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Best AirPods alternatives

AirPods are convenient but there are plenty of worthy contenders out there.
February 16, 2023
Best all-around
Bose Sport Earbuds
By Bose
The Bose Sport Earbuds in black against a white background.
Check price
IPX4 rating
Comfortable, secure fit
Active EQ
Auto play/pause (right bud)
Mic cancels out background noise
Great touch control sensitivity
Limited onboard controls
Lacks in-app EQ and ambient aware mode
The Bottom Line.
Listeners who want something comfortable and durable enough for daily use will love the Sport Earbuds from Bose.Read full review...
Best ANC
Sony WF-1000XM4
By Sony
The Sony WF-1000XM4 noise-canceling true wireless earbuds in black against a white background.
Check price
Great ANC
Foam ear tips and great fit
Sony 360 Reality Audio
IPX4 rating
App features
Sound quality
Out-of-the-box sound is odd
The Bottom Line.
The Sony WF-1000XM4 is one of the new pairs of true wireless earbuds taking the audio world by storm. Though it's a pricey pair of buds, it has a lot to offer.Read full review...
Best battery life
Beats Powerbeats Pro
By Apple
Beats Powerbeats Pro product image on white background.
Check price
IPX4 rating
Connection strength, H1 chip
Mic quality
Battery life
Secure fit
Poor isolation
Bulky charging case
The Bottom Line.
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. Read full review...
Best features
Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro
By Samsung
On a white background is the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro in Bora Purple with the buds sitting outside the case.
Check price
Bluetooth 5.3
AAC and Samsung Scalable codec
USB-C, wireless, and fast charging
Mic quality
IPX7 rating
Sound quality
No aptX support
Handful of features limited to Samsung hardware
No software support on iOS
The Bottom Line.
The Galaxy Buds 2 Pro is a great pair of ANC earbuds for listeners who want a versatile headset.Read full review...
Best value
Google Pixel Buds A-Series
By Google
The Google Pixel Buds A-series in white against a white background.
Check price
Lightweight comfortable fit
IPX4 rating
Great touch controls
Integrates well with Android
Adaptive Sound is distracting
AAC and SBC only, no aptX
The Bottom Line.
For less than $100 USD, the Pixel Buds A-Series is a smart buy.Read full review...

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 May 25, 2023, to ensure timeliness of the content within.

Why is the Bose Sport Earbuds the best AirPods alternative?

The Bose Sport Earbuds is designed very differently from the AirPods and doesn’t take a one-size-fits-most approach. Rather, it prioritizes a good and comfortable fit with Bose’s StayHear Max ear tips which creates a gentle, pain-free seal. The ear tips have a little ear wing that stabilizes the bud against your outer ear and the tips are a conical shape, which is responsible for that comfy fit.

Bose Sport Earbuds
Bose Sport Earbuds
The Bose Sport Earbuds true wireless workout earbuds sit outside of the closed charging case, all objects are covered in sprinkles of water.The Bose Sport Earbuds true wireless workout earbuds StayHear Max ear tips in view; the buds are against a beige background.The Bose Sport Earbuds true wireless workout earbuds sit outside of the closed charging case, with the logos of the case and buds facing the viewer.The Bose Sport Earbuds true wireless workout earbuds USB-C charging case half-inserted into a fanny pack pocket.A woman opens the Bose Sport Earbuds charging case with one hand.A woman uses the The Bose Sport Earbuds true wireless workout earbuds' mobile app, the Bose Music app.A woman wears the Bose Sport Earbuds true wireless workout earbuds with a biking helmet in the background.The Bose Sport Earbuds true wireless workout earbuds outside of the open charging case; the earbuds are facing belly-up so the StayHear Max ear tips are in full view.The Bose Sport Earbuds true wireless workout earbuds in the charging case, adjacent to a pair of yellow rock-climbing shoes.A chart compares the Bose Sport Earbuds (cyan) frequency response to our house curve (pink), and reveals that the Sport Earbuds somewhat under-emphasizes sub-bass tones.
Bose Sport Earbuds
Bose Sport Earbuds
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Like the AirPods (3rd generation) the Bose Sport Earbuds has an IPX4 rating that can resist water and sweat, just be sure to air dry the earbuds before you replace them in the USB-C charging case. The case can fast charge the earbuds in just 15 minutes and provide 120 minutes of playback. Meanwhile, the actual earbuds have a 5-hour, 17-minute battery life. Unfortunately, the case doesn’t support wireless charging, for that you’ll need to upgrade to the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II.

