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 earbud 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. Here are all the best options for 2021.
Apple AirPods Pro
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 eartips, 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.
Released: October 2019
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.
Released: June 2021
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds
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. They only real downside is that they're pretty expensive. They're also fairly big wireless earbuds.
Released: September 2020
Master & Dynamic MW08
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.
Released: April 2021
Bowers & Wilkins PI7
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.
Released: April 2021
Beats Studio Buds
The Studio Buds are the 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 the 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.
Released: June 2021
Cambridge Audio Melomania 1+
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.
Released: March 2021
Bose Sport Earbuds
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.
Released: September 2020
Jaybird Vista 2
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 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.)
Released: May 2021
Sennheiser Momentum TW 2
Sennheiser’s first-generation wireless earbuds, the original Momentum TWs, have been one of our favorite wireless earbuds for the last couple years. With the Momentum TW 2, Sennheiser basically made them better in just the right ways. They also doubled the battery life and added active noise-cancellation, without compromising audio quality — these are the creme de la cream. The only downside? They’re very expensive. They're a good option for anybody looking for the some of the best-sounding wireless earbuds you can buy.
Released: Early 2020
Samsung Galaxy Buds Live
The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live 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).
Released: August 2020
Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro
The Galaxy Buds Pro are different from the company's Galaxy Buds Live in a couple 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.
Released: January 2021
Beats Powerbeats Pro
The Powerbeats Pro combine 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. If you own an iPhone and AirPods don’t fit in your ears, or you just want sweatproof alternatives to AirPods, these are exactly what you want.
Released: May 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.
Released: March 2019
Google Pixel Buds 2
Google’s second-generation Pixel Buds are exactly what Pixel owners have deserved for years: wireless earbuds that work well and easily pair with all Pixel and Android devices (no opening Bluetooth settings required). They have intuitive touch controls and premium features that only Google could deliver, like a conversation mode integrated with Google Translate. Additionally, they have an earwing design and IPX4 water-resistance rating, so they make a great workout partner. The only real downside? No active noise cancellation.
Released: April 2020
Google Pixel Buds A-Series
The Pixel Buds A-Series are a more affordable alternative to the company's existing Pixel Buds. 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.
Released: June 2021
Amazon Echo Buds (2nd-Gen)
Amazon’s second-generation wireless earbuds improve on the first-gen models in basically every way. Amazon made 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 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.
Released: May 2021
Jabra Elite 85t
The Elite 85t are Jabra's flagship wireless earbuds and they build off the groundwork set by the their excellent predecessors, the Elite 75t and the Elite 65t. They look and fit every similar, but the Elite 85t have a few design adjustments to make them a tad more comfortable. The biggest upgrade is that the Elite 85t add active noise-cancellation. (It's true that Jabra has rolled out a software update to both the Elite 75t and the Elite 65t that adds active noise-cancellation, but there's isn't as powerful.) The Elite 85t sound slightly better, too. The only tradeoff (besides cost) is that these premium earbuds have a IPX4 rating, which is bit of a dip from the Elite 75t's IP55 rating.
Released: October 2020
For the last two-odd years, the Sony WF-1000XM3 were some of the best noise-canceling wireless earbuds you can buy. Now that Sony has introduced their successor, the WF-1000XM4, which are completely redesigned and a little bitter in basically every way, basically the only real reason why you'd buy the WF-1000XM3 is price. The Sony WF-1000XM3 are often on sale for around $150, which is about half as expensive as alternatives like the AirPods Pro, Bose QC Earbuds and, of course, the Sony WF-1000XM4.
Released: July 2019
The WF-SP800N are Sony’s mid-range wireless earbuds. They have active noise-cancellation similar to the company's high-end WF-1000XM3 (they even use the same companion app), but they’re also designed as workout earbuds thanks to their earwing design and IP55 water-resistance rating. The compromise, which also makes them more affordable, is that the WF-SP800N lack the same QN1e processor as the WF-1000XM3, so they don’t sound as good or have the same noise-canceling abilities.
Released: May 2020
The Sony WF-XB700 is the company’s most affordable and most entry-level pair of wireless earbuds. They share a similar sound to Sony WF-SP800N, but lack any of the features (such as noise-cancellation and transparency modes). They also don’t work with Sony’s companion app so there’s no way of adjusting the EQ. The Sony WF-XB700 are a good option for anybody who wants wireless earbuds with Sony’s sound and hardware, but don’t want to break the bank. Think of these as a great budget alternative to Apple’s AirPods.
Released: April 2020
Master & Dynamic MW07 Plus
The MW07 Plus are Master & Dynamic’s second-generation wireless earbuds. The MW07 Plus look essentially identical to the company's original MW07, so they're still made of acetate, but they add active noise-cancellation and three times the battery life. If you want wireless earbuds that are luxurious and sound excellent, the MW07 Plus are great. (Note: Master & Dynamic has released the MW08, which are the successor to these wireless earbuds.)
Released: Late 2019
Master & Dynamic MW07 Go
The Master & Dynamic MW07 Go are the company's more affordable and more sport-focused wireless earbuds. They're made of an ultra-durable TR90 composite instead of acetate, which helps them be 15-percent smaller and lighter than the MW07 Plus. They're also more water- and sweat-resistant.
Released: Late 2019
Jabra Elite 75t
The Jabra Elite 75t wireless earbuds still one of our favorite AirPods alternatives. They have a great battery life and support USB-C charging. They also have active noise-cancellation thanks to a software update that Jabra rolled out in late 2020. In a nut shell, they're solid wireless earbuds that boast excellent sound and call quality. Jabra also offers a more sweat- and water-resistant version, called the Jabra Elite 75t Active, which cost a little bit extra.
Released: November 2019
1More True Wireless ANC
1More is an audio company that specializes in hi-fi headphones at affordable prices. The True Wireless ANC are its first pair of wireless earbuds with active noise-cancellation. The interesting thing about them, other than price, is that each earbud has two drivers, a dynamic driver and a balanced armature driver, that helps them sound very good. They're a solid option for people looking for noise-canceling wireless earbuds, that are more affordable than the AirPods Pro, Sony WF-1000XM4 and Master & Dynamic MW08.
Released: February 2020