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8 best AirPod alternatives: Wireless earbuds for all devices

Ditch the wires and listen to music wherever you go

Ella Glover
Friday 07 May 2021 11:23 BST
Once you’ve tasted that sweet, sweet freedom of wireless earbuds, there’s just no going back – and these days, there’s no sacrificing on sound quality or other features
Once you’ve tasted that sweet, sweet freedom of wireless earbuds, there’s just no going back – and these days, there’s no sacrificing on sound quality or other features (iStock/The Independent)

In 2021, there’s no chance we’d be caught dead wearing a pair of wired earbuds to the gym – or anywhere for that matter. No shade intended, it’s just that those wires can really get in the way.

Having to keep your phone in your sports bra so it’s close enough that your earbuds don’t become unplugged mid-run, or getting tangled up each time you turn over during a tanning session is simply not fun.

Trust us, once you’ve tasted that sweet, sweet freedom of wireless earbuds, there’s just no going back – and these days, there’s no sacrificing on sound quality or other features. But AirPods and other luxury models can be downright expensive.

While we’d like to say you can’t put a price on that kind of freedom, it turns out you can. So we decided to round up the best budget-friendly AirPod alternatives, and just in time for sunbathing weather, too.

So, obviously, we wanted to focus on price, while getting the best quality earbuds we could find. With most luxury models costing upwards of £200, we vowed to stay under £180, with most of our picks costing under £100.

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As well as price and sound quality, we wanted to consider design, comfort, battery life, ease of use, portability and other features like noise cancellation, ambient noise settings and touch-sensitive controls.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.

Edifier TS1 pro

Edifier TS1 Pro Tech4 copy.jpg

Battery life, earbuds: 12 hours

Battery life, charging case: 30 hours

Noise-cancelling? Yes

Wireless-chargeable case? Yes

Built in microphone? Yes

The battery life on the Edifier TS1 pro’s is honestly astounding. You get up to 12 hours of playback time on the earbuds from one 40-minute speed-charge alone, and an extra 30 hours from the wireless chargeable case. At just £50, these are a close contender for the slightly more luxury Ausounds earbuds (£129.95, Currys.co.uk), and a definite step up from the Skullcandys sesh evo (£49.99, Currys.co.uk), despite being only £10 more expensive.

The sound quality is great – thanks to the titanium diaphragm and the noise cancellation technology, along with the built-in mic which allows for clear phone calls. Again, these earbuds come with different sized tips to ensure comfort. While stylish, they are a little bulky compared to other wireless earbuds, and especially compared to AirPods. For a budget-friendly wireless earbud with long-lasting battery life, you can’t really go wrong with these.

  1. £49 from Tech4.co.uk
Prices may vary
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Ausounds AU-frequency wireless bluetooth noise-cancelling earbuds

AUSOUNDS.jpeg

Battery life, earbuds: 5 hours

Battery life, charging case: 20 hours

Noise-cancelling? Yes

Wireless-chargeable case? Yes

Built in microphone? Yes

The Ausounds AU-frequency wireless bluetooth noise-cancelling earbuds have, well, just about everything (what’s in a name, eh?). They’re lightweight at just 5.5g each and are comfortable yet sturdy with brilliant sound quality. With an excellent battery life of five hours (with three full charges in the tank thanks to their wireless chargeable case), these earphones are perfectly portable.

What really makes them stand out, though, is their noise-cancellation feature. This is because these earbuds make sure to match the frequency of every song whether in noise-cancellation mode or not, meaning there’s no difference in sound quality. The sensitive touch controls provide ease of use, with a quick tap allowing users to answer a call or pause a song.

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Skullcandy sesh evo true wireless earbuds

Skullcandyseshevo.jpg

Battery life, earbuds: 5 hours

Battery life, charging case: 19 hours

Noise-cancelling? No

Wireless-chargeable case? Yes

Built in microphone? Yes

The Skullcandy sesh evo earbuds are a great budget option if you’re looking for some lightweight wireless earbuds. The sound quality is decent, but not quite as good as the Ausounds earbuds, which is to be expected considering they’re almost £100 cheaper. Again, the charging case comes in really handy, banking up to three full charges while you’re out and about. A great feature of this case is that it has rapid charge technology, meaning you get two hours of battery life after just the first ten minutes of charging – the next three hours are accumulated in the remaining 50 minutes of charging time.

One downside to these is that they don’t have a noise-cancellation feature, and despite being lightweight, they can feel a little bulky. Still, with three size options for the silicone ear tips, these earbuds are wearable. They also come in five colour ways, from the more adventurous shades like deep red, pure mint and bleached blue, or the more subdued chill grey and true black.

  1. £49 from Currys.co.uk
Prices may vary
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LG tone free FN7

LG Tone Free FN7 .jpg

Battery life, earbuds: 7 hours

Battery life, charging case: 21 hours

Noise-cancelling? Yes

Wireless-chargeable case? Yes

Built in microphone? Yes

The LG tone free FN7s are a brilliant pair of earbuds. They’re the most expensive on this list, making them a little less budget-friendly, but while they’re on offer we think they’re an amazing alternative to Apple’s AirPods. You can also get the next model down for just £99.

