The first true wireless earbuds date back to 2014, but it was the release of Apple’s AirPods in 2016 that really fired them into the mainstream. True wireless means that there isn’t any kind of cord tethering the two earbuds together, as opposed to just wireless earphones like the Powerbeats or Beats Flex, and since those first AirPods, the market for true wireless earbuds has come a long way.
These days, there are so many different types of wireless earbuds that you can basically buy the pair that perfectly fits your lifestyle, your budget and, most importantly, your ears. (Remember: if they don't fit your ears, it doesn't matter how good they sound.) Many of today's wireless earbuds also offer new-age features, such as active and transparency modes, wireless charging, and even high-resolution audio.
Apple’s AirPods set the benchmark for wireless earbuds back in 2016, but the market has moved far beyond them now.
Sony WF-1000XM4 Read More
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds Bose Read More
Apple AirPods Pro Read More
Sennheiser Momentum TW 3 Read More
Jabra Elite 7 Pro Read More
What to Look for
Fit: The most important thing when it comes to wireless earbuds is fit. Period. Because if the earbuds don't fit in your ears, it doesn't matter how they sound or how many cool features they have — you're not going to like them. These days, wireless earbuds come in a wide range of styles, from stem-like AirPods to the more conventional "bulb" like the Amazon Echo Buds, so we recommend knowing which fits your ears best before buying.
Type: Before buying any pair of wireless earbuds, you should ask yourself: "How do I plan on using them?" Different wireless earbuds are better at different things. Some are better for running and working out because of their superior grip and high IP rating. Some prioritize sound quality, while others are better at active noise-cancellation. There are some that are good at everything while others are, well, cheap but get the job done.
Sound quality: No wireless earbuds can play to true lossless-quality audio because Bluetooth technology can't support it — the bandwidth is too big. There are some wireless earbuds that can play higher-resolution tracks thanks to support for various formats, like Sony's LDAC or Apple Music's spatial audio, but it isn't true lossless. Also, these wireless earbuds tend to be more expensive.
Noise-cancellation: There are a lot of wireless earbuds that now support active noise-cancellation and they can range from less than $100 to more than $300. The reality is, however, that the higher-end wireless earbuds are likely going to have more processing power and better quality mics, and therefore do a significant job of blocking out ambient noise. Not all active noise-canceling is the same. Far from it.
Charging: Most of today's wireless earbuds have made the jump to USB-C, but not all. Apple's line of AirPods still uses the Lightning connection and there are even some that still use micro-USB. The type of charging port your wireless earbuds use is important mainly because of convenience — if it charges using the same charging cable as your smartphone, headphones and laptop, it just makes your life easier.
Other features: The more "premium" wireless earbuds are also likely to come with even more advanced features, such as transparency modes, adjustable EQ and a case that supports wireless charging. The more features and support for advanced technologies the wireless earbuds have, the more expensive you can expect them to be.
New and Upcoming Releases
Our recommendations are based off real-world testing. Here's a snapshot of new and unreleased earbuds our testers are considering for future updates to this guide.
Apple AirPods Pro (Gen 2): Apple announced the Gen 2 version of the AirPods Pro on September 7. Rumors were that they might support lossless audio, but unfortunately that does not appear to be the case. What the update to the AirPods Pro does offer though is the new H2 chip for improved audio and active noise-cancellation. Additionally, a new integrated precision finding (just like AirTags) will help you find them when lost, plus a built-in speaker is now on the case. The new AirPods Pro will cost $249 and they'll be available to order on September 9 and ship worldwide on September 23. We'll have more to come on these once we test them out for a review.
Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro: Released in 2022, Samsung's Galaxy Buds 2 Pros are the company's new high-end noise-canceling wireless earbuds that are poised to rival Apple's AirPods Pro and the Sony WF-1000XM4. They 15- percent smaller than their 2021-released predecessors, the Galaxy Buds. They also support higher-resolution (24-bit) and more immersive (including Dolby Atmos) audio, have improved mics, and they cost $280.
Beyerdynamic Free Byrd: The German hi-fi brand recently announced its first-ever pair of wireless earbuds. The Free Byrd promise excellent sound quality and, uniquely, will be able to optimize sound specifically for your ears (thanks to an in-app administered hearing test. The Free Byrd support other premium features such as active noise-cancellation and transparency modes, as well as a case that supports wireless charging. They cost $249.
