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

Surprise: I really like AirPods (especially the new AirPods Pro 2nd generation). Apple's wireless earbuds work well and sound great. Just one problem: They're insanely expensive. The three currently available options sell for $129, $169, 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?

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There are. Lots and lots of them. I've rounded up a bunch of AirPods alternatives that are all priced $100 or less. And don't think you're making major sacrifices by spending less: All these products 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. They 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), multipoint connectivity (meaning you can pair the earbuds with more than just one device) and wireless case charging.

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)

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 one thing I wasn't able to test.)

On the other hand, sometimes you actually come out ahead. AirPods Pro (1st-gen) 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.

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)

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.

Anker Soundcore Life P3

  • Ear detection: No

  • Noise canceling: Active

  • Multipoint connectivity: No

  • Case charging: USB-C or wireless

  • Rated battery life: 7 hours on a charge

  • Ear tips included: 5 sizes

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.

Soundcore

Soundcore Life P3 Noise Cancelling Earbuds

As long as you don't mind giving up ear detection, the P3 earbuds offer a superb listening experience and a few nice style touches to boot.
$75 at Amazon

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 many other 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.

Anker Soundcore Space A40

  • Ear detection: No

  • Noise canceling: Active

  • Multipoint connectivity: Yes

  • Case charging: USB-C or wireless

  • Rated battery life: 10 hours on a charge

  • Ear tips included: 5 sizes

A newcomer to the under-$100 arena, the Soundcore Space A40 earbuds lack the distinctive "stem" design found elsewhere in this roundup — including the aforementioned Soundcore Life P3. Does that matter? It's partially a style choice, but I do think stem buds are a little easier to grip and insert. That said, the Space A40 improves on the P3 in several key ways and costs only $20 more.

Soundcore

Soundcore Space A40 Adaptive Active Noise Cancelling Wireless Earbuds

If you prize battery life above all else, the Space A40 earbuds win the day at an unrivaled 10 hours. Equally impressive, Anker's app customizes the audio to your hearing ability. Just one complaint: No ear detection.
$100 at Amazon

If you're looking for earbuds that can last an entire day, the Space A40 is your best choice: Anker promises an impressive 10 hours on a charge, a good 2-3 hours more than most. (For additional reference, Apple's new AirPods Pro can manage only 6 hours.) The charging case can supply as many as four full recharges, for a whopping 50 total hours of playtime before you need to revisit a powered USB port (or Qi charging pad, as the case supports wireless charging as well).

These earbuds also feature ramped-up noise-cancelling and transparency-mode capabilities. Activate adaptive ANC, for example, and the earbuds will detect what kind of noise is present and adjust accordingly. (You can also set this manually, but honestly why would you?). Transparency mode adds a "vocal" option that boosts voices, the better to allow conversation without removing the earbuds. In my tests, ANC proved rock-solid, on par with that offered by the TCL Moveaudio (see below).

It's especially nice to see multipoint connectivity make its way into $100 earbuds; it's great if you routinely want to switch between, say, phone and tablet, phone and computer, etc., without having to unpair and re-pair.

The Space A40 also adds Anker's HearID to the mix: It conducts an in-app test to tailor equalizer settings to your hearing. I found this really fascinating; turns out my left ear doesn't pick up treble quite as well as my right. The end result was an equalizer preset tuned specifically for me. I'm not sure I noticed a huge before/after difference, but for anyone with hearing loss or other issues, this could be a real boon.

Available in black, white or blue, the A40 has only one real flaw, and it's the same one that dings the Life P3: no ear detection. Once you get accustomed to that feature, it's hard to live without it. In all respects, though, these are superb earbuds.

EarFun Air S

  • Ear detection: No

  • Noise canceling: Active

  • Multipoint connectivity: Yes

  • Case charging: USB-C or wireless

  • Rated battery life: 7 hours on a charge

  • Ear tips included: 4 sizes

In terms of pure bang for the buck, it's hard to beat the EarFun Air S. Already a bargain at $80, it's often on sale for even less. Right now, for example, you can scoop up a pair for just $70.

EarFun

Air S Noise Cancelling Wireless Earbuds

Pretty close to perfect earbuds, especially when they're on sale for $70 or less. Great sound, great fit, and nearly every feature you could want (save for ear detection, the only real letdown).
$70 at Amazon

I've tested a lot of EarFun earbuds in recent years; with rare exception, they've all been well above average. The Air S is no different, offering decent ANC, pleasant sound quality, a robust transparency mode and anti-noise microphones that promise to reduce 30 decibels' worth of ambient sound from your calls.

The bigger news here is multipoint connectivity, a feature found in only one other product here, the Soundcore Space A40. You can pair the Air S with two devices instead of just one. These are also one of the first EarFun products to support the company's new companion app, which lets you tweak various settings and adjust equalizers.

I found the look and feel of the Air S to be on par with previous EarFun efforts — which is to say, stylish and comfortable — and appreciated the Game Mode setting that lowers audio latency for games and videos. (If latency is too high, audio and video can get out of sync.)

What I can't understand is why EarFun chose not to include ear detection here, when it's available in several of the company's other earbuds. What could have been a home-run product is now merely a triple. A solid triple, but still.

TCL Moveaudio S600

  • Ear detection: Yes

  • Noise canceling: Active

  • Multipoint connectivity: No

  • Case charging: USB-C or wireless

  • Rated battery life: 8 hours on a charge

  • Ear tips included: 5 sizes

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 nearly every turn but for a much lower price: $100 (though often marked down to $70, either directly or via an on-page coupon). That makes these the most expensive earbuds in the roundup, but they're worth it if you don't want to make sacrifices.

TCL

Moveaudio S600 Wireless Earbuds

Available in black, white or grey, the TCL Moveaudio S600 offers almost every feature under the earbud sun. It's a solid deal at $100 but a steal when on sale for $70.
$100 at Amazon

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.

Wyze Buds Pro

  • Ear detection: Yes

  • Noise canceling: Active

  • Multipoint connectivity: No

  • Case charging: USB-C or wireless

  • Rated battery life: 6 hours on a charge

  • Ear tips included: 3 sizes

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.

WYZE

Buds Pro Active Noise Cancelling Wireless Earbuds

The Wyze Buds Pro sound really good for the price and offer just about every feature your ears could want (except multipoint).
$60 at Amazon

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 stinks: 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. (Even AirPods Pro struggle with this.) 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.

Ironically, I think the aforementioned Wyze Noise Cancelling Headphones (around $80, often on sale for less) 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.

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

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