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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.




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