The appeal of the Apple AirPods is undeniable. They pair instantly to your iPhone, have great battery life, and you see them just about everywhere. But if you’re like me and seek comfort, sound quality, and value, there are are better alternatives.
But the biggest reason you shouldn’t buy the AirPods is that they have the potential to damage your hearing. Since the AirPods lack any type of noise isolation, external noise comes in and when you’re walking around a noisy city or taking public transportation, this means you’ll likely be turning up the music beyond safe levels. I’ve always advocated for passive noise isolating earbuds or active noise cancelling headphones because of this.
Do yourself a favor and skip the AirPods and get these alternatives instead.
Best truly wireless headphones for most people: RHA TrueConnect
The RHA TrueConnect is my pick for the best truly wireless headphones for most people because they do the basics great. In terms of build quality, the headphones and their charging case are extremely well built. The case has an anodized aluminum cover and a soft-touch plastic that makes it feel great in the hand. The earbuds themselves are made of plastic but also feature the same soft-touch texture that makes them easy to grip. The only downside of the texture is that they pick up finger and ear oils like no one’s business.
Using the RHA TrueConnect is a treat because they just work. Take the headphones out of the case and they instantly fire up and pair to your phone. The wireless connection is also quite strong with very infrequent drop outs. They’re also good for phone calls, though not quite as good as the AirPods or Jabra Elite 65t in terms of isolating your voice.
There’s also physical buttons on each earbud that control everything from music playback, volume, and your phone’s voice assistant. While there’s no app to customize features or tonal balance with an EQ, there’s something enjoyable about using a set of headphones that just work right out of the box.
In terms of sound, the RHA TrueConnect are detailed with a slightly warm tilt. While audiophiles seeking the most detail and dynamics may dismiss the TrueConnects, for most people, they’re excellent.
At $170, they’re just $10 more than the original Apple AirPods and undercut the new ones by $30.
You can read my full review at TechRadar.
Best sounding truly wireless headphones: Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless
UPDATE: While the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless are still the best sounding true wireless headphones I’ve heard, I can’t recommend them because they have a fatal flaw: the headphones will drain themselves dead when not used for a few days. This issue has been reported by many (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) but Sennheiser has not released a statement or fix for the headphones. As a result, only buy these if you plan on using them every day, and charging them every other day. If you leave them alone for a few days, they will be dead when you reach for them again.
As an alternative, I recommend the Klipsch T5 True Wireless. The headphones are $100 cheaper, sound almost as good, and have excellent battery life (7 hours per charge and an additional 24 hours from the case) compared to the Sennheiser’s. You can read my full review of them on techradar.
Original review: The Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless are the best sounding truly wireless headphones on the market. Period. Nothing else comes close to the detail, impact, and dynamics that the Sennheisers bring. If sound quality is your top priority, you can’t get better than these.
They’re by no means perfect though. Firstly, they cost a whopping $300. For that money, you expect sound quality and then some. Secondly, the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless earbuds are huge and may not fit those with smaller ears. They’re also awfully slippery (I’ve dropped them countless times) and the overall listening time of 12 hours leaves a lot to be desired when competitors are reaching 25 hours.
With these compromises, the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless are reserved for those who put audio quality above all else.
Read the full review at TechRadar.
Best budget truly wireless headphones: Sol Republic Amps Air 2.0
If you don’t have $170 or $300 to drop on truly wireless headphones, don’t worry. The Sol Republic Amps Air 2.0 are an excellent Apple AirPods alternative that you can purchase for just $130.
I liked the Amps Air 2.0 for its heavy bass, which is overbearing at times but very fun if you like bass. Bass quality is excellent, providing lots of slam while sounding tight. They also have a very reliable wireless connection.
But the Sol Republic Amps Air 2.0 have a party trick: 45 hours of total playback time. The earbuds provide 3 hours of playback per charge but the charging case is a massive 2,000 mAh battery pack that has a full-size USB-A port that lets you top up your phone in a pinch. If you’re using the case strictly to charge the headphones, you’ll be able to go a week or two without charging it up.
Read my full review at TechRadar.