Budget earpods for calls

Belkin Soundform Freedom

Belkin Soundform Freedom Render Cropped

Best choice for most

AirPods 2

Apple Airpods2 Render Cropped

Environmental noise cancellation (ENC) and ear tips for a snug fit top our list of loves for the Belkin Soundform Freedom earbuds. They work well with iOS, have Find My integration onboard, and ring up as a bargain at checkout.

$60 at Amazon

Pros

  • Eight hours of continuous battery
  • Silicone eartips in various sizes (S/M/L comes standard)
  • Lightweight
  • Find My integration
  • Good sound on phone calls

Cons

  • Subpar audio quality for music and gaming
  • Unintuitive controls

Apple's second-generation AirPods include the H1 chip, which gives you audio sharing and spatial audio. Force touch, Hey Siri voice-only control, and stellar sound round out these last-generation earbuds that still rank as one of our favorites.

$100 at Amazon

Pros

  • Hands-free Siri
  • Excellent microphone
  • Clear sound
  • Simple pairing and switching between devices
  • Find My integration

Cons

  • No foam or silicone ear tips
  • Only available in white

Belkin stepped up their wireless earbud game with the release of the Belkin Soundform Freedom this year. These are Bluetooth 5.2 earphones that sync up with Apple's Find My feature and also include wireless charging and an adjustable, secure fit courtesy of the ear tips.

Bargain hunters will love the price of the Belkin Soundform Freedom, but audiophiles may want to stick with the last-generation Apple Airpods 2, which still have the brightest, cleanest sound.

Belkin Soundform Freedom vs. AirPods 2: What sets them apart

Soundform Freedom and AirPods 2 have a few things in common, but the sound, controls, and chipsets are what set them apart. Let's put these two earbuds head-to-head and see where each shines and where they fall short.

Belkin Soundform Freedom Airpods 2
Release date 2021 2019
Chip Qualcomm QCC3046 SoC H1
Battery life 8 hours 5 hours
Inputs USB-C Lightning
Wireless charging Qi MagSafe
Spatial audio Yes Yes
ANC No No
Find My support Yes Yes
Ear tips Yes No
Water resistance IPX5 No
Bluetooth 5.2 5.0
Color options White, black White

Belkin Soundform Freedom earbuds and Apple AirPods 2 share a few similarities, including a lightweight design, charging case, and excellent sound while on phone calls. In the minus column, neither pair of buds has noise-canceling to filter out background sounds while you're gaming, listening to tunes, or watching a video. Let's get into the nitty-gritty.

Belkin Soundform Freedom vs. AirPods 2: The design

Belkin Soundform Freedom Tw Earbuds HeroSource: Christine Romero-Chan / iMore

Belkin Soundform Freedom has the same general appearance as the AirPods 3, the earbuds one generation ahead of the AirPods 2 we're looking at today. They both have two short stems protruding from the earpiece, though those stems seem to have little to do with function in the Belkin buds. With Apple, you use the stems to play tracks, fast forward, take a call, and do other things. On the Soundform Freedoms, the controls are located right on the earpiece.

Soundform Freedom buds also come in black and white, which is a nice option for those who feel stuck with too much Apple white.

The Soundform Freedom set of buds comes with three pairs of silicone ear tips, and they're comfortable to wear, even for long periods. The ear tips seal the buds in your ear canal, giving you a tighter fit, practically guaranteeing you won't lose your earphones while walking or working out in the gym.

Soundform Freedom buds also come in black and white, which is a nice option for those who feel stuck with too much Apple white.

AirPods 2 earbudsSource: iMore

The AirPods 2 have a slightly longer stem than the Soundform Freedoms, though those stems serve a purpose. When you press the force sensor on the stem of an AirPod, you can play and pause audio, resume playback, skip backward or forward, and answer calls.

The AirPods 2 has an open design, meaning no ear tips to fiddle with. Whether you love or hate this feature is a personal preference thing. Some, particularly those who exercise with their buds, prefer to have the option to switch out ear tips to get a custom fit. I run, hike, and bike with the AirPods 2 and have never had an issue with them slipping out of my ears. Again, personal preference.

The AirPods 2 come in Apple's standard white color.

Belkin Soundform Freedom vs. AirPods 2: Sound

Belkin Soundform Freedom Tw Earbuds OutSource: Christine Romero-Chan / iMore

Despite the obvious aesthetic appeal of both sets of buds, we all know that if the sound is tight, looks fall by the wayside. And such is the case here.

Belkin's Soundform Freedom is a letdown in the music department, as we discussed in our review. Tunes sound tinny, even though the bass thumps away as it should; and vocals and instrumentals fall flat. Whether you're watching a movie or playing your favorite tracks on repeat, Belkin comes up short, leaving us wanting more.

Belkin has included something they call Advanced Environmental Noise Cancellation (ENC) for phone calls. ENC doesn't work during music playback, but it does isolate voices well so you can be ever-present on calls.

AirPods with Wireless Charging Case and iPhone in the backgroundSource: Joseph Keller/iMore

The AirPods 2 come with the H1 chip, allowing you to enjoy spatial audio with dynamic head tracking. It employs optical sensors and motion accelerometers that know when you're listening and work in tandem to create the best sound experience. In short, it's phenomenal. Even with the open ear design, sounds are bright and crisp, and the bass is solid, though there's no built-in noise cancellation.

The AirPods 2's sound output is excellent with everything you throw its way, and the built-in mic filters out background noise so your caller can really tune into you.

Belkin Soundform Freedom vs. AirPods 2: Battery life

Belkin Soundform Freedom Tw Earbuds Front LedSource: Christine Romero-Chan / iMore

The joys of going wireless far outweigh being tethered to a cable. Still, battery life is something you'll want to consider when deciding which earphones to choose. Belkin's Soundform Freedom and Apple's AirPods 2 come with charging cases, but that's where the similarities end.

Belkin stands out with eight hours of continuous playback on a single charge. That's enough juice to get you through your day. When paired with the case, which charges wirelessly via Qi, you'll get 36 hours of playtime. With Qi, a 15 minute charge yields two hours of listening. Not bad.

Apple is no slouch in this department, but you'll get fewer hours out of one charge. The AirPods 2 push out five hours of continuous play and deliver 24 hours of streaming with the case. Thanks to MagSafe, you'll do better with quick charging, though. Charging your AirPods 2 for just 15 minutes will give you another three hours of listening time.

Belkin Soundform Freedom vs. AirPods 2: Which should you buy?

AirPods 2 charging caseSource: iMore

If you're looking for one of the best headphones for zoom or phone calls, Belkin Soundform Freedom are a good option. You'll be treated to eight hours of continuous battery, ANC that isolates voices for clear calls, and a price tag you simply cannot beat. The sound isn't the greatest for tunes or movies, but it's exceptional on calls.

If you're already on the Apple bandwagon, or you're aiming to pocket some top-of-the-line earbuds, reach for the AirPods 2. They're a generation behind the newer AirPods 3, but that'll get you a serious discount at the checkout, and they sound phenomenal on calls and when queuing up Apple Music. They don't have the silicone ear tips like Belkin, but soundwise, they knock it out of the park.

Good for your wallet

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Belkin Soundform Freedom

Superb call quality

Belkin Soundform Freedom earpods are great for phone calls and have superior battery life, but they're lacking in overall sound quality. If music is important to you, take a pass.

Best for your ears

Apple Airpods2 Render Cropped

AirPods 2

Still the ones to beat

Apple AirPods 2 sound fantastic. Music, movies, games, and calls are all clear and balanced. The battery won't last as long, but tossing them in the charging case for 15 minutes will give you another three hours of playtime.

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