Wireless no longer means poor sound, either. These days, Bluetooth audio sounds much better than it ever has. Even though the stereo Bluetooth data signal is compressed, various headphone and earphone vendors have discovered ways of enhancing the signal to compensate for deficiencies in fidelity. (That said, audiophiles will still hear a difference and should probably stick with wired headphones.) But for casual listening, many of the most recent wireless models we've tested sound just fine—even great. Check out our buying advice below before picking the perfect pair.
Traditionally, Beats headphones are known for their bass-heavy sound quality, which can range from “a bit much” to “completely overwhelming.” However, Beats has comparatively reined in the lows on the Powerbeats Pro, and this pair sounded pretty darn great in our tests. Are they completely neutral and authentic? No, but we found the extra bass boost pleasant, and it didn’t blur or reverberate. Higher frequencies such as consonants and cymbals were clear and didn’t pierce in our tests, though audio purists could accuse them of lacking some sparkle or detail. The effect was similar to that of a solid set of speakers with the subwoofer bumped up a smidgen. If that’s something you like, you’ll love these wireless earbuds. Overall, we think the sound quality is as good as the Jabra set’s; it’s really a matter of preference. The Jabra earbuds give you the ability to adjust the EQ, whereas with this Beats pair, what you hear out of the box is what you get.
Active noise cancellation uses outward-facing microphones to pick up and analyze noise, which then gets canceled out by circuitry that generates an inverse wave in the headphones. It was previously an expensive, cumbersome technology that couldn't be found on wireless headphones, but that changed a few years ago with advances in battery life and circuit miniaturization. You'll pay a premium for headphones with active noise cancellation, but it's a handy feature if you just want to tune out everything around you besides your music. For more, check out the best noise-cancelling headphones.
If you like extra bass, the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless has it, along with easy-to-use touch controls. But the earbud chassis is pretty big, so small or medium-size ears may feel overstuffed, and there’s no water resistance. In our tests, consonants sounded especially sibilant, piercing, and artificial, and the EQ on the app was clumsy and confusing to use.
What hasn’t changed is the seamless pairing process and the strong, stable connection thanks to the inclusion of the H1 chip. However, despite the seamless integration of the Apple ecosystem, there isn’t an app to customize the sound, with only a few settings available through the Bluetooth settings menu. Battery life remains decent, averaging 5.3 hours of playback, with an additional 5 charges in the charging case.
The Skullcandy Sesh finds the sweet spot between low price and solid performance. Most true wireless earbuds under $75 come saddled with a bunch of inconveniences—problems such as signal drop, interference, terrible sound quality, uncomfortable fit, wonky (or absent) controls, and shoddy craftsmanship, all of which tend to negate the feeling of freedom that completely wireless earbuds promise. But the Sesh won’t compromise your enjoyment, thanks to its simple controls, comfortable fit, reliable Bluetooth connection, decent sound, IP55 dust/sweat/water resistance, two-year warranty, and unique earbud-loss replacement program. The only major downside is the battery life: At three hours per charge for this set, you’ll definitely have to bring the charge case, which provides seven additional hours of battery life and is small enough to fit in most jeans pockets.
The 10-hour battery life is the best of any true wireless earbuds right now, and their charging case can replenish them more than five times before needing to be plugged-in. It’s such a big battery, JLab even encourages you to use it to top up your other devices with it. They come with seven sets of ear tips (including a foam set) that should give everyone a comfortable fit, and their robust ear hooks — though not especially stylish — will keep the Epic Air Sport from going anywhere without you.
Testing conducted by Apple in February 2019 using preproduction AirPods (2nd generation), Charging Case, and Wireless Charging Case units and software paired with iPhone XS 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%. Testing consisted of full AirPods battery discharge while playing audio until the first AirPod stopped playback. Battery life depends on device settings, environment, usage, and many other factors.
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.
At an original price of $300, the Master & Dynamic MW07 Plus is one of the priciest pairs of true wireless earbuds available. Although these earbuds feel very well built, they have some flaws that we might be more inclined to overlook in less-expensive options. The ANC is minimally effective. The metal case, while pretty, is heavy in a pocket. And although the drivers sound like they are of high quality, the tuning is just a little too boosted in the lows and highs. Those drawbacks don’t make the MW07 Plus a bad pair of earbuds, but they may make it not worth the price tag.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best Bluetooth earbuds and in-ear headphones for most people to need according to their needs. We factor in the price (cheaper headphones win over pricier ones if the difference isn't worth it), feedback from our visitors, and availability (no headphones that are difficult to find or almost out of stock in the US).
Jabra claims the Elite 75t has a battery life of seven and a half hours per charge, which should get you through most of a workday. I personally got even more when I listened at a moderate volume and made only a few phone calls under 10 minutes each. Of course, your volume level and call duration could mildly impact your results. The charging case is petite enough to fit in a jeans coin pocket yet capable of providing an additional 20 hours of battery life. Even better, the earbud batteries have an initial rapid charge that gives you one hour of use after 15 minutes docked in the case. The case itself charges via USB-C.
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.
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JBL’s Under Armour True Wireless Flash, a workout pair, is lightweight, and the wings keep the earbuds stable in your ears. The metal case is heavy and likely won’t fit in your pocket during a high-impact workout without banging around painfully. The “bionic hearing” (ambient awareness) mode is great for chats between sets but causes the music volume to dip so much that you can’t leave it on all the time for outdoor-running awareness. This pair also lacks volume control.
Classic audio brand Sennheiser was a latecomer to the true wireless game, but its Momentum earbuds hit the scene with veteran effectiveness. We feel these are the best sounding pair of true wireless earbuds you can find, bar none. Sennheiser never defined the exact audio technology and drivers inside the Momentum, but they transmit the tunes over a Bluetooth 5.0 AptX signal. For the uninitiated, Bluetooth 5.0 AptX offers a reliable channel for fast and clear wireless audio that rivals wired headphones. Say goodbye to static, drops, audio sync issues, and other niggles that plagued older tech. As for the sound quality, expect warm bass and well-balanced mids and highs throughout a wide range of volumes. If you don’t like what you hear, the Smart Control app lets you tweak each element to your liking.