Despite how you may feel about Bluetooth, the best wireless earbuds are here to stay. As much as we recommend having a wired pair of earbuds, it’s getting harder and harder to do without a dongle. Some of the most popular phones in the world have removed the headphone jack in favor or wireless headphones, including the Apple iPhone, Google Pixel phones, and even the OnePlus 6T.
One pair of headphones that goes hand-in-hand with this moment in time is the AirPods, Apple’s take on truly wireless earbuds, but if you don’t want to scrape by with dubious connectivity, keep reading to learn about the best wireless earbuds available.
Editor’s note: This list was updated on November 6th, 2018, to include new top picks and reflect pricing changes.
Related: Best true wireless earbuds
The best wireless earbuds are the Sennheiser HD1 In-Ear
Sennheiser is a name you can trust when it comes to audio. The company has some of the best, most-expensive headphones in the world in their lineup (and that’s not an exaggeration). Luckily, the HD1 In-Ear isn’t going to break your wallet, but you wouldn’t be able to tell that by the build materials. These have the two earbuds attached to a neckband (neckbuds?), but the band is wrapped in a premium sheepskin leather that’s soft to the touch and accented with red stitching. All of the controls are along the inside of the neckband and easy to use, and they’re fairly comfortable to wear for long periods of time. Although it’s worth mentioning that the leather does stick to the neck like car seats.
Sennheiser HD1 In-EarFull Review
But the main two reasons why these are easy to recommend is because of their battery life and their sound. You’ll get 10 hours of constant playback out of these, which is enough to last a few days of commuting or even a long plane ride. Then there’s the codec support. You’ll get AAC and aptX compatibility which we think should be the minimum requirements for all headphones. Neither is the best codec available (keep an eye out for the upcoming aptX adaptive), but they’re leaps better than the standard SBC codec that all wireless earbuds default to. If none of that made sense to you, don’t worry we explain it all a little further down in the article.
Who are the best wireless earbuds for?
The HD1 is for the person who always listens to music on her commute and occasionally takes a call or two. The smart design won’t look out of place in a classroom or a corporate environment, and you can just leave them around your neck as you go about your day. You’ll get discreet playback controls along the inside of the neckband, which let you skip between tracks, pause or play music, and answer phone calls without getting in the way of minimal design.
Long-lasting earbuds for the professional commuter
If you’re looking to buy a pair of wireless earbuds that will last you, these are the way to go. There’s always cheaper Bluetooth options out there, but the experience you get is usually reflected in the price you pay. Though the HD1 sounds better than most, it’s still Bluetooth. So anyone looking for audiophile quality will probably have to lower their standards a bit.
Stable connectivity and noise cancelling is provided by the Plantronics Voyager 6200 UC
If you self-identify as a corporate desk jockey, there’s a good chance that your employer has outfitted each cubicle with a Plantronics Bluetooth headset. Familiarity tends to breed one of two things either 1) contempt or 2) credibility. In the case of the Plantronics Voyager 6200 UC, it’s the latter. There’s a reason that the Plantronics brand is so salient in professional settings: the company’s products are reliable and they work—hence why they deserve to be recognized as one of the best pairs of Bluetooth earbuds on the market.
Plantronics Voyager 6200 UCFull Review
The Voyager 6200 UC earbuds allow for the simultaneous connecting of two devices due to multipoint technology. Additionally, you can pair up to eight devices, which may sound like overkill but we’re inundated with Bluetooth gadgetry and can easily run up a log of eight Bluetooth-enabled devices in an office setting. What’s more, Class 1 Bluetooth permits 30 meters of connectivity—three times the average wireless earbud range. While testing, I never experienced a dropped connection, pops, or hisses.
Class 1 Bluetooth gives these a 30-meter connectivity range. If cogent connectivity is your top priority, these need to be on the top of your list.
