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Best earbuds for iPhone
Ever since Apple removed the headphone jack, finding the best earbuds for your iPhone has been a little tricky. Either you have to deal with a dongle and not be able to charge your phone, or you have to go wireless. Apple wants you to do the latter, but there is still one good wired option. With that in mind, we’re here to help you choose which set of earbuds is right for you.
- This article was updated on December 8, 2023, to ensure the timeliness of the information within.
- If you are thinking of grabbing a pair of AirPods, you may want to hold off because newer models may soon be coming. Read our rumor hubs for the AirPods Max 2, the AirPods Pro 3, and the AirPods 4 for all the info.
- If you can't wait, don't overthink it; most people should get the AirPods Pro (2nd Gen). That said, you can find out how they stack up against several other top-tier products in our long list of VS articles.
Why is the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Gen) the best iPhone earbuds?
With the release of the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Gen), choosing the best earbuds for iPhone users was straightforward. These earbuds seamlessly integrate with any iOS device, giving them a significant edge over competitors. But now, Apple has also launched a USB-C version of the AirPods Pro 2, catering to a broader range of compatibility needs.
Active noise canceling (ANC) is bolstered by Apple’s H2 chip, significantly reducing low frequencies. The new USB-C version ups the ante with an improved durability rating from IPX4 to IP54. It also promises to support ultra-low-latency, lossless audio, making these earbuds perfect for high-quality streaming. Transparency mode has also been enhanced, effectively reducing loud and unexpected external noises like car horns or construction drills.
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The second-gen AirPods Pro comes filled with sensors and new touch controls. These allow you to adjust the volume directly from the earbuds. The USB-C version’s charging case also signals a shift in Apple’s port selection strategy, introducing another level of versatility to the AirPods lineup. Battery life is robust, and the case can be easily located through the Find My app, thanks to the integrated U1 chip and built-in speaker.
Given these features and their smooth integration with the Apple ecosystem, the AirPods Pro (2nd Gen)—in its Lightning and new USB-C versions—is easily the top pick for iPhone users. It also holds its own as one of the best pairs of noise canceling wireless earbuds on the market.
The new AirPods Pro microphone sounds good in ideal conditions but declines in windy or noisy conditions.
Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) microphone demo (Ideal conditions):
Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) microphone demo (Office conditions):
Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) microphone demo (Street conditions):
Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) microphone demo (Windy conditions):
How does the microphone sound to you?
The EarPods (USB-C) is the best budget option for wired listening
Apple’s wired EarPods (USB-C) are an unexpected gem in the tech giant’s shift towards universal connectors. For only $20, these EarPods challenge the notion that good sound and functionality have to come with a high price tag. They’re equipped with an inline remote, providing seamless control over playback and volume, and offer a latency-free experience ideal for real-time audio tasks like video editing and music composing.
Despite their budget-friendly price, these EarPods don’t skimp on microphone quality. Voice recordings during tests yielded impressive results, making these earbuds valuable for anyone involved in frequent online meetings or calls. However, they lack ample noise isolation, so they’re not ideal for noisy environments.
Whether you’re an environmentalist concerned about the waste associated with true wireless earbuds, a professional needing a lag-free audio option, or someone just looking for a reliable, affordable backup, these EarPods offer substantial bang for your buck.
Hush your surroundings with the Sony WF-1000XM5
Sony thought the WF-1000XM5 through. The set of differently-sized foam ear tips brings excellent noise isolation, significantly improving the noise canceling performance and sound quality. The ANC is among the best available in wireless earbuds, so if top-notch noise canceling is your main criterion, you can’t pass up the Sony WF-1000XM5. Low frequencies are nearly one-eighth as loud with ANC on compared to not wearing earbuds at all.
The WF-1000XM5 has a fine frequency response with under-emphasized treble notes. While you might want to adjust the equalizer settings if you’re not keen on the loud bass levels, Sony’s Headphones Connect app (iOS/Android) makes that a breeze. Tidal, Deezer, and Amazon Music Unlimited users will enjoy surround sound with Sony’s 360 Reality Audio format.
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The Sony WF-1000XM5 is a great pair of earbuds for everyday use. Its nearly 8-hour battery life will get you through almost an entire workday of nonstop listening, and the USB-C charging case can top you up two more times and some. You can even recharge the case wirelessly if you own a Qi power mat.
If you love taking your earbuds out and about for commuting, the Sony WF-1000XM5 won’t disappoint you. The IPX4 water resistance rating means you won’t have to worry when you get into a light rain, and wearing the Sony WF-1000XM5 while working out is no problem, either.
