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There's a lot to like about AirPods (particularly the AirPods Pro 2nd generation). Apple's wireless earbuds sound undeniably great and have good battery life, but they're super pricey — even during the occasional sale, which might offer a 20% discount at most. Luckily, you don't have to drain the whole bank account: There are many other brands of Bluetooth wireless earbuds that can power your beats for $100 or less.
Below, you'll find my picks for the best Apple AirPods Pro alternatives, whether you’re headed to a workout or taking a hands-free call. Each product highlighted here offers excellent sound quality and specs without hurting your wallet.
Better than AirPods, for less?
Most of these products compete directly with the $249 AirPods Pro, as they employ similar silicone tips that, for the best audio quality and noise isolation, should nestle into your ear canals to form a snug seal. They also match the Pro's active noise canceling (ANC) capabilities, and a few offer advanced features like in-ear detection (which pauses/resumes playback when you remove/reinsert an earbud), multipoint connectivity (you can pair the earbuds with more than just one device) and wireless case-charging. One of them even copies Apple's spatial-audio and head-tracking features, which yield pretty remarkable results when you're listening to podcasts and watching videos on your iPhone or other device.
In addition to being both Android- and iPhone-compatible, every product here offers some degree of water-resistance, meaning these are also some of the best wireless earbuds for working out: They can easily withstand any sweat that happens to drip in, and many will hold up to accidental dunks in a pool or puddle. (Look for an IPX rating of 7 or better if you're concerned about such pitfalls.)
So what are you really giving up by choosing "budget" earbuds? For starters, not all ANC is created equal: AirPods Pro excel at blocking noise, but the alternatives don't block quite as much. There's also call quality, something to consider if you talk on the phone a lot or use earbuds for your Zoom meetings. (Because there are so many variables at play in call quality, it's one thing I wasn't able to test.)
On the other hand, sometimes you actually come out ahead. Some of the earbuds here offer better battery life than AirPods Pro (note: all numbers listed below are with ANC disabled), and some have companion apps that let you toggle different listening modes or use an equalizer to adjust audio levels to your liking. In other words, many an earbud manufacturer is beating Apple at its own game — and giving you a price break at the same time. Let's take a look at how these alternatives fare.
Note: While accurate at the time of this writing, the prices listed below are subject to change.
Ear detection: Yes | Companion app: Yes | Multipoint connectivity: Yes | Case charging: USB-C or wireless | Rated battery life: 7 hours on a charge | Ear tips included: 4 sizes
Just about perfect. That's how I'd describe 1More's Aero earbuds, which is why I'm cheating a bit and including them in this roundup. Though priced at $110, just above the threshold, they're frequently on sale for less with a coupon you can clip at Amazon. If that's no longer available, they're "permanently" discounted to $90 at 1More proper (according to a company rep).
Housed in an admirably compact flip-top case (one that can charge via USB-C or Qi charging pad), the Aero earbuds come in white or black. Unfortunately, although the included instruction guide clearly explains how to pair them with your phone, it offers zero information about the 1More app. It's not specifically named, and there's no link or QR code to help you locate it. The guide merely makes a few mentions of "APP," without detailing any of its features or explaining how to use it.
Thankfully, it's not hard to find it in the Apple or Google Play stores, and it's not hard to use, either. You can use it to check battery status, choose between noise-canceling modes, toggle spatial audio (more on that below) and much more. Delve into the settings and you'll even find "soothing sounds," which are white-noise clips like breeze, waterfall and river. Unfortunately, each one lasts only about five seconds before repeating, and there's a brief pause when that happens. (Thus, get your white noise elsewhere.)
Within this group, the Aero comes closest to matching every AirPods Pro feature — most notably spatial audio, which makes it sound as if it's coming from all around you, but also tracks head movements. For example, if you're watching a movie on your phone and you turn your head, the sound will shift, so that it seems as if it's still coming from the screen. This is tricky to explain but really cool to experience. Same thing with music: It creates a sort of focal point for your listening. AirPods Pro do an amazing job with this; the effect is a little less pronounced on the Aero earbuds, but it's still great to have this feature at this price point.
I also like 1More's Smart Loudness option: It dynamically adjusts bass, mids and highs, the idea being to preserve the full range of sound at all volumes. I was amazed at the difference this made when, for example, I played some favorite tunes at low volumes. Without Smart Loudness, much of the "fullness" was lost. The 1More app also includes a dozen equalizer presets; one of them, "vocal booster," helps amplify dialogue when you're watching videos.
