Best cheap AirPods alternatives — $100 or less

best cheap AirPods alternatives 2022
(Image credit: Alex Bracetti/Future)

Today's best cheap AirPods alternatives are worth considering if Apple's wireless earbuds are beyond your budget. The market has hundreds of options available that offer similar performance for less. How much less? Try under $100.

The current AirPods lineup is as follows: AirPods 2 ($129), AirPods 3 ($179), and AirPods Pro ($249). Pricing ranges from relatively affordable to fairly expensive.

AirPods are coveted and wildly popular for their great sound, comfortable fit, and easy pairing with Apple devices. Then again, there are many wireless earbuds that boast similar attributes. We’re talking selections from true wireless savants such as Beats, Jabra, and Samsung, as well as heritage audio brands like Klipsch and Sony.

We invite you to scroll down and check out our hand-selected roundup of the best cheap AirPods alternatives.  

What are the best cheap AirPods alternatives?

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No. 1 on our list of the best AirPods alternatives is the Beats Studio Buds. Wait a second…isn’t that an Apple product? Yes, but it isn’t part of the AirPods collection. Beats’ first attempt at noise-cancelling earbuds is a huge success, nearly matching the ANC performance of the AirPods Pro, while also delivering better sound and battery life. Spatial audio and numerous H1 chip-related features come part of the package as well. 

In second place is the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2. This sequel takes on many of the Galaxy Buds Pro's high-end features, including a low latency mode, noise cancellation, Spotify Tap, and Samsung Scalable Codec for hi-fi streaming. The design has also been shrunken down and provides better comfort.

A Laptop Magazine favorite comes in at No. 3: the Klipsch T5 II. These retro-styled buds package heritage sound into a fancy, well-built design. Music sounds clean and detailed, call quality is strong, and battery life holds up strong at 8 hours (per charge). You even get access to several well-engineered presets for sound personalization via companion app.

The Google Pixel Buds A-Series is another strong entry for Android-philes that love Google’s ecosystem. On top of flawless Google Assistant integration, these tiny in-ears are light and comfy, and offer satisfying sound for the price ($99).

Check out our full breakdowns for every model above, along with the rest of our picks for the best cheap AirPods alternatives you can purchase right now!

The best cheap AirPods alternatives you can buy today

best cheap AirPods alternatives: Beats Studio Buds

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)
Best AirPods alternative overall

Specifications

Size: 0.9 x 0.8 x 0.6 inches
Weight: 0.2 ounces (per bud)
Battery life (rated): 5 hours (ANC on), 8 hours (ANC off), 15 hours (charging case with ANC on), 24 hours (charging case with ANC off)
Bluetooth range: 35 feet (10 meters)
Special features: Hybrid active noise cancellation, transparency mode, spatial audio

Reasons to buy

+
Fine-tuned sound
+
Powerful noise cancellation
+
Striking design
+
Great multiplatform support
+
Sufficient battery life

Reasons to avoid

-
Missing H1-chip-related features
-
No wireless charging

For those seeking something similar to the AirPods Pro that plays well with both Android and iOS, the Studio Buds are paging you. Beats designed its latest creation from the ground up, integrating an all-new processor that optimizes performance for Android devices, highlighted by Bluetooth 5.2 and one-touch pairing. The buds will also operate smoothly on all Apple products and let you access some iOS features, from spatial audio to FindMy for locating misplaced buds. Sound is more detailed this time around, delivering better clarity and dynamic range than the AirPods Pro and Powerbeats Pro. Battery life with ANC on might only be 30 minutes longer than the AirPods Pro, but at least you can extend it to 8 hours when disabling the feature.

You do miss out on exclusive H1 chip features (e.g., automatic switching, Siri Announce Notifications), as well as wireless charging, but sound quality and noise cancellation make the Studio Buds well worth the investment.

Read our full Beats Studio Buds review.

best cheap AirPods alternatives: Samsung Galaxy Buds 2

(Image credit: Future)

2. Samsung Galaxy Buds 2

Best AirPods alternative overall

Specifications

Size: 0.7 x 0.8 x 0.8 inches
Weight: 0.2 ounces (per bud)
Battery life (rated): 5 hours with ANC on (20 hours with charging case), 7.5 hours with ANC off (29 hours with charging case)
Bluetooth range: 40 feet (12 meters)
Special features: Active noise cancellation, adjustable ambient listening mode, Wireless Power Share charging

Reasons to buy

+
Very comfortable
+
Powerful ANC and ambient modes
+
Great audio performance
+
Two wireless charging methods
+
Competitively priced

Reasons to avoid

-
Substandard water resistance
-
Missing advanced features

For the price, the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 offers sound and active noise cancellation that either matches or outperforms several luxury models (that means you, AirPods Pro). Taking on the same look and much of the same features as its premium cousin, the critically acclaimed Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro, expect vibrant, clean audio to come out of these tiny in-ear monitors. ANC does a convincing job of reducing unwanted noises, plus special settings like Accessibility let you assign noise neutralization to one bud to prevent discomfort. Samsung Galaxy smartphone owners get an even sweeter deal with access to exclusive features. These include Gaming mode to decrease latency, Galaxy Watch control access, and wireless PowerShare to power up the buds by placing the charging case on the back of a compatible Galaxy smartphone. 

