The Best Wireless Bluetooth Earbuds How we pick and test
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The Best Wireless Bluetooth Earbuds How we pick and test

19/04/2022  |   650 Views

  1. Electronics
  2. Headphones
By Lauren DraganUpdated January 10, 2022

We love the Jabra Elite 75t wireless earbuds because, despite being two years old, they still deliver the best combination of performance and features for the money—and they’re delightful to use. Their diminutive size makes them both comfortable and discreet, the controls are painless (literally and figuratively), they offer approximately a full workday of battery life per charge, and they sound great with music and phone calls.

Our pick

Jabra Elite 75t

The best true wireless earbuds

The Elite 75t wireless earbuds are comfortable, great-sounding, and equipped with all the controls and features you need.

Buying Options

$80* from Amazon$80 from Best Buy

*At the time of publishing, the price was $73.

The Jabra Elite 75t earbuds are the best Bluetooth earbuds because they sound great, feel comfortable, and offer the convenience of being completely cable-free. Smaller and lighter than most of the competition, the 75t earbuds feature a battery life of seven and a half hours per charge, plus large, easy-to-press buttons to control adjustments such as play/pause, volume, track skip, and digital-assistant activation. In our tests, these earbuds paired easily with both iOS and Android devices, and they worked great for phone calls, thanks to the four-microphone array and active wind-noise reduction that keep your voice sounding exceptionally clear. The earbud design is rather good at isolating you from noise, and this pair features decent active noise cancellation. There’s also a transparency mode so that you can choose to hear your surroundings when you need to. The IP55 rating against water, dust, and sweat damage means that taking a jog or getting caught in drizzle is no big deal. The pocket-size storage case charges via USB-C and holds a little over two full charges. The downsides are that you can’t use either earbud individually (only the right one), and the sound quality out of the box is a bit bass- and treble-heavy—but you can easily remedy this using the Jabra app’s equalizer adjustments. Most important, Jabra’s two-year warranty will protect you from any unexpected hiccups.

Jabra recently released a successor to the 75t called the Elite 7 Pro. Although the 7 Pro earbuds get a lot right, we experienced connectivity problems and other issues that need to be resolved before we can consider recommending them. You can read more of our thoughts in the Competition section. Jabra declined to say whether the 75t will be discontinued, but as long as that pair is available, it offers better overall performance for far less money and so remains our top pick.



Beats Fit Pro

A more secure fit, with perks for Apple users

The Beats Fit Pro earbuds sound great and offer nearly all the Apple-specific benefits of the AirPods with none of the downsides.

Buying Options

$200* from Amazon$200 from Walmart

*At the time of publishing, the price was $199.

If you struggle to keep true wireless earbuds in your ears, or if you’re an Apple fan who wants access to Apple’s H1 chip features, the Beats Fit Pro is for you. Just like Apple’s AirPods Pro earbuds, the Fit Pro set offers easy pairing and connection swapping to iCloud-connected Apple devices, as well as features like head tracking, noise cancellation, transparency mode, touch-free Hey Siri control, and microphones with wind and background-noise reduction. Unlike the AirPods Pro, the Fit Pro set offers physical buttons that control track skip, phone calls, and volume on Apple devices, plus some button customization and one-touch pairing on Android devices (if you download the Beats app). The Fit Pro sounds great, with a somewhat boosted bass and excellent vocal clarity—which is good because there is no way to adjust the sound quality. The six hours of listening time (with ANC on) is average, and the quick-charge feature will give you an hour of playback after the earbuds spend five minutes in the charging case—but the case itself lacks the option for wireless charging and isn’t as small as the Jabra and Apple cases. The IPX4 water-resistance rating should be enough protection for most activities, but the Jabra set’s IP55 rating is better for folks who are harder on their gear. Some folks will love that either of the Fit Pro’s earbuds can work independently, but office multitaskers may miss the dual-device connectivity of the Jabra pair. Our test panel found the flexible, stabilizing wings on the earbuds to be comfortable and liked the extra security they provided, but people who are sensitive to pressure in the ear might dislike the way they feel.

Budget pick

EarFun Free 2

The best budget wireless earbuds under $100

This affordable pair of true wireless earbuds is loaded with features and performs respectably well.

Buying Options

$50* from Amazon$50 from earfun

*At the time of publishing, the price was $40.

If you want completely wireless earbuds that cost less than $100, the EarFun Free 2 is the best pair we’ve found. EarFun gives you a lot of premium features for the money, including a better-than-average waterproof rating of IPX7, a Qi-compatible charging case, a solid battery life of seven hours per charge, and an 18-month warranty. The Free 2 earbuds have the full complement of control options, and the quality of the background-noise-reducing microphones rivals that of earbuds priced at $100 or more. This pair isn’t perfect, though: The high frequencies are more pronounced than we’d like, the earbuds’ larger size might make them feel too snug if you have very small ears, and the touch-based controls are fussier than physical buttons.

Everything we recommend

Our pick

Jabra Elite 75t

The best true wireless earbuds

The Elite 75t wireless earbuds are comfortable, great-sounding, and equipped with all the controls and features you need.

Buying Options

$80* from Amazon$80 from Best Buy

*At the time of publishing, the price was $73.


Beats Fit Pro

A more secure fit, with perks for Apple users

The Beats Fit Pro earbuds sound great and offer nearly all the Apple-specific benefits of the AirPods with none of the downsides.

Buying Options

$200* from Amazon$200 from Walmart

*At the time of publishing, the price was $199.

Budget pick

EarFun Free 2

The best budget wireless earbuds under $100

This affordable pair of true wireless earbuds is loaded with features and performs respectably well.

Buying Options

$50* from Amazon$50 from earfun

*At the time of publishing, the price was $40.

The research

Why you should trust us

I hold a bachelor’s degree in both music performance and audio production from Ithaca College, and I also have tested more than a thousand pairs of headphones and earbuds while working for Wirecutter.

In addition to reviewing gear for AV magazines, I’ve been in and out of top recording studios for over a decade, first as a radio producer and on-air talent, then as a professional voice actor. My articles have been featured in Fast Company, Forbes, the Los Angeles Times, and Time, and on Good Morning America, the BBC World Service, and NBC Nightly News.

Then there’s our panel of experts, including Brent Butterworth, a Wirecutter staff writer with decades of experience, and John Higgins, a session musician, sound editor, and occasional Wirecutter writer (and my spouse) with a music master’s degree from the University of Southern California.

Who should get wireless earbuds

Wireless earbuds are for people who want to listen wirelessly and who want their money to go toward convenience, sound, comfort, and call quality rather than features like heavy sweat resistance or the best noise cancellation. Whether you’re sitting at your desk, commuting to work, or taking the dog for a walk, any of these wireless earbud picks should offer a reliable way to transmit great-sounding music to your ears and a clear-sounding voice to your phone-call recipients. On- or over-ear Bluetooth headphones are also capable of hitting these points, but they can get in the way of glasses and are quite bulky compared with earbuds.

Many of the headphones in this category are resistant to water or sweat but aren’t designed for high-impact workouts or very wet conditions. For workouts, we suggest looking at our guide to the best workout headphones.

Although we do take active noise cancelling into account as a bonus feature for the models in this guide, if you fly a lot or need earbuds with the very best noise cancelling possible, check out our guide to the best noise-cancelling headphones.

If you want to spend less, you can turn to our guide to the best earbuds under $50, where our focus is on delivering the best combo of sound and features for the least amount of money.

How we picked the best wireless earbuds

There are two types of wireless earbuds on the market: those that are tethered via a cable (usually referred to as a collar or a neckband) and those that we call “true wireless” Bluetooth earbuds, which look a little like hearing aids and don’t have a cord connecting them either to your music device or to each other.

True wireless earbuds have become increasingly popular because of how light and unobtrusive they feel. As such, many manufacturers now focus their attention on releasing earbuds in this style, and we’re seeing fewer tethered options outside of the budget-earbud category. We still test both styles for this guide, but we highly prioritize a true wireless design, as we’ve found that both our testers and our readers prefer the comfort and convenience that is possible when all the cables are removed. (If you prefer the tethered style, we have several recommendations in Other good wireless earbuds.)

To find the best wireless earbuds for everyday use, we use the following criteria:

How we tested for the best in-ear headphones

Over the past five years, we’ve spent hundreds of hours testing more than 300 pairs of wireless earbuds. Our panelists evaluate for sound quality, ease of use, fit, and comfort before ranking their favorites.

My part in the testing process involves taking the favorites and trying out the microphones over phone calls in both quiet and noisy areas. I also test battery life to make sure that the actual use time lines up with each manufacturer’s claim. And I check the Bluetooth signal reliability by wandering a good distance away from my mobile device, putting it in a pocket or bag, walking outside, and going several rooms away.

We test each pair of earbuds with both iOS and Android phones, as well as an Apple laptop, to look for Bluetooth connectivity issues. Most manufacturers will stipulate that their wireless earbuds are designed to work specifically with mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. That doesn’t mean the earbuds won’t work with a computer, but depending on your operating system, you could experience a less reliable Bluetooth connection. You can read more about the issue here.

Once we had a sense of how each set of earbuds performed, we took price and extra features into account to choose our final winners.

Our pick for the best true wireless earbuds: Jabra Elite 75t

Our pick

Jabra Elite 75t

The best true wireless earbuds

The Elite 75t wireless earbuds are comfortable, great-sounding, and equipped with all the controls and features you need.

Buying Options

$80* from Amazon$80 from Best Buy

*At the time of publishing, the price was $73.

The Jabra Elite 75t earbuds are a pleasure to use, offering all the benefits of wireless Bluetooth earbuds with absolutely no cords. These are among the smallest, lightest true wireless earbuds we’ve tested, but their fit should still be secure for a variety of ear shapes. They work great with both iOS and Android devices, and the controls are simple and comfortable to use. Battery life is listed at seven and a half hours of listening time per charge, and the charging case is small enough to fit in the coin pocket of a pair of jeans and provides an additional 20 hours of battery life. The earbuds sound great with music, but they’re also good for phone calls because the microphones are remarkably good at reducing moderate wind noise while keeping your voice clear to your callers. The active noise cancellation isn’t the absolute best we’ve ever measured, but it does the trick for reducing traffic sounds, airplane noise, or a loud fan. And if you need to brave the elements, the 75t earbuds are dust and water resistant (with an IP55 rating). They’re compatible with Google Assistant, Alexa, and Siri, and if anything goes amiss, Jabra protects the pair with a two-year warranty.

Thanks to the inclusion of Bluetooth 5.0 with the Elite 75t, I could walk three walls away from my phone and not experience skips or drops during testing. I even left my phone on the second floor and jogged down a flight of stairs and about 20 feet away to check the mail, and they didn’t drop my call. Of course, large metal beams, pipes, and other factors can affect your experience, but we were very happy with the stability of the connection inside, outside, and even in interference-prone areas like the gym and subway.

