It’s hard to buy a bad pair of wireless earbuds these days. The market has come a long way since the early era of true wireless earphones, when we had to contend with so-so sound quality and unreliable performance, all to ditch cables. A lot is different now. After several product generations from lessons learned, companies like Sony, Apple, Samsung and others are releasing their most impressive earbuds yet.
You can get phenomenal noise cancellation and sound quality in premium earbuds if you’re willing to shell out big bucks. But those aren’t always the most important criteria for everyone: maybe you’re looking for the perfect pair of fitness earbuds, or a set that works just as well for Zoom calls as it does for playing your favorite playlists and podcasts. Tech companies are increasingly making their earbuds work best with their own products through exclusive features and functions. So that’s another thing to consider when shopping.
Sony WF-1000XM4 Earbuds
Sony’s WF-1000XM4 have the best noise cancellation of any true wireless earbud, and the sound quality is second to none. With a new design that’s smaller and IPX4 certified, the earbuds can now charge wirelessly too.
In terms of overall performance, the best wireless earbuds you can get are Sony’s WF-1000XM4. They have an unbeatable combination of top-notch active noise cancellation, beautifully detailed audio, and long battery life. But we also have a number of other tips based on other factors that you may rank higher.
Sometimes all you need is the basics, and that’s where Jabra’s Elite 3 earbuds manage to rise above the crowded field of the sub-$100 competition. Their sound emphasizes the bass, but comes across as well balanced overall with very good clarity for this price range.
Jabra’s Elite 3 earbuds have a refreshed design that’s more stylish than the company’s previous earbuds. While they don’t have many frills or extra features, they do well in the key areas of sound quality, convenience, and battery life.
The earbuds last up to seven hours of continuous playback and the compact case holds three additional charges. Their large physical buttons are easy to use and the earbuds are IP55 dust and water resistant.
The Elite 3 lack the multipoint functionality Jabra has long been known for – that’s the main sacrifice you make for the price – but in an improvement over previous models, each earbud can be used independently in mono mode. And they are extremely comfortable to wear over long distances. You don’t get features like active noise cancellation or wireless charging (although Jabra includes a so-so transparency mode), but the Elite 3s work reliably with a strong Bluetooth signal. They are great value for money.
BOSE QUIETCOMFORT EARPHONES
THE BEST NOISE-CANCELING EARPHONES
Bose’s Quiet Comfort Earbuds are on par with Sony – and probably a hair better – in terms of the effectiveness of their active noise cancellation. Like their main competitor, the QC earbuds have a fit and finish that exude quality.
With dynamic, rich sound and the best noise cancellation available in true wireless earbuds, Bose Quiet Comfort Earbuds are a great choice when you want to listen to your music in privacy.
Bose’s mobile app lets you set the level of noise cancellation that’s perfect for the environment you’re in. Their charging case is a little clunky, but supports wireless charging. The QC earbuds also handle voice calls better than most, which is another plus in exchange for their high cost.
BEATS FIT PRO earphones
THE BEST EARPLUGS FOR EXERCISING
The longtime champion of fitness earbuds, the Powerbeats Pro has finally been defeated. And fittingly, they’ve been surpassed by Beats’ latest earbuds. The Beats Fit Pro swaps the Powerbeats’ ear hooks for a new wingtip design that keeps them securely in your ears during even the most intense workouts. As a result, these earbuds have a much smaller form factor – and their carrying case is mercifully a lot more manageable. The way these earbuds magnetically snap into the case also means you don’t have to worry about one or both buds not charging in the case, which has been a common annoyance with the Powerbeats Pro.Unlike the Powerbeats Pro, the Fit Pros include active noise cancellation. And they’re on par with the AirPods Pro in that department, allowing you to exercise without the distractions. If you want to stay alert to your surroundings, Transparency mode also sounds as natural and clear as the AirPod Pros.
The Beats Fit Pro earbuds have built-in wingtips that help keep them secure while running and exercising. They also have excellent noise cancellation and their sound has just the right amount of bass and kick to keep you motivated.
The earbuds are rated IPX4 for water resistance. While this isn’t as robust as some other fitness-focused buds, it should be enough to survive sweat and outdoor runs in a variety of conditions. The Fit Pros have easy-to-use physical button controls, and while they lack the Powerbeats Pro’s dedicated volume rocker, you do have the option to remap a long press on each earbud to adjust the volume, rather than toggle noise-cancellation.
If you’re an iPhone owner, the Fit Pros offer Apple-only features like dynamic head tracking for spatial audio, automatic device switching, “Find My” integration, and more. For Android users, Beats has an app that lets you adjust settings and view the battery status of the earbuds and case, among other things.
THE BEST EARPHONES FOR APPLE FANS
For those investing in Apple’s ecosystem, the AirPods Pro offer an appealing mix of powerful noise-cancellation, decent enough sound quality, and a range of features that make them ideal companions to the company’s other devices. They’re also the only AirPods to come with different sizes of ear tips for a customizable fit.
The AirPods Pro have a compact body that supports wireless charging. Setting it up is as easy as holding the open case close to your iPhone. The earbuds are lightweight and fit well in most ears. Their force-sensing pinch controls are easy to get down, and they’re among the best wireless earbuds when it comes to voice call quality. Its ANC can’t match Bose or Sony, but it’s enough to keep those around you fairly quiet, and the transparency mode almost makes it feel like you’re not wearing earbuds at all.
