your hearing.

What is a Bluetooth codec?

best AirPods alternatives - A chart showing the frequency response performance of the AAC Bluetooth wireless codec.
Android phones don’t give you CD-quality playback with AAC.

A Bluetooth codec determines how your source device transmits data to your headset, with the most popular codecs being SBC, AAC, and aptX. 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 doesn’t actually want it, go for picks with aptX support.

How long do wireless earbuds last?

This question has a few answers. Generally speaking, true wireless earbuds last anywhere from four to six hours on a single charge, with the case providing an extra one to four charge cycles. These numbers vary widely across the spectrum of earbuds.

A hand holds the open case of the Denon AH-C830CNW outside by concrete and metal vents.
True wireless earbud cases are convenient, but if you want your earbuds to last longer, turn them off when you’re done and place them in a separate container so they’re not always charging.

If you want to know how many years wireless earbuds last, well, that’s a more complicated question that depends on your use habits and how you store the buds when not in use. Those who use their true wireless earbuds every single day will likely get two years, maybe three, out of them before the batteries kaput.

Wireless earbuds have a limited lifespan because they house lithium-ion batteries that degrade over time. When talking about true wireless earbuds, it’s important to realize that these buds’ batteries are constantly subjected to a charge/deplete cycle that only hastens the degradation process.

To mitigate this, companies like Apple use battery optimization software that stops the case from charging the earbuds beyond 80% until you’re about to learn them. This requires you to have an iPhone or iPad and use your earbuds on a semi-regular schedule.

Why won’t your true wireless earbuds connect?

best AirPods alternatives - Apple new AirPods 2 on an arts magazine with the case above it, shut.
The new AirPods use Apple’s latest H1 chip, which improves battery life, allows for hands-free access to Siri, and reduces latency.

True wireless earbuds often rely on one earbud as the primary recipient, which then passes information to the other earbud. This process can lead to audio-visual lag, connection hiccups, or complete dropouts. It’s the sacrifice we make for freedom of movement and portability. 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 AirPods for iPhone users.

How we choose 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 cover as much as possible about a particular product for its respective review. You can also read about the scoring philosophy that we apply to every review.

Why you should trust SoundGuys

A hand holds one of the Apple AirPods (3rd generation) to the ear of a head simulator.
We use a Bruel & Kjaer 5128 artificial head to perform isolation and frequency response tests, as seen here with the AirPods.

We work relentlessly to better understand the world of audio. Individually, each of us has multiple years of tracking the audio industry, affording us as a team a diversified skill set that we use to make the research side of consumer audio less intimidating for our readers.

Regardless of what you end up purchasing, if you end up purchasing anything at all, none of our writers may benefit from picking one product over another. In fact, none of the writers will ever know if a link was clicked. At the end of the day, our goal is for you to be happy and walk away more informed.


Frequently asked questions about true wireless earbuds

Any of our picks for the best AirPods alternatives will work with an Android smartphone, but if you want the best experience for your needs, look at our list of the best Android earbuds.

Yes, there are several cheaper alternatives to AirPods available in the market. Some popular and well-reviewed options include Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2, JLab Audio JBuds Air, and Samsung Galaxy Buds. These alternatives offer good sound quality, battery life, and additional features at a lower price point than AirPods.

For those looking to replace or find alternatives to the AirPods Pro ear tips, there are several third-party options available. Brands like Comply, Dekoni Audio, and AhaStyle offer foam and silicone ear tips that are compatible with AirPods Pro. These alternatives can provide just as comfortable a fit and sometimes even better noise isolation to enhance the overall listening experience.

AirPods are generally considered better than Raycons, especially in terms of sound quality. While Raycons offer a variety of colors and a lower price point, we’ve found the sound quality of the ones we’ve reviewed to be less refined than AirPods.

Like most wireless earbuds, the lifespan of AirPods is estimated to last around two to three years. This estimate primarily depends on the battery life, as the lithium-ion batteries in AirPods degrade over time and with use.

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