The search for the best true wireless earbuds gets more challenging with every passing month. The category used to begin and end with Apple’s iconic AirPods, the best-seller in the category. These days, however, several rivals now offer superior audio quality, performance, and battery life — not to mention compatibility with technology outside Apple’s device ecosystem. And with even more contenders on the way, the market for truly wireless earbuds is getting seriously competitive.
The best wireless earbuds can pack top-tier sound quality into a pair of headphones that could fit in your pocket — several times over. Many of them can go toe-to-toe with the best over-ear headphones on sonic richness, which are much more portable and capable of recharging on the go.
Going small doesn’t mean you have to give up on useful features either. From powerful active noise cancellation (ANC) to cool tricks like spatial audio, not to mention practical benefits like waterproofing, pick the right set of buds and you really can have it all. Without further ado, here are the best wireless earbuds right now.
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds
It took Bose quite a while to get them into stores, but the new $279 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.
Jabra Elite Active 75t
The market’s best wireless earbuds (and best sports headphones) just got better, thanks to a free over-the-air ANC update that adds active noise cancellation into the mix. Don’t think that you’re going to get Bose-caliber results, or anything close to what the more premium Elite 85t delivers, but Jabra did do an impressive job tweaking its algorithm to block out a good amount of external sounds.
Even before the inclusion of ANC, the Elite Active 75t proved itself as the model to beat, offering better battery life, durability, sound, and special features than its biggest threat: the AirPods Pro. The design remains sleek, though it is sturdier this time around, with IP57 certification granting waterproof protection and dust and sweat resistance. Sound is lively and can be customized through the Jabra Sound+ app, which is loaded with presets and other cool features that enhance both sound and call quality.
Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro
The Galaxy Buds Plus fits really well and has become one of the better true-wireless values, sometimes selling for less than $100 online. And the Galaxy Buds Live, also discounted a bit since their original debut, features a discreet and innovative “open” design. Now the $200 Galaxy Buds Pro — Samsung’s long-awaited active noise-canceling model — has arrived with upgraded sound and high expectations.
The Buds Pro are mostly impressive, although just how good you think they are will ultimately depend on how well they fit your ears. The other caveat is that Samsung’s new 360 Audio virtual surround feature (similar to Apple’s spatial audio) only works with Samsung’s latest Galaxy S21 models. I do expect that over time firmware upgrades will offer small improvement and we’ll see some discounts sooner rather than later.
Apple AirPods Pro
It’s pretty amazing how Apple continues to enhance the performance of its noise-canceling earbuds through software updates, and if it keeps up the good work, then the AirPods Pro could climb its way back to the top of our best wireless earbuds list. Spatial audio is an incredible addition that creates a 3D-like soundscape to enjoy movies and video games a whole lot better. Even simple, but practical, inclusions like auto-switching make a noticeable difference with functionality, allowing users to easily switch between iDevices that are connected to the same iCloud account.
The great news is that without the latest iOS 14 updates, the AirPods Pro still operate at a top-tier level, thanks to the improved sound, strong ANC, a more ergonomic design for better comfort and fit, and all of the perks that come with the H1 chip. If there is any complaint to be made, it’s the same one every Apple fan has voiced since the first-gen AirPods hit the market, that being the subpar battery life.
Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2
The second-generation Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 isn’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 has the same great sound — for truly wireless earbuds, anyway — offering clearly superior sound quality to the AirPods Pro.
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).
Jabra Elite 85t
Next on the list is a sonic beast equipped with 12mm drivers that produce loud, well-balanced audio and some of the finest noise neutralization we’ve heard in the category. Jabra’s ANC technology is capable of blocking out 90% of external sounds, allowing for disruption-free listening and audible calls. The Elite 85t connects to the Sound+ app to extend functionality, offering up a plethora of special features that range from adjustable noise cancellation to customizable controls. Connectivity is stable too, thanks to Bluetooth 5.0 and Qualcomm’s fast-operating processor.
