[42 Tested] The Best Affordable True Wireless Headphones 6490

The Best Affordable True Wireless Headphones

Sneak Peek

  • AirPods are still the best true wireless headphones so far. But now, there are plenty of models out there that are close to AirPods, allowing us to taste the sweetness of true wireless headphones at a fairly economical price.
  • After testing 42 true wireless headphones, we finally found one product that is almost perfect. It comes with comfortability, easy operation, great call and sound quality, as well as seamless video delay.
  • We found that you may experience different levels of convenience offered by Bluetooth connectivity among true wireless headphones. The operations of some models are like nightmares while some offer almost the same seamless experience.
  • It is inevitable for true wireless headphones that they have video lags, but not every pair greatly affects your video-watching experience. Through this guide, you could get to know the real-world experience of each pair and the going of the entire industry.

Sneak Peek

  • AirPods are still the best true wireless headphones so far. But now, there are plenty of models out there that are close to AirPods, allowing us to taste the sweetness of true wireless headphones at a fairly economical price.
  • After testing 42 true wireless headphones, we finally found one product that is almost perfect. It comes with comfortability, easy operation, great call and sound quality, as well as seamless video delay.
  • We found that you may experience different levels of convenience offered by Bluetooth connectivity among true wireless headphones. The operations of some models are like nightmares while some offer almost the same seamless experience.
  • It is inevitable for true wireless headphones that they have video lags, but not every pair greatly affects your video-watching experience. Through this guide, you could get to know the real-world experience of each pair and the going of the entire industry.

Last updated: October 26, 2019

It’s been over a year since we first tested true wireless headphones. The whole industry went fast during the year, and quite a lot of products like AirPods, MEIZU TW50, XIAOMI Air have already launched the second generation. Most of them have solved the problems in the first generation of true wireless earbuds, such as complex Bluetooth connectivity and significant video delay. As for QCY T5, it’s a rare product, as it can meet all our expectations for true wireless headphones but selling for a fairly cheap price.

Our Pick

QCY T5 Truly Wireless Bluetooth Earphones

The best affordable AirPods alternative

T5 features convenient Bluetooth connectivity, comfortable wear, excellent sound quality, music and volume tap controls, as well as long enough battery life.
US$ 49.99 from DIGSHOP *Note: The price is based at the time of publishing.
Pros:
+Comfortable & stable fit+Convenient connection+Ignorable video lag+Superior call quality+Same 5-hour battery life as AirPods
Cons:
-Still uses a micro-usb port

QCY T5 is a pair of true wireless headphones that can rival the AirPods. It gives you all experiences you would expect from true wireless earbuds. The Bluetooth connection is convenient enough. And T5 is way better than the AirPods in fit. It stays in more people’s ears comfortably and securely.

Also, it provides clear sound performance that allows you to enjoy your music anytime. The call quality is much better than most true wireless headphones. Whoever on the other end had never complained about the call quality. In addition, QCY T5 has 5 hours of battery life when it is fully charged – same as AirPods. Last but not least, it costs only one-fourth of the AirPods.

Read our detailed review here.

OUR DISCOVERY

What are true wireless headphones

True wireless headphones are in-ear Bluetooth headphones (earbuds). They are designed cordless without even a wire to connect to your music device or to each other. They look a bit like hearing aids. The difference is that you plug the two buds into your ears and you won’t find any distracting wires. Therefore, the arrival of the true wireless headphones makes the days that you tried to untie a knot of a cord with desperation are gone forever. 

The arrival of the true wireless headphones makes the days that you tried to untie a knot of a cord with desperation are gone forever. Click to Tweet

Compared to the traditional wired headphones, the true wireless headphones don’t have any cords to set components in like a microphone, battery, and remote. All these things are needed to be integrated into the two tiny earbuds. And just because of this, most true wireless headphones have shorter battery life — which is generally no more than five hours — than the standard Bluetooth earbuds. To solve this problem, the true wireless headphones are equipped with a charging case. This charging case is used to store the two earbuds. And most importantly, it can supply power to the earbuds anytime to extend the usage time. 

The arrival of the true wireless headphones makes the days that you tried to untie a knot of a cord with desperation are gone forever.

Apple released the true wireless headphones — the AirPods — in 2016. I believe many people would react just like me, “Why the Apple designers designed such a pair of cigarette butts that are pricey and easy to lose?” However, for the purpose of studying and researching this category, I tested a pair of AirPods and used it for a long period. I finally understand why people who own the AirPods love them so much. Today, AirPods are still the best in true wireless headphones. They have plenty of great functions letting me experience the convenience that I couldn’t feel in standard Bluetooth earbuds before. It’s just like once you use an electric toothbrush, you’ll never want to get back to a normal toothbrush again.

AirPods use Apple’s own W1 chips to connect your devices, which means you just need to open the lid of the charging case and the AirPods can seamlessly connect with your iOS devices (They can also pair with non-Apple devices but have not that seamless experience. You need to press and hold the button on the back of the charging case to start Bluetooth pairing).

