- Apple’s AirPods aren’t the only true wireless earbuds on the market anymore
- We put several earbuds to the test across connectivity, battery life, sound and design
Chances are when you think true wireless earbuds, Apple’s AirPods come to mind first. But since Apple introduced AirPods in 2016, several other true wireless earbuds have hit the market.
So what makes a pair of earbuds truly wireless? The left and right earbuds are fully separated, with no cord connecting them, and they charge wirelessly in an included case. Not only does that double as a battery to keep the earbuds going strong for a while, but it makes it easier to hang on to the buds — especially when you consider you’re more likely to lose an individual bud when nothing is connecting the two.
While Apple’s AirPods have a design that rests in the ear with a stem sticking out and down, other companies have crafted smaller designs that add a gel or rubber piece around the earbud. The advantage of these is a more isolating sound experience that keeps the music in, plus it can help keep the buds in your ears.
With all of these core hardware features in mind, connectivity and battery life are also important. For this guide, I’ve been putting several pairs to the test in everyday use along with working out. Let’s walk through our favorite true wireless earbuds.
At $49, the JLab JBuds Air have a somewhat large and bulky case, but by no means is it a deal breaker. The case has a USB core built into the bottom and packs an additional 10 hours of listening time. The Jbuds Air last for about 3½ hours on a full charge, which is what JLab predicted.
The sound itself is balanced, with low, mid and high tones arriving clearly. If you need to get pumped up at the gym with some heavy bass tones, these perform really well. Unfortunately, these don’t offer truly fast pairing with iOS like AirPods, but they’ll cast a Bluetooth network when you open the case. From there you’ll need to manually go into settings on your device and connect via Bluetooth.
Those on a budget looking for good sound, comfort and solid battery life won’t be disappointed.
At just $30 more than JBuds Air and around $80 less than AirPods, Anker Soundcore Liberty Air hits a sweet spot with price and design. For starters, it has a slimmer case that is a bit wider than the AirPods case, but still pocketable. You can expect 5 hours of battery life on a full charge, and the case itself gives you 20 hours of battery life.
The Soundcore Liberty Air has a very strong Bluetooth connection and fast pairing, as it will autocast a pairing connection when you open the case. So it’s easy to connect with an iOS or Android device while on the go. The sound experience is pretty balanced, and while the design looks like AirPods, the addition of an ear gel makes it a better fit.
There’s a reason why Apple’s AirPods have become so ubiquitous, and with the second generation, there wasn’t much to change. Apple slightly improved battery life, made pairing with the devices easier and improved microphone quality. The basic model comes with a standard charging case, and for $40 more you can get AirPods with Wireless Charging Case ($199; amazon.com). You may have to wait a bit to order either one, since they’re new and sell out quickly.
For Apple customers running iOS, watchOS or macOS, it’s an incredibly easy experience. AirPods will autopair with your first device and then link to your iCloud account, and it’s all part of that Apple magic. From there you can quickly switch between any of your devices for easy connecting on the fly. Sound quality has been improved a bit with a more well-balanced array and call quality has seriously improved.
Skullcandy’s Push true wireless earbuds don’t scream high-end with a giant case. Between that large carrying case and the buds themselves, you get around 12 hours of battery life. I got about 2 hours from each bud before needing to recharge them, which isn’t the greatest. What I do like is the built-in ear fins and ear gels that give the buds a tight fit, which helps keep them in your ears during workouts and outdoor runs.
Like the Anker Soundcore Liberty Air, the Skullcandy Push will start casting a network when you open the case. Plus you get physical control buttons on each bud to control playback.
Note: The prices above reflect the retailer’s listed price at the time of publication.