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You’ve already cut the cord when it comes to your cable, but the latest data shows that millions of people around the world have cut the cord when it comes to audio devices as well. According to a new report from Counterpoint Research, the global market for true wireless wearables will reach 238 million units by the end of 2021.
Apple’s AirPods remain a best-seller and own a large share of the market. Counterpoint says Apple’s products accounted for almost 30% of the segment in 2020. Users cited ease of use, comfort and name recognition as key reasons for choosing AirPods over other wireless headsets, though Bose topped their list when it came to audio quality.
These days though, a number of other manufacturers are making solid AirPod alternatives, including a new entry from Samsung launched just this month. While a pair of AirPods will run you $160+, we found six great AirPod alternatives that deliver similar sound quality, battery life and comfort without the hefty price tag.
1. AirBuds Pro
The similarly-named AirBuds Pro are one of the latest contenders to the AirPods throne, and at $50, they’re an easy pick-up, either in favor of AirPods, or as a second pair you won’t be afraid to carry around with you.
These lightweight buds are finished in the same signature white colorway as AirPods, and we found them to fit in our ears a little easier too, for all-day comfort. They’re sweat and water-resistant, and battery life is similar to the AirPods – four hours on a single charge and up to 24 hours with the included charging case.
While the AirPods Pro boast ANC (Active Noise Cancellation) technology, the AirBuds Pro use Environmental Noise Cancellation (or ENC) to block out unwanted outside noise. ANC will typically do a better job of sealing off noise (creating a more silent, immersive experience), but we found the AirBuds still did a decent job of helping us tune out external distractions, and tune into the music.
Touch controls at the side let you monitor and change your settings, and connectivity was easy — we had the AirBuds paired to our phone in less than 10 seconds. The AirBuds Pro are compatible with your Android or Apple voice assistants too, if you prefer to say, ask Siri to change your music rather than using the side touch buttons. Everything is packaged into a pocket-sized charging case that keeps your earbuds powered up on the go.
2. Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro TWS Earbuds
These Anker earbuds are a sporty black alternative to AirPods, with IPX5-rated sweatproof and rainproof protection, and seven hours of playback time (which goes up to 21 hours when you toss them in the portable carrying case that doubles as a charger). For a perfectly tailored listening experience, the earbuds have “HearID Personalized EQ” which analyzes your listening patterns and creates an individualized sound setup for your ears (although you can easily adjust your own EQ settings as well.)
Reviewers say sound is well defined across the entire range, and they like the quality background noise reduction, which they say allows for clear and distinct audio, making these earbuds great for taking calls or listening to music on the go.
3. Samsung Galaxy Buds Live
While Samsung’s latest earbuds, the Galaxy Buds2 were just recently released, we feel that the Galaxy Buds Live offers a higher quality listening experience for the price tag. In fact, Samsung’s Galaxy wireless earbuds are one of the few brands out there that rival AirPods for sound quality, reliability and features.
Samsung says their earbuds boast an enhanced listening experience, thanks to work with the audio and acoustics experts at AKG. Your music comes through crystal clear, with more accurate sound and pick-up of all the finely-tuned details in each track. Samsung’s “Active Noise Cancellation” technology lets you tap your buds once to allow in just enough surrounding noise so you’re aware of your environment, without detracting from your listening experience. For runners and cyclists, it keeps you aware of oncoming traffic during your ride, while still keeping you on-beat and on pace.
The Galaxy Buds Live get you up to eight hours of Bluetooth streaming, and up to 5 hours of calls. The included charging case holds a charge for up to seven hours, and gives you 1.7 hours of usage time on just a 15-minute charge.
What we like: the Galaxy Buds Live come with Samsung’s Bixby assistant. Use your voice to make calls, send text messages, skip tracks or check the battery life of your earbuds.
Want to check out the Galaxy Buds2? They also boast ANC technology and get you about five hours of playtime on a single charge. You can find the Samsung Galaxy Buds2 right now for $109.99 on Samsung.com.
4. SoundPEATS TrueFree+ Wireless Earbuds
A durable, yet elegant, pair of earbuds meant to provide a comfortable fit for its extended playtime, the SoundPEATS TrueFree+ Earbuds delivers up to 3.5 hours in one go. When not in use, place them in their case to recharge— you’ll get a whopping 9-10 full charges from the charging case, giving you 35 hours of use.
Reviewers say the SoundPEATS delivers some of the best sound quality in its class, with deep, immersive bass and rich, warm tones you typically only find in larger headphones. Customize your buds using the included ear tip pieces, that let you to seal in a tight, secure fit for optimal noise reduction. A simple tap of the multi-function buttons lets you play and pause your music, and take a call on the go.
5. JVC Gumy True Wireless Earbuds
We haven’t heard much from Japanese electronics brand JVC in recent years, but that doesn’t mean you should sleep on these Gumy Wireless Earbuds, which get you Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity (the leading industry standard), 15 hours of battery life, and an IPX4-rating for water-resistance — enough to withstand accidental splashes or getting caught in a downpour.
The true wireless earbuds fit comfortably into your ears and mold to your ear shape, ensuring that they won’t fall out, even on a workout or run. Sound quality here is good — you won’t get the dynamic range of highs and lows like you would with AirPods or the Samsung Buds up top, but for everyday listening (say, while you’re working or on a commute), these will do the trick.
The JVC earbuds are compatible with voice assistants too, to easily switch between your songs and settings. Get a pair in white for an Apple AirPods dupe; four other colors are available too.
6. TOZO T12 TWS Bluetooth 5.0 Earbuds
It sounds almost too good to be true: a pair of wireless earbuds with almost all 5-star reviews for under $50? But that’s what the latest set from TOZO delivers, with over five hours of playback time on a single charge, a large 10mm speaker driver, and ergonomically-designed ear-tips made with a gel silicone that’s more comfortable for prolonged wear. What we like: these buds are waterproof-rated IPX8, meaning they can be submerged in up to one meter of water for 30 minutes and still come out in-tact. The sweat-proof coating on the caps makes these a great option for workouts too, allowing moisture to wick-off easily so your sound — and workout — goes uninterrupted.