Connectivity aside, these wireless earbuds are decked out with—count them—four microphones for optimal voice transmission. Though, full disclosure, the omnidirectional mic setup is nearly impossible to differentiate between the dual-mic system found on the Bose Soundlink On-Ear Wireless. Though the mic quality falls short of high expectations, the active noise canceling noticeably improves the earbuds’ sound quality. There are still more features included with the Plantronics Voyager 6200 UC; to get a more comprehensive look, make sure to read the full review.
If you’re looking for the best wireless earbuds for the gym, get Jaybird’s Tarah
If the only reason you want wireless earbuds is for the gym, you’re not alone. While the Jaybird X4 was just released and is a great option for gym rats, that wasn’t the only pair of earbuds the company released. A few weeks after the X4 Jaybird also announced the Tarah earbuds, and these are the ‘buds to beat if you’re going to be exercising. They offer most of what the X4 offers, but with the added benefit of being $30 cheaper. The Tarah features the same IPX7 certification, more or less the same sound quality—which can be adjusted via the Jaybird app—and has a more rounded design.
Jaybird TarahFull Review
Of course, there were some corners cut to drop the price but there are only two that are worth mentioning. One is that instead of an eight battery life, the Jaybird Tarah allows for just six hours of playback. It’s not much of a problem for the average person, though, unless your workouts last a ridiculously long time. The other difference is that the Tarah doesn’t come with a plethora of ear tips and wing tips. Instead, it provides three all-in-one ear tips. Still, for under $100 we think that’s a fair trade. Especially considering that these are workout earbuds meant to take a beating, so the less money you spend on them the better.
BeatsX are the best wireless earbuds for iPhones?
Since Apple acquired Beats, the Beats lineup has been decked out with Apple-compatible features like the integrated W1 chip and AAC support. If you’re not a fan of true wireless earbuds but use an iPhone, this is the best option.
The BeatsX offers the same level of compatibility as Apple-made earbuds, and cost significantly less. What’s more, they feature a minimal design that aligns with Apple’s design language. The neckband provides plenty of flex, yet remains sturdy.
Arguably the biggest downside to these earbuds is the poor battery life. According to our objective testing, we only got 5.45 hours of playback before needing to charge the earbuds back up. To make up for this, though, the BeatsX supports Fast Fuel charging; it only takes five minutes to get two hours of playback on low battery.
The Creative Outlier One provides the best value
Sometimes we don’t need the best of the best, we need the best value that we can find. Well, as far as the best Bluetooth earbuds are concerned, the Creative Outlier One is the best bang-for-your-buck that you can get without sacrificing too sound or build quality.
Creative Outlier OneFull Review
These wireless earbuds are IPX4-certified, and if you have yet to catch our full feature on IP ratings, that means that they can withstand omnidirectional splashes, making them fully sweat-resistant. And though these are wireless, they’re not true wireless—so you’re going to have to put up with the cable that runs from the left earbud to the right. Thankfully, Creative elected to use a flat, tangle-resistant cable. Cheap earbud veterans know that a flat cable goes a long way in extending the life of a given product.
|IPX1||✓||Dripping water (1 mm/min)
Limit: vertical drips only
|IPX2||✓||Dripping water (3 mm/min)
Limit: Device max tilt of 15° from drips
Limit: Device max tilt of 60° from sprays
|IPX5||✓||Water jets (12.5 L/min)
Example: Squirt guns
|IPX6||✓||Strong water jets (100 L/min)
Example: Powerful water guns
Limit: 1 m. for 30 min
Limit: 3 m. for 30 min
Not only are they durable, but the Creative Outlier One also has excellent battery life. While Adam was testing them, he was able to achieve 9 hours of playback time with the volume levels set to 80 percent. Unless you’re looking to blow out your eardrums, you’re best off limiting volume to 50 percent, which will likely extend your battery life to the full 9.5 hours. On a related note, because the Outlier One is able to effectively isolate noise, you shouldn’t find yourself compelled to crank up the volume to drown out your surroundings since the hardware is intelligently designed to do so.
