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I really struggled to take the plunge on the original AirPods and it has been one of my top 10 purchases ever in my life without a doubt. I stood there holding the little $200 box in my hand and really danced back and forth in my mind about whether or not they would really be necessary. If they broke, I would go buy a new pair immediately.

For what they are, the sound is amazing. I can't really do a phone call anymore without them. Working on my car, doing dishes, going for a jog, taking the dogs on a walk, the pods are goin' in.

My wife finally made the switch from Android (she had mulitple Samsung Galaxy devices) to iOS w/ an XS and she is also hopelessly addicted to the new ecosystem and her AirPods. We had a running joke for years that she would never switch teams but now she is 100% stoked on Apple gear.

I am not in the market for anything like this, since I have the high-end spectrum covered w/ some Sony over the ear noise cancelling cans but if I was I would give these a shot in a new york minute.




I've demoed my $25 Anker or mpow earbuds (the Airpod-likes) to many coworkers sporting Airpods and they're universally astounded by the quality of the cheaper buds. I've converted quite a few people who lost their Airpods.

The chead buds don't sound quite as good as Airpods, but they're 85% of the way there, fit better, can actually handle the rain and sweat without breaking down, can be used during exercise without falling out, and they cost a fraction of the price.


I think most of the magic is Bluetooth 5. After years and years of trying Bluetooth headphones I only found them acceptable under very specific circumstances (only certain types of exercising). AirPods really seemed to fix most of the long standing issues.

But the cost, even for people who would immediately go buy another pair, does suck. When I used <$20 headphones at the gym, it was reasonable to keep a backup on hand, or a second pair at work or in a gym bag. If I leave my AirPods somewhere unexpectedly my options are to go back and get them. Buying or borrowing a pair of wired headphones aren't even an option in most cases anymore.

Not as a counter to your story, but I know someone who was gifted knockoff AirPods and didn't know it. They were really confused why people liked them so much and returned them within a week.


> I think most of the magic is Bluetooth 5.

Doubt so, Bluetooth 5 doesn't really do anything with audio streaming. Check this out: https://habr.com/en/post/456182/, in particular:

> Only one change affected the Classic version within the specification of Bluetooth 5: support for the Slot Availability Mask (SAM) technology, designed to improve radio frequency sharing. All other changes affect only Bluetooth LE (the same applies to Higher Output Power too).

> All audio devices use only Bluetooth Classic. Headphones and speakers cannot be connected via Bluetooth Low Energy. There is no standard for transmitting audio using LE. The A2DP standard, used to transmit high-quality audio, works only through Bluetooth Classic, and there is no equivalent in LE.

> To sum up: buying audio devices with Bluetooth 5 only because of the new version of the protocol is meaningless. Bluetooth 4.0/4.1/4.2 in the context of audio transmission will work the same way.

> If the announcement of the new headphone mentions a doubled radius and reduced power consumption thanks to Bluetooth 5, then you should know that they either do not understand themselves or mislead you. No wonder, even the manufacturers of Bluetooth chips confuse the difference in both standards, and some Bluetooth 5 chips support the fifth version only for LE, and use 4.2 for Classic.


I haven't followed the specs closely. My grievances with bluetooth weren't around audio quality. They were all around pairing, battery life, reliability during use, and how annoying and frustrating general use was. Maybe this all came from 4.2 and a combination of other tech like available chips or better implementation? For whatever reason, not long after AirPods were released I hear competing headphones improved significantly. I know often can take years and suddenly someone comes along with a clever design pattern everyone else implements on top of old hardware or existing specs.


I, too, have a pair of Anker's airpod-clones that I've sampled next to a family member's AirPods (as well as a comparably-priced set of Samsung's premium wireless buds), and I feel like the 85% quality to 12.5% cost really makes it a no-brainer.

To boot, the fact that these things only cost me about 20 bucks just makes it so much easier to carry around with me every day. People have reported having anxiety/panic attacks over fear of misplacing their AirPods because they're so damn expensive. I don't really have to worry about that with the Anker ones--I'd be bummed if I lost them, but they're just another pair of earbuds, at the end of the day.