The microphone is decent, and the speech detection feature improves call quality further.
Sony WF-1000XM4 microphone demo (Ideal conditions):
Sony WF-1000XM4 microphone demo (Office conditions):
Sony WF-1000XM4 microphone demo (Windy conditions):
How does the microphone sound to you?
The Beats Fit Pro is a great pair of workout earbuds for Android and iPhone owners
The Beats Fit Pro is a great set of earbuds for listeners who want all the perks of the AirPods Pro with the athlete-focused design of the Beats Powerbeats Pro. Like the AirPods Pro, the Beats Fit Pro features active noise cancelation and full integration with iOS thanks to the H1 chip, and it even supports personalized spatial audio with head tracking.
Though it shares the same “b” logo as the Powerbeats Pro, the Beats Fit Pro is a more versatile set of earbuds as it works just as well on Android as it does on an iPhone (save for Spatial Audio). Listeners can download the Google Play Store’s Beats app to toggle listening modes, adjust the controls, and more.
The Beats Fit Pro has very good active noise canceling comparable to the AirPods Pro (2nd generation). This requires you to find a good fit with the three sizes of ear tips, which should be straightforward with the app’s ear tip fit test. We appreciate workout earbuds with noise canceling because ANC helps block out noises like droning treadmills, dropped weights, and other unpleasant background noise. Just enable transparency mode when you want to hear what’s around you.
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You get a fairly bass-heavy sound on the Fit Pro, and to EQ it, you’ll need to mess around with your streaming service’s EQ settings. Alternatively, we recommend tinkerers download an EQ app for greater customization.
While the Beats Fit Pro case is smaller than the comically large case you get with the Powerbeats Pro, it’s still large compared to products like the Jabra Elite 5 and Google Pixel Buds Pro. We appreciate that the Fit Pro case charges via USB-C rather than Apple’s proprietary Lightning input. You don’t get wireless charging here; for that, you’ll need one of Apple’s AirPods.
Using the Beats Fit Pro to take calls from a quiet environment yields accurate vocal reproduction. Like the AirPods Pro series, the microphones don’t do well in windy conditions.
Beats Fit Pro microphone demo (Ideal conditions):
Beats Fit Pro microphone demo (Office conditions):
Beats Fit Pro microphone demo (Windy conditions):
How does the microphone sound to you?
Music fans should try the Sennheiser CX Plus True Wireless
For the person who wants everything without paying through the nose, the Sennheiser CX Plus True Wireless cuts through the competition at under $200 (and, honestly, closer to $100). You get most of the fixings, including a good frequency response out of the box. The dedicated app supplies users with EQ to tinker if it’s not your preferred sound.
The battery lasts 5 hours and 44 minutes with ANC activated. You don’t get some of the fancier features like wireless charging, but it’s certainly current with a USB-C charger and two additional charges in the case. The noise canceling won’t beat out the Sony WF-1000XM4, but it still performs reasonably well for the budget-friendly price from one of the giants in audio. Sometimes you don’t need “the best,” and very good will do.
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Like the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation), the CX Plus True Wireless comes with an IPX4 certification against sweat so that you can exercise with it. However, the 2nd generation AirPods Pro also has protection for the case, which the CX Plus True Wireless doesn’t ensure. The transparency mode means you can stay aware, whether on your outdoor jaunt or at the store if someone asks you a question. With Bluetooth 5.2, you know you’re getting the optimal connection with your iPhone over AAC. It’s an all-around competitor in providing great sound from the frequency response and optional EQ to the ANC to block out external noise. For a more premium experience, grab the Sennheiser MOMENTUM True Wireless 3.
The CX Plus True Wireless microphone array does a fine job of transmitting someone’s voice but struggles with low-end sound and background noise.
Sennheiser CX Plus True Wireless microphone demo (Non-Standardized):
How does the microphone sound to you?
Hold up! Something’s different:
Some of our picks’ frequency response and isolation charts were measured with our old testing system. The same is true of our microphone charts and samples. We have since purchased a Bruel & Kjaer 5128 test fixture (and the appropriate support equipment) to update our testing and data collection. It will take a while to update our backlog of old test results, but we will update this article (and many others!) once we’re able with improved sound quality measurements and isolation performance plots. These will be made obvious with our new chart aesthetic (black background instead of white).
Thank you for bearing with us, and we hope to see you again once we’ve sorted everything out.
