The best AirPods alternatives of 2024

The best AirPods alternatives of 2024
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A pair of Anker Soundcore Liberty 4 NC in their case being held in a hand outside.
The best AirPods alternatives offer many of the same features and performance perks that you get on Apple’s earbuds.

Apple’s AirPods and AirPods Pro are among the most popular wireless earbuds you can buy, offering great features and seamless integration with Apple devices. But if you’re not already invested in the company’s ecosystem of products — and especially if you don’t use an iPhone — you’re probably better off with a pair of earbuds less confined to all things Apple. That’s why we tested dozens of other models to compile a versatile list of the best AirPods alternatives. 

Our top pick is Apple’s own Beats Fit Pro, which still provide iPhone-friendly features while also offering Android integration for a best-of-both-worlds approach. For tighter budgets, we like the Soundcore Liberty 4 NC, which have an AirPods-like design and many of the AirPods Pro’s best features in a more affordable, device-agnostic package.

Below, you can find all our picks for the best AirPods alternatives. No matter how you use your earbuds or which devices you own, there’s a great pair below to fit your needs. 

Our top picks for the best AirPods alternatives

Best overall: Beats Fit Pro – See at Amazon

Best on a budget: Anker Soundcore Liberty 4 NC – See at Amazon

Best noise-canceling: Bose QuietComfort Ultra – See at Amazon

Best open ear: Sony Linkbuds – See at Amazon

Best for a unique style: Nothing Ear 2 – See at Amazon

Best overall

The sporty Beats Fit Pro could just as easily be called the “AirPods for Everyone,” making them an easy choice as our top pick. Just like the AirPods, they’re equipped with Apple’s H1 chip to offer an inside track for iPhones and other Apple devices. But unlike AirPods, the Beats Fit Pro also have a handy app for Android phones that makes them nearly as convenient across the mobile aisle.

The Fit Pro may not look like AirPods, eschewing Apple’s trademark golf-tee design, but that only makes them more versatile. Their flexible fin keeps the buds stable in your ears, even for demanding workouts, while still fitting comfortably for hours of listening. They come in various colors, not just white, and include IPX4-rated water resistance.

Apple fans will enjoy conveniences like one-touch pairing with iPhones, Automatic Switching between iCloud devices, Find My support to track the buds down, and hands-free communication with Siri. On the other side, Android users get extras like one-touch pairing, customizable controls, and in-app battery monitoring — all features you’ll miss with AirPods.

Person wearing a pair of Beats Fit Pro earbuds and the earbuds out of their case sitting on a wood table.
The Beats Fit Pro are an excellent AirPods alternative that offer many of the same features while also working well with Android devices.

There are also some handy sonic extras, including solid noise-canceling performance and a natural-sounding transparency mode, as well as Apple’s Spatial Audio with head tracking for more immersive performance with compatible content. With or without Spatial Audio, sound quality is clear, accessible, and relatively detailed, without the overwhelming bass found in older Beats models.

Other notable Fit Pro features include sensors to pause sound when you pull an earbud out, simplified one-button controls, and up to six hours of battery life with noise-canceling engaged and 18 hours on reserve in the charging case. Speaking of the case, it’s arguably the weakest part of the package, with a bulkier design than most modern buds and no wireless charging.

That’s pretty easy to overlook considering everything else the Fit Pro offer, and the overall package is still more compact than their Powerbeats predecessors. If you’re after the best AirPods alternative that pair great with any mobile device, whether they’re Apple or Android, the Beats Fit Pro are the buds to buy.

Best on a budget

With a brilliant mix of value, performance, comfort, and style, Anker Soundcore’s Liberty 4 NC are supercharged buds at a super-low price. We honestly can’t believe just how much these AirPods-esque earbuds offer for the money, helping to redefine our expectations of how good budget buds can be. They’re also notable for featuring a stem-like design that’s similar to Apple’s classic AirPods look. 

They start the show with noise-canceling quality that all but mops the floor with similarly priced competitors. Only Anker’s own Space A40 match up in this price range, with the Liberty 4 NC offering a slight edge. This is quality canceling, especially with low frequencies. The adjustable transparency mode isn’t quite as impressive, but it does the trick, letting you pick between vocal and full transparency depending on your situation.

A pair of Soundcore Liberty 4 earbuds in their case resting on a plant outide
Soundcore’s Liberty 4 NC deliver impressive performance for just under $100.

Sound quality is also impressive. You’ll get clean and spritely midrange and treble response, with full and musical bass below. The sound signature is a little snappy by default, but that leads to impressive detail, and you can tame it with the multi-band EQ in Anker’s loaded app.