What's their model?


I purchased a pair of $50 bluetooth earbuds on Amazon and without a doubt they sound and fit better.

The main issues with inexpensive earbuds (Tozo T6) is bluetooth connectivity and touch controls. Pairing between the two earbuds is hit and miss, then a few more seconds to connect to the phone. The touch controls are inaccurate. Perhaps I should have bought cheaper ones without touch. In contrast, Apple earpods connect instantly and just work. It's like comparing Macbook touchpads vs PC touchpads. Macbook touchpads are unequaled.

I use the inexpensive earbuds daily despite their quirks. I can buy 5 of them for the ridiculously priced Pro.


>can actually handle the rain and sweat without breaking down

That is my biggest issue, as a distance runner I have never had a pair of headphones last >6 months before they stop work (likely due to salt from my sweat). Its one thing to buy a pair of earpods for $29.99 every 6 months (and Apple usually gives me a pair free under the warranty), but I don't want to spend $150 every 6 months. I've been considering the bone conduction headphones, but haven't been able to test a pair yet.


I hear you there, the same situation :) I am now on Powerbeats Pro that are quite expensive, and hope they will last.

Not afraid of rain, only of sweet, as I use earphones only inside on treadmill.


I've bought quite a few of the cheaper earbuds from Aliexpress, and there are problems with the really low end ones that you should watch out for:

- left and right earbud need to first pair with each other on startup before pairing to your phone. Otherwise you get one side paired to your phone and the other side is just dangling

- lack of volume controls on many

Battery capacity was actually never a show stopper for me - some earbud charging cases are 550 mAh while others are 3500. But the 550 one would already be enough for a whole day's worth of use, so by the end of the day I could just charge the case all the same.


I don’t know what to say about handling sweat and rain, but I went running a few times with my airpods and also washed them a few times with and without case and they are still working :D


With my airpods I think I've gone a max of 8 miles in a single run and have only run into issues when the batteries are partially drained before I take off. I've gotten better over time about keeping them charged. I've probably done at least 60 or so runs with them and haven't had any issues.

I have to imagine they'd last up to a half marathon, but might struggle on a full marathon.


Any particular model number you can point to?


I was wondering if they were talking about the Anker Soundcore Liberty, but those are still $75.


Try Taotronics, the ones that look like AirPods. Those are quite good for around 40.


Can't find any that aren't in-ear, I don't like those, does anyone have any non-in ear recommendations?


Anker:

- Zolo

- Liberty+

- Liberty Neo

- Zolo Liberty [Upgraded]

MPOW:

- M10

- T5 IPX7 TWS

- M20 IPX7 TWS

Apple:

- Airpod

- Airpod Pro

This is why people buy Apple products.


and, Anker allows 18 hours of continuous usage. That's the biggest draw for me.


Do you often spend 18 hours with your headphones in? Even on a long day I’ll have 5 minutes to charge them while talking to someone, using the bathroom or getting lunch.


i do! Well, not 18 hours. the Anker I bought "only" lasts about 12 hours (only the newest model gets 18).

I do a lot of home improvements and listening to audio books is how I make the experience tolerable. only having to charge my earbuds at night (along with my phone) is nice.


> I am not in the market for anything like this, since I have the high-end spectrum covered w/ some Sony over the ear noise cancelling cans but if I was I would give these a shot in a new york minute.

Like the first-gen AirPods, I think having noise-cancelling in this form factor is a game-changer. All other noise-cancelling headphones, as far as I know, are either bulky on-ears or earbuds with a brick that dangles at the end of the cable.

Being able to block out the world with a device like the AirPods that just fades into the background is a dream. Especially for someone like me who has to wear noise-cancelling headphones to sleep at night.


There are a few high-end in-ear headphones in a similar form factor with active noise cancellation.

Echo buds: https://www.amazon.com/Echo-Buds/dp/B07F6VM1S3/ Sony WF-1000XM3: https://www.amazon.com/Sony-WF-1000XM3-Industry-Canceling-Wi...

