Everything about the JLab JBuds Air Icon is fantastic except the sound. These earbuds pair easily, fit comfortably, and have an intelligently designed charging case with a USB cable built in. They’re water and sweat resistant, too. But even with three EQ options, they can’t compete with our picks sonically. In our tests, the “balanced” mode produced soft and blurry bass and sibilant highs, the “bass boost” option was crazy-loud and reverby in a way that obliterated every other instrument, and the “signature” mode had bloated, woofing bass that covered male voices. If you listen only to podcasts, these earbuds are excellent, but music fans would likely be disappointed.
Testing conducted by Apple in October 2019 using preproduction AirPods Pro with Wireless Charging Case and software paired with iPhone 11 Pro Max units and prerelease software. The playlist consisted of 358 unique audio tracks purchased from the iTunes Store (256-Kbps AAC encoding). Volume was set to 50% and Active Noise Cancellation was enabled. With Active Noise Cancellation and Transparency turned off, listening time was up to 5 hours. Testing consisted of full AirPods Pro battery discharge while playing audio until the first AirPod Pro stopped playback. Battery life depends on device settings, environment, usage, and many other factors.
One of the biggest concerns I hear from folks wanting to try true wireless earbuds is the fear of losing one bud. It’s a valid point: Most of the time, when you lose one earbud, you’re forced to buy an entirely new pair or pay a hefty-enough replacement price that you may as well buy a new set. Skullcandy’s Fearless Use Promise addresses this concern by saying that, if you lose or break your earbuds or case, you can return what’s left, and the company will ship you a brand-new set for the price of the broken or missing part. For the Sesh, an earbud sets you back $15 and the case is $20. It’s not exactly free, but it does help to relieve the anxiety of possibly spending $60 several times a year if you’re prone to misplacing things.
The Elite 75t offers more controls than many sets of true wireless earbuds. Each earbud has one large button, and through different combinations of taps or holds, you can control play/pause, volume, track skip, call answer/end, and digital-assistant activation. We found this new button configuration to be easier to manipulate than that of the Elite 65t. And unlike with many of the touch-sensor-based earbuds we tested, the 75t’s buttons don’t trigger accidentally if your hand happens to brush one of the earbuds. We like that the buttons don’t click loudly when depressed, and they are sensitive enough to pressure that you don’t have to mash the earbuds painfully into your ears to get a response. The Elite 75t is compatible with both iOS and Android and certified for use with Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant.
Master & Dynamic MW07 Go: This pair offers a lot of positives. The earbuds are very comfortable and stable in the ears, and we like the separate volume and track controls, although the volume buttons are a tad small for those with larger fingers. The 10-hour battery life and 30-meter Bluetooth range are impressive for this category. The small fabric-wrapped case and the earbuds themselves feel well made. However, although the sound was rather good in our tests, the bass was boosted in a way that could veil male vocals on bass-heavy songs. And we wished the Go had a transparency mode so we didn’t need to take these earbuds out to have a conversation. But if those aren’t dealbreakers for you and you aren’t turned off by the $200 price, they’re solid earbuds.
You won’t need to worry about the Powerbeats Pro earbuds falling out of your ears, as the flexible stabilizing hook over each ear does a fantastic job of keeping these earbuds in place for most ear shapes. I took our test pair to the gym for a 90-minute high-impact workout involving a lot of jumping and diverse movement, and the Powerbeats Pro set didn’t budge. It’s one of the most comfortable earbud styles we’ve tested. For once, an ad with celebrity athletes (video) promising a secure earbud delivers on that promise. However, this design makes the Powerbeats Pro far less discreet than other true wireless earbuds, and it does feel reminiscent of the commuter Bluetooth single-ear headsets of, say, 2007. That said, if people can get accustomed to walking around with the AirPods’ trendy white-cigarette-in-the-ear look, we suspect they’ll be completely fine with the Powerbeats Pro look, too.
The Beyerdynamic Blue Byrd buds sounded quite good right out of the box in our tests, and they offer the option of testing your hearing and adapting the sound. But the cable has three attached widgets (transmitter, battery, and remote) that hang heavily and make the cable pull in an annoying way. (In November 2019, Beyerdynamic issued a recall of this model, stating that the controller component could overheat during the charging process.)
When life has a chokehold on your wallet, the Ylife ST-BE18 can get you to true wireless paradise for less than $50. This is a robust package for that amount, with desirables like IPX5 water resistance and a case that provides 18 charges for their five-hour battery life. You think you’d sacrifice some sound quality at this level, but the 6mm drivers are a hit with buyers. Some have complained they sound a little flat out of the box, but a quick tap of the earbuds to adjust your EQ helps tremendously. Calls should also sound crisp with the noise-canceling microphones.
The Phiaton BT 150 NC offers a lot to like, including retractable earbuds, easy-to-use swipe controls, and a lightweight, comfortable neckband. The sound quality was better than that of most earbuds in this range. Plus, this set offers decent ANC and the ability to work with a cord. But the neckband felt flimsy to us and doesn’t fold up, which can be a hindrance when you’re traveling.
App-based customizations let control what the touch-sensitive surfaces on the earbuds do — changing volume or skipping tracks can both be assigned to the side you prefer. You can adjust equalization, find your headphones, and even pipe in sound from the outside world — which is especially useful during outdoor workouts or unfamiliar trips on public transit. Such an assortment of useful features makes Samsung’s Buds your everyday listening pal.
While the Bose QuietControl 30/QC30 Wireless have a good default sound, not being able to customize it may be a dealbreaker for some, especially if you have a varied musical taste; for those who want more customization, go for the Sony WF-1000XM3. Sony's mobile app is among the best on the market. The app allows you to pick a preset sound profile, manual tuning through the graphic EQ, apply room effects, and control the active noise cancelling feature, just to name a few. With a bulkier design and oddly large ear tips, it may be more challenging to achieve a good fit, making the Sony slightly less comfortable. Sony's ANC also tends to focus on the mid-range, great at blocking out speech, but may struggle when it comes to the low rumbles of bus engines.
Our writers spent 253 hours researching and testing the most popular wireless earbuds on the market. Before making their final recommendations, they considered 10 different earbuds overall, screened options from 10 different brands and manufacturers, and read over 45 user reviews (both positive and negative). All of this research adds up to recommendations you can trust.
The former king of true wireless noise-canceling earbuds, the Sony WF-1000XM3, finally met their match in Apple’s AirPods Pro, but they remain tops among this growing sector. A longtime juggernaut of audio supremacy, Sony’s mastery took another leap with these buds, which offer noise cancelation in a sleek package. They aren’t as nimble as the AirPods Pro, but the added bulk in the WF-1000XM3’s chassis makes room for a slightly bigger battery, which allows Sony to advertise six-hour uptime.