Also, they can automatically pair the Apple devices that are signed in to iCloud with the same Apple ID, so that you don’t need to manually set up your other iOS devices. Plus, most recently released true wireless headphones of other brands generally have a problem that people criticize — they have unwatchable video delay. However, this doesn’t happen to AirPods. AirPods have the clearest call quality among all true wireless headphones we tested.

You just need to open the lid of the charging case and the AirPods can seamlessly connect with your iOS devices.

However, AirPods aren’t perfect and they still have substantial compromises. First of all, for not a few people, these exciting functions may mean nothing to them because they can’t even wear the AirPods securely. Differ from most earbuds, you can’t adjust the shark fins or change the ear tips to make the AirPods stay in your ears stably. Second of all, AirPods are not fully tucked into your ears, so they do not isolate the sounds from outside at all. This makes AirPods unsuitable to use to commute in a crowded and noisy city. Last of all, for most people who have a budget that are happy to spend on earbuds for uncritical day-to-day listening, the price is too high.

AirPods unsuitable to use to commute in a crowded and noisy city.

We’ve been observing the development going of the true wireless headphones for a long time and tried many alternatives for the AirPods. After AirPods, many manufacturers also launched their true wireless headphones, and currently, the products that the famous headphone brands released are the first generation. Many of their prices are crazily high while many of them have some flaws that we couldn’t tolerate, such as audio loss, very obvious video/audio lag, or poor sound quality.  

The release of Jabra Elite 65t makes people believe it’s the best replacement for AirPods. Elite 65t does perform well in some ways. It has solid connection reliability, pleasant sound with good bass, excellent passive noise cancellation, very low lag in a video as well as the same 5-hour battery life as AirPods.

However, it still exists some problems that make us refuse to purchase. First, when you press the button on your left ear to control the track or volume, you will push the earbud into your ear which makes you feel obvious oppression. Plus, the size of the earbuds is a bit large. If you wear them for an hour or longer, they will cause discomfort to your ears.

When you press the button on your left ear to control the track or volume, you will push the earbud into your ear which makes you feel obvious oppression.

Second, we were surprised that the location where the charging case and the earbuds connect doesn’t have magnetic setting. When the lid is open, the earbuds will fall out once the case is reversed, which makes it way easier to lose. For this point, many models with its one-tenth price do a better job than it.

When the lid is open, the earbuds will fall out once the case is reversed, which makes it way easier to lose.

The good news is that the whole industry went fast during last year, and quite a lot of products like AirPods, MEIZU TW50, XIAOMI Air have already launched the second generation. Most of them have solved the problems in the first generation of true wireless earbuds, such as complex Bluetooth connectivity and significant video delays. However, it’s still not easy to choose affordable true wireless headphones that meet our needs because most products still have their own defects. Therefore, in the following comparison and test, we will find the best affordable true wireless headphones for you.

How we picked and tested

We’ve always been waiting for some true wireless headphones with excellent performance to appear. So, this time, it took us longer than before to select products to test. During the process, we not only paid attention to the headphones on major E-commerce platforms like Taobao, Amazon, Jingdong, Aliexpress, Souq.com, but we also concerned about the latest news about true wireless headphones of famous headphones manufactures, even crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter, Indiegogo to look for some good products.

 

 

 

What we want to find is a model that we are willing to pay for, that can function what we need headphones to do, and that can let us experience the convenience of true wireless headphones. Finally, we bought 18 models back to test, including the AirPods and Jabra Elite 65t which are the two benchmark products in the category. This helps us get more in-depth knowledge about what the best true wireless headphones are like. We hope to find the products that are comparable with them, or even better.

We bought 18 models back to test.

Updated on August 2, 2018. We tested havit G1.

Updated on December 4, 2018. We tested another 7 true wireless headphones.

Updated on March 14, 2019. We tested another 10 true wireless headphones.

Updated on October 26, 2019. We tested another 6 true wireless headphones.

For true wireless headphones, here are the factors you should consider.

Comfort

For any in-ear earbuds, wearing comfort is the most important thing to consider. If they can’t stay in your ears securely and comfortably, the functions would mean nothing to you. Thus, we think true wireless headphones should be equipped with shark fins or feature an ergonomic design, so that most people can wear them stably and in comfort. And these earbuds shouldn’t be too large and too heavy as they would cause strong oppression to your ears.

We happened to find three different sizes of ear shapes in our testers, including larger than average ears, smaller than average ears, and average ears. If all the testers feel good about a pair of earbuds, we know that is the pair we want. So, in our testing, we let the testers find their most suitable ear tips by wearing them on every pair of earbuds.

They wore the earbuds to shake head or run to observe if the earbuds could stay in ears securely while doing intense workouts. Finally, we wore each pair for a long time to see if it would cause our ears discomfort. We did these tests to find the comfortable headphones that fit most people’s ears.

They wore the earbuds to shake head or run to observe if the earbuds could stay in ears securely while doing intense workouts. 

