You'll notice that most of our top picks today are completely wireless! Once part of an expensive and questionable sub-category of products, today’s best wire-free buds have evolved to deliver great sound, a reliable device connection, and enough battery life to meet the demands of most users. Most importantly, they're also priced competitively, making them more attainable than ever before.
Overall, the Powerbeats Pro is a solid pair of wireless earbuds. The biggest concern is the cost. At the original sticker price of $250, this set is $50 more expensive than the Apple AirPods with the Qi charger, $90 more than the standard AirPods, and $70 more than the Jabra Elite 75t. Although we believe that the upgrade in performance the Powerbeats Pro offers over the AirPods (or AirPods Pro) makes it a far better choice for hardcore Apple (or, let’s face it, Beats) enthusiasts, for everyone else we can’t quite justify the price enough to make this set our overall top pick.
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 place that will let you walk right in and stick their product in your ear: Apple. You can try on AirPods inside an Apple Store — the older all-plastic AirPod model or the newer AirPod Pros, for which you can also test the three sizes of silicone tips. Apple cleans the units throughout the day, regularly taking a handful to wipe down with alcohol after one test.
The headphones are designed for go-anywhere, do-anything performance, with built-in earfins and IPX2 sweatproofing that allow them to be a companion during rainy runs and sweaty workouts alike. We found the design to also be extremely comfortable, even for extended periods. The charging case is one of the smaller ones we’ve seen — not quite as compact as the AirPods charging case, but very close. The only disappointment is that it only carries a little more than one recharge’s worth of juice, which means there may be times when these earbuds can’t quite make through a full day without needing either a plug or a wireless charging mat (or phone).
Unfortunately, Anker doesn't have a mobile app for customization, but the default sound profile should please most people, with deep bass, clear but slightly recessed mids, and a great treble. As for battery life, they can run for about 4 hours, with the case providing an additional 3 charges. If you're looking for good truly wireless in-ears that won't break the bank, these are worth considering.
Meanwhile, all of the features that Apple fans have come to rely on like Siri connectivity, intuitive touch controls, and accelerometers that recognize when the buds are in or out of your ears to pause and play sound automatically, are all preserved. Battery life is unchanged at 5 hours of music streaming per charge — a number that is less impressive now than it once was — but you get a wireless charging case that would normally cost you $50 more than the price of a regular set of AirPods.
Tward says it’s possible to get a skin or outer-ear infection from trying on in-ear headphones that have been in other people’s ears. If you choose to go down this test-driving path, clean the earbud with an alcohol wipe first, Tward says. Most stores don’t allow people to try on in-ear headphones, possibly for fear of spreading bacteria — but also because it would require the employees and resources to clean them. Best Buy and Target, for example, don’t offer test units to shoppers.
The lighter-inspired metal charge case of the Klipsch T5 is snazzy but heavy in a pocket. We found that the T5 sounded quite good, but the Klipsch signature oblong tips didn’t hold the earbuds securely enough in our panelists’ ears: After we yawned or spoke, the T5 earbuds started to slide out of our ears, and Brent (who has large ear canals) couldn’t get a seal at all.
If the Jabra Elite 75t is sold out or you own multiple Apple devices and want the easiest pairing experience, the Beats Powerbeats Pro set is a great choice. These true wireless earbuds use the same H1 chip as Apple’s AirPods, so you get the same fast, easy pairing and “Hey Siri” voice activation. Overall, the Powerbeats Pro earbuds are superior to the AirPods, adding full track and volume controls, water and sweat resistance, and a longer battery life of nine hours for listening (or six hours of calls). The buds stayed securely in our ears and sounded quite good, with only slightly boosted bass. However, the charging case is larger than we’d like (see the photo comparison below), the ear tips can make a crinkling noise when you adjust them in your ears, and at the original price of $250, the Powerbeats Pro is not cheap.
Although there’s no noise cancelation, Samsung includes an Ambient Aware mode to let sound in when appropriate, and you can use Quick Ambient with touch controls to enable or disable the feature whenever you want. As for battery life, expect to get about six hours per charge out of these. The included battery case — which itself interfaces with a wireless charging pad if you have one — adds enough juice for double the listening time. If you’re planning on using the Galaxy Buds for workouts, note that they only have an IPX2 rating, meaning there’s only water protection against light splashes and sweat, and nothing for dust.
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.
If you’re more of a talker than a jammer, the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 5100 should make you (and your caller) happy. It has four noise-canceling microphones. That alone is nothing revolutionary for headsets, but the company claims its WindSmart technology automatically detects and filters wind. And while there’s no noise cancelation, the cone-shaped ear tips should do a decent job of blocking out moderate levels of noise, and there are multiple options for those in the box.
You don’t need to worry about being caught in the rain, either, because these earbuds are IP55 rated, which means they can take dust, rain, and some light sweat without breaking. You can tote the Elite 75t to the gym if you are doing a mild workout; however, if you sweat heavily, you may want to consider our workout headphones pick, Jabra’s Elite Active 65t, which has an IP56 rating. Although Jabra backs the Elite 75t with a two-year warranty against water and dust damage, this wireless earbud model isn’t covered for intense sweating. The Active edition is more sweat and dust resistant, but those earbuds are a little bigger and have a shorter battery life per charge. If you want to read more about our picks for working out and running, check out our guides to the best workout headphones and the best running headphones.
The Elite 75t uses a four-microphone array similar to that of the Elite 65t, but with upgraded wind-noise-reduction capabilities. When using the 75t in a quiet room, I sounded very clear to other people during calls and videoconferences. To test the wind noise reduction, I stood in front of a window air conditioner, put the fan on high, and called Brent Butterworth. Brent reported that he initially heard the sound of air hitting the mic, but when I spoke, the noise dramatically dropped in volume. In contrast to the experiences we’ve had with other headphones that employ this kind of technology, which can compress the sound of your voice, Brent said my tone sounded a lot fuller and richer through the 75t than through other earbuds he’d heard.
This is a look at the top wireless headphones we've tested overall, regardless of price. As such, many of the options here fall in the $100 and up range. That doesn't mean you need to spend a lot of money to get headphones that deliver quality audio. If you're shopping on a budget, head over to best headphones under $50 for plenty of great options that won't break the bank.
Our panel evaluated each pair’s sound quality, ease of use, fit, and comfort and then ranked their top three picks. I then took those favorites and tested the microphones over phone calls in both quiet and noisy areas via a voice-recorder app. I checked the Bluetooth signal reliability by wandering a good distance away from my phone, putting it in a pocket or bag, walking outside, and going several rooms away. And, of course, we tested battery life to make sure that the actual use time lined up with each manufacturer’s claim. Once we had a sense of how each set of headphones performed, we took price and extra features into account and then chose our final winners.