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3 great AirPods Pro alternatives that cost less

Apple's noise-canceling earbuds are sweet, but there are cheaper options if you're not able to swing the $249 price tag.

Gotta give credit where credit is due: Apple really nailed it when creating the AirPods Pro. These true-wireless earbuds are the gold standard, offering a comfortable fit, great sound and genuinely amazing noise-canceling capabilities. But, good heavens, that $249 price tag. Surely there are more affordable options? (Actually, right now you can get AirPods Pro for $200 at Amazon, a decent discount.)

Below I've rounded up some top picks for the best AirPods Pro alternatives, including one set priced as low as $60. Not all earbuds are created equal, though. Before you dive into these AirPods alternatives, let me explain a few important distinctions. 

Read more: I bought refurbished AirPods Pro. Should you do the same?

AirPods Pro vs. the competition

Apple Airpods Pro

Apple's AirPods Pro are the gold standard among true-wireless earbuds, but there are cheaper options.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The original AirPods weren't the first true wireless headphones -- those with totally standalone left and right earbuds -- but they were certainly the most popular wireless earbud option. Since they were launched in late 2016, the AirPods ($159 list, but more recently available for $129) have spawned dozens, if not hundreds, of competitors, including plenty of perfectly good wireless earphone models available between $50 and $100

The AirPods Pro, introduced in 2019 for $249, added a new wrinkle: active noise-canceling capabilities, or ANC. Again, while not the first to incorporate that feature (which counteracts external noise, like the drone of an airplane's engines), they were the most high-profile launch in the category to date. In 2020 we've seen many more ANC-equipped earbuds hit the market.

Read more: Best noise-canceling true wireless earbuds of 2020

That said, all the products listed below provide, at a bare minimum, noise isolation, which can be nearly as effective. 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. If that sounds sufficient for your needs, be sure to read Lexy Savvides' roundup of amazing true wireless earbuds under $50.

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; standard AirPods are not. They also auto-pause when you take one out of your ear (and auto-resume when you put it back), a feature I wish more earbud makers would copy.

As for battery life, all the wireless earbuds on our list come with a charging case, and all promise to recharge the earbuds at least a few times -- meaning you may be able to get as much as 24 hours of (nonconsecutive) listening time. Some of those cases can, themselves, recharge wirelessly on a Qi pad, same as the AirPods Pro case. Others require an old-fashioned cord (gasp!), usually Micro-USB or USB-C

Here's the thing. Sophisticated though they may be, $249 is awfully steep for a couple of featherweight pieces of plastic. What follows, then, is a selection of AirPods Pro alternatives -- some with ANC, some without, all with lower prices. (In some cases, a lot lower.) We'll update this periodically to reflect new products and sales.

Sarah Tew/CNET

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

Now for the bad news: The WF-1000XM3 aren't specifically rated as sweat- or water-resistant. So if you're planning heavy workouts, this earbud option isn't for you.

One word of advice: Don't pay $228. These routinely go on sale for $178, so if you're not in a rush, wait for the next sale. That's a solid savings over the AirPods Pro. Read our Sony WF-1000XM3 review.

Sarah Tew/CNET

If you're looking for ANC but don't have the budget for Apple or Sony earbuds, don't sweat it: Mpow's AirPods Pro lookalikes serve up that great feature for just $60. (And right now there's an on-page coupon that saves you $10.)

Here's what CNET's David Carnoy had to say about this wireless earphone option: "The Mpow X3 earbuds play loud and sound shockingly good for their low price of $60, with good clarity, powerful bass and active noise canceling that's fairly effective."

EarFun

Successor to the popular EarFun Free, the EarFun Air hews closer to the AirPods' pipe design (something I prefer, to be honest, over smaller, beefier 'buds). These noise isolation earbuds don't offer ANC, but they do mimic the AirPods Pro's in-ear detection feature.

They also offer Bluetooth 5.0, IPX7 waterproofing and support for both USB-C and wireless charging. Their audio quality is surprisingly good, too.

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

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