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Best alternatives to Beats
So you don’t want Beats to pump out your beats, while you may be concerned about what the competition has to offer there are plenty of trendy, bass-heavy headphones that aren’t Beats. Who knows, you may end up preferring them over the Dr.’s auditory prescription. If you’re looking for some of the best alternatives to Beats then you’ve come to the right place.
Editor’s note: this list of the Best Beats alternatives was updated on August 23, 2022, to add the Sony WH-XB910N, Sony WH-1000XM5, and JLab Epic Air Sport ANC to the Best list, to add the Jabra Elite 7 Pro as a highlight pick, to add the House of Marley Positive Vibration XL ANC, Jaybird Vista 2, Sony WF-1000XM4, and Sony WH-1000XM4 to Notable mentions, and update formatting.
Why is the Sony WH-1000XM5 the best Beats Studio3 Wireless alternative?
The Sony WH-1000XM5 caters to commuters and all-purpose users alike. While it lacks the “Studio” moniker that the Beats competitor has, it boasts many of the same features and outperforms the Studio3 Wireless handily as it applies to active noise cancelling (ANC) capabilities (and equalizing your music).
Both models are over-ear headphones that sell at a premium. The WH-1000XM5 has Bluetooth multipoint, and Bluetooth codecs including LDAC, which provides the best streaming quality at 990kbps. It doesn’t have as much of a bass boost as Beats, so if you’re looking for that bass sound, it may be best to go with the next pick below. However, the noise cancelling on the WH-1000XM5 is some of the very best on the market.
If the main feature drawing you to the Beats Studio3 Wireless is noise cancellation performance, then the Sony cans should be your pick. Deciding what’s physically comfortable is more subjective, but we’re confident you’ll be happier with the Sony WH-1000XM5 than with the Beats headphones.
Absolutely, the microphone system is one of the most advanced that we’ve ever tested. In ideal conditions, the XM5 microphones sound pretty standard, but the system really shines in noisy environments. Your conversation partner will hardly hear any street traffic or keyboard clacks, making it a great headset for work too.
Sony WH-1000XM5 mic demo (Ideal conditions):
Sony WH-1000XM5 mic demo (Office conditions):
Sony WH-1000XM5 mic demo (Street conditions):
Sony WH-1000XM5 mic demo (Windy conditions):
How does the microphone sound to you?
If you’re interested in the Beats Solo3 Wireless, save money with the Sony WH-XB910N instead
While the Beats Solo3 Wireless is one of the company’s most accessible products, it lacks one major feature touted by the Sony WH-XB910N: active noise cancelling. While the ANC found on these mid-tier Sony cans isn’t going to beat the Sony WH-1000XM5 abilities, it’s surprisingly better than you might think for not being a flagship headset—as is the app support and touch controls.
But it’s not just about having a feature to say that the feature is there; no, the Sony WH-XB910N attenuation is effective enough to prevent you from maxing out the volume. Not only does the lessening of outside noise improve audio quality, but it also steers you away from damaging your hearing.
This headset runs as low as $180 USD, less than Beats Solo3 Wireless brand new. The fit and finish are very nice, as is easy integration with your device. Battery life in our tests was 37 hours, 9 minutes of constant playback, and if it dies, you can use the 3.5mm jack.
As far as Bluetooth codecs go, you get LDAC (great for Android), AAC (perfect for iPhone), and SBC. Best of all, if you’re looking for a Beats alternative, the “XB” in any Sony product means eXtra Bass. If you’re not a bass head, pass on this headset, but if you live for the low end, like many Beats fans, the WH-XB910N is a great pick.
The microphone here works well enough, but it under-emphasizes high frequencies, which can make voices sound “dull.” You’ll notice that it also fails to cancel background noise, so the person on the other end of the call will hear unidentifiable sounds.
Sony WH-XB910N microphone demo (Ideal conditions):
Sony WH-XB910N microphone demo (Street conditions):
Sony WH-XB910N microphone demo (Windy conditions):
How does the microphone sound to you?
The V-MODA Crossfade 2 Wireless Codex Edition is a versatile alternative to the Beats Pro
One glance at the Beats Pro and it’s apparent that it’s the most durable pair of Beats headphones, but the V-MODA Crossfade Wireless Codex Edition is MIL-STD 810G certified, meaning it’s officially tough as nails.
The V-MODA Crossfade 2 Wireless Codex Edition isn’t just tough, though; it sounds good too. If you opt to listen sans wires (or maybe your phone manufacturer left you without a choice) then you still benefit from AAC and aptX codec support.
