Shopping for a fresh set of faff-free wireless earphones? Its marketing department might beg to differ, but cordless audio doesn’t have to come from Apple.
From affordable earbuds to in-ears fit for audiophiles, we’ve tested all of the top AirPods alternatives. Some are simple, accessible solutions for cordless listening, while others go toe-to-toe with the AirPods (3rd Gen) and AirPods Pro on features, performance and price.
And while the iPhone-maker’s in-ears are undeniably impressive, the best AirPods alternatives offer just as much portability, sound quality and style – often for a smaller chunk of change.
So whether you want smart ‘phones to buddy up with your Android smartphone or cheaper earbuds that still serve up solid sound, you’ll find a range of capable AirPods alternatives reviewed and rated right here.
Beats Studio Buds
With tidy styling and a polished sound, the Beats Studio Buds are an engaging AirPods alternative at an appealing price
Tech spec:Battery: 8 hours (earphones), 16 hours (case) • Wireless charging: No • ANC: Yes • Driver size: 8.2mm • Weight: 5g (earbuds), 48g (case) • Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.2 • Water-resistance: IPX4
There’s nothing wrong with healthy competition, even if it comes from the same stable. With a clean design, refined sound signature and noise-cancelling smarts, the Beats Studio Buds are a home-grown AirPods rival. Fitted with a twist, the sculpted earbuds sit snug and light, no stems necessary. In the ear, the Studio Buds deliver a more balanced listen than previous Beats earphones, with a spacious presentation and decent detail. And there’s still plenty of punch and energy. No H1 chip means no multi-device pairing for Apple users, but Bluetooth 5.2 compatibility and one-touch Android pairing make the Studio Buds more inclusive. And while there’s no EQ, Apple Music users can enjoy Spatial Audio on Atmos tracks. Dashing out? Fast Fuel charging will fill the ‘phones for an hour’s playback in five minutes. Apple’s own earphones might edge them on features, but the Beats Studio Buds remain an attractive AirPods alternative.
Cambridge Audio Melomania 1+
With intuitive controls, useful app features and excellent audio quality, the improved Plus earbuds are a compelling wireless package – provided you don’t need ANC
Tech spec:Battery: 9 hours (earphones), 36 hours (case) • Wireless charging: No • ANC: No • Driver size: 5.8mm • Weight: 4.6g (earbuds), 37g (case) • Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0 • Water-resistance: IPX5
Cambridge Audio’s first Melomania ‘buds were already five-star earphones in our book. Their successors only build on that benchmark, shaping up as a feature-packed and remarkably affordable set of AirPods alternatives. Styled like little bullets, the earbuds eschew ergonomics in favour of neat, uniform shells that are lightweight at 4.6g apiece. There’s no ANC, but the 1+ benefit from superb noise isolation, setting the scene for a wonderful listen: audio has a lovely balance, with a wide soundstage and real depth. EQ levels can be tweaked in the partner app, while battery life measures in at a class-leading 45 hours with trips to the charging case. Some will feel the absence of wear-detection, but voice assistant support gives the 1+ an additional dose of smarts. At full price, they’re hard to fault. At their latest, discounted ticket, the Melomania 1+ are an unbeatable AirPods alternative for buyers on a budget.
Beats Fit Pro
Competitive battery life, rich sound and a lock-tight fit put the Beats Fit Pro among the finest fitness headphones around
Tech spec:Battery: 6 hours (earphones), 18 hours (case) • Wireless charging: No • ANC: Yes • Driver size: 9.5mm • Weight: 5.6g (earbuds), 55.1g (case) • Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0 • Water-resistance: IPX4
Combining AirPods tech with a fitness-friendly fit, the Beats Fit Pro are a superbly sporty alternative to Apple’s official earphones. Secured with flexible wings and silicone tips, they stay unshakeably in place during sprints and strolls alike. While Apple’s H1 chip means automatic switching for iOS devices, you don’t need an iPhone to access all the smarts: the Beats app for Android unlocks one-touch pairing, custom controls and more. While volume isn’t as loud as some rivals, the 9.5mm drivers inside ensure sound quality is excellent, pairing punchy bass with crisp clarity. It helps that the Beats Fit Pro benefit from the same ANC and Adaptive EQ as the AirPods Pro, tailoring sounds to your environment. There’s support for spatial audio too, which adds an immersive sense of dimension to the soundscape. Battery life is competitive at 30 hours, while wear-detect sensors prevent the Beats from playing in your pockets.