Additionally, these earbuds offer dual-device Bluetooth connection, which means you can be connected to your phone and laptop simultaneously (if the earbuds work with your computer, see the long-term test notes below). So if you are listening to music streamed from your laptop and want to answer a call, there's no need to manually switch the Bluetooth connection from the laptop to the phone as you do with many other earbuds. You can just answer the call, and the Jabra set will automatically swap the audio. And if you take the earbuds out of your ears, your music automatically pauses.

Unlike many true wireless earbuds we tested, the Elite 75t earpieces felt snug and secure, even when we jogged, jumped around, or shook our heads. They’re small and lightweight, and they won’t dangle, stick out, or fall out every time you move too quickly. While no pair of earbuds can accommodate every ear size and shape, the Elite 75t comes with three sets of ear tips to choose from, and all of our panelists were able to find a combination that worked for them—even the people with the largest and the smallest ears, who regularly struggle to find earbuds that stay in place. The Elite 75t earbuds are far less conspicuous than some competing true wireless designs, which may be appealing for people who don’t want to draw attention to their earbuds.

This pair also offers more controls than many sets of true wireless earbuds. Each Elite 75t earbud has one large button, and through different combinations of taps or holds, you can control play/pause, volume, track skip, call answer/end, and digital-assistant activation. Unlike with many of the touch-sensor-based earbuds we tested, the 75t’s buttons didn’t trigger accidentally if your hand happened to brush one of the earbuds. We like that the buttons don’t click loudly when depressed, and they are sensitive enough to pressure that you don’t have to mash the earbuds painfully into your ears to get a response. The Elite 75t is compatible with both iOS and Android and certified for use with Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant.

The active noise cancellation isn’t as powerful as some of our noise-cancelling earbud picks, but it is effective enough to offer a noticeable reduction in the lower-frequency noises around you. So while frequent flyers might want to invest in a pair that has more-advanced ANC, most folks who use the cancellation feature only occasionally will likely be very happy with the 75t’s reduction capabilities. Additionally, the earbuds’ sealed design isolates enough sound to block out most distractions around you.

If you need to have a conversation or prefer to hear your surroundings, just single-tap the button on the left earbud—this activates a transparency mode, which uses the mics to send external sounds through the wireless earbuds themselves. Using the free Jabra Sound+ app, you can set this action to either pause your music or continue to play it at a lower volume, which allows you to hear a mix of your music or call and the external noise. Additionally, the 75t protects your hearing, so if something very loud passes by, the transparency shuts off until the noise ceases rather than blaring feedback into your eardrums. (I found this out during a wind-noise test involving a hair dryer.)

Music fans will be happy to know that the Elite 75t’s sound quality is pretty great. In our tests, out of the box it offered extra bass intensity and a bump in the upper-frequency range that emphasized some consonant sounds. However, you can easily adjust the equalization in the Jabra app, and your settings are saved in the earbuds: Once you find your personalized sound, the Elite 75t stores it, so you don’t need to play your music through the app to get the extra bass or boosted vocals you prefer. We were impressed with the 75t’s depth-of-field representation, which added a three-dimensional quality in our tests. The vast majority of the true wireless earbuds we tested had a more compressed or two-dimensional quality to their sound.

Of the wireless earbuds we’ve tested, the Elite 75t is the best pair for phone calls, thanks to its four-microphone array with wind-noise reduction. When using the 75t in a quiet room, I sounded very clear to other people during calls and videoconferences. To test the wind-noise reduction, I stood in front of a window air conditioner, put the fan on high, and called Brent Butterworth. Brent reported that he initially heard the sound of air hitting the mic, but when I spoke, the noise dramatically dropped in volume. In contrast to the experiences we’ve had with other headphones that employ this kind of technology, which can compress the sound of your voice, Brent said my tone sounded a lot fuller and richer through the 75t than through other earbuds he’d heard.

With the active noise cancellation deactivated, Jabra claims the Elite 75t has a battery life of seven and a half hours per charge, which should get you through most of a workday. I personally got even more when I listened at a moderate volume and made only a few phone calls under 10 minutes each. (Turning ANC on will shave about an hour off that time.) Of course, your volume level and call duration could mildly impact your results. The charging case is petite enough to fit in a jeans coin pocket yet capable of providing an additional 20 hours of battery life. Even better, the earbud batteries have an initial rapid charge that gives you one hour of use after 15 minutes docked in the case. The case itself charges via USB-C.

You don’t need to worry about being caught in the rain, either, because these earbuds are IP55 rated, which means they can take dust, rain, and some light sweat without breaking. You can tote the Elite 75t to the gym if you are doing a mild workout; however, if you sweat heavily, you may want to consider our workout headphones pick, Jabra’s Elite Active 75t, which has a higher IP56 rating for dust and sweat resistance. Although Jabra backs the Elite 75t with a two-year warranty against water and dust damage, this wireless earbud model isn’t covered for intense sweating.

Flaws but not dealbreakers

Although we like almost everything about the Elite 75t, there are a few aspects that aren’t absolutely perfect. For starters, you don’t have the option to use either earbud individually, as you can with some competitors (including our runner-up pick). You can use the right earbud on its own, but you’ll lose the control options on the left earbud. Also, like all true wireless headphones, this pair produces a very slight sound delay—which we measured in milliseconds—when you’re watching video or playing casual games on your phone.

Although we were able to find a sound profile that made us happy by adjusting the Elite 75t via the Jabra Sound+ app, we wish that the bass and treble were reined in a little more right out of the box. Before we made our tweaks, we found the bass to be a bit loud and the highs a touch icy. It’s not a huge deal, but it would’ve been nice to have a sound we loved without the need to make any adjustments.

Long-term test notes: Jabra Elite 75t

We’ve been keeping an eye on potential issues that some people have reported. Some issues—like a crackling sound in the left earbud, the hear-through mode fluttering off and on rapidly when connected devices play a notification tone, or music that will occasionally stop playing—have been addressed in firmware updates. So if you’re having a problem with your Elite 75t, first be sure to use the Jabra Sound+ app to update to the latest firmware, as it may be your solution.

Another common hiccup is the Elite 75t’s inability to connect with certain computers. With newer laptops, most of these issues can be addressed, and you can find solutions to common Bluetooth/laptop issues and how to address them. However, if you plan to use these earbuds with a computer that didn’t come with Bluetooth installed, we recommend testing them with your computer within the return-policy window.

We’ve seen some comments about music and podcasts randomly pausing when you have two devices connected, and this is another problem that is not Jabra-specific. Again, this is usually an easy fix, and you can read more here.

As for those rare occasions when the Elite 75t earbuds were faulty, it seems that Jabra has been responsive in reviewing cases and replacing defective units with new earbuds.

Runner-up for the best wireless earbuds: Beats Fit Pro


Beats Fit Pro

A more secure fit, with perks for Apple users

The Beats Fit Pro earbuds sound great and offer nearly all the Apple-specific benefits of the AirPods with none of the downsides.

Buying Options

$200* from Amazon$200 from Walmart

*At the time of publishing, the price was $199.

If the Jabra Elite 75t doesn’t fit you securely, or if you own multiple Apple devices and want to enjoy the perks of staying in the Apple ecosystem, the Beats Fit Pro is a delightful pair of true wireless earbuds. The Fit Pro takes all the reasons you might want to own the AirPods Pro—easy Apple pairing and device swapping, touchless Hey Siri control, head tracking and spatial audio via Apple Music, and the Find My function—and puts it all in a smaller, more secure pair of earbuds with physical button controls. This pair sounds fantastic, with a slightly boosted bass and a good sense of detail in the mids and highs. The buds stay put better than many true wireless earbuds, though the winged design may not appeal to everyone. The charging case is also larger than we’d like and lacks wireless-charging capabilities.

Everyone on our panel was impressed by the flexible fins that hold these earbuds securely in the ears. These fins, or wings, grip the outer ear without creating too much pressure, and the earbuds are light and small enough that there isn’t too much heft dragging them down. However, those with very small ears and people who are sensitive to tactile response in the ear area may find that the wings create a “too full” feeling that can be fatiguing during long listening sessions. This wasn’t a problem for any of our panelists, however.

Because this pair fits so securely, the Fit Pro is equally comfortable on a jog as it is at the office. Although this set’s IP water- and dust-resistance rating isn’t as high as that of the Jabra 75t, the rating of IPX4 means the Fit Pro should be sufficient for the average run or workout. However, for heavy sweating, water-based workouts, or tough mudders, we recommend looking at our guide to workout headphones.

In the past, Beats headphones were known for their bass-heavy sound quality, which ranged from “a bit much” to “completely overwhelming.” However, Beats has comparatively refined the sound profile on the Fit Pro, and this pair sounded pretty darn great in our tests. Are these earbuds completely neutral and authentic? No, but we found the extra bass boost to be pleasant, and the bass notes didn’t blur or reverberate. Higher frequencies, such as consonants and cymbals, were clear and didn’t pierce in our tests, though audio purists who like an extra pop in the high frequencies could accuse them of lacking some sparkle or detail. Overall, we think the sound quality is as good as or better than what the Jabra 75t set offers; it’s really a matter of preference. The Jabra earbuds give you the ability to adjust the sound with equalization controls, whereas with this Beats pair, what you hear out of the box is what you get.

The microphone quality is stellar over phone calls or video chat. In quiet rooms you’ll sound very clear, and if you need to take calls on the go, the background-noise reduction helps a great deal. Although removing noise somewhat compresses the sound of your voice, it also effectively removes wind and other sustained din, such as traffic whooshes.

The two earbuds have single physical buttons that are easy to find by feel and comfortable to press. That stands in contrast to the experience with many other true wireless earbuds, which typically have wonky touch controls or buttons that shove the earbud painfully into your ear canal when you depress them. Either Beats Fit Pro earbud will function alone if you prefer to use only one like a traditional headset for calls or to simultaneously hear your surroundings. The buttons handle music playback, digital-assistant activation, and toggling between ANC and the hear-through mode. However, unlike with the Jabra Elite 75t, the controls are limited on Android phones; volume control is an option only for Apple devices.

The battery life of around six hours (longer if you pause your music occasionally and don’t leave the noise cancellation on) is middle-of-the-road, but the combination of quick-charge capabilities and the three full charges provided by the charging case means that most folks will get through a full day of use with no problems.

The biggest advantage these earbuds have over the competition is their ability to access Apple features. (Beats is owned by Apple.) Although bonus features like spatial audio and head tracking have yet to really show lasting value, others like touchless Hey Siri control and Find My can prove especially helpful. Since these earbuds are equipped with the same H1 chip as the Apple AirPods, they pair with Apple devices nearly instantly: Simply open the case next to your iPhone, and an icon asking if you’d like to connect appears on the phone screen. Tap, and you’re good to go. If you are signed in to your iCloud account, the Beats Fit Pro also automatically appears in all of the Bluetooth menus on your various Apple devices, so you need to pair to only one device. You can also quickly pair these earbuds with Android devices, but in that case you need to download the Beats app first. Switching from one device to another is a process similar to that of other Bluetooth earbuds or headphones, and Android users may miss the dual-device pairing capabilities that the Jabra pair provides. An additional Apple bonus: If a friend has a pair of Beats or AirPods, both of you can listen to one iOS device wirelessly using Apple’s audio-sharing feature.

