With great battery life, the option of a wireless charging case and the way they seamlessly work with all of your other Apple devices, you can see why Apple AirPods are so popular.
But if you're not an Apple user and fancy an AirPods alternative, then what are the best pairs on the market? If you're looking for a sporty pair, or a cheaper one, or one that delivers outstanding sound quality and active noise-cancelling, this is the page for you.
Our team of expert reviewers has tested every product here so you can be confident that all these recommendations come with the What Hi-Fi? seal of approval. On this page, we've restricted AirPods to the in-ear variety but we do also have a page dedicated to the very best AirPods Max alternatives should you want an over-ear alternative.
How to choose the best AirPods alternatives for you
Why you can trust What Hi-Fi? Our expert team reviews products in dedicated test rooms, to help you make the best choice for your budget. Find out more about how we test.
Firstly, you need to decide which AirPods you want an alternative for. Is it the affordable, entry-level AirPods (2019) or the more recent AirPods 3? Or, perhaps you want a pair of AirPods Pro 2 alternatives that bring active noise-cancelling to the party?
Are you someone who's already immersed in the Apple ecosystem but who doesn't want to be tied down when it comes to your headphones choice? Or, perhaps you're an Android user, who simply likes the idea of having AirPods-rivalling features in their pair of wireless in-ears.
Obviously, you'll need to settle on a budget when considering AirPods alternatives. The good news here is that there are some great cheap options at the budget end of the market and there are also more premium alternatives should your budget be able to accommodate.
You'll also want to compare battery life to make sure the earbuds you're considering can cope with the length of your commute as well as longer listening sessions.
You can now get plenty of bang for your buck where the best cheap wireless earbuds are concerned, and given Apple products all tend to demand a slight price premium, there are some great bargains to be had.
As you'll see on the list below, they're as competitive on battery life and features as they are on sound quality so you should easily be able to find a pair from the models we've tested and placed on this list that stacks up well.
All these pairs come with a charging case for topping up battery life, while physical buttons and touch surface controls also make an appearance. What's more, some of the best wireless earbuds listed below also just happen to be some of the best noise-cancelling earbuds around.
The Sony WF-1000XM4 are a sensational pair of AirPods Pro 2 alternatives.
There are dynamics and detail in spades and they produce a balanced sound, with taut, precise bass notes and refined, sophisticated vocals. You can't help but be carried away by their sense of musicality.
Those who prioritise battery life in their AirPods alternatives should find the eight hours promised by the Sonys more than sufficient. The wireless charging case also extends this by a further 16 hours.
The Sonys sit securely in place, feature touch-sensitive controls and come with ear tips that provide excellent noise isolation. Combine this with brilliant noise cancelling courtesy of Sony's Integrated Processor V1 and the WF-1000XM4 are difficult to fault.
IPX4 water resistance is included, as are clever features such as Quick Attention and Speak-To-Chat which both allow you to have a conversation without removing the earbuds. If you buy one pair of AirPods Pro 2 alternatives this year, make it the WF-1000XM4, although bear in mind it looks like the Sony WF-1000XM5 will be arriving at some point later this year.
Read our full Sony WF-1000XM4 review
Sony's newest wireless earbuds come in cheaper than the WF-1000XM4 that top this list but still manage to offer great sound quality, ANC and impressive levels of comfort for the money.
And they're a brilliant option that more than justify their price tag. The buds are impressively small, and their lightweight design and excellent fit make them worth investigating if the standard AirPods don't sit well in your ears. Battery life is competitive at seven and a half hours.
They lack aptX HD and LDAC but do feature noise-cancelling tech, which is an advantage as the AirPods 2 and 3 lack this feature. Adaptive Sound Control automatically switches listening modes depending on your location, and Sony's DSEE (Digital Sound Enhancement Engine) upscales low-res digital audio files to higher quality.
The sound quality is superbly balanced too, with deep, detailed bass, expressive mids and engaging highs. They're a very musical listen for the money.
Downsides? The lack of support for aptX HD and LDAC is disappointing although Apple's AirPods don't support either of these codecs. Multipoint – which lets you switch seamlessly between devices – is supported but won't arrive until later this summer. And, the charging case only provides one extra charge which seems a little mean. But the superb sound and great feature set make these easy to recommend over the standard AirPods.
