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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 wants you to do the latter. With that in mind, we’re here to help you choose which set of earbuds is right for you. If you want the best iPhone earbuds then don’t overthink it, most people should just get the AirPods Pro (2nd generation).
Editor’s note: the article was updated on November 22, 2022 to address formatting changes and mention the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II.
Why is the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) the best pair of iPhone earbuds?
With the release of the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation), 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 (2nd generation) with any iOS device gives it an obvious edge over the competition.
Active noise cancelling (ANC) is better this time around than it is on the first-gen AirPods Pro, thanks in no small part to Apple’s new H2 chip. With the ANC on and a good fit, the AirPods Pro (2nd gen) renders low frequencies one-quarter to one-eighth their original perceived loudness. You can certainly use these earbuds on your next flight, and they keep up with top wireless earbuds like the Sony WF-1000XM4 and Google Pixel Buds Pro. Apple improved its transparency mode too, and now the earbuds pipe in external noise while simultaneously reducing the intensity of loud, unpredictable sounds (e.g., construction drills and car horns).
Like the AirPods that came before it, the second-gen AirPods Pro is packed to the gills with sensors. You’ll find the same skin-detect sensors on new AirPods Pro as you will on the AirPods (3rd generation). When you remove the earbuds, media playback automatically pauses and only resumes when you reinsert them into your ears. (Placing the earbuds in your pocket will not resume media playback.) You get new touch controls on the AirPods Pro (2nd gen), so you can finally adjust the volume from the earbuds with a swipe up/down motion.
The AirPods Pro (2nd generation) case features a speaker and houses the U1 chip; these two things work together to make it easier to locate the case through the Find My app. This is the first AirPods case to have an IPX4 rating, which matches the earbuds water resistance. You get an extra 24 hours of playtime from the case, totaling nearly 30 hours of playtime before you need to charge it atop a MagSafe, Qi, or Apple watch charging mat. You can always plug the case in via Lightning cable too.
Considering the ease of use, versatility, and reliable connectivity, the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) is unsurprisingly the best iPhone earbuds on the market; it’s also one of the best pairs of noise cancelling wireless earbuds you can buy. 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 new AirPods Pro microphone sounds good in ideal conditions, but it 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?
Editor’s note: Our standardized test setup plays back pre-recorded phrases from a calibrated artificial mouth in our test chamber, either with or without simulated background noises, simulated reverberant spaces, or artificial wind. This means that samples from every product can be directly compared, which makes it far easier to make meaningful comparisons between products in terms of the raw speech quality or the product’s ability to reject noise. While this setup is consistent, it’s unable to allow the earbuds to detect speech as they would in the real world (using vibrations), so you’re likely to experience something different than our demos above.
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. Oh, and the battery life is among the best we’ve tested and really only bested by the JLab Epic Air Sport ANC.
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, 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 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 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 Powerbeats Pro microphone system is surprisingly good in ideal circumstances, and its flaws won’t completely tarnish how your voice sounds. Take a 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?
Hush your surroundings with the Sony WF-1000XM4
Sony thought the WF-1000XM4 one through. The foam ear tips beget excellent noise isolation, significantly improving the noise cancelling performance and sound quality. The ANC is among the best available in wireless earbuds, so if top-notch noise cancelling is your main criterion, you can’t pass up the Sony WF-1000XM4. Low frequencies are nearly one-eighth as loud with ANC on, compared to not wearing earbuds at all. The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds’ ANC gives Sony’s a run for its money. You can see how the two earbuds compare here.
The WF-1000XM4 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 among you will get to enjoy surround sound with Sony’s 360 Reality Audio format.
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.
If you love taking your earbuds out and about, the Sony WF-1000XM4 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-1000XM4 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?
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 that you exercise with it. 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. 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 an background noise.
Sennheiser CX Plus True Wireless microphone demo (Non-Standardized):
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 cancellation, 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 cancelling that’s 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 cancelling, because ANC helps block out noises like droning treadmills, dropped weights, and other unpleasant background noise. When you want to hear what’s around you, just enable transparency mode.
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, though; for that, you’ll need one of Apple’s AirPods.
Using the Beats Fit Pro to take calls from a quiet environment yields good, accurate vocal reproduction. Like the AirPods Pro series, the microphones don’t do very 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?
The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds is a comfortable option with excellent ANC
With the release of the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2, the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds costs less than $200 USD which is $80 USD off its original price tag. We recommend the QC Earbuds for its great active noise cancellation that outperforms the original AirPods Pro. The earbuds feature an IPX4 rating so you can use them to exercise. Although the earbuds are a bit bulky, they stay in place thanks to Bose’s proprietary ear/wing tips.
Sound quality is very good with the original QuietComfort Earbuds, and you even get a custom EQ module in the Bose Music app (iOS/Android). Those who don’t want to get down and dirty adjusting the three-band custom EQ can choose from a handful of presets instead. Bose gives you five options: Flat, Bass Boost, Bass Reducer, Treble Boost, and Treble Reducer.
If you like the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, we’re confident you’ll like the QC Earbuds too.
Bose also recently released the QuietComfort Earbuds II, but it’s not quite so straightforward a recommendation as its predecessor. If you only care about noise cancelling, this will be undoubtedly be a big step up, but the user experience is quirky and frustrating in ways that could very easily hamper your experience. It’s difficult to get a consistently good seal with these earbuds, and the rubber rings meant to help can rotate and block the charging connections. The sound is also pretty strange, with a huge boost to bass range sound that will take EQing if you like getting a lot of detail in your music. The QC Earbuds II is also very expensive.
Basically, the ANC is great, but this isn’t the slam dunk it should be.
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. 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.
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. 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.
The best iPhones earbuds: Notable mentions
- Amazon Echo Buds (2nd gen): 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 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 Pro (1st generation): The first-gen AirPods Pro shares many of the same features as the second-gen but comes in at just $179 USD now. You get noise cancelling, Adaptive EQ, seamless device switching across Apple devices, and more.
- 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.
- Denon AH-C830NCW: This set of noise cancelling 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.
- Jabra Elite 7 Active: 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.
- Nothing Ear 1: This set of wireless earbuds is a steal at just $99 USD, and 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. You can see how the Ear 1 compares to the first-gen AirPods Pro here.
- 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 updates, unless you or a buddy has an Android device. (The same goes for the more premium Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro.)
- 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.
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 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.
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 regard 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 most 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. To test true wireless battery life, we use objective measures and subject the earbuds to a constant output of real music peaking at 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 platonic, “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.
How we test the best iPhone earbuds
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 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, 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, please 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.