True wireless earbuds are all the rage. Here are the top wire-free models you can buy right now.
When you’re looking for the best true wireless earbuds, your choices don’t stop at the category’s bestseller: Apple’s AirPods. Several competitors now offer better battery life, audio quality and performance (not to mention compatibility with technology outside of the Apple device ecosystem), making the market for true wireless earbuds truly competitive, with more to come.
This list identifies the overall best wireless earbuds (we have another for wireless headphones). For more, check out the best cheap true wireless earbuds and the best-sounding true wireless earbuds. The best wireless earbuds need to have an ergonomic design, fit right with a tight earbud seal and feel comfortable for optimal performance. If you can’t get a snug earbud fit with in-ear headphones, you’ll be sadly disappointed and feel ripped off, which is why I suggest buying your pair of wireless earbuds from a vendor with a decent return policy, such as Amazon. This also helps if the earbuds don’t meet some other expectation, from ambient sound cancellation to touch control to how long they last on a single charge. We’ll update this list of best wireless earbuds regularly as we review new products.
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds
It took Bose quite a while to get them into stores, but the new $279 (£250, AU$400) noise-canceling QuietComfort Earbuds are finally here. In many ways, they’re excellent true wireless earbuds, particularly when it comes to their sound and noise canceling, which is arguably the best out there right now in a set of earbuds. Performance-wise, they clearly have a leg up on Apple’s best-selling AirPods Pro true wireless noise-canceling buds. However, the AirPods Pro’s smaller design, somewhat more comfortable fit and superior voice-calling capabilities make it hard to declare the Bose the straight-up champ. Ultimately, it depends on what your priorities are.
Water-resistant: Yes (IPX4 rating — splashproof). Read our Bose QuietComfort Earbuds review.
Known for its excellent sounding, retro-designed, open-back wired headphones, Grado has long been a favorite among audiophiles, earning extra points for building many of its headphones by hand in Brooklyn, New York, for over 60 years. But with the world moving to wireless audio, the company has slowly shifted into the Bluetooth headphone arena, first with its GW100 on-ear model (in 2018) and now with its first true wireless earbuds, the GT220 ($259, £250, AU$365). Grado says it’s been working for two years to fit them with its “signature” mini-drivers and tune them accordingly. The good news is they sound fantastic — for true-wireless earbuds anyway — and perform well as a headset for making calls.
Their more penetrating fit (the buds have to be jammed into your ears), which provides very good passive noise-muffling, may not work for everybody. But if you’re OK with it, these are easily among the best-sounding true-wireless earbuds out there — and maybe even the best-sounding.
Audiophile headphones are often associated with more of a flat or neutral sound profile that delivers “accurate” sound. These are well-balanced but they have a more exciting sound profile, with bass that’s a touch more forward and nice sparkle in the treble. They are more revealing and articulate than Sennheiser’s True Wireless Momentum II earbuds, which come across as warmer and a bit more open with slightly bigger sound.
These use Bluetooth 5.0 with support for the AAC and aptX codecs (for devices that have aptX, like Samsung’s Galaxy smartphones). Read CNET review.
Water-resistant: No (lacks IPX certification).
Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2
The second-generation Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 aren’t cheap. However, this true wireless earphone option is better all around than the original, with a slightly smaller, more comfortable earbud design, great audio quality, active noise canceling that rivals that of the AirPod Pro, improved battery life (up to seven hours versus the original’s four) and better noise reduction during calls. If you don’t like these active noise cancellation earbuds in black, a white version of the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless earbuds is slated to follow later this year. Most importantly, though, the Momentum True Wireless 2 have the same great sound — for true wireless earbuds, anyway — offering clearly superior sound quality to the AirPods Pro. That makes them arguably the best true wireless earbuds on the market today and earns them a CNET Editors’ Choice Award.
These Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless earbuds use Bluetooth 5.1 with support for the AAC and AptX codecs (for devices that have AptX like Samsung’s Galaxy smartphones).
Water-resistant: Yes (IPX4 rating — splashproof). Read our Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 review.
