Best Apple AirPods alternatives Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?'s round-up of the best Apple AirPods alternatives you can buy in 2020.
With great battery life, the option of a wireless charging case and hands-free "Hey Siri" functionality, you can see why the Apple AirPods are so popular. But what are the best AirPods alternatives? If you're looking for a sportier pair, or a cheaper one, or one that takes them for sound quality, this is the page for you.
We've rounded up the best AirPods alternatives for every taste and budget, so you're guaranteed to find a pair that suit. All these pairs of wireless earbuds come with a charging case for topping up battery life. They can also be used to control your smartphone or tablet through physical buttons or in some cases touch-sensitive surfaces.
If you're not blown away by the AirPods design, aren't convinced by the latest AirPods, or just don't use Apple devices but still like the idea of true wireless earbuds, this is the page for you.
While you're here, why not check out our pick of the best headphones deals, which see plenty of big discounts on true wireless headphones. Or perhaps these AirPods deals will tempt you back towards Apple.
Impressive tech, a comfortable fit, excellent battery life and awesome sound quality. These Sonys tick all those boxes and then some, making them the best AirPods alternatives on the market right now.
They were also the first only true wireless in-ears we'd seen to sport active noise-cancelling. The tech works remarkably well for a pair of in-ears, isolating you from the outside world and allowing the excellent sound quality into your ears unhindered. It's also handy if you just fancy a snooze instead of listening to any music
Battery life (with Bluetooth and noise-cancelling activated) is an impressive six hours per charge, with the supplied charging case bumping this to 24 hours. Which should last all but the most far-flung worker an entire week's commuting.
The touch controls take a bit of getting used to, and it would be nice to support aptX HD Bluetooth, but apart from that, you simply can't get a more musical and engaging performance from a pair of true wireless earbuds. We’re well and truly smitten.
Read the full review: Sony WF-1000XM3
Cambridge Audio might be better known for its hi-fi electronics, but its first venture into the world of true wireless headphones has been a very successful one.
The Melomania 1s come in under the price of the Apple AirPods, and although the tech - for example, the control mechanism - isn't quite as snazzy, the sound quality is excellent. Not only that, you get an impressive nine hours of battery life per charge which rises to 36 with the supplied carry case. That's a whopping total battery life of 45 hours, which should be more than enough for anyone. Be honest: when was the last time you spent that long away from a plug socket?
Four sets of tips come as standard - three silicone, one memory foam - which is pretty much par for the course when it comes to getting a good fit. The Bluetooth connection is also very stable, even holding up when we left our phone in the house and wandered outside.
Read the full review: Cambridge Audio Melomania 1
These AirPod Alternatives improve on the original Momentum True Wireless (found in position 11) in almost every way.
The design has been refined, slimming the headphones down, making them more petite and unobtrusive. When slid in and turned, they provide a comfy fit, able to be worn for upwards of five or six hours with no discomfort.
The Sennheisers also boast active noise cancellation and the ability to reduce background sound to just a faint murmur. It works well and is almost as effective as the noise-cancelling you get from the Sony WF-1000XM3s.
Like a lot of AirPods alternatives, you can customise the touch controls on each earbud using an accompanying app, which is a nice touch.
Battery life is a healthy seven hours (though less with active noise-cancellation activated), while the carry case adds another 21 to play with.
And the sound? Excellent, with plenty of precision and focus, and an impressively spacious soundstage. This is a mature, sophisticated-sounding pair of earbuds that perform no matter what you throw at them.
Read the full review: Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2
Unlike some truly wireless headphones, these Bose in-ears sit comfortably without invading your ears. They're secure enough to stay in during a jog or workout session, without ever feeling too intrusive. It's a fine balancing act that many sports models get wrong.
The earbuds themselves feature controls for playback and volume, so you won't be constantly reaching for your phone while you're getting a sweat on. And they sound great too, delivering a bold-but-balanced sound with a rich and weighty bass. The solid, unwavering performance works well across a wide range of music genres. Highs aren’t wrapped in cotton wool, nor do they sound excitable or bright.