Bose’s earphones have very good sound quality, though the sub-bass response is a bit quieter than most wireless workout earbuds. Still, it’s great for all genres of music and you’ll have no trouble hearing vocals and treble frequencies. You can adjust the EQ within your streaming service but the Bose Music app doesn’t let you EQ the Sport Earbuds. Instead, you get Bose Active EQ which auto-adjusts the frequency response based on your music’s volume level.

If you want touch controls with near-perfect sensitivity and great sound quality right out of the box, go with these sporty buds from Bose.

Bose Sport EarbudsBose Sport Earbuds
AA Recommended
Bose Sport Earbuds
Secure fit • Fast charging • Custom and Active EQ
The Bose Sport Earbuds is the most comfortable set of workout earbuds around, and makes huge improvements over the original Bose SoundSport Free. Bose's feature set is always expanding as the company reliably releases useful firmware and app updates. For a comfortable, durable, and capable set of workout earbuds, look no further than Bose.

The Bose Sport Earbuds microphone under-emphasizes lower frequencies in voices, meant to combat the proximity effect, but it takes it a bit too far. Low voices don’t sound right, but a plus is that it handles windy conditions pretty well. Take a listen for yourself:

Bose Sport Earbuds microphone demo (Ideal):

Bose Sport Earbuds microphone demo (Wind):

The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds noise canceling true wireless earbuds next to the Bose Sport Earbuds for a size comparison.
Lily Katz / SoundGuys
The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds (left) is bulkier than the Bose Sport Earbuds (right).

The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds is the company’s debut set of noise canceling true wireless earbuds. The case and buds are 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 and Bose updated the Music app so you can create a custom EQ for the Bose QC Earbuds.

The biggest thing holding the QC Earbuds back? Its original $279 USD price. Fortunately, you can usually find it for a fair bit less money. We tend to recommend the original QuietComfort Earbuds over its successor, the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II because at launch the product was a little on the unfinished side, however that has since improved. The originals are still a great deal, but the newer model is perfectly fine — provided you’re looking to spend more than $300 on earphones.

Bose QuietComfort EarbudsBose QuietComfort Earbuds
AA Recommended
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds
Customizable ANC • 5h battery life • Various tip size
Bose QuietComfort earbuds offer high-quality sound. You can choose the degree of noise canceling and enjoy premium features like automatic ear detection.

Ignore chatty neighbors with the Sony WF-1000XM4

Sony regularly flexes its noise canceling technology demonstrated by the Sony WH-1000XM5 over-ear headphones. The company’s wireless noise canceling option is a nice, more portable option though.

Sony WF-1000XM4
Sony WF-1000XM4
The memory foam tips of the Sony WF-1000XM4.A photo showing someone using the touch controls of the Sony WF-1000XM4.The Sony WF-1000XM4 on a wet, red bench, also with moisture on the earphones.A photo showing the Sony WF-1000XM4 in the charging case.A photo comparing the relative size of the Sony WF-1000XM3's case with the Sony WF-1000XM4's.A photo showing the Sony WF-1000XM4 in its case, with the lid open.The Sony WF-1000XM4's case open, revealing the earphones sitting within.A chart showing the frequency response of the Sony WF-1000XM4 true wireless earphones compared to the SoundGuys house curve.
Sony WF-1000XM4

The Sony WF-1000XM4 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 has excellent noise canceling (for wireless earbuds, anyway). The sound quality is very good, though the default sound signature is a little unusual. The WF-1000XM4 uses Bluetooth 5.2, and may 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 brings the total battery life to about 24 hours. You definitely get what you’re paying for with the Sony WF-1000XM4.

Sony WF-1000XM4Sony WF-1000XM4
SG recommended
Sony WF-1000XM4
Great ANC • IPX4 rating • 360 Reality Audio
Powerful active noise canceling earbuds.
The Sony WF-1000XM4 wireless earbuds are some of the best on the market. High-quality sound is matched by top-notch ANC. Well designed ear tips provide an excellent seal, improving noise isolation, and call quality.

The Sony WF-1000XM4 microphone is good for phone calls in ideal conditions, but wind noise can get in the way of voice intelligibility. Take a listen for yourself:

Sony WF-1000XM4 microphone demo (Ideal):

Sony WF-1000XM4 microphone demo (Wind):

The Beats Powerbeats Pro is the best workout earphone

If you want a pair of true wireless that will last you the longest, go with the Beats Powerbeats Pro which in our 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 this on the airplane as the isolation isn’t that great.