Additionally, when you buy a pair of V-MODA headphones, you’re not just buying a single one-and-done product. No, the company also has an albeit pricey lineup backed by its Immortal Life Program.
The JBL Reflect Flow Pro stays in your ears when you’re on the run
Cut the wires on your workout with the JBL Reflect Flow Pro, which is a good alternative to the Beats Fit Pro. Whereas the Beats Fit Pro has major ANC bugs that (as of August 22, 2022) have not been sorted out for Android, the Reflect Flow Pro ANC is OS agnostic. The ANC performance may not be groundbreaking, but it’s still better than nothing.
Equipped with an IP68 rating, it’s dustproof and water-resistant. Even if you sweat like a tsunami while jogging through a dust storm, the Reflect Flow Pro won’t let you down. In addition to stabilizing wings to keep the buds in your ear, the companion app has a “Check my best fit” feature keen to optimize your fit. You don’t have to use it for workouts, but it’s nice to have a switch hitter set of buds.
If the default JBL sound doesn’t suit your taste, you can play around with the EQ in-app. As is, it’s pretty consumer friendly with a lot of bass on tap already to keep your workouts motivated. Battery life reaches 9 hours, 8 minutes according to our tests with another 20 hours using the case, which is very good for wireless earbuds. At $50 USD less than the Fit Pro, it’s an easy choice to make.
While this headset has a lot going for it, the microphone quality leaves much to be desired. Background noise will make it through the call to the person on the other end, but it’s serviceable.
JBL Reflect Flow Pro microphone demo (Ideal conditions):
JBL Reflect Flow Pro microphone demo (Windy conditions):
How does the microphone sound to you?
The JLab Epic Air Sport ANC is a solid Beats Powerbeats Pro alternative
Though it’s a few years old, the Beats Powerbeats Pro continues to be a popular pair of true wireless earbuds for athletes. Still, if you aren’t interested in the Powerbeats Pro, then the JLab Epic Air Sport ANC is a great option. Like Powerbeats Pro it features a secure ear hook design. An IP66 ensures water and dust resistance, and improves upon the Beats’ IPX4 rating.
Realistically, the ANC does not outdo the best earbuds, but it still helps focus your attention. Even without turning on ANC, the passive isolation blocks out unpredictable, incidental sounds. The battery life is very impressive at 15 hours and 31 minutes. Topping it off, it sounds good by default, but you can EQ it to your liking.
The JLab Epic Air Sport ANC only supports AAC and SBC, so Android phone owners don’t have a reliable high-quality option here, while iPhone owners can expect good quality. At this point, it’s worth pointing out you can easily find these buds for under $100 USD. This is a great, more affordable alternative to Beats’ running earbuds.
The microphone is perfectly fine for phone calls from a quiet space, but it does very little to reject background noise. Take a listen to our samples below and let us know your thoughts.
JLab Epic Air Sport ANC microphone demo (Ideal conditions):
JLab Epic Air Sport ANC microphone demo (Street conditions):
JLab Epic Air Sport ANC microphone demo (Windy conditions):
How does the microphone sound to you?
The Jabra Elite 7 Pro works for meetings and the gym
It’s not cheap, but neither are Beats. The Jabra Elite 7 Pro is a rare example of a set of earbuds that does basically everything well and thoughtfully. Its IP57 rating means it’s durable and the fit works for athletes and commuters. Jabra has applied the lessons of its industry expertise in headset mics, and the Elite 7 Pro has good mics for wireless earbuds. For the person who does a lot of calls and meetings, the mics are better than average buds.
The Elite 7 Pro sports an excellent battery life of 8 hours, 48 minutes with ANC on per single charge. Plus, you get wireless charging and 5 minutes of quick charge yields 6o minutes of playback. By default, the Elite 7 Pro sounds good, and Jabra includes a solid app with features like custom EQs. The only downsides are the ANC is not industry redefining, and it uses only AAC or SBC codecs. It’ll hush noise, but it doesn’t outdo the likes of Sony and Bose. If you have an iPhone the codecs are not a con anyway.
The best Beats alternatives: Notable mentions
- Anker Soundcore Q35: This pair of headphones costs about $129 USD but it features LDAC, decent ANC, and a bassy sound. It’s a real steal compared to the Solo3 or Studio3 Wireless models. It also has a certain resemblance to Beats.
- Apple AirPods Max: Apple’s first-ever pair of over-ear headphones is designed for people heavily invested in the company’s ecosystem. It features some of the best noise cancellation we’ve tested, including great sound quality, spatial audio, automatic device switching, and a unique yet durable design.
- Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2: This comfortable headset has a staggering 64 hours and 51 minutes of battery life, plus it works wired. The LDAC codec and optional EQ in the companion app mean you can suss out how you want it to sound.
- Audio-Technica ATH-SR30BT: For around $100 USD, you get a pair of over-ear headphones complete with aptX support, good sound quality, and a 70-hour battery life that will last you several round-trip flights—all without needing to recharge.
- Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700: The Bose NCH 700 is another great option for anyone looking for a sleek design, great battery life, and solid active noise canceling. If you’re not a fan of the Sony headphones on this list, definitely check this out.
- Bose QuietComfort 35 II: Just because there’s a new Bose product on the block doesn’t make the previous beasts of ANC any less appealing. This is still more comfortable and offers many of the same great features as the newer Bose QuietComfort 45. You can even see how the Bose QC 35 II compares to the QC 45.
- House of Marley Positive Vibration XL ANC: If you like Beats, you probably like bass, and this one has a lot on tap. It’s a no-fuss headset that lack apps and only uses AAC and SBC, but the noise cancelling is decent for the price point. The eco-conscious aspect is a bonus.
- Jabra Elite 45h: These on-ear headphones are a great alternative to the Beats, complete with AAC compatibility, great battery life, portable design, good microphone quality, and support for Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.
- Jabra Elite 85h: This is a great over-ear alternative to the Beats Solo3 Wireless. It features good sound quality and active noise cancelling, all at a lower price point than Beats’ offering.
- Monoprice BT-600ANC: For under three figures you get aptX HD codec and some of the best ANC at any price.
- Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless: Packed with an epic 56 hours, 21 minutes of battery life, a comfortable fit, and a pleasing frequency response, this option could be what you’re looking for.
- Sennheiser PXC 550-II: These active noise cancelling headphones are extremely high-value for their price. Not only is the ANC great, it also reproduces accurate audio, has Bluetooth multipoint, and boasts a comfortable design.
- Shure AONIC 50: Listeners who want solid noise cancelling with a premium build and all the connectivity options you could hope for should save up for the AONIC 50. This headset attenuates low-frequency noise rather well and is extremely comfortable to wear with glasses.
- Sony WH-1000XM4: Just because the WH-1000XM5 is the newest, doesn’t mean this headset doesn’t compete. It offers many of the same features for less money. Its ANC is not quite as good and the housing design differs, but the price is kinder. Check out our comparison.
- Under Armour Project Rock Over-Ear Training Headphones by JBL: Those looking at Beats are already looking at premium price headphones, so why not grab a workout companion with some flexibility like in-app EQ and premium features like washable ear cushions?
Below, you’ll find some of our favorite wireless earbuds that serve as great alternatives to Beats’ offerings. From Apple, to Sennheiser, and beyond, you’re bound to find something portable and effective here.
- Apple AirPods Pro: The AirPods Pro is a great alternative to Beats because it has the H1 chip, so you get the same seamless user experience with the AirPods Pro as you would with a modern set of Beats earbuds or headphones. Additionally, the AirPods Pro has ANC, spatial audio with head tracking, battery optimization, and more. If you don’t have an iPhone, there are many great AirPods Pro alternatives to choose from.
- Bose Sport Earbuds: This pair of wireless workout buds is a great option for listeners who like the idea of the Beats Fit Pro but don’t want to deal with finicky ANC or Apple-controlled updates. The default sound is great, and the touch controls work perfectly on the Sport Earbuds.
- Campfire Audio Honeydew: If you are looking for a bass-focused set of wired earbuds, look no further than the Honeydew with its comfortable “universal” fit and quality build. It doesn’t have an IP rating, so you probably don’t want to go for a run with it.
- Jabra Elite 85t: These earbuds are the older iteration Jabra has to offer, featuring surprisingly good active noise cancellation. It also offers AAC support, USB-C and wireless charging, and ergonomic ear tip options to ensure a proper fit.
- Jaybird Vista 2: With a suite of durability certifications and an athlete-focused design, you get some noise cancelling, stabilizers for your fit, and a decent sound.
- Sennheiser CX Plus True Wireless: These buds offer great sound with some oomph, good ANC, and aptX and AAC support—all for less than $150 USD. It’s a solid alternative to the Beats Studio Buds.
- Sennheiser MOMENTUM True Wireless 3: This set of wireless earbuds costs quite a lot ($249 USD), but you get plenty of premium features like a slew of Bluetooth codecs to choose from, great ANC, a water-resistant build, and more.
