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Best iPhone earbuds
Ever since the removal of the headphone jack, finding the best iPhone earbuds 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 obviously wants you to do the latter, and with that in mind, we figured we’d help you out a bit when it comes to choosing which pair is right for you. If you want the best iPhone earbuds then don’t overthink it, most people should just get the AirPods Pro.
Editor’s note: the article was updated on March 5, 2022, to add the Sennheiser CX Plus True Wireless to the Best list, add a section on the Denon AH-C830NCW, and to add the Jabra Elite Active 7 to Notable mentions.
The Apple AirPods Pro is the best iPhone earbuds
With the release of the AirPods Pro, picking the best earbuds for iPhone users suddenly became a very clear choice. While there are other great options you can choose from later in this list, the seamless integration of the AirPods Pro with any iOS device gives it an obvious edge over the competition.
Like all other Apple headphones that come with the H1 chip such as the AirPods (3rd generation), pairing is as easy as hitting “Connect” on the card that pops up on your device. What sets the AirPods Pro apart from the pack is that Apple includes silicone ear tips and a software-powered ear tip fit test (iOS only) to ensure that you’ve found the right fit. You also get other nifty features like noise cancelling and a transparency mode. The latter uses microphones to help you hear what’s going on around you.
The case still charges via Lightning cable, and Apple provides USB-C to Lightning. So close Apple, so close. Still, you can always throw it on any Qi wireless charger to juice them up which is nice. You can expect about 5 hours of battery life with active noise cancelling turned on. If you bought your AirPods Pro after October 26, 2021, it should include a MagSafe compatible charging case, which Apple doesn’t sell as a separate add-on right now.
Related: Apple AirPods Pro vs Sony WF-1000XM4
The long stem is much shorter than the AirPods (2nd generation), and it’s actually functional now: you can squeeze it or long-press it to control playback and toggle active noise cancelling. Microphone quality is very good for a set of earbuds, but the mics can’t completely nullify wind noise.
Taking into account the ease of use, versatility, and reliable connectivity, the Apple AirPods Pro is unsurprisingly the best iPhone earbuds on the market. Say what you will about the one-trillion-dollar company, it knows how to produce products that play nicely with each other. And if you already own a handful of Apple products, the AirPods is the next logical purchase for seamless integration into your daily routine.
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 you’re exercising, then 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.
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. Just like AirPods Pro, combined 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 also allows for hands-free access to Siri 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 when you’re 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 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 cancellation, full integration with iOS thanks to the H1 chip, and it even supports 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. If you buy the Beats Powerbeats, you can still use it on the Beats app, but it’s really only good for firmware updates.
Wing tips secure the Fit Pro earbuds into place, which is very good but may not be enough for those who regularly take part in vigorous workouts. The over-the-ear design of the Powerbeats Pro can resist virtually all movement and stay in no matter what. Listeners who don’t need the extra-secure fit of the Powerbeats Pro may opt for the Beats Fit Pro as it has a smaller case and earbuds. Ultimately, you can’t go wrong with either headset, though the Beats Fit Pro will blend in more than the Powerbeats Pro.
Hush your surroundings with the Sony WF-1000XM4
Sony really thought this one through. The foam ear tips beget excellent noise isolation, which significantly improves the noise cancelling performance and sound quality. The ANC is among the best available in wireless earbuds right now, so if top-notch noise cancelling is your main criterion, you can’t pass up the Sony WF-1000XM4.
The Sony WF-1000XM4 has a fairly accurate 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 makes that a breeze. Tidal, Deezer, and Amazon Music Unlimited users among you will get to enjoy surround sound with Sony’s 360 Reality Audio format.
The Sony WF-1000XM4 noise cancelling is about as good as it gets with wireless earbuds. (Click the chart to expand.) Low frequencies are nearly one-eighth as loud with ANC on, compared to not wearing earbuds at all. Really, only the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds’ ANC gives Sony’s a run for its money. You can see how the two earbuds compare here.
The Sony WF-1000XM4 is a great pair of earbuds for everyday use. Its nearly 8-hour battery life will get you through almost a full 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. The microphone is decent and the speech detection feature improves call quality further.
If you love taking your earbuds out and about, the Sony WF-1000XM4 won’t let you down. The IPX4 water resistance rating means you won’t have to worry when you get into a light rain, and wearing the Sony WF-1000XM4 while working out is no problem, either.
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 USD. You get most of the fixings, including a good frequency response out of the box. If it’s not your preferred sound, the dedicated app supplies users with EQ to tinker.
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 cancelling won’t beat out the Sony WF-1000XM4, but it still performs reasonably well for about $100 USD less, and sometimes you don’t need “the best” and very good will do.
Like the Apple AirPods Pro, the CX Plus True Wireless has a IPX4 certification against sweat, so you can take it on a workout. 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 you great sound from the frequency response and optional EQ, to the ANC to block out external noise.
Control your smart home with the Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen)
You wouldn’t get a pair of Amazon Echo Buds if you didn’t want to use Alexa, or would you? Not only will 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. And you can set the Echo Buds (2nd Gen) to use Google Assistant or Siri, if you prefer.
Let’s get the bad news out of the way: the sound isn’t great, but it’s good enough. You can fix it using the equalizer within the Alexa app. Here, you’ll also find the Ear Tip Fit Test, which helps you identify the best ear tips to use with your Amazon Echo Buds. Remember that a good seal improves sound isolation, which in turn improves sound quality.
