If you're like me, you may have poked around Amazon looking for cheaper alternatives to , which start at $159 and hit $199 if you want wireless charging. There are plenty of bargain models out there with high user ratings, including the TaoTronics TWS TT-BH053 ($45). But are they really any good?
In my experience, most of the time they're just all right -- and some aren't good at all. This TaoTronics pair, however, rises above the "meh" classification. They still aren't fantastic, particularly when it comes to sound quality, but they are among the best sub-$50 true wireless models I've tested.
Disclaimer: CNET may get a share of revenue from the sale of the products featured on this page.
While their relatively compact elliptical shaped charge case feels a little cheap -- I'm not sure how well the hinge will hold up over time -- the build quality of the buds themselves seems pretty decent. Their "pipe" design is somewhat reminiscent of the AirPods. However, as with($80), what's different is that these guys have a noise-isolating design with silicone tips that seal off your ear canals and passively muffle noise around you. The AirPods are "hard" buds and have an open design that lets sound in.
I didn't find the TaoTronics quite as comfortable to wear over longer listening sessions as the Liberty Air, which are a bit smaller, but they still fit my ears securely and I was able to get a tight seal, which is crucial to maximizing bass response and sound quality.
I can't guarantee they'll fit your ears as well as mine -- they didn't, for at least one of my coworkers. And some people may prefer the AirPods' fit. But for someone like me who worries about keeping my AirPods in my ears without a, I appreciated that they stayed put, even when I ran with them. According to TaoTronics, they're sweat-resistant.
I had no problem pairing and repairing the headphones after the initial pairing setup (I used an iPhone X ($900 at Boost Mobile) and a ) and experienced only handful of dropouts in a week of testing. They use Bluetooth 5.0, and the connection to my phone was generally solid, even in the streets of New York City, where lesser true-wireless earphones have a tendency to be plagued by interference problems.