Had it not been for the subpar battery life and plain craftsmanship, these buds would rank higher on this list.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 review.

best cheap AirPods alternatives: Klipsch T5 II

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Laptop Magazine)

3. Klipsch T5 II

Retro-styled wireless earbuds with modern sound

Specifications

Size: 0.8 x 0.7 x 0.7 inches
Weight: 0.18 ounces
Battery life (rated): 8 hours, 24 hours (with charging case)
Bluetooth range: 300 feet (91 meters)
Special features: Customizable EQ, Transparency Mode, water resistance

Reasons to buy

+
The most attractive charging case in its class
+
Clear, detailed sound
+
Strong battery life
+
Extensive control scheme
+
Impressive call quality

Reasons to avoid

-
Lack of modern features
-
Occasional lag with digital assistant

They say looks can only get you so far, but in the case of the Klipsch T5 II, it’s just one of many hallmarks that make these wireless earbuds an underrated gem. Klipsch’s audio is exceptional, giving you the perfect blend of bright and warm sound. You can tweak the soundstage via mobile app, though the default is perfect as is. A full charge gets you about 7.5 hours more or less, which is highly sufficient. Then there is the star of the show, the Zippo lighter-inspired charging case, a durable aluminum block that beautifully displays and stores the buds and holds an additional 24 hours of playtime.

While it’s easy to get caught up in the nostalgic beauty that is the T5 II, you’re quickly reminded of the model’s limited feature set, which could have benefited from more modern functionality. This includes active noise cancellation, wireless charging, and, yes, a Find My Buds mode.

Read our full Klipsch T5 II review.

best cheap AirPods alternatives: Google Pixel Buds A-Series

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4. Google Pixel Buds A-Series

Budget-friendly Android buds with super smarts

Specifications

Size: 0.8 x 1.2 x 0.7 inches
Weight: 1.87 ounces (case and bud)
Battery life (rated): 5 hours music, 24 hours (charging case)
Bluetooth range: 40 feet (12 meters)
Special features: Bass Boost; Google Assistant integration; Find My Earbuds

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent voice command integration
+
Satisfying audio quality
+
Comfortable and lightweight
+
Very affordable

Reasons to avoid

-
Lack active noise cancellation
-
Weak volume

You just dropped a few racks on the Google Pixel 6 and need wireless earbuds to complement this fancy new Android device. What should you pick up now? Answer: The Pixel Buds A-Series. Not only do these buds have seamless integration with numerous Google services (e.g., Assistant, Notifications, Translate), but you get features like Adaptive Sound and Bass Boost that enhance sound quality. The setup process is instantaneous, especially with Google Pixel smartphones via one-touch Fast Pair. We also find the oval earbud and pebble-inspired charging case designs to be attractive.

Keep in mind that these aren’t high-end wireless earbuds. Therefore, popular features like active noise cancellation and ambient listening won’t show up on the spec sheet. Still, the Pixel Buds A-Series gets you plenty of performance for under $100.

Read our full Google Pixel Buds A-Series review.

best cheap AirPods alternatives: Anker Soundcore Liberty 2 Pro

(Image credit: Alex Bracetti/Future)

5. Anker Soundcore Liberty 2 Pro (2021 Version)

Compelling audio in a sub-luxury design

Specifications

Size: Not stated
Weight: 0.17 ounces (per bud); 0.28 (charging case)
Battery life (rated): 7 hours; 26 hours (with charging case)
Bluetooth range: 50 feet (15 meters)
Special features: Equalizer with multiple presets, HearID, LDAC

Reasons to buy

+
Well-balanced, personalized audio
+
Multiple sound customization options
+
Remarkable call quality
+
Strong connectivity
+
Decent battery life

Reasons to avoid

-
No ANC or touch controls
-
Lacks features found on other Anker models

The original Soundcore Liberty 2 Pro was Anker’s statement product – cheap wireless earbuds that outperformed several mid- and high-range true wireless models. This updated version is well worth the investment for audiophiles that want lossless-like streaming quality for under $60. Hi-Res audio via LDAC technology improves sound quality on compatible music services (e.g., Tidal, Deezer). The inclusion of proprietary features like Anker’s equalizer with limitless presets and HearID to create your own sound profile sweeten the deal.

