Truly wireless earphones. Android Police

Buyer’s Guide

Ah yes, “wireless”. A word that sends shivers down the spine of any self-proclaimed audiophile and the catalyst for many an internet argument. And yet its popularity grows, unfettered by claims of inferior audio and further bolstered by the success of Apple’s Airpods.

But you know, given its appeal to what is mainly the mainstream consumer market, there doesn’t seem to be anyone doing a proper comparison of these true wireless buds solely on the metric of “sound quality”. And so here I am, bringing to you my perspectives on these little things ranked in the order of worst to best.

Here is when I remind everyone again that this is my opinion on the best sounding TWS earphones. Let the other tech review sites talk about the build, the usability, the UI etc. whatever. I’ll FOCUS on what I’m good at and what most readers skip to in the first place.

Master list of reviewed TWS IEMs

All awarded grades are in reference to the IEM ranking list.

In-Ear Fidelity is supported by the following:

The list below is specially curated as a showcase of all the TWS IEMs that I would recommend at different price points. For IEMs not shown below, refer to the master list of links above.

This list is arranged by grading (lowest first), followed by MSRP for those within the same grade (highest first).

Local Hype

MSRP: 120SGD (~90)

Here’s an interesting one from a brand that many of you probably haven’t heard of yet: Nuarl.

It’s a Japanese brand that’s more known well in my hometown of Singapore for reasons still unknown to me. The NT100 is one of the cheaper TWS models in this list and is pretty much the kind of sound that you would expect for a sub-100 IEM. Pretty standard and almost generic V-shaped signature that should appeal to many, but ultimately doesn’t really stand out from the crowd in any technical way.

Safe buy I guess. You get what you pay for.

Grade: C

All awarded grades are in reference to the IEM ranking list.For more information on the grading system, click here

The Expected

It’s cheap. It sounds average. And it’s probably Edifier’s zero effort cash-in on the TWS boom.

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The average stuff are the hardest to talk about because there’s nothing to praise nor to roast. The TWS1 has decent bass but with issues in the upper midrange, making things sound overly harsh and/or forward. Other than that, it’s more or less a case of “you get what you pay for”.

Grade: C

All awarded grades are in reference to the IEM ranking list.For more information on the grading system, click here

The Beater

Driver configuration: 1DD 1BA

The name of the S2’s game seems to be “adequate performance for bottom-dollar price”, and to that I think KZ has done it. The S2’s sound quality does not impress and neither does its plasticky build quality, but for 50 you don’t have much grounds for complaining.

The S2 has a mainstream house; elevated bass and treble for an exciting V-shaped response, though the shape of the V is slightly biased towards the treble. Unfortunately the S2 strays into sibilance, a flaw that is arguably its biggest sonic dealbreaker, but overall there’s nothing too offensive about the S2’s sound, tonally or technically.

Unfortunately the existence of the S2 in KZ’s lineup seems like a mystery, especially when you can get their very own E10 for just 10 more.

Now the ergonomics are different between the two of course; the E10 has those odd ear hooks that some have complained about, while the S2 is a more traditional “bud”-type fit that should work for more people. But in terms of sound, the E10 has a better tonal balance and does not come with the sibilance that the S2 has.

But if you absolutely have to spend 50 on a TWS set (possibly cheaper on the street), the S2 is an adequate pick. Just don’t expect too much.

Grade: C

All awarded grades are in reference to the IEM ranking list.For more information on the grading system, click here

Combo Breaker

And so Audio Technica breaks out of the D ranks and into the high Cs.

The SPORT7TW has a more unique tuning, sporting (heh) a U-shaped signature that emphasises the sub-bass and upper treble regions. Unfortunately, there is also rather bad sub-bass rolloff so the SPORT7TW can’t quite dig deep when the track calls for it. The treble boost also unfortunately strays into the sibilance regions, resulting is potential harshness and stridency for many ears.

In general, the SPORT7TW earns the award of being “above average” having clean bass lines and tonally correct (if a little shouty) midrange, which is already more than what I can say for many wireless earphones here.

Grade: C

All awarded grades are in reference to the IEM ranking list.For more information on the grading system, click here

That Linus TWS

Driver configuration: 1BA 1DD hybrid

If you’re like me, you probably first heard of the Liberty 2 Pro when LinusTechTips shilled talked about them on his YouTube channel.

