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This $15 accessory changed how I use AirPods

Commentary: Apple AirPods have unique features, but one inexpensive accessory can make them more usable and improve sound quality.

Apple AirPods
Angela Lang/CNET

Update, Oct. 28: Apple unveils AirPods Pro with new design and noise cancellation

People have done some clever things to try to get AirPods ($120 at Amazon) to stay in their ears, from simply twisting them forward to putting waterproof tape on them to using different types of skins that make the AirPods a little more tactile. But there's a $15 solution that works really well, and it has a valuable bonus feature.

I wasn't an early adopter of Apple AirPods. As much as I liked the idea of getting rid of the tangled wires from the earbuds in my pocket, the AirPods were a no-go because Apple's uniquely shaped headphones have never fit well in my ears. They'd simply fall out. But I was impressed by the way they seamlessly pair with Apple devices and automatically start and stop when you insert and remove them from your ears. I was really bummed that I'd have to turn to another brand.

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Thankfully, my CNET colleague David Carnoy pointed me toward a solution, which is mentioned in his list of the best AirPods accessories.

He told me to try the AhaStyle Silicone Ear Hooks, available on Amazon for less than $15. I ordered the default set, which comes with two sizes of tips, large and small, and a silicone pouch to keep them in. I found that the large tips stay in the best for me, even though I'm a small person. After a couple of months of using the AhaStyle earbuds, I've found that not only do they solve the problem of keeping the AirPods in my ears, but the AirPods also now stay in better than all my traditional earbuds. They can handle running and other intense activity, and I find that I'm not adjusting them and pushing them back into my ears as often as standard earbuds.


AhaStyle Silicone Ear Hooks

David Carnoy/CNET

That alone makes them worth the 15 bucks. But Carnoy pointed out that the in-ear silicone tips provide noise-isolation for the AirPods, to help screen ambient sound, and that they can also improve the bass performance. I was a little skeptical, but prolonged use has proved him right. The earbuds make the sound quality more consistent, more isolating and ultimately a bit clearer. 

The only real drawback is that the AhaStyle Ear Hooks need to be removed from the AirPods before the AirPods can be returned to their charging case. They slip off and on with ease, but it's another thing to worry about carrying -- and losing.

In the intervening months, Apple's own Beats brand has released the PowerBeats Pro, which offer a similar in-ear sealed fit. But they cost $250, making the $15 AhaStyles even more attractive if you already own AirPods.

If you're like me and don't have the right ears for the AirPods, or you want to use AirPods for running or exercise, or you want to improve the sound quality you get from Apple's wireless earbuds, then it's tough to go wrong with these AhaStyle Ear Hooks.

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This story originally published earlier.