I Tried 5 AirPod Dupes From Amazon, And One Is Pretty Decent

I lost my AirPods, and I simply refuse to pay to buy new ones. The latest third-generation AirPods — which are fantastic! I reviewed them! — start at $169. The older second-gen version is $120 (yes, there are sometimes deals online). These prices aren’t ridiculous; after all, they’re luxury products, and the price point is in line with other high-quality wireless headphones. 

However, I simply do not want to pay $169 for headphones. I would much prefer to pay way, way less. Say… $20, maybe $25? I don’t think I need to explain myself here. I would like to keep more money in my pocket. This seems fairly reasonable.

And yes, I am perfectly willing to settle on quality. Apple AirPods have spatial audio with Dolby Atmos, and great functionality pairing and a long battery life. I am not expecting a $20 set to achieve all that, but I want something that is perfectly decent.

Luckily, Amazon has a dizzying array of cheap AirPod-looking wireless earbuds available. They have weird brand names you’ve never heard of, and the prices seem arbitrary (and often there’s a coupon on Amazon, making them even more confusingly priced). I set out to test them to discover which one fits my needs: cheap, but still usable. 

I tested five different anonymous brand white earbuds, or, as I like to call them, ShitPods. 

My criteria for selecting which five of the many options were:

• It had to look like an AirPod. I skipped over colored or differently shaped earbuds that might have been fine.

• Price point under $25.

• Lots of reviews, and a good or high rating. (Yes, this can be gamed, but at least it’s a start.)

• Free shipping and returns through Amazon Prime.

But first, two big disclaimers:

1) I mostly use headphones for listening to podcasts and audiobooks. Music quality is not my primary concern. If you are an audiophile or music is your passion, you should probably just pony up more cash for better headphones. I also use them for phone calls, so microphone quality — the person on the other end has to be able to hear me well — matters to me.

2) All of these were available on Amazon, but by the time I had tested them out for a month, two of the five’s original listings had already disappeared. This is because Amazon’s marketplace for cheap electronics is a funhouse of hypercapitalist accelerationism, as New York magazine’s John Herrman illustrated in his recent piece “The Junkification of Amazon.” There are weird fake brand names like “CXK” or “Raviad.” Reviews are often deceiving or fake, the sellers are often not the manufacturer, and prices are constantly in flux. It’s possible that if you read this a few months after it’s published, the product links will have shifted yet again.

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