When it comes to features, the Liberty 4 NC have a version of nearly everything there’s a name for, from sound personalization and wind-buffering to high-resolution playback with Sony’s LDAC audio protocol. You’ll also get an earbuds finder, a low-latency mode for gaming, multi-point audio to quickly switch between source devices, and more. Battery life is also among the best in class, offering as much as 10 hours of playback per charge, though we got more like seven hours with noise canceling engaged.

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Like any pair of budget buds, not everything is top-flight. The touch controls are easy to customize, but they’re not always as responsive as pricier buds, while some features like auto-pause take longer than expected to activate. Still, it’s hard to complain, considering all the Liberty 4 NC offer. If you want high-roller features on a blue-collar budget, these are your earbuds. 

Best noise-canceling

Bose’s QuietComfort Ultra earbuds are like a volume knob for the world. If you want to block out pesky distractions with noise cancelation that beats any of Apple’s earbud offerings, these are the best AirPods alternatives you can snag. You won’t find better noise-canceling earbuds anywhere on the market, with suppression that comes as close as we’ve heard to fully dissolving your sonic environment.

The QC Ultra offer much more than just world-squashing noise canceling, of course, including advanced audio processing to enhance your experience. Their clear and natural-sounding transparency mode goes toe-to-toe with the latest AirPods Pro. Also, like the AirPods Pro, their microphones are designed to keep your ears safe by actively limiting sudden loud noises in your environment while also delivering good noise suppression for phone calls.

A pair of Bose Quietcomfort earbuds pictured in front of their case on a yellow table.
The Bose QuietComfort Ultra beat the AirPods Pro when it comes to noise-canceling.

The Ultra’s audio processing extends to their sound performance, which is full, detailed, and dynamic. There’s some extra zing to the midrange and treble, with musical bass to round things out. If the sound gets too bold, a three-band EQ in Bose’s Music app for Android or iPhone lets you adjust it to taste. The app also lets you engage Bose’s Spatial Audio feature, designed to create a 3D soundstage from stereo sound, with available head tracking to anchor you in your sonic space. It’s not our favorite feature for music, but it’s there if you need it.

Like the Beats Fit Pro, the QC Ultra’s case is rather bulky and does not support wireless charging without a $50 cover (sold separately). That’s tough to swallow at such a high price, as is the Ultra’s lack of multipoint pairing. That said, the earbuds offer other advanced features, like a sonic test that adjusts the sound each time you put the buds in, as well as more standard offerings like in-ear detection sensors to auto-pause sound.

Bose has also made great strides when it comes to ergonomics. The QC Ultra are much smaller than the original QuietComfort buds, using a blend of ear tips and ear wings for a stable and comfy fit. The controls are convenient and responsive, including a handy volume slider on the stem (again, like the AirPods Pro). The Ultra’s posh design mixes with great sound and the ultimate in noise-canceling performance for a pricey but premium pick.

Best open ear

Sony’s unique Linkbuds are unlike any other earbuds on our list and pretty much anything else we’ve tested. Instead of relying on advanced audio processing and microphones to let in or suppress sound from your environment, the Linkbuds have a donut-shaped hole carved directly through the center of their audio drivers to keep you fully aware of your surroundings at all times.

This makes the Linkbuds uniquely primed for outdoor activities, from your daily job to bike riding or even skiing, where the tiny microphones in traditional earbuds like the AirPods Pro would be overwhelmed by the wind. You’ll hear all the sounds around you, coming through almost as naturally as if you weren’t wearing earbuds at all while still enjoying your favorite music or podcasts. The flip side is that the Linkbuds — and competitors like the Bose Ultra Open Earbuds — aren’t equipped to block out unwanted noises. Unlike traditional buds, which offer noise canceling or passive noise isolation, you’ll hear everything with the Linkbuds, for better and for worse.

Sony Linkbuds in case being held in a person's hand outside.
Sony’ Linkbuds are a great pick if you want to remain aware of your surroundings.

That said, the Linkbuds are much cheaper than Bose’s option, making them more accessible as a secondary pair to elevate your favorite outdoor activities. Their sound quality meets or exceeds the best open earbuds we’ve tried, carving out relatively detailed and full sound with more bass than you’d expect for buds with holes in the middle. Call quality was also impressive in our testing, though wind gusts are more of a challenge.

