The best Bluetooth earbud alternatives to Apple AirPods

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2017
Whether you missed out on getting a pair of AirPods this gifting season, are skeptical about becoming an early adopter or just don't like the design of Apple's new wireless Bluetooth headphones, there are a number of other options that work just as well.




Early users have a few quibbles with AirPods, including a short battery life rated at five hours, lack of high-quality sound and the fact that they aren't sweat or waterproof. Others have noted an imperfect fit that might cause the costly devices to slip out during exercise, but your mileage may vary.

If these qualities seem bothersome, there are numerous other options that have wireless and Bluetooth benefits, but with longer battery life, high-quality sound and water or sweat-proof designs. AppleInsider gathered a few of the best.

Powerbeats3 Wireless Bluetooth Headphones
Powerbeats3 Wireless Bluetooth Headphones

Beats Powerbeats3

As AppleInsider noted earlier this year, the Powerbeats3 Wireless are the most reliable bluetooth headphones we've ever used. The sports-focused hardware is also equipped with Apple's W1 chip.

The design is one of the best aspects of these headphones, with a bendable around-the-ear clip for secure fit and an in-ear portion for route audio. In terms of fit and comfort, these are good but not great and there's definite room for improvement.

Where these really shine are in Apple's new W1 Bluetooth chip. Initial pairing is dead simple and the data is tied to a user's iCloud account, which means they won't have to un-pair and re-pair the headphones when switching devices. It also means a rock solid connection however you choose to use the headphones, whether at home or on the run. These also offer a solid 12 hours of battery life.

The Powerbeats3 come in black, white, red, yellow and blue, and remain sweat and rain resistant, though not fully waterproof.

In terms of sound, these are the best sounding workout earbuds we've used. They're loud enough and have decent range and detail. However, if a proper seal isn't made in your ears and is lost, the sound does become washed out and noticeably lacking in range.

Walmart currently has the best price on Beats' Powerbeats3, which are available for $179.99 plus tax. Alternatively, B&H Photo also has stock on hand for $198.46 with no tax collected outside of New York.

Earin earbuds
Earin earbuds

Earin

As the name suggests, Earin are Bluetooth earbuds that fit inside your ear.

The Earin design is simple yet stylish and they are comfortable once the right fit is found. They're also lightweight.

For the best sound, you'll need a proper insertion seal. Luckily, Earin comes with three pairs of various sized ear tips and ear stabilizers to ensure a tight fit while running.

In terms of battery life, Earin gives users a mere two and a half hours of play. Like AirPods, the device comes with a charging case that can charge the earbuds up to three times to extend listening time.

One of the major cons to these headphones is a sometimes spotty Bluetooth connection. That being said, they are generally reliable.

In terms of the sound itself, the mid-range is good but bass is lacking. Though they also don't cut out all external sound, Earin does a decent job of drowning out most ambient noise at mid-range. Users can also customize the sound based on their preferences by downloading the Earin app, which also serves as a battery life monitor for each earbud.

The Earin M1 is priced at $139.50 on Amazon.com.

Earin also introduced a new model, the M2, at CES this week. Boasting touch controls and the same 3 hour battery life, the M2 is due out later this quarter.

Aftershokz Trekz Titanium
Aftershokz Trekz Titanium

AfterShokz Trekz Titanium

For those that find the idea of sticking things inside their ear distasteful, the AfterShokz Trekz are for you. Instead of dynamic speakers, the Trekz transmit sound via bone conduction technology.

With bone conduction headphones, sound doesn't come from small speakers that send pressure waves directly into the ear canal. Instead, sound is generated by vibrating the soft bones in front of the ear. This means users can hear ambient noise while they run or do other activities that might require them to hear what's going on around them.

The Trekz stay in place with a flexible neck band -- the Trekz Titanium features an included titanium band -- that is also super durable. Other features include three user buttons: two volume buttons and a multipurpose button that can change the song being played and answer calls.

Generally, bone conduction headphones do not deliver the same sound quality as traditional headphones. Bass response, for example, is weaker than competing in-ear headphones. Also, vibrations can cause a tickling sensation as the hairs inside the ear move back and forth during high levels of music playback. Avoid this at low and medium volume, which is where sound excels with these headphones.

These are also a great option in terms of durability, being IP 55 certified water and dust resistant. One con to the headphones is that they only have 6 hours of battery life, but it beats the AirPods' 5 hours.

The AfterShokz Trekz are available from Amazon for $129.95 with free shipping.

