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I tried these AirPods Pro alternatives, all priced $100 or less. Which ones were best?

Updated ·10-min read
It's too bad you only have two ears! These affordable earbuds offer lots of features and great sound, without the Apple tax. (Photos: Anker, EarFun, Edifier, TCL)
It's too bad you only have two ears! These affordable earbuds offer lots of features and great sound, without the Apple tax. (Photos: Anker, EarFun, Edifier, TCL)

Surprise: I really like AirPods. Apple's true-wireless earbuds work well and sound great. Just one problem: They're insanely expensive. The three currently available options sell for $129, $179, and $249. Yes, there are sales from time to time, but at best you might save about 20 percent. Surely there must be more affordable alternatives?

Quick overview

There are. Lots and lots of them. Below I've rounded up five AirPods alternatives that are all priced under $100 — in a few cases well under (make sure to look for on-page coupons, which are virtually omnipresent these days). Some are better than others, but all will give you a comfortable, great-sounding listening experience without making your wallet cry.

Better than AirPods, for less?

Most of these products compete directly with the $249 AirPods Pro, as they employ similar silicone ear tips that, for the best audio quality and noise isolation, should nestle into your ear canals to form a snug seal. Some also match the Pro's active noise-canceling (ANC) capabilities, and a few offer advanced features like in-ear detection (which pauses/resumes playback when you remove/re-insert an earbud) and wireless case-charging.

So what are you really giving up by choosing less expensive earbuds? For starters, not all ANC is created equal: Less expensive 'buds might not block quite as much noise. There's also call quality, something to consider if you talk on the phone a lot or use earbuds for your Zoom meetings. (Because there are so many variables at play in call quality, it's the one thing I wasn't able to test.)

Earbuds that have companion apps, like these from Edifier, Soundcore and TCL, make it easier to change settings. Some also provide an equalizer, a great perk for those who like to tweak audio levels. (Photo: Rick Broida)
Earbuds that have companion apps, like these from Edifier, Soundcore and TCL, make it easier to change various settings. Some also provide an equalizer, a great perk for those who like to tweak audio levels. (Photo: Rick Broida)

On the other hand, sometimes you actually come out ahead. AirPods Pro have a rated battery life of 4.5 hours per charge — 3.5 hours with ANC turned on — but nearly every earbud here can play longer, in some cases quite a bit longer.

You'll also find products that have companion apps, which allow you to toggle different listening modes, tweak various settings and, in some cases, use an equalizer to adjust audio levels to your liking. In other words, many an earbud manufacturer is beating Apple at its own game, and giving you a price break at the same time. Let's take a look at how these alternatives fare.

Note: Some of the prices below reflect the use of promo codes and/or coupons. While accurate at the time of this writing, they're subject to change.

Soundcore

Life P3 Noise Cancelling Earbuds

Soundcore by Anker
$80 at Amazon

If you can live without the ear-detection feature, the Soundcore Life P3 earbuds are an excellent AirPods Pro alternative.

In a field crowded with products that are either black or white (literally), the Soundcore Life P3 stands out with a much-needed splash of color. Yes, the two monochromatic standards are available, but you can also choose Navy Blue, Sky Blue or Coral Red. Whatever you pick, the buds themselves offer a nice bit of extra flair in the form of chrome trim.

There's another notable feature here: Soundcore's excellent companion app, which allows you to modify the earbuds' touch-control settings, toggle between multiple (!) noise-canceling modes and choose between various equalizer presets (or customize your own). There's also a test for ear-tip seal quality (something I've never seen before) and even about a dozen white-noise sounds you can play to help fall asleep.

All this would be superfluous if the Life P3 wasn't comfortable or sounded poor, but I'm happy to report superb fit and sound quality. The ANC is a bit less pronounced than AirPods', but it works well overall and includes a transparency mode. Plus, you can get really granular within the app and tweak the ANC to block indoor, outdoor or travel noises, depending on where you are. That's something else I've not seen in any other earbuds.

All that's missing is "ear detection," a feature I really like. You can get it in less expensive earbuds from EarFun, so I'm sad Anker neglected to include it here. What's more, while the "find my earbuds" feature is great in theory, in practice it works poorly. When activated via the app, an earbud emits a high-pitched whine — one that dogs might be able to hear, but I couldn't, not even when the earbud was just a few feet away.

With ear detection, the Soundcore Life P3 would be my single favorite under-$100 earbuds. Without it, they're still genuinely excellent and one of the best options in the group.

  • Ear-detection: No

  • Noise canceling: Active

  • Case charging: USB-C or wireless

  • Rated battery life: 7 hours on a charge

  • Price: $80, often less with on-page coupons

EarFun

Air Pro 2 Active Noise Cancelling Wireless Earphones

EarFun
$64 $80 at Amazon

Great sound, comfy fit and exceptional value make the EarFun Air Pro 2 one of my favorite AirPods alternatives.

In terms of pure bang for the buck, it's hard to beat the EarFun Air Pro 2. Already a bargain at $90, it's often on sale for even less. Right now, for example, there's a coupon that knocks the price down to $60.

It's hard to believe you can get ANC-equipped earbuds at that price. In my testing the feature wasn't quite on par with Apple's industry-leading noise canceling, but it definitely helps drown out unwanted ambience: Airplane engines, neighborhood lawnmowers and so on. There's also a transparent mode for in-person conversations and safer outdoor activity.

The earbuds offer in-ear detection and touch controls as well. I found the fit to be snug and comfortable, thanks in no small part to the six pairs of silicone tips included in the box. It may take some experimentation to find the pair that works best for you, but it's worth the effort.

Battery life is more than respectable: Up to seven hours on a charge (though EarFun doesn't mentioned if this is with ANC on or off). And unlike the original Air Pro, the Pro 2 supports both USB-C and wireless Qi charging.

At $80 these would be easy to recommend. At $60 they're a bargain.

  • Ear detection: Yes

  • Noise canceling: Active

  • Case charging: USB-C or wireless

  • Rated battery life: 7 hours on a charge

  • Price: $80, frequently discounted, often with additional coupon savings

Edifier

330NB Active Noise Cancelling Wireless Earbuds

Edifier
$65 $80 at Amazon

If you're on a tight budget, Edifier's often-on-sale earbuds offer solid sound and a decent feature set for less.

After debuting at $80, the Edifier 330NB earbuds spent some time at $48, but now appear at just $35 after applying a 50%-off coupon. Needless to say, the price fluctuates!

As you might expect, though, these aren't the most feature-packed earbuds in the group. They don't offer in-ear detection and the case can't be charged wirelessly. Plus, battery life is rated at just five hours per charge, and the case is good for only about three recharges — meaning about 20 hours total. Those aren't bad numbers; they're just below what nearly every other earbud offers.

Edifier offers a companion app that shows remaining battery life for each earbud and lets you toggle between noise-reduction and ambient-sound modes. You can also tweak things like prompt volume (how loud notifications are in your ear), touch-control settings and even tap sensitivity. That app is home to a complete user manual as well, an idea I wish every other vendor would copy.

The 330NB didn't do a great job of noise canceling, at least compared with the other earbuds I tried. They offered only a minimal reduction against an outdoor leaf-blower that appeared during testing; all the other earbuds here cut back more of that irksome noise. I also found them annoyingly difficult to pluck out of the case.

Even so, in a vacuum, I'd have no trouble recommending Edifier's earbuds. In this group, however, there are better choices — though most of them do cost quite a bit more.

  • Ear detection: No

  • Noise canceling: Active

  • Case charging: USB-C

  • Rated battery life: 5 hours on a charge

  • Price: $80, usually discounted to around $35 with on-page coupon.