I didn’t have much hope in them in the beginning since it was my belief that most general-tech-reviewer-sponsored headphones usually doesn’t live up to the expectations of the average audiophile, and instead are targeted towards the mainstream consumer. So imagine my surprise when I actually liked the Liberty 2 Pro.

Yes, it has its fair share of problems. The bass quantity is probably too much for a lot of people, the midrange is shouty and I detect the treble straying into sibilance at times. But the Liberty 2 Pro really is my “guilty pleasure” listen in the sense that I absolutely love the bass presentation. It’s rumbly, it’s impactful and yet retains a sense of cleanliness not normally heard of in IEMs with this level of bass quantity.

If they had reined in the midrange tonality a little better, I probably would’ve purchased one myself. Alas, that’s my personal dealbreaker.

Grade: C

All awarded grades are in reference to the IEM ranking list.For more information on the grading system, click here

Excellence in Theory

I’ve told this to a few others IRL: the TWS5’s FR response is basically a screwed up version of my neutral target curve with my desired bass response of a sub-300Hz boost.

By all accounts I should be absolutely gushing over the TWS5’s sound, but it sounds pretty normal and unexceptional to me. Yeah, the bass response is pretty nice with the nice and low controlled boost, the midrange isn’t overly forward and screaming in your face, but there’s still a little bit of that TWS1 harshness creeping into the TWS5’s signature.

Overall, pretty good still. Not the worst you can do with your cash and can still service most audiophiles well.

Grade: C

All awarded grades are in reference to the IEM ranking list.For more information on the grading system, click here

Mould Breaker

Driver configuration: 1DD 4BA hybrid

This E10 was kindly provided by Linsoul.

Colour me surprised, KZ made a pretty good pair of IEMs. And it’s TWS!

The E10 has its fair share of flaws, for instance the overly-shouty midrange that pushes vocals straight in your face, or perhaps the slightly thinness in the midrange that isn’t as satisfying as the other lower-midrange heavy stuff on the guide. But apart from all those, the E10 does the whole neutral Diffuse Field-y signature very well.

It’s definitely the most un-KZ sounding IEM in KZ’s lineup, so diehard fans of the brand should stay away. It’s not going to have KZ’s traditionally massive bass boost nor its liberally-tuned treble response, and it’s for that reason that I really believe that the E10 is the best KZ IEM you can get.

As a TWS IEM though? (Almost) no contest. At 60 bones max, it outshines many of the mainstream competitors and establishes itself as a unicorn in the TWS market: a neutrally-tuned option.

Grade: C

All awarded grades are in reference to the IEM ranking list.For more information on the grading system, click here

The Threat

Yeah, you saw the price right. A sub-50 TWS IEM that can dip below 20 if you’re lucky. And, it’s not utter trash.

Even calling the T5 “not garbage” would be doing it a massive disservice. The T5 is good, not just in the realm of the highly-priced TWS market but even in the highly competitive budget IEM market.

You’re obviously going to have to make concessions in terms of build, usability and unit QC, but you all know that I’m not here to talk about all those. In terms of sound and tuning, the T5 is tasteful. Inoffensive yet competent, exciting yet clean.

Everyone else should treat the T5 as a massive threat to the status quo of highly-priced, average-sounding TWS buds. You don’t have a place in the market anymore.

Grade: C

All awarded grades are in reference to the IEM ranking list.For more information on the grading system, click here

The Mainstream

The Airpods Pro needs no introduction but I’ll do one anyways: it is Apple’s first true wireless in-ear and their third IEM overall (shoutouts to the legendary Addiem and the less-legendary iPod in-ears in case anybody remembers these relics).

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Now I know what you’re thinking: this is Apple we’re talking about. There is no way that an audiophile would ever like something so mainstream. And in terms of the EarPods and the original Airpods, you would be right. They aren’t bad, but they certainly don’t do anything to distinguish themselves in terms of tuning or raw “sound quality”.

But the Airpods Pro is a little different. It is, and I can’t believe I’m saying it, pretty dang good. Yeah sure, it’s pricey and you can probably still do better with other models on this list. Yeah, it’s probably not going to be better than other established wired IEMs in the same price bracket. But you can certainly do a lot worse.