Read our full Sony WF-C700N review
Think of Sony's WF-C500 wireless earbuds as a no-frills version of the WF-1000XM4 found further up this page. They deliver a lot of what makes those wireless earbuds a success without cutting too many corners. And it's this that also places them among the best cheap AirPods alternatives.
They're good for running and sports, thanks to their IPX4 rating, while you also get ‘fast pair’ connectivity with Android devices and ‘swift pair’ with Windows 10 PCs.
The sound is nicely balanced, there's loads of mid-range detail on show and it's presented in a cohesive and musical package.
Battery life is 10 hours from the buds themselves, which should be plenty for most, and the case provides another 10 hours so the total battery life can be bettered by some rivals. But, if you're after a great sub-£100 pair of earbuds, that can take on the AirPods at their own game, the Sony's WF-C500 should be on your shortlist.
Read our full Sony WF-C500 review
Panasonic isn't a brand that immediately springs to mind when you think of the best AirPods alternatives. But perhaps it should be. The RZ-S500W are the company's first foray into the market and they're sensational performers for the money.
Specs are thorough, with noise-cancelling tech, an Ambient Mode, twin mics for voice calls, and battery life that totals 19.5 hours (6.5hrs from the buds and 13hrs from the charging case). A 15-minute USB-C quick-charge can deliver 70 minutes of playback. The touch controls on each bud are responsive and intuitive, allowing you to control your music and switch between noise-cancelling modes with zero fuss.
You also get five sizes of ear tips to help with fit. We found this a little hit and miss, so we'd definitely experiment and consider mixing the sizes if it means getting a more secure fit.
Both noise-cancelling and sound quality are excellent. There's plenty of agility through the low end and loads of texture across the frequencies. Music sounds clear and there's a great deal of refinement on show, which is to be welcomed at this price level. To sum up, these Panasonic AirPods alternatives are superb for the money.
Read our full review: Panasonic RZ-S500W
Like the Sonys at number one in this list, the QC Earbuds II are a rival for the AirPods Pro 2. They provide a comfortable fit and lots of features. Bluetooth 5.3 is a big bonus, and the Bose app allows you to alter the amount of noise-cancelling on offer via a number of customisable presets.
Speaking of noise-cancelling, the Bose are at the top of their game and even beat the AirPods Pro 2. They can automatically adjust the amount of ANC on offer so your music isn’t drowned out by particularly loud noises and the effect is deeply impressive. As for sound, it's balanced and neutral and overflowing with fine detail which again, during our testing, just gave them the edge over the AirPods Pro 2.
It's a shame there's no support for high-quality wireless audio codecs such as LDAC or aptX HD, nor is there wireless charging or Bluetooth Multipoint. But we don't think this is the end of the world when you consider that these classy buds set new benchmarks in ANC and sound quality at the money.
Read our full Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II review
iPhone users have got multiple models of AirPods to consider, but what about Android smartphone owners? We'd point them in the direction of the Pixel Buds A-Series, the latest AirPods alternatives to be launched by the search giant and their best effort to date.
They're light and comfortable, and while noise cancelling is off the menu, they do a good job of isolating you. Your colour choices are either white or 'Dark Olive' and the earbuds also boast IPX4 water resistance so you can use them for general exercise and running.
The five-hour battery life isn't exactly class-leading but should be enough for most people. You also get another 20 or so from the carry case. Pairing Pixel Buds A-Series is extremely simple, especially if you're using an Android smartphone or tablet that boasts the Fast Pair feature.
Come music time, there's a lot to like about the Pixel Buds thanks to their approachable, balanced sound. It doesn't favour any part of the sonic spectrum which can't always be said for AirPods alternatives at this level. They're well-rounded performers and available at a great price.
Read our full Google Pixel Buds A-Series review
Obviously, we've already included the newer QC Earbuds II higher up this list because they are superior wireless earbuds, but we've decided to keep the originals in here because they're much cheaper and there are some tempting discounts to be had, especially around Prime Day and Black Friday.
The Bose are lightweight and we have no issues listening for hours at a time. For the average commute or exercise session (the QuietComforts are both sweat and weather-resistant) they are great to live with and they feel like a quality product too.