The buds offer decent water resistance and include solid features like auto-pause sensors and a multi-band EQ, as well as Sony’s DSEE audio engine designed to upscale compressed audio. There’s no wireless charging case or multipoint pairing, but the buds do have some intriguing extras like face-touch controls to go along with regular touch controls for ease of use in heavy workouts. Their light and distinctive design fits comfortably and stays put under duress.

The Linkbuds aren’t as versatile as traditional earbuds, but their moderate price and polished design make them our favorite AirPods alternative in the open-ear space.

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Best for a unique style

Nothing’s Ear 2 are the coolest-looking earbuds we’ve ever tested. Their stunning transparent design, complete with a stylish rectangular case, looks like what you’d get if you mixed the AirPods Pro with a James Bond film. You can see Apple-esque design touches all over these buds, particularly in their bulbous white housings, but they also chart their own course, offering an even lighter design than Apple’s top buds, alongside robust dust and water resistance.

The Nothing 2’s feature set also breaks away from Apple, with third-party conveniences like Google Fast Pair and Microsoft Swift Pair and distinctive touches like a voice that breathes in when you engage their transparency mode. Pinch commands make for simplified playback control alongside extras like multipoint pairing, a low-lag mode for gaming, and customizable sound.

The Nothing 2’s default sound signature is on the sharper side, with some snap in the treble and upper midrange, but you can mellow things out with the in-app EQ if that’s not your bag. Bass is balanced and precise without overwhelming the other frequencies. Noise-canceling is mid-tier in accordance with the price. You won’t be wrapped in tranquility like our favorite noise-canceling pairs provide, but it does a solid job of suppressing low-frequency sounds and allows for customization. Transparency mode is similarly effective at letting in the world around you.

The Nothing Ear 2’s biggest drawback is battery life that’s stuck in the past. At just four hours with noise canceling (six hours without), it’s well below average, which may explain why the earbuds are so light and airy. With up to five charges in the case and a quick-charge feature for nearly two hours of playback in 10 minutes, it’s mainly an issue for longer trips, but it’s worth noting.

Otherwise, this is an impressive package at a surprisingly accessible price point. That’s especially true when you consider that Apple’s standard AirPods cost around the same as the Nothing Ear 2 and don’t include options like noise canceling or transparency mode. It all adds up to a great AirPods alternative, with style for days and plenty of features, no matter your phone preference.

How we test AirPods alternatives

A close-up of a single Sony Linkbud earbud being held in a person's hand outside with grass in the background.
We test earbuds in a variety of environments to get a sense for how they perform during daily use.

We test audio products using standard, reproducible methods whenever possible. To select the best AirPods alternatives, we considered sound quality, functionality, and design with a focus on finding models that deliver performance and features that match or exceed that of Apple’s earbuds. We also tested how well the earbuds work with Apple-centric devices as well as Android and PC products, with an emphasis on versatility.

When it comes to testing audio performance, we use a dedicated playlist with songs spanning genres like pop, rock, jazz, hip-hop, electronic, acoustic, and others. We also test spatial audio and head tracking features with a mix of stereo and 3D audio tracks encoded in formats like Dolby Atmos.

Regarding noise canceling and transparency modes, we test earbuds with studio speakers playing specific test videos and noise generators, as well as during real-world activities like hiking, dog walking, and exercising in congested areas. For battery tests, we use a timer and play music and podcasts at medium volume, checking the battery level regularly. Most importantly, we live with the earbuds we test over multiple days to get a feel for how it is to use them for regular buyers.

What to look for in an AirPods alternative

The Anker Soundcore Liberty 4 NC earbuds in front of their case and a phone.
Some of our picks, like the Soundcore Liberty 4 NC, feature a design that’s reminiscent of Apple’s AirPods.

The best AirPods alternatives are earbuds that we think stand in especially well for Apple’s popular AirPods, whether they have similar designs, performance capabilities, features, or overall use cases. 

Some of our favorite options include buds that look similar to standard AirPods with their golf tee design but offer a better fit and more features, such as the Soundcore Liberty 4 NC. However, other picks, like the Beats Fit Pro, feature a different design but still offer similar integration with Apple products, like Hey Siri and swapping between iCloud devices, while providing better usability with Android devices. Both options are great alternatives for those looking for a bit more than what the AirPods offer.

As is the case with any wireless earbuds, those shopping for the best AirPods alternatives will want to look for a consistent Bluetooth connection (we recommend Bluetooth 5.0 or higher) and long battery life. Over five hours of playback per charge with ambient audio features engaged is solid, though we prefer pairs with six hours or more, as well as several refills in the included charging case. 

