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I replaced my AirPods Max with these $9 Temu headphones, and here’s how it went

Key Takeaways

  • Temu headphones offer a sleek design and comfortable fit at a fraction of the price of Apple’s AirPods Max.
  • While not on par with high-end headphones, Temu’s budget option provides impressive noise-cancellation and clear audio for streaming music, podcasts, and TV shows.
  • Although the mic quality is lacking, the Temu headphones are a great option for travel and make for an affordable and practical gift.

In New York City, headphones – in-ear or over-ear – are essential. Whether I’m going on a 5-minute grocery run, 30-minute subway ride, mile-long walk or cranking out an article or at the gym, I always need to listen to some sort of audio on my outings and while in my workflow. But I’m just one of millions of New York City inhabitants who consistently use earbuds or headphones as both a tool and an accessory. In the past few years, over-ear headphones, especially Apple’s futuristic-looking AirPods Max, have become part of the Manhattan “it-girl” fashion aesthetic.


Apple AirPods Max review: Premium headphones with a premium price

We’ve been listening to Apple’s over-ear headphones, the AirPods Max. Is the steep asking price to excess or does the quality justify it?

While I love my AirPods Max, they feel a bit heavy and become particularly noticeable after sitting for long periods or attempting to do any form of cardio, even with the flexible mesh headband. Not to mention, they cost anywhere from $450 to $550 – a hefty price if you’re buying-in partially for the aesthetic. So, while browsing Temu, the popular budget e-commerce platform, I was immediately intrigued to see a pair of over-ear headphones with stellar customer reviews that had the same sleek, white look and flexible headband, but more impressively, they had a sub-$20 price.


What is Temu, who owns it, and is it safe to buy from?

Wondering why Temu is so cheap, whether it’s safe to buy from, and are the products any good? We bought over 30 things from Temu and got the scoop.

Naturally, I bought them.

Temu headphones face-up

New Wireless Headphones Headworn Stereo Noise Reduction Earphones

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While not matching the AirPods Max’s ANC quality, I was still impressed by the noise-cancellation ability, especially given the price. With an extremely lightweight frame, they’re also among the most comfortable over-ear cans I’ve tested. The audio is overall clear for streaming everything from bass-rich music to podcasts and TV shows. Essentially, if you’re looking for a comfortable, sleek, and budget-friendly pair of headphones, these look and act the part.

Not quite luxury, but still sleek

Apple, while a tech company, has undoubtedly also made waves in the fashion world. The AirPods and their “cut-off wired earbuds” design are an iconic staple now, and the AirPods Max are gracing every Lower East Side woman and gym buff’s mood board. While I’m no fashion expert, I have to think part of the AirPod Max’s appeal is the look of the over-ear cans and the headband that is not overly thick or so thin that it errs on the side of disproportionate. It perfectly connects the two cans and sits nicely on top of the head without an awkward bulge.

Those Temu knock-offs I bought, while they don’t have a mesh headband or metal ear casings, adhere to the same modern look as the AirPods Max, and they come in a matte khaki color that doesn’t clash with any of my gym clothes or staple black NYC wardrobe.

The power button and volume controls are a bit clunky and make a slightly outdated clicky sound when you toggle the buttons. While this is far from the digital crown control that dawns the AirPods Max, they’re the same beige color, and it blends in well-enough to where it’s barely noticeable. And, unlike the AirPods Max, Temu’s headpiece features folding earcups, which you can initiate by gently pressing on the divit that meets the headband and top of the ear can. The hinge is barely noticeable, but very functional for travel or conveniently slips away into a gym tote.

When budget and comfort beats Apple

These Temu budget headphones need some premium upgrades to truly match AirPods’ iconic status, but where I’ll give Temu’s option the crown is comfort. They are perhaps some of the lightest headphones I’ve ever tried. At first, I will admit, the quality did feel a bit flimsy or cheap, but once I put them on my head, they stayed in place better than my AirPods Max while jogging on the treadmill, and they lasted on my head as I worked all day without resulting in any built-up pressure. I can’t say the same for my AirPods Max.

Wearing Temu headphones while working

I’ve only had the headphones for about a week and a half, but so far, the set doesn’t sacrifice comfort for durability and has remained in-tact, scratchless, and comfortable as ever.

Little price, but big sound

You’ve likely been wondering: How do these $9 headphones actually sound? Up front, if you’re looking for a true AirPods Max replacement, these aren’t them. But I was more than pleasantly surprised.


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Quietly selling Active Noise Cancellation

When I bought these headphones, Temu didn’t advertise Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) in the product listing. However, they’re scary good at blocking out subway screeches, the hum of the treadmill, or my roommate yelling my name from less than three feet away. Sure, the ANC isn’t as crisp as my high-quality cans and has more of an “underwater” sound quality to it, but I wasn’t expecting the power that lied behind the lightweight cans.

Booming bass, but not quite clear

When it comes to bass quality, I was also impressed. In drum-heavy songs like Olivia Rodrigo’s “Get Him Back,” the drums stood out against the punk pop princess’ vocals. However loud, the bass and sound as a whole had a very muffled, rather than crisp, layer.

Dropping Temu headphones into bag

I also found the headphones lost on sound quality with higher frequencies, like the saxophone on Pink Floyd’s “Monkey” or Lady Gaga’s “Edge of Glory”. A tar-like muffled film overwhelmed the brassy high points.

Streaming without Spatial Audio is doable

Continuing my sequence of surprise, I didn’t miss a word Love Island UK as I streamed the show and simultaneously walked on the treadmill. However, the lack of Spatial Audio did increase my appreciation for the lifelike sound quality that the AirPods Max provides. Usually, it feels like the characters in shows are talking in a room with me, but with Temu’s budget headphones, it very much felt as if they were speaking at me. Nothing game-changing, and it wasn’t a stark difference, but something I noticed nonetheless.


What is Apple Spatial Audio, how does it work and how to get it?

Here’s everything you need to know about Apple’s Spatial Audio, including how the 3D audio tech works and what devices it is available on.

The mic is comparable to AirPod Max’s, but that’s not a good thing

Using my headphones almost as much to talk hands-free as I do to listen and stream, I am a harsh critic when it comes to evaluating headset microphones. That’s where these budget headphones really let me down.


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Put bluntly, my mom told me it sounded like I was the “Charlie Brown teacher trapped in an underwater wind-tunnel” when I tried to talk to her with the headset. That said, the AirPods Max’s mic is also poor quality. Many people have said it sounds like I’m at ultra-low volume when speaking to them. I see why budget headphones have an excuse, but Apple? Please, do better.

Verdict: Not the perfect dupe, but a great gift or travel headset

For only $9, I’ve never been more pleasantly surprised. When it comes to aesthetic, long-lasting battery, and comfort, the Temu headphones hold their own against Apple’s premium AirPod Max. The sound quality is by no means a direct replacement for those headphones, but it’s better than expected, and only makes subtle sacrifices for the price.

Lightweight and compact, they make a great choice for travel, although I’m not sure if they’re the best if you want a silent train ride or flight. Overall, however, for the price, I recommend them, and I may buy a few more for my friends and family in time for an easy holiday gift.

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