Operation convenience

For true wireless headphones, convenience is essential. Especially when you come across a lot of headphones with complicated Bluetooth connection steps, you will wonder how convenient the seamlessly connection is between the AirPods and Apple devices. Our testing list includes four points as following: 1. Is the Bluetooth connectivity process complex or simple?2. When the two earbuds are taken out from or put back in the charging case simultaneously, do they automatically turn on/off?
3. When one of the earbuds is powered off, does the other ear automatically switch to single-ear audio?

4. How do their controls work and what functions can they perform?

During the testing process, we found that compared to the traditional controls of physical buttons, the tap controls can protect your ears from outer pressure you press on the buttons.

We tested that if every set of the earbuds automatically turn off after we put it back in the charging case.

Bluetooth connectivity

We also tested the performance of Bluetooth connection, including the stability and transmission distance. To test the stability, we wore the earbuds to different environments to see if the sounds would stutter. In addition, we wore the earbuds playing music in the hallway while walked away from the source device until the music cut in and out. By measuring this distance, we got the transmission result of the headphones.

To test the stability, we wore the earbuds to different environments to see if the sounds would stutter.

Video / audio delay

Many true wireless headphones have a common problem that people criticize — they have unwatchable video delay. Limited by the current Bluetooth transmission technology, it is very difficult to fix this problem completely. We tested this feature by watching videos on each pair of headphones. Based on the actual experience, we divided the video delays that occurred into three levels. Level l means it has delay but almost unnoticeable; Level II means it has slight delay but can be ignored; Level III means it has serious delay and will greatly influence your video-watching experience, so we would give up on them.

 

 

We tested this feature by watching videos on each pair of headphones . 

Sound quality

For true wireless headphones, they only need to transport a full sense of the mood and intention of the music. Therefore, we tested if the headphones can offer clear sound quality without too many flaws. With that being said, the bass cannot be too muddy to hear the vocals, or the highs are too shrill to turn up the volume.

In our tests, we chose our familiar songs to test out the bass, mids, and highs of the music. We used different headphones to compare the differences of the familiar songs so that we could find the variations of tone and clarity of headphones. After listening and recording the performance, we discussed and selected the models that we all agreed to feature fantastic sound quality.

We used different headphones to compare the differences of the familiar songs

Call quality

Call quality is also vitally important to everyday-use headphones since it seems likely that you need to answer calls while doing workouts, running or working frequently.

In our test, we found that an iPhone can connect three Bluetooth headphones at once. Therefore, in order to test the call quality of different headphones, we need the Bluetooth headphones to connect to the same iPhone simultaneously and then call another phone. In this process, the testers on the other end of the phone did not know which pair of headphones were used. We recorded and compared through this blind test and filtered out the headphones with better call quality.

In order to test the call quality of different headphones, we need the Bluetooth headphones to connect to the same iPhone simultaneously and then call another phone. 

Battery life

The battery life of true wireless headphones includes the earbuds’ battery life and the additional charges provided by the charging case. We need to mention that for most true wireless headphones, the battery life — which is generally no more than five hours — is lower than the standard Bluetooth earbuds.  However, when they are out of power, the charging case can charge the earbuds anytime and extend their usage time.

In order to test the battery life, we first fully charged the earbuds and the charging case, then we paired the earbuds to our phone to play music at a clear-enough volume that we could hear. When the buds powered off, we recorded the battery life of the earbuds and put them back in the charging case to test how many times the case can charge the earbuds.

We recorded the battery life of the earbuds and put them back in the charging case to test how many times the case can charge the earbuds.

Charging case size

The charging case that comes with the true wireless headphones can not only charge the two earbuds, but also store the two buds that are easy to lose. If it is a too-bulky charging case, you don’t even have the desire to take it with you when you go out, let alone to use it.

There was a model we were satisfied with among the testing products. It performed well in every way, but the charging case was so large that it was tricky to put it in our pocket. We tried to be patient with this drawback and put this case in a bag or even go out without it. But when we take the earbuds off from ears, we find nowhere to store them. If we simply put the two buds in a pocket, every second we need to be careful that these two tiny objects will fall out. And if every time you put them back into your bag, it’s also quite inconvenient. Thus, we think it is very important to have a properly-sized, easy-to-carry case.

After we finished the above tests, we also compared the price, the look, the magnetic setting of the charging case and other factors to pick out the final winner.

What we found

We believe that for most people, true wireless headphones are still new and strange. Thus, people would have tons of questions about this new product. How do the true wireless headphones connect with devices without even a cord? Can I use just a single earbud to connect my phone? How do I switch to dual-channel sound from single-channel sound? Is it true that true wireless headphones cannot be used to watch videos since video lag is a common problem of them? We found the answers to these problems by hands-on testing and collecting reviews and feedbacks from numerous consumers.

Bluetooth Connection Convenience

For wired Bluetooth headphones, you generally use the buttons on the cord to turn them on and connect Bluetooth. However, for true wireless headphones, these two operations of different models are not exactly the same. You not only need to turn them on and connect Bluetooth, but you also need to do one more step — pair the two earbuds to each other to play dual-channel sound.

Some models can be very convenient to operate. You just need to take them out from the case and the two earbuds will power on automatically as well as pair to each other, then they are ready to pair with your device without pressing any button on the buds. However, most true wireless headphones are more complex. You need to press their buttons to turn them on and do a series of operations so that the two earbuds can pair to each other and play dual-channel sound. Until then, they are ready to pair with your device.