Anker kept upgrades to a minimum, omitting popular features like ANC, touch controls, and other high-end functions (e.g., Ear Tip Fit Test, Find My Buds). These were considered deal-breakers when the model launched at $129, but not at its current price point.

Read our full Anker Soundcore Liberty 2 Pro Plus (2021 Version) review.

best cheap AirPods alternatives: Sony WF-C500

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6. Sony WF-C500

Sony buds with bold, customizable sound

Specifications

Size: 1.2 x 1.1 x 0.9 inches
Weight: 0.2 ounces (per bud)
Battery life (range): 10 hours, 20 hours (with charging case)
Bluetooth range: 80 feet (24 meters)
Special features: 360 Reality Audio, custom EQ, Digital Sound Enhancement Engine support

Reasons to buy

+
Dynamic, bass-forward sound
+
Long battery life (on the buds)
+
360 Reality Audio and DSEE support
+
Fun-looking charging case

Reasons to avoid

-
Limited control scheme
-
Short battery life (on the case)

The WF-C500 is an enticing purchase for brand enthusiasts that want Sony bass without breaking the bank. Underneath the plastic hood lies 5.8mm drivers that pump out vibrant sound. 360 Reality Audio gives selective music tracks a 3D presence, while DSEE Extreme technology upscales the fidelity on lo-fi recordings for enhanced output. Access to Sony’s equalizer with multiple settings is available to adjust different frequencies. Then there’s Bluetooth 5.2 for maintaining solid connectivity between audio sources.  

Battery life is great at 10 hours, though this only applies to the buds. The charging case disappoints by only holding a max of 20 hours, leaving users with just two additional charges on the go. 

Read our full Sony WF-C500 review.

best cheap AirPods alternatives: Jabra Elite 3

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

7. Jabra Elite 3

Exceptional overall performance for the price

Specifications

Size: 0.79 x 0.82 x 1.07 inches
Weight: 0.16 ounces (per bud)
Battery life (rated): 7 hours, 28 hours (with charging case)
Bluetooth range: 33 feet (10 meters)
Special features: Ambient listening mode, equalizer, Call Experience for enhanced vocal clarity

Reasons to buy

+
Powerful, customizable sound
+
Superb call quality
+
Enviable battery life
+
Bluetooth 5.2 and Google Fast Pair

Reasons to avoid

-
Some Jabra features remain exclusive to premium models
-
No wireless charging or multipoint technology

Jabra was going to enter the cheap wireless earbuds market at some point. We just didn’t think they would bulldoze their way through with the high-performance Elite 3, the company’s most affordable pair of wireless earbuds ever. The Elite 3 maintains the strong, customizable audio of its predecessors, with smaller drivers mind you, plus you can tweak the soundstage in the companion app via selectable presets. Call quality is the best at its price point and the buds even support unique features like Call Experience that optimize your vocals for enhanced results. Extras like Bluetooth 5.2 for strong connectivity and Google Fast Pair to expedite the pairing process on Android devices complete the package. 

Not all Jabra features make the cut, including ANC, MyControls, MySound, and multipoint technology. Then again, we expected much less for the price, which is what makes the Elite 3 an even greater surprise. 

Read our full Jabra Elite 3 review.

best cheap AirPods alternatives: Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Laptop Magazine)

8. Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2

Best AirPods alternative value

Specifications

Size: 2 x 1.2 x 2.2 inches
Weight: 0.2 ounces
Battery life (rated): 7 hours; 35 hours (with charging case)
Bluetooth range: 49 feet (15 meters)
Special features: Customizable EQ, HearID sound personalization, wireless charging

Reasons to buy

+
Sound better than all AirPods models
+
Adaptive listening features
+
Impressive call quality
+
Solid battery life across the board with wireless charging

Reasons to avoid

-
Touch controls are wonky
-
Same unattractive long-stem design as the AirPods

Many view the Soundcore Liberty Air 2 as an AirPods clone. There’s nothing wrong with that, especially when the product grants better audio, battery life, and more color options (White AND Black) for a much lower price. Anker went all out stuffing the Soundcore Liberty Air 2 with as many powerful specs as possible: including 4 mics with noise reduction technology, diamond-coated drivers, personalized sound features, and 7-hour battery life.

You’ll experience some nice clarity and depth when listening to music, which also carries over to phone calls. It’s also cool that you can use the buds in stereo or mono mode.

The Soundcore app extends functionality to customize the controls and sound; you can choose from multiple presets or select the HearID feature to have the buds create a sound profile based on your hearing sensibility. How many models do you know in the same price range that can pull that off?

