Apple AirPod alternatives: These are the best true wireless earbuds around
True wireless vs wireless: what’s the difference?
True Wireless headphones – those that you see in this guide – have no cord whatsoever. While wireless allows us to wear headphones a few feet away from your music player or phone, True Wireless cuts the cord between the earbuds, giving us complete freedom.
Wireless headphones on the other hand have existed for some time, basically since Bluetooth as a standard was invented. Though battery-powered and not physically connected to your phone, they have a cord connecting both buds – and sometimes a band around the neck too. If you don’t want to ditch the cable completely, check our best wireless earbuds guide here.
If you haven’t noticed, headphone cables are no longer in fashion. That’s because wireless audio sounds better than ever, compression formats for Bluetooth 5.0 are more reliable, flagship smartphones are shipping without headphone jacks, and listeners of all kinds are starting to see the benefits of cordless audio – including no more annoying cables. True wireless earbuds are the next step in audio.
True wireless means there aren’t any cables between earbuds at all, so there’s no wire or neck band to contend with. Nothing to get tangled in your pocket or caught on your zipper, nothing to whack around your neck in the middle of that run, and also nothing to keep your singular earbuds together.
True wireless earbuds may be more expensive than simple wireless earbuds and tend not to offer noise-canceling – with the notable exception of the Sony WF-1000XM3 – but that additional upfront cost pays for the convenience of living cable-free. We’d also argue that it’s worth spending a bit more to go true wireless, too, as they offer more freedom of movement and tend to be more comfortable over longer periods (see: the Beats Powerbeats Pro).
Best true wireless earbuds at a glance
Sony WF-1000XM3 True Wireless Earbuds
Cambridge Audio Melomania 1
Klipsch T5 True Wireless
RHA TrueConnect True Wireless Eabuds
Jabra Elite 65t
Beats Powerbeats Pro
Jabra Elite Sport True Wireless Earbuds
Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless
Sony WF-SP700N Noise-Cancelling Earbuds
B&O Beoplay E8 Wireless Earphones
Samsung Galaxy Buds
One of the best times to buy cheap true wireless earbuds is coming up soon: Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2019. We’re expecting lots of the Bluetooth earbuds on this list to be discounted, so make sure you bookmark our Black Friday deals page for the latest wireless headphones deals as they come in.
We have our picks of the best true wireless earbuds out there – but first, let’s address the elephant in the room: Apple AirPods. These are the true wireless headphones that all others are compared to, and as such are worth knowing about before we dive into the other better options out there.
The new true wireless earbuds could pose a challenge for Apple – after all, its own buds, the Apple AirPods, are the current market leaders.]
Apple AirPods (2019)
Acoustic design: Open-back | Weight: 4g (38g with case) | Driver type: Dynamic **Battery life (on-board):** 5 hours | Battery life (charging case): 20 hours | Wireless range: 10m | NFC: No
Hands-free ‘Hey Siri’ functionality
Wireless charging case costs extra
Audio hasn’t improved
Identical design to the originals
The second generation Apple AirPods, the AirPods (2019), aren’t quite the AirPods 2 we were hoping for, but they still some cool features.
They still feature the iconic design of the original AirPods (a good or bad thing depending on your point of view), and sound quality hasn’t changed at all. The bulk of the upgrade comes from the new H1 headphone chip, which improves connectivity and battery life, and allows for a new ‘Hey Siri’ voice activation feature.
The AirPods (2019) also come with an optional wireless charging case means you can use a Qi-compatible charging mat to power the case, rather than sticking a cable into the Lightning charging port in the bottom of the case.
Like their predecessors, they are super easy to pair, but they are very much optimized for using with iPhones.
The best true wireless earbuds give you more flexibility when it comes to your device of choice, and can offer superior sound quality – as well as sleeker designs.
There’s also no getting away from the fact that these are an expensive pair of headphones, and for that kind of money we think that you can find better products elsewhere – especially if you’re looking to pair with anything other than an iPhone.
We’re still waiting for the AirPods 2, which will hopefully address some of the issues we’ve found with the original Pods. In the meantime, read on for our favorite alternatives…
What are the best true wireless headphones?
