AirPods & Alternatives- Tech Advisor

Apple has set yet another tech industry trend, this time for wireless earbuds thanks to the AirPods. Now you can choose from countless pairs offering the same thing, but in various different form factors and prices with different features.

The choice is overhwhelming but we’ve reviewed and ranked the best wireless earbuds you can buy from the likes of Sony, RHA, Samsung and more.

We’re focusing on what are known as ‘true wireless’ earbuds here – ie not ones that are attached to each other with a cable that hangs on your neck like the Google Pixel Buds or B&O Beoplay H5 – aka neckbuds.

If you’re looking for general wireless headphones then we have a dedicated chart for that which includes on- and over-ear headphones. 

In terms of wireless earbuds, you’re going to have to spend a fair amount to get a decent pair. This is because there’s a lot of technology packed into tiny headphones. Since the category is still quite new, prices won’t come down for a while – the average price for a well-known brand is £150/$150.

If your budget is tight, take a look at our recommendations for the best cheap true wireless earbuds although we’ve included a couple of pairs here under £100. Make sure you check out our best headphone deals article for the top bargains right now.

Generally speaking, the earbuds from different manufacturers are very similar. The headphones connect to your phone (or other devices) and each other over Bluetooth and tend to have playback controls on at least one earbud.

Active noise cancelling (ANC) is still quite rare but we do have a few pairs here with the feature. Otherwise we have a dedicated noise cancelling headphones chart.

You’ll get a few hours of battery life (there’s not much space for the battery) and the carry case will handily charge them up, normally a few times over. Find out how we test audio.

Best true wireless earbuds 2020

1. Cambridge Melomania 1 – Best Overall

At their affordable price compared to the big name rivals out there, the Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 wireless earbuds should be lacking in a few areas but they’re really not.

They might not have the most striking design but they’re lightweight and comfortable. The buttons can handle a whole range of functions once you learn the system, too.

More importantly, there’s excellent battery life on offer here combined with top sound quality so what more could you want? Perhaps noise cancelling but rarely at this price.

Read our full Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 review

2. RHA TrueConnect – Best Sound Quality

Simply put, the RHA TrueConnect are one of the best pairs of wireless earbuds we’ve tested.

Although they don’t have active noise cancelling like the Sony WF-1000X, the comfortable and efficient seal provides excellent noise isolation instead. This means they’re cheaper and don’t suffer from dropouts either.

Add in a whopping 25 hours battery life via the charging case, IPX5 splash resistance and top-notch audio quality and these are tough to beat.

Read our full RHA TrueConnect review

3. Sony WF-1000XM3 – Best Noise Cancelling

Improving upon the original WF-1000X earbuds, the new model has been redesigned and improved. The charging case is a little bulky, but the total run-time of 24 hours is very impressive.

With great noise cancelling and the ability to tweak everything, including the touch key functions, in the companion app and use Siri or Google Assistant hands-free, they’re a great buy.

Read our full Sony WF-1000XM3 review

4. Samsung Galaxy Buds+ – Best Battery Life

In a sense, the Galaxy Buds+ don’t add much to the originals. The same design, similar sound, and a couple of software tweaks. Active noise-cancelling might have been a nice addition, but that would be a big ask at this price.

That’s all burying the lede though, because the real sell here is the battery life on the buds. 11 hours’ playtime is basically the best around, and we’ve never worried less about battery on any wireless headphones.

We could find small things to complain about – the glossy case, slightly fiddly touch controls, the lack of AptX audio codec support – but ultimately the Galaxy Buds+ are great. And thanks to the inclusion of iOS app support, now they’re great no matter what phone you use them with.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy Buds+ review

5. Apple AirPods Pro – Best for iPhone

AirPods have always been good, but the Pro model makes them great. Apple has done this by improving the design and therefore fit and comfort for starters.

They’re also very fuss-free thanks to easy pairing, plus automatic pause and off. Then there’s the way they maintain a solid connection and have decent active noise cancelling, which is still a feature quite rare on wireless earbuds. 

While we welcome these improvements and new features, they’re expensive and really should offer better sound quality at this price. Look to the regular AirPods if you need something cheaper.

Read our full AirPods Pro review

6. Libratone Track Air+

They have arrived a bit later than the competition but Libratone has managed to create a very tempting pair of true wireless earbuds thanks to a nice balance of price, features and sound quality.

Importantly, the Track Air+ offer noise-cancelling which is very rare for this type of headphone, and at a lower price than Sony. Build and audio performance are good but look to RHA and Cambridge Audio if noise-cancelling isn’t a must.

The app could do with a couple of improvements but overall we’re pretty impressed.

Read our full Libratone Track Air+ review

7. 1MORE True Wireless ANC

The 1MORE True Wireless ANC earbuds are a bit of a mixed bag.

On the one hand, you’ve got a comfortable pair of earbuds that create a perfect seal for impressive audio quality, and the added smarts are a welcome addition compared to the original Stylish TWS earbuds.

But on the other, you’ve got middling ANC that quietens the environment rather than cancels it out, and the bass-heavy output with the mode enabled is either great or annoying depending on your personal preference.

Read our full 1MORE True Wireless ANC review

8. Huawei FreeBuds 3i

If you want noise cancelling on a budget then the Freebuds 3i are the wireless earbuds to get.

Not only are they among the cheapest earbuds with ANC you can buy, they offer a closed design complete with ear tips resulting in a more comfortable fit and better noise isolation compare to the open Freebuds 3.

However, there’s a fairly big downside here and that’s poor battery life – especially with ANC switched on so they won’t be good if you want long listening sessions.

Read our full Huawei FreeBuds 3i review

9. Creative Outlier Air

You can easily spend more than double the price of the Outlier Air on true wireless earbuds.

But for most people, there’s little point: Creative’s headphones sound good and have great battery life.

They’re not the most compact, and the carry case is probably larger than most, but overall, the Outlier Air is an excellent buy.

Read our full Creative Outlier Air review

10. Jabra Elite Active 75t

If your top priority is sound quality, you can probably do better than the Elite Active 75t while spending a fair bit less. But that isn’t really the point here.

Top battery life (7.5 hours on the buds, and a total of 28 hours together with the case), a durable design, and a grippy waterproof finish all make this a well-rounded package for anyone looking for sports headphones and willing to pay to be sure that they’ll make it to the finish line.

Read our full Jabra Elite Active 75t review


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