Related: How your in-ears fit matters a lot
Those tight-fitting ear tips help tremendously with blocking out environmental noise. With ANC enabled, the Amazon Echo Buds mute the kinds of background sounds you’re likely to encounter during your commute. You can toggle ANC settings using the capacitive touchpad on either earbud or the Alexa app. The app is core to the Amazon Echo Buds. You can also use it to find your earbuds, enable wake words, customize tap controls, gather workout data, access live battery data, or switch to power-saving mode.
The one thing to be mindful of is that the battery life per charge is just under 5 hours. That’s enough for most people, but if you travel frequently or want to use your Amazon Echo Buds for more than just your commute, it might be a deal-breaker.
Ready to spend big? Get the Apple AirPods Max noise cancelling headphones
The Apple AirPods Max is the company’s debut over-ear noise cancelling headphones, and Apple is confident you’ll want to buy it. So confident, in fact, that it costs $549 USD. 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.
You might like: The best noise cancelling headphones
This hybrid noise cancelling system outperforms that of the Sony WH-1000XM4 and Bose QuietComfort 45, Apple’s main competitors in the ANC headphones space.
The Apple AirPods Max house an H1 chip in each headphone to maximize processing power.
You also get access to 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. Spatial Audio, on the other hand, 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 a hard pill to swallow, but if you want noise cancelling headphones that operate seamlessly with your Apple devices, perhaps the AirPods Max is worth the purchase.
Hate apps? Connect and go with the Denon AH-C830NCW
Let’s face it, not everyone wants to fuss with an app. Some people just want to connect over Bluetooth and leave everything as is, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t want good quality. Try the Denon AH-C830NCW for its straightforward nature and pleasant sound. It 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.
For the price the onboard ANC is rather impressive, besting some of the top performers at higher price tiers. The battery life could do better at only 4 hours and 22 minutes, but fortunately, the case provides an extra three charges. All the touch controls work as intended, but of course, the flip side of no app support lies in the lack of customization.
You can’t alter the touch controls, equalizer, or finesse the ANC/Ambient modes. Maybe you don’t care and just want something that works and sounds good for less cash than AirPods Pro. Its availability is also somewhat limited, although if you sign up to the Denon mailing list (at the time of writing) they offer a discount—just saying.
The best iPhones earbuds: Notable mentions
- Anker Soundcore Liberty 3 Pro: With a bass-heavy frequency response, the Liberty 3 Pro offers a unique profile that you can equalize if you don’t like it. It uses Bluetooth 5.2 and codec support for LDAC, AAC, and SBC. As of March 2022, it costs $129 USD, making it a great value.
- Apple AirPods (3rd generation): 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: 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: you don’t get any H1 chip with it.
- Bose Sport Earbuds: This is one of the latest wireless earbuds Bose has to offer, featuring a sleek design, IPX4 water-resistant build, and intuitive touch controls.
- Bose QuietComfort Earbuds: This is Bose’s latest flagship wireless earbuds—delivering excellent active noise cancelling in an IPX4 water-resistant build. These buds are essentially the in-ear version of the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700.
- Jabra Elite Active 7: 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 Active 7 IP rating, it’s nice to have.
- Samsung Galaxy Buds 2: Samsung’s Galaxy Buds lead the wireless pack in with a good battery life and good ANC. If you want AAC support, a whimsical design, and wireless charging for less, try it. Just be aware that you can’t access any software updates, unless you or a buddy has an Android device.
- Sony LinkBuds WF-L900: 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-1000XM3: A great option for athletes and commuters alike. This well-designed pair of earbuds will isolate you from the world when you want it but it can’t compete with the newer XM4.
- V-MODA Crossfade 2 Wireless Codex: Arguably some of the most durable headphones on the market, the Crossfade 2 Codex includes both aptX and AAC support. Plus, you can customize nearly everything about these cans, even the screws.
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. None of it is 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 in 360 degrees around your head. Apple’s technology, when paired with an iOS device, can track your head movement and adjust the sound accordingly, making for a more realistic experience.
See also: What is the Apple H1 chip?
As of November 24, 2021, these are the products that support Apple spatial audio: Apple AirPods (3rd generation), Apple AirPods Max, Apple AirPods Pro, and Beats Fit Pro.
What Bluetooth codec matters most with iPhones?
Although there are plenty of Bluetooth codecs supported by a variety of devices, the only one that you need to care about with regards to 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.
Seeing as Apple is Apple and loves proprietary hardware and software, the AAC codec is the only one that’s 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 won’t be of 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
Upon polling Android Authority readers, we found that a majority of you listen to your music between one and two hours a day. That’s significant, especially when accounting for the listed true wireless models. In order to test true wireless battery life, we use objective measures and subject the earbuds to an infinite loop of pink noise set at an output of 75dB(SPL). That way, we can consistently test each product, allowing for greater testing reliability and minimal variance.
How should your iPhone earbuds sound?
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’re looking to hear the audio as the audio engineers intended, you should use studio headphones, because those products will have the closest thing to a patonic, “flat” response. But most of us want our headphones to be fun and reproduce an “energetic” sound, not necessarily an analytical one.
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. If you’re wondering how we settled on the best consumer curve, you can read on here.
We make sure to 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 also acknowledging that sound can be measured and discussed objectively at the same time.
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 as it depends on how loudly you’re listening to your music. In order 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.
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, which means that 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, and after having kept up with the audio industry for years, we’re able to easily tell the gimmicks from the goldmines. If you have the time or desire, feel free to read our full ethics policy here.
Frequently asked questions about iPhone earbuds
The Beats Powerbeats Pro offer additional features over the standard 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. Make sure to read Lily’s article for a more detailed comparison between the two earbuds.
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.