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Best AirPod Pro alternatives that cost less

Apple have the new-release AirPod Pro headphones available, but what great alternatives are out there if you're not able to commit to the $250 price tag?

This story is part of Holiday Gift Guide 2019, your source for the season's best gifts and deals, hand-picked by the experts at CNET.

If you're in the Apple ecosystem of products, you're no doubt familiar with Apple's recently announced AirPods Pro. And while these are a great set of headphones, they also come with a $249 price tag. So, if you're looking to buy some new wireless earbuds, you should also consider the AirPod Pro alternatives that cost less. But there are a lot of headphones out there, from water-resistant Bluetooth earbuds with true-wireless capabilities to over-ear headphones with extended battery life and touch controls. So when it comes to the AirPod Pro is there a genuine alternative that makes the cut?

Read: Best cheap true wireless earbuds under $100

Well, the short answer is: yes. And while many other products may not offer the AirPod Pro's active noise cancellation capabilities, many products do offer noise isolation, which can be nearly as effective. And any earbuds that use silicone ear tips (and that's most of them these days) can greatly reduce outside noise, provided you're able to get a good seal. (That's in contrast to Apple's original, hard-plastic AirPods, which don't create that seal.) One could make the argument that while ANC is valuable in over-the-ear headphones, which can muffle only so much outside noise, it's not as important for the in-ear kind.

Airpods Pro

To be fair, the AirPods Pro offer more than just ANC: They have a Transparency Mode that allows outside sounds to pass through, and they're sweat- and water-resistant, which the current AirPods are not. They also autopause when you take when one out of your ear (and autoresume when you put it back), a feature I wish other earbud makers would copy.

Read: Best true wireless earbuds of 2019

And when it comes to battery life, every one of the wireless earbuds on our list also comes with a charging case. And while the AirPods case may be able to charge wirelessly, promising up to 24 hours talk time, some others on our list can do the same, even matching battery life.

Sophisticated though they may be, $249 is awfully steep for a couple of featherweight pieces of plastic. So let's take a look at some options that cost less -- in some cases a lot less -- and see what the best AirPod Pro alternatives are. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Though priced about $20 lower than the AirPods Pro, Sony's true-wireless earbuds offer the same kind of ANC technology and transparency mode. (In fact, they're the only earbuds in this roundup to include both those features.) Plus, they have a sensor that autopauses music when you take one out of your ear.

Now for the bad news: The WF-1000XM3 isn't specifically rated as sweat- or water-resistant. So if you're planning heavy workouts, these 'buds aren't for you. Read our Sony WF-1000XM3 review.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Jaybird's best effort to date definitely has a premium price, but the Vista still costs quite a bit less than the AirPods Pro. They're lightweight and comfortable, with a USB-C charging case and an IPX7-rated waterproof design. All that's missing is a transparency mode. Read our Jaybird Vista review.

Rick Broida/CNET

It's a good time to watch for bargains on the CNET-favorite Jabra Elite 65t and slightly enhanced Elite Active 65t, both of which have seen some good discounts lately (probably due to the imminent arrival of the new, smaller Elite 75t). For example, a manufacturer-refurbished Elite 65t recently went on sale for $68.

These earbuds have a quick-charge case (15 minutes nets you 90 minutes of listening) and are fully sweat-resistant. They're particularly good for making calls, if that's important to you. Read our Jabra Elite 65t review.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Liberty Air has long been a CNET favorite for offering better-than-AirPods sound for about half the price. (They're even less now.) Why better? Because of that all-important in-ear seal, which allows for better bass (and noise isolation) than the original AirPods. Ironically, they more closely resemble the newer AirPods Pro. You should also check out the newer Liberty Air 2, which features better battery life and improved voice calling as well as the UBC-C charging case. Read our Anker Soundcore Liberty Air review.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Almost too good to be true, the EarFun Free manages to deliver Bluetooth 5.0, both USB-C and wireless charging and a fully waterproof (IPX7-rated) design. CNET's David Carnoy also praised their "surprisingly good sound." They're currently priced at $50, but there's an on-page coupon that knocks 10% off -- and I've seen them as low as $40 (so watch for sales). Read our EarFun Free review.

What do you think? Will one of these do the trick for you, or are you going to start saving for AirPods Pro?

Now playing: Watch this: The best true wireless earbuds available now

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