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Best wireless earbuds
True wireless earbuds have matured tremendously since their debut. The category, once rife with sub-par picks, is now teaming with premium options from audio stalwarts like Sony and Bose. Heck, we’re even seeing affordable active noise cancelling (ANC) options flood the market too. As a quickly evolving category, wireless earbuds blur the line between audio devices and smart wearable technology. Our selection of the best wireless earbuds covers everything from ANC to workout picks, and if this list is too rich for your blood, check out our picks for the best wireless earbuds under $100.
Editor’s note: this list of the best wireless earbuds was updated on July 29, 2022, to add the Google Pixel Buds Pro as a Highlight pick and to add the Sony LinkBuds S to the Notable mentions.
Why is the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 the best pair of wireless earbuds for most?
Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 is the best wireless earbuds for most people because it has great noise cancelling that outperforms the more premium Galaxy Buds Pro. The Galaxy Buds 2 is reasonably priced and can often be found between $100-129 USD. There’s no app support on iOS. iPhone owners, we recommend you get something else but if you can’t stay away from the Buds 2, borrow a friend’s Android phone for updates.
Sound quality is great: AKG tuned the drivers to reproduce slightly amplified mids for consumer-friendly sound. This broad, slight emphasis bodes well for popular genres of music. Anyone who enjoys a bit more oomph to an underscoring kick drum will appreciate these buds. ANC performance is very good and renders 90Hz frequencies one-quarter their original perceived loudness.
With the Galaxy Buds 2, you get premium features and access to big updates... if you have an Android phone.
You operate the Galaxy Buds 2 via a touch panel on each earbud. As with all earbuds in the Samsung Galaxy Buds line, the Galaxy Buds 2 touch panels are very sensitive. We often experience command misfires which isn’t the case with other true wireless earbuds. But if you can accept the sensitive touch panels, you’ll enjoy stable Bluetooth 5.2 connectivity and support for two high-quality Bluetooth codecs: the Samsung Scalable Codec and AAC.
The company is dogged about releasing firmware updates that cover connection improvements. One of the best reasons to get the Galaxy Buds 2 is because of how liberal Samsung is with its updates. The first-gen Galaxy Buds received an update that enabled direct Spotify access, and we expect to see this same support throughout the Buds 2 lifecycle.
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.
Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 microphone demo (Ideal):
Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 microphone demo (Office):
Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 microphone demo (Wind):
How does the microphone sound to you?
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 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/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.
The Elite 7 Active does a pretty good job of relaying voices amid incidental noise like ringing phones and clacking keyboards.
Jabra Elite 7 Active microphone demo (Ideal):
Jabra Elite 7 Active microphone demo (Office):
How does the microphone sound to you?
Going to work out? Then get the Beats Powerbeats Pro
The Beats Powerbeats Pro solves some of the biggest issues with the second and third-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.
When it comes to compact wireless workout earbuds, the Beats Fit Pro is one of the best options you can find as long as you’re willing to risk dysfunctional ANC performance. While we were able to get the ANC working during our review period, it stopped working shortly after and has yet to return. You can read more about this issue in our Beats Fit Pro review, as well as all the things that make the Fit Pro a great Beats headset.
Noise cancelling issues aside, the Fit Pro earbuds fit incredibly well thanks to their integrated ear wings and interchangeable ear tips. Unlike many earbuds, the Fit Pro features button controls that require you to press the “b” logo on either bud to perform certain controls. The bass boost may be a bit much for you right out of the gate, but you can adjust this from your music streaming service’s EQ. If you don’t want to mess with the sound, you can just sit back and enjoy Apple’s Adaptive EQ technology which automatically adjusts the bass and midrange response based on your surroundings.
The bassy sound, secure fit, and IPX4 rating make the Beats Fit Pro a great option for all athletes.
What makes the Sony WF-1000XM4 a great pair of noise cancelling earbuds?
