When the final list is complete, our reviewers reach out to manufacturers in search of no-strings-attached samples or products available on loan. Side note: Most manufactures are happy to provide samples – never mind the possibility of a bad review – because they believe in the quality of their products and look forward to the free press – good, or bad. In some instances, when a product sample is not available, we head to the store and shell out the cash to pick it up just like you would.
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.
The RHA T20 Wireless comes with tiny little screw-on filters that allow you to change the sound. This was a neat idea for analog headphones, but with digital EQ available, it seems silly, especially when the filters are so easy to lose. All of the choices had some flaws in the sonic balance in our tests. And then there’s the build: The remote has a metal panel, so it is a little heavy and can tug on the cable. The earbuds are detachable, but when you pull them off, the connectors can stick and lead to the cable ripping loose.
If you have your heart set on true wireless earbuds and don’t want to pay $100 or more, we recommend the Skullcandy Sesh pair. These earbuds have a fun, bass-forward sound, a comfortable fit, water resistance, and easy-to-use controls—all for a typical price around $60. We also love that the pair comes with a two-year warranty and Skullcandy’s Fearless Use Promise, which means if you lose or break one earbud, you pay to replace only that part, and the company will ship you a completely new pair. The three-hour battery life per charge isn’t amazing, but you can get three more full charges from the included case, which is small enough to fit in a pocket.
1More Stylish True Wireless: This pair is a solid choice for those who have smaller ear canals or who have difficulty keeping earbuds in place. The multiple wing and tip options combined with a lightweight chassis make the Stylish True Wireless more comfortable to wear long-term than similarly priced competitors. At six and a half hours, the battery life is solid, too. After this pair’s release, 1More added the ability to control volume with the buttons, but you’ll need to update the firmware to take advantage. In our tests, the sound leaned toward being bass-heavy and blurry on male vocals; if not for that, we may have named this pair as a pick.
While they sound balanced enough to be suitable for most people, some will find they lack a bit of bass. If you have an Android phone, you can boost their bass a bit with an EQ preset in their companion app, but iOS users won’t have that option. You can also only access button mapping from the app, so if you have an iPhone you won’t be able to access volume controls either. That said, they still perform very well overall even if you don’t have an Android device, and are easy to recommend in general.
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.
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.
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.
The Panasonic ErgoFit in-ear earbuds are no-frills headphones that offer a comfortable wear day in, day out. Incorporating generously sized 9mm neodymium drivers, the ErgoFit adds a bass-heavy sound with crisp treble that is surprisingly good for the entry-level price. The ultra-soft earbuds come in a range of colors and sizes to suit your style and allow for maximum comfort. An optional in-line microphone works well for phone calls and is compatible with Apple, Android and BlackBerry devices. The 3.6-foot cord adds enough length to easily listen to a device placed in a backpack or pocket, while the thin and light build makes them a must own for commuters and travelers.
The Bluetooth connection is solid; I got two walls away from my iPhone with no skipping or stuttering. Of course, pipes and metal beams can still cause issues because of the physics involved with Bluetooth, but with line-of-sight, the Sesh shouldn’t have signal dropout for at least 50 to 60 feet. It produces a very mild latency when you’re watching video, but not so much that dialogue looks dubbed.
True wireless earbuds have become increasingly popular because of how light and unobtrusive they feel. As such, many manufacturers are now focusing their attention on releasing new earbuds in this style, which is why all of our best earbuds are true wireless. However, if you prefer a connected-earbud style, we recommend some traditional Bluetooth earbuds in the Other wireless earbuds we like section.
If you can't afford the AirPods Pro, the Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 is a good alternative and are a top model for making calls. Like the AirPods Pro, they do a remarkably good job of muffling ambient noise (callers said they could hear me fine even with a lot of street noise around me). While they don't have active noise canceling, they sound nearly as good, fit comfortably and their noise-isolating design passively seals out a lot of ambient noise. They only cost $100.
Earphones can connect to your smartphone through a 3.5mm cable or wirelessly over Bluetooth, depending on the model. Wired earphones are generally less expensive, and you don't need to worry about keeping them charged. Bluetooth earphones are more convenient because you don't have to physically connect them to your smartphone, but they need battery power to work. For the most part, you won't find a 3.5mm port and removable cable on Bluetooth earphones; when they're out of power, they're out of commission until you charge them again.