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 May 18, 2020, to replace the Master & Dynamic MW07 with the Google Pixel Buds (2020).
Best AirPods alternatives:
- Google Pixel Buds (2020)
- Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus
- Sony WF-1000XM3
- Beats Powerbeats Pro
- JLab JBuds Air Executive
1. Google Pixel Buds (2020)
The Google Pixel Buds (2020) don’t mimic the AirPods shape, but Google and Apple do share similar philosophies: simple elegance and the user experience precede all else. Just as the AirPods, the Google Pixel Buds are insanely easy to use: upon the first opening of the charging case, the earbuds instantly enter pairing mode. A pop-up card appears on nearby Android devices (with Bluetooth enabled), requesting pairing access. Once you hit accept, you may get straight to enjoying the smart earbuds with all the neat features afforded to them.
Google Pixel Buds (2020) microphone demo:
Aside from direct voice access to Google Assistant, owners can use Google Translate right from the earbuds. While this does use the embedded microphone array and relays speech through the headset, you still need your phone and to download the Google Translate app. SoundGuys Editor Adam Molina felt it wasn’t more efficient than just drawing your phone out to perform the same thing.
Related: Apple AirPods vs. Google Pixel Buds
Battery life is above average, clocking in at just over six hours of listening on a single charge. When the little battery cells are drained, you can pop the earbuds into the sleek case for a mere 10 minutes for two hours of playtime. The case supports USB-C and wireless charging to boot, unlike the AirPods which require you to pay a premium for the latter. For a more comprehensive rundown of the Pixel Buds and their sound quality, check out the SoundGuys full review.
2. Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus
If you own a Samsung Galaxy S20 smartphone, the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus 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 or later, 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 triple-microphone array which works really well, and is a big improvement over the original Galaxy Buds. 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 11.73 hours of playback on a single charge; three minutes of quick charging affords one hour of listening. These are all-around great earbuds.
3. 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.
4. 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.
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
Why you should trust SoundGuys
SoundGuys is our sister site specializing in all things audio. Each of the writers has kept pace with the changing audio world and its standards for years. What’s more, SoundGuys respects that audio is both an objective and subjective experience and applies that philosophy to each of its reviews and tests, including the best headphones with Google Assistant integration.