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Best Apple AirPods Pro alternatives

Time to consider some other wireless earbuds for your iPhone.
September 21, 2023
Best all-around
Sony WF-1000XM5
Check price
Excellent noise canceling
360 Reality Audio
Bluetooth 5.3; SBC, AAC, and LDAC
Foam ear tips
Customization via app
Out-of-the-box sound is a bit bassy
The Bottom Line.
The Sony WF-1000XM5 makes it easy to justify the high cost of ANC true wireless earbuds. If you want the best, this needs to be at the top of your list.Read full review...
Best workout
Beats Powerbeats Pro
Beats Powerbeats Pro product image on white background.
Check price
IPX4 rating
H1 chip and reliable connection
Secure fit
Good sound
Great battery
Isolation isn't great
Relatively large case
The Bottom Line.
The Beats Powerbeats Pro have great battery life and a great fit.Read full review...
Best features
Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro
On a white background is the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro in Bora Purple with the buds sitting outside the case.
Check price
Bluetooth 5.2
Build quality and design
Wireless/USB-C charging
IPX7 rating
Noise canceling
AAC and Samsung Seamless Codec only, no aptX
Battery life is okay
The Bottom Line.
These feature a host of high-tech features for much less than the competition.Read full review...
Most comfortable
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II
Image of Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II on a white background
Check price
Excellent noise canceling
Comfortable, secure fit
IPX4 rating
Good app
Fins can interrupt charging
Lots of bass
SBC and AAC only
The Bottom Line.
The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II is a pretty uneven product, but if you're looking for great ANC and a secure fit, it offers them in spades.Read full review...
Best value
Nothing Ear 2
Check price
Bluetooth 5.3; AAC and LHDC
IP54 rating
Fast and wireless charging
Good ANC
Lightweight and comfortable
Fair price
EQ works, but is stratified across the app
Controls can be fussy
The Bottom Line.
This set of stemmed earbuds has plenty of features for less than half the price of the AirPods Pro.Read full review...

True wireless earbuds have matured over the past few years, and with the release of the Apple AirPods Pro (1st generation) and, more recently, the AirPods Pro (2nd generation), companies are thinking of creative ways to outdo Apple. Today we’ve put together a list of the best Apple AirPods Pro alternatives, and our picks include those with noise canceling, H1 chip integration, and more. Let’s dive in and see what truly wireless earbuds are the best choice for you.

What's new?

  • This list of the best AirPods Pro alternatives was updated on September 21, 2023, to add the Sony WF-1000XM5 to our Top Picks and the Sony WF-1000XM4 to our Notable Mentions and to update formatting.
  • Apple has recently refreshed the AirPods Pro (2nd generation) with USB-C and new software features, which make factor into your decision-making.

For our top five picks, you can find the isolation and frequency response charts at the end of each image gallery. You can learn more about how to read our charts and how we test audio products.

Why is the Sony WF-1000XM5 the best set of AirPods Pro alternatives?

Your search for the best noise canceling true wireless earbuds ends with the Sony WF-1000XM5 as long as you can afford it. If you spend a lot of your workweek traveling by plane or are just plain sick of the eardrum-numbing rattle of your public transit system, Sony’s buds are about to be your new best friend. The earbuds effectively quiet low frequencies from 50Hz and higher and will sound roughly one-quarter to one-sixteenth as loud as they would be compared to wearing nothing in your ears. This is very good for such a small device, and really, only the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds and Sennheiser MOMENTUM True Wireless 3 can rival Sony here.