There's probably more, but this was my simple amazon search. Lots of manufacturers are calling their earbuds noise canceling with cVc 6.0 or 8.0, but those are only for phone calls, not for other audio.


From what I've heard all other fully-wireless earbuds are a terrible user experience WRT connection quality/disconnects, battery life, etc. Of course noise-cancelling doesn't require connection to a phone, but for this price range I want both parts of the experience to be excellent


I think the sony ones have been generally well-received in reviews with respect to connection quality and battery life. I don't think anyone knows about the echo buds, since they haven't shipped yet.

I think that if you're not in the Apple ecosystem, it wouldn't be a bad idea to check these other options out. Of course, if you are in Apple's ecosystem it's almost a no-brainer to go with Apple's earbuds.


All active noise cancelling headphones just hurt my ears after extended periods of time.


I have this problem, too. I can't wear my beats noise cancelling headphones for too long or the pressure starts to hurt.

The Apple web site states that the new AirPods have an internally-facing microphone, as well. I wonder if that will help. They're touted as being unnoticeable.


I agree. Thankfully the Bose app allows that to be turned off when it gets to be too much for me, though the office is worse without the Bose cancelling, at least it stops killing my brain.


Do they physically hurt your ears, or is it just some personal discomfort you can get used to?


It's somewhere between a headache and physical discomfort. Hard to describe because I've only ever experienced it with active noise cancelling (over the ear) headphones and I gave those up 5+ years ago.


Do you have a recommendation for sleep headphones that don't hurt your ears or fall out? I'm a side sleeper, so I've always found the ear I'm sleeping on to get irritated.


I use these (don't know why it says "Apple"; mine just use a headphone jack): https://www.bose.com/en_us/products/headphones/earphones/qui...

Sleeping on my side isn't 100% ideal but they don't prevent it, for me. My biggest problem is turning over in the night and getting tangled up in the cord, then waking up slightly when I try to adjust it.


That one says Apple because it has the volume up, volume down, and middle button attached to the headset, rather than just wire.

I h ave these, too, and they're pretty great. I don't sleep with these in except on an airplane, but even then never on one of these. They're a little big since they stick out of my ear.


I toss and turn, a lot, so the wires aren't ideal for me, but I used to use my wired Apple headphones without the wires being too preventative. These are a bit pricy for my use case, but good to know that they might not hurt my ear as much.

Should note that I don't need noise cancellation, I just listen to audiobooks until I fall asleep on nights that I am having trouble getting to sleep, but have a partner who is a light sleeper and can't just play them on a speaker.


Search "Sleep phones" on Amazon. However, these don't offer active noise cancellation.


Should have added that I tried the headband approach, but my head ends up too hot for me to keep them on.


FYI sleeping with earbuds could damage your ears long-term; not certain on that but very much worth investigating / confirming.


From what I've read it's not so, e.g:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4280735/

At worst, you can have some minor earwax buildup (if you also don't ever wash your ears)


You don't really mention why? Why are they better than wireless earbuds by Sennheiser, Amazon, Google etc?


For me the answer is quite clear: they simply work. Apple like. Did I test all the others you mentioned? No. Probably because I used to have several Bluetooth headset. They hardly ever worked. For me, I had to have high trust in the HW company to ever test a Bluetooth headset again.


FWIW, I've tried to set up one pair of Airpods, and they were broken right out of the box. Wouldn't pair with anything.

So that's a 1 in 1 failure rate ;)


Did you realize you had to press the circular button on the back of the charging case. It's hard to see and they won't pair with anything unless you do.


Complete opposite experience for me, it almost felt like they paired too easily.

Switching devices is the only situation that I find annoying since I need to open up the bluetooth menu and tell it to connect.


"Anything" being? Some Android phone / Windows PC, or within the Apple ecosystem?


Microphone quality on most of the other offerings is atrocious.

That said I wish these things didn't have a microphone. People tend to shout into them.


The microphone in Airpods is pretty bad too. One of my colleagues uses them paired to his Mac (maybe that's the issue?) and it sounds like the built in microphone on cheap laptops.


