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The best AirPods alternatives for under $100
Although the Powerbeats and AirPods may suggest you have to pay a premium to get true wireless earbuds, we’re here to tell you that’s not the case. Good, cheap true wireless headphones are more prevalent than ever. Today we’re going to separate the high-value products from the rest.
Buying the true wireless earbuds under $100 for your needs
Cheap true wireless earbuds won’t outperform their more expensive counterparts when it comes to sound quality. You can, however, get the most out of the earbuds when you find the proper ear tips. It’s a good practice to take a few minutes after opening your new buds. When you find ear tips that seal to your entire ear canal, background noise is effectively blocked out, making it easier to hear your music (instead of your surroundings).
High-quality Bluetooth codecs afford better audio quality and reduced latency. AAC performs consistently well on iOS devices but isn’t stable across Android devices. As a rule of thumb, listeners who want an optimal audio experience and use Android phones should lookout for a headset that supports aptX or LDAC.
Best cheap true wireless earbuds:
- The Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 is the best option for most people thanks to the earphones’ advanced microphone system and the included premium charging case.
- The 1More ColorBuds are a playful pair of earphones with aptX and AAC support.
- The Edifier TWS1 is as slim as it gets, and you’ll hardly notice the case in a bag or pocket.
- The JLab Go Air is a great option for athletes on a tight budget.
- The RHA TrueConnect is a premium pair of earbuds with a handsome design, and the price was slashed when RHA released the second generation of this headset.
Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2: The best for most
The Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 are the best budget true wireless earbuds for most people, particularly for anyone who fields a lot of hands-free calls. The microphone quality is good for the price and rivals that found in the much more expensive Google Pixel Buds (2020). The speaker’s voice clearly transmitted while background noise is rejected.
Durability is also important, and these earbuds were awarded with an IPX5 rating. In other words, they can endure any workout you throw at them — so long as they aren’t submerged. Other great features include wireless charging; while Anker Soundcore doesn’t include a Qi wireless charger, the USB-C case is Qi-compatible. Plus, quick charging is super efficient: just 10 minutes in the case yields two hours of playtime. Standalone battery life is quite good, too; you may enjoy just over seven hours of listening on a single charge.
Sound quality isn’t very accurate, but it is still good. Bass frequencies are emphasized, which creates a more engaging sound and aligns with what most of us are accustomed to from general consumer audio products. Of course, if you don’t fancy yourself a basshead, you can always equalize the sound in the free app, or choose from any number of the company’s presets.
Check out our full review to learn more about the Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2.
1More ColorBuds: The best Bluetooth codecs
These earbuds stand out from the crowd with their dual-codec support of AAC and aptX. Android and iPhone users alike reap the benefits of high-quality Bluetooth codec streaming, which yields lessened lag and greater data transfer. Athletes will appreciate the IPX5 water-resistant build. Despite the lack of wing tips, the earbuds stay in place during vigorous movement. Plus, the bass-heavy sound isn’t overpowering and appeals to a broad audience.
The 1More ColorBuds last 5 hours, 54 minutes on a single charge, and you get an additional 16 hours of on-the-go battery life from the USB-C case. You can also charge the case wirelessly. Microphone quality is fine for quick calls, but won’t impress anyone on the other end of the call.
The ColorBuds boast a consumer-friendly frequency response, with bass notes taking precedence. This kind of sound means that bass notes are louder than all other notes, which is fine for exercise and casual listening, but may lead you to believe some details are “missing” from your favorite tunes. This is just auditory masking, and is a common phenomenon among consumer headsets.
Check out our sister site SoundGuys‘ full review to learn more about the 1More ColorBuds.
Edifier TWS1: The best compact solution
Edifier wants in on the cheap AirPods alternatives game and throws its hat in the ring with the Edifier TWS1. These earbuds retail for just $49 and include premium features such as Qualcomm True Wireless Stereo Plus. This technology facilitates two separate connections, one to each earbud, for a more stable Bluetooth experience compared to standard totally wireless earbuds. The usual method designates one ‘bud as the primary receiver and the other as the secondary, resulting in annoying audio-visual lag and connection stutters.
These earbuds also support aptX for high-quality streaming on Android devices. This bodes well for the relatively tame frequency response, which amplifies bass notes just enough to make them louder than vocals but not enough to severely degrade clarity. Edifier has you covered on durability, too: these received an IPX5 rating, making them nearly impervious to water splashes, just don’t dunk them into the pool.
Check out our sister site SoundGuys‘ full review to learn more about the Edifier TWS1.
JLab Go Air: The best for athletes
The JLab Go Air is a simple product with two compact true wireless earphones and an open charging case. There are two things that make the Go Air unique: its price and the integrated USB cable on the case’s underside. For just $29, you get a pair of earbuds with an IP44 rating, Bluetooth 5.0, and a comprehensive set of onboard controls. You can stream over AAC or SBC, the latter of which is great for iPhone owners who want high-quality audio. Bassheads will appreciate the very bass-heavy frequency response, which makes bass notes sound three times louder than mids.
JLab angled the nozzles to create a comfortable fit for long listening sessions, though the standalone battery life clocks in at just above 4 hours. You can use the case to fast charge the earphones: 15 minutes in the case supplies 1 hour of playback.
Check out our full review to learn more about the JLab Go Air.
RHA TrueConnect: The best design
The RHA TrueConnect have large, angled nozzles that form a snug fit to the ear canal. These buds outperform nearly all of the competition when it comes to passively blocking out background noise, due to the excellent ear tip options. RHA went through the rigors of receiving an IPX5 rating for these Bluetooth 5.0 earphones.
Battery life is average for the technology; you get 4.38 hours of playtime on a single charge, and the case provides an additional 20 hours of playtime. Said case also supports fast charging the buds: dropping them in for 15 minutes hields two hours of listening. They support AAC and SBC Bluetooth streaming, which happens to be the same as the RHA TrueConnect 2. If you want something with premium build quality and excellent isolation, these buds are a fine pick.
Check out our full review to learn more about the RHA TrueConnect.
Cheap true wireless earbuds: Honorable mentions
- Jabra Elite Active 65t (Renewed): Listeners who want a durable set of earphones for a very reasonable price should turn their attention toward Jabra. These earbuds perform well even by 2020 standards, and can be had renewed for $79.
- JLab JBuds Air Icon: The ‘buds have been downsized from the first generation model and are now outfitted with touch-capacitive panels.
- OnePlus Buds Z: Anyone who owns a OnePlus smartphone should consider these affordable earbuds. For less than $50, you get an IP55-rated headset, with Dolby Atmos support, and efficient fast charging.
- Skullcandy Push: While these cost slightly more than $100, the 6-hour and 21-minute battery life is impeccable and worth checking out if you need your ‘buds to last the bulk of the day.
- 1More Stylish True Wireless: These earphones use Bluetooth 5.0 firmware and support both AAC and aptX high-quality codecs, which is rare at this price point.
Why true wireless earbuds are worth buying
True wireless earphones serve as a convenient way to listen to music, and a great alternative to anything in the limited USB-C audio market. The technology isn’t perfect, but it’s greatly improved since its inception: connection strength is rarely the unreliable mess it once was, and battery life along with general product longevity are on the up-and-up. Whether you need something cheap, something for commuting, or something for working out, there’s bound to be a set of true wireless earphones around for you.
What's most important for you in a true wireless earphone?
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