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.
Great sound quality and a secure, comfortable fit are of utmost importance for wireless headphones you’ll use throughout the day. We noted which earbuds got the worst reviews from the pros and passed on those that had consistently poor reviews. Our panelists generally prefer the comfort and convenience of true wireless designs over the feel of collar-style wireless earbuds, and that’s reflected in our main picks. But fit is even more crucial with true wireless designs: If a true wireless earbud falls out while you’re on the go, it’s just one wrong bounce away from being gone for good.
One of the biggest concerns I hear from folks wanting to try true wireless earbuds is the fear of losing one bud. It’s a valid point: Most of the time, when you lose one earbud, you’re forced to buy an entirely new pair or pay a hefty-enough replacement price that you may as well buy a new set. Skullcandy’s Fearless Use Promise addresses this concern by saying that, if you lose or break your earbuds or case, you can return what’s left, and the company will ship you a brand-new set for the price of the broken or missing part. For the Sesh, an earbud sets you back $15 and the case is $20. It’s not exactly free, but it does help to relieve the anxiety of possibly spending $60 several times a year if you’re prone to misplacing things.
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.
The treble and the mid-range performance sets the best wireless earbuds apart from their rivals. It will help you enjoy the vocals, as well as the finer details in a song's instrumental accompaniment to the fullest. Bass is typically the easiest audio bit to reproduce. But, especially in affordably-priced headsets, it might come at the expense of the mids and the highs.
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Many headphones have an isolating design that physically muffles ambient noise, often referred to as “passive noise-canceling.” Active noise-canceling models go further. These battery-powered headphones use tiny microphones to monitor the frequencies of outside noise, then produce those same frequencies out of phase in an effort to cancel them. Some work with noise reduction turned off, so you can still use them if the batteries die, while others work only with noise cancellation on.
Each type of headphone has their own distinct advantages. What is right for you might not be the best headphone for someone else so before get into the list we want to give you some points to consider before your next purchase. If you just want to see the list of the best wireless headphones feel free to skip the next couple of sections and go straight to our top 10.
The Monoprice True Wireless Plus Earphones (38542) are fine but a bit overpriced for what they give you. We found that the controls caused the earbuds to push into our ears a bit, which made the multi-click controls annoying to use. Male vocals got somewhat veiled by the bloated bass, and high frequencies had a shushing quality rather than crispness, but the effect was not the worst we’d heard. Overall, this pair isn’t bad, but we’d like to see it cost under $50.
Available in four color options for $300, these wireless earbuds include a swanky chrome charging case that comes with a secondary pouch for safekeeping (yes, the case can get scratched up if you leave it in a bag). The case, with its built-in chargeable battery, gives you an additional three charges (it charges via USB-C). These have support for AAC and aptX and have an extended range of more than 20 meters, according to Master & Dynamic.
If you want a pair of earbuds under $100 for working out, go with the JBL Reflect Mini 2. They aren't truly wireless like the Anker SoundCore Liberty Air Truly Wireless, but they have a more stable fit and their physical controls are easier to use while exercising. They have a well-balanced sound profile which has a slight bump in bass, making them good for getting you pumped during a workout. Unfortunately, their 10-hour battery doesn't have an auto-off feature, so you need to remember to turn them off when you aren't using them.
Earbuds land all over the map when it comes to fit, so it’s reassuring to hear one tester describe this pair as “super comfortable.” She used them every day over multiple weeks and never had any issues. What makes them so easy to wear? According to our testers, the ability to customize your fit is the game-changer — the earbuds are adjustable and also include hooks. In addition to superb comfort, these earbuds get top marks where it matters most: sound quality. “Compared to other earbuds I've had in the past,” one tester said, “the sound quality is much better. And the fact that they fit comfortably in my ears is a plus!” Our reviewers also confirmed that the battery life held true to the promised 15 hours.
Over-the-ear models are great for listening at home but could be too large to be easily stowed while you’re traveling. Sometimes smaller, more portable models sacrifice some sound quality, but they are definitely handy, and in-ear headphones are great for listening on the go. If you’ll be doing a lot of flying or you want to block out some sound from your environment, consider buying headphones with active noise-reduction technology.
Sony hasn't been much of a player in the true wireless (AirPod-style) headphone arena, but its new WF-1000XM3 model may change that. While this pair of headphones isn't cheap, as far as sound quality, they're the best wireless earbuds at this price, matching and perhaps even exceeding the quality and performance of pricier competitors from Sennheiser, Beats, Master & Dynamic and Bang & Olufsen. It also has a feature that those wireless earbuds don't have: active noise cancellation technology to reduce ambient noise.
The best wireless earbuds under $100 that we’ve tested so far are the Anker SoundCore Liberty Air. They’re versatile truly wireless in-ear headphones that are very easy to carry around thanks to their ultra-compact design. They have outstanding audio reproduction and deliver a balanced, neutral sound that caters well to music of virtually all genres. Their battery only provides about 4 hours of continuous playback, but if you put them in their case, they charge when not in use, so you can get up to nearly 16 hours of total battery life throughout the day.
Your choice of headphones is as much about your lifestyle (and even personal brand) as it is about your wallet. Some people buy different types for different uses—one, say, for working out and another for relaxing. The lines, however, are blurring. You’ll now see people on the street or on the train wearing larger models that used to be reserved for home use, while others are attached to their earbuds 24/7, even while watching movies or TV.
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.)
The best true wireless earbuds that we’ve tested so far are the Samsung Galaxy Buds. They’re more comfortable than most truly wireless headphones thanks to their low-profile design that fits securely without putting too much pressure on your ears. They come with a great hard charging case that easily fits in even the smallest pockets, and they feel well-built overall. They’re currently our best wireless earbuds for Android thanks to their compatibility with the Samsung Wearable app, great audio reproduction, and surprising 7.5-hour battery life.
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 best truly wireless earbuds we’ve reviewed so far are the Samsung Galaxy Buds. They’re super portable yet surprisingly comfortable earbuds that have a solid price-to-performance ratio. They have great audio reproduction and their battery provides over 7 hours of continuous playback, which is quite good for truly wireless earbuds. They’re the best wireless earbuds for Android we’ve tested thanks to their compatibility with the Samsung Wearable app.