This best in-ear headphones guide covers both traditional Bluetooth earbuds, in which the two earbuds are connected via a cable (usually referred to as a collar or a neckband), and what we call “true wireless” Bluetooth earbuds, which look a little like hearing aids and don’t have a cord connecting them either to your music device or to each other. The microphones are built into the earbuds themselves, as are any track and volume controls, since no cable is available to support a traditional in-line remote. Because these earbuds are small, many don’t have more than a five-hour battery life, although the new Bluetooth chipsets being used in 2019 models allow for longer battery life. Most recharge in their carrying case.
If you want cheaper wireless earbuds with a focus on sound quality, go with the JBL Endurance Sprint. They don't have the same open sound and aren't as comfortable as the Bose SoundSport Free Truly Wireless, but they do a much better job at isolating background noise and are significantly cheaper. Their sound profile is versatile with excellent bass and great mid-range and treble, making them suitable for a variety of genres, from EDM to audiobooks. They're also a great choice if you want to use your headphones for working out, as their ear-hook design is quite stable. They're rated IPX7 for waterproofing, though we don't test this. Unfortunately, their bulky design can take some adjusting to find a comfortable fit and probably isn't ideal for long listening sessions. They also have a finicky touch-sensitive control scheme that can be a bit difficult to use properly.
It’s also worth mentioning that the T5s are impressive for their call quality. That’s not normally something that people care about a lot in truly wireless earbuds, but with their long battery life, it’s good to know you won’t need to reach for your phone to take calls. Usability is also excellent thanks to the T5’s built-in controls for volume, track control, play/pause, and voice assistants. That usability ought to get even better when Klipsch releases its Connect App later this year.
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 best sounding wireless earbuds that we’ve tested so far are the Bose SoundSport Free. These sports-oriented truly wireless headphones feel very well-built and have a comfortable earbud fit. They have outstanding audio reproduction and sound slightly more spacious than most wireless earbuds thanks to their semi-open design. They provide nearly 5 hours of continuous playback, which is pretty good for truly wireless headphones, and they have a convenient auto-off timer to help save power when not in use.
Music fans will be happy to know that the Elite 75t’s sound quality is pretty great. In our tests, out of the box it offered extra bass intensity and a bump in the upper-frequency range that emphasized some consonant sounds. However, you can adjust the EQ in the Jabra app, and your settings are saved in the earbuds: Once you find your personalized sound, the Elite 75t stores it, so you don’t need to play your music through the app to get the extra bass or boosted vocals you prefer. We were impressed with the 75t’s depth-of-field representation, which added a three-dimensional quality in our tests. The vast majority of tested true wireless earbuds had a more compressed or two-dimensional quality to their sound.
The best Bluetooth earbuds we’ve tested so far are the Jaybird Tarah Pro. They’re highly customizable in-ear headphones with lots of neat features. You can EQ the way they sound with their companion app and their 13-hour battery life with auto-off timer keeps them running all day. Their very stable fit makes them a great option for fitness enthusiasts, and they isolate well enough to be a good choice for commuters, too.
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.
The Aukey EP-T16S offers a tiny case, tiny earbuds, and tiny tips—too tiny for medium or large ear canals to get a seal. In our tests, when they fit properly, the EP-T16S pair produced a ton of bass that could overwhelm male vocals in hip-hop and electronic music, and highs that sounded mildly harsh. Despite their size, we don’t recommend these earbuds for diminutive ears because we’ve found that small ears need more than just small tips to hold the earbuds in place securely and comfortably (usually a wing or hook helps).
Apple AirPods Pro: These earbuds are a major step up over the basic AirPods, in both sound quality and versatility. If your heart is set on a pair of AirPods, get the Pro version. The added bass response, improved fit, mild water and sweat resistance (rated IPX4), and active noise cancellation make these the best earbuds Apple has made. The easy pairing process (thanks to Apple’s H1 chip) is still nifty, the small charge case is handy, the wind-noise-reducing microphones are effective, and the iOS interface is pretty. However, although the AirPods Pro earbuds are good for Apple fans, they may not be worth the price for everyone else. In our tests, they were much better than the basic AirPods in sound quality but equaled by less-expensive options such as the Jabra Elite 75t.
The Elite 75t set uses Bluetooth 5.0, so you shouldn’t encounter the frequent dropped calls or stuttering music issues that have plagued many older true wireless earbuds. In our tests, I could walk three walls away from my phone and not experience skips or drops. I even left my phone on the second floor and jogged down a flight of stairs and about 20 feet away to check the mail, and the Elite 75t didn’t drop my call. Of course, pipes, large metal beams, and other factors can affect your experience, but we were very happy with the stability of the connection inside, outside, and even in interference-prone areas like the gym and subway.
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.