Best wireless earbuds all-around
Apple AirPods Pro
Even if they don’t sound quite as magical as you’d hope a $249 model would, the Apple AirPods Pro still manage to be a great pair of true wireless earphones with noise cancellation. That’s largely due to their winning design and fit, improved bass performance and effective noise canceling — and now they’ve been updated with spatial audio, a new virtual-sound mode for watching movies and TV shows (only works with iPhones and iPads running iOS 14).
They’re an excellent choice when you want to make a call or listen to music during your workout. Yeah, they’re expensive at $250, but the good news is they tend to sell in the $200 to $220 range.
Water-resistant: Yes (IPX4 rating — splash-proof). Read our Apple AirPods Pro review.
Most innovative new design
Samsung Galaxy Buds Live
Say what you will about the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live’s bean-shaped design, but they might just be the most innovative new true wireless earbuds of the year. Like the standard AirPods, they have an open design — you don’t jam an ear tip into your ear — and they’re quite comfortable to wear and fit my ears more securely than the AirPods. That said, they won’t fit everybody’s ears equally well. These wireless buds are discreet and basically sit flush with your ear without a little white pipe extending out from them.
They deliver good sound and work well as a headset for making calls, with good background noise reduction so callers can hear you clearly even when you’re in noisier environments. While they feature active noise canceling, it’s mild compared to the noise canceling in earbuds that have a noise-isolating design. In other words, buy them for their design and sound, not their noise-canceling features.
Water-resistant: Yes (IPX2 rating — sweat-resistant and protects against light splashes). Read our Samsung Galaxy Buds Live review.
Best wireless earbuds sequel
Jabra Elite 75t
While the Elite 75t has been out a while, it’s still one of the best true wireless earbuds out there and recently added noise canceling via a firmware upgrade. Earlier firmware updates improved voice-calling performance.
The Elite 75t aren’t quite as comfortable to wear as the AirPods Pro, but they do sound better, with clearer overall sound and better bass audio quality definition, so long as you get a tight seal.
The slightly more rugged Elite Active 75t is also available for about $20 more, but with the new Elite 85t’s arrival we are seeing some sales on the Elite 75t.
Water-resistant: Yes (IP55 rating — can withstand heavy sprays of water). Read our Jabra Elite 75t review.
Google Pixel Buds 2
Google’s Pixel Buds 2 are worthy contenders in the premium true wireless earbuds arena, particularly for Android phones. Featuring hands-free Google Assistant (for Android), these truly wireless earbuds offer a comfortable, secure fit and very good sound quality for true wireless. Additionally, they’re good for making calls and their touch controls work quite well.
At five hours, their battery life isn’t as good as some new models that are hitting the market, but it’s on par with the AirPods Pro’s battery life and the well-designed wireless charging case gives you an additional 19 hours (there is a quick-charge feature). The Pixel Buds 2 will eventually be available in four color options — white, black, mint and orange — but at launch you can only get them in white.
This true wireless earbud option uses Bluetooth 5.0 with support for the AAC codec but not aptX.
Water-resistant: Yes (IPX4 rating — splashproof). Read our Google Pixel Buds 2 (2020) review.
Best under $50
The Mpow X3 wireless earbuds sound shockingly good for their low price of $50 (a $10 instant discount coupon from Amazon is currently available), with good clarity and powerful bass, and they even have active noise cancellation that’s fairly effective.
Mpow seems to be regularly tweaking its earphones, and the X3 earbuds were briefly taken off Amazon, before returning with an update. “The new version upgraded the volume control and optimized its active noise-canceling function and call effect,” the company told me. “It also added the supersoft ear caps, which [are] more comfortable to wear for a long time.”
They did fit me comfortably and securely and I got a tight seal from one of the sets of XL ear tips. They’re fully waterproof (IPX7) and get up to seven hours of battery life at moderate volume levels with USB-C charging. (The charging case looks like a fat version of the standard AirPods case.) Call quality is good — they have a sidetone feature that lets you hear your voice in the earbuds — but I’ve used other earbuds with better noise reduction during calls. I noticed a touch of audio lag when I streamed a YouTube video but no problems when streaming iTunes movies.