Beats Powerbeats Pro
Beats Powerbeats Pro
The Beats Powerbeats Pro logo.Close-up shot of the Lightning port on the charging case of the Beats Powerbeats Pro wireless headphones.The playback control buttons on the Beats Powerbeats Pro.A photo of the Beats Powerbeats Pro in hand.A picture of the Beats Powerbeats Pro resting in their charging case on a desk.Chart of Beats Powerbeats Pro frequency response compared to our ideal curve.
Beats Powerbeats Pro
Beats Powerbeats Pro
Buy now
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Instead, the Powerbeats Pro is the headset to 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 much like the popular Bose Sport Earbuds too. Then there’s all the extra stuff that you get thanks to the H1 chip. Pairing is a breeze on iOS and isn’t half bad on Android either. The connection strength is top-notch, so you’re unlikely to experience any hiccups. 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.

Apple Beats Powerbeats ProApple Beats Powerbeats Pro
Apple Beats Powerbeats Pro
Long-lasting battery • Advanced connectivity • Excellent sound
The Powerbeats Pro is now the true wireless earbuds to... Beat.
Apple Beats Powerbeats Pro are true wireless earbuds with a battery life that won't die mid-workout and have an IPX4 rating.

The Powerbeats Pro sounds totally fine in ideal conditions, and phone calls will be no issue if you’re inside in a quiet area. Wind noise can make voices a lot quieter, but at least there’s no whoosh noise through the headset. Take a listen for yourself:

Beats Powerbeats Pro microphone demo (Ideal):

Beats Powerbeats Pro microphone demo (Wind):

The Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro 2 is feature-packed

The updated version of the Galaxy Buds Pro, the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro 2 is pretty similar to the Apple AirPods (3rd generation) when it comes to sound. Both sets of earbuds have consumer-friendly frequency responses that highlight bass. However, Samsung’s earbuds seal to the ear, which is key to its effective active noise canceling performance.

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro
Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro
A hand holds the open case with the buds showing of the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro in front of green succulents.On a tropical themed outdoor blanket the open case of the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro rests with the lid open.The Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro are sitting in and covered in water droplets on a tropical themed outdoor blanket with a water bottle in the background.A chart depicts the very impressive ANC and isolation performance of the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro.The normal EQ frequency response of the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro as compared to the target curve, which it follows closely.
Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro
Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro
Buy now
See review
See review

The Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro 2 uses Bluetooth 5.3. If you have a Samsung phone, you’ll benefit from the Buds Pro 2 over the AirPods due to the Samsung Scalable Codec. It also has the AAC codec for iPhone users. Non-Samsung Android phones can stream over AAC, but we know how unpredictable that can be. The buds support automatic device switching among Samsung Galaxy sources that are all connected to the same Samsung account.

This is the most durable set of Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 to date as proven by the IPX7 rating. The earbuds last nearly 5 hours on a single charge. However, if you don’t need noise canceling, consider the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus—it has much better battery life.

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 ProSamsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro
AA Recommended
Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro
Comfortable fit • Enhanced noise-cancelling technology • Satisfying battery life
Samsung's reliable earbuds upgraded
The Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro earbuds provide great sound and feature active noise canceling. They meld a great fit and comfort with a vast range of ear tips. Efficient ANC and five hours of battery life sweeten the deal.

The microphone on the Galaxy Buds Pro 2 is fine for phone calls, but not really the best. You may sound like you have a slight lisp through the microphone. It has pretty good noise rejection, though. Listen for yourself:

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro microphone demo (Ideal conditions):

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro microphone demo (Windy conditions):

The Google Pixel Buds A-Series is a smart value

The Google Pixel Buds A-Series caused some headaches at first, but Google quickly resolved this with a firmware update (version 233 or later). With this volume fix, the Pixel Buds A-Series is a strong contender among the sea of AirPods alternatives. It has an IPX4 rating, a comfortable and secure fit, and excellent touch controls. A lot of earbuds that we test have touch panels that are either too sensitive or not sensitive enough, and Google balances the sensitivity just right.

Google Pixel Buds A-Series
Google Pixel Buds A-Series
A hand holds the open case of the Google Pixel Buds A-Series in front of a beach.The Google Pixel Buds A-Series on driftwood with a smartphone.The Google Pixel Buds A-Series are sitting on a piece of driftwood at a beach.The Google Pixel Buds A-Series case is being put in a chest pocket of a shirt.A chart showing the mediocre isolation performance of the Google Pixel Buds A-SeriesThis is the frequency response for the Google Pixel Buds A-Series.A frequency response chart showing the performance of the Google Pixel Buds A-Series with the Bass Boost option enabled.
Google Pixel Buds A-Series
Google Pixel Buds A-Series
Buy now
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Although the Pixel Buds A-Series has ear tips and wings that secure to your concha, you still hear a lot of background noise. This can be a good or bad thing depending on your needs. If you like the idea of AirPods because the buds don’t seal to your ear, you may find the Pixel Buds A-Series gives you the best of both worlds: a good fit with limited sound isolation. You don’t get any painful ear suction feeling because Google uses pressure relief vents in both earbuds.

