These are typically lighter than over-ear models, and they press on the ears instead of the sides of your head. Some users find them to be more comfortable than over-ear models and less likely to make their ears hot during long listening sessions. On-ear headphones, like over-the-ear, also come in open-back and closed-back varieties, but regardless, they often let in more outside sound because they typically don’t form as tight of a seal with the ear. Some can fold for storage and come with carrying pouches.
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.
Finally, we think that you should spend under $250 for a set of true wireless headphones with these features and around $100 for wireless headphones where the two earbuds are connected by a wire or collar (although we allow a price closer to $150 for extra features such as active noise cancelling). That’s enough money to obtain high build quality as well as good sound from a company with a decent track record and reliable customer support.
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.
Wireless models are common and typically use Bluetooth, which has a range of up to 30 feet or so, to connect to smartphones; laptops; portable media players, such as iPods; and even some TVs. Over the past few years, some companies have released  “true wireless” models, which don’t have a cable or headband that connects the earpieces. True wireless earphones are especially portable, but they often have a fairly short battery life.
The former king of true wireless noise-canceling earbuds, the Sony WF-1000XM3, finally met their match in Apple’s AirPods Pro, but they remain tops among this growing sector. A longtime juggernaut of audio supremacy, Sony’s mastery took another leap with these buds, which offer noise cancelation in a sleek package. They aren’t as nimble as the AirPods Pro, but the added bulk in the WF-1000XM3’s chassis makes room for a slightly bigger battery, which allows Sony to advertise six-hour uptime. 
Bose is promising five hours of listening time on a single charge, which is just above the 4.5-hour threshold we feel is the minimum for a pleasant experience. You’ll get another 10 hours from the case, which isn’t great against today’s competition, but you can squeeze another 45 minutes of usage out of a 15-minute charge, and at least it only takes two hours for a full top-up. The Bose Soundsport Free have other neat features to justify its high-end cost, like NFC pairing with your iPhone or Android smartphone, IPX4 water resistance, interchangeable ear tips, and a tracking feature for finding lost buds.
We love the Jabra Elite 75t wireless earbuds because they deliver the best combination of performance and features for the money—and they’re delightful to use. Their diminutive size makes them both comfortable and discreet, the controls are painless (literally and figuratively), they offer approximately a full workday of battery life per charge, and they sound great with music and phone calls.
Additionally, the 75t offers dual-device Bluetooth connection, which means you can be connected to your phone and laptop simultaneously. So if you are listening to music streamed from your laptop and you want to answer a call, you don’t need to manually switch the Bluetooth connection from the laptop to the phone as you do with many other earbuds like the AirPods or the Powerbeats Pro. You can just answer the call, and the Jabra set will automatically swap the audio. And if you take the earbuds out of your ears, your music automatically pauses.
The Anker SoundCore Liberty Air Truly Wireless are the best wireless earbuds under $100 that we've tested so far. Although they don't have the same fit and finish, they're decently well-built and should be able to survive a few accidental drops. Just like the Apple AirPods Pro, there are touch controls situated on the stem, as well as a microphone.
You don’t need to worry about being caught in the rain, either, because these earbuds are IP55 rated, which means they can take dust, rain, and some light sweat without breaking. You can tote the Elite 75t to the gym if you are doing a mild workout; however, if you sweat heavily, you may want to consider our workout headphones pick, Jabra’s Elite Active 65t, which has an IP56 rating. Although Jabra backs the Elite 75t with a two-year warranty against water and dust damage, this wireless earbud model isn’t covered for intense sweating. The Active edition is more sweat and dust resistant, but those earbuds are a little bigger and have a shorter battery life per charge. If you want to read more about our picks for working out and running, check out our guides to the best workout headphones and the best running headphones.
The best wireless noise cancelling earbuds that we’ve tested so far are the Bose QuietControl 30. If you’re looking for more comfortable earbuds with great isolation, they're a great choice. They have great active noise cancelling, reproduce audio fairly well, and have a comfortable earbud fit. Like most in-ears, they have little sound leakage, which makes them a decent choice for use at the office. Their neckband design ensures your music is always at arm's reach.
For those who want to make sure that their earbuds don't fall out during exercise, the Jaybird Vista Truly Wireless are worth considering. They don't have the battery life of the Samsung Galaxy Buds Truly Wireless, but the 5.5 hours of playtime should be enough to get you through your workout, with the charging case providing an extra 2 charges should you run low. They come with a selection of tips and fins to help you get the most secure fit, so you can focus on your workout and forget you even have them on. As always, these earbuds are compatible with Jaybird's great companion app, which lets you tune the sound to your liking, from presets to a parametric EQ, to even sound profiles created by other users.
The Elite 75t uses a four-microphone array similar to that of the Elite 65t, but with upgraded wind-noise-reduction capabilities. When using the 75t in a quiet room, I sounded very clear to other people during calls and videoconferences. To test the wind noise reduction, I stood in front of a window air conditioner, put the fan on high, and called Brent Butterworth. Brent reported that he initially heard the sound of air hitting the mic, but when I spoke, the noise dramatically dropped in volume. In contrast to the experiences we’ve had with other headphones that employ this kind of technology, which can compress the sound of your voice, Brent said my tone sounded a lot fuller and richer through the 75t than through other earbuds he’d heard.
Comfort - The most common complaint we hear about earbuds is that they don’t fit in listeners’ ears properly. And let’s be real: There’s nothing more annoying than constantly fiddling with them to find the right fit. While size and shape is really a matter of preference, most earbuds come with a slew of tips and wings so you can customize your comfort.