The Beats Powerbeats Pro has the best battery life of any iPhone earbuds
If you like the idea of seamless integration with your iPhone but want a more secure fit when exercising, you should look into the Apple Beats Powerbeats Pro. The buds sport an ear hook design and nozzles that insert into the ear canal. This improves sound quality and stability. Oh, and the battery life is among the best we’ve tested.
Battery life comes in at an insane 10 hours, 48 minutes before the earbuds need to be recharged, and even that’s a snappy process: 5 minutes of charging yields 90 minutes of playback. Like AirPods Pro, battery life clocks in at more than 24 hours of listening.
AAC support and H1 chip integration ensure lag-free audio streaming. The updated chip allows hands-free Siri access, just like the new AirPods. The earphones have an IPX4 rating and can get through even your hardest workouts.
The Powerbeats Pro is loaded with sensors to streamline operation. Removing the buds from your ears automatically pauses playback, and accelerometers detect when you’re speaking to guide the microphone in a loud environment. There’s also a button and volume rocker on each earbud, too. If you’re a sporty iPhone owner, get the Powerbeats Pro.
The Powerbeats Pro microphone system is surprisingly good in ideal circumstances, and its flaws won’t completely tarnish how your voice sounds. Listen to our samples below, and let us know your thoughts!
Beats Powerbeats Pro microphone demo (Ideal conditions):
Beats Powerbeats Pro microphone demo (Office conditions):
Beats Powerbeats Pro microphone demo (Windy conditions):
How do these sound to you?
Should you get the Bose QuietComfort Ultra earbuds?
If you find the typical cylindrical nozzle of earbuds uncomfortable, the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds, as the name suggests, offer a more comfortable alternative design. They may be chunky, but they feature an egg-shaped nozzle that sits more firmly in your ears, and the sliding touch controls are more intuitive and avoid tapping gestures that can tend to push earbuds deeper into sensitive ear canals.
However, If you use an iPhone, I’ll still recommend the AirPods Pro over this set of earbuds due to their lower cost, better sound, and iOS-oriented features. Though it’s frustrating that the phone wars bleed over into audio, Apple is playing defense big time here, which means tending its walled garden. For iOS users, there aren’t many audio products that can touch the AirPods in terms of features.
Ready to spend big? Get the Apple AirPods Max noise canceling headphones
The Apple AirPods Max is the company’s debut over-ear noise canceling headphones, and Apple is confident you’ll want to buy it. So confident, in fact, that it costs $424.99 at Amazon. While this is certainly cost-prohibitive for many shoppers, those locked into the Apple ecosystem may find the H1 chip conveniences justify the high price. This hybrid noise canceling system outperforms the Sony WH-1000XM4 and Bose QuietComfort 45, Apple’s main competitors in the ANC headphones space.
You also get features like Adaptive EQ and spatial audio with head tracking. The former is a technology we’ve seen from the Apple AirPods Pro, and it makes real-time adjustments to the sound profile depending on how well the headset fits. On the other hand, Spatial Audio is Apple’s take on surround sound and supports 5.1, 7.1, and Dolby Atmos content, which is great for movie playback.
The cost is hard to swallow, but if you want noise canceling headphones that operate seamlessly with your Apple devices, perhaps the AirPods Max is worth the purchase.
Keep it anonymous with the Sony LinkBuds S
Sometimes, the right choice is the most discreet. Enter the Sony LinkBuds S, with its visually anonymous design and good sound and features. These Sony buds have effective ANC capabilities and a battery life of 5 hours 41 minutes. The touchpad follows the similarly good functionality of other Sony products.
Use the LinkBuds S with the Sony Headphones app to access a suite of EQ options, ANC adjustments, and other luxuries. It’s not “the best” Sony earbuds (that title goes to the WF-1000XM5), but it might be the best for you and your iPhone.
The best iPhone earbuds: Notable mentions
- Amazon Echo Buds (2nd gen) ($119 at Amazon): With these earphones, you gain an in-ear digital assistant, but with ANC, IPX4 rating, and a battery of Alexa app features, these earbuds also happen to be quite affordable for what they offer.
- Anker Soundcore Space A40 ($79 at Amazon): This relatively inexpensive set of earbuds offers excellent noise canceling, a pretty good sound, and the AAC codec you’ll need.
- Apple AirPods Pro (1st Gen) (on the product’s website): The first-gen AirPods Pro shares many of the same features as the second-gen. You get noise canceling, Adaptive EQ, seamless device switching across Apple devices, and more. It uses the H1 chip rather than the latest H2.
