The AirPods 2 true wireless earbuds are turning heads, but there are plenty of alternatives too. Whether you need something for commuting, working out, or to match your outfit, we have a pick for you.
Editor’s note: this list was updated on September 16, 2019, to include the JLab JBuds Air Executive, Beats Powerbeats Pro, and Sony WH-1000XM3.
See: Full AirPods alternatives article at SoundGuys
Best AirPods alternatives
1. Samsung Galaxy Buds
If you own a Samsung Galaxy S10 smartphone, the Samsung Galaxy Buds are your best wireless audio option. They don’t support aptX but support AAC and the scalable Samsung codec, which works well with the Samsung Galaxy S10e. It efficiently negotiates bitrate and connection quality. Additionally, if you have a Samsung Galaxy S10 device, you may wirelessly charge the earbuds from anywhere.
These use Bluetooth 5.0 firmware to maintain a 10-meter connectivity range. The earbuds feature a dual-microphone array which works well but not as well as the AirPods microphone system. Unlike the AirPods, these do have an official IP rating of IPX2, meaning they can endure minimal water contact. Battery life is solid and provides ~6.5 hours of playback on a single charge; 15 minutes of quick charging affords 1.7 hours of listening. These are all-around great earbuds.
2. Sony WF-1000XM3
Effective noise-cancelling earbuds are hard to come by, but the Sony WF-1000XM3 take the cake. These are great for commuters and airline travelers as they greatly reduce low-end noise. It’s disappointing that the earbuds don’t support aptX or LDAC, but AAC high-quality codec support remains an option. What’s more, Sony integrated a new QN1e processor that facilitates 24-bit audio signal processing.
Not only do these sound great, but they’re also comfortable to wear for hours at a time. There are three contact points that evenly distribute weight and pressure along the ear. If you need to make any playback controls or have Google Assistant read income notifications aloud, just use a combination of the touch gestures against either ear panel. Battery life is fine, allowing for just under five hours of playback, outperforming the AirPods, but it can’t compare to our next pick: The Beats Powerbeats Pro.
3. Beats Powerbeats Pro
If you want true wireless earbuds with some of the best battery life true wireless earbuds have to offer, the Beats Powerbeats Pro should be your first pick. These earbuds allow for over 10 hours of constant playback and support quick charging. Plugging them in for just five minutes affords 1.5 hours of listening, while 15 minutes gives you 4.5 hours of listening. These are how true wireless earbuds should be made: the ear hooks provide a stable fit while the nozzles offer better isolation than the ever-popular AirPods.
These earbuds are durable, too; they have an IPX4 rating. You also get great features like H1 chip integration, which allows for hands-free access to Siri, and excellent connection strength due to Bluetooth 5.0 firmware. Sound quality favors the low-end, which is unsurprising for a pair of Beats, but the reproduction isn’t egregious by any means. If you’re an athlete or iPhone user who wants a properly fitting pair of earbuds, consider these.
4. Master & Dynamic MW07
These Bluetooth 4.2 earbuds offer a substantial 20-meter connectivity range and support the aptX high-quality Bluetooth codec. The acetate housings complement the stainless steel charging case, which both ooze a premium feel. They’re not just pretty though: these also have an IPX4 rating. While they may not be the most comfortable earbuds to exercise with, you can rest assured that doing so won’t damage them. If you prioritize appearances first and foremost and don’t mind a short battery life, Master & Dynamic is the company to keep tabs on.
5. JLab JBuds Air Executive
These sub-$70 earbuds are a fan favorite for listeners on a budget. They’re IP55 dust- and water-resistant. The angled nozzles prevent ear canal fatigue and JLab includes an assortment of ear tip options, so you can find the right fit. Touch controls are intuitive and comprehensive. You can control playback and take or reject calls, but you can also make volume adjustments or voice commands. In typical JLab fashion, the charging case houses an integrated USB cable. Anyone who wants an AirPods lookalike should consider these.
What you should know about the best AirPods alternatives
- Wireless audio doesn’t compare to the sound quality of wired options yet, but there are still certain codecs to keep an eye on depending on your operating system. iPhone users should use AAC-supporting earbuds and Android users should go for aptX.
- Isolation is absolutely key to accurate sound reproduction. If the ingress of external noise is allowed, it will mask certain frequencies and degrade audio quality.
- Generally speaking, connectivity isn’t as good with true wireless earbuds as it is with traditionally wireless earbuds, same goes for battery life.
Related: Don’t use AirPods with Android
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