Related: Best wireless headphones for running
How we picked the best wireless earbuds
Choosing which product is best changes depending on what the category is. If you’re searching for the best headphones, we might focus more of our efforts on sound quality instead of cool extra features. On the flip side, if you’re looking for the best waterproof speakers, chances are we’re going to prioritize a strong, durable build over something like sound quality.
For this particular list, there are a few things that take priority. Top priority? Comfort. Plenty of us rely on a favorite pair of cheap earbuds that can be rolled up and thrown into a pocket. Not only do our picks have to be comfortable, but they also have to be convenient and comfortable when you’re not using them, too. You’ll find plenty a few neckbuds on this list for that reason: when you’re done listening to music, you can just keep them around your neck.
The second priority for this list is sound quality. It would’ve been first, but if the headphones hurt when you wear them, who cares if they sound good? So we made sure to find headphones that on top of being comfortable, have a sound that wouldn’t make you want to throw them in the garbage. That is admittedly difficult to do, considering that Bluetooth inherently has some limitations, but even still, we feel confident that our picks are the exceptions to that rule.
— Sound Guys (@realsoundguys) October 9, 2017
The third feature we focused on was one that you all voted on in a recent Twitter poll. If you didn’t get to voice your opinion make sure to follow us on Twitter so you don’t miss out next time! But the feature that most people care about after comfort and sound quality is battery life, which makes sense considering that a dead battery means no music.
- Jaybird X4: This was on this list for one short-lived month, because then the Jaybird Tarah came out which offers most of the same features but costs $30 less. Still, the Jaybird X4 earbuds are a great option for anyone hitting the gym. Full review
- Google Pixel Buds: These earbuds place more of an emphasis on the Google Assistant functionality. Full review
- LG Tone Platinum: LG was one of the first companies out of the gate with Bluetooth earbuds featuring the “neckbud” design, and the Tone Platinum is one of the better pairs the company has released. Full review
- Bose QuietControl 30: If you want active noise cancelling from your wireless earbuds, the Bose QuietControl 30 earbuds are one of the best you can get. If it wasn’t for the high price and subpar sound, it would have made this list. Full review
- Nuforce Optoma Be Live5: For daily use, these earbuds can handle nearly any situation. Being less than $100 makes the BeLive5 one of the better deals available. Full review
- V-Moda Forza Metallo Wireless: The Forza Metallo Wireless was previously on this list for best design mainly because you can buy fashionable accessories to add to it, but it might cost a little too much for most people. Full review
- Shure SE215-CL-BT1 Wireless: The Shure SE215 wireless earbuds are arguably one of the best in-ears around, and the wireless option is just as reliable.
- RHA MA390 Wireless: If you need aptX support in a neckband earbud package, the IPX4 RHA MA390 has you covered ear to ear.
What you should know
- When picking Bluetooth headphones or thee best wireless earbuds, you should keep an eye out for high-quality codecs. Despite the fact that AAC is really only useful on iPhones and LDAC isn’t hi-res, aptX is still fairly reliable. That said, if you don’t want to shell out some extra cash for high-quality compatibility, your ears are likely too old to discern any major differences anyway.
- Regardless of what Bluetooth codec you’re using, isolation is imperative for good audio quality. If your earbuds can’t seal to your ear, then auditory masking will degrade sound quality.
- Some astroturf organizations are pushing the false assertion that Bluetooth is dangerous when, in reality, it’s fine and won’t melt your brain.
Why you should trust us
In the four years Adam has worked at SoundGuys, he’s had hands-on (or ears-on) experience with too many products to count. So anything that he recommends is something that stood out from the pack. Similarly, Lily has been reviewing audio products even before she joined SoundGuys, and Chris has years of experience testing products objectively to come up with fool-proof data. But we never forget that these products are for you to enjoy as much as Chris in a hot tub. So if a product made our list, it usually means they’re great.
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