1. Sony WF-1000XM3 True Wireless Earbuds
Noise-cancelling true wireless headphones that made our dreams come true
Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 70g | Frequency response: 20-20,000Hz | Drivers: 6mm | Driver type: Dome Type | Sensitivity: N/A | Impedance: N/A | Battery life (on-board): 6 hours | Battery life (charging case): 18 hours | Wireless range: 30ft | NFC: Yes
Great fun to listen too
No volume control on earbuds
Not suitable for sports
Considering it’s still rare to get noise-cancellation in wired earbuds at all, the fact that Sony has managed to pack it into a pair that are not only wireless, but true wireless is very impressive indeed.
The Sony WF-1000X manage to offer a level of noise-cancellation that’s very good for a pair of earbuds – it won’t offer the same isolation as a pair of over-ear cans, but if you’re after a sleek form factor then the compromise is worth it.
That being said, in spite of a few minor problems we feel that Sony has knocked the ball out of the park with the WF-1000XM3: Not only are these hands down the best-looking True Wireless headphones out there, but they combine serious noise cancelling tech with fist-pumping musicality. If you don’t want the inconvenience of carrying full-size cans, they’re a persuasive alternative.
Battery life is above average, and that compact charging case is pretty slick too. On-ear volume controls similar to the PowerBeats Pro would’ve been nice, but again, that’s really not a deal-breaker in our books.
We reckon the True Wireless jungle has found a new king.
Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 9.2g | Frequency response: 20-20,000Hz | Drivers: 5.8mm | Driver type: Dome Type | Sensitivity: 9.8dB | Impedance: N/A | Battery life (on-board): 9 hours | Battery life (charging case): 36 hours | Wireless range: N/A | NFC: Yes
Outstanding audio quality
Good value for money
Control buttons can be annoying to use
No noise cancelation
Cambridge Audio is known for its high-end audio equipment, but until now, hasn’t ventured into the world of true wireless earbuds. Enter the Cambridge Audio Melomania 1s: with an outstanding 45 hours of battery life, they combine the brand’s award-winning engineering with the convenience of truly wireless listening.
For a pair of true wireless earbuds, the sound quality offered by the Cambridge Audio Melomania 1s is sensational. In fact, it rivals some of the best over-ear headphones, which is all but unheard of for buds of this size.
They may not have the noise cancelation technology offered by the Sony WF-1000XM3 Wireless Earbuds, but they are $100 (around £80) cheaper – and have a superior battery life.
They certainly outperform the Apple AirPods, in all respects apart from the lack of wireless charging case. This is a small price to pay for that exceptional audio quality, though, and we think they represent much better value for money, too.
They’re not cheap, but the T5 holds their own against the top of the line true wireless headphones – in fact, we’d argue that they’re one of the best models on the market right now. We think that because they offer stellar sound, build quality, long-lasting battery life and one of the coolest cases we’ve ever seen.
Of course, you’re buying a Klipsch product because it features the signature Klipsch sound, which is warm, detailed, and never harsh. Acoustic music is lush and detailed, and the detail extends to the highs as well, allowing the headphones to sing in the higher registers without ever being sibilant.
Battery life is rated at 8 hours per charge with the case giving an additional 24 hours. Our testing playing music at 50% volume found 7 hours per charge and the case giving three additional charges no problem. This is a headphone that can last you an entire flight from New York to San Francisco.
Although the TrueConnect is RHAs first true wireless headphone, the company showed they did their research and development by making it one of the best true wireless headphones on the market today. The combination of sound quality, battery life, and wireless reliability means these are a pair of headphones you can rely on everyday.
The Jabra Elite 65t set the standard for what true wireless headphones should be and, regardless of what RHA has done here with the TrueConnect, they’re still great headphones. Compared to the RHA TrueConnect, the Jabra has more features with its useful ambient noise mode to help with situational awareness and an app that lets you tailor sound.
The RHA doesn’t have either of those features but we didn’t miss them, thanks to better sound quality and wireless reliability. The RHA also feels more like a premium product than the all-plastic Jabra.
All said, if you’re shopping for a pair of true wireless headphones, the $170 (£150, about AU$265) RHA TrueConnect should be at the very top of your list.
If you want a pair of high quality truly wireless earbuds that aren’t the Apple AirPods, then the Jabra Elite 65t should be at the top of your list.
After spending over a month with them, we came away impressed with the well-rounded package that Jabra managed to create: The earbuds offer a subtle, mature look and a reliable wireless connection, which isn’t always the case with truly wireless earbuds. Plus, they sound great compared to the competition.
If you only have the budget for one of these, go for the Elite 65t.