The downside? We found they tended to drop out every now and again. The Sony's at the top of this list boast greater musicality, but the SoundSport Frees are still a great alternative to the AirPods, especially if you regularly suit up in lycra leggings.
Read the full review: Bose SoundSport Free
JBL is a heavy hitter when it comes to wireless sports earbuds, and given the AirPods can be hit and miss for exercise, you might want to consider the Reflect Flows as an alternative option.
These true wireless buds are very good indeed, especially if you want a bass-heavy sound for the gym without resorting to cans. (Because let's be honest, you have to be pretty ripped to pull off cans in the gym.)
But there's more to the sound than just bass. Even complex songs retain a sense of distance between instruments so proceedings never become too muddied. It's an impressive showing, especially for a sporty pair.
The 10-hour battery life (or 30 with the case) means you've no excuse to finish that 5k run or even a marathon for that matter. In fact, with the carry case in your pocket, you'd have enough juice to complete an Ironman, providing you're up to it.
Whether you're a weekend warrior or hardcore fitness fanatic, the Reflect Flows will see you through your routine.
Read the full review: JBL Reflect Flow
For all the AirPods' strengths, one thing that can people can struggle with is the fit. This means they can be limited when using them for exercise. And this is where the Jaybird Vistas come in. The fit is superb, with the SportFit integrated silicone eartip and fins providing both comfort and stability. They're also IPX7 water- and sweat-proof and even crushproof, so should be able to withstand a stampede if you happen to drop one.
They work in unison with the smart Jaybird app which helps with pairing, control and sound customisation so you can get the earbuds set up just the way you want them. USB-C charging is provided, including a five minute 'super-charge' which injects them with one hour of battery life. A full charge gives you six hours, with the charging case providing an additional 10. They produce a lively, entertaining sound with loads of meaty bass - ideal for keeping your tempo up.
Read the full review: Jaybird Vista
The AirPods Pros sit above the standard AirPods you'll find lower down this list. They're pricier, but you do get better sound quality, an improved level of comfort thanks to the inclusion of ear tips, and the addition of Apple's own noise-cancelling technology, which is up there with the best at this money. It shuts out street noise and reduces office babble to an easy-to-ignore background hum. Which is exactly what we want from active noise cancellation.
That boosted sound quality deserves a special mention. Typically Apple, the AirPod Pros have a neutral tonal balance rather than lashings of bass - nothing sticks out as not fitting in with the overall sonic cohesion.
Though be warned: the sound quality is marred somewhat when noise cancellation is activated.
The Sony WF-1000XM3s do sound better, but if you're an iPhone user, you're going to want to give these wireless earbuds an audition.
Read the full review: Apple AirPods Pro
We realise this is a list of the best AirPods alternatives, but Apple's headphones still deserve a mention. After all, they started the trend.
This 2019 version is much-improved over the original. Apple has foregone any flashy redesign and focussed on the basics: getting the sound right. For a start, they go louder, which, seeing as they don't block the entrance to the ear canal and so let in plenty of noise, is very welcome indeed. The classic Apple neutral tonal balance has also been spruced up a little, adding more subtlety and sophistication to the mix. Low-level dynamic shifts are more granular and delicate, while bigger contrasts between quiet and loud are more pronounced and dramatic. There’s more detail to the delivery, too, and the presentation is a little more open and spacious. Organisation, meanwhile, is subtly improved thanks to better timing.
The wireless tech is as reliable and impressive as ever thanks to Apple's W1 chip.
However, they still retain the same gripes as the first-generation AirPods: namely, the fit won't suit everyone and the lack of buttons can be a pain. But it's good to see the standard AirPods have evolved into a pair of very capable headphones.
Read the full review: Apple AirPods (2019)
SoundMagic specialises in budget headphones - its E10 and E11 models are some of the best low-cost wired in-ears around - and its first AirPods alternatives are no different. The TWS50s can be had for less than a third of the price of some of their high-end rivals. So how do they fare in such a competitive field?
