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.
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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).
If you’re an Android user, and especially a Samsung Galaxy owner, you’ll want to check out the Galaxy Buds. They’ll work with any Android phone and even iPhones, mind you, but Samsung users get an easier pairing process (just open the case while it’s near your phone) and a proprietary high-quality audio codec. Even without those perks, the Galaxy Buds are impressive at their affordable price point. Samsung tapped AKG’s sound expertise to tune the drivers with a balanced sound profile. They won’t replace a pair of studio monitors, but our reviewers say the Galaxy Buds will produce a pleasant result that you can further tweak using EQ presets in the companion app.
Audio-Technica has announced two new sets of true wireless earbuds: the Audio-Technica ATH-CK3TW and the Audio-Technica ATH-CKS5TW. The CK3TW offers six hours of battery life per charge, with an additional 24 hours of juice in the case, and is expected to be priced at $100. The CKS5TW promises 15 hours of battery life per full charge, with an additional 30 hours in the charging case, and features aptX, SBC, and AAC compatibility; that pair costs $170.
If you're an iPhone user, it's worth considering a pair of headphones that use Apple's proprietary H1 (or older W1) chip. The chip makes Bluetooth pairing even easier—there's no need to open the Settings menu, as your phone automatically prompts you to connect whenever the headphones are nearby. The chip also makes for a more stable connection and increased wireless range.
If you are worried about replacing the batteries in your headphones, you'll be relieved to learn that many devices come with rechargeable batteries. Many devices remain fully charged long enough for you to finish a full shift of work, making it easy to finish all of your job-related duties without stopping to recharge your headgear. Not all wireless headphones come with a charging device, but we sell compatible models separately for many popular brands.
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.
Jabra Elite 65t: Our former top pick, the Elite 65t is still a fantastic choice, with solid audio quality, full volume and track controls, a five-hour battery life per charge (with 10 additional hours when you include the case), and very clear phone calls. However, the new Elite 75t ups the ante with longer battery life per charge, a smaller form, simpler controls, better microphone wind-noise cancellation, and a slightly smaller charge case. If those moderate feature upgrades aren’t worth the additional cash to you, the 65t is still highly recommendable, especially if the price is under $120.
Of all the excellent true wireless earbuds on this list, there is only one model that provides active noise cancellation. It’s the new Sony WF-1000xM3, which are effectively the truly wireless versions of the Sony WH-1000xM3 — the headphones that dominate several of our best-of lists. These earbuds are a technological tour-de-force, combining superb sound quality, awesome noise cancellation, and class-leading battery life.
If you spend a lot of time commuting each day and want headphones to block out background noise, get the Jabra Elite Active 65t. They aren't as comfortable as the Samsung Galaxy Buds Truly Wireless, but they have much better passive sound isolation and better controls. They have a good amount of bass that isn't too overbearing, and their sound can be customized in Jabra's Sound+ app to better suit your tastes. The app also allows you to toggle Jabra's HearThrough feature, which mixes ambient sound into your music so you can hear what's going on around you, which is helpful when you're running outside and want to stay aware of your surroundings. Unfortunately, the earbuds are a little bulkier than other truly wireless headphones, which means those with smaller ear canals may find them uncomfortable and have a tough time finding a good fit, even with the different sized included tips.
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).
Earphones (or earbuds, or in-ear headphones) offer a slightly different sound profile compared with conventional headphones. Generally, you'll get better sound from a full set of "cans" around your head than from buds in your ears, but in-ear sound quality has improved a great deal. More importantly, in-ear headphones are much more likely to be water resistant, and much better suited for use when working out. Get a good sweat going, and you'll turn your headphone earpads into a nasty mess. For our top picks, check out the best earphones and the best headphones for running.
Though the PowerBeats Pro share many of the same features with Apple’s AirPods, they’re different where it counts: Sound quality — especially low-end bass — is far better on the PowerBeats Pro, which benefit from having a sound-isolating design. The PowerBeats Pros aren’t perfect; we experienced some frustrating connection problems even though the earbuds use Apple’s new H1 wireless chip, which should be better, not worse than its W1 predecessor.
When choosing Bluetooth headphones, consider where you'll be listening to your device. Different styles are ideal for different settings. Over-the-ear headphones and earbuds are lightweight and portable, making them a good choice for use while you exercise or for carrying with you on a regular basis. Large headphones, on the other hand, usually offer the best sound quality and noise reduction, making them a good choice for listening on planes, trains and in cars. For everyday listening at home or in the office, medium-sized headphones are a good choice.
If you aren't primarily looking for a set of wireless earphones for the gym, conventional headphones can offer a very good listening experience. You'll still have to choose between on-ear and over-ear models, however. On-ear headphones rest the earcups against your ears, but don't surround them. Over-ear headphones completely enclose your ears. Over-ear headphones block out the most outside noise and usually provide a more powerful, rich sound, but on-ear headphones are less bulky and distracting to wear when you're out and about. See the best headphones for more.
Six-hour battery life is already better than most of the models on this list, but that’s with noise cancellation turned on. Switch it off and that leaps to a whopping eight hours. The charging case, which looks like it was designed by the marketing team at Duracell, stores three full charges, giving you up to 32 hours of playtime — or 24 if you like your environment ultra-quiet. Wondering how they compare to the PowerBeats Pro? It wasn’t even close.
As for sound quality, in our tests the Sesh outperformed the vast majority of true wireless earbuds in its price range. The bass was more intense and, especially with hip-hop, could sound a bit louder in the mix than you might expect, but it didn’t blur or muffle male voices like a lot of the competition did. The higher frequencies were a little rolled-off, so “s” sounds were a bit softer and had an airier “sh” quality rather than a sharp “s” quality. But overall, for a pair that typically costs $60, the Sesh sounded fantastic.
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And you never have to reach for your device; intuitive controls let you switch seamlessly between two Bluetooth devices, change volume or tracks, and take/end calls. That means you can play music, receive texts, and get answers using just the headphones. With headphones engineered to deliver a better wireless experience, you can stay in the zone — whether you’re at the gym, the office, or anywhere in between.
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. Testing consisted of full AirPods Pro battery discharge while playing audio until the first AirPod Pro stopped playback. The drained AirPods Pro were charged to 100 percent, then audio playback was resumed until the first AirPod Pro stopped playback. This cycle was repeated until both the AirPods Pro and charging case were fully discharged. Battery life depends on device settings, environment, usage, and many other factors.
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.