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Best wireless earbuds
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If you had told us five years ago that people would be genuinely interested in buying a pair of true wireless earbuds, we would’ve been puzzled. We would have been even more puzzled to know there were enough good picks to form a list of the best wireless earbuds of this kind. Years later, and the tech inside has improved greatly: more companies are manufacturing noise cancelling models, too.
This is still a green category. If you’re coming from a professional IEM background, you won’t be blown away by anything listed. In the same breath, that’s what makes this list exciting: it’s still rapidly evolving. If these models are still too rich for your blood, check out our picks for best wireless earbuds under $100.
Editor’s note: this list of the best wireless earbuds was updated on April 29, 2022, to include the Sennheiser MOMENTUM True Wireless 3 as a highlight pick.
Why is the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus the best wireless earbuds for most?
For most people, the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus is the best wireless earbuds around: it’s not too expensive, affords a host of features, and boasts a long battery life and pocketable charging case. Sure, it isn’t the most beautiful earbuds listed, but it meets the needs of most listeners.
More and more of us rely on our earphones as communication devices; I for one take hands-free calls nearly every day. Anyone who spends a silly amount of time in conference calls or quelling their parents’ anxieties will be able to do so clearly with the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus microphone system. It may not be quite as clear as the AirPods Pro or Sony WF-1000XM4, but it’s about the best you can get for the price.
Sound quality is great: AKG tuned the drivers to reproduce slightly amplified mids for a more engaging, consumer-friendly sound. This broad, slight emphasis bodes well for popular genres of music, and anyone who enjoys a bit more oomph to an underscoring kick drum will appreciate these. Listeners can always select from any number of Samsung’s EQ presets through the Galaxy Wearable app, which you’ll want to download for updates and touch control customization.
While it's a few years old, the Galaxy Buds Plus holds its own against newer wireless options.
These Bluetooth 5.0 earbuds support two high-quality Bluetooth codecs: the Samsung scalable codec and AAC. The former works wonderfully on Samsung devices, and the latter is great for iPhone users. Codec support aside, connection stability is excellent, and the company is dogged about releasing firmware updates that cover connection improvements. In fact, one of the best reasons to get the Galaxy Buds Plus is because of how liberal Samsung is with its updates: the old Galaxy Buds was afforded direct Spotify access with an update, and we expect to see this same support throughout the Buds Plus’ lifecycle.
The Jabra Elite 7 Active does everything very well
If you’re looking for a truly great pair of wireless earbuds, your search is over with the Jabra Elite 7 Active. While this set of earphones only supports SBC and AAC, you can change the sound profile within the companion app’s EQ module. Jabra’s earphones have an IP57 rating, making them unusually durable relative to most other earbuds.
The Jabra Elite 7 Active has active noise cancelling (ANC) but it isn’t the best around. That said, if you can get a good fit with the earbuds, you’ll benefit greatly from the solid passive isolation. The earbuds do a fine job of passively blocking out frequencies above 1kHz. It’s not as if the ANC is bad here, it’s just not the best. The Elite 7 Active’s ANC can quiet frequencies lower than 1kHz to half their original loudness.
Jabra’s default frequency response for the Elite 7 Active boosts bass a bit more than our target curve suggests, but it should still sound good to most people. Plus, you can always adjust the sound from the mobile app (iOS and Android). The microphone system does a fine job of quieting background noise, but the click and clack of your keystrokes will still come through to the person on the other end of the call.
For $179 USD, it’s like you’re getting multiple headsets in one with the Elite 7 Active.
Going to work out? Then get the Beats Powerbeats Pro
We previously had the AirPods (2nd generation) listed for its connection strength and easy pairing to iPhones, but the Beats Powerbeats Pro solves some of the biggest issues with the second-generation AirPods including isolation, fit, and battery life.
The ear hook design means you don’t have to worry about your buds falling out. Better yet, it is IPX4 rated, so it’ll be protected from sweat damage while working out at the gym. Of course, you won’t have to sacrifice that great connection we mentioned because just like the AirPods, the Powerbeats Pro also has the H1 wireless chip inside that makes pairing seamless.