The touch controls take some getting used to — they’re a little wonky — and it didn’t help that the instructions in the box seemed to be for the old X3 model. (I found the current instructions online, which helped me figure things out.) Aside from a few minor downsides, Mpow’s X3 earbuds are a great value.
Water-resistant: Yes (IPX7 rating — fully waterproof). Read our Mpow X3 first take.
Souped-up Samsung buds
Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus
Samsung’s Buds Plus look essentially the same as the original Galaxy Buds, but their battery life is rated at 11 hours for music playback (up from six) and they pack dual drivers for better sound and an additional microphone in each bud to help with external noise reduction while making calls.
I was impressed with the sound. It’s detailed and smooth, with deep, well-defined bass. The sound is richer and more spacious than that of the original Galaxy Buds. Well-respected Austrian audio company AKG, which Samsung acquired when it bought Harman, is behind the audio. While the original Buds were also “tuned” by AKG, these are a nice upgrade over the originals — and right there with what you get with the Jabra Elite 75t, if not even a touch better. They use Bluetooth 5.0 and support for AAC (there’s now an app for iOS users) and Samsung’s scalable codec, which is similar to aptX but is proprietary to Samsung Galaxy phones.
Water-resistant: Yes (IPX4 rating — splash-proof). Read our Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus review.
Sony’s WF-1000XM3 earbuds have been out for a while and are probably due for an upgrade in the not-so-distant future. In recent months, we’ve seen them discounted by $50 off their list price and they remain a solid pick at that price. As far as sound quality goes, they’re among the best-sounding wireless earbuds and also feature excellent noise-cancellation technology to reduce ambient noise.
The only drawback is the WF-1000XM3 earbuds aren’t rated as sweat-proof or waterproof headphones. That said, I’ve used them for light workouts with a bit of a sweat at the gym without a problem. They use Bluetooth 5.0 with support for AAC but not aptX.
Water-resistant: No (lacks IPX certification). Read our Sony WF-1000XM3 review.
Best AirPods Pro alternative
Urbanista may be based in Sweden, but it doesn’t have a problem naming its earbuds after other European cities. Its London true-wireless earbuds ($150) look a lot like Apple’s AirPods Pro and have noise canceling with a transparency mode, as well as a sensor that detects when you take the earbuds out of your ears and pauses your music. They sound better than the AirPods Pro, with clean, well-balanced sound and punchy, well-defined bass and nice detail. On top of that, they’re good for making calls, with good noise reduction so people hear you well, even if there’s noise in the background.
Their only downside is that their touch controls are somewhat limited and not quite as easy to use as those of the AirPods Pro. They also sound distinctly different when you have them in ambient (transparency) mode and noise-canceling mode. Battery life is rated at five hours — the same as the AirPods Pro — but that’s not as good as some of the latest true wireless earbuds with noise cancellation. The compact charging case, which charges via USB-C, gives you an additional four charges.
Unlike the AirPods Pro, the Urbanista London earbuds are available in not just one color but four. Currently, on Amazon, the black or white versions are $100, and if clip an instant coupon for 20% off, their price drops to $80.
Water-resistant: Yes (IPX4 rating — sweat-resistant and splash-proof). Read more.
Best wireless earbuds for runners
Jaybird got off to a bumpy start in the world of true wireless — that’s “AirPods-style headphones” — when it released its Jaybird Run wireless workout headphones back in October 2017. That model, updated to the wireless in-ear Jaybird Run XT in early 2019, was well-designed but had some small sound performance issues that held the wireless earbuds back from being great. But its wireless earphones successor, the Jaybird Vista (cue the Windows Vista jokes), includes design, battery life and audio quality performance improvements that make it the product I’d hoped the Jaybird Run would be. This wireless earbud set will appeal to those looking for a more discreet set of totally wireless running headphones that are fully water-resistant. The Vista’s recently been on sale for as low as $100 and is due for an upgrade, so look to get it at a discount.
Water-resistant: Yes (IPX7 — fully waterproof and sweat-proof). Read the Jaybird Vista review.
