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Why I think you should ignore even the best AirPods deals this Cyber Monday

Headphones deals
(Image credit: Future)

As Black Friday evolves into Cyber Monday (today!), it can be easy to lose sight of what is truly important. Sometimes, we can focus on popular choice, rather than the well-reviewed best choice.

The 2nd-gen AirPods (2019) with charging case did drop in price (although that deal has gone the way of Black Friday), but consider that Cambridge Audio has added to Cyber Monday in a big way by significantly dropping the price of its splendid, 2021 release five-star Melomania 1 Plus true wireless earbuds to just £89.95 (opens in new tab) – a full 25 per cent off their £120 launch price. 

Melomania 1+ wireless earbuds £120 £89.95 at Richer Sounds (save £30.05) (opens in new tab)
These true wireless earbuds only launched this year, but they're now available with a huge 25% discount. The sound is clear and exciting, plus they boast a class-leading battery life. At this price, they're a no-brainer. Five stars.

Opt for the above suggestion and you'll get superior sound, better stamina (a jump from 24 hours with the 2nd gen. AirPods to 35 in the Melomania 1 Plus – or 45 if you deploy low power mode) and save more money. 

But you can spend far less. Just check out these alternative Cyber Monday earbuds deals, and why you should at least look them over before you plump for a set of Apple's AirPods.

Panasonic RZ-S500W £169 £99 at Amazon (save £70) (opens in new tab)
Quite simply the best true wireless earbuds you can buy under £100. They offer a combination of features (including noise-cancelling) and sound quality that is unique at this price. Five stars, What Hi-Fi? Award winner.

Earfun Air £60 £42.50 at Amazon (save £17.50) (opens in new tab)
The cheapest true wireless earbuds we can heartily recommend, these five-star Earfuns do the basics right – and come on, it's an Award-winner that's now less than £50! Five stars. What Hi-Fi? Award-winner. 

Sennheiser HD 250BT £60 £38 at Amazon (save £22) (opens in new tab)
We didn't think these superb, new-release budget wireless on-ears could get any cheaper – but here we are telling you about a 37% discount! Don't expect luxury flourishes, but they nail the important bits. These sound great for the money and have Bluetooth 5.0 and aptX Low Latency support, a 25-hour battery life, plus app support that brings EQ customisation onboard. Five stars. 

I caveat the above with two admissions: if you have an iPhone, there is a lot to be said for buying a pair of AirPods. There's no denying the way they happily present themselves for seamless integration with an iPhone for music, video and calls. Is this worth the significant extra spend? That is up to you. 

Secondly, as we said in our review of the Sennheiser HD 250BT (but it applies to all budget earbuds and headphones) it would be an unfair ask to expect the final word in sonic brilliance for £60 (now £39). If the firm had cracked that particular code at this nominal price level, we could all go home. However, underestimate these headphones at your peril. Sennheiser’s ultra-affordable and durable headphones do not disappoint sonically for the price. The HD 250BT sound a good deal more musically detailed, agile and rhythmically gifted across the frequencies than we had predicted. 

Ask us whether Earfun’s true wireless Air earbuds sound as good as in-ears at double, triple or quadruple the price, and the answer is also no. But until we heard them (in the second half of 2020), we had never awarded five stars to a set of true wireless headphones in this ultra-budget category – despite testing models from well-known and highly respected audio brands. 

It's also worth noting that if you are buying AirPods to use with your iPhone, a device which comes pre-loaded with the Apple Music app, you won't be able to listen to Apple Music's latest Lossless or Hi-Res Lossless tiers in their full resolution using AirPods – none of them support it. If hi-res quality is of paramount importance to you, you're far better off buying wired headphones and a portable DAC such as the AudioQuest DragonFly Cobalt

You will get spatial audio support with the AirPods (2019), but then, you can get Apple's spatial audio with Dolby Atmos via any headphones, provided you allow it in your phone's settings. 

If you want full support for Apple's spatial audio technology – and by 'full' we mean the experience that comes complete with dynamic head-tracking to make the 3D audio from music and movies even more immersive – you will get this only by purchasing Apple's more premium AirPods, namely the AirPods Max, AirPods Pro or AirPods 3, rather than the second-gen. 2019 model.

So there you have it. Something to think about before you click 'buy now' this Cyber Monday, at the very least. 

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Becky has been a full-time staff writer at What Hi-Fi? since March 2019. Prior to gaining her MA in Journalism in 2018, she freelanced as an arts critic alongside a 20-year career as a professional dancer and aerialist – any love of dance is of course tethered to a love of music. Becky has previously contributed to Stuff, FourFourTwo, This is Cabaret and The Stage. When not writing, she dances, spins in the air, drinks coffee, watches football or surfs in Cornwall with her other half – a football writer whose talent knows no bounds.