Then there’s the battery, which is one of the best we’ve tested on any pair of buds. Whether you’re on Android or on iOS you can expect to get around 10 hours which is insane. Once it dies, you have to toss it back in the charging case which is, unfortunately, not as svelte as the one that comes with the AirPods. That said, tossing it in your gym bag shouldn’t be a problem at all.
Listeners who don’t quite have the budget for the Powerbeats Pro but love the build and performance afforded by the H1 chip should consider the Beats Powerbeats standard wireless earbuds. It features a nearly identical build to the Powerbeats Pro but the earbud housings are joined by a streamlined, round cable. Battery life is excellent; we recorded just shy of 18 hours on a single charge.
Some features are sacrificed with the relative downgrade: the Powerbeats doesn’t have the same sensor technology, meaning you don’t benefit from automatic ear detection. This isn’t a huge deal and will be easy to forgo upon seeing the $100 price difference between the two Powerbeats sports headsets.
The worst thing about this headset? It’s discontinued and very hard to find.
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The Sony WF-1000XM4 has the best noise cancelling
The Sony WF-1000XM4 is an expensive set of earbuds that works equally well on Android phones and iPhones. Don’t let that scare you away: this is well worth it for the right buyer. Sony vastly improved its active noise cancelling, thanks in part to Bluetooth 5.2 and a new V1 processor. While the ANC can’t compare to its big brother, the Sony WH-1000XM4, it handily outperforms any other noise cancelling wireless earphones to date.
Sony provides a trio of memory foam ear tips, which effectively mold to your ear canal and block out background noise. You can even use the Headphones Connect app to check that you selected the properly fitting ear tips. This is absolutely necessary for a pair of ANC earbuds, as good isolation begets optimal noise cancellation.
Sound quality is quite good too, though you’ll notice some treble frequencies sound odd since the drivers under-emphasize them. Again, this can quickly be fixed within the mobile app by lowering the bass and midrange response. The earbuds support the SBC, AAC, and LDAC Bluetooth codecs, meaning anyone can enjoy high-quality audio.
Because the foam tips guarantee a good seal, isolation and ANC are incredibly effective on the Sony WF-1000XM4.
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Anyone who wants a handsome pair of wireless earbuds with stellar active noise cancelling, battery life, and a reliable IPX4 rating should save up and shell out for these earbuds.
Why is the AirPods Pro the best pair of wireless earbuds for iPhone owners?
The AirPods Pro has ear tips for a better fit, active noise cancelling tech inside, and playback controls built into the smaller stem, making it a much better option for iPhone owners than the AirPods (3rd generation)
Transparency, a new listening mode, uses microphones to amplify the sounds around you so you can hear your surroundings better. It’s great when you don’t want to miss any important announcements, and you can toggle ANC back on by squeezing the stem again. The stem is also where you’ll find the playback controls, though unfortunately there are no volume controls.
The charging case is also slightly bigger than the original but not by much, and it’s still super easy to toss in your pocket. We recorded around five hours of constant playback in our full review, but you can get another few charges just by tossing it back in the case between uses. If the AirPods Pro is a bit too rich for your blood, there are a handful of solid AirPods Pro alternatives out there for iPhone and Android users alike.
The AirPods Pro noise cancelling is perfectly suitable for general purpose listening and blocks out some low-frequency noise. If you want it to seem as if your earbuds are muting your surroundings, the Sony WF-1000XM4 or Bose QuietComfort Earbuds are better options.
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This mic is very good for wireless earbuds, and you can give it a listen here. Whether you’re chatting from the quiet of your apartment or from your corner cafe, the AirPods Pro relays your voice pretty clearly.
Is the Sennheiser MOMENTUM True Wireless 3 worth it?
The MOMENTUM True Wireless 3 is a pair of noise cancelling earbuds that improves upon the previous generation with some of the best ANC we’ve tested. The second generation MOMENTUM True Wireless earbuds looked nice but left a lot to be desired, now Sennheiser’s ANC competes with Sony and Bose. You get the same IPX4 rating as before and Sennheiser throws in stabilizing ear fins to better keep the buds in place while you work out.