>The microphone in Airpods is pretty bad too

Haven't been my experience. They sound excellent for voice stuff (paired to the Mac/iPhone)


Maybe the output of Slack / Hangouts is set to the internal microphone? Happens to me all the time.


the internal mic on a macbook is pretty good


If the noise cancelling and sound quality on these is great, I may actually go from the Sony cans to these, mainly due to Bluetooth pairing woes. With the Sony headphones, if I want to switch from iPhone to Macbook I have to do the dance of Bluetooth repairing. Switch off BT on iPhone -> connect headphones to Mac, switch iPhone BT back on.

The sound would have to be in the same ballpark though, which is hardly a guarantee given my experience with IEMs in the past.


FWIW I have the Bose NC 700 and the Bluetooth pairing is seamless. I can be paired to multiple devices at once; if I’m playing music from my laptop but receive a call from my phone then the Bose are smart enough to pause music on my laptop and switch the audio input to my phone.


Bose appear to has their stuff together when it comes with multi-device pairing. I can pair both my Soundsports and QC35 headphones with multiple devices at the same time.

When choosing between QC35 and Sony's noise cancelling cans, Bose was a clear winner due to that fact alone.


Most Bluetooth headphones work this way. Jaybirds also have seamless syncing, and the X4 has full multi-device coverage like you describe of your Bose.


Came here to say the exact same thing. I love my Bose NC700s... My only complain is that they are a bit heavy...


I have sony XM2's and I just disconnect one and connect the other. Not 100% seamless, but certainly no repairing.


I have the same issue with my Sony's. Definitely a pain in the ass, especially when my mac is folded up and sleeping in my backpack and the headphones still connect to it.


I have the Sony 1000XM2 headphones. They are fantastic at noise cancellation and audio quality, but I feel your pain with the bluetooth pairing woes.

Whenever switching between my mac, PC, or phone, I have to repair the headphones. Very annoying.


I hate my Sony MX1000M3 for this reason.


I find that I can't use them for phone calls because the other person always complains that my mic is terrible. Is this because of using an Android device?

They also don't stay in my ears for the life of me, so exercising at the gym I have to use over-the-ear headphones. I think this impacts the sound for me, as well, since they sound better when I hold them in my ear versus when I let go.

Any recommendations for what I'm doing wrong?


I've had good success with Jabra 65t on Android. Probably 1k hours of calls and no complaints except in very high wind.

Oh, btw, the connection is very dependent on your Android phone. Bluetooth is in year ~20 of widespread alpha testing and Android implementations vary. I initially had an HTC; it had bluetooth issues. I'm now on a Google-made phone and it's seamless. Anecdotally, Samsungs work well too.


I've also got the Jabra 65t on Android and would completely recommend. I've used some AirPods that my family owns and I find the audio quality better on the Jabras. Never used the mic on either, though.

With a Pixel 3a I also have had zero Bluetooth connection issues; I keep it paired to both my 3a and my laptop and it works flawlessly, including switching between devices as needed.


You are lucky. My wife's 65t's left earbud is dead after very light usage for a little over a year (right after the warranty expired, basically). I don't think she's used them more than maybe twice a week on average.

Seems like a common problem too and various fixes that I've read up on don't work.

She is no considering the airpods but I don't know what to tell her. Like the poster above, the price seems ridiculous to me, especially after the bad experience with the Jabras which are also expensive and supposedly high quality.


Have a Huawei P20 pro with the 65t Elite Active. I have to reset the Bluetooth, forcing a reconnect everytime I connect them but after that they work seamlessly. They have quite a bit of delay on my device though. Music, calls and pods are amazing. Videos not so much.

I wonder if a complete reset would fix it, got them last Christmas and the pairing process was horribly buggy back then and don't feel like risking it again....


My guess is it is unfortunately the bluetooth stack on the phone. I also have a pixel3a and it's great.


I have exactly the same problem, that the pods would fall out after 30s, faster when I'm moving. I gave them to my wife and for her it's like they're glued in. I tried using the pod-"cushions". While they work I have to remove them every time for charging. So I'm a little jealous about people with compatible ears.


