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An impressive Apple AirPods alternative for just $40

If you can overlook the silly name, the EarFun Free earphones are an excellent value alternative to the AirPods, featuring both USB-C and wireless charging.

The EarFun Free list for $80, but are on sale for $40 for a limited time.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The folks from EarFun, which includes some former employees from budget audio favorite Tribit, have been trying to get me to review the startup's new Free true wireless earbuds for a while. Unfortunately, with the first review sample I received, I could only pair one of the earbuds to my phone -- the buds wouldn't join up into a stereo pair. But I've had much better luck with a second review sample and just noticed that EarFun is running a sale: The EarFun Free is $40, or $40 off the list price of $80 for a limited time. 

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What's most impressive about the EarFun Free is the features: Bluetooth 5.0, both USB-C and wireless charging, and fully waterproof (IPX7), according to their specs. Do they sound great? No, but they sound pretty good. They don't have the clarity of higher-end true wireless earbuds that cost $150 or more, but they do have plump bass and just enough detail to avoid sounding dull. 

Of course, getting a tight seal is paramount to maximizing the sound quality, particularly the bass. But using the largest of the included tips I didn't have a problem getting a comfortable, secure fit with a tight seal. I was able to run with them in my ears (they're pretty lightweight and not too bulky). This type of fit, however -- where the ear tip dips into your ear canal -- isn't for everyone. It's a noise-isolating design so you get some passive noise canceling, which helps when you're walking around a noisy city like New York.   

Battery life is rated at 6 hours at moderate volume levels and the case provides four charges on the go. A 10-minute charge gives you two hours of playback time, EarFun says. You control playback with physical buttons (no touch controls) and after pairing them once, the earbuds should repair automatically with your Bluetooth-enabled smartphone or tablet when you take them out of the charging case.

Read moreBest cheap true wireless earbuds of 2019 | Best AirPods accessories

They're not bulky.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Aside from listening to some music, I watched some YouTube and Netflix videos and didn't notice any audio/video synching issues. There didn't seem to be any lag, but I didn't try the earphones with every video app. I also made a few calls and the earbuds seemed to work fine as a headset, but don't expect business-class performance, particularly outdoors in noisy or windy environments.

I don't know how these will hold up over time or whether you might encounter the same problem I had with only one bud pairing. But for only $40 on Amazon, which has a good return policy, they're worth trying if you're looking for a cheap pair of true wireless earphones.