The Best Wireless Earbuds
Apple started the trend with AirPods, and now completely wire-free earphones are everywhere. But how do they sound? And are they worth the premium? Here’s what you need to know, including the best true wireless earbuds we’ve tested.
Wireless vs. Wire-Free Earbuds
If you think the term “true wireless” sounds like sales jargon, we’re with you. Regardless of whether you call them “true wireless,” “cable-free,” or “wire-free,” the important distinction between these and typical earphones is the complete lack of a cable connecting the earpieces.
If there’s one complication many models share in the operation department, it’s that it’s easy to accidentally pause music, skip a track, or summon a voice assistant when you merely meant to take an earpiece out or adjust it slightly. There’s not a lot of real estate on most of the earpieces we’ve tested, and thus much of the outer panel area is devoted to housing controls.
Newer models manage to strike a balance between operability and layout. Some use actual tactile buttons to control playback, call management, track navigation, and volume. Some others cleverly divide controls between the two earpieces with touch panels—tapping the left ear, for instance, will skip a track backward, while tapping the right will skip forward. Despite needing to do a little more thinking before you tap, eventually the division of controls between the two earpieces reveals itself to be intuitive. So on-ear control panels are getting more creative and user-friendly, but there’s still a ways to go before they catch up with traditional wireless models.
Blue tooth Pairing
As for Bluetooth pairing, you won’t find an easier pairing process than with the AirPods or the Powerbeats Pro (if you have an iOS device), which essentially do all the work for you the second you turn them on thanks to Apple’s H1 (or older W1) headphone chip. Other pairs are still relatively simple to connect in your phone’s Bluetooth settings menu.
What about Battery Life?
Battery life is the Achilles’ heel of the true wireless category. The best estimated battery life available (and keep in mind your results will vary with volume levels) tops out at around eight hours maximum. Just about all the other options hover in the five-hour range. It kills a battery fast when you need to power two earpieces separately.
The necessary solution that (nearly) all of these designs share in common is a charging case. Each case protects the earpieces when not in use, and charges them simultaneously. Most of the cases carry two extra full charges, so you can recharge your earphones on the go. It’s not unlikely that this weak aspect of the true wireless realm will improve to the point that it will no longer be an issue.
What Happens If I Lose an Earpiece?
This is, understandably, a concern of many potential true wireless users. Allow us to allay your fears—we can say that after over a year of testing, you have to try pretty hard to lose one earpiece. First off, just about every pair we’ve tested offers an extremely secure in-ear fit without sacrificing comfort. Most of the earpieces are larger than typical in-ears, while still maintaining a lightweight feel, making the likelihood of losing one while exercising (or at any other time) fairly low.
As for simply misplacing an earpiece when not in use, this also seems unlikely. The charging case is intrinsically tied to the user experience—like hanging up the phone or turning the TV off when you’re finished watching, you’ll automatically reach for the case to stow and charge the earphones. To put it another way: You’re far more likely to misplace the whole thing—the case with both earpieces inside—than you are to misplace one earpiece.
If you do somehow lose one earpiece only, however, plenty of companies like Apple will gladly sell you an extra one à la carte for less than the price of a new full set. If losing an earpiece still seems like something you can imagine happening to you, it’s worth researching whether the model you’re interested in offers this option.
Soundcore Anker Liberty Air True-Wireless Earphones with Charging Case
Best for Affordable True Wireless Earphones
There’s nothing flashy about Anker’s Soundcore Liberty Air true wireless earphones, but they deliver very strong audio performance, especially for the price.
Pros: Affordable. Excellent, bass-forward audio. Water-resistant design.
Cons: So-so battery life.
Jabra Elite 75t True Wireless Bluetooth Earbuds
Best for Adjustable EQ
The Jabra Elite 75t earphones fit securely and deliver bass-forward, powerful true wireless audio you can tune to your liking though an impressive companion app.
Pros: There is Strong audio performance with serious bass depth and crisp highs. Dust- and water-resistant design. Excellent mic clarity. App has 5-band EQ and HearThrough mode, allows for Alexa and Google Assistant integration.
Cons: Default bass levels are overly boosted. Water-resistance rating is just decent.
However I highly recommend these
Introducing Echo Buds. Wireless earbuds with immersive sound, active noise reduction and Alexa
Best for Alexa Users
Amazon’s Echo Buds are wire-free earphones with a lot of functionality for the price, including hands-free Alexa voice control and Bose-tuned active noise reduction.
Pros: Hands-free Alexa voice control. Good active noise reduction. Clear, balanced sound. Comfortable fit.
Cons: Somewhat weak lows and highs. Limited controls. Not waterproof.Honorable Mention
The Amazing Powerbeats Pro Wireless earphones
FREE Delivery in the UK.
Best for Gym-Focused iPhone Users
A secure fit, easy operation, and a bass-forward sound signature make theses Powerbeats Pro ideal true wireless earphones for Beats fans.
Pros: Powerful audio performance with intense bass depth and bright highs. Strong battery life. Exceptionally secure in-ear fit.
Cons: Expensive. Wildly sculpted sound signature. Auto-play feature isn’t for everyone.Honorable Mention
The Cambridge Audio Melomania 1
True Wireless Earbuds the Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 – Ultra Long Battery Life (45 Hours), Latest Bluetooth 5.0, Water Resistant In-Ear Headphones, Stoneby Cambridge Audio
Best for Budget-Minded Audiophiles
These true wireless earphones deliver a strong sonic experience for a reasonable price.
Pros: Relatively accurate sound signature with rich bass depth and bright highs. Water-resistant design. Strong battery life. Reasonably priced.
Cons: Not fully waterproof. Not for those seeking powerful bass depth.Honorable Mention
Wireless earbuds by Earfun
EarFun Wireless Earbuds, [Upgraded] Bluetooth 5.0 Earbuds In Ear with Deep Bass, Volume Control, Mono & Stereo Mode, USB-C Quick Charge, IPX7 Waterproof, Built-in Micby EarFun
£79.99 FREE Delivery in the UK.
Best for Lowest Price
The EarFun Free true wireless earphones combine quality audio performance with a waterproof design for an impressively low price.
Pros: Inexpensive. Solid audio performance with rich bass depth and clear highs. Waterproof. Can charge wirelessly with a Qi pad.
Cons: Could use more high-mid presence. On-ear controls lack volume, could be more graceful.Honorable Mention
True WirelessEarbuds by Jaybird Vista
The Jaybird Vista True Wireless Bluetooth Headphones with Charging Case – IPX7 Waterproof and Sweatproof Earphones, 16 Hour Playtime Siri Enabled In-Ear Earbuds for Sport, Running, Fitness, Gym – Blackby Jaybird
£159.99FREE Delivery in the UK.
Best for Bass-Hungry Fitness Fans
These Jaybird Vista true wireless earphones deliver powerful audio performance in a waterproof, gym-friendly build with EQ you can adjust to taste.
Pros: Strong audio performance with boosted bass and crisp highs. App features user-adjustable EQ. IPX7 waterproof. Secure fit for exercise.
Cons: Limited on-ear controls.Honorable Mention
Samsung Galaxy Buds, White (UK Version)by Samsung
FREE Delivery in the UK.
Best for Samsung Fans
Samsung’s wire-free Galaxy Buds earphones deliver fantastic audio performance for a reasonable price, which is enough to overcome some dubious marketing claims.
Pros: Excellent audio performance with rich, full bass and bright, well-defined highs. Easy to operate. Solid mic intelligibility in quiet spaces.
Cons: Poor mic intelligibility in loud scenarios. So-so charging case battery life. Not waterproof.