Sony WF-1000XM5
Sony WF-1000XM5
A chart depicts the Sony WF-1000XM5 frequency response which has a bit more bass than the SoundGuys Headphone Preference Curve recommends.The Sony WF-1000XM5 charging case open with the earbuds inside beside a green iPhone 13 Pro and the ear tip selection and USB charging cableHands hold the Sony WF-1000XM5 and an iPhone displaying the Adaptive Sound Control Settings in the Headphone Connect app.A person wears the Sony WF-1000XM5 earbuds.A hand holds the Sony WF-1000XM5 case with the buds in place.
Sony WF-1000XM5

The Sony WF-1000XM5 earbuds have an IPX4 rating and come with four pairs of polyurethane foam ear tips, so this can be a great set of workout earbuds too. It is also one of the few headsets to use Bluetooth 5.3, which gives you access to LE Audio and Sony’s higher-quality LDAC Codec. Other features include smart assistant integration, speak-to-chat, transparency mode, and 360 Reality Audio (which is similar to Apple’s spatial audio). If you’re displeased with the default frequency response, you can create a custom EQ through the Sony Headphones Connect app (iOS/Android). You can also remap the touch controls in the app.

Sony WF-1000XM5Sony WF-1000XM5
Sony WF-1000XM5
Great ANC • Improved sound quality • Comfortable fit with four ear tip options
MSRP: $299.99
The Sony WF-1000XM5 have even better noise canceling than the WF-1000XM4. Sony made these its most comfortable earbuds by shrinking them and including XS-L memory foam ear tips. The WF-1000XM5 support advanced features like multipoint connectivity and spatial audio with head tracking. You also get plenty of customization options through the free mobile app.

Sony’s embedded mic systems are quite good, and the same goes for the WF-1000XM5. When there’s background noise, such as wind or the office sounds in the second sample below, the microphones really struggle to transmit voices clearly.

Take a listen to our standardized mic samples and vote in our mic poll below.

Sony WF-1000XM5 microphone demo (Ideal conditions):

Sony WF-1000XM5 microphone demo (Reverberant Space):

Sony WF-1000XM5 microphone demo (Office conditions):

Sony WF-1000XM5 microphone demo (Street conditions):

Sony WF-1000XM5 microphone demo (Windy conditions):

How does the microphone sound to you?

470 votes

The Beats Powerbeats Pro is perfect for athletes

The Beats Powerbeats Pro is great for any workout because of its ear hooks and IPX4 rating. You can sweat and jump around all you want with these earbuds, and they’ll stay in place just as they should. The Powerbeats Pro has excellent battery life that nears 11 hours on a single charge, with a total of at least 24 hours of playback from the Lightning case. You don’t get wireless charging here; for that, you’ll need the Beats Fit Pro.

Beats Powerbeats Pro
Beats Powerbeats Pro
The Beats Powerbeats Pro logo.A photo of the Beats Powerbeats Pro in hand.The Beats Powerbeats Pro charging case on top of a purple book.Close-up of the Apple Airpods and the Powerbeats Pro on a synth.Chart of Beats Powerbeats Pro frequency response compared to our ideal curve.An isolation chart for the Beats Powerbeats Pro true wireless earbuds, which show pretty average isolation.
Beats Powerbeats Pro
Beats Powerbeats Pro
Buy now
See review
See review

Like other Apple products, yes, Apple owns Beats; the Powerbeats Pro uses the H1 chip for hands-free Siri access, Audio sharing, Find My functionality and more. You get automatic play/pause when you use it with an iPhone, and any user can enjoy the bassy frequency response. This is perfect for exercise since bass is typically what we keep our ears out for during cardio or even calisthenics.

This microphone is good, but people on the other end of a call will know that you’re speaking through a headset mic.

Beats Powerbeats Pro microphone demo (Ideal):

Beats Powerbeats Pro microphone demo (Wind):

Beats Powerbeats Pro microphone demo (Office):

How do these sound to you?

5387 votes
Apple Beats Powerbeats ProApple Beats Powerbeats Pro
Apple Beats Powerbeats Pro
Long-lasting battery • Advanced connectivity • Excellent sound
MSRP: $249.00
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 Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro is one of the best pairs of earbuds for Android phones

The Galaxy Buds 2 Pro features excellent noise canceling and has a host of EQ presets for you to choose from. If you have an Android phone, or even more specifically, a Samsung Galaxy phone, the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro is a steal. These buds boast an impressive IPX7 rating, very good sound and microphone quality, and a great collection of software features.