Sound quality is very good and the bass and midrange response closely follows our consumer curve. You can create a custom EQ with the Smart Control app (iOS/Android) and disable the touch controls from there too. While this headset exceeds most listeners’ $200 USD budget, those who want something stylish with plenty of functionality will like the Sennheiser MTW 3.
Should you get the Beats Studio Buds?
The Beats Studio Buds compares rather well against Apple’s flagship AirPods Pro and works just as well on Android as it does on iOS. The microphone is quite good, and it has active noise cancelling, though it’s only okay. Unlike other Beats products, the Studio Buds closely follows our consumer curve, meaning its default sound should please most listeners.
The best wireless earbuds: Notable mentions
- Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen): Anyone looking for a pair of intelligent earbuds will appreciate the Echo Buds (Gen 2). This headset has comprehensive Alexa integration through the Alexa app, which can be downloaded regardless of your source device’s brand. The Echo Buds (Gen 2) also comes with an array of ear tips and ear stays that ensure its stability in your ears, and this plus its IPX4 rating makes it a great workout companion.
- Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2: These earbuds with angled nozzles may just be your best bet for a budget pair of wireless earbuds. It runs for $99 and has excellent isolation and microphone quality. Its sound quality is also not half bad, and it can be EQ’d in the Soundcore app.
- Bose QuietComfort Earbuds: These comfortable earbuds feature stellar active noise cancelling, but come at a high cost of $279. It has an IPX4 rating, and customizable touch controls.
- Bose Sport Earbuds: These workout earbuds have a comfortable and stable fit, an IPX4 rating, and a few creature comforts like automatic ear detection. It doesn’t isolate very well, but this shouldn’t be an issue when working out because you want to be aware of your surroundings.
- Google Pixel Buds A-Series: The budget version of the Google Pixel Buds (2020), these buds will integrate easily with your Android device. As long as you’re willing to go into your Android’s developer settings to boost the extremely quiet volume output of the buds, it’s a good affordable buy and a great alternative to AirPods.
- Jabra Elite 7 Pro: This set of durable earbuds has great battery life will survive nearly any adventure. The Jabra Elite 7 Pro also sounds great, has a high-quality microphone, and has tons of features from the Jabra Sound+ app.
- Jaybird Vista 2: This is a durable set of workout earbuds with an IP68 rating for the buds and IP54 rating for the USB-C case that also supports wireless charging. You get a comprehensive app experience on iOS and Android, and accessible features like mono listening. Jaybird added active noise cancelling to these earbuds, which isn’t the best, but the passive isolation makes up for it.
- Master & Dynamic MW08: If you’re not concerned with a tight budget and want something that oozes quality and attention to detail, this aptX, noise cancelling headset should do the trick.
- Nothing Ear 1: For less than $100 USD, you get a unique pair of ANC earbuds with a semi-transparent design, USB-C/wireless charging case, and IPX4 rating with this headset. Sure, it’s not the absolute best around, but it’s good for the price and the Ear 1 works equally well on Android as it does on iOS.
- Panasonic RZ-S500W and Panasonic RZ-S300W: As far as design is concerned, these headsets are nearly identical with the former being slightly larger than the latter. Why the size discrepancy? Well, the RZ-S500W includes hybrid active noise cancelling, and is among the best wireless noise cancelling tech around. The RZ-S300W is IPX4-rated and supports quick charging just as the more premium model. Both headsets have good integrated microphone systems, but the RZ-S500W microphone array is much better at relaying accurate audio.
- Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro: Samsung drops the bean-shape of the Galaxy Buds Live in favor of a more traditional earbud design with the Buds Pro. This IPX7 headset fits well and is a great option for athletes who want their earphones to do a little bit of everything.
- Samsung Galaxy Buds 2: This is a fine pick for listeners who want solid active noise cancellation for less than $150 USD. You get a few Bluetooth codecs to choose from and unique features like wireless PowerShare and an in-app ear tip fit test.