Picking the right type of headphones is a highly personal decision. Many listeners are comfortable wearing insert-style earphones that fit in the ear canal or earbuds that rest in the bowl of the ear, but others find them irritating. Some users prefer on-ear or over-ear headphones, while others balk at their size or complain that they interfere with eyeglasses or earrings. Depending on what you plan to use them for, you may also want to consider buying wireless and/or noise-canceling models. Use this guide to help you find the type that suits your specific needs.
Anker is known more for its value headphones, but it's trying to step into more premium territory with its Soundcore Liberty 2 Pro earbuds, which carry a list price of $150. From a design standpoint, they share some similarities with Sony's WF-1000XM3, although this model doesn't have active noise-cancellation. Anker says they have large 11mm drivers combined with Knowles Balanced Armature, with up to 8 hours of battery life on a single charge (32 total hours of playtime with the case) and noise-cancellation microphones to help reduce ambient sound so callers can hear you better. They charge via USB-C and also support wireless charging.
Wireless earbuds are for people who want to listen wirelessly and who want their money to go toward convenience, sound, comfort, and call quality rather than other features such as heavy sweat resistance or the best noise cancellation. Whether you’re sitting at your desk, in a plane or train, or in the back of an automobile, any of these wireless earbud picks should offer a reliable way to transmit great-sounding music to your ears and a clear-sounding voice to your phone-call recipients. On- or over-ear Bluetooth headphones are also capable of hitting these points, but they can get in the way of glasses and are quite bulky compared with earbuds.
At $300 (£279, AU$499), Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless are more expensive than Apple AirPods, Jabra's Elite 65t true wireless earbuds and the Elite Active 65t and Bose SoundSport Free wireless earbuds. But they sound superior to those models, with better bass and cleaner, more detailed audio. They also feature quality performance for making phone calls, with solid noise cancellation, and offer a generally comfortable fit, though they're bigger than the Jabras and stick out of your ear a little more. Their only significant downside is that they gradually lose their charge in the charging case and can end up completely dead after four days or so if you don't recharge the case.

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.
All of that is in addition to the two-year warranty against manufacturing defects, plus water, sweat, and dust damage. With its IP55 rating (for more, see our video on water resistance ratings), the Sesh can take rain, sweat, and the dust kicked up from a desert-canyon hike. For occasional gym sessions, the Sesh will work just fine, especially if the earbuds fit your ears securely. That said, we worry that especially high-impact workouts will slowly cause the Sesh earbuds to begin to wiggle loose from your ear, and the sealed design isn’t ideal for outdoor running safety. For regular workout earbuds, we prefer one of our gym headphones or running headphones picks.

Case in point: the Koss PortaPro headphones first hit the market in 1984 and have become such a favorite with audiophiles that the company leaves the design (and the price tag) untouched. You can still pick one up for less than $50, and they come with a lifetime warranty, no receipt necessary. Check out our favorite budget headphones for more selections.


Speaking of the controls, the two earbuds have identical physical buttons: one volume button and one large multifunction button that handles play, pause, track toggling, call answering, and digital-assistant activation. Both buttons are easy to find by feel and comfortable to press. This stands in contrast to the experience with many other true wireless earbuds, which have buttons that click loudly or shove the earbud painfully into your ear canal when you depress them. Either Powerbeats Pro earbud will function alone if you prefer to use a single earbud like a traditional headset for calls or to better hear your surroundings.


B&O had a lot of good ideas for the Beoplay E8, but the execution on all of them was off. The touch controls and transparency mode didn’t work well for us, and none of the EQ settings made the sound quality fantastic. At best, we got metallic, sibilant highs and a shallow soundstage that didn’t come close to what we expect from a $300 set of headphones. The Motion version costs $350 and has the same sound but adds water resistance and stabilizer wings.
Bose is promising five hours of listening time on a single charge, which is just above the 4.5-hour threshold we feel is the minimum for a pleasant experience. You’ll get another 10 hours from the case, which isn’t great against today’s competition, but you can squeeze another 45 minutes of usage out of a 15-minute charge, and at least it only takes two hours for a full top-up. The Bose Soundsport Free have other neat features to justify its high-end cost, like NFC pairing with your iPhone or Android smartphone, IPX4 water resistance, interchangeable ear tips, and a tracking feature for finding lost buds.

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.
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.
Plantronics BackBeat Go 410: This affordable pair reduces a decent amount of noise, sounds pretty good, and fits comfortably. The flexible collar that connects the two earbuds is lightweight and comfortable, and it folds up easily into an included pocket-sized bag. The rated eight-hour battery life with noise cancelling activated (10 with ANC off) isn’t as long as we’d like, but it will get you through a long flight or a full workday. Unlike the vast majority of Bluetooth earbuds, the BackBeat Go 410 also supports a wired connection to your device (the charging cable doubles as a wired ⅛-inch jack) so you can keep using these earbuds when the battery runs out. However, the active noise cancellation won’t work when you’re using them in wired mode.
As for Bluetooth pairing, you won't find an easier pairing process than with the AirPods or the Powerbeats Pro (if you have an iOS device), which essentially do all the work for you the second you turn them on thanks to Apple's H1 (or older W1) headphone chip. Other pairs are still relatively simple to connect in your phone's Bluetooth settings menu.

Technically speaking, earbuds are not earphones, as they don't enter your ear canal. Instead they sit just outside of it, where it's easy to become loose and cause problems when it comes to accurate stereo imaging (in which both ears get the same amount of audio) and bass response. Earphones, meanwhile, fit in the ear canal and form a seal inside your ear, blocking outside noise while piping sound directly into your ears. They're much smaller and lighter than headphones, since they don't need to fit on or over your ears and don't require any outside support (though some have stiff wire sections or flexible fins to keep them in place without getting in the way). Plus they won't mess up your hair.
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