We think that when you want to use your true wireless headphones, they should let you enjoy your music right away once you take them out. Thus, the convenience of operation is crucial to true wireless headphones. This is also a common concern for many users on Amazon when they purchase true wireless headphones. Therefore, we summed up the Bluetooth connection steps for each model and divided them into five levels, so that you can get to know it better about the current situation of the industry.

We think that when you want to use your true wireless headphones, they should let you enjoy your music right away once you take them out. Click to Tweet

Switch Convenience

You can not only connect the two earbuds to your device simultaneously, but also use one bud at a time. Many manufacturers advertise this feature as the selling point. Indeed, when we are driving or working, we need one of our ears to use an earbud while the other ear also needs to hear everything happening around. So, if a single earbud already connects your device, what do we need to do to switch it back to dual-channel sound? For this problem, we tested each model and sorted out the switching steps as well as divided them into four levels.

The right ear is the main earbud *: These pairs set the right ear as the main earbud. So, only you use just the right earbud to connect your device, you can switch it to dual-channel sound through the above steps. If you use the left earbud alone to connect your device, you cannot switch it through the above steps. 

Video delay

Speaking of self-driving, many people think of its safety problems first. Similarly, when we talk about the true wireless headphones, what we worry most is its video lag issue. We found it is true that, so far, there are still many true wireless headphones have this video lag issue. Thus, our goal is to find out some models that will not greatly affect you when watching videos, instead of struggling that each model has 1 second or 0.5-second delay. Based on each pair’s performance in real-world video-watching, we divided them into three levels to make you better understand the influence of these delays to our video-watching experience.

Video delay level Real-world video-watching experience True wireless headphones
Level I No delay AirPods
TOPPERS E1
Level II Has delay but ignorable. QCY T5
Jabra Elite 65t
MEIZU TW50
Air by Crazybaby(NANO)
Pioneer SEC-E221BT
Elecom LBT-TWS01AV
Amimy O2
GUOER J16
XIAOMI AirDots
Anker Soundcore Liberty Air
Remax TWS-3
QCY T2S
QCY T1S
QCY T1
QCY T1C
QCY T1 PRO (New)
XIAOMI Air
XIAOMI Air 2
MEIZU TW50s
FIIL T1X
HUAWEI freebuds2 pro
Edifier TWS1
Level III Has serious delay and affect you to watch videos. TicPods Free
ERL Wireless Sports Earbuds
TORRAS H8
QCY T1 Pro (old)
Sanag Air
SONGMI V3
Aofeng I8
HUAWEI freebuds
JDZZ BT02
Ediffer TWS3
IKF F6
Remax TWS-2
Remax TWS-5

Our Pick

Our Pick: QCY T5 Truly Wireless Bluetooth Earphones

Our Pick

QCY T5 Truly Wireless Bluetooth Earphones

The best affrodable AirPods alternative

T5 features convenient Bluetooth connectivity, comfortable wear, excellent sound quality, music and volume tap controls, as well as long enough battery life.
US$ 49.99 from DIGSHOP *Note: The price is based at the time of publishing.
Pros:
+Comfortable & stable fit+Convenient connection+Ignorable video lag+Superior call quality+Same 5-hour battery life as AirPods
Cons:
-Still uses a micro-usb port

QCY T5 is a pair of true wireless headphones that we really like to use. It has all the functions of the standard Bluetooth earbuds. With the innovation of being totally cord-free, it can stay in your ears comfortably, connect to your phone conveniently and quickly, provide excellent sound quality as well as 5 hours of battery life. Most importantly, it is definitely worth the money and it sells for only one-fourth of the AirPods.

Cheap true wireless headphones are no longer unacceptable

Speaking of true wireless headphones, especially the cheap models, the problems that come to our mind are that they have flaws in fit, functionality, convenience, or a combination of all four. Fortunately, in our testing in the latest update, most budget-friendly true wireless earbuds already solved those problems that being complained in the first generation. That means that with the industry and technology going, cheap true wireless headphones are no longer unacceptable items.

We are very glad to see the improvements as we can now spend less money to enjoy the convenience of true wireless earbuds. QCY T5 is one of the best. It not only provides the essential functions of Bluetooth headphones, such as convenient, stable connection, unnoticeable video lag, and cozy fit, but also satisfying sound and call quality that surprised us.

Ultra-convenient Bluetooth connection

QCY T5 impressed us in Bluetooth connectivity. Certainly, it is not as cool as AirPods that can seamlessly connect with Apple devices, but it is also convenient enough to use. Its technology of Bluetooth connectivity is leading the industry. You just need to take the two earbuds out from the case and they will automatically turn on. Then they’re ready to pair with your device without pressing any button on the earbuds. When you don’t need to use them, just put them back into the case and they will automatically shut down as well as disconnect your phone. The whole process is just as easy as taking a bottle of milk out of the refrigerator in your house.

Just take the earbud out from the case, music will play automatically. 