The new PowerBeats Pro true wireless Beats headphones aren’t exactly the earbuds analysts have been predicting, sure, but they are something special – they’re supremely comfortable, sound decent and seem to never, ever fall out.
That said, they are – in our opinion – Apple’s best true wireless earbuds to date thanks to small additions like the pressure-reducing micro-laser barometric venting hole, their longer battery life and their superior sound quality. If we had to choose between wearing these and the AirPods around the house or office, these are what we’d wear.
If you’re more the athletic type, the Jabra Elite Sport are currently the ultimate true wireless earphones for runners and other kinds of athletes. There’s a heart rate sensor on the right earpiece, letting it monitor your exertion level as you exercise.
A Jabra companion app lets you track your exercise, and you can kick off a workout by pressing a button on one earpiece, and the heart rate tracker is more reliable than most wrist-worn models… as long as you fit the Elite Sport buds properly.
The Jabra Elite Sport don’t perch in your ears, they fill them rather like a custom molded earphone. As a result, sound isolation is excellent and the fit is very secure.
To sweeten the deal, Jabra recently updated the Elite Sport to boost stamina to a better-than-average four-and-a-half hours per charge – more than enough to get you through your weekly workouts – before hanging up the towel.
Sennheiser enters the race with its Momentum True Wireless earbuds. An extension of its reputable Momentum range, these cordless buds offer Sennheiser’s trademark high-fidelity audio in a gorgeously sleek package.
You only get four hours of charge in the earbuds, but the carry case will be able to charge them two times over on top of that, giving you 12 hours in total when on the go.
The main thing holding these back is the price: at £259 / $299 (about AU$400) they’re almost double the cost of the Apple AirPods. You do get a range of touch-based controls to stop you reaching for your phone every time you want to skip or pause a track, but the act of prodding things in your ear could be more comfortable – while the volume control is oddly imprecise.
Overall though, Sennheiser’s first true wireless earbuds combine style and sound like few others.
Sony’s first pair of true wireless headphones, the Sony WF-1000X, were divisive. Some thought they didn’t offer enough bass. Others said they had too much. Some said they cut out or unpaired periodically. Others simply never had that problem. Criticisms came hard and fast from all corners of the internet and the only reasonable conclusion one could make after sifting through all of the noise was that the Sony headphones just couldn’t please everyone.
Now, Sony’s second-generation true-wireless headphones – the Sony WF-SP700N – are here to try it again. These true wireless headphones are better tuned for the low-end and they’re stable in almost every situation. They still offer very modest active noise-cancellation tech and a sweat-resistant PX4 rating, and the new charging case is aesthetically pleasing if not radically different in functionality from before.
Let’s get one thing out of the way – the B&O Beoplay E8 are one of the nicest-looking and most expensive wireless earphones you can buy.
At $299 (£259, AU$449, AED 1,199) you can throw in a bit more cash and splurge for one of our favorite noise-cancelling headphones, the Bose QuietComfort 35 $349 (£259, AU$499, AED 1,449), which give you better battery life and a richer sound. But if you’re looking for a something to take to the gym and have the cash to burn, then the Beoplay E8 might be just what you’re looking for.
While you won’t find noise-cancellation here, you will find a longer-lasting battery life of around four hours alongside Bluetooth 4.2. The E8 come with a stylish carrying case, and you can tweak the sound to your liking using the accompanying Beoplay app on Android and iOS.
Even without tinkering around with ToneTouch, the E8 sounds crisp and clear. Bass feedback will depend on how snug you’re wearing the E8s, but was acceptable for earphones of this size. If you’re able to look past the price point, then then Beoplay E8 is a great investment. It’s super compact, offers great audio, and looks great – what more could you ask for?
It feels as though Samsung has finally got it right with the Galaxy Buds, and they represent serious competition for the Apple AirPods in terms of design, sound, and ease of use.
We loved the pearlescent effect on the buds outer housing and the sleek design of the case, and we found they felt comfortable and secure.
The sound quality offered by these true wireless buds is also very good indeed, with deep bass, and a wide open soundstage; although, audiophiles may want to look elsewhere for a more natural sound treatment, as the Galaxy Buds do sound very warm.
The downside here is that other features that are available on the app like ambient noise and the equalizer presets are useful to have, but didn’t always work as effectively as we hoped. These features are also pretty much out of bounds for iOS users, as you can only download the app on devices running Android 5.0 or later.