The best AirPods alternatives are worth considering for a few reasons. Apple's AirPods are great headphones, offering superb audio performance and features, but they're not for everyone. For starters, Apple's earphones are hardly cheap – especially its over-ear options, the AirPods Max.
But price might not be the only reason that you're looking for alternatives to AirPods. While Apple has options that offer water resistance and active noise cancellation along with seamless Siri integration, there are more specialist options out there. Other than that, you might not be a fan of Apple in general, or you might find its options less attractive if you're not using them with Apple products.
Luckily there are plenty of excellent alternatives to AirPods available, and we've made our own pick below based on our reviewers' experiences, recommendations from contacts, customer reviews and a comparison of the stated specs. Some offer comparable performance at a cheaper price, while others offer better sound or features. So whether you're looking for the best AirPods Pro alternatives or an alternative to AirPods Max, you should find an option below (see more about how we test and review).
If you do decide you prefer to go with Apple's headphones, we have you covered there too. See our pick of the best AirPods Pro deals (and see our AirPods Pro 2nd Gen review). For a cheaper option, we're also tracking the best AirPods 3 prices.
The best AirPods alternatives available today
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If you're looking for the best AirPods Pro alternatives for audio quality, it's hard to go wrong with Sony's WF-1000XM4 wireless earbuds. They're not just an alternative, in many ways they're better than Apple's top-end in-ears. The big advantage for audiophiles is LDAC support for listening to high-resolution audio, as well as upscaling of compressed audio files, which we found offers a richer listening experience.
We're also impressed by the active noise cancellation powered by Sony's own Integrated Processor V1, and while there's no direct equivalent of the AirPods Pro Transparency Mode, there's a Speak-to-Chat feature that can be used to pause music and let ambient sound in when needed. These also outlast AirPods Pro in terms of battery life, a single charge with noise cancellation on should give you eight hours of uninterrupted play, which compares to just over 6 hours with the new AirPods Pro 2. They're more discreet than AirPods too, with no descending stem.
If you're looking for the best AirPods alternatives for exercise, these durable new earphones from Jabra are well recommended. The Jabra Elite 7 Active are similar to the Jabra Elite Pro but add in some extras specifically for exercise. Their shape sits deep into the ear, which combined with the grippy silicone “ShakeGrip” material, helps keep them in your ear while you exercise without the need for the ear tip wings used in some other workout earphones.
The earphones have active noise cancellation, solid sound, IP57 dust and water resistance, they're compatible with Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri, and you can use the Jabra Sound+ app to customise the controls to decide the combination of button presses you want to use to play/pause music or take calls. Best of all, they're cheaper than the AirPods Pro.
Apple's AirPods have a definite look to them, and if you want that look without paying the Apple price, we reckon that the OnePlus Buds Z2 are the way to go. Not only do they look the part, they're impressive little performers too, with 11mm bass-tuned dynamic drivers pumping out thumping low-end and crisp trebles, and not only do they feature active noise cancellation up to 40dB, but there's also a transparency mode.
They even offer Dolby Atmos support, but there's a small catch there; if you want to use it you'll either have to pair them with a OnePlus phone or (more likely) download OnePlus's HeyMelody app, which will also enable you to fine-tune their audio performance to suit your taste.
The AirPods Max are seriously impressive headphones, but they come at a heart-stopping price. For similar performance at a price that's much kinder to your bank balance, we again recommend looking to Sony. Its WH-1000XM4 headphones hase been superseded by the XM5 now, but they still combine top audio quality with heavyweight active noise cancellation and a Speak-to-Chat feature as seen in the WF-1000XM4 earbuds above at a more attractive price.
They're also stuffed with cool features such as touch control, customisable EQ and adaptive sound control. At roughly half the price of AirPods Max, but with better battery life (around 30 hours with active noise cancellation, or 38 hours without), we still see these as the best alternative to AirPods Max.