The Airpods Pro is tuned to be somewhat reminscient of the Diffuse Field target but with that last-octave sub-bass boost, with a smooth and natural midrange tonality that many IEM companies tend to get wrong. My only real gripe with it is that it probably could use some extra midtreble presence, but overall this is a surprisingly good entry by Apple that shouldn’t be overlooked in the audiophile community simply for being mainstream.

Grade: B-

All awarded grades are in reference to the IEM ranking list.For more information on the grading system, click here

The Open

Yeah, I know. Buy Other Sound Equipment, No Highs No Lows etc. etc. and all that. We audiophiles all know that Bose has a reputation of churning out subpar products and masquerading them as “hifi” as part of their marketing. I too, had low expectations going into the SoundSport Free and had no qualms bansishing them into the depths of the lowest ranks if required.

But alas, the SoundSport Free… impressed me. The tonal balance is almost spot on, with minor niggles regarding the upper midrange/treble presentation being a tad too subdued. The bass boost is beautifully done, and the fact that it extends as low as it does despite the open-backed construction is a grand feat by itself.

Yeah, the SoundSport Free kind of cheats in soundstage size by virtue of essentially open, but the benefits in stereoimaging performance is undeniable. It may not be the most detailed, but its combination of great tuning and imaging certainly warrants its high placing on this list.

Grade: B

All awarded grades are in reference to the IEM ranking list.For more information on the grading system, click here

The Popular

I’ve never held Jabra to a high regard before. They seemed to cater to an audience that were more interested in making handsfree calls than actually listening to music; or at the very least, they gave off that impression.

The Active 65t is… balanced. Very balanced. There is clearly an emphasised bass response but I’d struggle to call it V-shaped; it doesn’t quite have the upper end sparkle for that classification. There are its faults of course, extensions on both ends are mediocre though nothing that really constitutes as a dealbreaker IMO. But as a whole, as one big coherent package, the Active 65t is a damn fine IEM, even in the realm of wired gear.

In a way, they’re a dark horse in that I expected almost nothing yet got served with a nice, ice-cold bucket of reality. A solid product that should deserve its popularity, if there weren’t a thousand posts a week on r/headphones asking for technical support about it.

Grade: B-

All awarded grades are in reference to the IEM ranking list.For more information on the grading system, click here

The Acclaimed

I have read many great reviews on the Tevi. I also get asked to review them very often, so this is me finally running out of excuses not to do so.

I must admit, the Tevi didn’t blow me away when I first heard it. My reaction was more “hm, this is pretty alright” as opposed to the “oh my god how does this sound so good” response that you’d probably expect for a TWS set that’s priced as it is and placed at this rank position.

And that’s the thing, as I pondered it over and gave it a little more reflection and analysis, I realised that the Tevi… didn’t do anything particularly excellent, but in the same vein it didn’t do anything wrong either. It was instead rather focused on being a general all-rounder, hence my initial lack of enthusiasm. Sure you could say that the midrange is a little too emphasised, but it’s not like the tonality is out of whack or even just mildly off. Everything was more or less on point, from the control of the bass emphasis to the delicate balance of treble…

Now if you liked the Etymotic house sound, and I’m not saying that you automatically will (it is kind of an acquired taste), the Tevi is probably the closest you can get to a TWS, bass-boosted Etymotic.

The TWS industry is getting scary. Wired world better step up.

Grade: B

All awarded grades are in reference to the IEM ranking list.For more information on the grading system, click here

Second Dog

While the average person would be splitting hairs between the sound of the XM3 and the XM4 (assuming they aren’t being biased by “newer = better”), for my money I’d rather spring for the XM3.

This doesn’t mean that the XM3 is a worse TWS overall, oh no. While I hesitate to bring in non-audio qualities into this list, the XM4 is far more ergonomic than the comparatively-bulky XM3 with improvements in QoL features across the board. Most would pick the XM4 over the XM3, and I don’t blame them.

But sound-wise, the warmer tuning is a little jarring in an A/B comparison. It’s not a bad tuning by any means, but the XM4 comes off as almost veiled next to the XM3 by virtue of its downsloping sound signature. But hey, maybe the extra warmth and heft in the notes might just be right up your alley.