UE Drops: As of late July 2022, Ultimate Ears announced a new high-end pair of wireless earbuds called the UE Drops. They are unique because they are custom-molded to your ears — and thus are designed to create the perfect fit — plus they promise far superior sound quality and more features compared to the company's 2020-released UE Fits. They cost $449.
How We Tested
We test a lot of different wireless earbuds — because there are a lot of them out there. We tend to test wireless earbuds in different situations based on their skillsets. For example, we test noise-canceling wireless earbuds in both noisy and quiet environments, the latter of which is best for sound quality. We test go running (and sweating) while wearing more workout-focused wireless earbuds to see how they stay in and stack up. As is the case with any wireless earbuds, the most important thing is fit; so even if we like a certain pair of wireless earbuds, it's important for you to know what kinds of earbuds fit you best because everybody's ears are a little different.
The Best Wireless Earbuds for Active Noise-Cancellation
Released: June 2021
The Sony WF-1000XM4 edge out the Bose Quiet Comfort Earbuds as our pick for the best noise-canceling wireless earbuds. They are the successor to the nearly two-year-old WH-1000XM3, but Sony redesigned them so they sound more vibrant and have better noise-cancellation. They also look and feel completely different; they have a more rounded design and they're noticeably smaller (each earbud is 10 percent smaller and the case is about 40 percent smaller). Finally, Sony gave them some new-age features like wireless charging and water resistance (IPX4) so they feel like the new hotness.
To learn more, read our review of the Sony WF-1000XM4.
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds
Released: September 2020
The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds — also referred to as the QC Earbuds — are the company's first noise-canceling earbuds. They're also, frankly, our pick for the best noise-canceling wireless earbuds that you can buy. They do a slightly better job at blocking out ambient sounds than the Sony WF-1000XM3 and AirPods Pro, and they also sound excellent. The only real downside is that they're pretty expensive. They're also fairly big wireless earbuds.
To learn more, read our w of the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds.
Apple AirPods Pro
Released: October 2019
The AirPods Pro are Apple’s first wireless earbuds with active noise-cancellation. They're also upgraded in a lot of other ways compared to the entry-level AirPods. The "Pro" wireless earbuds have a new design with silicone ear tips, so they should stay in your ears better. They have upgraded drivers and support more immersive technologies, such as spatial audio and Dolby Atmos, so they sound noticeably better. And they’re water-resistant, which AirPods are not, so they're actually a better option if you plan on working out in them. If you have an iPhone, the AirPods Pro are simply the best wireless earbuds you can buy.
Sennheiser Momentum TW 3
Released: May 2022
Sennheiser's third-generation wireless earbuds are some of the best you can buy. They build on the truly excellent sound quality of their predecessors, the Momentum TW 2, but deliver even better active noise-cancellation and now come in a case that supports wireless charging. The design of the earbud has also been revamped and shrunk down (albeit slightly) so that they are more comfortable to wear for longer listening sessions. They also work with a companion app that gives you the ability to tweak EQ settings and customize the on-earbud controls.
To learn more, read our review of the Sennheiser Momentum TW 3.
Jabra Elite 7 Pro
Released: September 2021
Jabra's wireless earbuds have been known for their excellent sound and call quality, and its latest flagship pair, the Elite 7 Pro, excels at both. On top of that, they have solid active noise-cancellation and a really rugged design (IP57 water-resistance rating) so they're safe for workouts. The only real downside is that they don't have multi-device Bluetooth pairing and lack the fancy features and support for immersive sound technologies like AirPods Pro. Also, if they're too expensive but you like the brand/fit, the Jabra Elite 3 ($79) are a great budget alternative.
Master & Dynamic MW08
Released: April 2021
The Master & Dynamic MW08 are the true successor to the company's MW07 Plus. They're about 15 percent smaller yet have slightly larger drivers, so they're able to deliver a slightly more vibrant and punchier sound. They also work with a companion app (called M&D Connect), unlike any of the company's previous wireless earbuds, that lets you toggle between various noise-cancellation and transparency modes. The new models are made of a combo of ceramic (rather than acetate) and stainless steel.
To learn more, read our review of the Master & Dynamic MW08.
Beats Studio Buds
Released: June 2021
The Studio Buds are Beats's first noise-canceling wireless earbuds. They don't have Apple's special H1 chip (Apple owns Beats, after all), but they still have many of the same features as the AirPods Pro, such as fast iPhone pairing and support for spatial audio and Dolby Atmos; they don't sync with your iCloud account, however, nor do they support multi-device pairing or audio sharing. The omission of Apple's special H1 chip allows the Studio Buds to work really well with Android smartphones, too, as they support fast pairing and you can easily adjust noise-canceling and transparency modes in Bluetooth settings.