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 brothers, the Sony WH-1000XM5 and 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, you can quickly fix this 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. 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.
Sony’s microphone quality is pretty good, even in sub-optimal conditions like office or wind. It won’t render environmental noise absolutely quiet, but it will relay your voice clearly.
Sony WF-1000XM4 microphone demo (Ideal):
Sony WF-1000XM4 microphone demo (Office):
Sony WF-1000XM4 microphone demo (Wind):
How does the microphone sound to you?
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.
The AirPods Pro’s mic system is very good for wireless earbuds, and you can give it a listen below.
AirPods Pro microphone demo (Ideal):
AirPods Pro microphone demo (Office):
AirPods Pro microphone demo (Street):
How does the microphone sample sound to you?
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 Bose QuietComfort Earbuds is about as comfortable as it gets
Listeners who want ANC that rivals the Sony WF-1000XM4 but with an arguably more comfortable, stable fit should get the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds. Aside from industry-leading ANC, these earbuds feature an IPX4 rating and nearly perfect touch controls that precisely register when you make a command. We find the QC Earbuds to be about as comfortable as wireless earbuds get, and the USB-C case supports wireless charging which is a nice “plus.” While the $279 USD price tag will scare many listeners away, patient buyers can find these earphones on sale for around $199 USD a few times a year.
Should you get the Google Pixel Buds Pro?
Google debuts its take on noise cancelling wireless earbuds with the Pixel Buds Pro. Many of the features remain the same between the Pixel Buds Pro and the more economical A-Series earbuds, which you can read all about in our Google Pixel Buds Pro review. Wireless charging fanatics will prefer the Pro version since the A-Series lacks this feature. The Pixel Buds Pro case is also more durable than most earbuds’ cases and merits an IPX2 rating. Both sets of Google earbuds share the same IPX4 rating, but most athletes will prefer the stabilizing ear wings on the A-Series. Google ditches the wing tips on the Pro model.
If you’re looking at raw noise cancelling performance the Pixel Buds Pro outdoes the AirPods Pro and Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro. Passive isolation is a bit inconsistent when it comes to sounds above 1kHz, which is likely a consequence of the pressure-relieving vents that reduce the “plugged ear” feeling.
The Pixel Buds Pro is a powerful headset that taps into the Google ecosystem. You can integrate the buds with the Google Translate app for live translation and use “Hey Google” to access the Google Assistant. For $200 USD, though, people may want more like an in-app EQ and more customization options.
Is the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro any good?
Where the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 has an IPX2 rating, the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro has a more durable IPX7 rating. This makes it much more reliable to use during workouts and on rainy days, as the buds can withstand one meter of water for up to 30 minutes. Another reason one might opt for the Buds Pro is that it features two ANC settings that you can toggle between depending on how much noise you want to cancel out, which is different than the Buds 2’s adjustable ambient sound modes. The Buds Pro’s highest ANC setting doesn’t cancel as much noise as the Buds 2 does, though.
The Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro has a decent microphone for making phone calls, and the buds typically fit better in larger ears than smaller ones. The Galaxy Buds Pro comes at a hefty cost, but because it came out over a year ago you can often find it on sale at certain retailers.
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.
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.
- 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 USD and features great isolation and pretty good mic quality. You can EQ the bassy default sound from the Soundcore app.
- 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 adds active noise cancelling to these earbuds, which isn’t the best, but the passive isolation makes up for it.
- JLab Epic Air Sport ANC: This set of buds directly competes against the Beats Powerbeats Pro and costs a heck of a lot less at $99 USD. You get pretty good ANC for the price and a consumer-friendly sound profile that you can change with the earbuds’ built-in EQ presets.
- 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. It’s not the absolute best around, but it’s good for the price. Plus, the Ear 1 works equally well on Android as it does on iOS.
- Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus: This is an old pair of wireless earbuds, but it still keeps pace with some of the best due to its nearly 12-hour battery life, Spotify Tap, and an array of features within the Galaxy Wearable app.
- Sennheiser CX Plus True Wireless: Sennheiser’s earbuds sound and look great, and the ANC performance is better here than most other ANC earbuds. You get an IPX4 rating for the buds along with touch controls.
- Sony LinkBuds: Listeners who want to hear their surroundings and their music all at once will like these donut-shaped earbuds. With Sony’s design, the buds don’t block your ear canals but also remain in place (unlike the AirPods). These buds are more covert than bone conduction headphones which is a big plus.
- Sony LinkBuds S: Unlike the standard LinkBuds, the LinkBuds S features a traditional earbud design without donut holes. Noise cancelling performance is close to the WF-1000XM4 and outperforms the previous Sony WF-1000XM3 flagship earbuds. The tradeoff: a boring design.
What you should know before you buy the best wireless earbuds
Users commonly cite connection issues with their true wireless earbuds, and companies have handled this in several different ways. Solutions range from tweaking Bluetooth to implementing completely new hardware.
All wireless headphones connect to your source device via Bluetooth. Typically, one earbud is the primary receiver, and the other is the secondary receiver. Rather than simultaneously send a signal to both earbuds, many smartphones send the signal to the primary, passing data along to the secondary one. This results in a split-second delay between the audio. Manufacturers account for this delay and calculate it into the playback. This way, the earbuds are synced up for playback, and you don’t notice a lag. Most likely, you’ll notice a delay when watching videos; the sound won’t match the person’s words. But you won’t be able to tell if you’re listening to podcasts or music.
Then you have something like the Apple AirPods, which handles the wireless issue a little differently. Apple’s H1 works alongside the regular Bluetooth chip. This dedicated chip helps make the pairing process smoother (if you’re on iOS). It establishes a stronger connection between the earbuds and source device, resulting in significantly fewer skips. This is limited to Apple-owned hardware, like Beats products and the AirPods.
We’re witnessing a wireless epoch. It’s no longer niche or novel to listen completely untethered on your way to work. Technological advancements have lowered the financial barrier to entry, and cheap wireless options are readily available to budget listeners.
Wireless earbuds can still be for you if you don’t commute, especially if you like to exercise. Nothing’s more convenient than listening completely wire-free. There are many great wireless workout earbuds for runners and gym rats alike. Numerous companies have 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 the cost. Others, though, may be better off with wired earbuds or dealing with bulkier wireless headphones.
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 frequency response and how it affects how 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 remember 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 will be good or not. With Bluetooth audio, that means figuring out what Bluetooth codecs both your phone and your earbuds support.
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. Android users, stick to aptX.
How we test the best wireless earbuds
By using a dummy head, audio engineers can 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 demonstrating 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 consistent audio peaking at 75dB(SPL) over the products. 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. Remember 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 possible before declaring them one of the “best.” This means that 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. We 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; everything we recommend results from 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
This question really boils down to your budget and how much you value active noise cancelling performance. We have a detailed breakdown between the Sony WF-1000XM3 and WF-1000XM4, and find that the XM4 earbuds kick the pants off the XM3 regarding ANC.
In the chart below, you can see the WF-1000XM3 does very little to actively cancel sounds below 1kHz. With the WF-1000XM4, those frequencies are anywhere from one-half to nearly one-eighth as loud as they’d sound without the buds in. Passive isolation is also much better on the newer earbuds.
While the original $279 USD price of the WF-1000XM4 is steep for most consumers, you can often find the earbuds on promotion for $199 USD. At that price, we highly recommend the WF-1000XM4 over pretty much any pair of wireless earbuds, including its predecessor.
This answer is constantly changing, but the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus last 11 hours, 44 minutes on a single charge, while the JLab Epic Air Sport ANC lasts a whopping 15 hours, 31 minutes on a single charge.
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 for a volume limiter.
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.