What they lack in features and functionality, these well-built and balanced Denon earbuds make up for in expert sonic performance
Tech spec:Battery: 6 hours (earphones), 18 hours (case) • Wireless charging: Yes • ANC: Yes • Driver size: 11x10mm • Weight: 5.3g (earbuds), 43g (case) • Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0 • Water-resistance: IPX4
In white and at a distance, Denon’s first true wireless in-ears could readily be mistaken for a pair of AirPods. With a similar dangly stem design, their understated shells are neatly sculpted, fit comfortably and feel like they’re built to last. Where they sit apart from Apple’s wireless in-ears is in the smart stakes: unlike the AirPods, the AH-C830NCW have no smartphone partner app, no EQ to tweak and no voice assistant support. And while each earbud features a touch surface, it can’t be used to control the volume. So far, so old school. But while the Denon ‘buds don’t go big on connected intelligence, they excel when it comes to audio quality: deep, textured bass tones are balanced against an expressive mid-range and nicely judged high frequencies. Rivals might offer more skills for similar money, but Denon’s ‘phones deliver sonic satisfaction that’s up there with the best wireless earbuds.
Sony LinkBuds S
With a comfortable fit and enjoyable audio performance, Sony’s featherweight ‘phones are excellent everyday all-rounders
Tech spec:Battery: 9 hours (earphones), 14 hours (case) • Wireless charging: No • ANC: Yes • Driver size: 5mm • Weight: 4.8g (earbuds), 35g (case) • Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.2 • Water-resistance: IPX4
Featherweight earphones for all-day audio, Sony touts the LinkBuds S as the world’s lightest noise-cancelling wireless earbuds. At just 4.8g per ‘bud, they certainly go easy on your lugs, with an ergonomic shape and silicone tips ensuring a secure fit. Comfortable enough for long listening stints, the LinkBuds S also benefit from intuitive touch controls. Active noise cancellation isn’t the strongest, but the mics come into their own during voice calls: wind interference is minimal and clarity excellent. With relatively small 5mm drivers inside, sound output can lack a little energy. Bass is handled well, but higher frequencies tend to feel restrained. Battery life is average at six hours with ANC, which is fair when you consider the compact proportions. Pair with Sony’s Headphones Connect app to tweak the EQ, customise controls and adjust the Adaptive Sound Control, which automatically alters ambient noise levels based on detected actions and locations.
Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro
Feature-packed and affordable, these noise-cancelling AirPods alternatives deliver a fun, bass-focused listen that belies their budget looks
Tech spec:Battery: 7 hours (earphones), 19 hours (case) • Wireless charging: Yes • ANC: Yes • Driver size: 11mm • Weight: 5.2g (earbuds), 50.5g (case) • Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0 • Water-resistance: IPX4
They might not look like the fanciest pair of AirPods alternatives, but the smooth matte black carry-case offers wireless charging and has a pleasing sliding mechanism. IPX4 water-resistance make them a good shout for a workout, too. Each earpiece is controlled via integrated touch-sensitive panels: double-tap the left ear to skip forward, the right to play or pause. You can usefully customise the functions in the Soundcore app, where you’ll also find personalisation options: a sound profile can be created based on a hearing exercise, adapting the sound to your specific aural needs. Sound quality is really impressive, with surprisingly impactful bass for such small earbuds. The ANC is reasonably effective too. No, it won’t cut out everything – but so few earphones do. A small gripe is that you can’t tweak the volume on the buds themselves, but then that’s the same with Apple’s AirPods Pro. Battery life exceeds all expectations: hey’ll last roughly seven hours from fully charged with a further 21 hours in the QI charging case. For the price, there’s not a lot to complain about.
Jabra Elite 7 Active
Durability, endurance and a secure, wing-free fit: these bassy fitness ‘phones offer plenty for the price – even if their ANC is beaten by the best
Tech spec:Battery: 8 hours (earphones), 22 hours (case) • Wireless charging: Yes • ANC: Yes • Driver size: 6mm • Weight: 5.5g (earbuds), 44g (case) • Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.2 • Water-resistance: IP57
Sharing several specs with the Elite 7 Pro, Jabra’s Elite 7 Active exist to soundtrack your sporting pursuits. Contoured to fit the ear, a rubberised coating keeps the earphones firmly in place, while an IP57 rating beats the AirPods when it comes to water resistance. Bassy out of the blocks, audio can be balanced through the Sound+ app. Nuance might not be top of the order, but they give running playlists plenty of punch and energy. Passive noise isolation also proves effective, while ANC reduces background rumble reliably, even if sporadic sounds can still filter in. Staying power is impressive: eight hours is stretched to 30 with the charging case, putting battery life up there with the best in this bracket. You can find better-sounding earbuds for similar cash, but not with the same sweatproofing. For the money, the Jabra Elite 7 Active are tempting AirPods alternatives for fitness fans.