At this point, any in-ear wireless earbuds that cost between $50 and $100 should include features like noise canceling and transparency modes to suppress or let in environmental audio. You should also look for earbuds that have dedicated apps that include options like firmware updates, EQ (equalization) adjustment, and battery monitoring. Pricier/more advanced models should typically include options like multipoint pairing to let you quickly transfer between source devices and a wireless charging case for convenient fill-ups.

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The two most important wireless earbud factors are fit and sound quality. There’s no sense in getting all those other features if you don’t want to wear the earbuds and listen to them long-term. To determine this, we recommend reading critical reviews and guides like this one, as well as user reviews on sites like Reddit and shopping sites like Amazon. We also recommend focusing your search on top brands like Sony, Bose, Jabra, and Beats. On the budget side, Anker’s Soundcore line is a proven favorite. Whenever possible, we recommend trying earbuds for yourself to make sure the fit and sound are right for you before buying.

For more top picks outside our AirPods alternatives, check out our guide to all the best wireless earbuds. And if you’d rather browse Apple’s earbuds, check out our guide to the best AirPods.

AirPods alternatives FAQs

A Sony Linkbud earbud being held between a person's index finger and thumb outside on a lawn.
Sony’s open-ear Linkbuds have a unique design that lets in outside noise.

What’s the difference between in-ear and open-ear earbuds?

In-ear earbuds, as the name implies, sit inside your ear canal to create a seal that helps improve sound quality, emphasizes noise-canceling functionality, and provides passive noise isolation. On the other hand, open-ear earbuds fit in such a way as to leave your ear canal open while still transmitting audio to your ears through a variety of methods. 

Some earbuds, such as Apple’s standard AirPods, feature a semi-open fit, which is designed to sit somewhat loosely in your ear to keep it from feeling plugged. However, because of their lack of a seal, these earbud types may struggle to create full and intimate audio performance.

When it comes to fully open-ear earbuds, there are many varieties. Some open-ear earbuds, like Sony’s Linkbuds, still sit in your ear but use a driver with a hole in the center that lets in exterior sounds. Others sit above your ear and transmit focused sound waves from specialized drivers.

There are also bone-conducting headphones from brands like Shokz, which use sound pads designed to transmit audio through your jawbone. All open-ear earbuds have limited use cases but are prized by active users for their ability to let in environmental sounds naturally.

For more headphone recommendations geared toward active users, check out our guides to the best running headphones and the best headphones for working out.

What is multipoint pairing?

Multipoint pairing allows a pair of wireless earbuds or headphones to simultaneously connect to two source devices, like a phone and a computer. While you obviously won’t be playing audio from both devices at once, multipoint pairing makes it easy to swap between the two, so you can take a call on your phone, jump into a Zoom meeting on your computer, and listen to audio from either device without the need to connect and disconnect your earbuds.

What’s the difference between noise-canceling and transparency modes?

Noise-canceling and transparency modes are both considered “ambient sound” modes, which use exterior microphones and advanced sound processing. But they’re essentially the exact opposite of one another.

Active noise canceling (ANC) uses algorithms that constantly monitor environmental frequencies and then flip their polarity before being piped into your ears. This reversal of the sine wave of each frequency affected will “cancel” the sound.

Meanwhile, transparency mode is designed to let in environmental sounds, letting you stay aware of your surroundings while still using earbuds or headphones. There’s still advanced sound processing happening with transparency mode, however. You can usually increase or decrease the volume level, and the best versions from brands like Bose and Apple can even employ audio compression that attempts to block and/or reduce sudden loud noises to protect your hearing.

To see our top recommendations that feature these modes, check out our guide to the best noise-canceling headphones.

What is spatial audio?

Spatial audio, as it applies specifically to earbuds and headphones, is a feature that uses virtualization to create a sense of three-dimensional space and depth from just two speakers. Multiple versions are available, though Apple’s is the best we’ve tried so far when using Dolby Atmos mixes as a source, creating a more authentic sense of immersion. While many spatial audio implementations also work with stereo sources, we think this is generally less effective than using the feature in conjunction with 3D audio formats like Atmos. 

Many versions of spatial audio also use head tracking, which is designed to create a sonic environment more like listening to regular speakers. For example, with head tracking engaged, turning your head with your earbuds on causes the soundstage to remain centered, as though you’re turning your head from a real pair of speakers.

Spatial audio is becoming more common for music, with engineers increasingly focusing on mixing songs for a 3D environment. That said, in our opinion, spatial audio is still most effective for video content like movies and TV shows.

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