We feel Jabra could have done more to increase playtimes, as the Elite 85t falls right in between the AirPods Pro (4.5 hours) and Bose QuietComfort Earbuds (6 hours). However, the buds have terrific battery management that squeezes every minute out of the battery. The inclusion of wireless charging is appreciated as well.
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 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.
Sennheiser CX 400BT
The Sennheiser CX 400BT is essentially the cheaper, non-noise-canceling version of the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2. The lack of ANC is felt, especially as this is not a particularly cheap pair of earbuds, but you do get the same rich, perfectly balanced sound quality of their much more expensive cousins.
The CX 400BT is finely crafted and comfortable to wear for hours at a time. Yes, if you want ANC (or waterproofing) you should keep looking, but for casual use, you’ll struggle to find anything with such excellent sound right out of the box. There are lots of other features to play with too, like customizable touch controls and the ability to quickly switch between up to 8 source devices at once.
Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2
What the Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro lack in looks, they make up for elsewhere. For a relatively affordable $130, you get active noise cancellation and transparency modes that can compete with earbuds costing twice as much, and if you make use of the intelligent sound personalization feature, general audio quality is good too.
IPX4 water resistance also makes these a sweatproof candidate for workouts, though while the fit is secure, it can tire your ears out after a couple of hours. Still, for quality ANC at such a low price, not everything is going to be perfect.
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.
The sound is detailed and smooth, with deep, well-defined bass. It’s also richer and more spacious than 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.
Boasting an estimated six hours of battery life (with ANC on) and a stylish, elegant design, the Sony WF-1000XM3 richly deserve a spot on our best wireless earbuds list. They successfully combine great audio quality with impressive noise cancellation. Deep, rich bass and tonal balance give the buds an edge over the competition.
The Sony WF-1000XM3 is built specifically for casual listening, not fitness since the casing doesn’t support water-resistant protection. Still, the earbuds are incredibly comfortable, with each bud weighing practically nothing at 0.3 ounces. While the tap gestures don’t operate as well as they do on AirPods, Sony does offer a great free app. Listeners have the option to play with the built-in EQ and create their own sound profile or choose from nine different presets as well as adjust the ambient sound levels. And what’s this about the WF-1000XM3 supporting aptX HD? Well, there’s a rumor floating around that these buds might receive an update for wireless streaming on Hi-Res Audio codecs, which would definitely increase their value in the category.
Google Pixel Buds 2
Google’s Pixel Buds 2 are worthy contenders in the premium true wireless earbuds arena, particularly for Android phones. These Bluetooth earbuds feature 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.
The Earin A-3 is more of a flawed gem than the other wireless earbuds on this list; they run out of battery quickly, for instance, and are expensive for a pair without ANC. And yet they’re also the kind you’ll be happy to keep wearing: each bud is preposterously small and light, so comfort is high, and the 14.3mm driver pump out some great sound.
These are some pretty smart earbuds, too. The design allows you to put either bud in either ear, and they’ll automatically assign themselves the correct left or right audio channel. Integrated force-sensing accelerometers also let you perform tap gestures much more easily than if you were relying solely on a small touch-sensitive panel.
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 retail price for the base Apple AirPod model is $159 while the version with the wireless charging case lists for $199, but you can find both models for considerably less online.
With so many wireless earbud options to choose from, you may find it difficult to settle on one. There are several factors to weigh, and which one is most important depends on personal preference.
A factor worth considering is fit. How comfortable is the earbud in your ear? Do the earbuds come with different-sized tips so you can adjust them to your ear? The fit of wireless earbuds becomes even more crucial if you want to use them while working out. And if that’s the case, water and sweat resistance is another factor to consider.
Battery life is also key in choosing the best wireless earbuds. Check out the rated battery life and whether any carrying case comes with the earbuds to provide additional power. Then there’s the sound quality of both music and phone calls, which you can determine from reviews by professional testers and people who’ve bought the earbuds.
And of course, price is a big consideration. If you can splurge, you have a wider array of choices. But if you need to be budget-conscious, you may want to go with lower-priced brands or with older generations of wireless earbuds.
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