Wireless earbuds are one of those ideas that originally sounded like a dream: Plop a tiny headphone into each ear and receive calls or listen to music without being connected to anything. The early wireless earbuds were enormous, died after a short time, and had numerous additional issues. The world has evolved. There are numerous new versions available that sound fantastic and perform well. These are our favorite wireless earbuds, available in a variety of styles and price ranges, after testing dozens over the past four years.
The Definition of Wireless Earbuds
This category has been referred to by a variety of names, including genuine wireless earbuds, truly wireless earbuds, fully wireless earphones, and wirefree earbuds. Here at WIRED, we simply refer to a pair of earphones as "wireless" if they connect to your phone or computer over Bluetooth and don't have a cord connecting the left bud to the right. Each battery-operated wireless set typically comes with two popcorn-sized buds and a charging cradle that houses extra batteries and shields the buds when not in use. Other styles of wireless earbuds connect the two buds using a cable or neckband, often found on workout earphones.
It can feel freeing to be cord-free, but these devices have drawbacks as well, including short battery life (don't purchase any with less than five hours), difficult controls, and a reliance on a charging case. In addition, they are more prone to loss than conventional earphones, and buying new ones can be pricey.
Pixel Buds A-Series from Google
The Pixel Buds A-Series are our preferred wireless earbuds for most people because of their comfortable fit, great sound, attractive design, and affordable price. These headphones link with Android devices in a snap, and Google Assistant integration is superb. They have a listening time of five hours that matches the AirPods' and a sweat-resistance rating of IPX4 that surpasses the AirPods' for workouts. They still connect to iPhones with lightning speed, but not as swiftly as Apple's earbuds. (Google Assistant won't function on iPhones.) The egg-shaped case extends the listening time by an additional 19 hours.
With louder bass made possible by the superb seal created by the silicone ear tips, the audio quality is also greater than Apple's entry-level buds. The ear fins keep them quite stable in the ears.
In the past few years, we've tested a ton of wireless earbuds, but some of our favorites continue to come from the lesser-known audio company 1More. The wireless earbuds from 1More's second generation, dubbed the ColorBuds, are amazing. They sound just as nice as earbuds that cost two or three times as much and are IPX5 sweat-resistant. You can wear them for extended periods of time without ever noticing them because of their silicone ring tips, and the four built-in microphones improve call quality over the previous model.
Compared to its predecessor, the six hours of battery life per charge is about a half-hour less, but the earbuds are smaller and lighter. The case can retain almost 16 more hours of electricity in between sessions. At this moment, they are typically offered for around $60, making them a fantastic value.
Excellent Noise Cancelling:
Sony's WH-1000XM4 are the best wireless earbuds you can find if you don't want to hear anything that is going on around you. The combination of foam ear tips and Sony's digital signal processing turn down the world better than anything else, albeit they are a little hefty and you should spend more money for the comparable Bose model if you have tiny ears. With the help of the companion app, you may modify the equalization and select how much ambient noise you want to hear. When you need to have a quick conversation with someone but don't want to take out your earbuds, you can even set them to detect when you're speaking and automatically pause the music.
Best Budget Buds:
Audio JLab Go Air
Not everyone can afford to spend hundreds of dollars on wireless earbuds. You can pay as little as $30 thanks to JLab (and they frequently go on sale too). The firm has built a reputation for producing earphones that equal those from well-known brands for considerably less, and the Go Air are no exception. For $30, you get a comfortable fit, five hours of battery life, and sweatproofness. The negative? They have a stronger bass than other models, and the open-topped box will need to be cleaned frequently because it collects dirt.
Best for Exercise:
Elite 7 Active by Jabra
The Elite 7 Active is the result of thousands of ears being scanned by the Jabra team in order to create svelte, comfortable designs. Adrienne, editor of WIRED reviews: "We both found these earbuds to be incredibly cozy and solid for our outdoor activities, despite the fact that So and I have very different sized ears." The noise-canceling technology, sound quality, and microphone are all top-notch, and they include a unique grip on the outside of the earbuds to help you keep them in your ears. What's best? A two-year warranty is included, and the battery life is eight hours! Jabra frequently keeps selling outdated models for years, so you won't have any trouble changing ear tips, the case, or even a bud as necessary.
The Most Secure Fit:
Beats PowerBeats Pro
It's intentional for Apple's Powerbeats Pro to be heavier than many of the earbuds on this list. With an IPX4 water-resistance certification, they are designed to keep you extremely dry and comfortable even during your wettest workouts. They sound significantly better than Apple's basic AirPods or practically any other pair of Beats you've ever heard and they provide an astonishing nine hours of life from a charge with additional 18 extra hours in the portly 3 x 3-inch square case they come in.
If you pull one of them out of your ear, it will automatically halt or divert calls back to your phone, which is one of the most useful functions. Nevertheless, only the essential functionalities will operate when connected to an Android phone. Many of their features will not. They regularly go on sale for about $180, which is much better.
Optimal for iPhones:
Pro Apple AirPods (2nd Generation)
Although the first generation of Apple AirPods Pro had excellent noise cancellation, their battery life was only average. With significantly improved noise cancellation switched on, the most recent version (9/10, WIRED recommends) offers a reasonable six hours of playtime and sounds even better. I really enjoy the new "swipe to change volume" feature that Apple built into each iPhone since it makes it simpler than ever to adjust the volume without grabbing your phone.
When you use the Find My app to look for the case in your couch cushions or gym bag, it can yell at you because it has a built-in speaker. Due to the IPX4 rating on the case and headphones, you won't have to worry about either perspiration or rainstorms.