Google Pixel Buds A-SeriesGoogle Pixel Buds A-Series
Google Pixel Buds A-Series
Terrific Android integration • Low price • Multiple fun colors
The core features of the Pixel Buds Pro at a lower price
If you like the Pixel Buds line but think they are too pricey, the Pixel Buds A-Series should be on your radar. They have the core features you need at a price you'll love.
A hand holds a smartphone showing the Pixel Buds app.
Using the Pixel Buds app is the only way to adjust EQ modes and toggle the Adaptive Sound setting.

One selling point of the Pixel Buds A-Series is its Adaptive Sound feature in the Pixel Buds app (Android only) and this compensates for auditory masking (when an external sound makes it hard to hear your music). While many listeners enjoy this feature, be aware that it may not be for everyone since it can ruin the dynamics of a song. By default, Google’s earbuds under-emphasize sub-bass and bass notes significantly which isn’t great but could be good if you listen to a lot of spoken word content. The Bass Boost preset brings bass up to a more pleasing loudness level on par with other consumer earphones.

Like the AirPods (3rd generation), the Pixel Buds A-Series has an IPX4 rating and supports fast charging. Just 15 minutes in the case yields 180 minutes of playtime, and you get 4 hours, 44 minutes of battery on a single charge. The case charges via USB-C and doesn’t support wireless charging.

The Pixel Buds A-Series has a pretty good microphone. Your voice will sound clear through it, and it handles external noise well. Listen for yourself:

Google Pixel Buds A-Series microphone demo (Non-standardized):

Apple AirPods (3rd generation) vs Sony LinkBuds WF-L900: Which open-fit earbuds are the best?

The Sony LinkBuds earbuds lay on a wooden surface next to their open charging case.
Getting the right fit with the LinkBuds definitely takes a little fiddling, but it’s pretty secure when you nail it.

The Sony LinkBuds WF-L900 takes a unique approach to unsealed earbuds with its donut-shaped ear pieces that rest on top of the ear canals. You get a much more secure and comfortable fit from the LinkBuds than you do from the AirPods, though the bass is a lot quieter from the LinkBuds than AirPods. Like the Google Pixel Buds A-Series, the LinkBuds automatically adjusts the volume of your music based on your environment, which is cool in theory but distracting in practice.

Each of the Sony LinkBuds weighs just 4g, slightly less than the AirPods (3rd generation), and supports touch controls. You also get a unique feature called “Wide Area Tap” that lets you tap the space just in front of your ear (cheekbone) to control playback. This feels as strange to do as it is strange to watch, but we suppose some people may like it.

Environmental isolation is awful from the LinkBuds, but that’s the point. While the Sony WF-L900 serves a niche audience it does what it’s supposed to do well: keep you linked to your surroundings and your media simultaneously. If you want to hear what’s going on around you when you listen to music, the LinkBuds will be more comfortable than the AirPods.

Sony LinkBuds WF-L900Sony LinkBuds WF-L900
Sony LinkBuds WF-L900
Comfortable • Novel tap control method • Unique design
The most unique earbuds you'll ever wear
If you feel you absolutely need a pair of true wireless earbuds that lets you keep tabs on your surroundings to the utmost degree at all times, you should consider the Sony LinkBuds. If you don't feel as strongly about that, it's probably worth looking elsewhere.

Nothing Ear (stick) is AirPods for an alternate reality

The open case of the Nothing Ear stick with the included USB-C to USB-C cable rests atop a grey analog synth.
Jasper Lastoria / SoundGuys
The Nothing Ear (stick) case is a tube that twists to open.

For better and for worse, the Nothing Ear (stick) boasts some of the same features as the Apple AirPods, but for less dough. Like the Apple AirPods, the Nothing Ear (stick) sports an unsealed fit, lacking ear tips to dial in your fit. This leads to environmental noise reaching your ears, but that might be desirable for some users.

On the plus side, the buds weigh merely 4.4 grams each, and the IP54 rating is an improvement over the IPX4 on current AirPods. Where the Nothing Ear (stick) shines is in its mobile app which can offset the mediocre default frequency response, and you can reassign controls on the squeezable stems. In all, it’s not bad if it’s your sort of earbuds.

