AirPods are some of the most popular wireless earbuds going. You're bound to see people using them wherever you go — but are they the best choice for the money? We don't think so. This guide runs through an ear-delighting array of earbuds that offer more affordable price points, better sound quality and other eye-catching features.
Since most smartphones abandoned the headphone jack, wireless earbuds have become a go-to tech accessory, and AirPods have been among the most popular despite being relatively expensive.
It's worth noting why Apple's AirPods have been so sought after. Partly, it's because iPhones have been so popular here in the UK. For iPhone users, AirPods offer an almost unrivalled user experience. They're simple to pair, and come with a wealth of features that make them intuitive and easy to use. That experience comes at a price, though — starting with the £139 AirPods (2nd Gen), to the latest £189 AirPods (3rd Gen), the £249 AirPods Pro, the £229 AirPods Pro (2nd Gen) and the over-ear £549 AirPods Max.
While the AirPods range genuinely offers great sound, it's not the best out there. They're market leaders in terms of ease of use and user experience — when paired with an iPhone — rather than being market leaders in terms of sheer sound quality. So, if you're an audiophile with an Android phone, it may pay to look elsewhere.
If you're on the hunt for some non-Apple earbuds, take a look at the suggestions below. The RadioTimes.com team have been reviewing and researching a wide range of alternatives to help you find your perfect earbuds.
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It's a commonly asked question, largely thanks to the fairly hefty price-tags that some AirPods carry. Whether or not AirPods are a good purchase depends on what you need from earbuds and how invested you already are in the Apple ecosystem.
If you already use a lot of Apple tech, AirPods will connect seamlessly and offer a range of small quality of life features that they don't always deliver when paired with Android phones. Or, sometimes these features can be used with an Android, but it takes a lot of fiddling with settings to enable them. Instead, pairing AirPods with Apple products is a breeze, but that comes out of your pocket when purchasing them.
If you use an Android phone, in many cases there are AirPod alternatives that might suit you better. Read on to get the lowdown on some of the very best AirPod alternatives and the use cases that suit each one.
Looking for more audio? Here is our guide for the best DAB radio.
- Best AirPod alternatives: Sony WF-1000XM4, £151.69
- Best budget look-a-likes: Tronsmart Onyx Ace Pro, £15
- Best budget AirPod alternatives: Skullcandy Dime, £29.99
- Best affordable AirPod alternatives: EarFun Free Pro 2, £69.99
- Best premium AirPod alternatives: Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2, £269.99
- Best for battery life: Cambridge Audio Melomania Touch, £99.95
- Best for sound quality: Grado GT220, £229
- Best for sport: Powerbeats Pro, £269
Best AirPod alternatives
We were hugely impressed with Sony's 2021 WF-1000XM4 earbuds. They pack amazing sound and build quality into an appealing package that fits well in the ear.
These top-end earbuds bagged an amazing 4.9-star rating in our full Sony WF-1000XM4 review. We loved the sound quality, design and functionality. Sony is well-known for the quality of its audio equipment and the WF-1000XM4 are genuine contenders for being the best earbuds on the market.
Of course, as a result of their incredible quality, the Sony WF-1000XM4 earbuds were expensive when they were first released; from an original RRP of £250, these are now available for £151.69 at Amazon.
- Sony WF-1000XM4 | £151.69 at Amazon
Tronsmart Onyx Ace
Best budget look-a-likes
The Tronsmart Onxy Ace Pro wireless earbuds offer a design very, very similar to that of the 1st and 2nd gen AirPods. So, if you like the fit of those buds but you don't want to pay Apple prices then these are a great option. The case is a little different and offers some helpful LEDs to indicate charge levels and such.
We got hands-on with these earbuds and experienced no technical issues. They were reliable during our testing period and offered solid audio. However, it's worth noting that this sort of in-ear fit — with no seal, or tip — just can't block out sound in the same way those with silicon tips do, even those without active noise cancellation do.
Right now, you can pick these up for an extremely low £15 at ebay.