This is important because when you take out the earbuds, you don’t need to take a series of complicated steps to enjoy your music. In addition, it doesn’t set a main earbud like many other true wireless headphones. That means you can take the left or the right earbud to use singly. When you need to switch to stereo audio, just take another earbud out. In my opinion, this is the truly wire-free experience, not that tricky connection even without a cable.

Take out both earbuds from the case Take out one single earbud from the case Take out one earbud first and then another.
QCY T5 Power on automatically and then they’re ready to pair with your phone. Take out the left or the right earbud. Automatically pair to stereo audio.
Almost imperceptible video lag

I believe you would have the same feeling as me after using QCY T5 — Do these headphones even have a latency? The instruction says it has a slight video lag, but, to be honest, we didn’t notice any while in use. We could get the almost same video-watching experience as using AirPods. Thus, you can use T5 to watch videos with peace of mind.

Wearing QCY T5 to watch Youtube videos. 

Hit the major weakness of AirPods

AirPods are so close to being a perfect product. However, for many people, this “perfection” may mean nothing because they probably can’t wear AirPods securely at all. I first worried that T5 would have the same problem, as it looks similar to AirPods at first sight. But if you look closely, you would find that they still have a difference. T5 features an ergonomic in-ear design and comes in different sizes of shark fins as well as ear tips. One of my colleagues have larger ear canals and he can’t wear AirPods stably, but QCY T5 performs great on him even doing intense workouts like running, gyms.

It not only allows more people to wear stably, but it also has excellent noise isolation. I didn’t feel any obvious discomfort when I wore them for a long time. Many earbuds that are completely tucked in your ears can not do this well, such as Jabra Elite 65t. It is too large that  it will cause obvious pressure to my ears after wearing it a while.

One of my colleagues have larger ear canals and he can’t wear AirPods (Left) stably, but QCY T5 (Right) performs great on him even doing intense workouts like running, gyms. 

Decent sound quality

QCY T5 gives us many surprises in sound quality. It doesn’t make us suffer blasting bass, muddy mids and piercing highs due to the smaller size and the loss of cords. The equalizer is set for balanced sounds. Although it does not impress us, it can clearly convey a full sense of the mood and intent of the music I listen to.

The call quality is another bigger surprise, which makes it beat most true wireless headphones in the same price range. Limited by the physical design, most bean-like true wireless headphones have unsatisfying call effect. During our test, the person on the other end of the call sometimes heard tiny noises, but T5 solves the problem well. It uses the cigarette butt design just like AirPods, which improves the call quality. After using T5, I never hear anyone from the other end of the call complaining about the sound, and we can have a pleasure talk time.

You don’t need to worry about its charging issue

QCY T5 has 5 hours of battery life – same as AirPods – this is already a longer listening time among true wireless headphones. Of course, the volume may also affect its actual usage time. The charging case is properly-sized that fits easily into your jeans pocket and it provides four additional charges for the earbuds. Take me for example. I use the earbuds 1-2 hours a day, so I just need to power them once a week.

The charging case is properly-sized that fits easily into your jeans pocket and it provides four additional charges for the earbuds. 

Easy tap controls

The tap controls of QCY T5 are easy to use as well. Not only do you get the ability to play, pause, and call up a digital assistant, but you can also change tracks forward or back, and answer or end calls. For in-ear headphones, tap control is particularly important in actual use as it will prevent your ears from extra pressure you exert on the buttons.

How does it compare with its main contenders, including XIAOMI, Anker, and Huawei?

Last year, the reputable hardware manufacturers XIAOMI, Anker, and Huawei all launched their true wireless headphones. XIAOMI and Huawei even updated their products to the second generation. We looked forward that the three products could become our upgrade pick, but some of their features were even not as good as QCY T5, so we eliminated them.

First, the design of Anker Soundcore Liberty Air and XIAOMI Air is similar to the “cigarette butt” design of AirPods. Such design should provide excellent sound quality like AirPods, but Anker Soundcore Liberty Air disappointed us. The call quality is not even as good as most true wireless headphones, and we would say it is terrible for its price. As for XIAOMI Air 2, it performs excellently in call quality, but it has the same problem as AirPods, which is that not everyone can wear them stably.

When you connect Xiaomi Air 2 to a Xiaomi phone, it is as convenient as AirPods when it connects to an iPhone. However, when it comes to other brands of phones, just like when you connect AirPods to an Android phone, you need to press and hold the button on the charging case to get it connected and enter the Bluetooth pairing mode. That confuses us. iPhones occupy a large part of the phone market, but Xiaomi phones are obviously not which makes it less convenient to use Air 2 for users of other phone brands.

Oh, boy. The problems of HUAWEI FreeBuds 2 are even more weird. It has a major battery issue since the first generation — only 2.5 hours of battery life. However, in the second generation, the upgraded version, it didn’t improve a bit. Even it has excellent performance in other features, it does not make up to this fatal flaw, making it impossible to become our pick.

Through the comparison, the advantages of QCY T5 seem to be valuable. It doesn’t have any fatal flaws making you feel desperate to use, which is an impossible task for other true wireless headphones. We could say you can have the similar experience as using AirPods, and it only costs one fourth the price of AirPods.