Read our full Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 review.

best cheap AirPods alternatives: OnePlus Nord Buds

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9. OnePlus Nord Buds

Big sound at a bargain

Specifications

Size: 1.9 x 0.8 x 0.92 inches (per bud); 2.6 x 1.3 x 1.1 inches (charging case)
Weight: 0.17 ounces (earbuds); 1.47 ounces (charging case)
Battery life (rated): 7 hours; 30 hours (charging case)
Bluetooth range: 45 feet (13 meters)
Special features: Equalizer, Flash Charge, Game Mode

Reasons to buy

+
Energetic, customizable sound
+
Useful battery life with powerful quick charging
+
Acceptable call quality and connectivity
+
Reliable touch controls

Reasons to avoid

-
Poor wind noise reduction on calls
-
Bass can be aggressive on some tracks

OnePlus didn’t need to release $39 wireless earbuds because their current true wireless lineup is already legit. Granted, the Nord Buds makes it even more credible. You’re getting rich, warm sound that can be tweaked in the companion app, along with a Game Mode that lowers latency when gaming on your smartphone. Flash Charge technology generates 5 hours of playtime on a 10-minute charge (charging case and earbuds combined). The metallic touch sensors demonstrate excellent touch accuracy to perform intended commands without a hitch, and the digital assistant feature is spot-on with voice commands.

Compromises were made to accommodate the low MSRP. In this case, you’re looking at overly aggressive bass, which can be adjusted, and weak wind resistance during voice and video calls. Still, this is a solid performer that undercuts numerous rivals across different price points.

Best best cheap AirPods alternatives: JLab Go Air Pop

(Image credit: Future)

10. JLab Go Air Pop

The best wireless earbuds for $25 or less

Specifications

Size: 0.9 x 1 x 0.9 inches
Weight: 0.1 ounces (per bud)
Battery life (rated): 8 hours, 32 hours (with charging case)
Bluetooth range: 30 feet (9 meters)
Special features: Built-in USB cable in charging case, programmed EQ settings, water resistance

Reasons to buy

+
Versatile audio 
+
IPX4-rated water resistance
+
Ample battery life
+
Custom EQ settings

Reasons to avoid

-
Poor call quality
-
Controls don't always work

This isn't the first pair of sub-$25 wireless earbuds we've seen, or even tested, but it is the best. The Go Air Pop is a light, bass-rich, long-lasting set of buds that even throws in IPX4-rated protection against water and sweat. 

There are some drawbacks to going so cheap: the touch controls aren't always reliable, and call quality is so bad you're better off disconnecting and answering on your phone instead. But for everyday music playback, you won't find a better value than what the Go Air Pop provides. And certainly not with four fun color options.

How to choose the best cheap AirPods alternatives for you

Most consumers flock to the AirPods for Apple’s ecosystem. The AirPods carry many iOS/macOS perks, but there are a few models that share similar functionality, those being Beats wireless earbuds. If you’re open to trying selections from Apple’s secondary audio brand, make sure they come with the H1 processor and essential features such as audio sharing, automatic sharing, “Hey Siri” voice activation, and spatial audio, just to name a few.

If you’re not for the Apple experience, then prioritize competitors with great sound quality. Some come with fine-tuned drivers and customizable settings to personalize how you hear all media formats. You might even stumble upon wireless earbuds with built-in presets, upscaling technology, and 3D sound capability.

Next up is battery life. Luckily, 80% of the true wireless market surpasses the AirPods playtimes (4.5 to 6 hours). The standard battery life for charging cases is 24 hours (set by the original AirPods), though you can find models that generate double these playtimes. Fast charging and wireless charging are also common on most wireless earbuds. 

Furthermore, the best AirPods alternatives get you popular features that aren’t available on Apple’s porcelain danglers. On the list: Alexa/Google Assistant integration, Latency Mode, multipoint technology (pair to two devices simultaneously), third-party audio support, and the latest Bluetooth 5.0 versions.

How we test the best cheap AirPods alternatives

We put the best cheap AirPods alternatives through a vigorous testing process that evaluates several factors, including design, comfort, features, sound, and value. Our selections are then compared to similar products in the category in terms of performance and price.

Wireless earbuds are worn over the course of a week for 2 to 3 hours at a time. During this period, our reviewers assess comfort, ease of use, and audio quality. They listen to sample tracks across several music genres, including hip-hop, rock, jazz, and classical, while analyzing clarity, depth, imaging, and volume. Audiobooks, games, podcasts, and videos are also accounted for. 

Any selections featuring the latest audio codecs (e.g., aptX, LDAC) or spatial audio are tested using compatible hi-res streaming services (e.g., Apple Music, Deezer, Tidal).

You can learn more about how these services improve the sound quality on your laptops and mobile devices by looking over this expert audio codec FAQ, which breaks down everything about FLAC files, MP3s, and all other audio file codecs. 

Once testing is completed, every model is rated based on our five-point system (1 = worst, 5 = best). Any product that is truly exemplary is awarded an Editor’s Choice.