The always-on Hey Siri function lets you use your voice to trigger Apple’s digital assistant, with no button tapping necessary. If you use a non-Apple platform, you can still activate your digital assistant—you just need to set it as a control preset in the Beats app. You can also use Hey Siri to control the volume or toggle between noise cancellation and transparency modes, which is a good thing because you have to choose between the two as the assigned function for a long button hold. Apple users likely won’t see this as a dealbreaker since the Hey Siri function can easily swap listening modes, as can the control panel on mobile devices. But Android users who prefer full controls on their earbuds will want to stick to the Jabra pair instead.

Whereas most of the lost-earbud location trackers we’ve tested are clunky and less than pinpoint accurate, the Find My function on Apple devices is truly stellar. If you’ve seen how AirTags function, you’ll be familiar with the process, which is a combination of GPS, Bluetooth proximity, and speaker chirp. It’s really the only system we’ve tested that is useful enough to merit consideration as a factor in purchasing one device over another. Between the stabilization fins on the earbuds and the Find My feature, losing an earbud becomes far less likely—so if you’re an iPhone user prone to misplacing small things, the Beats Fit Pro might be worth extra consideration.

The noise cancellation on this pair is very effective, but only in a specific frequency range. We talk more about how well the Fit Pro compares with other earbuds in this regard in our guide to noise-cancelling headphones, but folks using the active reduction to combat airplane noise should find it useful. Those who want to block out higher pitches such as voices or baby cries will find that the Fit Pro is about as good as any passive earbuds and definitely similar to the Jabra set. Because of the narrow, intense range of noise cancellation on the Fit Pro, people who are prone to eardrum suck may discover that the ANC on this pair triggers that feeling of unease—and the level of reduction is not adjustable. In contrast, the transparency mode on the Fit Pro is excellent and makes it very easy to carry on a conversation or maintain situational awareness without adding too much distracting sibilance to the sound of the world around you.

The only major downside to the Beats Fit Pro is the case. Not only does it lack the Qi wireless-charging capabilities that Apple MagSafe fans may crave (it charges via USB-C), but it’s also a little larger than we’d like. Though it’s significantly smaller than that of the Beats Powerbeats Pro (our previous runner-up pick), the Fit Pro’s case is too large to fit in the coin pocket of men’s jeans (or the main pocket of tight jeans that have that annoying half-pocket design). However, Beats has improved the wear sensor of the Fit Pro so that the earbuds are far less likely to activate while they’re out of your ears. So unlike other true-wireless earbuds that require the case to power off, these earbuds are safe to slip into your pocket in a pinch without completely draining the battery or triggering music playback. Though we consider the case’s size to be a flaw, a few of our testers preferred the larger case—they said it was easier to find in their bag. But if your inclination is toward a smaller case, we recommend the Jabra set instead.

Best budget wireless earbuds under $100: EarFun Free 2

Budget pick

EarFun Free 2

The best budget wireless earbuds under $100

This affordable pair of true wireless earbuds is loaded with features and performs respectably well.

Buying Options

$50* from Amazon$50 from earfun

*At the time of publishing, the price was $40.

For those who covet the completely wire-free design but don’t have a large budget, the EarFun Free 2 earbuds provide an experience that is on a par with—and occasionally better than—true wireless earbuds in the $90 to $100 range. Though the Free 2’s performance doesn’t rival that of our other picks, our test panel was impressed with both the sound quality and the number of premium features this pair offers while still selling for around 50 bucks. (If you aren’t interested specifically in true wireless earbuds or want to spend even less, pop over to our guide to the best earbuds under $50, where you’ll find more recommendations for neckband-style and wired earbuds that offer surprisingly good sound for the money.)

Many budget-priced true wireless earbuds offer a limited number of controls on the earbuds themselves, but the EarFun Free 2 has a full control suite, including play/pause, volume control, track forward/reverse, call answer/end, and digital-assistant activation. Though our team generally prefers physical buttons over touch-based controls, the large touch-surface area on these earbuds is more forgiving than other similar systems we’ve tested. It’s still not as foolproof as earbuds that have mechanical buttons to press, but because we didn’t have frequent misfires, we forgave this minor drawback.

In terms of sound quality for the price, EarFun did an excellent job in tuning the Free 2’s mid and low frequencies. Bass notes have actual pitches rather than thumps, and the attack and decay of kick-drum hits are clear and defined. The Free 2 provides more detail in the high frequencies than many similarly priced earbuds—but there is a big spike in the range of “s” and “t” sounds or cymbal crashes, which can be fatiguing to listen to, especially at louder volumes. Sensitive folks may find this spike off-putting and prefer the more balanced sound of the Elite 75t and Fit Pro. And unlike the Elite 75t, which offers the ability to adjust the sound in the Jabra app, the Free 2 has one sound profile—if you don’t like it, there is nothing you can do, aside from altering the equalizer in your music app, which won’t help when listening to streaming video or over phone calls.

Three tip sizes are included, and all of our panelists were able to get a secure fit. But the earbuds are a bit chunkier than the Jabra Elite 75t earbuds—the shape is contoured in a way that should make the Free 2 comfortable for most people, but someone with very small ears and ear canals may have a little more trouble.

The Free 2’s charging case is relatively small and should fit in a jeans pocket. It is compatible with Qi wireless chargers and has a quick-charge feature that will supply two hours of listening time after just 10 minutes in the case. Once fully charged, the earbuds will play music for around seven hours, though this can vary depending on how many phone calls you make and the volume at which you generally listen. If you happen to leave the earbuds out of the case, a 10-minute auto-shutoff will prevent you from draining your battery once your audio device disconnects.

We were very impressed with the microphone quality for phone and video calls, but this pair isn’t wind-noise resistant. A solid gust will lead to a buffeting sound, so you’ll want to duck inside to take a call on a blustery day.

With a higher dust/water resistance rating of IPX7, the EarFun Free 2 can definitely handle rain. IPX7 means the device can be dropped in a meter of water for 30 minutes with no adverse effects. The rating only applies to clear water, so be sure to rinse any saltwater, sweat, or dust off of the Free 2 after exposure and allow the earbuds to dry thoroughly before placing them back in a case. Should anything go wrong, EarFun covers the Free 2 with an 18-month warranty.

Security and privacy

Wirecutter takes security and privacy issues seriously and investigates, as much as possible, how the companies we recommend deal with customer data. Since a growing number of wireless Bluetooth headphones require the use of an app for setup and (sometimes) daily operation, we reached out to the companies that produce our top picks and asked them to provide information that we think is of primary concern for any potential buyer. Here’s what we learned:

How our picks compare

What user data does the app collect?

  • Beats: Although there is no app for Apple devices, if you associate your Beats device to your iCloud account, Apple collects diagnostics and usage data if you have opted in. The same applies to the Android app. (See Apple’s support page on this topic for more information.)
  • EarFun: No app.
  • What permissions does the app ask for?

    Are you required to create an account?

    Can the headphones be used without the app, and what do you lose by doing so?

    Is data collected in the app shared with third parties for marketing purposes?

    Are you able to opt out of sharing some or all of your data, and if so, how?

    Other good wireless Bluetooth earbuds

    Skullcandy Grind Fuel: This pair has a bunch of innovative features, such as Skullcandy’s earbud-based voice-assistant system, which doesn’t require an internet connection to function (though you do need to leave the Skullcandy app open in your phone while using the earbuds). It also offers voice-activated Spotify and (most nifty of all) the ability to use the earbud button as a remote to take a picture with your phone’s camera. We were able to get the Grind Fuel set to sound pretty good using its combination of hearing-test-based EQ and manual adjustments. Unfortunately, the voice-activation system can be fussy in windy conditions, so folks who dream of verbally changing tracks while biking or whizzing down a ski slope may be disappointed. Also, the microphone sounds a little compressed and quiet over calls and is prone to wind noise. And although the fit is comfortable, these earbuds are not as stable in the ear as our top picks are. Still, for folks who want the hands-free digital assistant experience usually reserved for owners of Galaxy Buds, AirPods, and Google Buds headphones, the Grind Fuel offers a more-affordable Wi-Fi–free alternative that could be especially valuable to folks with dexterity and mobility challenges.

    Sony WF-1000XM4: We like a lot of things about this $280 pair of true wireless earbuds. The beam-forming microphones made our voices sound perfectly clear over phone calls, and the wind-noise reduction software performed better than on the majority of other earbuds we’ve tried. With some minor tweaks in the EQ, the sound quality is excellent, with detailed highs and deep bass that isn’t blurry or muddy—a true delight. (Our testers really didn’t like the effects of Sony’s proprietary DSEE algorithm when enabled, so we’d recommend turning it off.) The Qi-charging capability is a nice bonus, and the eight-hour battery life (with active noise cancellation enabled) is a solid listening time for true wireless earbuds. The active noise cancelling is effective enough to be useful on a plane, though not the best we’ve tested, and the earbuds have superlative noise isolation, which means that they’ll block distracting high-pitched sounds like voices, baby cries, and dog barks better than the competition. The speak-to-activate awareness mode is incredibly helpful for office workers or parents who need to have brief conversations and don’t have a free hand to tap a button. What kept the Sony from being an upgrade pick are the limited controls, the large earbud size that will be a tight fit for small ears, and the lack of XL ear tips that can cause seal problems for very large ears. And although there are a lot of nifty-sounding features packed into the Sony app, we found the app cumbersome to navigate, and most of the options—like the automatic location-based listening mode adjustment—were wonky in use. But if these issues don’t affect you and you don’t mind the price tag, the WF-1000XM4 is an excellent pair of earbuds that can be worth the investment.

    KEF Mu3: If sound quality is your top priority, the Mu3 is one of the best-sounding pairs of true wireless earbuds we’ve ever tested. Clear highs, deep (but not overpowering) bass notes, and a surprisingly large soundstage for tiny earbuds. The fit is comfortable for all but the most diminutive ears, with small, smooth earbuds that fit securely. The single-button controls are intuitive to use, but there’s no track-reverse control. And the active noise cancellation is just middle-of-the-road.

    1More Dual Driver ANC Pro: If you want the best noise-cancelling earbuds we’ve ever measured, you’ll want to check out these collar-style Bluetooth earbuds, which have a flexible band connecting them. They cancel an impressive amount of noise and have enough battery life to last through a long flight and beyond. These earbuds also function corded—with the active noise cancellation (ANC) on or off—for those trips when you want to use an in-flight entertainment system. While they aren't as convenient as our true wireless picks, those who want the best noise cancelling we’ve ever measured should give the ANC Pro serious consideration.