Sorry for burying the lede: The Aero earbuds sound great, too. Some equalizer fiddling is helpful to get music exactly the way you like it, but overall I found audio to be deep, well-balanced and very pleasant. The noise-canceling capabilities were solid and the stock medium-size ear tips were comfy, at least in my ears. Save for the aforementioned quibbles, both of which are extremely minor, the 1More Aero is one of my favorite AirPods Pro alternatives.
Ear detection: No | Companion app: Yes | Multipoint connectivity: No | Case charging: USB-C or wireless | Rated battery life: 7 hours on a charge | Ear tips included: 5 sizes
In a field crowded with products that are either black or white (literally), the Soundcore Life P3 stands out with a much-needed splash of color. Yes, the two monochromatic standards are available, but you can also choose Navy Blue, Sky Blue or Coral Red. Whatever you pick, the buds themselves offer a nice bit of extra flair in the form of chrome trim.
There's another notable feature here: Soundcore's excellent companion app, which allows you to modify the earbuds' touch-control settings, toggle between multiple (!) noise-canceling modes and choose various equalizer presets (or customize your own). There's also a test for ear-tip seal quality (something I've never seen before) and even about a dozen white-noise sounds you can play to help fall asleep.
All this would be superfluous if the Life P3 wasn't comfortable or sounded poor, but I'm happy to report a comfortable fit and great audio performance. The ANC is a bit less pronounced than AirPods', but it works well overall and includes a transparency mode. Plus, you can get really granular within the app and tweak the ANC to block indoor, outdoor or travel noises, depending on where you are. That's an increasingly common option, but the P3 was among the first to have it.
All that's missing is ear detection, a feature I really like. You can get it in many other earbuds, so I'm sad Anker neglected to include it here. What's more, while the "Find my earbuds" feature is great in theory, in practice it works poorly. When activated via the app, an earbud emits a high-pitched whine — one that dogs might be able to hear, but I couldn't, not even when the earbud was just a few feet away. (This could be attributed to older ears, as we lose range in our hearing as we age.)
Even without ear detection, the Soundcore Life P3 is a top contender among under-$100 earbuds.
Ear detection: No | Companion app: Yes | Multipoint connectivity: Yes | Case charging: USB-C or wireless | Rated battery life: 10 hours on a charge | Ear tips included: 5 sizes
A relative newcomer to the under-$100 arena, the Soundcore Space A40 earbuds lack the distinctive "stem" design found elsewhere in this roundup — including the aforementioned Soundcore Life P3. Does that matter? It's partially a style choice, but I do think stem buds are a little easier to grip and insert. That said, the Space A40 improves on the P3 in several key ways and costs only $20 more.
If you're looking for earbuds that can last an entire day, the Space A40 is your best choice: Anker promises an impressive 10 hours on a single charge, a good 2 to 3 hours more than most. (For additional reference, Apple's new AirPods Pro can manage only 6 hours.) The charging case can supply as many as four full recharges, for a whopping 50 total hours of playtime before you need to revisit a powered USB port (or Qi charging pad, as the case supports wireless charging as well).
These earbuds also feature ramped-up noise-cancelling and transparency-mode capabilities. Activate adaptive ANC, for example, and the earbuds will detect what kind of noise is present and adjust accordingly. (You can also set this manually, but honestly, why would you?). Transparency mode adds a "vocal" option that boosts voices, the better to allow conversation without removing the earbuds. In my tests, ANC proved rock-solid, on par with that offered by the TCL Moveaudio (see below).
It's especially nice to see multipoint connectivity make its way into $100 earbuds; it's great if you routinely want to switch between, say, phone and tablet, phone and computer, etc., without having to unpair and re-pair.
The Space A40 also adds Anker's HearID to the mix: It conducts an in-app test to tailor equalizer settings to your hearing. I found this really fascinating; turns out my left ear doesn't pick up treble quite as well as my right. The end result was an equalizer preset tuned specifically for me. I'm not sure I noticed a huge before/after difference, but for anyone with hearing loss or other issues, this could be a real boon.
Available in black, white or blue, the A40 has only one real flaw, and it's the same one that dings the Life P3: no ear detection. Once you get accustomed to that feature, it's hard to live without it. In nearly all other respects, though, these are superb earbuds.