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.A macro close up of the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro shows the inner and outer housing, including the ear tips and vent, while resting on a colorful blanket.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 man wears the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro while facing left, and he's about to tap the touch pad with trees and concrete in the background.The closed back case of the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro rests on a colorful tropical themed blanket.The normal EQ frequency response of the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro as compared to the target curve, which it follows closely.A chart depicts the very impressive ANC and isolation performance of the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro.
Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro
Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro
Buy now
See review
See review

The Galaxy Buds 2 Pro case supports wireless charging and includes a USB-C cable for analog top-ups. The earbuds last nearly 5 hours on a single charge. The earbuds fit perfectly in the case, and while they don’t have additional reinforcements to stay in your ear, like fins or wings, you can still get a great fit with the ear tips provided.

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 ProSamsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro
Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro
Comfortable fit • Enhanced noise-cancelling technology • Satisfying battery life
MSRP: $229.99
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 quality is quite good, but it can make it sound a little like you have a lisp at times. Take a listen for yourself:

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro microphone demo (Ideal):

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro microphone demo (Street):

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro microphone demo (Wind):

How does the microphone sound to you?

6458 votes

Is the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II comfortable? Yes, yes it is

It took years for Bose to update its QuietComfort Earbuds, but in 2022 it finally happened. The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II makes some serious updates to the overall design, with a couple of missteps, but an overall improvement in areas that really matter. Gone is the brick-shaped design of the first-gen model—these earbuds sport wraparound rubberized fins on the housing to keep the earbuds in place and take some of the pressure off, achieving a perfectly locked seal to maintain a secure fit (it’s still important to get a good seal). The fins take a little fiddling with, and they can get in the way of the charging connections on the earbuds — it’s not a big deal, but something you’ve definitely got to watch out for consistently.

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II
Pair of Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II on a tableThe Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II lays on a wooden table with coffee in the corner.A hand holds the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II.The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II case is shut and sitting next to audio equipment.Out of the box, the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II havea very consumer-friendly sound, though its bass emphasis is quite strong.
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II
Buy now
See review
See review

The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II brings big improvements to ANC, achieving results more in line with current top-of-the-line options like the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) and the Sony WF-1000XM4. Seriously, this is among the best noise canceling you can buy. If you’re a frequent flyer or you have a morning bus commute, attenuation like this will feel particularly nice.

However, the audio output isn’t quite as stellar as the ANC. The QC Earbuds II features a default sound profile that seriously amps up the bass response, but the Bose Music app offers alternative EQ presets (and the option to make your own), which will help.

The earbuds also take a unique approach to keeping your sound consistent across listening sessions. Every time you put the earbuds in your ears, they will output a quick chirp sound to gauge the quality of the seal and automatically adjust your sound accordingly. This may sound annoying, but it’s actually pretty useful—even a tiny change in the way earbuds sit in your ear canal can have a big impact on how they sound.

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds IIBose QuietComfort Earbuds II
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II
Self-adjusting sound • Bluetooth 5.3 • Bose's best ANC to date
MSRP: $299.00
Bose put its best ANC technology in these earbuds
The QuietComfort Earbuds 2 feature Bose's best audio know-how. They personalize the sound quality and isolation to fit your ears each time you wear them. They also come with Bluetooth 5.3, USB-C charging, and can last 6 hours on a charge (24 with the case).

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II microphone demo (Ideal):

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II microphone demo (Office):

The Nothing Ear 2 is a high-value AirPods Pro alternative

Nothing is OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei’s latest project, and its debut release was the Nothing Ear 1. While those buds sound great, the newer iteration, the Nothing Ear 2, ups the noise canceling capabilities and adds a greater battery life. These stemmed earphones feature a mainly transparent design that matches the see-through plastic case. Like the AirPods Pro, the Ear 2 supports AAC streaming and includes an array of oblong ear tips. Unlike the AirPods Pro (2nd generation), the Ear 2 has an IP54 rating against dust and sweat and adds the LHDC Bluetooth codec for use with Android devices reaching up to 24-bit/96kHz audio.