- Apple AirPods (3rd Gen) ($195 at Amazon): It has come a long way since the first model back in 2017. The fit is still loose with basically no isolation, but sound quality has improved, and you now get spatial audio and a suite of other features. We still recommend the AirPods Pro over the AirPods (3rd gen), but at least this unsealed headset has an IPX4 rating.
- Beats Studio Buds ($99 at Amazon): Apple packed great sound quality into these great-fitting and compact earbuds. The Beats Studio Buds also support quick pairing with Android devices and charge via USB-C. The downside is that you don’t get any H1 chip with it, and the ANC is not very impressive.
- Beats Studio Buds Plus ($169 at Amazon): The updated version of the original Beats Studio Buds now has much-improved noise canceling. These lack the H1 and H2 chip and an equalizer, but they sound decent for the price.
- Bose Sport Earbuds ($165 at Amazon): This is one of the latest wireless earbuds Bose has to offer, featuring a sleek design, IPX4 water-resistant build, and intuitive touch controls.
- Denon AH-C830NCW (£139 at Amazon Site): This set of noise canceling earbuds connects over AAC, which suits iPhone users just fine, and it looks the part with long stems reminiscent of the AirPods Pro. It comes in black too.
- Grell Audio TWS 1 ($216.81 at Amazon): Designed by former Sennheiser engineer Axel Grell, these buds have a great frequency response and a ton of features, including SoundID and noise cancelation.
- Jabra Elite 7 Active ($179 at Amazon): Jabra ups the game with this one aimed at the fitness crowd. It supplies a very nice frequency response, grippier ear tips, and a robust IP57 rating. Jabra also ships with a no-fuss replacement warranty, which, if you’re going to test the Elite 7 Active IP rating, it’s nice to have.
- LG TONE Free FP9 ($103 at Amazon): When these initially came out, they were kind of expensive for what they do. Now that the price has decreased, they’re a good deal with pretty decent ANC and a familiar, lightweight AirPods-style shape.
- Nothing Ear 1 ($99 at Amazon): This set of wireless earbuds includes premium features like a wireless charging case, IPX4-rated earphones, ANC, and transparency modes, and more. We like the stemmed design and combination of tap/swipe controls. It compares decently well to the AirPods Pro (1st generation).
- Nothing Ear 2 ($149 at Amazon): Besides a more trebly default frequency response, Ear (2) bests the previous Ear 1 in every way. You get better ANC, a smaller package, IP54-rated buds, and squeezable stems.
- Sennheiser Sport True Wireless ($99 at Amazon): For the active folks out there who want a set of good-sounding and reliable earbuds without noise canceling. These compact earbuds offer an IP54 rating with secure in-ear wings in a compact package.
- Skullcandy Mod XT ($48 at Amazon): If you’re searching for some more affordable earbuds to mate with your iPhone, the Skullcandy Mod XT is hard to beat. Its sound has a lower end than our ideal, but not by a lot. It also isolates rather well, even if it lacks ANC. It does all of the basic stuff fairly well at this price point.
- Sony LinkBuds WF-L900 ($178 at Amazon): If you must have earbuds that don’t seal to your ears, check out the LinkBuds. Sony’s donut-shaped earphones leave your ear canals completely unoccluded, so you can enjoy music while hearing your surroundings.
- Sony WF-C500 ($98 at Amazon): For people who just want good-sounding, functionally effortless earbuds, the WF-C500 is a great all-around choice.
What you should know about the best Apple earbuds
There are a few things to pay attention to when picking out the best iPhone earbuds. It is not rocket science, but minimal attention to detail gets you a long way with your iOS audio headset.
What is Apple Spatial Audio?
Not all Apple earbuds and headphones support Apple Spatial Audio, which offers surround sound to specifically mixed tracks on Apple Music and Amazon Music Unlimited. Spatial audio is similar to Sony 360 Reality Audio and Samsung 360 Audio, all of which essentially cast each sound as an object that can move 360 degrees around your head. When paired with an iOS device, Apple’s technology can track your head movement and adjust the sound accordingly, making for a more realistic experience.
What Bluetooth codec matters most with iPhones?
Although there are plenty of Bluetooth codecs supported by a variety of devices, the only one you need to care about regarding the best iPhone earbuds is the AAC codec. Apple doesn’t support aptX or LDAC, so AAC is your only option. And while AAC isn’t CD quality, it performs best with Apple devices. It’s rare to find earbuds that don’t support AAC, but double-check.
