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In-ear headphones without rubber tips (silicone): The best AirPods alternatives

In-ear headphones without rubber tips (silicone): The best AirPods alternatives

If someone is looking for "headphones like the Apple AirPods", then they often mean: A similarly shaped model - i.e. without plugs/inserts made of silicone, which can cause an uncomfortable feeling in the ear. This design is also known as "open-fit" or "classic earbuds". Introducing the best "open" Bluetooth in-ear headphones that are easy-to-wear.


First of all: There are numerous different designations for the headphone designs described below, which are not used uniformly. The reason for this is that the manufacturers have not agreed on a binding and official nomenclature - rather, the designations result from everyday use. At this point, we consult the definition of the US magazine Lifewire, which distinguishes between earphones and earbuds .

Earphones (in-ear headphones) or earbuds: what's the difference?

1. Earphones (with rubber)

Earphones or simply "in-ears" are in-ear headphones that are widely used today: two fairly compact housings are inserted into the ear canal. They seal the ear completely with a cylindrical adapter made of silicone or foam - i.e. similar to a plug or a noise protection earplug ("oropax"). The advantage of this design is a high level of passive isolation, so little ambient noise penetrates. The bass reproduction tends to be more powerful, since practically no sound energy is lost to the outside.

Disadvantages: The strong shielding from the environment is a danger when used in traffic. Earwax can sometimes be pushed deeper into the ear. In addition, the wearing comfort is uncomfortable for some people, they find earphones penetrating and sometimes even painful.

2. Earbuds (without rubber)

In contrast, earbuds are not closed to the ear - they lack the adapter. They are usually hard plastic housings that are shaped in such a way that they can be hung in the auricle (more precisely: auditory canal entrance funnel, cavum conchae). They nestle up against the shape of the ear canal, but do not seal it completely - they are, so to speak, "permeable to air". The wearing comfort is looser and freer than with earphones, and as a wearer you also hear a lot more of the ambient noise.

One of the disadvantages is a sound that tends to sound "thinner" with less bass power, but this is often compensated for by a special bass emphasis. In some ears, however, earbuds just don't want to hold up and fall out very easily - then only a solution with ear hooks helps (see below).

Bluetooth headphones without silicone attachments and without cables (True Wireless Earbuds)

Let's take a look at in-ear headphones without rubber attachments - the choice is larger than you might think at first.

JBL Tune 225TWS

In the Audio Test magazine (issue 07/2020, available from Readly), the JBL Tune 225TWS earned the test grade "good". The comfortable seat and the low price received special praise. On Amazon, the earbuds come off quite well with an average customer rating of 4.3 out of 5 stars. In terms of sound, nothing for deep bass fans, but everyone else should be happy - provided the housing sits correctly in the ear cups. JBL currently has six color variants in its range - Apple should learn a lesson from that.

Samsung Galaxy Buds Live

Samsung relies on a special shape: the Galaxy Buds Live are reminiscent of beans. The profile is correspondingly flat after insertion - there is hardly anything sticking out of the ears. Overall, a successful approach, since the Galaxy Buds Live can also convince in terms of sound with rich bass and pleasant highs. The problem, however, is that not everyone can be considered a user. If the earlobe is too small or the auricle is unusually shaped, then it will not work with the perfect fit.

The noise canceling (ANC) can only partially hide the lowest frequencies, a real noise reduction is not achieved - it is more of a subtle effect that works there. Small pieces of silicone are attached to the housings, but they do not penetrate the ear canal, but lie against the auricle and ensure a secure fit. More information in the detailed test report on xiaomist.

Sony link buds

You could have figured that out earlier, right? The Japanese manufacturer implements an unusual design concept that has a number of advantages. The compact and light housings of the Sony Linkbuds are quite flat and each has a hole that is located in the middle of the ring-shaped drivers. Like the Samsung Galaxy Buds (see above), the in-ears are clamped into the auricle - the ear canal, which leads to the eardrum, remains accessible to air.

In this way, users always hear (important) everyday noises, for example in traffic. Conversations with other people can also be held naturally - without removing them or activating a transparency mode, as with many noise-cancelling headphones. But it is also clear that the Sony Linkbuds are more suitable for at home (home office), the university library or a walk in the park. On air travel or on the train, they do not shield the ambient noise and the enjoyment of music is restricted.

The sound is surprisingly good: the Sony Linkbuds reproduce music and voices crystal clear, and live performances in particular are enjoyable (e.g. Nirvana – MTV Unplugged on Amazon Music Unlimited). The slightly slimmer bass is typical of the open design. If you like particularly powerful bass drums, you have to make compromises here.

Bluetooth earbuds without silicone attachments, but with a cable (neckband)

For rockers: Marshall Minor 2

The Marshall Minor 2 received a rating of 75 percent in the xiaomist test. The sound tuning is bass- and treble-heavy, resulting in a gripping playback - great if you enjoy listening to rock concerts. But: Depending on the nature of the auricle, the headphones can "tweak" a little with some wearers.

The main thing is cheap: JBL Tune 215 BT

The JBL Tune215 BT doesn't rip a hole in your wallet, and that's a good thing. The in-ear headphones with neckband offer the essentials, i.e. a sufficiently good sound quality and a high battery life of up to 16 hours per charge.

Bluetooth headphones without silicone attachments: extraordinary solutions

With earwires: Bang & Olufsen Earset

Attention, this is extravagance: the Bang & Olufsen Earset draws attention to itself. The design with a lot of metal and eye-catching ear hooks almost looks like an art object or ear jewellery. Up to 5 hours of battery life are included, the wearing comfort depends heavily on the wearer and his ears.

Bone conduction: AfterShokz OpenMove

Ever heard of bone conduction transducers? The AfterShokz OpenMove transmits the sound into the ear - via the cheekbones, without "clogging" the ear canal. The official manufacturer video shows how this looks when used:

A rather unusual principle, but it works and even sounds quite good. Athletes in particular should take a look at the OpenMove. Or as one of the Amazon customers writes in his review: "The headphones are wonderfully light and easy to use. Because the receiver is not worn in the ear but on the bone, you can still hear ambient noise, which is very important in the workshop and also for outdoor sports." One thing is certain: you can use the headphones even more freely with headphones hardly have ears.

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