Tronsmart Onyx Ace Pro | £15.99 at ebay
Best budget AirPod alternatives
Amazingly you can currently pick up these nifty little Skullcandy earbuds for just £29.99, (though they have dipped as low as £19.95). Yes, they're not as high-end or feature-packed as the other earbuds on this list, but they're a fantastic, simple option for everyday use.
The sound quality is entirely listenable and better than other offerings at this stunningly low price. The earbuds themselves are also appealingly tactile, coming in a small pocketable case with a few spare tips and a (frustratingly short) charging cable.
Overall, nice-sounding earbuds from a recognised audio brand, for around £30 — it's a fantastic value proposition.
EarFun Free Pro 2
Best affordable AirPod alternatives
These affordable earbuds from EarFun are ideal for the gym, commuting and everyday use. They offer ANC on a shoestring and plenty of bang for your buck.
In our full EarFun Free Pro 2 review, our experts loved the ease of use and the ability to switch between normal, ambient and ANC mode.
If you're an audiophile these won't be the earbuds for you, but if you have more modest requirements the EarFun Free Pro 2 are fantastically listenable. We enjoyed the sound quality and were more than satisfied with the battery life and easy set-up.
EarFun Free Pro 2 | £69.99 at Amazon
Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2
Best premium AirPod alternatives
Sennheiser is one of the most well-renowned audio brands out there. Known for high-quality sound and thoughtful design, the Momentum True Wireless 2 are another product that embodies the high standards Sennheiser always sets.
We were very impressed with these earbuds in testing, giving them a four and a half star rating in our full Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 review. They excelled in every respect, with great sound, battery life and a sleek design. Of course, they're a little pricey, but there's little else wrong with these earbuds.
The RRP for these earbuds is £279.99, but you can currently bag them for a little bit cheaper at Amazon.
Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 | £269.99
Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus
Best for battery life
When listening to music, these earbuds from Cambridge Audio lasted just under nine hours on a single charge; that's very good going! Though making calls will make that battery life slightly shorter. The charging case holds another 36 hours of charge.
The Melomania app allows users to adjust the settings of their earbuds, meaning you can customise your levels to suit your taste. The earbuds also offer fantastic sound quality for the price and good volume range. We gave them four and a half stars in our full Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus review.
Sadly, the Melomania 1+ is currently out of stock on Amazon, but you can buy the next generation Melomania Touch for the same cost.
Cambridge Audio Melomania Touch | £99.95 at Amazon
Best for sound quality
Built for audiophiles by audiophiles, in the Grado Labs factory in Brooklyn, New York — the Grado GT220 earbuds pack a fantastic sound.
However, while the sound is absolutely top-notch, these earbuds lack some of the features that competitors at this price bracket possess. There's no active noise cancellation, for example, they're a little on the chunky side and there's no in-ear detection to automatically pause playback when the earbuds aren't in your ears.
If your complete focus is sound quality, these are the earbuds for you but bear in mind that similarly, wonderful-sounding earbuds like the Sony WF-1000XM4 buds do come with ANC and bags of features.
Grado GT220 | £229 at Peter Tyson
Beats Powerbeats Pro
Best for sport
Ultimately, if you're looking for wireless earbuds that are perfect for sport, then ones with a wing-tip fit are the best solution. If you're out on a run, these won't go tumbling down the nearest sewer grate. Even if the tips pop out of your ears, the wings will stop them from dropping to the floor. While we've tested some great earbuds that fit well without wing-tips, even the best-fitted earbud can pop out when you're sweating during intense exercise. Currently, we think the Beats Powerbeats Pro are the best solution to that. They offer good sound quality and an appealing design, too.
In our full Powerbeats Pro review the earbuds bagged a four-star rating. Our experts liked the comfortable fit, rich sound and smooth OS compatibility.
- Powerbeats Pro | £269 at Currys
- Powerbeats Pro | £269.95 at Argos
- Powerbeats Pro | £269 at Amazon
- Powerbeats Pro | £239.82 at OnBuy