Maxwell Barna gives us a rundown of the best wireless earbuds that aren't from Apple.
The missing 3.5mm headphone jack has been one of the largest items on a laundry list of controversy plaguing Apple’s new iPhone 7. The public scoffed at Apple’s attempt to reconcile the issue, which came in the form of lightning port-based headphones that prohibit users from charging and listening to music at the same time.
And that ridicule multiplied following Apple’s announcement of its new AirPods, which essentially look like regular Apple earbuds with the cords cut off.
People immediately jumped on them for looking basic, and memes referencing the ease of losing them and/or likening them to tampon strings falling out of users’ ears flooded the internet. Needless to say, it was all pretty brutal.
While the AirPods offer some admittedly cool features, including the ability to trigger Siri by tapping a bud, and automatically pausing audio when a bud is removed from an ear, the fact is that a lot of people aren’t too excited about paying $159 for something so… awful.
While the world waits for the AirPods' arrival (some reports suggest next week, others January 2017), I decided to see what alternatives were out there in the best wireless earbuds race. Turns out, there’s a lot of cool shit on the market:
Air by Crazybaby — $89
It’s a little too early to call it, but the Airs by Crazybaby not only look better than the AirPods, but also serve a lot of the same purposes. Automatic Bluetooth pairing, tap-to-play technology, the CSR HD audiochip for improved sound quality, and even voice assistance.
Oh, and as if all that wasn’t enough, the Crazybaby Air only starts at $89: almost half the price of the AirPods.
Erato Muse5 — $129.99
Another excellent AirPods alternative, the Muse5 from Erato focuses heavily on sound quality with its use of DSP technology, while also providing premium in-ear comfort and ease of use.
The Muse5 comes with Silicon FitSeal Sleeves that help guarantee an excellent fit and superior sound quality. They’re a little spendier than the AirPods, but only by a bit—regular retail on them is $179.99, but the pre-order price (which is still available) is $129.99.
Not bad for a truly wireless Bluetooth earbud setup that allows mobile charging, is waterproof, and even includes a built-in microphone to work with Siri or do things like power on/off, adjust volume, play/pause, etc.
Motorola VerveOnes+ — $249.99
One of the pricier options on this list, the VerveOnes+ by Motorola are an absolute killer set of wireless headphones.
Not only are they waterproof—unlike the AirPods—but also smart enough to turn on when you insert them into your ears, turn off when you take them out, and also offer easy ways to take calls and interact with Siri (or Google Now).
EARIN M-1 — $199.00
The EARIN M-1s don’t offer any cool motion features or anything fun like that, but if you’re an audiophile, these are probably going to be your best bet.
They’re billed as the smallest and lightest true wireless earbuds on the planet and their sound quality is about as good as you’re going to get from any pair. They work with two dedicated amps in order to create punchy sound that features excellent mids and highs, and tight, punchy bass.
They cost a little more than the AirPods, but if it’s quality that matters, these are your earbuds.
BRAGI The Dash — $299.00
The Dash in-ear true wireless headphones are super fucking expensive—to the tune of $299. But once you see the features, you understand why you’re dropping nearly three bones on a couple pieces of rubberized plastic—especially if you’re a fitness nerd.
Aside from a sleek in-ear design and reliable Bluetooth pairing, The Dash offers 4GB of storage, an ear-bone microphone, a real-time heart rate and fitness tracker, and different-sized ear sleeves for maximum comfort.
Oh, and it offers passive noise isolation, third-party app compatibility, and awesome sound quality—all in a package that won’t make you look like a goddamn space cadet.
Jabra Elite Sport — $249.99
These things are still on pre-order (they were announced in September and scheduled for release in October), so there’s no real telling when they’re going to arrive. But when they do, be prepared for something really, really cool.
The Jabra Elite Sports look a little bulky, but they provide a snug fit that’s ideal for rigorous fitness training. They’re water (and sweat) resistant, feature easy wireless Bluetooth capability, come with their own charging case and, like The Dash, feature noise isolation technology.
They’re quite a ways pricier than the AirPods, but given the features, I’d say they’re worth every penny.
Samsung Gear IconX — $199.99
One of the most popular options on this list, the IconX, by Samsung, also includes 4GB of storage, a fitness tracker, a built-in heart rate monitor and noise-cancelling technology. Hell, these things are so advanced they even let you turn on ambient sound so that you can hear your surroundings.
Additionally, there are also several touch-oriented commands that allow you to do things like access your song menu, skip a track and go backwards or forwards. Oh, and just in case it matters, the sound quality is more than adequate.
SmartOmi Boots Mini Wireless Earbuds — $72.99
If “affordable, but not totally shitty” is the name of your game, the Boots by SmartOmi is an excellent pick. Less than half the cost of the AirPods gets you a fully wireless pair of earbuds that are sweat and waterproof, pair easily with iPhones, and are even one-touch Siri/Google Now enabled.
They advertise five hours of battery life—well beyond the norm—so I’m skeptical. Nevertheless, their ratings on Amazon are great, and it seems people's only complaints about them is that there can be a slight lag when using Siri (but voice commands are clear and the microphone works well), and that when pairing with video, the audio may seem a little off.
But for $73 bucks, who’s really complaining?
For another awesome audio accessories list, check out the best headphones that our own audiophile editor hand-picked.