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Best iPhone earbuds

There's more than just AirPods.
By
November 22, 2022
Best overall
Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation)
By Apple
The Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) wireless earphones in white coming out of the MagSafe charging case which stands vertically.
7.9
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Positives
Active noise cancelling and Adaptive Transparency modes
Great auto-wear detection
Water-resistant buds and case
Pressure-sensitive stems and sliding controls
MagSafe, Wireless, and Apple Watch compatible charging
Negatives
Charges via lightning cable
No way to customize the EQ without third-party app
The Bottom Line.
The Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) modestly improves upon the first-generation AirPods Pro and features the same iconic look. Read full review...
Best battery
Apple Beats Powerbeats Pro
By Apple
Beats Powerbeats Pro product image on white background.
7.8
Check price
Positives
Bluetooth 5.0, Class 1
Hands-free Siri
Sound quality
Secure fit
Negatives
Under-emphasized mids
Isolation isn't great
Cost
The Bottom Line.
If you're an iPhone user, AirPods can be attractive, but the IPX4 PowerBeats Pro are the better companion for your smartphone. Read full review...
Best ANC
Sony WF-1000XM4
By Sony
The Sony WF-1000XM4 noise-cancelling true wireless earbuds in black against a white background.
8
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Positives
360 Reality Audio support
Excellent isolation and ANC
Foam ear tips
Customization via app
Negatives
Price
Default sound settings not ideal
The Bottom Line.
The Sony WF-1000XMF excels in noise cancellation and isolation, which also helps it sound great. Active users will appreciate the IPX4 rating and comprehensive touch controls.Read full review...
Best design
Sennheiser CX Plus True Wireless
By Sennheiser
The Sennheiser CX Plus True Wireless earbuds
8.1
Check price
Positives
Great noise cancelling
Good sound quality
IPX4 rating
Good app
Negatives
A bit bulky
$50 USD price increase just for ANC
The Bottom Line.
Get most of what you need out of your earbuds without paying more for the extras that aren't essential. It sounds good, works like a charm, and the ANC is decent.Read full review...
Best for iOS and Android
Beats Fit Pro
By Apple
Product shot of the Beats Fit Pro in Stone Purple colorway.
7.8
Check price
Positives
Android and iOS compatibility
In-app ear tip fit test
Noise cancelling/Transparency
USB-C case with fast charging
IPX4-rated earbuds
Secure, compact fit for exercise
Negatives
Price
Fairly large case
Known ANC update issues
The Bottom Line.
The Fit Pro is a great pair of Beats earbuds with the ability to work nearly as well on Android as it does on iOS. When paired to an iPhone, you still get special features like hands-free Siri and personalized Spatial Audio.Read full review...

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.

For our top five picks, you can find the isolation and frequency response charts at the end of each image gallery. You can learn more about how to read our charts here.

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.

Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation)
Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation)
7.9
The Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) earbuds rest on a black surface with the case in the background.A hand holds the right earbud of the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) to show off the stem.The Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) ear tip separated from the housing.Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) charging case lanyard loop while the case rests in a tech pouch.The Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) case is open and laying at an angle to show the earbuds and their sensors.A person wears the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) in profile view.The Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) case open with one of the earbuds on a burlap sack, and the Nothing Ear 1 case in the background.The Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) case is open and contains the earbuds next to an iPhone 12 mini, which prompts the user to update to iOS 16.A chart depicts the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) noise cancelling and isolation performances; the former is very effective when you get a good seal.A chart depicts the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) and AirPods Pro (1st generation) frequency responses, revealing the newer pair has a louder bass response.
Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation)
Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation)
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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 Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) case open with the earbuds next to an iPhone 12 mini.
Lily Katz / SoundGuys
Once you pair the AirPods Pro (2nd generation) to your iPhone, all other Apple devices connected to your iCloud account will recognize the headset.

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?

2572 votes

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.

Apple Beats Powerbeats Pro
Apple Beats Powerbeats Pro
7.8
A photo of the Beats Powerbeats Pro in hand.A picture of the Beats Powerbeats Pro resting in their charging case on a desk.The Beats Powerbeats Pro charging case on top of a purple book.Close-up shot of the Lightning port on the charging case of the Beats Powerbeats Pro wireless headphones.The Beats Powerbeats Pro logo.The playback control buttons on the Beats Powerbeats Pro.A frequency response chart for the Beats Powerbeats Pro true wireless earbuds, which shows output that deviates from our house curve, particularly with treble reproduction.An isolation chart for the Beats Powerbeats Pro true wireless earbuds, which show pretty average isolation.
Apple Beats Powerbeats Pro
Apple Beats Powerbeats Pro
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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?

4920 votes

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.

Sony WF-1000XM4
Sony WF-1000XM4
8
The Sony WF-1000XM4's case open, revealing the earphones sitting within.A photo showing someone using the touch controls of the Sony WF-1000XM4.A photo showing the Sony WF-1000XM4 in the charging case.The memory foam tips of the Sony WF-1000XM4.A photo showing the Sony WF-1000XM4 in its case, with the lid open.A chart showing the frequency response of the Sony WF-1000XM4 true wireless earphones compared to the SoundGuys house curve.A chart shows the exceptional ANC and isolation performance of the Sony WF-1000XM4 true wireless earphones.
Sony WF-1000XM4

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?

13560 votes
Sony WF-1000XM4
Sony WF-1000XM4
Great ANC • IPX4 rating • 360 Reality Audio
Powerful active noise canceling earbuds.
The Sony WF-1000XM4 wireless earbuds are some of the best on the market. High-quality sound is matched by top-notch ANC. Well designed ear tips provide an excellent seal, improving noise isolation, and call quality.