Great for iPhones as well:
Beats Fits Pro
The Beats Fit Pro features a far more comfortable and ergonomic design while still utilizing the same H1 chip found in Apple's AirPods and AirPods Pro. You've found some of the best earbuds for the iPhone when you combine their active noise cancellation and six-hour battery life with some of the greatest quality we've heard under $200.
Thanks to an app that lets you customize the button functions and do a fit test, they also function nicely with Android devices. Even style alternatives are available. There are four color options for the Beats Fit Pro, from stark white to pinkish purple.
Best for Android:
Pixel Buds Pro from Google
The Pixel Buds Pro offer the best value if you possess an Android and want the straightforward experience that your Apple-owning friends rave about. You get a sizable soundstage, strong bass, and all the current bells and whistles you could possibly need.
With eight hours of battery life and noise cancelling enabled, these are perfect for calls and in airports. You can get to your destination before you need to put the earbuds back in the wireless charging case that comes with the set. Multi-device pairing, which enables simultaneous connections to your phone and laptop, is another nice feature.
Excellent with Android, too
Galaxy Buds 2 by Samsung
By far, my favorite headphones for Android are Samsung's Buds 2. You can get longer battery life, noise cancellation, and some of the lightest, most comfortable earbuds available for roughly the same price as a conventional pair of AirPods. (5 hours with noise cancellation, 7.5 hours without). A wireless charging case and a dual-driver array for greater bass are included with the Buds 2. Additionally, they come in pastel shades.
Unfortunately, the companion app is only compatible with Android devices; as a result, iPhone users will be unable to use the EQ controls, ping for the location of a lost earbud, perform Samsung's fit test, or use the Bixby voice assistant. It's also important to note that some people have complained that these earbuds irritate their ears. I didn't, but if you do, make sure to send the buds back right away.
The Best for Owners of Samsung:
Galaxy Buds2 Pro from Samsung
These are your best pals if you own a Samsung phone and want to make the most of it. The Galaxy Buds2 Pro may lack the Pixel Buds Pro's multi-device compatibility, but they more than make up for it in terms of audio, where a pair of dual dynamic drivers produce incredibly clear high-fidelity.
Additionally, they are quite comfortable to wear, offer five hours of play with noise cancellation turned on, and have an IPX7 rating, making them suitable for exercise. The ability to do spatial audio and 24-bit sound is another "pro" feature, provided you have a contemporary Samsung smartphone to combine these with. The very best? The wireless charging case is available in a sweet shade of purple, and it fits neatly in even the tiniest pants pockets.
Most Effective for Local Travel:
LinkBuds by Sony
Recently, many of us have been going out more; however, exercising in public or riding a bike while wearing earbuds can also be hazardous. To allow sound from the outside world to enter, each driver of the Sony LinkBuds has real holes drilled through it. While listening to music at the grocery store, you might hear a car heading your way before you cross the street. Additionally, they have a very small charging case that makes them convenient to keep in a jacket pocket.
AfterShokz OpenRun Pro
The Aftershokz OpenRun Pro are an alternative pair of earbuds that wrap around your head and employ bone conduction technology to allow you to hear music and the outside environment. Eric Ravenscraft, a fellow WIRED gear reviewer, loved his time with them. I prefer the smaller size of the Sony LinkBuds mentioned above, but these have a more secure design and a longer battery life of 10 hours for extended exercises.
For the Headphone Geeks:
Check out this no-frills pair from Grado Labs if you want a more audiophile-like wireless listening experience. Brooklyn is renowned for making top-notch headphones and turntable cartridges, and it has since expanded to produce fully wireless earbuds. The GT220 are cosy and ergonomic, and they produce a top-notch rendition of the brand's transparent sound. In fact, according to senior associate editor Adrienne So of WIRED, they fit so well that noise cancelling is unnecessary.
In contrast to Grado's larger, flashier headphones, these ones have a reasonable IPX4 rating and six hours of battery life without the supplied charging case. They also have an unassuming enough appearance to be worn anyplace.
Best for Audiophiles:
Astell & Kern UW100
Finding wireless earphones that work with your current smartphone can be challenging if you're an audio freak. You want them for exercising and cruising around your neighbourhood, yes, but very few brands truly prioritise audio quality. This brings us to the Astell & Kern UW100 which has some of the best tuning and digital-to-analog conversion—and hence sound quality—of any wireless earbuds I've tried.
Audiophiles who enjoy digital music are likely already familiar with the name; nonetheless, these are Astell & Kern's first wireless earbuds, and they are great. I have long been a fan of the company's high-end digital music players and dongles.
For Fans of Alexa (2021):
Amazon Echo Buds
The true reason to buy Amazon's second-generation Echo Buds (8/10, WIRED Recommends) is the fantastic Alexa integration. They have all the bells and whistles of a high-end pair of wireless earbuds, including wireless charging, noise cancellation, and great app-based customization. While you listen to music, the earbuds are listening for voice commands, enabling you to rapidly set timers, check the weather, and add items to grocery lists from any location. Though it may take some getting accustomed to, having a voice assistant by your side all day is more useful than you may imagine.
Earbuds to Avoid:
Why Didn't We Include AirPods?
Earbuds that don't support Bluetooth 5.0 or don't have a battery life of at least five hours should generally be avoided. The longer your wireless headphones' battery lasts initially, the more bearable it will be in two to three years. Wireless headphones' batteries deteriorate with time.
It's difficult to list every model of earbud we don't particularly like because there are so many on the market right now. Although Apple's basic AirPods (first, second, or third generation) perform various tasks admirably, we just don't much enjoy them.
They function well for calls, have an acceptable battery life, and come in a small case, however they don't fit all ears properly and you can't do much about loose ones because they don't have ear tips or wings. Desire crystal-clear, high-fidelity music? Purchase a different set from our list or the AirPods Pro, which cost a little more but are genuinely excellent headphones.