Jabra Elite Sport
Jabra Elite Sport

Jabra Elite Sport

Jabra is a Bluetooth audio pioneer. However, it's their latest offering, the Jabra Elite, that is one of its most impressive.

The Elite Sport includes a number of amenities you won't find in other earphones, including a heart-rate monitor, an accelerometer and a fitness app. They're also fully sweat and waterproof.

The battery life comes in at 3 hours of listening time, but the included case charge the earbuds for an additional 6 hours.

In terms of comfort, these are rather large for a set of earbuds and may be uncomfortable until you break them in. They can be worn solo or as a pair and the Bluetooth connectivity is very reliable no matter where you use them. However, one con is that the fitness app won't integrate with Apple Health. They do, however, integrate with other third-party fitness apps.

The Elite Sport is also great for making calls thanks to built-in noise reduction technology. Jabra says this is because the headphones analyze external sounds and makes an automatic switch to the earbud with the least background noise, much like Apple's AirPods. However, it's important that you get a tight seal to get the best sound quality, which means you'll need to try various tips from Jabra to find the best fit.

The Jabra Elite Sport is available through Amazon for $249.99 with free shipping, while Best Buy also has stock at the same price.

Here One by Doppler Labs
Here One by Doppler Labs

Doppler Labs' Here One

While not immediately available, Doppler Lab's Here One is touted as a net-generation earbud thanks to its "adaptive-filtering smart listening" technology.

These noise-canceling earbuds sport multiple processors to remove ambient noise. So-called "Smart Noise Cancellation" technology identifies background noise and, through a connected app, allows users to selectively choose what they want to hear. This is thanks in large part to three microphones found in each earbud.

Doppler's "adaptive listening" feature allows users to tune out noises of certain frequencies and focus on one particular sound. For example, the Here One can drown out the drone of jet engines during long flights while enhancing music or a friend's voice. The accompanying app is supposed to also learn the users' habits and suggest sound filters to assist this process become more tailored to the users' needs.

Siri is also accessible with the earbuds.

Doppler says the Here One will boast 2.5 to 3 hours of battery life for music playback and 4 to 5 hours for "active listening" features. A provided case serves double duty as a charger.

The major downfall is the wait -- Here One won't ship until March 2017.

Doppler Labs is accepting preorders for $299.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 16
    I find this interesting. All Apple blogs are doing these stories about AirPod alternatives. The only one here that is an actual alternative are the Powerbeats. Only one of the others actually have the battery life of AirPods. None of the others have the easy pair, and switching. The only reason I can actually think of to consider any of these is if the AirPods don't fit in your ear. Only two of these are cheaper. I guess I just don't understand...
    calitokyojimu
  • Reply 2 of 16
    irelandireland Posts: 17,737member
    Nothing comes close to the AirPods here in my opinion. I even think they're the best looking. Well, the Powerbeats 3 have 12 hours, but come with no charge case and are bulky when not in use compared to the AirPods and the bigger issues are they are not attractive and require the worst charging connector in existence: micro USB. I wish AirPods were not €179 here. I'd snap them up at €129.
    edited January 2017
  • Reply 4 of 16
    I've had my Bose Soundsport Wireless for about 4 months now and love them.
    freshmaker
  • Reply 5 of 16
    eyekeyeyekey Posts: 19member
    I really want those Beats X headphones, but they will come out February earliest. 6 months after they are announced. A pain!
    williamlondoncali
  • Reply 6 of 16
    eyekeyeyekey Posts: 19member
    waverboy said:
    Yeah, looks nice. But the thing with crowdfunding is: Project on Kickstarter = 20% chance of being a scam Project on Indiegogo = 70% chance of being a scam No. I was burned one too much.
  • Reply 7 of 16
    irelandireland Posts: 17,737member
    waverboy said:
    Anonymous video of a yet-to-be product from a company we know nothing about. I'd say something if the people behind the company had the decency to come on camera and talk about themselves, their history, their skills and passions and their vision. When you invest in something it's a known fact you're investing in the people behind the thing, even as a customer. If you cannot trust the people making the thing you cannot trust their product. And right now we no nothing about them. A faceless company and a me-too product. I'll reserve all my judgement on this for after I've seen trusted reviews and personally tried the product, thanks.
    edited January 2017 cali
  • Reply 8 of 16
    Might recommend Optoma's BE6i. Above average sound, but perhaps not construction.
    Not sure about durability, yet.

    Also, really hope a future version of iOS adds an EQ. This could potentially improve almost any set of earphones.