Nothing Ear (2)
Delivers the sound quality and noise cancelling we expect for the cash – after some tweaking – while improving on the original in all the right places. And without losing what made it so visually distinctive.
Tech spec:Battery: 6 hours (earphones), 18 hours (case) • Wireless charging: Yes • ANC: Yes • Driver size: 11.6mm • Weight: 4.7g (earbuds), 57.4g (case) • Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.2 • Water-resistance: IPX4
Distinguished by see-through styling, the first generation of these transparent AirPods alternatives arrived on a hype train worthy of Apple. Besides revealing neat circuitry beneath, their clear design was distinctive, if not exactly radical: the stem setup is a familiar one, as are the silicone tips which assist with fitting. Nothing didn’t mix things up visually for the second go round, but did overhaul the internals for superior sound.
Compatible with Google Fast Pair, the lightweight Ear (2) connect to a similarly minimalist app for iOS and Android, home to squeeze control and EQ customisation, the option to disable wear detection and a listening test to ensure you’re getting the best from the 11.6mm dynamic drivers. High frequencies can still be a bit edgy on delicate details, but bass enjoys impressive (though not overwhelming) presence. Hi-res wireless support through LDAC is a welcome addition, and while battery life is still in also-ran territory, ANC has taken a pleasant step up. Nothing’s earphones still offer an easy listen in unique packaging at a decent price.
Google Pixel Buds Pro
With dynamic sound, competitive battery life and effective ANC in comfy packaging, Google’s top-spec earbuds aren’t reserved for Android die-hards
Tech spec:Battery: 11 hours (earphones), 20 hours (case) • Wireless charging: Yes • ANC: Yes • Driver size: 11mm • Weight: 6.2g (earbuds), 62.4g (case) • Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0 • Water-resistance: IPX4
Google’s best earbuds yet, the Pixel Buds Pro do plenty to tempt Android users in search of an AirPods alternative. Google shaped the two-tone ‘phones to nestle in the outer ear, and they’re certainly among the more secure wireless earbuds we’ve tested. They naturally play nicest with Pixel phones, but a clever companion app and Google Fast Pair support means other Android devices don’t miss out on the fun. Google’s Silent Seal algorithm enhances the effectiveness of ANC based on ambient noise, doing well to dent the din of nearby noise pollution, while monitoring pressure for a fatigue-free listen. Audio is punchy and enveloping, with 11mm drivers producing impactful but balanced bass, together with crisp higher frequencies. Not remotely neutral, the fun, energetic signature favours everyday listeners. With competitive seven-hour battery life on-board, the Pixel Buds Pro don’t dominate in any one area, but they do offer compelling overall value.
Urbanears Boo Tip
Featherweight and eco-friendly, these simple earbuds transform recycled trash into solid audio for a fair price – limited noise isolation aside
Tech spec:Battery: 4.5hrs hours (earphones), 25.5 hours (case) • Wireless charging: No • ANC: No • Driver size: 10mm • Weight: 3.95g (earbuds), 36.7g (case) • Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.2 • Water-resistance: IPX4
A khaki colourway isn’t all that’s green about these affordable AirPods alternatives: 91% of their construction is recycled plastic. Ludicrously light at less than 4g per bud, the eco ‘phones feature a matte finish that’s subtly characterful, if not especially premium. 10mm drivers produce unexpectedly rich, well-balanced bass. While the soundstage can feel cramped on complex tracks, the Boo Tips benefit from an energy which belies their featherweight build and accessible price. Stem touch controls can’t be customised, although mirrored inputs are easy to master. Battery life is mediocre at 4.5hrs, but the most noticeable drawback is the noise isolation. In loud environments, the absence of ANC means the Boo Tips can struggle to keep external sounds from bleeding into what’s otherwise an enjoyable listen.