- Sennheiser CX Plus True Wireless: Sennheiser’s earbuds sound and look great, and the ANC performance is better here than with the more premium MOMENTUM True Wireless 2.
Hold up! Something’s different:
Some of our picks’ frequency response and isolation charts were measured with our old testing system. 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 review (and many others!) once we’re able with improved sound quality measurements and ANC 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.
Why you should get wireless earbuds
We’re witnessing a wireless epoch: it’s no longer niche or novel to listen completely untethered on your way to work. If you depend on public transit to get you to and from work, then total wireless earphones are a great daily companion because of their portable build, convenient charging cases, and an array of feature sets. Technological advancements have lowered the financial barrier to entry, and cheap wireless options are readily available to budget listeners.
Even if you’re a remote worker, truly wireless earbuds can still be for you especially if you like to exercise. Nothing’s more convenient than listening completely wire-free. There is a slew of great wireless workout earbuds for runners and gym rats alike. Not only have numerous companies gone the extra mile by getting products officially IP certified, but they also integrate useful athletic features (e.g., ear hook design, silicone wing tips, Ambient Aware mode).
While it’s true that battery depletion is a problem, resulting in a shortened lifetime of wireless earbuds compared to their on-ear or over-ear headphone alternatives, you’re paying a premium for convenience. For some of us, it’s easy to justify while others may be better off with wired earbuds or dealing with bulkier wireless headphones.
What you should know before you buy the best wireless earbuds
If you’re worried about connection strength, you’re not in the wrong. That’s a valid complaint about a lot of wireless earbuds and even regular Bluetooth ones. There are a few ways that the companies have handled this ranging from tweaking Bluetooth to implementing completely new hardware.
All wireless headphones work via Bluetooth. The buds pair to each other, and then one of them also connects to the source device. Audio data is pushed to that main earbud and then sent to the second earbud, which naturally results in a split-second delay between the audio. Manufacturers account for this delay and calculate it into the playback so that the two earbuds play simultaneously, and you don’t notice any disparity. Of course, you will probably notice the delay if you’re watching videos, as the sound won’t quite match up to what the person is saying. But if you’re listening to podcasts or music, you won’t be able to tell.
Then you have something like the Apple AirPods, which handle the whole wireless issue a little differently. Apple created an entirely new chip dubbed the H1 which is designed to work alongside the regular Bluetooth chip. This dedicated chip helps make the pairing process smoother (if you’re on iOS) and establishes a stronger connection between the earbuds, resulting in significantly fewer skips. Of course, the downside to this is that because it’s a chip that Apple makes, it’s only available (as of right now) on Apple-made headphones, like Beats products and the AirPods. Though it would be nice to see what companies like Bose and Sennheiser can do with this chip, Apple hasn’t shown any interest in selling or licensing this chip.
What is isolation, and what is frequency response?
When it comes to headphones getting a proper seal is one of the best ways to make your music sound better. Some earbuds have active noise cancelling, which uses tiny microphones to help cancel outside noise, but most options don’t have this nifty feature. Instead, they rely purely on passive isolation or blocking sound just by physically being in your ear.
Then there’s frequency response. You can learn more about what frequency response is and how it affects the way you hear your music by clicking here. We at SoundGuys have an in-house studio curve and consumer curve that we posit as the ideal for each instance. In our charts, the pink line represents our house curve and the cyan line represents the headset in question. Many people like a bit of a bass frequency boost, but keep in mind that too much of a bass boost can degrade sound quality.
How long do wireless earbuds last?
Generally speaking, the standalone battery life of wireless earbuds averages anywhere from four to six hours of battery life. Anything that falls above or below that is unusual. The cases typically provide an extra two to three charge cycles, giving you at least 12 hours of total playtime.
As far as why battery life is so short on all wireless earbuds, you don’t have to dig too deep into it to get the reason why. Truly wireless earbuds are simply too small. Batteries still rely on physics, and it’s hard to stuff a battery into something so tiny, which is why they all come with cases that will charge up your headphones when they’re not in use. This is pretty bad for the environment and there aren’t too many eco-friendly headsets to choose from.