Nothing Ear StickNothing Ear Stick
Nothing Ear Stick
Open earbud design • Environmental awareness • Powerful drivers
True wireless earbuds designed to prevent the feeling of clogged ears
The Nothing Ear (Stick) is a pair of true wireless earbuds with an open-design that emphasizes environmental awareness and reduces the feeling of clogged ears. They are well equipped with 12.6mm drivers, USB-C charging, and 7 hours of battery life (29 hours with the case.)

Is the Beats Studio Buds better than the AirPods?

Beats Studio Buds on desk
The Studio Buds features an IPX4 rating.

The Beats Studio Buds has a lot of positives compared to the AirPods Pro, and it fares that much better against the unsealed AirPods. The Studio Buds stands 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, multiple listening modes, and is much more compatible with Android products than any Beats product before it.

Beats Studio BudsBeats Studio Buds
Beats Studio Buds
Decent sound quality • Multiple listening modes • Lightweight
A good fit, great sound, and active noise cancelation
Android smartphone owners can finally enjoy the Beats brand with Studio Buds. They have great sound, sweat resistance, and active noise cancelation in a small, comfortable design.

The best Apple AirPods alternatives: Notable mentions

Nothing Ear 1 earbud in ear.
The Nothing Ear 1 supports the SBC and AAC Bluetooth audio codecs.
  • Amazon Echo Buds (2nd gen): 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. Pick it up for $69.99 at Amazon.
  • Anker Soundcore Space A40: For $99.99 at Amazon 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 Fit Pro: Athletes who are drawn to the Beats Powerbeats Pro but want something a bit more compact will enjoy the Fit Pro ($159.95 at Walmart). Like the premium AirPods, the Fit Pro supports spatial audio and has an IPX4 rating. The best thing about the Fit Pro is that it works as well on Android as it does on iOS, save for spatial audio that is.
  • Jabra Elite 3: The Elite 3 includes IP55-rated earbuds and a compact USB-C case for $79.99 at Amazon. 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: Gain an IP55 rating with support for AAC, aptX, and SBC codecs to cover all devices. There’s some noise cancellation, albeit it’s not the best, but it’s okay for the price ($119.99 at Amazon) and feature set.
  • JBL Reflect Flow Pro: 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 ear buds. Onboard noise canceling is mediocre, however. It also supports AAC and SBC Bluetooth codecs. You can nab a set for $119.99 at Amazon.
  • Microsoft Surface Earbuds: This open-fit pair of earbuds doesn’t seal to the ear but reproduces sound more accurately than the Apple AirPods (for $129.99 at Amazon). 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 for $59.99 at Amazon.
  • Nothing Ear 2: This set of true wireless earbuds boasts active noise canceling 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 for $149 at Nothing.
  • Sony WF-C500: This is a great pair of earphones if you just want the buds to work reliably. Sound quality is quite good and the earbuds have an IPX4 rating. The price is nice as well ($58 at Amazon).

Hold up! Something’s different:

Some of our picks’ or notable mentions’ frequency response and isolation charts were measured with our old testing system. We have since purchased a Bruel & Kjaer 5128 test fixture (and the appropriate support equipment) to update our testing and data collection. It will take a while to update our backlog of old test results, but we will update this review (and many others!) once we’re able with improved sound quality measurements and ANC performance plots. These will be made obvious with our new chart aesthetic (black background instead of white).

Thank you for bearing with us, and we hope to see you again once we’ve sorted everything out.

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 meaning a better fit in your outer ear—and a worse fit at the ear canal opening.

The Apple AirPods (3rd generation) marries some of the best features from the AirPods Pro like Dolby Atmos-powered spatial audio, onboard force sensor stem controls, and an IPX4 build. With the new AirPods, you also get 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 that 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?

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 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 canceling performance we’ve ever seen, and they also 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?

A frequency response chart for the JBL Club Pro +, which shows very accurate audio across the frequency spectrum.
The JBL Club Pro Plus frequency response (cyan) is pretty close to the ideal (pink) for consumer-oriented headphones.

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 bought 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 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.

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 don’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

Jabra Elite 7 Pro in case in hand
The Jabra Elite 7 Pro builds on the Jabra Elite 85t.

We work relentlessly to better understand the world of audio. Individually, each of us has multiple years tracking the audio industry, affording us as a team 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

The link for the new Google Pixel Buds (2020) goes to Google’s shopping results for the buds. It’s possible you are being blocked from visiting the site because SoundGuys purchase links are affiliate links and we make our money through referral programs.

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.