The best wireless earbuds give you high-quality sound, noise cancellation and free you from cables at the same time. The wireless earbuds, also known as true wireless stereo earbuds (or TWS), connect to your phone or media player via Bluetooth and are stored in a case that also charges the earbuds. Some argue that wired headphones offer better sound, but the advancement of Bluetooth has produced headphones that deliver amazing sound quality. Add to that the lack of a 3.5mm headphone jack on today’s phones and it quickly becomes Bluetooth or broken.
There are a few things to keep in mind with a good wireless headset. In addition to the sound quality, you have to find a comfortable fit, good isolation and/or noise reduction and battery life. Also keep in mind that battery life also depends on the loops and case. A solid connection is also important. There is nothing more annoying than frequent audio drops when listening to headphones. When you’re working out, you need sweat and waterproof gems. You also want an audio profile that matches your music taste. As you can see, there are many factors to consider, so let’s dive in without further ado.
Best Overall: Apple Air Pods Pro
If you had asked us before the release of the Air Pods Pro to award a line of Apple headphones as our first choice, you would have been dealt a heavy blow. But the Air Pods Pro have finally solved all the problems we’ve ever had with Apple headphones. They have excellent isolation, impressive active noise cancellation (ANC) and solid battery life. Check all our boxes.
Apple has never been sloppy when it comes to sound quality, but the design of its headphones, right down to the wired Ear Pods, has always stayed out of the ear canal, making isolation terrible and ANC impossible. Adding silicone grommets to the ear canal makes all the difference.
In addition to the excellent ANC, Apple also has one of the best ambient sound modes. Ambient mode allows you to hear your surroundings in situations such as jogging or during a conversation. When you add all this to the simple dead iPhone pairing that Apple makes possible, it’s a complete package. Plus, Air Pods work with both iPhone and Android (no easy pairing), so overall they’re an easy choice.
Best Budget: Anker Sound Core Liberty 2 Pro
Anker is a company known for its affordable quality devices in many different areas. You can find Anker or one of its sub-brands in portable batteries, charging stands, projectors and in this case wireless audio. Our reviewer Jason immediately loves the sound quality. “I can confirm that these headphones sound incredible, not to mention their low price… Sound core has two separate drivers (a standard 11m driver and a Knowles balanced armature driver) stacked together, each headphone inside. One control only focuses on the bass end of the spectrum, while the other control takes care of the minds and details.” With this dial controller setup, the earbuds produce a purer sound across the spectrum.
Jason continues. This is actually a very desirable feature. for true wireless headphones, as even the best in the business (from Sony to Apple’s entry-level Air Pods) omit this option.” Wireless charging is coming to more and more TWS as many of the best smartphones include reverse wireless charging. It’s not ideal for phone-to-phone charging, but it’s great for accessory charging.
Best Noise Canceling: Sony WF-1000XM3
The Sony WH-1000XM earphones continue Sony’s tradition of high-quality audio and premium ANC. Jason, our reviewer was quite impressed with the headphones. He writes: “Like the WH-100XM3 earphones, the sound quality of the WF-100XM3 earphones is practically best-in-class. The 0.24″ embedded driver is a very powerful little speaker that delivers an extraordinarily rich response throughout. 20-20 kHz range. This is by no means common in in-ear headphones, and in fact I can say that these in-ear headphones have had everything I’ve thrown at them. .”
One of Jason’s concerns was headphone connectivity. Jason noticed the buttons struggled to maintain a connection to his phone when he was in me.
Best for sound quality: Sennheiser Momentum True
Sennheiser has long been a leader in audio and now brings that expertise to TWS. Reviewer Jason Schneider calls them “true wireless headphones with the best sound on the market.” Jason continues, “One of Sennheiser’s signature features is harmonic distortion, which is less than 0.08 percent in the Momentum headphones, which is about the same as the Sennheiser HD 600 studio headphones … apt and apt low latency, both of which offer higher resolution compression and seamless transfer rates improve sound quality and better synchronization with videos and games.”
The quality of construction is the problem here. Jason calls it “middle of the road.” Battery life isn’t impressive either. Sennheiser advertises a charge time of about 5 hours, which is in line with our tests and not worse in the category, but the case lasts only 5 hours, ten in total. This will get you through the work day and maybe even the commute, but not much else. And you download every night, which is not great. Jason says he has often opened a drawer for buttons to find them dead. Needless to say, it’s not a good experience.
Best for outdoor activities: Jabra Elite 85t
Jabra started in the consumer audio industry with telephone headsets. It has since evolved into surround sound, and the Elite 85ts is Jabra’s best step forward in this area. This is a more refined generation of headphones, succeeding the Jabra 75ts. They have the same durability and strength. Additionally, our reviewer Jason says, “The Elite 85t earbuds are without a doubt Jabra’s best foot forward in the audio space… huge 11mm drivers they’ve managed to squeeze into these headphones. 20Hz frequency response. At 20kHz it’s not the widest. I’m never seen, but it’s certainly enough to cover the entire range of human hearing.”
Jabra offers not only excellent call quality but also software expertise. Jason writes: “The Jabra is one of my favorite headphones because it walks a fine line of not being too complicated, but still enough to mention overall. It’s really easy to use and is a huge selling point for these headphones.
Best EQ settings: Samsung Galaxy Buds Live
The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live is a solid entry into the TWS space. Samsung makes some of the best general purpose headphones. They aren’t quite the best in any category, but they have fewer compromises than other headphones. Galaxy Buds Live, also called “beans” because of their special shape, do not go into the ear canal like other buds. Instead, they fit into the ear just outside the canal and form a seal around the ear itself. This can be awkward for some ears, so keep that in mind. But if the fit works, it’s much more comfortable than ear canal silicone tips.
Thanks to that seal, ANC is possible and in Buds Live it’s pretty good. Just like sound quality and isolation. In addition to this, the Galaxy Wear app offers six different current equalizers to suit your favorite sound profile. This includes heavy bass settings for playing songs and more neutral settings for things like podcasts and audiobooks. Whatever you’re listening to, Buds Live has an EQ setting for you.
Best for running: Beats Powerboats Pro
Before Air Pods Pro, there was Powerboats Pro. Since the Air Pods Pro is our top pick, this should give you a good idea of what the Powerboats Pro is capable of. In short, they are quite large. You get great sound quality, solid battery life, and physical controls that some people prefer to touch controls. You can get up to 12.5 hours with one charge, which is somewhat unknown in TWS mode. The case is quite large, but that’s because the buttons themselves are quite large. The case can charge the headphones in 45 minutes, which is fast enough for this category.
The physical controls are easy to learn and use. You can access your phone’s assistant with one tap. If you use an iPhone, the headphones also support Hey Siri activation. The physical controls include both volume and track skip, which is great. Passive sound isolation is really good, but there is no ANC. Since this is our pick for runners, that’s a good thing.