Flaws but not dealbreakers

Although we like QCY T5, it still has one minor flaw —— it still uses a micro-usb charging port. This is not a fatal flaw, but usb-c now is dominating, using a usb-c port is apparently a more convenient choice. Considering its price and long-enough battery life, we think it’s acceptable.

What to look forward to

So far, these are the products we found that can meet our criteria. We will continue to pay close attention to everything going of true wireless headphones and the release of new products from major manufacturers. Whenever we have any new discoveries or find better products than our recommendations, we will update this review anytime and keep you posted.

Products to avoid

When we were selecting products in this category, we found many knockoffs have a similar look to the AirPods. They sell pretty great due to the extremely low prices. We bought one of them back to test. Judging by the appearance, they are identical with the AirPods. But if you look closely, it is not hard to find that they feature rough workmanship and there is a noticeable line on the earbuds. We couldn’t imagine what it is like to plug in our ears.

Many knockoffs have a similar look to the AirPods.

We tore down this fake AirPods and found that the sound unit inside has small size in diameter. Thus, you never expect them to produce good sounds. Most importantly, there is no protection board for the Li-ion battery. That means it would put the earbuds at risk of exploding anytime while charging. If we say we could tolerate the flaws we pointed out above, then this safety problem is a defect we would never forgive.

We tore down this fake AirPods.

The Rivalry

Aofeng I8: This pair sells pretty well on Amazon. We like its double-layer ear tips design. We can wear it stably even without the shark fins, but its Bluetooth performance really disappointed us. First, its sound slightly stuttered occasionally. Second, its video lag was serious and it was impossible to use them to watch videos.

SONGMI V3: SONGMI V3 also sells well on Amazon. Its design looked good but the sound quality was the worst among the headphones we tested. The bass was thudding, highs was sizzling, with a hole in between.

HMR B9: The charging case is HUGE. More than that, we tried many times to turn on the right earbud and make it play dual-ear sound but failed.

Sanag Air: Its features are similar to Aofeng I8. It also has a special design, comfortable and secure fit as well as unacceptable video lag. The sound stuttered obviously several times during the test. This is a common problem for the true wireless headphones, but our pick performs well enough.

QCY T1 Pro: QCY is a famous Chinese headphone manufacturer and its products are known for the high cost-effective feature. We recommended its sport earbuds (The Best Affordable Wireless In-Ear Headphones) before. Unfortunately, its product did not satisfy us this time. First, the charging case was large, and putting it in a pocket would stick out too much. Second, the sound quality was not as good as our budeget pick. For the highs, there would be more noticeable distortion. Although our budeget pick also has a slight distortion, it doesn’t sound so piercing as QCY.

Amimy O2: Its performance is near our budeget pick. However, its charging case is much bigger than our budeget pick. And its price is higher than our budeget pick. So, we did not choose it. 

DACOM 7S: Its package is very beautiful and surprised us. It made us think it was a pretty good pair. However,  it turned out the left earbud failed to turn on and the indicator light was not on either. This is not the first pair we tested that have this issue. The technology for true wireless headphones is still not mature for some companies.

TORRAS H8: The design of its charging case is very strange. It places the two earbuds in the groove on each side of the case. It only uses the magnetic force to attract the earbuds on the sides of the case, and it is not covered with a lid like other models to prevent the headphones from dropping out. This makes the earbuds easier to lose.

ERL Wireless Sports Earbuds: We felt obvious uncomfortable when we wore them. This is because its earplug design is not reasonable, and there is something pointed underneath the earplugs protruding and reaching our ears.

Elecom LBT-TWS01AV: Elecom is a well-known digital accessory brand in Japan. We were initially attracted by its look, but unfortunately, the sound quality did not match its design. In our tests, the vocals sounded a bit muddy. And it had obvious distortion even in the highs and sounded a bit sharp.

Pioneer SEC-E221BT: Pioneer is an early Chinese audio brand. And  this pair sounds good. However, it is not so comfortable to wear. More than that, in our test, one of our colleagues could not wear it securely and this pair did not come with any accessories to better fit more people’s ears.

TicPods Free: This pair has a lot of advertising on social platforms such as Instagram, and many YouTubers review this pair. It performs well in many ways, including convenient Bluetooth connectivity, decent sound quality. However, it has a fatal problem — noticeable video lag which made us give it up. We expect its Indiegogo version can effectively solve this problem.

Air by Crazybaby (NANO): It has a very cool look, and the way you open the charging case is very creative. One of my colleagues like this design very much. However, the sound quality was far from satisfactory, and there would be a clear break in the highs.

TOPPERS E1: This pair almost became our choice. It performed excellently in every way, and even better than the MEIZU TW50 in some ways. It has better sound quality, including music sound and call quality. However, we did not finally choose it for two reasons. The first one is that the charging case is large, which is nearly half longer than MEIZU TW50. Thus, it is inconvenient to bring it with you when you go out. The second is that its price is half higher than MEIZU TW50, which is already close to the AirPods. I believe many people would choose AirPods over it.