Every android is different, but Airpods work great with my PH1 running Android 9. I did have to disable "absolute volume" in the developer settings to get reasonable playback levels.


>I find that I can't use them for phone calls because the other person always complains that my mic is terrible. Is this because of using an Android device?

Probably, never had any complaints and my own recordings work (airpods/iphone)


I have a Pixel 3 and the horribleness of the Pixel buds has me seriously considering a switch to Apple.


Why? Airpods work with Android.


Not very well in my experience. I did try Airpods for a while and the volume control doesn't work properly. It was impossible to turn them down below a level that was still too loud. The microphone also apparently sounded horrible.


Huh, weird. I use the airpods every day on the Pixel 3a and they work great, both for calls and listening to music.

Maybe android fixed some bugs?


You can voice control volume on Android.


> You can voice control volume on Android.

Goodness, controlling something like volume by voice sounds _excruciating_. I rarely know where I want the knob to be and thus fiddle to the left and right until the desired level is reached. I wonder the ergonomics of this experience.


Are the Pixel Buds bad?


Their main problem is they don't properly go to sleep when you put them in the case. They'll often keep reconnecting. If they don't disconnect, they don't charge. Sometimes they spontaneously reconnect in the middle of the night and end up dead in the morning when you go to use them. It's incredibly frustrating.


I feel pretty similarly: they're a phenomenal testament for the value of it just works. I'd been using wireless Anker ear buds for workouts for years, and while they were fine, they lost connection, were annoying to connect to my phone, required plugging in when they died, etc.

That said, I really* wish there were an option that didn't decay in battery quality so rapidly after a year.

* iPhone required


I use my AirPods on my Android OnePlus - so you dont really need to make the switch to Apple. The only feature you lose out on is the light sensor that switches audio channels if you pull the pods out of your ear. Not a terrible loss.


Do these have a mute button on them?

I currently use Jabra Active 65-somethings because they offer adjustable soft rubber tips, and airpods do not fit my ears. The Jabra's don't have a mute button on the earbuds; you have to open your phone. Do the Airpods?

Thanks!

100% agree that if you take a lot of calls, airpods or their clones are the best thing I've bought in 5 years.


No physical buttons on them, but each pod can be programmed to do things based on taps.

For instance, my right pod will skip to the next song with a double-tap. My left pod activates Siri.

I left my airpods at home today (what a coincidence) so I cannot visit that menu to let you know whether or not mute is one of the possibilities for the tap gestures.


Play/Pause is an option, and serves that purpose


False, it hangs the call up. Source: just hung up on 40 min PG&E on hold call.


ty both!


Standard bluetooth has pretty bad quality. But Android has the AptXHD standard, for high quality wireless earphones. That's what we should compare this to.


What’s the max bitrate for recent bluetooth standards? I hate the idea of layering compression on top of compression. I just haven’t found anything that compares to a modest pair of cans with any kind of okay DAC/amplifier.


aptX HD and LDAC are good, with bitrates of 576 kbps/990 kbps. The bigger problem with sound quality is that for any given price tier, adding Bluetooth comes with a significant compromise in SQ versus offerings that are optimized for only SQ.

Bluetooth also caps out at roughly the midrange for headphones. High-end bluetooth Bluetooth headphones are technically possible, but nobody makes anything equivalent to say, the Focal Clear, but with Bluetooth.

At home I use the Sennheiser RS 185, Sennheiser's top-end RF (non-Bluetooth) wireless headphones. I love them, but realistically, the sound quality is on par with $200 wired headphones.


Bitrate isn't the problem. Modern codecs like Opus achieve transparency at around 100-120 kbit/s. Even uncompressed CD audio (at 1.411 kbit/s) could be streamed over Bluetooth 5 Low Energy – just (about 1.6 Mbit/s usable).


AirPods (and earbuds in general) just don't deliver the sound quality unless you make it loud enough that probably hurts your hearing on long run due to nature of their design.

They are comfortable and very useful to have phone calls but nothing more unless you are in quiet environment most of your time.




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