TCL

MoveAudio S600 Wireless Earbuds

TCL
$100 $130 at Amazon

For $149 less than AirPods Pro, the TCL S600 offers nearly all the same features. The earbuds are a bit light on bass, but otherwise these are arguably the best under-$100 option.

TCL is best known for making TVs, good ones that appeal to my thrifty nature. But could the company bring that same affordability acumen to true-wireless earbuds? Turns out yes. The Moveaudio S600 ticks all the important feature boxes, rivaling Apple's AirPods Pro at every turn but for a much lower price. That makes these the most expensive earbuds in the roundup, but they're worth it if you don't want to make sacrifices.

Like AirPods Pro, the S600 offers active noise cancelling, transparency mode, in-ear detection and wireless charging. You can use TCL's companion app to configure touch controls to your liking, but unfortunately there's no equalizer option — something that might help these earbuds overcome their light bass response. The sound is well balanced overall, but other earbuds here really drive home that thump, which some listeners crave.

I'm hard-pressed to find any other issues, though I do have this nitpick: The case is larger than most, a bulbous, bulky thing that seemed extra-obtrusive in my pocket.

All things considered, the Moveaudio S600 is probably the top-quality AirPods Pro alternative in the roundup — but only by a hair. It has every practically feature I want and a reasonable price tag, though I continue to be extremely impressed by what you can get for less.

  • Ear detection: Yes

  • Noise canceling: Active

  • Case charging: USB-C or wireless

  • Rated battery life: 8 hours on a charge

  • Price: $100, often with a 10%-off on-page coupon

WYZE

Earbuds Pro Active Noise Cancelling Wireless Earbuds

Wyze
$90 $130 at Amazon

A mixed bag overall, but still worth considering thanks to great sound, impressive noise-canceling and a robust companion app.

Never heard of Wyze? The brand is behind some of my favorite low-cost electronics, including the Wyze Cam, Wyze Video Doorbell and Wyze Noise Canceling Headphones. Needless to say, I was excited to see how the company's Buds Pro compared with AirPods Pro.

Result: mostly positive. The earbuds boast an impressive roster of features, though a few aren't executed well. I'll start with the good: The Buds Pro fit my ears very comfortably and sounded superb. I liked the bass-boost toggle in the Wyze companion app; it lets me decide whether I want that extra thump or not. (Many earbuds make the decision for you.) The app also allows tweaks to touch-control settings and a choice of voice assistants: the native one built into your phone (Google, Siri, etc.) or Amazon's Alexa.

The latter sounds like a nice perk, but if you're an iPhone user, the implementation blows: You must keep the Alexa app running in the background and force-close the Wyze app, otherwise it won't work.

Another quibble: While Wyze's ANC capabilities proved excellent, the highly touted wind-noise reduction was MIA. In my tests, the earbuds were no better at combating wind than any other. I also found them difficult to pluck from their charging case, though if you learn exactly where to put your index finger (dead center between the two), it's easier to dig them out. Finally, the Buds Pro can pair with only one device at a time, a bummer if you routinely switch between, say, a phone and tablet. For comparison, TCL's S600 supports up to 10 paired devices.

Ironically, I think the aforementioned Wyze Noise Cancelling Headphones (around $80) are a better product. A totally different product, yes, but worth considering all the same. As for the Wyze Buds Pro, they're a solid AirPods Pro alternative marred only by a few livable shortcomings.

  • Ear detection: Yes

  • Noise canceling: Active

  • Case charging: USB-C or wireless

  • Rated battery life: 6 hours on a charge

  • Price: $90

Have you found an AirPods alternative you like better? Tell me about it in the comments section below!

Quick note: All of these earbuds are available via Amazon. If you have Amazon Prime, you’ll get free shipping, of course. Not yet a member? No problem. You can sign up for your free 30-day trial here. (And by the way, those without Prime still get free shipping on orders of $25 or more.)

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