  • Reply 9 of 16
    The Earin M2 wireless headphones cost $249 ($90 more expensive than AirPods), have 3 hours of battery life (2 hours less than AirPods) and a carrying case that has 12 hours of charge (12 hours less than the AirPods carrying case).  Thanks 9 to 5 mac!

    It is interesting how multiple sites have simultaneously published articles about the same AirPods alternatives as if they were colluding with each other and the companies selling the products. 
  • Reply 10 of 16
    Micke SMicke S Posts: 1unconfirmed, member
    Not a word about Bose QC30. Great sound, bluetooth, awesome NC-tech (a joy on the plane ride or in a noisy car or bus) and a battery that lasts ten (10) hours.
  • Reply 11 of 16
    badmonkbadmonk Posts: 966member
    I for one love my AirPods.  Near perfect.  I don't get the need for an alternative unless your ears don't fit standard EarPods.  Agree with DED, 5 star Apple product.
    williamlondoncali
  • Reply 12 of 16
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 11,152member
    Might recommend Optoma's BE6i. Above average sound, but perhaps not construction.
    Not sure about durability, yet.

    Also, really hope a future version of iOS adds an EQ. This could potentially improve almost any set of earphones.


    Already has a feature called EQ -- Settings > Music > EQ. You can't slide your own, but it has about two dozen presets.
  • Reply 13 of 16
    hmlongcohmlongco Posts: 275member
    I just got the AirPods and they work great. No problems at all with fit or falling out of the ears (mostly since there's no cable to weigh them down and drag them out of the ear).

    Only real drawback is the volume control via phone or Siri. What Apple should do is use the mic in the AirPod (and/or phone) and measure the ambient noise level and raise or lower the volume automatically.
    tokyojimu
  • Reply 14 of 16
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 11,152member
    hmlongco said:
    I just got the AirPods and they work great. No problems at all with fit or falling out of the ears (mostly since there's no cable to weigh them down and drag them out of the ear).

    Only real drawback is the volume control via phone or Siri. What Apple should do is use the mic in the AirPod (and/or phone) and measure the ambient noise level and raise or lower the volume automatically.
    Interesting idea, but what is considered acceptable is rather subjective based on your hearing and preferences. So far I've not used siri to control volume and either use my phone or watch. I also disabled siri and set it to play/pause. I'd like to be able to set the other ear for Next Track.
  • Reply 15 of 16
    Might recommend Optoma's BE6i. Above average sound, but perhaps not construction.
    Not sure about durability, yet.

    Also, really hope a future version of iOS adds an EQ. This could potentially improve almost any set of earphones.


    Already has a feature called EQ -- Settings > Music > EQ. You can't slide your own, but it has about two dozen presets.
    Already know about this. Doesn't seem to have an effect system-wide, suspect there's a reason it's semi-hidden under a setting for 'Apple Music'. Shame.
  • Reply 16 of 16
    I love my AirPods (wearing them right now) I'm using them in tandem with a pair of Sony over the ear cans with noise isolation and cancellation. (Got them on sale last boxing day from BestBuy) AirPods are phenomenal if they're replacing the wired EarPods. They're not perfect mind you, they don't have a good enough seal to even bother trying to do noise cancellation, (at least I think that would be necessary) which is the only thing I'd really hope for that they don't do. The battery life isn't an issue because I don't think I ever listen to music on headphones for more than five hours at a time. The case fits in my change pocket which is awesome! One thing that they do that probably none of the above do is they keep my ears cool! I once bought a pair of really nice wired Sony earbuds with inline mic (back in the days of the iPhone 4) and I had to return them ... or gave them to my dad or something. My ears got hot, and my earwax was runny and I felt gross wearing them. The AirPods just sit in my ears and I can shake my head pretty violently and they stay in place. (Though perhaps my ears are fan bois?) I expect these will be my headphones most things in the summer, and relegated to at home use and gym use during the winter. (Big headphones do well to double as ear muffs and Canada is cold!) But I honestly can't emphasize how much the W1's quick switching between devices matters to me. Today I was checking to see if a pair of speakers was hooked up properly so I plugged my iPhone that I'd been listening to with my AirPods into the line in, switched automatically to the speakers the AirPods immediately stopped playing and the music moved to the speakers. I disconnected the speakers and my phone went quiet. However as soon as I hit play again I was automatically reconnected to my AirPods. For a few days I'd been using them to listen to music from my MacBook and every time I opened the case they'd connect. Today my MacBook was off in my bag, so as soon I opened them they connected with my phone and started playing music. I can't do that with my Sony's even though they sound great! I'm also super excited about being able to use them with my Apple Watch at the gym and leave my iPhone in the locker locked up.
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