- Sony WF-1000XM4: If you’re looking at Beats because you think paying more equals better, you might as well pay and actually get the best. This set of earbuds is one of the best all-around premium options with excellent ANC, surround sound, and solid app support.
What should you look for when buying Bluetooth headphones?
Before spending your money on something as expensive as a pair of Bluetooth headphones, let alone Beats headphones, it’s good to know some alternatives. After all, that’s why you’re here right? But before you spend money on anything at all, there are some things you should know that could potentially help you with your purchase decision. We’ll keep it simple for the purposes of this article, but there are links to all of the deep dives down below if you feel like becoming an expert on anything.
Sometimes it’s worth it to invest in the real deal. However, just because a product is off-brand (i.e., not Beats) doesn’t make it inherently poor quality. More often than not, a direct competitor to a Beats model will be cheaper than the household name. The price disparity isn’t indicative of a lack of quality, rather it likely just reflects a smaller profit margin for the company, which means more money for you to put toward streaming.
If you really utilize that H1 chip for device switching, you’ll only find it in Beats or Apple headphones. In terms of pairing, these days most wireless earbuds and headphones have remedied older Bluetooth connection and pairing problems. The H1 chip is less noticeable than you might think.
What is frequency response?
Beats headphones are loathed and loved for their bass-heavy frequency responses, but the company doesn’t have a patent on low-end exaggeration. Thus, finding a product that emulates that sought-after sound isn’t an arduous journey. Many of these headphones and earbuds also reproduce emphasized low notes. While this usually means you’re enjoying a more consumer-friendly sound, tinkerers (those who often EQ their music) may want to look into studio headphones. Headsets with “neutral” frequency responses are easier to EQ because they’re less prone to distortion.
What is a Bluetooth codec?
If you’re unfamiliar with the technology, a Bluetooth codec determines how data is transmitted from a source (phone) to a receiver (headphones). Ideally, there wouldn’t have to be any sacrifices made in quality for the sake of efficiency. However, we don’t live in a perfect world and different codecs provide different transfer rates and qualities.
Since Beats by Dre is now part of the Apple conglomerate and has been since 2014, the company’s wireless headphones and earbuds integrate the W1 chip or H1 chip and support the AAC Bluetooth codec. iPhone users should get headphones that support AAC, and Android users should look out for aptX or aptX HD support, or LDAC. That said, if you’re looking to get the absolute best audio quality, wired listening is still running laps around wireless.
How do noise cancelling headphones work?
Active noise cancelling capable headphones use destructive interference to combat external sounds. Any ANC headset has microphones dedicated to recording your surroundings so it can produce anti-noise through phase inversion. To simplify it, the microphones record the sound waves from your environment and then create an identical wave. After the ANC system creates the identical wave, it then delays this twin wave by half a wavelength. When done correctly, this destructive interference significantly quiets background noise.
More advanced systems like Sony and Bose’s flagship headsets tend to work much better than sub-$100 USD noise cancelling headsets. That said, there are quite a few diamonds in the rough regarding a $100 USD budget, and advances are trickling down into wallet-friendly options.
How does SoundGuys choose the best Beats alternatives?
We have our own internal testing methodology, but the long and the short of it is that we run three basic tests: battery life, frequency response, and isolation to get a broad-stroke, objective understanding of how each pair of headphones or earbuds operates. From there, we use the headphones in our daily routine, taking note of a product’s follies and triumphs.
Ultimately, we respect that audio is subjective to a point—and believe it helps us, and you the reader, to know a product’s objective performance as well.
Why you should trust SoundGuys
We’re dedicated to this site and individually have accrued multiples years of experience when it comes to keeping track of the evolving audio industry. In being so involved, we’re able to quickly pick out the good from the to-be-improved products.
Our main goal is to ensure that you enjoy your purchase, whether you’re looking for workout earbuds, soundbars, or noise cancelling headphones. We just want you to be happy, and none of our writers may benefit from lauding one product over another. If you so choose, we recommend that you read our full ethics policy.
Frequently asked questions about Best alternatives to Beats
It depends on the make and model of your Bluetooth headphones. For instance, nearly all wireless Jabra products’ firmware can be updated through the mobile Jabra app, the same can be said for the likes of the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus, Jaybird earphones, and more. Most headphone manufacturers make it fairly easy to update Bluetooth headphones’ firmware and software. Sometimes you have to do so via desktop app as seen with the Beyerdynamic Lagoon ANC. If you’re using Beats or Apple products, you typically can’t force an update.