Another great AirPods alternative if audio quality is your priority, Cambridge Audio's Melomania 1 Plus earbuds are great value while delivering top-quality sound thanks to a High Performance mode that uses a miniaturised version of the amplification used in Cambridge Audio's CX stereo amplifiers.
We were hugely impressed with their audio performance for the price. They don't feature active noise cancellation, but then depending on your environment you really may not notice. As with many other AirPods alternatives, there's an app that allows you to customise the sound. These are water resistant as well, rated at IPX5. Look out for discounts at Amazon.
With active noise cancellation and a pass-through mode that's effectively the same as Apple's transparency mode, Amazon's Echo Buds 2 will give AirPods and AirPods Pro a run for their money at a lower price, and they're designed to pair with the Alexa app so that you don't have to ever be without Amazon's digital assistant (they'll work with Siri and Google Voice Assistant too).
They're light and comfortable, but you may find them a bit of a let-down if you demand top audio quality. We found the sound to be a little on the flat side. However, if you're not too demanding, they do the job just fine, and in terms of price and features, they're a decent all-round package.
The Amazon Echo Buds 2 are a cheap AirPods Pro alternative, but there are cheaper AirPods alternatives overall. There are all sorts of cheap alternatives to AirPods on the market, but you don't want to get stung by something that looks the part and then completely fails to deliver in terms of performance. Right now we think that the EarFun Air Pro 2 earbuds are the best cheap AirPods that provide adequate quality.
They have all the features you want, including hybrid active noise cancellation, ambient sound mode and automatic wind noise reduction, and they have six microphones for clear calls and flawless Siri integration. Inevitably for the price, the sound quality isn't quite up there with what you'll get out of AirPods or other options on this list, but if price is your main concern then these will definitely do the job.
Most of the AirPods alternatives listed here come with active noise cancellation as standard; it's almost become something we've all come to expect. But if you're willing to live without it (and you're also willing to put up with a pair of undeniably chunky earbuds), Shure's Aonic Free will delight you with their sound quality. In fact, we've not found many other options at this price point that sound quite as good (although you should also check out the Grado earbuds further down).
They deliver big, precise sound that you can fine-tune with an accompanying app that's easy to use, and despite their gargantuan size they fit really comfortably. Considering the lack of active noise cancellation we reckon that the battery life could be better, but on the whole, we found the great sound from these makes up for their shortcomings.
Looking for amazing audio quality without having to fiddle with a companion app? We think Grado's GT220 earbuds are well worth checking out for that. They're impressively basic, not only in terms of looks but in terms of features as well. While they at least have handy touch and voice controls, there's no active noise cancellation, and there's no way to adjust the EQ either. However, we found the sound to be very solid and authentic by default. They're also quite discreet, with no stem.
How to choose the best AirPods alternatives
There are so many wireless earphones on the market today that choosing the best alternative to AirPods can be hard. We'd recommend starting by identifying your priorities. Certain basics will be covered by almost all AirPods alternatives, for example all of the options on our list offer a standard bluetooth range of up to 10m (30ft).
Where the best AirPods alternatives start to differ is in terms of design, sound quality and features such as active noise cancellation. The latter will be a demand for many, since we've almost come to expect ANC. While some people won't need this feature, it can be a big advantage for those who work in busy, noisy environments, helping to reduce surrounding nose. We've noted in all of the AirPods alternatives above if they have ANC or not.
Design is another factor to consider. AirPods aren't exactly discreet with there descending stems, and some of the best alternatives to AirPods avoid this with round designs that have no stems. As well as aesthetics, design influences how well an earphone will stay in your ear if you're doing exercise (we recommend the Jabra Active 7 for that).
Finally, different AirPods alternatives offer different levels of customisation. Some have companion apps that allow you to change the sound and also change how controls respond.
- Apple AirPods Pro review
- What are the best Apple headphones right now?
- Apple AirPods Max review