SAMSUNG GALAXY BUDS 2
BEST EARPHONES FOR SAMSUNG FANS
Samsung’s Galaxy Buds 2 are so good that there’s little reason to spend more money on the Galaxy Buds Pro. They have a small, discreet design that doesn’t stick out of your ears like other buds. They sit more comfortably for longer periods than the company’s Pro buds. And the Buds 2 produce a balanced, vibrant sound that’s pretty close to the sonic signature of the pros.
Samsung’s Galaxy Buds 2 have a sleek, slim design and the earbuds are incredibly comfortable to wear, even for long periods of time. The earphones have active noise cancellation, pleasant sound quality and wireless charging.
If there’s a downside, it’s the sub-par IPX2 water resistance, making them less than ideal for workouts or in the rain. The Buds Pro have a more worry-free IPX7 rating.
ONEPLUS BUDS PRO
THE BEST EARPHONES FOR ONEPLUS FANS
OnePlus has come a long way since its original OnePlus Buds. The OnePlus Buds Pro are the company’s most sophisticated earbuds yet, with a sleek stemmed design that rivals the comfort of Apple’s AirPods Pro. There’s no denying that they’re AirPod clones, but their noise-cancellation is slightly better than Apple’s, and there’s a satisfying transparency mode to go with it.
While the similarity to the AirPods is undeniable, the OnePlus Buds Pro manage to match Apple’s top-of-the-line earbuds in terms of comfort and surpass them in sound quality
The controls are pretty much an exact replica of the AirPods Pro’s squeeze gestures, but OnePlus manages to beat Apple on durability: these are rated IP55 for dust and water resistance. Voice call performance is also above most earbuds that cost the same $150 as the OnePlus Buds Pro. You also get wireless charging in the case for this price. And when it comes to calls, the OnePlus Buds Pro are among the best on the market with clear voice reproduction and excellent background noise cancellation, so others can hear you perfectly.
APPLE AIRPODS (DRITTE GENERATION)
BEST EARPHONES FOR VOICE CALLS ON IPHONE
Apple’s third-generation AirPods have a new design with shorter stems than the original model. But even though their mics are now farther from your mouth, they still work very well on calls – and there are major improvements in sound quality and fit/comfort that make upgrading to the so-called AirPods 3 worthwhile.
Apple’s third generation AirPods have a new design and sound significantly better than their predecessors. They’re also adding new features like head tracking for spatial audio.
Apple also added new features previously exclusive to the AirPods Pro, like head tracking spatial audio and deeper Find My integration to help locate your misplaced buds. And the case is now optimized for use with Apple’s MagSafe wireless charging system. The AirPods still have a one-size-fits-all hard plastic form factor, so try them on before you buy to make sure they fit your ears. But if so, these are Apple’s best regular AirPods by far.
BEST EARPHONES FOR VOICE CALLS ON ANDROID
Sony’s funky-looking LinkBuds have a donut hole smack in the middle of each earbud. This surprisingly comfortable design is designed to allow in outside noise while keeping you aware of your surroundings at all times. But it also means that the LinkBuds won’t be for everyone – especially those who prefer to drown out the world when listening to their music.
But more than their quirky fit, the LinkBuds’ greatest strength is their excellent voice call performance. Sony has overhauled its voice isolation algorithms for these earbuds, and as a result the LinkBuds are several rungs above the call quality of the flagship 1000XM4 and nearly all non-AirPods competitors. If you’re looking for something to stick in your ears all workday, the LinkBuds won’t disappoint.
Sony’s LinkBuds have an outstanding design based on comfort and an airy, open sound. They also excel when used for voice calls, outshining pretty much all of the competition.
RAZER HAMMERHEAD TRUE WIRELESS (2021)
THE BEST EARBUDS FOR MOBILE GAMES
The Hammerhead True Wireless earbuds have decent sound quality and active noise cancellation for their price. But what’s probably just as important for avid mobile gamers is its low-latency gaming mode, which cuts the response time down to 60ms.
And then there’s the Chroma. Unlike the first generation Hammerhead True Wireless, these feature fully customizable RGB lights on each earbud. It’s a noticeable effect, although it hurts battery life a bit. Razer’s mobile app for the earbuds allows for control remapping and extensive EQ adjustments. The Hammerhead true wireless earbuds are average in metrics like battery life and their Transparency mode is only passable, but if you’re into Razer gear, you can now flash the brand while playing your favorite mobile games at the cafe.
NOTHING EAR 1 wireless earphones
BEST EARPHONES FOR EXCELLENT STYLE
While they can be more buggy than we’d like, and their noise-cancellation is par for the course, there’s no denying that Nothing’s first earbuds have a unique look. With their semi-transparent design and unique charging case, the Ear 1 earbuds will draw some attention when lined up with earbuds from more established brands. And at $99, you don’t have to break the bank for that extra style – and perhaps that price makes it easier to overlook the areas where Nothing fell short with its first pair of earbuds.
Nothing’s first earphones feature a partially translucent design and a unique carrying case. They also have impressive sound quality for the sub-$100 price point, but beware of mistakes
UE FITS earphones
BEST EARPLUGS FOR A PERFECT FIT
They mold to the shape of your ears in 60 seconds. That’s really all you need to say so you know why the UE Fits outperform all other wireless earbuds when it comes to finding the right fit. You won’t do much better without seeing an audiologist and having custom IEMs made.
The UE Fits come with unique ear tips that permanently mold to the unique shape of your ears in just 60 seconds. This allows for a much better fit that you can wear comfortably for hours.
But the fits are really only worthwhile if you often have problems holding other earbuds in your ears. If you’ve exhausted all options (including trying memory foam tips), by all means give these a try. The sense of shape – the tips warm up in your ears as they adjust their shape – is certainly unlike anything you’ll get from other earbuds.