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10 Feb 2022

5 cheaper alternatives to Apple's Airpods

There are plenty of cheap truly wireless headphones, but which should you go for? Our audio experts have the answer

Apple's AirPods are far from the only option when it comes to truly wireless headphones - our expert audio lab has now tested more than one hundred pairs. Below, we list five of the most high-profile cheaper alternatives, starting at just £49.

The latest Apple AirPods might be hugely popular, but they won't suit all tastes. Not everyone likes stems dangling from their ears, not all AirPods features are supported on Android devices, and they're not as customisable as many rivals.

Plus, at £159 Apple's AirPods aren't exactly cheap.

If you're looking for more affordable alternatives, you've come to the right place. Below, our experts have selected some of the most high-profile pairs: the ones that, despite being cheaper, really put pressure on the AirPods in areas such as sound quality or features.

But which are worth buying? Click through to our full reviews to discover how each performs.

We use a professional listening panel with decades of experience to test headphones. Find out which pairs top the tables in our guide to the best wireless headphones for 2022

1. Huawei Freebuds 4i, £49

Despite being less than a third of the cost of Apple's AirPods, Huawei's Freebuds 4i offer active noise-cancelling technology to block unwanted sounds such as traffic noise - something you usually only see on top-price models (for AirPods, you'd need to choose the pricey £179 Apple AirPods Pro to get active noise cancelling).

They also look stylish and, according to Huawei, the earpieces offer up to 10 hours of continuous playback on a single charge from the case.

But are they cheap and nasty, or great value? Our impartial experts reveal this and more in our full Huawei Freebuds 4i review.

2. Sony WF-C500, £66

These low-cost Sony headphones caused a stir when they launched last year.

As well as being more compact than Apple's AirPods (with no dangling stems), they're fully compatible with Android and Apple devices, with companion apps that let you customise sound settings. They also work with both Google Assistant and Apple's Siri voice assistants.

Has Sony found a winning formula? Our experts give their verdict in our Sony WF-C500 review.

3. Sony WF-1000XM3, £97

Launching back in 2019, this pair may be an oldie by truly wireless headphone standards, but they're still readily available.

Thanks to NFC technology, you can connect them to many smartphones simply by touching the devices together. Best of all, now that their successor (the Sony WF-1000XM4) is out, the price of this set has plummeted to under £100.

Find out whether these headphones are still worth buying in our comprehensive Sony WF-1000XM3 review.

4. Amazon Echo Buds 2, £110 (standard version)

As you'd expect, these headphones work with Amazon's Alexa voice assistant, allowing you to issue voice commands without having to reach for your phone. They're also compatible with Google Assistant and Apple's Siri voice assistant.

This second-generation version is smaller than the original. They're also splash-proof and come with built-in active noise-cancelling.

But does the sound quality let them down? Our professional panel deliver their verdict in our Amazon Echo Buds 2 review.

5. Samsung Galaxy Buds 2, £139

With its second-generation Galaxy Buds, Samsung has really turned up the heat on the Apple AirPods.

They're the most expensive headphones in this list, but still £20 cheaper than the latest AirPods. They come with active noise-cancelling to block out nearby noise, along with three ambient sound settings for times when you need to let in a little of the sound around you (useful when listening for cars when you're out and about).

Are they are bargain, or is there a catch? Find out the definitive answer in our expert Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 review.

Looking for more Apple AirPods alternatives?

We've tested over one hundred pairs of truly wireless headphones that are currently on the market. Head to our full list of headphones reviews to find out which pairs come out on top in our tests.

Alternatively, take a peek at some of the very latest models tested at our professional audio lab: