Apple’s AirPods have become a cultural phenomenon, setting the standard for true wireless earbuds. However, while they’re popular and well-reviewed, they may not be the best fit for everyone. In the ever-evolving world of audio technology, several brands have risen to the challenge, presenting compelling AirPods alternatives that offer superior sound quality, enhanced features, and value for money. In this guide, we delve into the top AirPods alternatives that deserve your attention.
Understanding the AirPods Phenomenon
Apple’s AirPods have undeniably revolutionized the wireless audio landscape. Their sleek design, seamless integration with Apple’s ecosystem, and impressive features have made them a must-have accessory for many (you can even check our review of them here). However, only some people are Apple users, and others may crave a different auditory experience. As such, numerous brands have entered the fray, offering alternatives that rival and, in some cases, surpass the performance of AirPods. These alternatives provide competitive battery life, sound quality, and additional features, often at a more affordable price point.
The Best AirPods Alternatives in 2023
Bose Sport Earbuds: For the Active Listener
One of the foremost contenders in the race for the best AirPods alternative is the Bose Sport Earbuds. Unlike the AirPods, Bose takes a tailored approach to fit, prioritizing comfort and stability. The StayHear Max ear tips create a gentle seal, while the ear wing ensures the buds remain secure during vigorous activities. Plus, with an IPX4 rating, these earbuds can resist sweat and water, making them an ideal companion for workouts.
The Bose Sport Earbuds also offer a commendable battery life, with up to 5 hours and 17 minutes of continuous playback on a single charge. The fast-charging case can top-up the earbuds in just 15 minutes, providing an extra 120 minutes of playback. While the case doesn’t support wireless charging, the overall battery performance is impressive and comparable to the AirPods.
Sound quality is another area where the Bose Sport Earbuds shine. They deliver rich, well-balanced audio that’s pleasant to the ears. However, note that the Bose Music app doesn’t allow EQ adjustments. Instead, it employs Bose Active EQ, which auto-adjusts the frequency response based on your music’s volume level.
Sony WF-1000XM5: Prioritizing Noise Cancellation
The recently released Sony WF-1000XM5 earbuds have made a splash in the wireless audio market, offering top-tier features and performance. They are equipped with an 8.4mm Dynamic Driver X, delivering detail-rich audio with excellent musicality and timing. While the bass output may not be as robust as other models, the overall clarity and detail are class-leading.
One of the standout features of the Sony WF-1000XM5 is its impressive active noise cancellation (ANC). It’s highly effective, blocking out a significant amount of ambient noise, making them an excellent choice for users who prioritize a quiet listening experience. The battery life is also noteworthy, offering 8 hours of playback with ANC on and an additional 16 hours in the charging case.
While the WF-1000XM5 earbuds are slightly more expensive than the AirPods Pro, their superior ANC, sound quality, and battery life make them a worthwhile investment for discerning listeners.
JBL Live Pro+ TWS: Best for Mid-Range Pricing
Offering a balance between affordability and performance, the JBL Live Pro+ TWS earbuds provide an excellent alternative to the AirPods. Thanks to the included ear tips, they feature a similar stem-and-bud design and offer excellent comfort and stability. With an IPX4 rating, these earbuds can resist dust and water, making them suitable for gym-goers and outdoor enthusiasts.
The sound quality of the JBL Live Pro+ TWS is commendable, with a bass-heavy profile that appeals to fans of EDM and hip-hop. The companion app’s parametric EQ and presets allow sound customization, further enhancing the listening experience. However, while the JBL’s ANC system is good, it doesn’t quite match the performance of the AirPods in terms of noise reduction.
Anker SoundCore Life P3: A Mid-Range Gem
The Anker SoundCore Life P3 earbuds stand out as an affordable mid-range option that doesn’t compromise on performance. They offer a comfortable fit, similar to the Apple AirPods Pro, and come with a more bass-heavy sound profile, making them a hit among EDM and hip-hop enthusiasts. The companion app comes with a graphic EQ and presets, allowing for further personalization of the audio output.
While the build quality may not match the premium feel of the AirPods, the Anker SoundCore Life P3 offers excellent internals at a reduced price point. They also sport an excellent ANC feature, although the AirPods have a slight edge in blocking out lower-frequency noises such as the rumble of a bus or plane engine.
Skullcandy Dime 2: Budget-Friendly Alternative
For those on a tight budget, the Skullcandy Dime 2 True Wireless earbuds offer a viable alternative to the AirPods. While they lack fancy features like ANC or sound customization, they offer a decently balanced sound profile and a sturdy build. They’re also quite comfortable and come with an IPX4 rating for resistance against minor water exposure.
However, the battery performance of these earbuds is a weak point, offering just over three hours of continuous use. On the bright side, they have a standby mode to conserve power and can be fully charged in about half an hour.
Nothing Ear (2): Best Sound Quality
If sound quality is your primary concern, the Nothing Ear (2) earbuds offer a great alternative to the AirPods. These earbuds have a well-balanced sound profile, ensuring your audio has the right amount of rumble and body, with clear and bright-sounding instruments and voices. And unlike the AirPods, they offer an in-app EQ and presets for sound customization.
The earbuds offer decent ANC performance, albeit not on par with the AirPods. Still, they’re good at blocking out higher-pitched sounds like background conversations, making them a suitable choice for office use. The fit is comfortable, and the earbuds come with an IP55 rating for dust and water resistance.
Sony WF-C500: Best for Battery Life
The Sony WF-C500 earbuds offer an impressive 10 hours of battery life from the buds themselves, with another 10 hours provided by the charging case. This makes them a great choice for those who need long-lasting earbuds for extended listening sessions.
In terms of sound quality, the WF-C500 delivers a nicely balanced output, with plenty of mid-range detail and a cohesive and musical presentation. They also offer fast pair connectivity with Android devices and swift pair with Windows 10 PCs, making them a user-friendly option.
EarFun Air: Affordable and Cheerful
The Earfun Air earbuds offer a lot for a little. Despite their budget-friendly price, they deliver excellent noise isolation, comfortable wear, IPX7 certification (waterproof), and Qi wireless charging support. The battery life is impressive as well, offering seven hours from the buds and a further 28 hours from the charging case.
The Earfun Air earbuds also deliver an energetic and spacious sound, making them a fun and affordable alternative to the AirPods.
Sony WF-C700N: Best Value
The Sony WF-C700N wireless earbuds offer great sound quality, ANC, and impressive levels of comfort at an attractive price point. The buds are impressively small and lightweight, with a competitive battery life of seven and a half hours. They also feature noise-canceling tech, which is an advantage as the AirPods 2 and 3 lack this feature.
Despite a few shortcomings, such as the lack of support for high-quality wireless audio codecs like LDAC or aptX HD, and the charging case only providing one extra charge, the WF-C700N’s superb sound and feature set make them easy to recommend over the standard AirPods.
Choosing the Best AirPods Alternative
When choosing an AirPods alternative, consider your specific needs and preferences. Whether you’re after superior sound quality, extensive battery life, active noise cancellation, or a sporty design, there’s an alternative out there that will tick all your boxes. Use this guide as a starting point to explore the vast market of AirPods alternatives and find the perfect pair of wireless earbuds for you.