    1More True Wireless ANC: If you want true wireless earbuds with active noise cancellation, this pair is worth considering. Unlike many of the true wireless ANC options available, this 1More pair offers decent reduction in the airplane band—enough to be useful on a plane or the subway. The moderate earbud size and inclusion of six sets of silicone tips (plus three sets of wings) help ensure a secure fit for a variety of ear sizes and shapes. The sound quality—which is THX certified as of September 2020—is on the sibilant side, but folks who prefer an extra boost in the consonant range may not mind this too much. Read more about them in our noise-cancelling headphones guide.

    Beats Flex: If you’re looking for the Beats and Apple pairing experience for a lot less money than the Powerbeats or AirPods, you’ll be pleased with this affordable, neckband-style pair of earbuds. The sound is quite good: The bass is forward (but not blurry or blobby), the fit is comfortable, and the controls are easy to use. We like the 12-hour battery life and the auto-pause function when the earbuds are joined around your neck via magnet. But we wish the Flex earbuds were water resistant and came with optional wings to hold them in place more securely for a wider range of ear shapes.

    Jabra Elite Active 75t: For serious workouts, this is our pick. This pair offers everything we like about the basic 75t, with a better IP56 rating that means they’re more sweat and dust resistant. You can read more about them in our guide to the best workout headphones.

    Master & Dynamic MW08: If you’re seeking a premium earbud design, these have stellar build quality, with an earbud chassis made from ceramic and stainless steel and a small but weighty metal charging case. The noise cancellation on the “max” setting is quite effective on low-frequency sounds, the battery life of 12 hours per charge is impressive, and the fast-charge feature powers both the earbuds and case to 50% capacity after just 15 minutes plugged in. The physical buttons are easy to understand and activate, though folks with large fingers may struggle a bit with the teeny volume toggle. The IPX5 water-resistance rating is sufficient protection should you get caught in the rain or work up a light sweat, and the dual ambient awareness modes are helpful for conversations or navigating a public space. The sound quality is excellent, but because these are $300 earbuds, we feel the need to quibble. The over-emphasis on both bass notes and high frequencies is fun but doesn’t feel fully authentic. The soundstage is less three-dimensional than we’d prefer in a premium product. While the microphones handle calls clearly and reduce background noise and wind noise well, we’d like some side-tone to avoid the urge to speak too loudly. But if money isn’t a concern and you like the luxurious look, you’ll be happy with the MW08.

    Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro: For Samsung devotees who want to access all the features their Galaxy device has to offer, these represent the best option available. Seamless connecting means that once you pair the Pro to a device that is signed in with your Samsung account, all other Samsung devices to which you’re signed in will automatically be paired. The microphone quality is impressively clear, even in wind. The sound quality, though a touch on the bass-heavy side, is enjoyable. The ambient awareness mode can be triggered by speaking, but if you stop talking to listen to your conversation partner, it shuts off after 15 seconds, which is mildly annoying. The controls are limited: play/pause, tracks, and answering calls are always accessible, but you must choose between ANC on/off, Bixby, Spotify, or volume. Both the case and earbuds are very small, but the included tips run on the smaller size, so people with large ear canals may have to buy third-party tips to get a seal. The noise cancellation is minimal, and the earbuds themselves don’t isolate very well.

    What to look forward to

    Jabra’s Elite 4 Active is the new, lower-priced counterpart to the already-available Jabra Elite 7 Active. At $120, the Elite 4 Active pair is still packed with features like IP57 dust and water resistance, noise cancellation, an awareness mode, solo earbud use, quick-charge capabilities, and a two-year warranty. Compared to the $180 Elite 7, the Elite 4 Active lacks Qi charging, the ANC is not adjustable, and there are four microphones as opposed to six. We have a pair on hand and will update this guide as soon as we can.

    The name of audio engineer Axel Grell is legendarily synonymous with Sennheiser, so we are excited to try out his first solo endeavor, the Grell TWS 1. The TWS 1 earbuds cost $200 and offer ANC, a transparency mode, listening-test-based EQ, plus something Grell calls Noise Annoyance Reduction (NAR) technology, which “scans the noise spectrum and controls the ANC using a psycho-acoustic model for a minimum of annoyance”—which we think means it helps to reduce eardrum suck. We are testing this pair now.

    The competition

    We’ve tested more than 350 sets of Bluetooth earbuds to date, so we can’t list every competitor here—but we do keep notes. If you’re curious about a specific pair, feel free to reach out to our team with questions.

    Here are the pairs we tested for our most recent update in fall 2021:

    1More’s ColorBuds 2 true wireless earbuds add noise cancellation to the original ColorBuds, which were small and should fit most ears, and we liked the tiny charging case. However, the only controls are play/pause and call answer/end. The sound profile is just okay, as the high frequencies have a sibilant edge that could use some lower-end oomph to balance them out.

    1More’s ComfoBuds 2 come with only two sizes of tips, which means larger ears will have trouble getting a seal, and the limited controls and lackluster sound make these earbuds really appealing only to small-eared podcast listeners.

    Apple’s 3rd-gen AirPods have a few of the features of the AirPods Pro (Qi charging, spatial audio, and a shorter stem) but no noise cancellation. Like the original AirPods, this pair has limited physical controls and very little bass. At this point, most people have encountered AirPods somewhere, so you pretty much know what you’re getting here. If you liked the way previous AirPods fit and sounded, you’ll like the upgraded battery life and water resistance of the 3rd-gen set. But for Apple-friendly earbuds, we prefer the overall experience of the Beats Fit Pro.

    EarFun’s Air Pro 2 has quite effective ANC, but the earbud shape and long stem made it difficult for our panelists with larger ears to get a seal. The touch controls were a bit fussy, and due to the dominance of bass in the sound, this pair wasn’t an overall favorite.

    EarFun’s Free Pro 2 earbuds are great at noise cancelling and are very comfortable, but the overpowering bass and lispy-sounding hear-through mode make these less successful as earbuds and more successful as noise-reducing earplugs.

    FiiO’s UTWS3 is technically not a pair of earbuds; it’s an adapter. But it’s worth considering if you already have wired in-ear monitors with detachable cables that you love. You can read more in our guide to the best wired earbuds.

    House of Marley’s Rebel earbuds will fit small and medium ears, but larger ear canals will struggle to get a seal. Even when these fit properly, we thought this pair had coarse-sounding highs that didn’t impress.

    The IsoTunes Lite earbuds come with earplug tips that are NRR-rated. Unfortunately, the long, conical shape meant that none of our testers could get them to fit comfortably.

    Jabra’s Elite 3 set is the most affordable of Jabra’s earbuds. We loved this pair’s ergonomic fit, but we were less impressed with the sound. None of the EQ presets were without flaws, and the hear-through mode was occasionally too quiet to compete with the occlusion effect—and it isn’t adjustable. Although the Elite 3 is a decent pair of earbuds, we’ve concluded that the Elite 75t offers a better experience, and the EarFun Free is often half the price and almost as good.

    Jabra’s Elite 7 Pro and Elite 7 Active have the potential to be excellent earbuds. The fit is especially comfortable on a broad range of ear shapes, the sound quality is great with a little EQ adjustment, and the microphones (especially on the Pro) are clear for phone calls. But the noise cancellation is less than we hope for from earbuds at this price, and the lack of dual-device connectivity has plagued the newest Jabra earbuds with pairing issues. Jabra says that it is releasing firmware that will address these problems, but until we see the results, we can’t recommend that you purchase these headphones.

    Klipsch’s T5 II ANC version offers some interesting bonus features such as gesture-based controls, but the noise cancellation isn’t stellar, the physical buttons push the earbuds uncomfortably into the ear, and the $300 asking price makes the flaws more noticeable.

    Marshall’s Minor III set has an unsealed design like AirPods, but with a rocker-esque look. The controls are limited to play/pause, skip/reverse, and call answer/end. Though all unsealed earbuds lose intensity in the bass frequencies, the Minor III is tuned so that you do get more bass response than on similar designs. But these earbuds are really worth consideration only if you are looking for an alternative to the original AirPods.

    Marshall’s Motif ANC pair has above-average noise cancellation, and the transparency mode sounds more authentic than that of most earbuds. But larger ears may have a tough time getting a seal due to the earbuds’ shape. We wish the controls included volume and voice-command options, and although the sound featured the warm mids and lows Marshall is famous for, the highs had a harsh edge that made strings sound edgy—as though amplified by a cheap speaker.

    Nothing’s Ear 1 earbuds have a futuristic look and quite good active noise cancellation, but the sound is less impressive. Despite the availability of a handful of EQ options, the bass notes had a mushy quality in our tests, lacking definition and clarity, and the highs had a jagged frequency response that caused an “s” to sound as though it were coming from between cupped hands. The microphones are quite good at reducing wind noise for callers, though we wish they had an option for sidetone. While the Ear 1 set has volume, play/pause, skip, and ANC/transparency toggle controls, we missed having track-reverse and digital-assistant call-up.

    Padmate’s Pamu Z1 offers middling noise cancellation and sound, which is to say the performance isn’t objectionable but also isn’t the best we’ve heard. There are no volume controls, the buttons’ tap-based activation can be fussy, and the microphones cause you to sound a little compressed to callers. The price of the Z1 seems to vary by the week, so it’s hard to compare prices, but we’d say not to pay more than $70.

    The Samsung Galaxy Buds2 earbuds fit comfortably and securely. Out of the box, the sound was pretty good but a little dull. Unfortunately the EQ was heavy-handed and wasn’t able to address the lack of detail in the highs. We wish this pair had more controls, and we’re also kinda disappointed that you have to download a separate app on Galaxy phones—usually, seamless connectivity is the entire reason to buy earbuds in the same ecosystem as your mobile device.

    Shure’s Aonic 215 Gen 2 is, sadly, a miss. The hooks over the ears didn’t fit any of our panelists properly, the hear-through mode was too sibilant and distracting to be used long-term, the controls didn’t provide track-skip/track-reverse capability, and the charging case was bigger than a hockey puck. The best part was the sound, which was quite good but not enough to compensate for the design flaws, especially at the pair’s original $230 price tag.

    Sony’s WF-C500 earbuds have a large, round shape that may be too big for smaller ears to wear comfortably. Out of the box the sound was quite good, though we wish the EQ options were a bit more nimble. This pair lacks hear-through, and the microphone picks up a lot of background noise so you might sound somewhat distant to your callers.

    Soul’s Emotion Pro fits comfortably in part because of the seven pairs of included tips. The transparency mode sounded more natural than that of many competitors. However, the noise cancellation was only so-so, and the low frequencies were boosted too broadly. The sound had an echo-like quality even when we playing acoustic guitar, and the app-based EQ was unable to adequately adjust it.

    Soundcore’s Liberty 2 Pro Upgraded Version is a good pair of earbuds. The stabilizing wings hold them in place securely, the sound is decent out of the box (and made even better when you EQ it in the app), and the microphones are clear for phone calls. But we wish it had volume controls. In addition, the microphone picked up wind noise, and though the wings fit securely, some folks may find the fit fatiguing to wear for long periods.

    Soundcore’s Liberty 3 Pro has a lot of fantastic features, so we were extra disappointed when aspects of this pair fell short. First, the good: The ANC is quite effective, the wind-noise reduction is impressive, and the light-up case is honestly cool. We initially liked the stabilizing wings because the earbuds felt very secure, but after an hour of wearing, our ears began to ache. This pair also produced a sibilant edge to vocals that we couldn’t remove through EQ, so the sound quality lagged behind that of our picks. And although this pair offers dual-device connectivity, we found that enabling it led to an excessive amount of connection stuttering. A good bit of these flaws could be fixed by firmware, so if Soundcore makes improvements, we’d be open to reevaluation.

    Soundpeats’s Air3 earbuds don’t sound quite as good as a pair of original AirPods, but they have more controls, a tiny case, IPX5 water resistance, and a lower price. Though music had a coarseness and the bass lacked oomph, we’ve heard unsealed earbuds that cost more and sound far worse. These earbuds can’t compete with the EarFun Free 2 pair in bonus features, but if you prefer the AirPods fit, these might be an acceptable, affordable alternative.

    Technics’s EAH-AZ40 sounds quite good. It’s not quite as balanced as the Kef Mu3—we measured a small spike in the 8 to 9 kHz area that we couldn’t manage to adjust in EQ, but other folks may not mind the effect as much as we do. Microphone quality is very clear. The fit is comfortable, but the touch controls are too easy to accidentally trigger when you adjust the earbuds in your ears. Overall, a decent pair of earbuds, just slight flaws.

    The Technics EAH-AZ60 has larger earbuds than the AZ40, so this pair may be tougher to keep in place for smaller ears. The sound is good, but the bass notes have a slightly resonant quality that we couldn’t get rid of with EQ, and similarly we weren’t able to reduce the 7 to 8 kHz spike that added an overemphasized sibilance to strings and vocals. The noise cancellation is very effective, as is the wind reduction for the microphone. If this pair fits you and you don’t mind slightly fussy touch controls, the AZ60 is a solid pair of earbuds.

    Tribit’s Flybuds C2 is severely lacking in bass response, it overmodulates easily, and the microphones sound compressed.

    V-Moda’s Hexamove Lite and Hexamove Pro sound similar out of the box, with a ton of bass that can be on the boomy side. The charging cases are on the chunky side and have an odd plastic interior hinge that feels more fragile than we’d like for earbuds in this price range. Neither pair has full controls. The Pro’s sound can be adjusted in EQ, and once you reduce the bass, it sounds quite good, with a nice sense of space and detail in the mids and highs. The Pro also offers more customization, with optional wings, over-ear hooks, a tether cable, and “shields” that are like little end caps that change the look of the earbuds. The wings do add stability, but the other add-ons aren’t as effective, and the Pro’s charging case is shaped bizarrely to accommodate the various permutations of accessories.

    Yamaha’s TW-E3B sounds really good. We’d say this pair is a touch boosted in the bass, but our panel really enjoyed the sound. We were less thrilled by the larger earbud size, which likely won’t be comfortable in smaller ears, and the physical buttons that click audibly and push the earbud deeper into your ear canal when depressed. The microphones in this pair aren't as sensitive as the best we’ve tried, so callers may think your voice has a mildly distant quality.

    We tested these earbuds for previous updates:

    1More’s Pistonbuds have very simple and limited controls (only play/pause and digital assistant activation) so everything else will need to be controlled by your device. The sound quality is marred by bass notes that are very blurry, causing everything else to sound muffled and dull. Even vocals sound like they were recorded too close to the microphone. In addition, the earbuds themselves don’t seem to power down without the case, which could be an issue since this pair only has three and a half hours of life per charge. The microphones sound clear enough but can’t handle wind noise.

    1More’s Stylish True Wireless pair is solid for those who have smaller ear canals or difficulty keeping earbuds in place. The multiple wing and tip options combined with a lightweight chassis make the Stylish True Wireless more comfortable to wear long term than similarly priced competitors. At six and a half hours, the battery life is solid, too. In our tests, the sound leaned toward being bass-heavy and blurry on male vocals. Overall the Beats Fit Pro is better.

    The biggest benefit of the second-generation Amazon Echo Buds is the ability to access Alexa hands-free. If you are a diehard Amazon fan, there are no other earbuds offering this feature. However, the Echo-specific benefits like Echo device drop-ins, voice product ordering, Amazon Prime Music, and so forth are accessible via the Alexa app in your phone, regardless of what earbuds you choose—and the voice-activated features require you to leave the Alexa app open on your phone at all times. The noise cancellation is average, and despite the stabilizing wings and four pairs of tips included, the buds themselves might be a little large for smaller ears. The controls are limited, and the five-hour battery life is middling.

    The Anker Soundcore Liberty 2 had very loud and boomy bass and no volume controls, while the Liberty 2 Pro produced notably sizzling highs that made “s” sounds on lyrics hiss intensely.

    The Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 has stems that, depending on your face shape, can press against your cheek. The sound quality wasn’t our favorite, either, as the high frequencies had an unnatural feel that caused snare hits to sound like a click rather than a rounded snap. The Liberty Air 2 Pro earbuds are fantastic if they fit you properly, but the stem and short sound-tube design make it impossible to push the earbuds deeper into your ear for stability or to get an improved seal. Otherwise, the Air 2 Pro offers up a lot of bells and whistles for a competitive price: a hearing test that adjusts the EQ, an audio-based fit test, multiple noise-cancelling modes, and a background-noise-reducing microphone for calls. The sound quality is quite good and can be adjusted manually. The noise cancellation is quite impressive in the 800- to 100-Hz range, but it isn’t great on low-pitched sounds, which may make those who are sensitive to eardrum suck want to avoid the strongest ANC setting.

    Anker’s Soundcore Life P3 is a mix of pros and cons. This pair sounds quite good for true wireless earbuds under $80. Out of the box, the highs are sibilant, but that can be adjusted using the equalizer tool in the Soundcore app. But the limited controls are a bummer. The microphones handle wind noise relatively well, but your voice will sound compressed to your conversation partner. The fit is comfortable, but these airbuds don’t feel as secure as they might with optional stabilizing wings.

    The Apple AirPods Pro are a major step up over the basic AirPods, in both sound quality and versatility, but they may not be worth the price unless you’re a hardcore Apple fan. The sound is equaled by less-expensive options like the Jabra Elite 75t. The active noise cancellation is decent, but it may cause “eardrum suck” for some people (you can read more about this phenomenon in our best noise-cancelling headphones guide). The battery life of four and a half hours is subpar, and while these are water resistant, the design is far less secure for high-impact activities than that of the Powerbeats Pro and less durable than that of the IP55-rated Jabra Elite 75t. While we like that Apple did away with the touch-based controls, the squeeze controls are fiddly (we often play/paused when we wanted to skip tracks) and still lack volume controls. In 2020, a good number of people experienced rattling in one or both earbuds. From what we’ve seen, Apple responded to these issues with prompt replacements of the earbuds themselves, but it’s still a bummer. (We contacted Apple but did not receive a response as to what caused the problem, so we’d urge caution purchasing these used.) In the end, we don’t dislike the AirPods Pro; we just like using other earbuds a little better.

    The Audio-Technica ATH-ANC300TW true wireless earbuds do a decent job of reducing noise, but the larger chassis and lack of stabilizing wings may cause a fit challenge for folks with petite ears. We couldn’t suss out how to activate a digital assistant, and there was no mention of it in the manual. The forward bass and spiked treble make drums sound unnatural, and we just didn’t feel the performance matched the more premium cost.

    The Beats Powerbeats (2020 release) earbuds offer a solid option for Apple or Beats fans who aren’t into the true wireless style. It’s easy to get a comfortable fit because the over-the-ear hooks are flexible and hold their shape, plus Beats includes four sizes of silicone tips. The cable connecting the earbuds is remarkably good at avoiding noise transfer, and this pair offers 15 hours of battery life per full charge. The sound is a little bass-heavy for our taste, and on bass-intense hip-hop, male vocals can sound a little recessed, though not completely lost. They’re IPX4-rated, but we’d still exercise caution using them at the gym if you’re someone who sweats profusely. We liked them overall, but for a little more money, you could get the feature-packed Jabra Elite 75t instead.

    Our former runner-up pick, the Beats Powerbeats Pro earbuds pair quickly and easily with Apple devices. (They paired fine with our Android phone, too, but the process wasn’t as instantaneous.) They also offer Hey Siri voice activation and the ability to wear either earpiece individually for situational awareness, but there is no transparency mode as on our top-pick Jabra pair. Unlike the AirPods, the Powerbeats Pro set offers water resistance (but no official IP rating), a secure fit, and volume and track controls on the earbuds. They sound great, with a slightly boosted bass, and they have a long, nine-hour music-listening battery life between charges (six hours for calls). But the hook-over-the-ear design may not appeal to everyone, and the charging case is not as small as the case you get with the Jabra Elite 75t or the Beats Fit Pro.

    With a diminutive size that will fit most ears well, the Beats Studio Buds could still feel less stable for people with very small ear canals. While the IPX4 water-resistance rating means the Studio Buds can travel with you to the gym, they might not stay put for very dynamic workouts. The sonic profile is the characteristic hyped Beats sound (with extra emphasis in the highs and lows that can make consonants and basslines pop a touch more forcefully in the mix), which many people will find exciting, especially for hip-hop and electronic pop. The Studio Buds offer solid active noise cancellation, and the control buttons are easy to find by feel and press—but they lack volume control. The Studio Buds pair with Android and Apple mobile devices with ease and can support the assistants for both mobile operating systems—but there is no “always listening” Siri. The microphone quality is acceptable but lacks some detail and wind resistance. Though the Studio Buds support Apple Music’s Dolby Spatial Audio, they do not offer head-tracking features. If you’re looking for the Beats true wireless experience for less money than the Powerbeats Pro, the Studio Buds should make you happy.

    We like the fit, the durable IP57 rating, and the easy-to-use controls on Bang & Olufsen’s Beoplay E8 Sport. The sound quality is somewhat over-boosted in the bass and highs, which means cymbal and snare hits can become fatiguing for sensitive listeners and the bass will seem louder than usual. The hear-through feature sounds sibilant and distractingly unnatural, so it wasn’t something we’d leave on for situational awareness—but for a brief conversation, it’s fine. Over phone calls, voices can sound a bit tinny, and the mic picks up sounds around you. Overall the flaws aren’t massive, but for $350 we expect better.

    Bowers & Wilkins’s PI5 and PI7 true wireless noise-cancelling earbuds are similar. Both look elegant and are made of high-quality materials. Both feature aptX, IP56 dust/water resistance, and multiple microphones for clearer phone calls—the PI5 has two in each earbud, the PI7 has three in each. And both feature the rich, bass-forward sound that B&W is known for. The PI7 has adaptive noise cancellation and a case that doubles as a Bluetooth transmitter—but the audio quality via the case transmitter was poor. The onboard controls are touch-based, have the tendency to misfire, and lack volume capabilities. In order to use the hear-through feature, you need to access the app on your phone, which is more cumbersome than taking an earbud out. We were disappointed that such promising earbuds could be ultimately derailed by poor user-interface choices. Our panelist Brent Butterworth agrees.

    With the Bowers & Wilkins PI3, the high frequencies can be icy and fatiguing, and the lows are loud and bloated. With so much competition, the PI3 just didn’t make the cut.

    Cambridge Audio’s Melomania 1+ is a little dull out of the box but can sound quite good with a little EQ noodling in the app. However, the bullet-shaped earbuds create a difficult fit that will be a dealbreaker for small to medium ears. The buttons are difficult and somewhat uncomfortable to depress, and the microphones make your voice sound distant to callers.

    The Cambridge Audio Melomania Touch earbuds come with three wing sizes and six sets of tips, a combination that offers folks who have struggled with the Jabra 75t a better shot at a more secure fit. The sound quality out of the box wasn’t our favorite, but we were able to adjust the EQ in the app to make them sound very good. The claimed battery life of eight to nine hours per charge is also impressive, and the charging case is small enough to fit in your pocket. But the touch controls are easy to inadvertently activate when you adjust the earbuds in your ears, and the microphone is rather quiet, so you may find yourself speaking loudly when answering phone calls. Also, though these are similar in price to the Jabra 75t, they lack noise cancellation and aren’t as dust resistant.

    The Cleer Ally has no track or volume controls. This pair produced blurry and smeared lows that were a little too soft in the mix, so it lost some of the oomph in basslines. Plus, people with larger ear canals may have trouble getting the tips to fit properly.

    The Cleer Ally Plus II true wireless earbuds feature adaptive ANC that is very effective. However, the sound quality isn’t the most appealing: Low notes are too forward and bloated, while high pitches have a sizzling quality to them. Unfortunately, the app-based EQ doesn’t help adjust the sound in the necessary ways. We also wish the onboard controls weren’t so limited. The 11-hour battery life per charge is impressive, but the solid battery life and good noise-reduction performance aren’t enough to make the Plus II a top pick.

    DuoLink’s Switchbuds feature large, rotatable dials for controls, which is a nice idea for people with dexterity concerns. However, this concept has not been executed well, so turning the dials also turns the chassis and wrenches the earbuds loose from your ears. In our tests, the large circumference of the earbud design meant that none of our panelists could get a good seal with the included tips, so we lost bass notes. Adding to this pair’s woes, the tube-style charging case is overly large and doesn’t actually serve to protect the earbuds.

    Earin’s A-3 earbuds are unique-looking true wireless earbuds. Imagine if someone cut the stem off of the AirPods—what’s left is the A-3. The issue with this design is diminished bass response. Though the A-3 fares better than many unsealed earbuds, fans of hip-hop, rock, and pop will find their tunes feel unsupported. The minimal controls only address play/pause and calls, so you’ll need to keep your music device nearby for everything else. Though we appreciate that the A-3’s earbuds aren’t assigned a permanent left and right (either bud can be placed in either ear), we wish that these had a higher IP water-resistance rating than 2 (the A-3 is IP52, the 5 relating to dust, and 2 moisture), as the tiny design could easily be dropped.

    Edifier’s NeoBuds Pro started as an Indegogo campaign, but can be bought via retail as of August 2021. We liked the large amount of included color-coded tips that make getting a proper fit a breeze. The case has a Kitt from Knight Rider vibe, with a ping-ponging red light. The noise cancellation is excellent: Though this pair doesn’t reduce noise quite as well as our top ANC picks, it does a really good job on sustained, low-pitched sounds. But music playback has a bit too much bass, and the bump extends too far into the upper lows, so there is a reverby quality that can’t be EQed out in the app. The microphones are clear on calls, but in windy conditions the signal processing makes your voice bizarrely bassy. You won’t hear much wind, but your caller may ask why you suddenly sound so weird. And we were sad to see that you can choose only two controls per earbud, which really limits adjustments.

    Edifier’s TWS NB2 Pro earbuds are a decent choice if you want good active noise cancellation but don’t care about earbud-based controls. Each earbud can only have two assigned controls (so play/pause or track forward or ANC mode), and this pair doesn’t power down without the case. However, we did appreciate that you can adjust the touch-control sensitivity in the Edifier app. The sound is boosted in the low frequencies in a way that can muddy male voices, but has lovely mids and highs on less bass-heavy songs. Our voices sounded clear over phone calls, though the right earbud picked up wind noise in blustery conditions. Also the textured coating means that the stem that extends from the earbuds can transfer some noise if you have long or thick hair that brushes against them, which can be especially pronounced in hear-through mode.

    Edifier’s TWS 330NB has active noise cancellation, but only four hours of battery life with ANC enabled. (Listening time extends to five hours when ANC is deactivated.) We were impressed with the number of features included on this pair for the price, but the performance was less exciting. The hear-through mode sounded muffled, the controls are limited, and these lack the ability to power down without the case. Noise cancellation is effective in a specific low-frequency range, but ends up sounding unnatural since the isolation on higher-pitched sounds isn’t as effective. That said, both the audio and microphone quality are quite good, similar to the more expensive TWS NB2 Pro.

    The Fiil CC2 was clearly designed for looks and not performance. There are no included wings or tips to stabilize the fit, so our panel felt as though we were at risk of a bud falling out if we moved beyond a brisk walk. The lid-less case offers no protection from dust or water, so we could easily see it getting gunked up with lint in a bag pocket. The unsealed design means the sound severely lacks bass. The Amazon listing says these are noise cancelling, but we observed nothing of the sort. The microphone quality is fine as long as there is no wind—usable, but nothing impressive. In light gusts, though, the mics become unusable. The sleek, modern-looking design is pretty cool, though.

    Google’s Pixel Buds 2 earbuds are to Pixels what AirPods are to iPhones. If you’re an operating-system purist, it is nice to have the easy setup with your Pixel phone—but beyond that, these earbuds are middling. The supplied tips are rather small, and two of our panelists needed to use third-party tips to get a seal. The sound quality is balanced once you get the proper fit, but the “vented” design means that there isn’t much isolation from noise around you. The touch controls are easy to use, but we found ourselves inadvertently triggering music when trying to get them initially positioned in the ear.

    Google’s Pixel Buds A-Series true wireless earbuds sound quite good, and the always-listening assistant makes this pair worth considering for people who use “Hey Google” voice features heavily on their Android devices. However, even the largest tips can’t really be described as that—two of our panelists needed third-party tips to get a seal—and the stabilizing winglets are best suited for medium-size ears or smaller. You won’t get much noise isolation from this pair, and though the A-Series can be customized to adjust the volume automatically when you’re in louder or quieter environments, we would’ve gladly traded that feature for more controls. The Pixel Buds only offer play/pause, call answer/end, and the ability to call up Google Assistant.

    Folks with smaller ears may have a tough time with the Grado GT220. The sound tubes are rather long and sit deeper in your ear canal than most other earbuds, which some people may find uncomfortable and others may find hard to keep in place. If you can get the GT220 to stay in place, they have great sonic separation, so despite the purposefully boosted bass and high frequencies, there isn’t any muddying or muffling. There is, however, an icy-to-sibilant edge to higher frequencies that emphasizes piano key depression sounds, the letter S, and the stick-click aspect of drum hits. For the most part, the touch controls work properly, though they can be inadvertently activated when you adjust the buds in your ears.

    Harman Kardon’s Fly TWS true wireless earbuds sound great, but the larger earbuds didn’t fit our medium or small panelists securely, the controls aren’t very intuitive, and the hear-through feature is so quiet, it’s largely useless. The included app crashed several times during our testing process, which didn’t help matters.

    The Helm Audio True Wireless 5.0 had a bloated, smeared bass range that overwhelmed male vocals in our tests, and its control buttons jammed the earbuds uncomfortably into our ears when we pressed them.

    HiFiMan’s TWS800 earbuds come with eight pairs of tips, but the earbuds themselves are so large that many ears will struggle to keep them in place for long periods of time. Mids and highs sound pretty great, but the reduced presence of low frequencies cause hip-hop, rock, and jazz music to sound unsupported.

    The House of Marley Liberate Air earbuds are unique-looking and made with some sustainable parts, which we appreciate. But the earbud shape and smallish tips may not fit folks with larger ears. When we did get them to fit, the sound quality was decent, with balanced low and mid frequencies but somewhat sibilant and sizzling highs. Overall, we didn’t dislike this pair, but we loved other options more.

    We really wanted to be able to recommend the ISOTunes Free for people doing construction, mowing the lawn, or otherwise in need of hearing protection with their earbuds. The NR22 noise protection rating is on a par with many job sites' OSHA requirements. The sound quality is quite good, the full-featured onboard controls are easy to use, and the microphones sound good enough for long phone calls. The seven-hour battery life is decent for true wireless, and the charge case is small and pocketable. But getting the foam tips to stay in your ear can be tricky, particularly when you add in the weight of the earbud pulling on them. As a result, we often found the Free’s tips slowly expanding in our ear canal and slipping out, which could impact their protection factor. The included silicone tips stay in place better, but they are not noise-protecting. This fact is mentioned in the manual, but we feel it should be very clearly labeled on the bag of silicone tips to avoid confusion, and as a precaution, since not everyone reads the manual. If ISOTunes were to add stabilizing wings or foam tips that grip better (and some safety labeling), we could easily see these as a recommendation.

    Jabra’s Elite 85t earbuds are very small and comfortable, with easy-to-use controls. They have adjustable noise cancellation (including variation between each ear), fantastic wind-resistant microphones for clear calls, IPX4 water resistance, a six-hour battery life, a useful hear-through mode, a very small charging case that’s Qi compatible, and a two-year warranty. However, this pair isn’t as good at reducing noise as the less-expensive 1More True Wireless ANC earbuds, and the included tips run on the smaller side, so our panelist Brent (who has larger ear canals) couldn’t get a seal at all. If the tips were a standard shape, we might not call this a dealbreaker, but the sound tube and tips are an unusual oblong shape that may make it difficult to find larger replacement tips. If Jabra releases additional larger tips, we’ll let you know.

    The jury is out on the Jaybird Vista 2, and you can read more on why in our guide to workout headphones.

    The JBL Live 300TWS earbuds sound pretty great but have a fit that likely won’t work for most people. The sound tubes (the pipe-like part that aims the sound and the silicone tips slip onto) penetrate surprisingly deep into the ear canal and are wide at the base. As a result, half of our panel found the 300TWS very uncomfortable. These are best suited to larger ears. If they fit you, the touch-based controls work well, and the sound, while a touch sizzly on the highs, is largely balanced and pleasant to listen to.

    JBL’s Tour Pro + earbuds look a little on the large size, but the chassis is contoured in a way that most ears will get a comfortable fit. Five pairs of included tips and two stabilizing winglets also help hold the buds in place. An IPX4 rating means a little rain or sweat won’t hurt them. This pair performs excellently all around. Right out of the box the sound is fantastic, with deep bass notes that don’t overwhelm, and clear detailed highs—if it isn’t a Harman curve tuning, it’s darn close. The adaptive noise cancellation isn’t as dramatic as picks in our noise-cancelling headphones guide, but it is absolutely effective and helpful in reducing airplane noise or air conditioner hum. Pixel users will appreciate the “Hey Google” compatibility. The tap-based controls are less prone to fussiness and less likely to be inadvertently bumped, but you can’t get full controls at once—through the app, you must choose at least one option to be left off. And though the microphones are clear on phone calls and handle wind well, we didn’t notice sidetone, which could be key to avoiding yelling when you’re talking. Those minor flaws were enough to keep these from our picks, but if they aren’t dealbreakers for you, the Pro + is a solid alternative.

    The JLab JBuds Air Executive is solid for the price. The microphones are quite clear for calls, the six-hour battery life between charges is good, and the diminutive charge case’s built-in USB cable is handy. However, we found that these earbuds didn’t feel as secure in our ears as our top picks, the sound was somewhat blurry in the lower ranges, the “hear through” option had a slight delay and a compressed sound that could be off-putting, and the touch controls were easy to trigger when we were adjusting the earbuds in our ears.

    Everything about the JLab JBuds Air Icon is fantastic except the sound. Even with three EQ options, they can’t compete with our picks sonically. If you listen only to podcasts, these earbuds are excellent, but music fans would likely be disappointed.

    JLab’s JBuds Frames aren’t technically earbuds. Instead, they’re small audio devices akin to tiny speakers that strap to the arms of your glasses and direct sound toward your ears. If you’re familiar with audio glasses like Bose Frames, the JBuds Frames are a similar concept but instead of being stuck with one pair of glasses or sunglasses, the JBuds Frames allow you to choose and change your own specs. The idea is a good one, especially for folks who dislike the feel of earbuds. While the JBuds Frames fit snugly and comfortably on several pairs of our glasses, the sound was a disappointment. The Frames lacked any bass response, and the highs were incredibly piercing. We do think they would be incredibly useful for those who benefit from audio guidance and yet still need to hear their surroundings clearly while navigating their environment, such as those with impaired vision.

    We love that six sets of earbud tips come with the Klipsch T5 II, making it very easy to find a pair that will seal. Unfortunately, unlike with the sport version of the T5 II, these earbuds don’t have any sort of stabilizing wings, so the larger chassis may not feel as secure in your ears. The controls are triggered by large buttons that require a bit of force to depress so they can smoosh the earbuds into your ear canals more than we’d like. Like a lot of the earbuds we’ve tested, these have a peaked high- and boosted low-frequency spike that some folks may like, but we found it to be a bit too hyped.

    The LinearFlux HyperSonic earbuds are small but feel secure thanks to their rubberized fins. The sound is average, with a somewhat overzealous amount of bass and highs that sound mildly undefined and scratchy. The control buttons take a good amount of force to activate and can mash into your ears uncomfortably, and the case clamps shut in a way that is challenging to pry open. The mic quality was not up to par, either.

    We like that you get full controls, a seven-hour battery life, and an IPX6 water-resistance rating with the LinearFlux Hypersonic DX true wireless earbuds. However, the touch controls can be fiddly: They are prone to activate accidentally as you adjust the earbud in your ears, or to not register at all if you have long or full/thick hair that interferes with the sensors’ ability to register taps. We also found that the low frequencies were boosted in a way that smeared male vocals, and the high-end frequencies lacked sufficient detail.

    Though the sound of the Lypertek PurePlay Z3 2.0 can be quite good with the right EQ setting selected in the app (we preferred Pop), the noise cancellation was minimal, and the fit wasn’t stable in our ears.

    The Lypertek Tevi earbuds were praised by TechRadar and for good reason—they’re solid earbuds for under $90. The sound is quite balanced, with restrained bass. The highs can add a twang to piano and a harsh edge to cymbals, but for the price, that’s forgivable. The fit should be comfortable on medium-to-large ears, though the shape of the chassis may cause smaller-eared folks to struggle to keep these in place. What kept these from being a pick are the controls that mash the buds uncomfortably into the ear. When you need to triple press to change tracks, it can become annoying enough that you want to avoid using the buttons at all.

    Lypertek’s SoundFree 20 is average in price and performance. The fit was secure and snug in medium-to-large ears, and we liked the physical button controls that didn’t mash into our ear or misfire. We also appreciated the six pairs of tips (single and double flange in S, M, L.) The sound quality has a large high-frequency spike that adds sibilance and gives “s” sounds a whistling quality. The bass is also boosted, but doesn’t veer into boomy or blurry territory. Listening to music isn’t unpleasant, but it doesn’t sound authentic. The microphones are lacking—both the transparency mode and phone calls sound rather quiet and dull.

    For fans of Marshall, the Mode II earbuds won’t disappoint. The fit is comfortable, the design is on-brand, and out of the box the sound quality is the warm signature Marshall profile that folks familiar with the company’s amps have come to appreciate. If you prefer to tweak the EQ, the Marshall app allows for adjustments. However, the Mode II lacks volume controls, and the microphones aren’t as sensitive as others we’ve tested, so your voice may sound quiet over phone calls. If those downsides don’t dissuade you, the Mode II is otherwise a nice pair of true wireless earbuds.

    Master & Dynamic’s MW07 Go pair offers a lot of positives. The earbuds are very comfortable and stable in the ears, and we like the separate volume and track controls, although the volume buttons are a tad small. The 10-hour battery life and 30-meter Bluetooth range are impressive for this category. The small fabric-wrapped case and the earbuds themselves feel well made. But the bass was boosted in a way that could veil male vocals on bass-heavy songs, and we wish the Go had a transparency mode so we didn’t need to take these earbuds out to have a conversation. But if those aren’t dealbreakers for you, and you aren’t turned off by the $200 price, they’re solid earbuds.

    The Master & Dynamic MW07 Plus earbuds feel very well built, but they have some flaws that we might be more inclined to overlook in less-expensive options. The ANC is minimally effective. The metal case is heavy. And the tuning is just a little too boosted in the lows and highs.

    Master & Dynamic’s MW08 Sport is a luxury earbud pair that also can be used for workouts. The IPX5 rating is sufficient to handle any sweat or water you encounter. We liked the full-featured physical controls, which are intuitive and easy to use while moving. But the small button size might prove tricky for folks with very large fingers or dexterity issues. Though the earbuds themselves are diminutive, the metal-and-glass construction means they are a smidge heavier than the plastic earbuds you may be accustomed to. Though the MW08 Sport felt secure enough for us to use at the gym, we wish they had stabilizing wings to keep them in place for high-impact activities—especially outdoors, where the stakes of losing an errant $350 earbud are higher. The sonic profile has mildly over-emphasized bass, but there is enough boost in the details of the high frequencies that lyrics aren’t lost in hip-hop or other low-note-heavy songs. The microphones sounded clear, and the wind-noise reduction is excellent. As day-to-day earbuds that you can take to the gym on occasion, the MW08 Sport is a pricey but perfectly acceptable option for anyone who likes the luxurious look.

    The Monolith by Monoprice M-TWE uses both a hearing test and sound-preference quiz to adapt the sound to your personal needs and likes. The downside is that, despite getting 0 dB of hearing adjustment and a sonic preference profile of “I-Type: balanced across all the spectrum,” I still found that the bass was a bit too boosted into the upper lows and the 5-6 kHz range was a bit forward, adding a sizzly quality to the highs. It’s not by any means bad, but after spending so much time taking quizzes and tests trying to get the sound to be perfect, it was a bummer to end up with results that I still wanted to tweak a bit—and at present, it isn’t possible to adjust them manually. Aside from the sound, the swipe/touch controls work well enough, but the up and down for volume may cause the earbuds to move in your ears a smidge, and there are no track controls.

    Nura’s Nuraloop performs a fit test and creates a hearing profile that then adjusts the sound of the earbuds. The process is totally passive, so unlike other hearing tests where you tap a button when you hear a tone, the Nuraloop plays a rapid succession of tones that the company says bounces off of your eardrum and evaluates how you hear. The profiles that our testers ended up with changed depending on the day, and just sounded okay. Overall we felt the profiles created for us had too broad of a bass boost and were lacking in detail on the highs. If you don’t love the sound profile you receive (which we didn’t), you can adjust the EQ in the Nura app. Perhaps the Nura wasn’t designed for people without hearing loss, but for those who do have hearing loss, we’d urge you to consult with an audiologist to ensure that the volume levels are appropriate for your ears’ needs. One unique aspect is the ability to use the traditional wireless earbuds in a wired mode. Nura includes a cable that clips to the cord that runs between the earbuds and allows you to connect to non-Bluetooth devices. However, you must have the Nuraloop powered on for them to work. Overall, the experience of Nuraloop is unique, but once the novelty wears off, they’re just decent earbuds.

    Panasonic’s RZ-S300W earbuds pair quickly and will fit most ears comfortably. But the touch-based controls can be a little fussy, and the sound quality muffles male vocals, gives cymbal crashes a tinny feel, and adds a twang to piano notes. The environmental-awareness feature sounds as if you were listening to the world with seashells over your ears.

    Raycon’s Performer E55 earbuds are comfortably small and come with a tiny attractive charge case. However, in our tests, the control buttons clicked loudly in our ears, the bass frequencies muffled male vocals, and the uneven high frequencies lent a shushing quality to the consonants. The sound quality made us want to turn the volume up to hear the vocals more clearly, but instead we got more kick drum. The microphones are functional for call quality but nothing special. Overall, the Performer E55 is a decent enough pair of earbuds if you’re set on the looks, but they are outshone by other earbuds in a very competitive field.

    Raycon’s The Work Earbuds are middle-of-the-road. Every EQ setting is flawed, but we found the “balanced” to be the most enjoyable, though still overly bloated and blurry in the bass frequencies. The touch controls can be a little fussy, and it requires four presses to call up your digital assistant, which can feel a tad excessive. The hear-through function is pretty good, and the noise cancellation performs effectively on sustained low-frequency noises, but the silicone tips don’t isolate very well so you’ll still hear voices and higher-pitched sounds rather clearly. If that bothers you, Raycon includes three pairs of foam tips, which are more effective. The microphone is not wind resistant and is not as clear as your phone handset, but it works well enough in a quiet room.

    Gamers may love that the Razer Hammerhead True Wireless pair has very little latency. But with the unsealed design, it also has very little bass. The tap-based touch controls are also a bit fussy.

    The RHA True Connect 2 earbuds feature IP55 water resistance, a nine-hour battery life, and an impressive three-year warranty. The myriad of included tips will get most ears a solid seal, but the shape of the earbuds themselves can make the Connect 2 feel less than secure. The tap controls work well enough, but the sound of multiple taps “thump thump thumping” in your ear canal can be somewhat annoying. This pair’s biggest bummer was its subdued bass and peaked highs that made drum hits have a clicking edge and emphasized the hiss of room noise in recordings.

    The Samsung Galaxy Buds+ feature an impressive 11-hour battery life. We also love that this pair sounds great right out of the box. However, the touch controls are easy to accidentally trigger when adjusting the buds in your ears, and you need to choose between volume and ambient/digital assistant activation.

    Sennheiser’s CX 400BT earbuds have a thick, blocky design that sticks out from your head more than most of the earbuds we’ve tested. Despite the large size, these earbuds are surprisingly comfortable, but we wouldn’t attempt vigorous movement while wearing them. As with many of Sennheiser’s offerings lately, the sound profile has a fatiguing spike in the high frequencies. Although the Sennheiser MySound app offers EQ, it’s very clunky to use and doesn’t address the problems effectively.

    Sennheiser’s CX True Wireless earbuds are blocky and large, which makes them difficult to fit in medium-to-small ears. Out of the box, the sound quality is blah—a massive bass boost covers male vocals, and a sizzling high end adds a metallic edge to strings, syllables of lyrics, and snare hits. The included app-based EQ presets and weird teeter-totter audio adjustment tool didn’t help. The microphone offers no sidetone when you’re on a call, and if you speak loudly, it seems to overload the microphone, so your voice will sound overmodulated. The most impressive aspect is the nine-hour battery life per charge.

    The Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 earbuds have mildly boosted bass with more intense and slightly sibilant highs that (over)emphasize consonants. The controls handle everything you expect in traditional Bluetooth earbuds, and while they aren’t immediately intuitive, with some practice, they’re easy enough to use. However, these earbuds aren’t worth the extra cost if active noise cancellation is your most important feature, as the reduction is mild at best.

    Skullcandy’s Indy Fuel and Indy Evo are the same earbuds with one key exception—the Fuel’s case offers wireless charging. Despite having a stem, the Indy earbuds stay in your ears well thanks to optional stabilizing wings. Like almost all touch controls, you can accidentally trigger an action when putting the earbuds in. But once in place, the controls work well enough. The sound is perfectly acceptable for the price, with a little blurriness to the bass and some coarseness to the highs. One major flaw is that the wings, which some people may need to keep the Indy securely in their ears, makes the charge case nearly impossible to close fully.

    The Skullcandy Push doesn’t come with large ear tips and wouldn’t seal for half of our panel. If you can get a seal, the Push earbuds are comfortable and seem to stay put in the ear well enough. However, the single-button controls are based on a series of taps, so it can be easy to accidentally pause when you want to change volume, for example, or to power down when you want to call up your digital assistant.

    Our former budget pick, Skullcandy’s Sesh has a very short battery life that was acceptable when these earbuds were first released but can’t keep up with current similarly priced options. The newer Sesh Evo (also a former pick) provides a fun, bass-forward sound, a comfortable fit, water resistance (with an IP55 rating), and easy-to-use controls, in addition to Tile integration. The battery life of five hours per charge is middle of the road for true wireless earbuds, but you do get 19 hours from the included charging case, which is small enough to fit in a pocket. These earbuds come with a one-year warranty and Skullcandy’s Fearless Use Promise. We prefer the EarFun Free 2’s longer battery life, higher water resistance rating, and clearer microphone for calls, but if the Free 2 is unavailable or you want a sportier look, the Sesh Evo is still a solid pair of budget earbuds.

    Sony’s WF-1000XM3 true wireless earbuds sound quite good, but that’s where our praise ends. We found the pieces large and fatiguing to wear, and the active noise cancellation was barely effective. The controls are limited, too, and this set isn’t even a little water resistant—which is a problem if one of these pricey true wireless earbuds falls out of your ear and into a puddle.

    Soul’s S Nano has a charging case that lives up to the name. It’s about the size of a gourmet marshmallow and wouldn’t be obtrusive if used as a key chain. In fact, the Nano comes with a carabiner clip in case you’d like to do just that. The earbuds are also very tiny, fit comfortably, and have full tap-based controls. The sound is good for the price–although bass frequencies are forward and a bit smeared and strings may sound somewhat coarse compared to more expensive earbuds. The hear-through mode sounds so bizarre that we found it unusable. It’s almost a comb-filtering effect that makes everything sound like a robot voice and out of sync.

    If your phone runs out of power, the case for the Soul Sync Pro can double as a phone charger. That added battery also increases the size and weight—you may not be able to fit this case in your pants pocket. The sound quality is reminiscent of early models of Beats, with bass that’s bloated and a bit too boosted. The touch controls can be a bit fussy, and they lack volume and track-reverse abilities, but the dual microphones will pick up your voice well enough.

    The Best Wireless Bluetooth Earbuds How we pick and test

    The Soundpeats H1 offers 10 hours of battery life per charge, which is impressive, and the earbud design should fit all but the smallest and largest ears well. However, the bass notes mildly distort on thumping hip-hop and EDM, and the microphone quality is terrible—our caller could barely hear us unless we were practically shouting.

    The TaoTronics SoundLiberty 88 earbuds look and fit like first-generation AirPods, but unlike the original AirPods, they have volume controls, a USB-C charging port, and IPX8 waterproofing. The tap controls take some practice to get right—you have to double/triple tap slower than you think. There isn’t much bass to the sound, partly because of the unsealed design and partly because of the tuning, which can get piercingly sibilant at higher volumes. While we wouldn’t recommend these for music, if you are looking for something inexpensive and AirPods-like for podcast listening, these are fine.

    TCL’s MoveAudio S600 is compatible with “OK Google” on Android phones, but not with the Google app on a non-Android phone. We liked the sound, which has a little extra emphasis in the low and high notes, but not in a heavy-handed way. The S600 is very enjoyable to listen to. While the controls are customizable in the app, you can only choose a few to assign, so you’ll need to use your phone for some controls. The included tips don’t isolate very well, so although the noise cancellation takes the edge off of the lower-pitched hum of a plane engine, you’ll still hear the engine whine and voices. The most annoying attribute of the S600 is that there is no reset button on the case. Instead, to reset the earbuds, you leave the case open with the earbuds inside for 10 seconds. We can imagine many situations that could lead to the case inadvertently being left open and earbuds that will require re-pairing. It’s not the end of the world, but it’s a silly design flaw that could easily have been avoided.

    We had a tough time getting the TCL SOCL500TWS to pair, then found that the buttons caused the earbuds to smash painfully into our ears when depressed. While the colors are fun, we found that using this pair was not.

    Tribit’s FlyBuds C1 isn’t as feature-packed as our top picks, nor as affordable as our budget options, but nonetheless is still a good pair of earbuds. The 12 hours of battery life per charge is among the highest playtime we’ve seen in true wireless earbuds. The sound is balanced nicely, with enough extra bass and high-frequency detail to keep your music exciting. But discerning listeners will notice that there is a harsh edge to high-frequency sounds. The physical buttons on the stem of the earbuds offer full controls that are pretty intuitive to use, but might be tricky for folks with large hands or dexterity concerns. The microphones have a compressed quality, pick up a good bit of background noise, and aren’t wind resistant, so we wouldn’t choose these if you expect to make a lot of calls. But for listening to music, this $70 pair is a good value.

    Ultimate Ears’s UE Fits pair includes ear-tip gels that conform to your ear shape and harden into place after being bathed in UV light. The earbuds themselves perform this process, and it’s a nifty experience. Our panelists’ tips didn’t change shape all that dramatically, so these aren’t a perfect facsimile of traditional custom-molded monitors, but we all noted that the Fits felt very secure and comfortable in our ears after they were molded. The sound quality is quite good, and it’s adjustable in the UE app, should you want to tweak it a little. However, we found that we couldn’t dial in the sound precisely where we wanted it. The microphone call quality is fantastically clear, though you don’t get any of your own voice mixed into the sound, so you may find yourself wanting to speak loudly when on calls. The earbuds are IPX3 rated, which means you can briefly take these out in a drizzle but definitely not to the gym. The controls are tap-based, but you can choose only one action per ear: play/pause, call answer/hang-up, volume up/down, or track forward/back. For folks who very much want true wireless earbuds but have never found any that are comfortable, the UE Fits may be the answer. But for everyone else, you may wish you had more controls and better water resistance.

    Frequently asked questions

    What are the benefits of wireless versus wired earbuds?

    What matters most to you: convenience, sound quality, price, or longevity? There are two main reasons to choose wired earbuds over wireless ones. First, choose wired if you don’t want to deal with recharging batteries. Recharging can be inconvenient, and batteries lose capacity over time, eventually reaching a point where they can’t be charged at all—which means you may need to purchase new earbuds every few years. Wired earbuds never need charging and will last until you break them, so they’re generally a better long-term investment. Second, wired earbuds (whether budget or higher-end) cost less for the same sound quality as wireless. Bluetooth chips cost money, so wireless earbuds put a portion of your purchase price toward that technology. However, wireless earbuds are more freeing to wear, especially when you’re working out. Plus, many phones no longer offer a headphone jack, so you need an adapter for wired earbuds.

    Should I buy wireless headphones or earbuds?

    When making this decision, it’s important to think about where and how you’ll be using your gear. You have three factors to consider: sound, battery life, and fit. Generally, headphones sound more spacious than earbuds. This is because high-quality small drivers cost more to make, so to achieve the same caliber of audio as you get with headphones, companies frequently charge more for earbuds. The larger size of headphones also means designers are able to fit bigger batteries in them, which results in a longer listening time per charge compared with that of diminutive earbuds. But headphones are bulkier to carry, can be unwieldy during workouts, and don’t feel as comfortable to wear for folks with glasses or puffier hairstyles—or people who are sensitive to the feeling of a headband on their skull. So depending on which of these factors is the most important to you, one or the other might prove a better choice.

    Do AirPods (and other true wireless earbuds) fall out of ears?

    If they fit you well, completely wireless earbuds should stay in place. But because ears come in a variety of shapes, not everyone can get a secure fit with a particular earbud design. Earbuds with a bulkier design or a stem that hangs down (like AirPods) are more subject to gravity or inadvertent bumps that can pull them loose. An earbud with a stabilizing wing or a hook over the ear is more likely to stay put but doesn’t look as sleek. Look for true wireless earbuds that come with multiple tips of different sizes, and experiment to find the correct tip size for your ear canal. A memory-foam tip (whether included or available from a third party) can conform to the shape of the ear canal to provide a more stable fit. Also, check the manual or the manufacturer website to ensure that you’ve positioned your earbuds properly.

    About your guide

    Lauren Dragan

    Lauren Dragan is a senior staff writer and has tested over 1,000 headphones for Wirecutter. She has a BA from Ithaca College in music performance and audio production. She’s been featured in Good Morning America, NBC Nightly News, The New York Times, and more. Additionally, she’s a voice actor whose work includes projects for Disney and Mattel.

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