Belkin unveils AirPods rival at CES 2021 — and it will make you sound better on calls

Belkin SoundForm Freedom True Wireless Earbuds
(Image credit: Belkin)

Belkin has unveiled the SoundForm Freedom True Wireless Earbuds, a set of AirPods-style in-ear headphones with an emphasis on better-quality voice calling.

Announced as part of the online-only CES 2021, the SoundForm Freedom combine Qualcomm’s QCC3046 Bluetooth chip with Environmental Noise Cancellation (ENC) to minimize interference with the onboard microphones. Doing that should make for hands-free phone calls with as little background noise on the line as possible.

This might make the SoundForm Freedom more like an office aid than just a pair of out-and-about earbuds. But there’s a lot here to suggest Belkin is aiming for consumers who can’t or won’t wait for the AirPods 3. The design, for one, is clearly inspired by the AirPod range, with a white sheen and long stalks.

The SoundForm Freedom are also rated IPX5 for water resistance, so they’ll be able to handle rain and sweat, should you wear them while working out.

There’s no active noise cancellation (ANC) here; ENC is solely for the microphones’ benefit, so we’re looking at a cheaper, more basic listening proposition than that of the AirPods Pro. But Belkin is still promising a very respectable 8 hours of playback per charge, with up to 20 from the charging case, which itself can be topped up through any Qi wireless charger. And three sets of removable tip sizes should help achieve some degree of passive noise isolation.

Belkin’s earbuds will also be able to piggyback on Apple’s Find My device location network, potentially making it possible to track down the SoundForm Freedom should they be lost or stolen.

Still, this is a rare AirPods rival that seemingly puts more focus on call quality than playback — potentially one to watch if you’re often making and taking phone calls while on the move. There’s no pricing or release date information available yet, but the SoundForm Freedom’s predecessors, the SoundForm True Wireless Buds, are only $60. Expect the new earbuds to land somewhere between that and the $129 AirPods.

James Archer

James is currently Hardware Editor at Rock Paper Shotgun, but before that was Audio Editor at Tom’s Guide, where he covered headphones, speakers, soundbars and anything else that intentionally makes noise. A PC enthusiast, he also wrote computing and gaming news for TG, usually relating to how hard it is to find graphics card stock.