Battery life is six hours from a single charge, with the wireless charging case supplying an extra two charges, making 18 hours in total – decent, but by no means class-leading. Being able to customise some features and controls, and adjust the excellent noise-cancellation in the companion app, enhances ease of use. Touch controls for volume are the icing on the cake.
The sense of enthusiasm and excitement conveyed by these AirPods alternatives is highly infectious. There’s power, poise and a fantastic sense of dynamism. Bass notes sound full-bodied, go deep and the QuietComforts squeeze out lots of detail.
All in all, the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds are great all-rounders, capable of impressive musicality and topped off with excellent noise cancelling. A little long in the tooth, but still a fine alternative to the AirPods Pro 2.
Read our full review: Bose QuietComfort Earbuds
Earfun isn't one of the first brands that spring to mind when researching AirPods alternatives, but the Earfun Airs could change that. These buds are ridiculously cheap and they sound wonderfully cheerful too!
Noise isolation is excellent (you'll find noise-cancelling on the Pro version below)) and these attractive earbuds feel comfy too. They're IPX7 certified (i.e. waterproof), support virtual assistants and include Qi wireless charging if you own a suitable charger.
Battery life is seven hours from the buds and a further 28 hours from the charging case. Amazingly it all feels fairly premium too. The Bluetooth 5.0 connection is solid and stable and for the money, calls sound clear, and the earbuds offer an energetic and spacious sound.
If you’re after something fun-sounding and a cheap pair of AirPods alternatives, the Earfun Airs are just the ticket.
Read our full review: Earfun Air review
Earfun builds on the success of its Earfun Air (above) by cramming even more features into a new ‘Pro’ variant, the main addition being active noise cancellation. There is now a 10mm driver and three mics per earpiece, too. But, considering the claims on the spec sheet, the price remains jaw-droppingly low.
They're a solid proposition for the money: they fit securely, connect easily, have reliable controls and feature basic but effective noise-cancelling profiles – for just a small premium on the Air model.
There’s also USB-C charging and wearer detection, plus the sound is pretty decent for the money – well-balanced, relatively transparent, taut and full through the bass, and musically pleasing overall. For the money, they perform extremely well although if it came down to a choice between these and the Sony WF-C700N, we'd spend that little bit extra on the Sonys.
Read our full review: Earfun Air Pro
Yes, you can get wireless earbuds not geared towards sport that, for a similar price, deliver more detail and dynamic subtlety (look further up this list for inspiration). But, unlike these JBLs, they won’t have the finely-honed ergonomics or rugged design that's required to be hailed as ideal fitness buddies. And the only AirPods that come close in this regard are the AirPods Pro 2.
Within the context of wireless earbuds for exercise, the Reflect Flow Pro deliver across the board. They're waterproof, lightweight, comfortable and come with multiple ear tip fin options. They boast touch controls and even offer an AirPods-esque 'Find My Buds' feature. Battery life is a very decent 10 hours (or eight with ANC on) while the wireless charging case stores an extra 20 hours. They also produce a lively, detailed sound which makes them a good option when compared to standard AirPods.
Read our full review: JBL Reflect Flow Pro
How we test AirPods alternatives
We test AirPods alternatives just like we test any pair of wireless earbuds. Before we put them in place we'll also experiment with any tips and check out how comfortable they are to wear.
We'll also start with a full charge and see how accurate battery life claims are and just how it's drained during day-to-day use.
Although we have dedicated testing facilities in London, Reading and Bath, the bulk of our wireless earbuds testing happens outside those facilities, whether that's on the street or in our busy office.
It's only when nailing down the finer details of audio quality, we head for quieter environments where we compare the AirPods alternatives we're testing to price-comparable models. This gives us the chance to come to solid conclusions and peg each pair on sound quality.
For ANC testing we venture outside to put those noise-cancelling algorithms through their paces and we also test the call quality of the earbuds at this stage too.
All our review verdicts are agreed upon by the team rather than an individual reviewer to eliminate any personal preference and to make sure we're being as thorough as possible, too. There's no input from PR companies or our sales team when it comes to the verdict, with What Hi-Fi? proud of having delivered honest, unbiased reviews for decades.