Bowers & Wilkins PI7
Released: April 2021
The Bowers & Wilkins PI7 is the company's first pair of wireless earbuds — and they are as impressive as they are lavish. They're also capable of playing high-resolution audio files up to 24-bit/48 kHz (although you need to stream from a device that supports aptX Adaptive). They have active noise-cancellation and support for wireless charging. Maybe their coolest feature is that their charging case doubles as a Bluetooth receiver; so you can connect to an in-flight entertainment system or Nintendo Switch and listen to your wireless earbuds.
To learn more, read our review of the B&W PI7.
Samsung Galaxy Buds Live
Released: August 2020
The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live are noise-canceling wireless earbuds with an innovative design. Each earbud has a unique bean-like shape so that it fits comfortably in your ear without creating a physical seal, which also prevents you from getting that pressurized feeling of being underwater. While very good noise-canceling wireless earbuds, they're really designed for Samsung Galaxy smartphone owners because it has exclusive features like quick pairing and wireless charging (via Samsung's Wireless PowerShare).
Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro
Released: January 2021
The Galaxy Buds Pro are different from the company's Galaxy Buds Live in a couple of key ways. They have a more traditional in-ear design which helps them deliver better sound and improved active noise-cancellation. They also have a significantly better water-resistance rating (IPX7), so they're more suited for workouts. They also have a cool "voice detect" feature that you can turn on, which automatically lowers the volume of the music when you start talking. These wireless earbuds should really only be considered if you have a Samsung Galaxy smartphone as there's no app support for iPhones.
The Best Wireless Earbuds for Running and Working Out
Beats Fit Pro
Released: October 2021
The Beats Fit Pro are the next evolution of the company's Powerbeats Pro and one of the best wireless earbuds for runners and athletes. They have a lot in common with Apple's AirPods Pro since they are powered by the same H1 chip (so they can fast pair to any iPhone); they have the same active-noise-cancellation and transparency modes and support spatial audio with dynamic head tracking. And they sound almost as good. The big difference from AirPods Pro is that the Fit Pro have an all-new flexible earwing tip design to help them better stay in your ears. The only real downside is that they don't have a case that wirelessly charges.
Ultimate Ears Fits
Released: October 2020
The UE Fits are different from all other wireless earbuds because they give you a completely custom fit. You place the earbuds in your ears and then, through the companion app, you trigger a 60-second custom molding process that shapes the gel in each ear tip so that it perfectly fits your ears. The UE Fits don't have a ton of other features —there's no noise-cancellation or transparency modes, for example — but if you've had trouble with wireless earbuds staying in your ears, these are the ones to get.
To learn more, read our review of the UE Fits.
Bose Sport Earbuds
Released: September 2020
The Bose Sport Earbuds are wireless sport earbuds that are smaller and sleeker versions of Bose's previous wireless earbuds, the SoundSport Free. Each earbud has up to five hours of battery life, with a charging case that provides up to 10 extra hours. They don't have active noise-cancellation like the company's QuietComfort Earbuds, but they fit, feel and sound very similar. As before, the only real downside is that they're physically larger than most other wireless earbuds.
Jaybird Vista 2
Released: May 2021
The Vista 2 are the next-generation versions of Jaybird's original Vista, which were some of the favorite wireless earbuds for running and working out. The Vista 2 look and fit exactly the same as their predecessors, and they're designed for the same people: endurance and extreme athletes, such as long-distance runners, trail runners and mountain bikers. Jaybird gave these new wireless earbuds a few meaningful upgrades, however, such as an improved IP68 rating, making them some of the most rugged wireless earbuds you can buy. They also have active noise-cancellation and transparency modes, making them great for runners and bikers who want to block out all the noise — or hear all of it. (Note: if you don't care about the extra ruggedness or noise-cancellation, you can still buy the original Vista for $50 less.)
Beats Powerbeats Pro
Released: May 2019
The Powerbeats Pro combines the design, sweat-resistance and sound of Beats’s wireless sport earbuds, the Powerbeats3 Wireless, with the true wireless-ness and functionality of Apple’s second-generation AirPods. They are still a solid option for iPhone owners who can't wear AirPods, however now that Beats launched the Fits Pro (above), which are essentially a newer (albeit in-ear) version of these wireless earbuds, they do feel a bit dated.
