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EarFun Air wireless earbuds: $60 AirPods killer?

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TL;DR: If you are in the market for a set of wireless earbuds and Apple’s AirPods are outside your budget, EarFun Air wireless earphones are a decent offering. They lag slightly behind AirPods in terms of craftsmanship and comfort, but the extremely lower price point outweighs the shortcomings.

Wireless audio has ballooned in popularity, in part thanks to Apple AirPods. This becomes all the more evident with a quick stroll through the mall or the park. Wireless is the way to go these days, and Apple currently holds about one half of the wireless earbuds market. In terms of user experience, AirPods are tough to beat, but that comes with a steep price tag and ecosystem limitations. These days standard AirPods retail for ~$140. The Qi wireless charging case bumps that up to $170, and if you want AirPods Pro, be ready to shell out $250.

Now, AirPods work great if you already are in Apple’s ecosystem of devices, they will pair easily and mostly work seamlessly within that walled garden when you go from one device to another. Move to an Android phone or Windows laptop, and the experience is no better than your average competitor. Another factor to consider is that standard AirPods are decent but not great audio devices, so a less expensive alternative is definitely in order.

Sony’s highly regarded WF-1000XM3 are superior to AirPods in the audio department, but they’re still nearly $200. Google, Amazon, Huawei, and Samsung all have competent alternatives, but the least you will pay for these are previous-gen Galaxy Buds which are pretty decent for $110, most others are around $150+. Jabra’s $150 Elite 75t are great, too, for sports.

So when a small electronics startup called EarFun contacted us and offered for review a set of new AirPods alternatives that would only cost $60 on Amazon, we were all ears (pun intended).

The EarFun Air “true wireless” earbuds are the company’s newest offering, so we tasked two of our writers who already used AirPods on a regular basis to try them out for a couple of weeks. So here’s what we think…

In terms of craftsmanship, the EarFun Air earphones are on par with AirPods. They feel sturdy and are maybe just a touch heavier. They do have a slightly different design than the standard AirPods, looking more like the AirPods Pro. They come with four different sizes of eartips and, when properly fitted in the ear, felt more secure than AirPods. It never felt like they were going to fall out, except when they became wet from sweat. Apple’s standard design can feel a bit insecure in the ear, even when dry, and especially when jogging or doing high impact exercises.

The charging case feels durable in general, but the lid seems flimsier than Apple’s. AirPods holders use a machined aluminum hinge while the EarFun Air case is entirely plastic. The joint does exhibit a little flex when purposely overextended, but it could break more easily than Apple’s if the case were sat on with the top open.

EarFun’s first generation wireless earphones called EarFun “Free” had physical switches for pausing and pairing, but the company brought touch controls with the EarFun Air which we tested, this is a welcomed improvement. These can take some getting used to, but the same can be said about the AirPods’ touch controls.

One leg up the EarFun Air has over AirPods is that you can adjust the volume by touching and holding your finger on one earbud — left for down and right for up. AirPods volume can only be controlled by the device it is connected to, which is annoying. AirPods do allow you to use Siri to control volume, but it is a clunky experience at best.

The EarFun Air case has both a USB-C port and a Qi coil for wireless charging, just like the AirPods. However, charging time is a bit longer (around two hours). Perhaps more importantly, the EarFun Air charging case’s single LED indicator isn’t a reliable way to tell the charge level. Knowing whether the unit is fully juiced is a bit of a guessing game.

Battery life is also somewhat inconsistent and depends on volume and use. EarFun claims these can last up to 7 hours, and they do if you’re listening to podcasts or music at around 25-30 percent volume. At 50 percent, they only last about 4-5 hours, and a bit less for calls. We got right around 4 hours of talk time on a single charge during telephone calls.

In our tests, the earphones could get 4-5 charges from a fully juiced up case, which is about the same as AirPods. An unmentioned benefit we discovered while using the EarFun Air buds was that 15 minutes in the case equals about an hour of use at 50 percent volume.

The output quality is decent for a pair of wireless earbuds and should be indistinguishable for most people. The mids and highs are surprisingly clear despite the noticeable bass boost. AirPods have more accurate bass reproduction despite their small size, which tends to be more to the liking of audiophiles. Still, the bass boost on the EarFun Air isn’t as exaggerated as most other popular headphones such as Beats or Skullcandy, but more in line with something like Audio Technica AD900X open-back headphones. The AirPods’ sound is surprisingly similar, but not nearly as loud.

As for input, the microphone is mediocre, but the AirPods’ mic is somewhat disappointing as well. Neither input mechanism screams “high quality.” It will do a decent job indoors for voice calls, but if you’re outside, they may pick up some background noise and wind interference.

One thing we really liked with the EarFun Air is the voice feedback. With the AirPods, you only get a subtle sound effect as a hint that they’ve connected or need charging. It is easy to miss the “low battery” sound when listening to music or when you’re in a noisy area like the subway. EarFun Air eliminated this with its voice prompts, which was nice. The notifications also work independently with each telling you when they’re connected. With AirPods, often only one will indicate it is connected, which can be frustrating as you spend a few minutes figuring out why you’re only getting sound from one side.

Not quite as good as AirPods, but at a third the price, they’re certainly worthy of consideration

Although we experienced a little discomfort inside the ear with the EarFun Airs, this was partly caused by not having the proper ear-canal tips fitted. After switching cup sizes a couple of times, we were able to find the right fit, and much of the discomfort was alleviated.

That said, even with the most comfortable eartips, the inner part of the ear becomes a bit sore after an hour or two of use. By comparison, AirPods can be worn for most of the day without experiencing any discomfort. So in that respect, the EarFun Airs are not quite on par with Apple’s offering. This may be seen as a small compromise considering they are much cheaper. Additionally, memory foam tip replacements could increase comfort. Aftermarket foam eartips are readily available for as low as $7 on Amazon, so it’s not an expensive post-purchase upgrade.

Overall, EarFun Air wireless earphones aren’t trying to be as good as the AirPods, but they do an outstanding job at a significantly lower price point, making them a worthwhile alternative. Sound quality is acceptable for all but audiophiles. Craftsmanship standards are not as high as Apple’s, but well within the range of similarly priced competitors.

If you’re looking for inexpensive wireless buds, we do believe the compromises are worth the savings, especially for those not already locked into the Apple ecosystem. EarFun Air can be found on Amazon for $60 but the company is currently offering them at a discount for $49.99 until the end of the month. Just check the coupon box on the product page to get the discount.

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Written by sortiwa

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