Skip to main content

The best AirPods alternatives in 2022

A woman wearing Sony WF-1000XM4 Wireless Earbuds
(Image credit: Sony)

If you're looking for the best AirPods alternatives, we've already done all the hard work for you. Apple's AirPods are an undeniably impressive range of headphones, but they're not for everyone. While they deliver great audio performance and plenty of other useful features such as active noise cancellation and seamless Siri integration, they tend to be a little on the expensive side (particularly the AirPods Max) and they tend to be difficult – if not impossible – to use with non-Apple gear.

Luckily there are plenty of excellent alternatives to AirPods available that are less fussy about what you connect them to, and often with comparable performance at a lower price. Whether you're after bargain AirPods-style in-ears, earbuds that deliver better sound than the AirPods Pro at a similar price point, or a much cheaper alternative to the AirPods Max, we've tracked down all the best options.

Then again, if it's AirPods you're after, we can help with that too. Find out everything we know about the upcoming AirPods Pro 2 or, if you can't wait for the update, avail yourself of the best AirPods Pro deals. And if the AirPods Pro are a bit rich for your tastes, check out instead the best AirPods 3 prices.

Product shot of Sony WF-1000XM4 Wireless Earbuds

(Image credit: Sony)

01. Sony WF-1000XM4 Wireless Earbuds

The best AirPods Pro alternatives

Specifications

Weight: 7.3g
Frequency response : 20-40,000Hz
Battery life : 8 hours

Reasons to buy

+
Big sound
+
High-resolution audio
+
Useful features
+
Great battery life

If it's the best AirPods Pro alternatives you're after, 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, which means you can use them to listen to high-resolution audio, as well as upscaling of compressed audio files for a richer listening experience all round. 

You also get top-notch 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'll pause music and let ambient sound in when needed. And they serious outlast AirPods Pro in terms of battery; a single charge with noise cancellation on should give you eight hours of uninterrupted play.

Product shot of OnePlus Buds Z2

(Image credit: OnePlus)

02. OnePlus Buds Z2

The best wireless earbuds like AirPods

Specifications

Weight: 4.6g
Frequency response : 20-20,000Hz
Battery life : 5 hours

Reasons to buy

+
Good price
+
Three noise-cancellation modes
+
Ear detection

Reasons to avoid

-
Best with OnePlus phone

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, 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.

Product shot of Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones

(Image credit: Sony)

03. Sony WH-1000XM4

The best AirPods Max alternatives

Specifications

Weight: 254g
Frequency response : 4-40,000Hz
Battery life : 30 hours

Reasons to buy

+
Fantastic sound
+
Impressive noise cancellation
+
Useful touch controls
+
Much cheaper than AirPods Max

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, you once again need to look to Sony and its WH-1000XM4 headphones. They combine top audio quality with heavyweight active noise cancellation (not to mention a Speak-to-Chat feature as seen in the WF-1000XM4 earbuds above), and they're stuffed with cool features such as touch control, customisable EQ and adaptive sound control.

They're roughly half the price of AirPods Max, and on top of all that they have a better battery life: 30 hours with active noise cancellation, or 38 hours without. What's not to love?

Product shot of Shure Aonic Free earbuds

(Image credit: Shure)

04. Shure Aonic Free

Big and chunky but with brilliant audio performance

Specifications

Weight: 13.4g
Frequency response : 21-17,500Hz
Battery life : 7 hours

Reasons to buy

+
Brilliant audio performance
+
Lots of EQ settings

Reasons to avoid

-
No active noise cancellation
-
Big and chunky

Most of the AirPods alternatives listed here come with active noise cancellation as standard; it's 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 amazing sound quality; you're unlikely to find anything at this price level that sounds 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 the incredible sound you get out of these more than makes up for their shortcomings.

Product shot of Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus earbuds

(Image credit: Cambridge Audio)

05. Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus

Bargain earbuds for audiohiles

Specifications

Weight: 9.2g
Frequency response : 20-20,000Hz
Battery life : 9 hours

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent audio quality
+
Great battery life
+
Sleek design

Reasons to avoid

-
No active noise cancellation

Another great AirPods alternative if audio quality is your priority, Cambridge Audio's Melomania 1 Plus earbuds are smaller and cheaper than the Shures above, while delivering top quality sound. Their audio performance is amazing for the price, and once again these come with an app that'll enable you to squeeze the very best sound for your tastes out of them

However, just like the Shures, they don't feature active noise cancellation, which might put some people off. However once you have them turned up and blasting out your favourite tunes, this isn't something you're likely to notice.

Product shot of Amazon Echo Buds 2

(Image credit: Amazon)

06. Amazon Echo Buds 2

The best AirPods Pro alternative on Amazon

Specifications

Weight: 5.7g
Frequency response : Not stated
Battery life : 5 hours

Reasons to buy

+
Built-in Alexa integration
+
Active noise cancellation
+
Pass-through mode

Reasons to avoid

-
Uninspiring sound quality

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; they're fine but just a little on the flat side in that respect. In terms of price and features, however, they're a decent all-round package.

Product shot of Grado GT220 earbuds

(Image credit: Grado)

07. Grado GT220

The best no-fuss audiophile earbuds

Specifications

Weight: 10g
Frequency response : 20-20,000Hz
Battery life : 6 hours

Reasons to buy

+
Stunning sound quality
+
Light and comfortable
+
Touch and voice control

Reasons to avoid

-
No active noise cancellation

Looking for amazing audio quality and don't want to have to fiddle with an companion app to get it? You should probably check out Grado's GT220 earbuds. They're impressively basic, not only in terms of looks but in terms features as well; while they at least have handy touch and voice controls, it shouldn't surprise you to learn that there's no active noise cancellation, and there's no way to adust the EQ either. 

However that doesn't really matter, because the sound that these pump out by default is absolutely stunning; you'll hear details in your favourite tunes that you'd never noticed before. If that's what matters to you, you'll find they're well worth the price.

Product shot of EarFun Air Pro 2 earbuds

(Image credit: EarFun)

08. EarFun Air Pro 2

The best cheap alternatives to AirPods

Specifications

Weight: Not stated
Frequency response : 20-20,000Hz
Battery life : 7 hours

Reasons to buy

+
Hybrid active noise cancellation
+
Ambient sound mode
+
Good battery life

Reasons to avoid

-
Adequate audio performance

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 then completely fails to deliver in terms of performance. So right now we think that the EarFun Air Pro 2 earbuds are the best cheap not-AirPods you can get.

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.

Related articles:

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

Jim McCauley is a writer, performer and cat-wrangler who started writing professionally way back in 1995 on PC Format magazine, and has been covering technology-related subjects ever since, whether it's hardware, software or videogames. A chance call in 2005 led to Jim taking charge of Computer Arts' website and developing an interest in the world of graphic design, and eventually led to a move over to the freshly-launched Creative Bloq in 2012. Jim now works as a freelance writer for sites including Creative Bloq, T3 and PetsRadar, specialising in design, technology, wellness and cats, while doing the occasional pantomime and street performance in Bath and designing posters for a local drama group on the side.