One of the most obvious refinements to earbuds has been the minimization, if not outright elimination, of wires—a good thing even if your phone still has a headset jack. Using Bluetooth, today’s top earbuds might have, at most, a wire that connects the two buds to each other—this can be a nice option if you’re prone to misplacing small objects, or you want in-line controls. A wired pair of Bluetooth earbuds is sometimes a more affordable option too, although that’s less so now than it was in the early days of “true wireless” options.
True wireless earbuds are just that, free of any wire whatsoever. Think of Apple’s AirPods as the standard bearer of this category. There are also plenty of AirPod alternatives—some more worthy than others.
Whether to go fully wireless is just one decision you have to make. Wireless earbuds vary on price, sometimes greatly, and capabilities—some might be better for audiophiles while others are better for sports. Our picks for best wireless earbuds cover all the bases, so you can easily find a pair that meets your particular combination of needs. Read our guide on what to look for in wireless earbuds below our recommendations.
Best wireless earbuds 2021
Best overall + true wireless
You don’t buy AirPods (or AirPods Pro) because they deliver the ultimate listening experience. You buy them because they sound good, are super easy to connect to all your Apple gear, are incredibly compact, work hands-free with Siri, and are incredibly comfortable.
It’s not hard to find wireless earbuds that do one or two things better than the AirPods Pro, but for users of Apple products, it’s really hard to find earbuds that do so many things so right.The AirPods Pro live at the sweet spot of comfort, ease of use, features, and sound quality.
- Excellent fit and comfort
- Compact wireless charging case
- Good active noise cancellation
- Sound quality is a little bland for the price
- Battery life is just okay
Budget option + noise cancellation + true wireless
Aukey’s EP-N5 earbuds are a good example of how far we’ve come with true-wireless options. Not so long ago, you had to really shell out for this convenience. With the EP-N5, you get totally wire-free earbuds that look classy, sound good, and even offer active noise cancellation, all for $60 MSRP.
Granted, they aren’t in the same league as, say, Apple’s AirPod Pro standard bearer. And there are naturally some trade-offs—the mic isn’t great and the touch controls are fiddly. But for around a quarter of the price of the AirPod Pro, the EP-N5 are a very affordable alternative that hits the right notes where it counts.
- Good, balanced sound
- Decent active noise cancellation
- Strong Bluetooth 5.0 connection
- Comfortable fit
- Excellent value for price
- Poor microphone quality
- Unreliable touch controls
Budget + workouts + true wireless
If you think you need to spend a lot to get good bass from a pair of truly wireless earbuds, the Anker Soundcore Spirit Dot 2 will rock your world—while also rocking your favorite tunes.
These fitness-leaning buds also fit well and can handle as much sweat and raindrops as you can throw at them. Such affordability comes with some sacrifices, sure, but they’re relatively minor. The Spirit Dot 2 usually deliver when it counts.
- Excellent value
- Deep, resonant bass
- Sliding case lid doesn’t seem very durable
- Mediocre battery life
Workouts + true wireless
The Powerbeats Pro are Beats’ first true wireless earbuds, and they’re just the thing for people looking for the AirPod experience, tailored for an active lifestyle. They use the new H1 chip found in the second-generation AirPods, so you get the same pairing and syncing experience as with AirPods, and hands-free “Hey, Siri” capabilities.
Beyond that, they resemble Beats more than AirPods. The design is similar to Powerbeats 3, only slightly smaller and lighter, angled for a better fit and better look, and of course without the cord between them.
Sound quality is quite good—better than AirPods, thanks to the rubberized tips that fit snug in your ears. In particular, you get much better bass response than with AirPods, though these aren’t as bass-overheavy as some Beats brand gear. They’re splash and sweat proof, and stay put in your ears through all sorts of rigorous physical activity.
Battery life is exceptional, too. The earbuds last for up to nine hours playing music, or six hours of phone calls.
- Good sound quality
- Comfortable fit
- Epic battery life
- Case is too big for a pocket
Audiophile + true wireless
With 3.5 hours of battery life, per charge, the Master & Dynamic MW07 aren’t the longest lasting truly wireless earphones that we’ve tested. But that didn’t keep us from selecting it as our favorite pair of truly wireless earbuds for audiophiles. Simply stated, they’re the best-sounding pair that we’ve ever tested.
Offering excellent aural separation and a surprisingly wide sound stage, the MW07 will fill your ears with rich, punchy bass, clear mids, and crisp high-frequency audio. Everything we listened to on them sounded great. Master & Dynamic includes five different sizes of silicon ear tips with the MW07, so finding a good seal and comfortable fit should be achievable for most people.
- Outstanding sound quality
- Bespoke materials and excellent point quality
- USB-C charging
- Underwhelming battery life
- Battery case is a scratch and fingerprint magnet
Jaybird’s X4 wireless sports earphones are reasonably priced, sound great, and boast enough features that most people will find a lot to like about them. (Read our full review here.) With their IPX7 rating, they can be submerged in a meter of water for up to 30 minutes and still come out swinging. The silicone ear caps and ear fins that ship with with make them crazy comfortable to wear and allow for a measure of situational awareness. Alternatively, you can use a set of included Comply foam ear tips with the X4s for some serious passive noise cancellation.
The Jaybird X4s make most types of music sound great. Thanks to Jaybird’s free MySound iOS app, users can tune the sound of the earphones to suit their particular tastes. The only knock against them is that the X4s use a proprietary charging cable to connect to its waterproof pogo port—but that’s a small issue for a largely outstanding set of earphones.
- Sounds great under most circumtances
- IPX7: can be submerged in one meter of water for 30 minutes
- Ship with Comply foam ear tips
- Proprietary charging cable required
- Audio becomes muddy at maximum volume
- Audio call quality could be better
Budget option + workouts
If you’re looking for a set of inexpensive earphones that won’t leave you embarrassed or frustrated, Aukey’s EP-B40 Latitude wireless earbuds are your huckleberry. Available for under $30, these surprisingly solid earbuds boast sound quality that bests headsets three times their price. Their subtle, mature styling belies their low price and, provided your audio source supports it, they’ll let you listen to your music using Qualcomm’s aptX technology. For the price, the EP-B40s’ audio performance can’t be matched.
Just keep in mind that these low-cost earbuds only provide between six and seven hours of use between charges. Additionally, we experienced a few minor connectivity problems during testing. As the EP-B40s only cost $28, though, these are easy issues to forgive.
- Surprisingly good sound for the price
- Sweat and splash resistant
- AptX compatible for supported devices
- Poor passive noise cancellation
- Extra EQ settings don’t do much for their sound
- Bluetooth can be unstable when connected to more than one device simultaneously
At $399, Shure’s SE535+BT1 buds are far more expensive than most people are willing to pay for earphones, Bluetooth or otherwise. But they sound exceptional, offering full bass, a wide soundstage, and aural separation that makes listening to complex, layered music a joy.
These buds also ship with a wide variety of foam and silicone ear caps that provide a comfortable fit and a high level of passive noise cancellation. In contrast to most earphones, the earbuds can be popped off of the cable they’re attached to, making it easy to extend their life.
We don’t have a lot of unkind things to say about these earphones: At moderate volumes, they’ll only provide between six to seven hours of playback. As the amount of fidelity they offer is so high, you’ll be able to hear the flaws in subpar audio of the likes you’ll find embedded in YouTube videos or while streaming from SoundCloud. Additionally, they’re a little more difficult to put on than most earphones you’ll run into. But man, do they sound great.
- Incredible sound quality
- Outstanding passive noise cancellation
- Comfortable to wear for long listening sessions
- Prohibitively expensive for most people
- Reveal the flaws in low quality recordings and streaming music
- More difficult to insert into ears than the competition
The Bose QuietControl 30 earbuds have been around for a few years, but in the time since we first reviewed them, we haven’t found a pair of Bluetooth earphones that can match their mix of outstanding active-noise cancellation, comfort, high-quality audio, and decent battery life.
These earphones boast Bose’s signature neutral tuning, making them suitable for most types of music and spoken word content. There’s not too much bass, nor too much treble. You get just the right amount of everything.
You can also adjust the level of active noise cancelling: Using the companion app, you can turn it off completely or crank it up to 100 percent to enjoy a measure of peace and quiet.
- Active noise-cancellation
- High-quality audio
- Decent battery
- Cannot be used without battery power
What to look for
Sounding good is a set of earbuds’ raison d’être. When you invest in a new pair of wireless earbuds, it’s fair to assume that they should make everything sound its best.
We start each sound test by listening to a playlist of five songs that spans different genres and features strong, layered performances: “Feel Right” by Mark Ronson, featuring Mystikal; “Up & Rise” by Hazmat Modine; “Shake Your Hips” by The Legendary Shack Shakers; “Déjà Loin” by Yann Tiersen; and “I’m a Little Mixed” up by Diana Krall.
We play this set of songs for an hour, paying attention to low, mid, and high-frequency performance, and whether they provide a broad, rich soundstage. We also listen for any sign of distortion at low or high volumes.
Afterward, we use the earbuds in our daily lives for a minimum of three hours a day over the course of a week, making sure to take in at least one TV show or movie. (This allows us to verify that the audio keeps in sync with the video we see.) Finally, we pay attention to incoming and outgoing call quality, to make sure that you won’t get annoyed during a chat.
A set of earbuds or earphones may sound amazing, but you’ll never know it if they don’t fit well. Well-fitted earphones provide a good seal which, in turn, provides passive noise cancellation (or the hush that falls when you jam a pair of earphones or earplugs into your skull). If you’re in a noisy airport, tuning out your environment is a plus—but for safety reasons, it’s less than ideal if you’re out running. We take this into consideration when evaluating earbuds designed for workouts.
Because no two pairs of ears are identical, we note how many different sizes of interchangeable ear cups each set of earphones comes with. If they come with a neckband, we determine whether that band is appropriate for a wide variety of body types.
They might fit and sound great, but if your new true wireless cans hurt your ears, you won’t wear them. We wear the earbuds for at least three hours a day for a week and note if a particular set becomes uncomfortable after a few hours of use.
Wireless earbuds use Bluetooth to connect to your audio device, and to each other in the case of true wireless. Connectivity issues can affect battery life, range, and sound quality. We evaluate for signal interruptions between the earbuds and their audio source, and also note if audio drops from the left or right side during playback.
At minimum, a good pair of true wireless earbuds should be able to accept calls as well as play and pause music. If a pair offers additional features beyond the basics, those functions should work well and be easy to use.
It almost goes without saying that if you pay a premium for earbuds, they should sound spectacular. If a pair of headphones sound great and don’t cost much? Even better!
All wireless Bluetooth earbud reviews
Click on the links below to read full reviews of all the products we tested. We’ll continue to update this article as we put more models through their paces, so keep checking for our latest opinions.