Are Real Airpods Worth It?

Peter Philpott and Nick BeDan

Apple is notorious for its high prices. One of their questionable price tags comes with their Airpods. The major tech company was a pioneer in the wireless audio industry, and there have been thousands of companies and brands that try to replicate their success. Most recently, Google released their version of the wireless Earbuds, the Google Buds.

While huge companies like Samsung and Beats have made their (quite successful) earbuds, and many small companies have made Airpod alternatives, and some are blatantly fake ripoffs of the real product.

We selected three of these alternatives and rated them against, supposedly, the best wireless earphones money can buy, the Apple Airpods Pro (Second Generation).

We did a variety of tests, focusing on the music capabilities of the earphones. We rated them all, in a blind listening test, out of 100, in bass, treble, clarity, and stereo. We also took convenience features like comfort and compatibility into account. There are obvious reasons to purchase these products, but what’s even more important is the downsides.

Alternative: CXK E10 – $35.99

These reminded us of the newly released Apple Airpods 3 in shape and size, but they do not have the stats to match. They lack active noise cancellation, however they do have high end Bluetooth 5.2 for a very quick connection. Their page boasts 12 millimeter sound drivers in the earpiece, which is larger than Apple’s Airpods. The larger the driver, the better the sound. 

These were not very comfortable, as the shape was not dissimilar to a bulbous potato. As for compatibility, the fast Bluetooth connection button on the case made these easy to connect to a Mac or an iPhone. 

The E10s hit the highs better than the lows, but not much better. The bass, at 76/100, didn’t give us the heart thumping feeling of a good song, but the treble didn’t sound flat, so we gave it a solid 85/100. When listening to a hard rock sound, the clarity was seriously lacking. Because the drums were dusty and not satisfyingly crisp, we put these at an 82/100. The stereo, however, was nice, it made you feel like the sound was hitting you from all sides, at 90/100.

Overall, the E10s aren’t a horrible purchase. They have a similar look to Airpods, the case is well made and compact, but the sound and comfort quality is seriously lacking. 

Alternative: Hyeing Deepbuds Pro 2 – $28.99

The Hyeing Deepbuds Pro 2 are almost an exact copy to the Apple Airpod Pods Pro, giving you the Apple look and feel, but they almost have the same earbud look, but the earbuds have a flat top, instead of a rounded top like the Airpods Pro. Their fast 5.2 bluetooth connection is an added bonus; it connects in less than two seconds. The ear buds have a 13mm driver size with two microphones. The Hyeings come in a bright white case and have silicone eartips, however they do not include different sizes. 

Their case is nearly identical to Apple’s Airpods Pro, their earbuds somewhat have the same size and shape as Apple’s. The size is big enough where you can easily store them and they can be found. They are also about as comfortable as the Airpods Pro. The noise cancellation does give a feeling of “in-your-own-bubble,” but it’s not perfect.

One thing that we can say is that they are quite well made. The bass on them was great, which we gave a 91/100. However, the treble fell off a bit, with it being an 80/100. The clarity is a bit better than the treble with its rating, but not by much, it was a solid 85/100. However, the stereo on the earbuds slightly made up for the clarity and treble, giving it a 90/100.

Overall, the $30 that we paid for buying a pair of fake Airpod Pros isn’t the end of the world. The very few cons of this product and the multiple pros make it a perfect Christmas gift if you are on a budget. 

Alternative: i9s TWS – $14.99

Right from first sight, these have big upsides. If you’re going for the complete Apple look, they are nearly identical to the Apple Airpods 2nd Generation. They also boast an incredibly low price tag. They don’t have noise cancellation, and their Bluetooth 5.0 makes their connection to devices less agile. However, they do have buttons on the earpiece that are easy to find, and the controls are easy to learn. The rubber case and included carabiner can be helpful for mounting on keychains or backpacks; traditional airpod cases are notoriously easy to lose.

Because they are identical in size and proportion to the original Apple product, they have the same Apple comfort, given you have an ear that’s the right size. First time connection to a device is cumbersome, but every time afterwards is quick.

However, what the earbuds gain in appearance and convenience, they lose in sound quality. The treble was mediocre, a 78/100, but the bass was nonexistent. There was no heart stopping thump, no feeling, a saddening 45/100. The clarity is decent, we rated it at an 81/100. The sound quality was seriously lacking in this pair of headphones.

The i9s claim to have giant 15mm drivers, which are either defective or nonexistent. These are huge compared to Apple’s, but the sound quality is miniscule. The i9s are a great purchase if you want super inexpensive wireless earbuds with the Apple look, but if you care about bass, we wouldn’t recommend them.

Real: Apple Airpods Pro 2nd Generation – $249.00

These are the peak of premium. Not only is the sound quality elite, but the Airpods Pro come packed with feature after feature. They come with a beautifully designed charging case that comes with Apple’s Magsafe wireless charging, or can be charged with a USB C cable. The case has its own Apple-designed H2 chip that allows it to be tracked with the Find My app that comes with all Apple devices. It has a speaker and can play a noise, allowing you to find in between the two couch cushions it keeps getting stuck under. The active noise cancellation isn’t perfect, but it does make you feel like you’re in a personal bubble.

The drivers on the Airpods are smaller than any others on this list, at 10mm, but the sound test did not support the evidence.

Because of the premium silicone ear cups, these fit great in all ears and are quite comfortable. As for compatibility, the Airpods are the highest standard for connection with iPhones. You open them, click the button in a pop-up window, and you’re connected. As for non-apple devices, its state-of-the-art Bluetooth 5.3 makes connection with them lightning quick, however you can’t use Siri in that configuration.

The sound quality is wonderful. It hits the highs and the lows. The treble is perfectly in tune, and it’s not strained, a solid 93/100. The bass is heavy and thumpy, so we gave it an 88/100. As for clarity, there was no dustiness or sound bleed, this was worthy of a strong 91/100. Combined with good noise cancellation, the Airpods Pro offer a premium listening experience. 

The Airpods are a pleasure to have and to listen to, but there is indeed one major flaw that makes them hard to pick over off-brand options: the price. At $250, it dwarfs other options, even the $175 Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro 2. Yes, it comes with a truckload of features and a near-perfect listening experience, but paying that much for an audio device is hard to accept.

However, compared to these $20-30 cheap options, it’s totally worth it. The fact that you’ll never lose your Airpods again and they can survive for two days of listening is all you can ask for. Airpods are the best wireless earbuds out there, and while there are other options, they are worth buying. However, some don’t have the money. 

Off brands are a great option, and they aren’t horrible when listened to or a hassle to use. It is worth keeping in mind the fact that less expensive Airpods that Apple sells are great options. The Airpods 2nd Generation provide good features and good listening, and they’re half the price of the Pros. Buying Airpods will not be a purchase that you regret.