Grade: B

All awarded grades are in reference to the IEM ranking list.For more information on the grading system, click here

Top Dog

The WF-1000XM3 was mainly tested with noise-cancelling on due to slightly better sound quality.

Technically, I think the Galaxy Buds are just as good as the WF-1000XM3, but for my own money I’d pick the Sonys. A more mainstream sound, better bass response, noise cancelling… sorry, I caught myself straying away from audio for a moment there.

And yet, I don’t have a lot to say about the WF-1000XM3 without getting pretentious and technical with my words. It’s just… good. Or as James Pumphrey would put it, a new level of new good. They called it… great.

You’re pretty much getting “the works” with the WF-100XM3: boosted yet clean bass, correct tonality, treble that sparkles but doesn’t pierce, good definition and actually good imaging (this one is a rarity for me, I don’t mention this often). Similar to the Galaxy Buds, this is a great sounding set of in-ears regardless of technology, wires or not.

Grade: B

All awarded grades are in reference to the IEM ranking list.For more information on the grading system, click here

Objectivist’s Dream

Driver configuration: 2DD

The biggest question I think is on everybody’s mind right now is whether or not the Buds is a true upgrade to the original. And in my opinion, I think the Buds is a case of Samsung giveth and Samsung taketh away, improving on certain aspects but performing questionably on others.

While I wanted with all my heart for the Buds to be the undisputed upgrade to the Buds (and by extension, the rest of the TWS market), I found myself nitpicking far too much to consider the Buds truly superior. The midrange got even shoutier and intense compared to the original Buds, and the timbre of the treble (i.e. hi-hats and cymbals) sound a tad too odd for me (either being a bandwidth issue or one relating to its frequency response). On top of that, the Buds is an IEM I’d consider “fatiguing” and I honestly struggle to listen to them for long listening sessions.

However to end things on a high note, the bass response of the Buds is immaculate. Virtually perfect, even in the context of other wired IEMs. The bass is very clearly emphasised with satisfying impact and deep downward extension, yet remaining free from smearing or masking of the midrange frequencies. The bass response is probably the saving grace that prevents me from saying that the Buds is worse than the original.

Perhaps you could say that my problems with the Buds is less about the Buds itself and more about my issues with the Harman IE target. But regardless, it’s still a solid product that can still be considered as one of the best sounding TWS IEMs you can buy today.

Best wireless earbuds in 2023

All companies that make good Android phones have their own matching earbuds, and there are also options from legacy audio brands like Bose and Sennheiser, not to mention companies you may be less familiar with. Good true wireless earbuds are a dime a dozen these days. Figuratively, that is — top-of-the-line earbuds can be a major investment. Before you put your money down, know that we’re here to help with this short list of the best wireless earbuds in various categories. These are our top true wireless earbud recommendations today.

Sony WF-1000XM4

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II

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Jabra Elite 4

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro

Sennheiser Momentum TW 3

Google Pixel Buds Pro

OnePlus Buds Pro 2

Jabra Elite 5

Anker Soundcore Liberty 3 Pro

Jabra Elite 7 Pro

Jaybird Vista 2

Apple Airpods Pro (2nd generation)

The best wireless earbuds in 2023

Sony WF-1000XM4

The Sony WF-1000XM4 offer superb audio quality, top-tier ANC, and long battery life — up to eight hours per charge with noise cancellation on. They’re pricey at an MSRP of 280, but the XM4 do a lot to justify their asking price.

  • Great audio quality
  • Better comfort and fit than the last generation
  • Great active noise cancellation

The Sony WF-1000XM4 are all-around excellent earbuds. They offer truly great audio quality, robust noise cancellation, and all-day battery life. Though on the large side, they are significantly smaller than their predecessors, the popular WF-1000XM3, and fit more comfortably in the ears for longer listening sessions. That’s important, too, because these earbuds sound incredible — along with regular SBC and AAC codec support, Sony added high-quality LDAC compatibility for those with Android phones (iPhone users are limited to AAC) to go along with the improved drivers.

The WF-1000XM4 were formerly the reigning ANC champs in the earbud space, but Bose’s QuietComfort Earbuds II have Sony beat on that front (more on that below). But at 280, the WF-1000XM4s are a little less expensive than Bose’s offering — and see sales far more frequently — and offer a fuller feature set, including premium staples like wireless charging and the aforementioned LDAC support.