Updated Log

Last updated: August 2, 2018

After this review is published, we’re still paying attention to the release of new products in this industry, trying to find more competitive products. Not long ago, HAVIT launched the latest true wireless headphones — havit G1. We soon bought them back to test. Although they surprise us in sound quality, the MEIZU TW50 still performs better in wearing comfort and Bluetooth connectivity. Thus, we believe that MEIZU TW50 is still the best affordable choice.

havit G1: There is no doubt that the entire industry of true wireless headphones is going fast. The headphones technology is making progresses, and the manufacturers know better about what kind of true wireless headphones are more popular among consumers. As a result, the newly released model havit G1 has an eye-catching look. Compared to normal wireless headphones, havit G1 has a different storage way – the two earbuds are stored in the upper and lower part of the charging case. These headphones’ sound quality also gives us a lot of surprises, and their video lag is almost negligible.

Unfortunately, they’re still not as good as MEIZU TW50 in other performances. MEIZU TW50 has a more convenient Bluetooth connection, but for havit, you need to take out the right earbud first and press the right button to connect with your phone. Then take out the left earbud to pair with the right earbud to play stereo sound. What we’re most unsatisfied with is their headphones are very big and will cause significant pressure on ears. Thus, we think MEIZU TW50 is still the best affordable choice.

Updated: December 4, 2018

Recently, many manufacturers also released their true wireless headphones, including some well-known brands, such as Huawei, XIAOMI, Anker. So, in this update, we purchased 7 true wireless headphones to test. Unfortunately, these headphones all have some defects that cannot meet our standards. At the end of the day, they failed to be our pick.

XIAOMI AirDots: As the first pilot product of true wireless headphones of XIAOMI, AirDots does attract people with its price and some features. Selling for a lower price, it offers some functions that only more-expensive (two times its price) headphones have, including the convenient Bluetooth connection and unnoticeable video lag. So, before we spotted QCY T1S/T1C, AirDots was our budget pick. However, things changed when T1S/T1C was released. It offers the same features at a more affordable price. More importantly, T1S/T1 improves a lot in sound quality than AirDots, making AirDots a mediocre model.

Anker Soundcore Liberty Air: Soundcore, an audio sub-brand of Anker, has recently launched several audio products in pretty good quality, including Spirit Pro, which becomes our upgraded pick in the category of sports headphones. So, when Anker Soundcore Liberty Air was released, we had pretty high expectation to it. And it does perform well in many ways. However, we found one fatal flaw — it has very poor sound quality. In theory, such “cigarette butt” design like AirPods should be more helpful in collecting sounds with the microphones on the earbuds, but the call quality of Liberty Air is unexpectedly terrible, especially considering its relatively high price, which makes it lose in the Our Pick competition.

HUAWEI freebuds: To be honest, these true wireless earbuds from HUAWEI are not cheap, and we expected them to make progress in some features. But, in fact, that’s not the truth. Its Bluetooth connection is even trickier, and, more fatally, the Bluetooth lag is also quite noticeable.

Ediffer TWS3: The size of its charging case is too big to accept, and you don’t want to take it out with you at all. Also, the earbuds are designed to be huge. That requires us to try hard to insert them into our ears every time.

JDZZ BT02: These true wireless headphones are made by Jingdong, a famous e-commerce platform in China, but we were not “wowed” by their performance. First, the earbuds and charging case are quite large, resulting in poor portability and comfort. Second, the connection steps are also inconvenient. When you take them out, you need to press and hold the button to turn them on, and then enter the pairing mode.

TicPods Free: We mentioned TicPods on Indiegogo before, and we expected that its crowdfunding version would be improved compared with the Chinese version we tested. So, we bought TicPods back again and hoped that it could solve the problem like video lag. But, again, it let us down. The video lag is still noticeable.

iKF F6: These headphones disappointed us the most. We tried many times, and their left and right earbuds could not be paired successfully into two-channel sound.

Updated: December 4, 2018

To our surprise, many products we tested in this update already get rid of the flaws in the first generation of true wireless earbuds, such as complex Bluetooth connectivity and significant video delays. Thanks to the improvements, we can find a budget pick that meets your basic needs at a lower price, as well as an also great pick that improves in sound quality compared with MEIZU TW50.

XIAOMI Air: XIAOMI Air is an upgraded version of AirDots. XIAOMI Air and AirPods have a lot in common in design, but it’s a pity that XIAOMI Air does not eliminate the defects nor provide the useful functions of AirPods. And its earbuds are also like the “cigarette butt” design of AirPods, and are not in-ear type which is not suitable for most people’s ears just like AirPods. For people with larger ear canals, it is challenging to wear XIAOMI Air securely.

And what surprises us is that, after you take out XIAOMI AirDots, it can enter the Bluetooth pairing mode. But for XIAOMI Air, you still need to press and hold the button on the charging case to connect it to your phone. That makes us confused. And it only provides 3 hours of play time, which is lower than our standard. The only benefit this design brings is that it can provide a clearer call quality than normal true wireless earbuds

QCY T1 PRO: You may find that we already tested QCY T1 PRO in the early tested products. In the first generation of this model, we found a lot of unacceptable problems, including complicated Bluetooth connection steps and noticeable video lags. The good news is that, after less than a year of technical updates, it indeed already solves those problems well.