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.

Sennheiser CX Plus True Wireless
Sennheiser CX Plus True Wireless
8.1
The Sennheiser CX Plus True Wireless sits on a table in front of a window.The Sennheiser CX Plus True Wireless is held outside, sitting in its case.A man sits outside wearing the Sennheiser CX Plus True Wireless.The Sennheiser CX Plus True Wireless earbuds lay on a wooden bench outside, paired to a Google Pixel 4a running the Sennheiser Smart Control app.A noise canceling/isolation chart for the Sennheiser CX Plus True Wireless earbuds, which shows good isolation, a decent low end attentuation.A frequency response chart for the Sennheiser CX Plus True Wireless, which shows nicely emphasized bass and mids, but less high range output than we'd like to see.
Sennheiser CX Plus True Wireless
Sennheiser CX Plus True Wireless
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See review

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?

3732 votes
Sennheiser CX Plus True Wireless Earbuds
Sennheiser CX Plus True Wireless Earbuds
Good ANC • Good sound quality • High-res audio
The Sennheiser CX Plus True Wireless improves on the older CX True Wireless, with noise cancelling.
The Sennheiser CX Plus True Wireless Earbuds brings grade-A noise cancelling at a reasonable price. You don’t get many extras with these earbuds, but Sennheiser makes sure that all music sounds good through this headset with its neutral-leaning frequency response.
$69.95 at Amazon
Save $60.00

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.

Beats Fit Pro
Beats Fit Pro
7.8
The Beats Fit Pro noise cancelling true wireless earbuds in the open case and next to the two extra pairs of ear tips, all of which are in the purple variant.The Beats Fit Pro noise cancelling true wireless earbuds in the open charging case and next to a Samsung Galaxy S10e with the Beats app open. The app has a purple tint to it, presumably to match the earphones.A woman's hand pockets the Beats Fit Pro noise cancelling true wireless earbuds case which is in the color purple.The USB-C input on the Beats Fit Pro case next to the USB-C to USB-C cable, which is very short.The Beats Fit Pro noise cancelling true wireless earbuds in purple lay in the open charging case against a black fabric background.The Beats Fit Pro isolate fairly well, but also cancel a decent amount of noise.A plot showing the frequency response of the Beats Fit Pro, a set of earphones that fit the SoundGuys consumer target (pink) fairly well outside of the mids and highs.
Beats Fit Pro

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?

3919 votes
Beats Fit Pro
Beats Fit Pro
Android and iOS compatible • In-app integration • Fast charging
A good ANC, and fast charging battery for the Fit Pro earbuds.
The Beats Fit Pro earbuds offer a pleasant bass-boosted sound. The battery will last an extra hour with only five minutes of charging, and the app provides more features and adjustments.

The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds is a comfortable option with excellent ANC

The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds noise cancelling true wireless earbuds rest outside of the charging case on a table and in front of a stack of books.
Lily Katz / SoundGuys
The case and earbuds are about as big as it gets.

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 QuietComfort Earbuds
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds
Customizable ANC • 5h battery life • Various tip size
Bose QuietComfort earbuds offer high-quality sound. You can choose the degree of noise canceling and enjoy premium features like automatic ear detection.
Propped against a wood surface the case of the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II stands up with the buds out, showing the outside and inside faces of the housing.
Edgar Cervantes / SoundGuys

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.

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II
Self-adjusting sound • Bluetooth 5.3 • OS-agnostic app
Bose put its best ANC technology in these earbuds.
The QuietComfort Earbuds 2 feature Bose's best audio know-how. They personalize the sound quality and isolation to fit your ears each time you wear them. They also come with Bluetooth 5.3, USB-C charging, and can last 6 hours on a charge (24 with the case).

Ready to spend big? Get the Apple AirPods Max noise cancelling headphones

The Apple AirPods Max and its smart case on a white desk.
The headphones come with a smart case and a charging cable, and nothing else.

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.

Apple AirPods Max
Apple AirPods Max
One of the best ANC • 20-hour battery life • Well-built pads
A spectacular pair of headphones with best-in-class ANC
The AirPods Max wireless headphones offer best-in-class noise cancelling with twenty hours of battery life. They provide excellent frequency response and great audio features.

The best iPhones earbuds: Notable mentions

A hand holds a Apple AirPods (3rd generation) earbud by the stem to reveal the open-type fit and embedded sensors.
The Apple AirPods (3rd generation) earbuds have a slightly angled design that supposedly makes for a more comfortable fit.
  • 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?

An iPhone 12 mini displays the AirPods Pro (2nd generation) spatial audio modes with the case and a smart watch next to it.
Lily Katz / SoundGuys
The iPhone Settings app and Control Center is where you go to customize the listening experience.

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.

A chart showing the AAC Bluetooth codec's performance on the Huawei P20 Pro, Samsung Galaxy Note 8, LG V30, and Apple iPhone 7; AAC performs best with the best iPhone earbuds because it's reliable on iOS..
AAC performs differently depending on what device is being used. It may be a high-frequency sound, but these drop-outs will be audible to younger ears.

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?

A man faces left wearing the Audio-Technica ATH-M30x.
The Audio-Technica ATH-M30x won’t be for everyone because some listeners prefer a boosted bass response.

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

A hand holds one of the Apple AirPods (3rd generation) to the ear of a head simulator.
We use a Bruel & Kjaer 5128 artificial head to perform isolation and frequency response tests, as seen here with the AirPods.

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.

The AirPods Pro offers additional features over its non-pro counterpart, such as active noise cancelling and interchangeable ear tips. We have compared the two earbuds in a previous article.

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.