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15 Oct 2019

Can Apple AirPod lookalikes live up to the real thing?

We've tested a pair commonly found on online marketplaces such as Amazon, plus other truly wireless models by Beats, Huawei and JBL

If you don't fancy parting with £200 for Apple's AirPods, you might be tempted by far cheaper lookalikes. But think twice before adding to your cart - we've just tested some cheap clones which are our lowest-scoring headphones to date.

The £18 TWS i9S headphones are widely available on websites including eBay, Aliexpress, OnBuy and Amazon Marketplace. We got our hands on a pair to put everything from sound quality to battery life to the test.

Read on to find out why they were so terrible and to see alternatives that we've put through our rigorous headphones lab tests.

Best Buy headphones - skip straight to the best on test and save yourself the headache

TWS i9S headphones: Apple AirPod clones for a tenth of the price

Considering the success of the AirPods, it's no surprise that smaller companies are coming up with their own cheaper alternatives.

The TWS i9S headphones are just that - an attempt to offer the sleek looks of Apple's AirPods but at a far more tempting price. These flawed, wireless in-ear headphones are listed under a couple of different names and, in some cases, are unbranded.

It didn't take long for our experts to expose these cheap buds as shameful Don't Buys. Although they offer support for Apple Siri and Google Assistant (which works well), the sound quality simply isn't good enough.

With a pitiful test score of 18%, the TWS i9S headphones are the worst we've ever tested. They sound dreadful and are completely void of bass, which makes for a flat listening experience. It doesn't matter what your go-to genre is, either - the TWS i9S will ruin them all.

As with all the headphones that pass through our lab, we tested this budget pick for sound leakage. The lack of a good seal means that your fellow train passengers will be reaching for the headache tablets too.

See the full verdict on why these are ones to avoid in our full TWS i9S headphones review.

How good are truly wireless headphones?

Each pair of headphones that pass through our lab are thoroughly tested for sound quality, comfort, durability and battery life.

Our graph below shows how average Which? test scores vary between truly wireless headphones above and below £100.

Although average test scores between these two price points are fairly similar, our tests have uncovered some excellent Best Buys but also some pricey Don't Buys. So it really does pay to read our reviews before you hit the buy button.

Other truly wireless headphones on test

Apple AirPods (2019 with wireless charging case), £199

The second generation of the original truly wireless Apple AirPods launched in March of this year. The 2019 AirPods promise to be 'more magical than ever', with rich high-quality sound and longer battery life. But they also come at a premium.

Our lab and expert listening panel put these pricey AirPods to the test to see whether more money really can buy you the best truly wireless headphones.

Huawei Freebuds Lite, £56

If you're shopping for inexpensive truly wireless in-ear headphones, Huawei is hoping the Freebuds Lite tick all the right boxes. These come bundled with a charging case that the brand promises will treat you to four hours of music from a five-minute charge.

The Freebuds have built-in controls, letting you play music and answer calls without having to burrow into your pocket.

Enacfire Future Plus Headphones, £34

You probably haven't heard of Enacfire. But even so, the obscure Amazon brand is swimming in positive reviews, with its brand page offering wireless headphones, portable wireless speakers and various charging cables.

To see if Enacfire's five-star Amazon reviews are justified, we sent the Future Plus Headphones to our test lab. These truly wireless in-ear headphones partner up with a charging case that can also be used to juice up your smartphone.

JBL Tune 120TWS, £85.99

JBL has a long history of creating audio products and its Tune 120TWS headphones are marketed at the more affordable end of the market.

They come with JBL Pure Bass Sound which claims to add a powerful punch to your playlists, plus the Tune 120TWS headphones are compatible with Siri, Google Assistant and Bixby for voice commands. Has JBL struck the right balance of price, features and sound quality?

Beats Powerbeats Pro, £219

The Beats Powerbeats Pro truly wireless headphones are one of the most expensive pairs on the market.

They seem ideal for those into their fitness, thanks to earloops which secure them to your ears and their resistance against sweat and water. But does that mean the Powerbeats Pro headphones compromise on sound quality?

Head over to our headphone reviews page for our full range of Best Buy models. Whatever your budget, we'll help you narrow down your shortlist.