Nothing Ear 2
Nothing Ear 2
Two hands hold the Nothing Ear (2) with a blue SoundGuys shirt in the background.A top down photo of the Nothing Ear (2) on an orange surface with Android figurines nearby.A hand holds the Nothing Ear (2) case from the side to show the USB-C port and single button.A hand removes the right Nothing Ear (2) from its case with an orange background.A man faces left and looks down while wearing the Nothing Ear (2) outdoors.A hand squeezes the pressure sensitive stem on the Nothing Ear (2).A chart comparing the frequency response of the Nothing Ear (2) with the SoundGuys house curve.A chart traces the ANC and isolation performance of the Nothing Ear (2).
Nothing Ear 2

The noise canceling isn’t the best we’ve seen, but the Ear 2 has updated the capabilities, and ANC ranks as rather decent, although not quite AirPods Pro (2nd generation) level. You can toggle between two noise canceling modes, though we recommend the maximum setting.

Nothing’s Ear 2 has a frequency response that closely follows our house curve, except for in the highs, where there’s likely too much treble for most. You can use the included EQ in the Nothing X app or the custom sound profile to adjust to taste. The Ear 2 utilizes pinch controls which are somewhat similar to AirPods Pro, and the battery reaches 6 hours and 7 minutes with ANC enabled. For the price, it’s a winner.

Nothing Ear 2Nothing Ear 2
Nothing Ear 2
Very comfortable earbuds • Squeeze controls • Bluetooth Multipoint
MSRP: $149.00
A very comfortable and powerful pair of true wireless buds
With a focus on refinement, the Nothing Ear 2 offer a similar, ergonomic design to the original Ear 1 wireless earbuds, now with improved connectivity, higher quality materials, better controls, and cleaner sound.

The mic system is all right, if not the clearest. The Nothing Ear 2 does a decent job of filtering out street noise but can struggle with wind and office clatter.

Nothing Ear (2) microphone demo (Ideal conditions):

Nothing Ear (2) microphone demo (Office conditions):

Nothing Ear (2) microphone demo (Street conditions):

Nothing Ear (2) microphone demo (Windy conditions):

How does the microphone sound to you?

1752 votes

Should you get the Beats Studio Buds Plus instead of the AirPods Pro?

The Beats Studio Buds Plus atop colored paper, with the ear tips, buds, case, and USB-C cable visible.
Though the contents are pretty standard, the four sizes of ear tips are a nice inclusion.

Riffing off of the success of the original Beats Studio Buds, the newer Beats Studio Buds Plus retains nearly the same form factor and a reasonable 5-gram per bud weight. These sound pretty decent and have a much-improved noise canceling system. Unlike other Beats, these lack an H1 or H2 chip and work just as well with Android as iOS.

Button controls are pretty much the most annoying thing about these earbuds. If you don’t mind those, the 8 hours and 22 minutes of battery life will surely impress pretty much everyone and surpasses the AirPods Pro (2nd generation) battery life.

Beats Studio Buds PlusBeats Studio Buds Plus
Beats Studio Buds Plus
Lightweight, compact, and translucent design • Android-friendly features through Beats app • Longer battery life than before
MSRP: $169.00
The Beats Studio Buds Plus are good earbuds for listeners who hop between Android and iOS. Beats' active noise canceling is a step up from the original Studio Buds. Small housings and a range of ear tip options make these a joy to wear for hours at a time.

Should you get the Apple AirPods 3 instead of the AirPods Pro?

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

The Apple AirPods (3rd generation) borrows many of its features and its design from the flagship AirPods Pro. With shortened stems, force sensor controls, and an IPX4 build, it may be hard to tell the AirPods (3rd generation) apart from the Pro model — that is, until you remove the earbuds from your ear. The third-gen AirPods feature the same open-type fit as previous AirPods. If you want a comfortable, reliable fit, then the AirPods Pro is the best option, no question. There are also plenty of AirPods alternatives worth checking out.