To learn more, read our review of the Powerbeats Pro.
Anker Soundcore Life P3
Release date: April 2021
The Soundcore Life P3 are excellent wireless earbuds for runners that are shopping on a budget. Aside from its price, the standout feature of the Life P3 is its IPX7 rating, which is as high of a water-resistance rating as you're likely going to get. It also has a familiar AirPods Pro-esque fit and charges via USB-C.
Best Wireless Earbuds for Everything Else
Apple AirPods (3rd-Generation)
Released: October 2021
Apple's 3rd-generation AirPods are the mid-tier wireless earbuds between the company's high-end AirPods Pro and entry-level AirPods. They share a similar design and sound to the AirPods Pro aside from the silicon ear tips (so they don't fit in your ears quite as well), and they support spatial audio (with Dolby Atmos) and have a wireless charging case. The big tradeoff is that they lack active noise-cancellation and transparency modes. Unlike the entry-level AirPods, these new models are safe working out thanks to their IPX4 water- and sweat-resistant rating.
To learn more, read our review of the AirPods 3.
Apple AirPods (2nd-Generation)
Released: March 2019
The second-generation AirPods look identically to the ones that were released in 2016, and they work almost exactly the same way — but they up the ante in quite a few ways. With the new H1 chip, they pair faster, have better battery life and better mics. And they support “Hey Siri” voice commands, so you don’t need to push any button to activate the voice assistant. Apple now offers the option of a wireless charging case, as long as you’re willing to pay a little extra. Unlike AirPods Pro, these entry-level AirPods lack noise-canceling and transparency modes; they also lack support for spatial audio and Dolby Atmos. That said, if you have an iPhone these are by-far-and-away the best true wireless earbuds you can buy.
To learn more, read our review of the AirPods 2.
Sony LinkBuds S
Released: May 2022
The LinkBuds S are essentially more affordable versions of Sony's flagship WF-1000XM4. They have most of the same features, including noise-cancellation and transparency modes, and support for LDAC (Sony's codec for streaming high-resolution audio tracks over Bluetooth) — just don't expect them to deliver these features at quite the same level as Sony's more expensive earbuds.
To learn more, read our review of the Sony LinkBuds S.
Google Pixel Buds A-Series
Released: June 2021
The Pixel Buds A-Series are a more affordable alternative to the company's now antiquated Pixel Buds 2. They are exactly the same in almost every way, but Google has cut some of the "luxury" features, like wireless charging and swipe controls, in order to keep the cost down. That said, these are some of the best wireless earbuds you can buy for less than $100.
Amazon Echo Buds (2nd-Gen)
Released: May 2021
Amazon’s second-generation wireless earbuds improve on the first-gen models in basically every way. Amazon made them smaller and lighter so that they're significantly more comfortable to wear; plus they come with silicone earbuds and wing tips, in case you want to wear them while running. They deliver significantly better sound quality and noise-cancellation. And they also charge via USB-C instead of micro-USB. For the price, you can't really beat them. The only decision you'll have to make, other than if you want them in white or black, is if you want to spend an extra $20 for a charging case that wireless charges.
Nothing Ear (1)
Released: August 2021
Nothing's first wireless earbuds are also one of the best you can buy — for under $100. They have premium features like active noise-cancellation and wireless charging, plus have a translucent design (thanks to a collaboration with Teenage Engineering) so that they look like nothing else out there. The only real catch is that you have to remember the Ear (1) are budget wireless earbuds, and their noise-canceling and transparency modes, as well as their sound quality, are good but not great — so don't expect them to be better than AirPods Pro.
To learn more, read our review of the Nothing Ear (1).
Released: October 2021
The Sony WF-C500 are the company’s new pair of affordable wireless earbuds. They lack the same sound quality of the flagship WF-1000XM4 and don't have premium features like noise-cancellation and transparency modes, either. But they are compatible with the same companion app that lets you tweak the EQ settings, and they do support Sony's immersive 360 Reality Audio. Additionally, they charge via USB-C. Think of these as a great budget alternative to Apple’s AirPods.
Cambridge Audio Melomania 1+
Released: March 2021
Cambridge Audio is a British hi-fi company that's best known for high-end (and expensive) audio components, so it sort of surprised people when it got into true wireless earbuds. But thankfully they did because they're some of the best-sounding wireless earbuds you can buy. The Melomania 1+ are the company's third-generation wireless earbuds and they deliver some of the best audio quality you'll find in the near-$100 range.