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.
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.)
Even if they don't sound as magical as you'd hope a $249 model would, the AirPods Pro still manage to be a great pair of truly wireless earphones. That's largely due to their winning design and fit, improved bass performance, effective noise canceling and excellent call quality. Yeah, they're expensive at $250, but the good news is you'll use them so much you'll probably wear the battery down -- it does degrade over time and isn't replaceable -- and have to buy a new pair in 18 to 24 months if you don't lose them first.
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.
The Sesh does a lot of great things for the price, but battery life isn’t one of them. Three hours per full charge is on the lower end for true wireless earbuds, and about average for the sub-$75 price range. In our tests, at 70 percent volume, the Sesh just barely squeaked out the claimed three hours. Of course, taking calls, pausing your music, and using different volume levels will affect the performance, and the charge case means you can always get more juice without plugging into the wall. But in a perfect world, we’d like our earbuds to last a little longer.
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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.
The best earbuds for noise cancellation that we’ve tested so far are the Bose QuietControl 30. If you usually find in-ears a bit uncomfortable, then their earbud fit may be the solution you've been hoping for. They have a well-balanced, bass-rich sound, and their neckband design ensures your music is always at arm’s reach. They have very good noise cancelling and also hardly leak any sound, which makes them a good choice for use while commuting or at the office.
Jaybird got off to a bumpy start in the world of true wireless -- that's "AirPod-style headphones" -- when it released its Jaybird Run workout headphones back in October 2017. Updated to the wireless in-ear Jaybird Run XT earlier this year, the Jaybird Run earbuds were well designed but had some small performance issues that held them back from being great. But their wireless successor model, the Jaybird Vista (cue the Windows Vista jokes), includes design, battery life and performance improvements that make it the quality product I'd hoped the Jaybird Run would be.
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.
We found that the Bang & Olufsen Beoplay E6 had decent bass but a sibilant high-frequency range that made harpsichord and piano sound tinny. Our panel didn’t find the stabilization wings to be comfortable. Although the earbuds are designed to connect together around your neck, the magnet in them isn’t strong enough to hold the E6 in place. The Motion version sounds the same but adds water resistance.
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.
Premium audiophile company Master & Dynamic took a break from ear-melting home theater systems to drop a pair of true wireless earbuds. You’ll pay handsomely for them, but the Master & Dynamic MW07 Plus offer some of the best sound quality you’ll find in a pair of earbuds. You could mistake them for stones thanks to the unique designs on the acetate chassis, which are handmade. Because of that, no two sets of MW07 buds are ever alike.
A volume control is useful, especially if you’re sitting far from the source, such as a TV. Some controls are on the headphone’s earpiece, and others are on the cord. Some cords have a button that lets you answer and disconnect phone calls without even touching the phone. Some headsets offer full capabilities only with specific cell phones, so be sure a given headphone will work with your phone model.
The Skullcandy Push doesn’t come with large ear tips and wouldn’t seal for half of our panel. If you can get a seal, the Push earbuds are comfortable and seem to stay put in the ear well enough. However, the single-button controls are based on a series of taps, so it can be easy to accidentally pause when you want to change volume, for example, or to power down when you want to call up your digital assistant.
If you don't care for wireless technologies or prefer a stable connection with no latency, the best wired earphones we’ve tested so far are the 1More Triple Driver. The build quality is decent with metal casings and thick cables, where the in-line remote resides along with a decent microphone for calls. The microphone may struggle to separate speech from ambient noise, but will generally be easy to understand. One area of concern is the cables leading up to the earphones, which are thin and not removable.