Excellent for under $40
I thought the Tranya Rimor was a good deal at $30, but now that the T10 is available, I’m recommending it. It looks very similar to that Rimor, but has some improvements that make it an excellent deal at less than $40. It not only has better battery life (it’s rated for eight hours) but better water resistance (IPX7 instead of IPX5), upgraded 12mm graphene drivers and the earbuds support AAC and AptX codecs. The case charges wirelessly and via USB-C.
Like most true-wireless earbuds from Chinese brands that sell through Amazon, these have a pretty generic look and feel, especially the case, and they may not fit all ears equally well — they do stick out a little. But if you get a tight seal they sound quite good, with potent, well-defined bass and good detail (for true wireless). They also work well as a headset for making calls, thanks to decent noise reduction that helps tamp down background noise so people can hear your voice better.
Water-resistant: Yes (IPX7 — fully waterproof and sweat-proof). Read more.
AirPods on steroids
Beats Powerbeats Pro
Yes, the Beats Powerbeats Pro’s jumbo charging case with its built-in battery is a notable drawback. But incorporating all the features that make Apple’s AirPods great while delivering richer sound and better battery life in a design that features ear hooks and won’t fall out of your ear is a winning proposition. Just make sure you buy these Beats Powerbeats earphones somewhere that has a good return policy, in case you’re in the small minority who have ears that aren’t quite a match for them.
They use Bluetooth 5.0 with support for AAC but not aptX.
Water-resistant: Yes (IPX4 rating — splash-proof). Read our Beats Powerbeats Pro review.
Value premium sound
Anker Soundcore Liberty 2 Pro
Anker is better known for its value headphones, but it’s trying to step into more premium territory with its Soundcore Liberty 2 Pro earbuds, which carry a list price of $150. From a design standpoint, these bluetooth earbuds share some similarities with Sony’s WF-1000XM3, though this Anker Soundcore model doesn’t have active noise cancellation. Anker says these truly wireless earbuds have large 11mm drivers combined with Knowles Balanced Armature, with up to 8 hours of battery life on a single charge (32 total hours of playtime with the case) and noise-cancellation microphones to help reduce ambient sound so callers can hear you better. They charge via USB-C and also support wireless charging.
I’m not sure they sound quite as good as the Sony WF-1000XM3, but they certainly sound like premium true wireless earphones, with rich sound that includes powerful bass performance and lots of detail. Some people may have some quibbles over the wireless earphone fit — I had to supply my own XL tips to get a tight seal and found the Anker’s Soundcore Liberty Air 2 a little more comfortable — but the Soundcore Liberty 2 Pro are a good value. They also work very well for making calls (they do a good job reducing background sound).
They use Bluetooth 5.0 with support for AAC and aptX.
Water-resistant: Yes (IPX4 rating — splash-proof). Read more.
Most compact — and top-notch for calls
Apple AirPods (2019)
The second-generation Apple AirPods add a couple of small but key improvements to the original, including always-on voice recognition and a wireless charging case option. They’re also a quality device for making calls, indoors and out.
The base model remains at $159 while the version with the wireless charging case lists for $199. You can often find both models for slightly cheaper online.
Water-resistant: No (lacks IPX certification). Read our Apple AirPods 2019 review.
Master & Dynamic MW07 Plus
The Master & Dynamic MW07 Plus are the second generation of the company’s MW07. This pair of earbuds features greatly increased battery life (10 versus 3.5 hours), Bluetooth 5.0 and active noise cancellation with two microphones on each bud. They may not fit everyone’s ear equally well, but they certainly have a distinct look, as well as very good sound and a great listening experience if you can get a tight seal. These in-ear headphones are known for more of an audiophile sound profile, with smooth, well-balanced sound and well-defined bass.
Available in four color options, for $299, these wireless earbuds include a swanky chrome charging case that comes with a secondary pouch for safekeeping (yes, the case can get scratched up if you leave it in a bag). The case, with its built-in chargeable battery, gives you an additional three charges (it charges via USB-C). These have support for aptX (but not AAC) and have an extended range of more than 20 meters, according to Master & Dynamic.
Water-resistant: Yes (IPX5 rating — withstands sustained spray). Read more.
Credits to David Carnoy