The AirPods (3rd generation) versus AirPods Pro (2nd generation) debate isn’t that simple, though: the unsealed fit of the newest AirPods keeps you safe and aware of your surroundings at all times. What’s more, Apple claims you get up to 6 hours of playtime on a single charge, which is better than the AirPods Pro. The biggest advantage that the AirPods (3rd generation) has over the Pro is the price.

Both AirPods include a MagSafe wireless charging case with an analog Lightning input, and both feature Dolby Atmos spatial audio with head tracking for immersive music and video playback from compatible services. Again, the biggest difference between these sets of earbuds is the fit and ANC capabilities, or lack thereof.

With the release of the AirPods Pro (2nd generation), there’s even more to discuss, given the vast improvement over the last generation of the AirPods Pro. To see how the AirPods Pro (2nd generation) compares to the AirPods (3rd generation), check out our comparison.

Apple AirPods (3rd Generation)Apple AirPods (3rd Generation)
Apple AirPods (3rd Generation)
H1 chip • Easy for iPhones • Deep Apple integration
MSRP: $195.00
These work with Android, but iPhone users will see the best results
The Apple AirPods (3rd gen) are just a slight upgrade over the second-generation models, but iPhone users will be quite happy with the deep integration and ease of use these earbuds provide.

The best AirPods Pro alternatives: Notable mentions

The Google Pixel Buds A-Series are sitting on a piece of driftwood at a beach.
Super lightweight, the Google Pixel Buds A-Series has a design that invites you to take it anywhere.
  • Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen): This set of smart true wireless earbuds integrates Amazon Alexa, which is great for any smart home enthusiast heavily invested in the Amazon ecosystem for merely $119 at Amazon. The noise canceling is good and even outperforms that of the original AirPods Pro.
  • Anker Soundcore Space A40: These are priced right ($79 at Amazon) and ship with AAC and LDAC Bluetooth codecs, good ANC, a decent default sound, and an in-app equalizer.
  • Beats Studio Buds: The first generation of Studio Buds sounds pretty good and has an IPX4 rating. Noise canceling isn’t super impressive, but the price has gone down ($99 at Amazon).
  • Google Pixel Buds A-Series: Get these earbuds to save a bit of cash but get many of the same benefits as the Google Pixel Buds (2020). For only $94 at Amazon, and offers full Android integration, an IPX4 rating, and several special features. If you want more features, including ANC, consider the Google Pixel Buds Pro ($199 at Amazon). These two are best suited to Android devices.
  • Jabra Elite 7 Pro: These earbuds are made to do anything, and they do just that. Unfortunately, the Elite 7 Pro go for $199 at Amazon, but you get solid features like wireless charging, a great mobile app, good mic quality, and IP57-rated earphones.
  • Nothing Ear 1: While Ear 2 updates the original Ear 1 with better ANC, the originals sell for only $99 at Amazon and sound rather good. If ANC isn’t a big concern, save a few bucks.
  • Samsung Galaxy Buds 2: These are cheaper than the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro ($99 at Amazon) and boast many of the same features like ANC, Bluetooth 5.2, and fast charging. You miss out on some features like 360 audio and a high water-resistant rating, though.
  • Sennheiser MOMENTUM True Wireless 3: These earbuds have an IPX4 rating and very good active noise canceling. Unusually, these wireless earbuds support aptX Adaptive, which makes them stand out for those who stream videos over patchy connections. Like other Sennheiser headphones, these earbuds sound very good and will bode well for any genre of music. They go for $169 at Amazon.
  • Sony LinkBuds S: These discreet-looking earbuds cost less than the lauded Sony WF-1000XM5, but are smaller, have the same IPX4 rating, sound good, and have spatial audio. Get them for $148 at Amazon.
  • Sony WF-1000XM4: These earbuds used to wear the crown for best ANC true wireless earbuds until Sony’s successor, the WF-1000XM5, came out. Still, these have many of the same features, such as Sony 360 audio and an IPX4 rating, and can be found for cheaper nowadays ($278 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 you should know before buying Apple AirPods Pro alternatives

Apple AirPods Pro leaning against Nothing Ear 1 on a table with a plant
If you don’t have the money to spend on AirPods Pro, the Nothing Ear 1 makes for a fine substitute.