However, it still has some problems that we cannot tolerate. One is that they could not be charged after we put them back into the charging case. So, the frequent annoying sound keeps reminding you they’re out of battery. In addition, the charging case is also relatively large, which makes it impossible for us to put it in the pocket easily.

QCY T1: It’s obvious that T1 and our budget picks (T1S/T1C) belong to the same series of QCY. In fact, nothing is different among their earbuds, but the battery capacity of the charging case is varied. T1 has the largest battery capacity of the charging case among them, coming along with a very large size. And it sells for a higher price. We believe that the battery life of T1S is enough to meet your daily usage, so you don’t need to pay more for a bigger volume.

Remax TWS-2: Remax is a famous hardware manufacturer, and you may have seen its offline stores in many places. Its products are known for high cost-effectiveness, and we also recommended their sports headphones RB-S10. So, when we had the news that Remax launched true wireless headphones as well, we couldn’t wait to buy their three models back to test, hoping that we could find products worth recommending to you.

But, to be honest, all these three true wireless earbuds have some problems that we can’t tolerate. We assume that this TWS-2 is Remax’s early product of true wireless headphones, because of all the Bluetooth headphones we tested in this update, it is one of the few models that still has many flaws existing in the first generation of true wireless earbuds, including complicated Bluetooth connection steps and noticeable video lag.

Remax TWS-3: Although the problems of Bluetooth connectivity and video lag in TWS-2 are solved, TWS-3 still has its own flaws. First, its charging case is quite large. Second, for true wireless headphones at this price point, its sound quality doesn’t satisfy us. Especially in the mid-high range, it sounds very muddy.

Remax TWS-5: What we complained about TWS-5 most is the design of the charging case. The opening is magnet, so every time after you open the case, you have to hold the separate lid with another hand. Second, there is no magnetic attraction between the earbuds and the charging case, so the buds will fall out if you don’t notice when you open the case. We are so confused about this unreasonable design. Also, its sound quality is very similar to TWS-3, and has quite big difference relative to our pick.

Bluedio T-Elf: The headphones of Bluedio are very impressive, so we had a high expectation for this T-Elf. But, unfortunately, other types of Bluedio headphones are not as good as the over-ear type. Take this T-Elf for example. It has two problems that we can’t accept. First, the two earbuds are so small that many of our colleagues can’t wear it securely. Second, its connection is very strange. T-Elf claims that once you open the case, the earbuds can connect right away. But we tried many times and failed. Instead, we need to take out the earbuds and long press the button to connect. Obviously, such connection experience can’t be compared to our budget pick.

Updated: October 26, 2019

It’s been over a year since we first tested true wireless headphones. The whole industry went fast during the year, and quite a lot of products like AirPods, MEIZU TW50, XIAOMI Air have already launched the second generation. Most of them have solved the problems in the first generation of true wireless earbuds, such as complex Bluetooth connectivity and significant video delays. As for QCY T5, it’s a rare product, as it can meet all our expectations for true wireless headphones but selling for a fairly cheap price.

MEIZU TW50 POP 2: Before QCY T5, MEIZU TW50 POP was always our pick. Basically, it does not have any fatal flaw, meeting our needs for true wireless headphones. Plus, it has been upgraded to the Bluetooth 5.0 in the second generation, and the battery life has improved to 8 hours. However, other features are not as great as T5.

First, the second generation sets the right earbud as the main one. That means you can only take out the right earbud to use each time, which is not quite convenient. Second, the call quality apparently is not as good as our pick. Last, it’s more expensive than our pick. Thus, we didn’t choose it.

XIAOMI Air 2: When we tested the first generation of XIAOMI Air, we already complained about its ultra-inconvenient connection. The second generation has improved a bit, but that only works for Xiaomi phones. Undeniably, when you connect Xiaomi Air 2 to a Xiaomi phone, it is as convenient as AirPods when it connects to an iPhone. However, when it comes to other brands of phones, just like when you connect AirPods to an Android phone, you need to press and hold the button on the charging case to get it connected and enter the Bluetooth pairing mode.

That confuses us. iPhones occupy a large part of the phone market, but Xiaomi phones are obviously not, which makes it less convenient to use for users of other phone brands.

HUAWEI FreeBuds 2: It has a major battery issue since the first generation — only 2.5 hours of battery life. However, in the second generation, the upgraded version, it didn’t improve a bit. Even it has excellent performance in other features, it does not make up to this fatal flaw, making it impossible to become our pick.

FILL T1 X: This product does a lot of advertising in China, so we bought it back to test this time. It performed good overall, but the call quality couldn’t compare to our pick, and its charging case is bigger.

Edifier TWS1: These headphones are really inconvenient to connect among our latest tested products. After taking out the two earbuds from the charging case, you need to press and hold the button on the earbud so that you can connect with your phone’s Bluetooth.

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