What is a Bluetooth codec?
As with any nascent product category, early adopters will need to know a bit more about the tech that defines it. Namely, you need to know what to look for when figuring out if a product is going to be good or not. With Bluetooth audio, that means figuring out what Bluetooth codecs both your phone and your earbuds support.
... you should always buy headphones with the best codec available: even if your phone doesn't support it right away, sometimes a software update, or getting a new phone will unlock this capability for you later down the road.
As per our investigative testing, LDAC isn’t necessarily Hi-Res. What’s more, AAC is bunk when used on Android devices and should really only be used when listening via iPhone. If your Android phone automatically streams over AAC, you can always force developer settings to mandate SBC streaming instead. The long in the short of it is that Android users should stick to aptX.
How we test the best wireless earbuds
By using a dummy head, audio engineers are able to test out how audio products will perform for most people — and so do we. Specifically, we tested frequency response, isolation, and battery life to keep things simple. You can read more about it here if you want to know more about the specifics.
- For each product, we played several sine sweeps through the earphones and logged the frequency response once we arrived at a repeatable result that demonstrated the hallmarks of a good seal.
- To test the battery, we use pink noise and a real-time analyzer to find the setting needed to output 75dB(SPL) over the products, and we play music on an infinite loop. This means every reading can be directly compared to each other.
- To test isolation, we took a sample of pink noise at 90dB SPL at one meter, once with the headphones off, and another with the headphones on. We then subtracted one curve from the other.
While these three tests are simple, they cover the biggest areas of concern with wireless earbuds. Keep in mind that your battery life will vary if you tend to crank the volume. Additionally, you could squeak out better isolation performance if you use third-party tips.
We try to get as much hands-on time with products as we can before declaring it one of the “best.” This means that most—if not all—of the products on this list have been put through our full review process. But what do we do when we haven’t spent time with a product? Lots and lots of research. We spend hours browsing through forums and discussions within the audio community. Even if we’ve already reviewed a product, we usually do this anyway to get as much of a birds-eye view of the landscape as possible.
Why you should trust SoundGuys
We’ve had our finger on the pulse of wireless earbuds since they hit the market and pride ourselves on our ability to show our work and justify why we selected certain products over others. We go to great lengths to make objective, abstract concepts accessible to our readers. SoundGuys only makes money when you find something you like enough to keep it, and we take integrity very seriously.
We refuse to conduct paid reviews or allow on-site advertisements; everything we recommend is a result of our objective measurements and great subjective experiences. Ultimately, we want you to enjoy your purchase, or at the very least, to exit our site with a little more knowledge about the inner workings of audio.
Frequently asked questions about the best wireless earbuds
The Galaxy Buds Plus come with a few pairs of interchangeable silicone ear tips, so you should be able to find a decent fit. However, earbuds that are designed for adults reach maximum volumes that we don’t recommend for children because they can damage their hearing. We’d recommend checking out our explainer piece on kids’ headphones for more information, or looking to a volume limiter.
The battery life of these buds is actually pretty average for wireless earbuds. However, if the battery life and large size are deal-breakers for you, then yes, they’re absolutely a valid reason not to buy these.
Deciding which headset is better depends on quite a few factors. iPhone users will benefit more from the Apple AirPods, due to H1 chip integration which affords hands-free access to Siri, easy iOS device switching, audio sharing, and more. The same can be said for the Pixel Buds A-Series. Google’s earbuds provide a more seamless experience on Android than iOS. Both work with their opposing platform, though. The Google Pixel Buds (2020) provide a better fit, but the AirPods keep you more aware of your surroundings. Still, Google enables environmental awareness via the spatial vents on the bottom of each earbud. We have an in-depth Google Pixel Buds A-Series vs Apple AirPods article that goes into much greater detail on the matter.
This answer is constantly changing, but as of February 4, 2022, the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus still has the longest standalone battery life at 11 hours and 44 minutes of constant playback in our testing. To get that number, we calibrate the earbuds to a constant output of 75dB(SPL) and then leave music playing on a loop until the battery is depleted.