As Apple is Apple and loves proprietary hardware and software, the AAC codec is the only one compatible with the company’s products. If you’re looking at headphones that support aptX, aptX HD, or LDAC, that’s all well and good but it won’t be much help in your quest to find the best iPhone earbuds.
How much does battery life matter with iPhone earbuds?
Music lovers: how long do you listen to your headphones each day?— Android Authority (@AndroidAuth) August 7, 2018
How should your iPhone earbuds sound?
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We here at SoundGuys can type until our fingers go numb about the importance of neutral frequency response, but that isn’t what’s most pleasing to everyone. If you want to hear the audio as the audio engineers intended, you should use studio headphones because those products will have the closest thing to a platonic, “flat” response. But most of us want our headphones to be fun and reproduce an “energetic” sound, not necessarily analytical. Our preference curve has the best of both worlds for most listeners.
When deciding on the best Apple earbuds, the importance of slightly emphasized low-end and treble was taken into account as the former denotes “liveliness,” while the latter facilitates a perceived increase in clarity; to get a better picture of this, read up on the equal-loudness contour.
How we test the best iPhone earbuds
We subject each candidate and pick to our battery of objective testing, which includes isolation, frequency response, and battery life. We respect that listening is a subjective experience while acknowledging that sound can be measured and discussed objectively simultaneously.
Yes, our trio of tests are fundamental, but they analyze what consumers care about the most as it applies to the best iPhone earbuds and wireless earbuds in general. Regarding battery life readouts, your mileage will likely vary depending on how loudly you listen to your music. To combat this variance, we subject each unit to constant music playback that peaks at 75dB(SPL). Additionally, in most cases, you can improve isolation by using third-party ear tips.
Why you can trust SoundGuys
Working at SoundGuys serves as each of our day jobs; yes, it is a dream. We get paid to listen and test as many products as possible while constantly researching, so our opinions aren’t influenced by the companies manufacturing them. If we don’t like something, we say it. Simple as that. Additionally, each of us has several years involved in the audio community. After keeping up with the audio industry for years, we can quickly tell the gimmicks from the goldmines. If you have the time or desire, please read our full ethics policy.
Frequently asked questions about iPhone earbuds
The best Apple wireless earphone is the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation). Its seamless integration with iOS devices, improved active noise canceling (ANC) due to the new H2 chip, enhanced transparency mode, and numerous sensors make it a top choice for iPhone users.
The Beats Powerbeats Pro offer additional features over the standard (discontinued) Beats Powerbeats, including a prolonged battery life, true-wireless design, and an IPX4 water resistance rating. This expanded feature set does come at a cost, putting both earbuds in two different price brackets. We’ve directly compared the Beats Powerbeats Pro and Beats Powerbeats, so you don’t have to guess.
The AirPods Pro offers additional features over its non-pro counterpart, such as active noise canceling and interchangeable ear tips. We have compared the AirPods Pro (1st generation) and AirPods Pro (2nd generation).
Yes, any of the listed wireless products are also compatible with Android and any Bluetooth-enabled device. We selected our picks as the best iPhone earbuds because they have iOS-friendly features like AAC support or, in the case of the AirPods Pro, H1 chip integration.
Generally speaking, we’d still recommend the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation), because if your music is already mixed to sound bass-heavy, the AirPods Pro (2nd generation) frequency response will relay that to your ears. Plus, it simply works well with iPhones. On the other hand, if you mean that you like to listen to even more bass volume than is already present on any track, you might like the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II, which drastically boosts bass frequency volumes while offering excellent noise cancelation and an easy to use design.
Before purchasing new earbuds, try running through some troubleshooting with your AirPods. For example, factory resetting or deleting all other devices except your iPhone could solve your disconnection issue. Either way, we feel your pain; Bluetooth connectivity can frustrate even the most patient people. In our testing, we did not run into connection problems, but there are also a lot of uncontrollable variables at play, even when comparing the same earbuds. If you’ve exhausted the troubleshooting, contact Apple customer support and try the Sony WF-1000XM4 or Sennheiser MOMENTUM True Wireless 3 earbuds. Both are pretty solid performers.
We gave the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) a score of 7.9. They are considered one of the best true wireless earbuds for iOS users due to their impressive ANC, comfortable fit, wireless charging, and the integration of the H2 chip, which offers better noise canceling and battery life.
Yes, you can use any Bluetooth earbuds with an iPhone 13, such as the Sony WF-1000XM5 or the Bose QuietComfort II. However, for the best experience, it’s recommended to use earbuds that support the AAC codec, as this is the primary codec supported by Apple devices.