Ear detection: No | Companion app: Yes | Multipoint connectivity: Yes | Case charging: USB-C or wireless | Rated battery life: 7 hours on a charge | Ear tips included: 4 sizes
In terms of pure bang for the buck, it's hard to beat the EarFun Air S. Already a bargain at $60, it's often on sale for even less. (It's not uncommon to get out the door for as little as $50 with a discount and/or coupon.)
I've tested a lot of EarFun earbuds in recent years; with rare exception, they've all been well above average. The Air S is no different, offering decent ANC, pleasant sound quality, a robust transparency mode and anti-noise microphones that promise to reduce 30 decibels' worth of ambient sound from your calls.
There's more good news in the form of multipoint connectivity: You can pair the Air S with two devices instead of just one. These are also one of the first EarFun products to support the company's new companion app, which lets you tweak various settings and adjust equalizers.
I found the look and feel of the Air S to be on par with previous EarFun efforts — which is to say, stylish and comfortable — and appreciated the Game Mode setting that lowers audio latency for games and videos. (If latency is too high, audio and video can get out of sync.)
What I can't understand is why EarFun chose not to include ear detection here, when it's available in several of the company's other earbuds. What could have been a home-run product is now merely a triple. A solid triple, but still.
Ear detection: Yes | Companion app: Yes | Multipoint connectivity: Yes | Case charging: USB-C | Rated battery life: 5.5 hours on a charge | Ear tips included: N/A
When is an AirPods Pro alternative not an AirPods Pro alternative? When it's the Edifier W320TN: These earbuds are more like standard AirPods in that they have hard-plastic tips rather than silicone ones. That's great for anyone who doesn't love the screwed-into-the-ear-canal feel of the latter, or perhaps just can't get the right fit. But here's the amazing part: You still get ANC, something Apple's 2nd- and 3rd-generation AirPods don't offer. (It's limited to AirPods Pro.)
Does it work well? Surprisingly, yes: When I parked myself next to a noisy AC unit and enabled adaptive noise cancellation, the hum was reduced dramatically. This despite the lack of added noise isolation that comes from silicone ear tips. I did notice a slight hiss, an effect that's not uncommon with ANC technology. But it didn't really bother me, and I could no longer detect it once I started playing music.
Take note, however, that the very nature of the all-plastic design means the W320TNs won't fit perfectly in all ears. I found them extremely comfortable, but if your ears are on the smaller side, they may feel tight. Alternately, they could fall out of larger ears.
That aside, these earbuds deliver extremely good sound, which is no mean feat when you don't have that silicone-eartip seal. I'd say they're easily on par with Apple's 2nd-generation AirPods. And like the 3rd-generation AirPods, they have stems you can "pinch" (rather than tap) to perform actions like skip to the next track or enable Game Mode. That programming happens in Edifier's companion app, which also lets you tweak things like pressure sensitivity (how hard you need to pinch), prompt volume and in-ear detection: You can opt to resume audio when the earbuds are inserted or do nothing, a level of control I haven't seen from many other earbuds. There's also a library of "soothing sounds" you can play and a "find my headphones" function that actually works pretty well.
Battery life here is just okay at 5.5 hours, and the case must be recharged using USB-C; it doesn't support wireless charging. Those nitpicks aside, it's easy to recommend the Edifier W320TN, a superb pair of AirPods alternatives for those who don't want to go Pro.
Ear detection: Yes | Companion app: Yes | Multipoint connectivity: Yes | Case charging: USB-C or wireless | Rated battery life: 8 hours on a charge | Ear tips included: 5 sizes
TCL is best known for making TVs, good ones that appeal to my thrifty nature. But could the company bring that same affordability acumen to wireless earbuds? Turns out yes. The Moveaudio S600 ticks most of the important feature boxes, rivaling Apple's AirPods Pro at nearly every turn, but for a much lower price.
Like AirPods, the S600 offers excellent noise cancellation, transparency mode, in-ear detection and wireless charging. You can use TCL's companion app to configure touch controls to your liking, but unfortunately there's no equalizer option — something that might help this pair of earbuds overcome their light bass response. The sound is well balanced overall, but other earbuds here really drive home that thump, which some listeners crave.
I'm hard-pressed to find any other issues, though I do have this nitpick: The case is larger than most, a bulbous, bulky thing that seemed extra-obtrusive in my pocket.
When I first reviewed the Moveaudio S600, I considered it one of the best AirPods Pro alternatives, period. But newer entries from 1More and Anker have nudged it down a bit in the rankings. Even so, these feature-packed earbuds continue to prove that you can get a lot — for less.
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