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These $35 AirPod alternatives are way better than you'd expect

Cheapskate exclusive! Smart design, secure fit, great sound -- what more could you want? Plus: stock up on scary movies with Vudu's *killer* $4.99 deal. (Come on, you liked it.)

Rick Broida Senior Editor
Rick Broida is the author of numerous books and thousands of reviews, features and blog posts. He writes CNET's popular Cheapskate blog and co-hosts Protocol 1: A Travelers Podcast (about the TV show Travelers). He lives in Michigan, where he previously owned two escape rooms (chronicled in the ebook "I Was a Middle-Aged Zombie").
Rick Broida
4 min read

In your face, AirPods: These true-wireless earbuds are a quarter of the price.


I'm not a big fan of musicals. Definitely not a fan of rap music. So when my awesome, incredibly generous parents proposed taking me to see Hamilton as a birthday gift, I can't say I was overjoyed. A mostly rap history lesson? Umm...

As usual, Mom and Dad were right: I freakin' loved it. And now I find myself listening to the soundtrack almost daily. Which brings us to today's deal, something else I didn't expect to like. Because at this price it shouldn't be any good. Wrong again, Broida.

For a limited time, and while supplies last (the vendor reports stock of around 400 units), you can get the BlitzWolf BW-FYE1 true-wireless Bluetooth earbuds for $34.99 with promo code 30N58G8N. Regular price: $49.99. Update: Already sold out! But see the end of this post; more inventory will be available in a couple weeks.

Much like Apple AirPods , these earbuds travel in a charging case until needed. Flip open the lid and they immediately power on and pair with each other and your phone. (I had some initial setup problems, but that's because I didn't read the instructions. Which, I should mention, are tiny. Consider us old folks, product makers!)

When you're done with them, just lay them back in the case and shut the lid. That overall simplicity is part of why I really dig these: no manually turning them on and off all the time. Same as AirPods.

Watch this: A few things you might not know about Apple AirPods

Fit and comfort

Some true-wireless earbuds I've tried, it's not immediately clear how they're supposed to tuck into your canals. These can go only one way, and there's enough "meat" on each 'bud that it's easy to get them in, with no worry of accidentally hitting the small function button.

They're also super secure thanks to a little rubber wing-tip that helps keep them from moving, even when I shake my head violently. Just as important, I've worn these for well over an hour at a time, and they're just as comfortable as can be. I can't say that for many other earphones.

Your mileage may vary, of course. But you do get two other ear tip sizes to help achieve the optimal fit.

Sound quality

I'm no audiophile, but I know muddy, tinny sound when I hear it. I don't hear it here -- I hear balanced, pleasant tones. It's precisely because the BlitzWolfs sound so much better than I expected that I'm so excited by this deal.

If you like a lot of bass, however, you may find these lacking. The eartips don't quite make enough of a seal (in my ears, at least) to deliver that extra depth. They also don't block out ambient noise as well as some in-ear 'buds.

When testing any Bluetooth earphones, I take the dog for a walk and keep my iPhone in my pocket. Some products cause frequent drop-outs, because Bluetooth audio tends to fare poorly outdoors. Here, I had occasional split-second interruptions in one ear -- but not so often as to be bothersome. Once again, your mileage may vary.

I also called my dad, who said I sounded "just fine." I could hear him fine as well. You can, if you prefer, use just the right earbud for phone calls. 

Battery life and the final word

BlitzWolf promises up to 3 hours of play time, and up to 12 hours total before the charging case needs recharging. Using that case to fully recharge depleted 'buds should take no more than 90 minutes.

Time didn't allow me to put any of this to the test (I've had these for only a day), but it's still a far cry from AirPods, which can play for up to 5 hours on a charge.

One cool thing: You can actually see the two little red charging LEDs through holes in the charging case, so you know when they're done.

So help me, at this price I'm hard-pressed to find anything I don't like about these. I mean, the L/R labels are so small and so lightly embossed on the aforementioned wing-tips as to be nearly invisible, but, as noted, it's pretty easy to tell which 'bud goes in which ear.

For $35 out the door, I think this is a gem. If it sells out, I'm told more will be available in a couple weeks. (I'll let you know, of course.) It would definitely make for a great gift, because the recipient will absolutely think you spent more -- probably a lot more.

Bonus deal: I may be changing my -- heh -- tune when it comes to musicals, but I will never like scary movies. Why would I want to fill my brain with disturbing images?

But you can go right ahead. This weekend, Vudu has a ton of scary movies on sale for $4.99 each.

There's a bunch of low-grade titles in here, but also some noteworthy ones like Paranormal Activity, Invasion of the Body Snatchers and cult classics Teen Wolf and Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Just don't come crying to me when you can't sleep at night.

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