Whether you have a large collection of headsets or are just diving into your first set of pricier earbuds, we know that shopping around can be overwhelming. There are many things to consider, like sound quality, durability, isolation, fit, features, and more. We recommend that newbies read up on our comprehensive headphone buying guide, but if you just want to skim for the most important stuff, read on below.

Do non-Apple earbuds sound different from AirPods?

All earbuds have a certain sound profile which is technically referred to as a “frequency response.” Most consumer headsets follow a similar frequency response with the AirPods Pro: boosted bass and treble relative to the mids. However, to what degree a pair of earbuds boosts or under-emphasizes these frequencies varies across the board.

A chart showing Apple AirPods Pro 2nd gen and Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro frequency response

As you can see in the chart above, the AirPods Pro (2nd Gen) generally follows the shape of our house curve, but has a quieter treble output than we recommend. This is different from the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro from Samsung, which has a frequency response that boosts bass and treble a bit more than the AirPods Pro (2nd Gen) does.

Ultimately, what sounds good is up to you: audio is a very subjective experience. If you like bass, more power to you. If you like treble, then there are plenty of headsets out there for you too. A great thing about wireless earbuds is that many companion apps come with intuitive custom equalizers where you can adjust the sound to your liking. No matter what headset you get, there’s often the option for tinkering.

What is a Bluetooth codec?

A picture of Apple Music UI on iPhone X which works with any Apple AirPods Pro alternatives.
iPhone users should get earbuds with AAC support.

Your smartphone’s operating software determines what Bluetooth codecs you need to look out for when shopping for Bluetooth headphones. A Bluetooth codec dictates how your phone transfers audio to your headphones.

iPhone users should get something with AAC support because it’s currently the only high-quality Bluetooth codec the company’s products support. Android users, on the other hand, should invest in total wireless earbuds with aptX support; unfortunately, AAC’s performance is all over the place on Android as it demands a huge amount of processing power to stream over. All of our favorite Apple AirPods Pro alternatives support either aptX or AAC, and in some cases, both codecs are compatible.

Should you get noise canceling earbuds?

A chart depicts the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds active noise canceling performance overlaid atop its passive isolation, and this is among the best ANC from true wireless earbuds.
This is among the best ANC from true wireless earbuds.

If you’re on the fence about buying a pair of noise canceling earbuds, we implore you to give them a shot, as they can protect you from noise-induced hearing loss. In fact, the earbuds work two-fold to protect your hearing while also improving the perceived clarity of your music. When you listen without noise canceling headphones, your music is subject to auditory masking: when a loud sound (e.g., external noise) makes it difficult to register a quieter one (e.g. music playback). There is one downside to ANC, though: shortened battery life. By turning off noise canceling, you can squeeze out an additional 20-40 minutes of playtime.

Although not all of our picks have active noise canceling, it’s important to remember that true wireless ANC doesn’t perform as well or as consistently as over-ear headphones. Generally speaking, noise cancelation is most effective at combating loud, droning, predictable sounds: microphones use destructive interference to nullify these sounds. Nearby chatter or clanging kitchen utensils may still break through the ANC barrier, but noises like computer fans and engines will be filtered out.

How long do true wireless earbuds last?

Due to the size limitations of true wireless earbuds, the battery cells can only supply so much power before hitting a wall. We’ve seen huge improvements in just a few years as a handful of candidates from the likes of Master & Dynamic and Beats are able to come near or exceed 10 hours of playtime on a single charge, and on the cheaper end, JLab. That, however, remains an exception. Most true wireless earbuds will grant you four or five hours of listening before needing to be topped up in the provided charging case.

To compensate for the short-lived battery life, many products support some version of quick charging. Most of the time, this feature affords one hour of listening after being in the case for just 10 minutes.

An aerial image of the Apple AirPods (first-gen), which suffice as Apple AirPods Pro alternatives.
Original AirPods owners have reported abhorrent battery life after two years of use.