Jabra Elite 5
Fitness-friendly true wireless in-ears with decent (if not class-leading) ANC and solid sound, but the Elite 5 feels a little lost in Jabra’s extensive line-up
Tech spec:Battery: 7 hours (ANC) • Driver size: 6mm • Weight: 5g (earbuds) 40g (case) • Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.2
The Jabra Elite 5 offers superb call quality, physical controls, and a generous selection of codecs to keep Apple and Android users happy, including AAC, SBC and aptX.
Sound is punchy, but if you find things like the bass a tad overdone, you can tweak things using the equaliser settings in Jabra’s app. Noise cancellation, while not top-level, is still decent, and the seven-hour battery life is respectable, if not groundbreaking. Given its mid-range price though, this is a great choice for those looking for an all-rounder with particularly excellent call performance.
Beyerdynamic Free Byrd
They’re not without charm, but more importantly the Beyerdynamic Free Byrd are not without competition
Tech spec:Battery: 8 hours (ANC) • Driver size: 10mm • Weight: 7g (earbuds) • Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.2
Beyerdynamic’s first pair of truly wireless earbuds took their sweet time to enter the market, and while not the absolute king of wireless in-ears, they still deliver on practically all fronts, including a very sturdy build. It comes with a very generous selection of tips, so it should fit practically all ears. There’s also a useful sound customisation feature which tunes them to your ears, making for a more personalised listening experience.
ANC works well, and the wireless Qi charging case is a delightful touch for moments where you can’t be bothered to fiddle around with a cable – as are the customisable controls which can be easily changed in the Beyerdynamic app.
Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3
Smaller and more comfortable than before, these premium earbuds offer a feature-packed app, wind-beating ANC and sonic fidelity to spare
Tech spec:Battery: 7 hours (earphones), 28 hours (case) • Wireless charging: Yes • ANC: Yes • Driver size: 7mm • Weight: 5.8g (earbuds), 66.4g (case) • Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.2 • Water-resistance: IPX4
The third generation of Sennheiser’s Momentum True Wireless in-ears cement their place among the top headphones money can currently buy. Build quality feels just as bomb-proof as the company’s previous model, while a 16 per cent size reduction means that they’re now sleeker than ever.
Each bud features a touch interface, which can handily be customised and tweaked to your liking, via a feature-packed app. Options include tapping to cycle through ANC settings (which include effective transparency and anti-wind modes).
Battery life of seven hours is acceptable, if not mind-blowing, but the quality audio performance makes up for it. Favouring balance and fidelity over thumping bass, the Momentums demonstrate remarkable sonic control.
JBL Reflect Flow Pro
Dynamic sports headphones with a secure fit and solid noise-cancelling, the JBL Reflect Flow Pro do plenty to please the ears
Tech spec:Battery: 7 hours (earphones), 20 hours (case) • Wireless charging: Yes • ANC: Yes • Driver size: 6.8mm • Weight: 7g (earbuds), 77g (case) • Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0 • Water-resistance: IP68
If you’re specifically looking for a pair of truly wireless buds that will confidently stay in your ear during a run with more confidence than a pair of AirPods, then look no further than the JBL Reflect Pro. Ticking almost every box including enjoyable sound, decent battery life, ANC, water resistance and more, they’re practically the Goldilocks of running headphones.
Throw in ANC for blocking out the outside world on commutes, along with a wireless charging case and reasonable price, and you’ve got very little reason for complaint here — especially as they back everything up with solid controls and a comfortable fit, too.
With convincing sound, outstanding features and excellent ergonomics, the WF-1000XM4 continue Sony’s proud tradition of building the best true wireless in-ears.
Continuing its record of true-wireless winners, the WF-1000XM4 show once again that Sony knows how to make excellent earphones. Successors to the brilliant WF-1000XM3, the upgraded earbuds deliver a listen that’s as punchy as it is detailed. Spacious and balanced, they’re endlessly engaging in the ear. Besides their convincing sonic talents, the WF-1000XM4 cancel outside sounds effectively, with the option to tweak ANC levels in the outstanding partner app. That’s also where you can tinker with EQ levels, touch controls and more. Battery life is par for the course, but the trade-off is a tidy design that’s smaller than before – mirrored by a charging case that’s more pocket-friendly by 40%. The WF-1000XM3 remain better value, but the WF-1000XM4 set a fresh bar for in-ear superiority.