They’re sleek, stylish, and sturdy – it’s rare you’ll find one popping out of your ear while walking down the road. Their noise-cancelling function keeps the sound quality at top-notch standards and the ambient noise feature allows listeners to remain vigilant while walking outside, or waiting for a delivery. The small, round case – which banks up to 21 hours of battery life – is the perfect size, boasting the best portability of all our picks.

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JBL tune225 TWS

JBL TUNE225.png

Battery life, earbuds: 5 hours

Battery life, charging case: 20 hours

Noise-cancelling? No

Wireless-chargeable case? Yes

Built in microphone? Yes

The JBL tune225 TWS earbuds are definitely a top contender for sound quality. Coming in six colourways, including blue, pink, black and white, they’re definitely stylish. However, unlike many of the other choices on this list, they have universal (or one-size-fits-all) tips. In this way, they’re reminiscent of the original AirPods that have no silicone tips. Although this does mean that, without adjustable tips, they might not be as comfortable or sturdy as some of the other earbuds on this list, depending on how they fit. They also don’t have a noise cancellation function, but they allow you to answer calls hands-free.

The earbuds get an hour of battery life from a fifteen-minute charge, and, with dual connect, listeners can choose to use either both or just one of the earbuds. The JBL pure bass sound makes for high-quality listening, and for up to 25 hours, too (five hours for the earbuds and an extra 20 for the case) – so these earbuds are definitely one to buy if you’re not into silicone tips.

  1. £89 from jbl.com
Prices may vary
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JBL reflect mini NC

JBL Reflect Mini NCi.png

Battery life, earbuds: 7 hours

Battery life, charging case: 14 hours

Noise-cancelling? Yes

Wireless-chargeable case? Yes

Built in microphone? Yes

The JBL reflect mini NC earbuds are quite different to the others on our list. This is because they have an earfin for extra security, along with different sized silicone tips, making them the perfect earbuds for exercise. Whether you’re running or working out in the gym, these earbuds are going nowhere. An added bonus is that they’re waterproof and sweatproof, too, so you can always count on them to get you through a tough workout or a rainy commute. One downside though is the limited battery life on the chargeable case, which falls short by quite a few hours.

The ambient noise feature means you can stay aware while out and about, but the noise cancellation feature, coupled with the brilliant JBL sound quality, makes for immersive listening. We’re a big fan of the shape of these earbuds, and they’re definitely one of the comfiest we’ve tried. The case even comes with a little strap for extra convenience! But, being on the higher end of our price range, we wouldn’t expect any less.

  1. £129 from Jbl.com
Prices may vary
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House of Marley champion true wireless earbuds

House of Marley champion true wireless earbuds.jpg

Battery life, earbuds: 8 hours

Battery life, charging case: 20 hours

Noise-cancelling? No

Wireless-chargeable case? Yes

Built in microphone? Yes

These environmentally friendly earbuds are truly a dark horse on this list. Made from sustainable materials, like bamboo, and coming in completely recyclable packaging, the champion true wireless earbuds are not only a budget-friendly alternative to AirPods, but a planet-friendly alternative, too. Plus, at under £60, we can kind of forgive the lack of noise-cancellation, especially if it means being a little more eco-conscious.

Despite what might be assumed of sustainable goods, these earbuds don’t sacrifice on quality or comfort. With a number of different sized tips and brilliant audio quality – which might as well have noise-cancellation technology anyway – they especially don’t skimp out on battery life. These earbuds have up to eight hours of playback and 20 hours in the tank of their stylish-yet-sustainable case, which is very reminiscent of the LG tone free case (£179.99, Currys.co.uk). Definitely a number one choice for eco-friendly earbuds.

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Jam audio true wireless athlete earbuds

JAM audio true wireless athlete earbuds.jpg

Battery life, earbuds: 6 hours

Battery life, charging case: 24 hours

Noise-cancelling? No

Wireless-chargeable case? Yes

Built in microphone? Yes

These earbuds were specifically designed with athletes in mind, which is why they’re sweat-proof and have an over-ear fit for extra security. One downside we’d mention straight off the bat is, despite having different sized tips, the actual frame of the earbuds is quite large, meaning that they won’t fit everybody.

Still, they’re definitely secure for the right person, and have a premium full-range driver which makes for dreamy listening – perfect for workouts. With six hours of playback time, plus an extra 24 hours with the case, these are extremely reliable earbuds. The case is large, but that’s just so it can fit the earbuds in, and it could still fit in the pocket of a pair of trousers, so we don’t mind.

  1. £49 from Argos.co.u
Prices may vary
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The verdict: Airpod alternatives

Our best buy has to be the Edifier TS1 Pros – they were by far the best in terms of quality, and, at a fraction of the cost of some others in this lineup, they couldn’t be beaten. If you are looking to go slightly up-market, though, the LG tone free FN7s are definitely the best luxury AirPod alternative.

If you’re planning to use your earbuds predominantly for sports, we suggest the JBL reflect mini NC earbuds and, if you’re hoping to save on pennies and your carbon footprint, the Champion true wireless earbuds are a no-brainer.

Voucher codes

For the latest discounts on Airpods and other tech offers, try the below links:

Combine best wireless earbuds with the best mobile phone deals

Still deciding? check out our review of the AirPods Max vs AirPods Pro: Should you buy Apple’s earbuds or headphones?

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