The answer is very well indeed. Each earbud is wonderfully light, and combined with the comfy fit, provide a barely-there wearing experience. The case design is refreshingly different, though it can be a bit fiddly to open. But considering it holds around four extra charges, boosting the overall battery life from six to around 30 hours - very competitive at this price - we're willing to overlook the odd design flaw.
The sound is full-bodied, and the presentation nicely open and spacious, giving each instrument room to work. There's a little lack of dynamic detail noticeable on some tracks, but this is a minor quibble rather than a dealbreaker.
A great proposition then, and a very viable alternative to the AirPods if you're on a tighter budget or just fancy saving some money.
Read the full review: SoundMagic TWS50
The TrueConnects might be a little pricier than the SoundMagics above, but they're still relatively affordable compared to competition. And for this money there's a lot to like about these true wireless in-ears from RHA.
Like Apple's equivalent, there's a stem which points down when they're in place. The TrueConnects sit snugly which helps with noise isolation. When not in use, the headphones sit inside their own case which can also charge them and extend battery life 20 hours on top of their standard five-hours. Pairing takes just a few seconds, while music playback and volume are handled by a couple of short presses on the relevant earpiece controls.
The sound is nicely balanced, while they dig up enough detail to give the AirPods a run for their money. They angle towards a neutral tonal balance, but the bass filler injection has been applied subtly enough to avoid turning a hi-fi style earphone into a ‘bass-head’ one. Overall, they're a sure sign that true wireless earphones are coming of age in terms of their sonic performance.
Read the full review: RHA TrueConnect
These were Sennheiser's debut true wireless headphones, and have since been succeeded by the second-generation models higher up this list. But they're still a compelling proposition.
That's because they're fantastic all-rounders: the design is classy, the features useful and well-stacked, and the battery life decent. The sound quality also impresses: there's a deep, probing bass to explore, and a good sense of spaciousness with clear and distinct layers of detail. Instruments and vocals are reassuringly warm and natural, while harsher recordings with rough edges are treated fairly, neither being glossed over nor sounding overly bright or uncomfortable.
The Bluetooth connection also remained resolutely stable throughout our testing, as did our faith in these headphones as an everyday accompaniment to your listening source of choice.
One other thing in their favour: now their successors have broken cover, these are currently being discounted at most retailers. Better get bargain hunting...
Read the full review: Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless
An odd one, this: Samsung's Gear Icon Xs sound so much better than the firm's more recent Galaxy Buds. So much for progress, eh?
The Icon Xs are well designed, with an impressive feature set and effortless connectivity. But it's the sound quality that really stands out.
This is a wonderfully musical performance, with the balance in the frequency range being among the best of any true wireless pair we had tested at the time (we first reviewed them back in 2018). They have a fine sense of timing and dynamics, with a generous amount of bass weight to back it all up.
So why no five stars? There is some coarseness in the mid-range and treble that, while by no means migraine-inducing, does mar the listening experience somewhat. But with a claimed seven hours of playback from a single charge, they're well worth investigating for long journeys. Especially if you're looking for an Apple alternative.
Read the full review: Samsung Gear Icon X
British firm Cyrus might be better known for products, such as the soundKey DAC and CDi CD player, but this hasn't stopped the manufacturer from bringing out a pair of extremely cheap AirPods alternatives.
The eartips are connected to wings for added stability and you get three different sizes in the box. More choice would be nice, but we still managed to achieve a secure fit and seal. The IPX5 rating means they're good to go in the gym and out in the wild too.
The functional design includes circular control buttons on the top surface of each bud, although you can't change volume this way. You'll need to get out your phone for that. Pairing is simple and there's no accompanying app to worry about. It's a shame battery life isn't longer than three hours, but at least the charging case will provide an extra 12 hours.
On the whole, the soundBuds produce a clear and open sound that ticks along nicely. Bass weight isn't particularly generous and dynamics could be better, but voices sound impressive and all the elements work together cohesively. A solid, budget pair of AirPods alternatives.
Read the full review: Cyrus soundBuds