This goes hand-in-hand with poor battery performance: because truly wireless earbuds are always charging when inactive, you’re depleting the life of the battery cells much faster than you would a pair of on-ear or over-ear headphones. You may notice after a year or so of regular use that your earbuds aren’t holding much of a charge, something that original AirPods users have reported en masse. However, the latest AirPods pro (2nd generation) comes with a battery optimization feature meant to combat that issue.

It’s a shame, but as long as you go into buying your earbuds with realistic expectations, you can still enjoy them for convenience. What’s more, many products include one or two-year warranties, and you may be able to reach out to customer support for a replacement or credit if your earbuds’ performance declines dramatically.

With the advent of iOS 14, though, we may see a change in true wireless battery software, as led by Apple. At WWDC 2020, the company announced that iOS 14 will include Optimized Battery Charging for its AirPods series. This means the AirPods and AirPods Pro will learn each user’s charging habits and hold off on completing a full charge cycle to 100%. Instead, the case won’t charge the buds beyond 80% capacity until needed. The hope: this smart charging will increase the life cycle of Apple AirPods, and other companies will eventually follow suit.

Why you should trust SoundGuys

A picture of the JLab JBuds Air Icon, which serve as cheap Apple AirPods Pro alternatives, worn by a woman looking to the left of the frame.
Every product that comes our way is subjected to rigorous objective testing methods.

We’ve been testing true wireless earbuds since the category’s inception and take pride in our ability to show our work and reasoning behind championing one product over another. We strive to make performance measurements accessible to our readers and have the know-how, dedication, and ethics to do so — we take integrity seriously.

Everything we recommend is because our objective measurements and subjective experiences have led us to feel strongly about a product. At the end of the day, we want you to be happy with your purchase or, at the very least, to close out of this tab knowing a bit more about the inner workings of audio.

Frequently asked questions about AirPods Pro alternatives

The AirPods Pro (3rd generation) will come to market; it’s just a matter of when. While there is no official confirmation, we expect them to be released in late 2024 or early 2025.

If you’re looking for something comfortable and with a good microphone, you should consider getting a pair of Bluetooth headphones for conference calls. But if you’re dead set on earbuds, the Powerbeats Pro is a good option. The buds’ microphone is more than decent, and they’re comfortable and stable thanks to their silicone ear tips and ear hooks.

The Razer Hammerhead True Wireless Pro is a collaborative project from Razer, THX, and Comply, and they have wonderful sound quality due to its THX certification. Though the stemmed design doesn’t provide a lot of stability, the collaboration with Comply means these earbuds came out with a very comfortable fit, and you can replace the Comply memory foam tips with included silicone tips for a bit more stability. With the Razer Hammerhead True Wireless app, you can EQ the sound signature as well as enable Gaming Mode, which enables low-latency streaming. The Hammerhead True Wireless Pro also has active noise canceling, and it works pretty well at canceling out low-frequency noises. The microphone quality isn’t the absolute best, but overall these are a decent pair of earbuds if you find that they’re worth $199.

The Beats Powerbeats Pro is available in black, blue, pink, ivory, blood orange, forest green, navy blue, and yellow. There’s also the Master & Dynamic MW08 which has sophisticated color options.

The H1 chip is a creation of Apple, and it is a processing chip designed to perform convenient functions, including easy Bluetooth connectivity and audio decompression. H1 chip integration just means that a set of wireless earbuds has this chip inside of it. H1 chip earbuds have longer battery life than older Apple W1 chip integrated earbuds, can sense if you are wearing one or both earbuds, use Bluetooth 5.0, and support voice-activated Siri commands. The H1 chip uses an AAC codec and is only compatible with iPhones, so Android users don’t need to pay attention to it.

We don’t recommend rolling the dice with off-brand or fake anything. The reasons for this are pretty straightforward: if (when) something goes wrong, you won’t have recourse, and you’ll also probably have a crappier product to boot. Additionally, putting anything in your ears is a lot of trust to place in a product, and a malfunctioning fake may not be the safest item to use.