Be aware that we’ve been hearing rumors about Sony’s next flagship earbuds since March — if you can wait a bit, you might want to hold out until the WF-1000XM5 make their official debut. But if you’re looking for a great, high-end experience today, look no further.

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II

The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II don’t come cheap at 299, but they feature excellent audio quality and ANC that can go toe-to-toe with what you’ll get in leading over-ear headphones. If you’re in the market for premium earbuds, the QC Earbuds II need to be on your radar.

  • The best ANC you can get in earbuds
  • Clear, balanced audio
  • Lots of fit options

Bose’s QuietComfort Earbuds II are incredible. The company says it designed the earbuds to have the best ANC on the market — not just in earbuds, but in any consumer-grade headphones. It’s hard to say whether that’s entirely true, but we’ve compared them head-to-head with some of the best over-ear ANC headphones you can buy, and the QC Earbuds II do outperform the full-size competition much of the time. They also have the great sound you’d expect out of Bose.

But as great as the buds are for ANC, the QuietComfort Earbuds II stumble in other areas. At 299, they’re expensive in the extreme, and they’re lacking a lot of the nice-to-have features you’d expect in this segment. There’s no support for Fast Pair or multipoint connectivity, and the earbuds’ case can’t be charged wirelessly. They also only support the AAC and SBC codecs, so if you won’t buy buds without aptX, they’ll be a non-starter for you. Still, if you need the best ANC you can get in earbuds and you’ve got the money to spend, you’ll find it in the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II.

Jabra Elite 4

The Jabra Elite 4 are the company’s latest midrange earbuds. At an MSRP of 99, the buds offer convenient features like Fast Pair, Bluetooth multipoint, and active noise cancellation.

For an eminently reasonable price of 100, the Jabra Elite 4 have a lot going for them — including solid ANC that punches above its weight. They’re lightweight and comfortable, and offer decent audio quality with ample bass. They do miss out on some increasingly common features like in-ear detection and EQ customization, but if you just want a reliable pair of noise canceling earbuds and you don’t want to spend a lot on it, the Elite 4 will likely be up your alley.

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro

Got a Galaxy phone? Consider these

The Galaxy Buds 2 Pro are Samsung’s smallest, lightest, and best wireless earbuds yet. They improve on the Galaxy Buds Pro in every way, with better sound quality, more fulsome active noise cancellation, and support for 24-bit audio. They’re also IPX7 water and dust resistant.

  • Full, satisfying sound
  • Impressive ANC for earbuds
  • Smaller and sleeker than last year’s with the same battery life
  • 24-bit audio won’t benefit most listeners
  • Multi-device support is limited on non-Samsung devices
  • Battery life is just okay

Samsung’s Galaxy Buds 2 Pro are the strangely named follow-up to 2021’s Galaxy Buds Pro. They take what was great about the first generation — robust audio with a generous helping of bass, strong noise cancellation, and a comfortable shape — and jam it into smaller earbuds with a more modern, refined design.

Coming from the last generation, there aren’t many new features here. There’s support for 24-bit audio in compatible apps when the buds are paired with a Samsung phone, plus a gimmicky new head-tracking feature that tries to mimic directional audio, even in apps that don’t offer surround sound content. The new buds also inherit the older model’s middling battery life of five hours per charge with ANC. Everything else is so good that these should be on your radar if you’re in the market for new, premium earbuds, but think twice before upgrading from last year’s pair.

Sennheiser Momentum TW 3

High-quality audio in a small package

The Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3 offer audio quality that lives up to the Sennheiser name in a lightweight and comfortable package, along with convenient features like ANC and wireless charging.

  • Lower price than previous generations
  • Strong battery life, with a wireless charging case
  • Rich sound, plus great active noise cancellation
  • Bulky charging case won’t work for everyone
  • Still an expensive choice
  • No multipoint support

If you’re looking for the top sound quality in a pair of wireless earbuds, the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3 should feature in your decision-making. Like the two generations before, the True Wireless 3 offer terrific sound, which can be further customized to your liking, thanks to the detailed equalizer settings. The active noise cancellation is good but isn’t as strong as Sony’s technology.

These earbuds are light and comfortable, but previous generations haven’t always been suitable for those with smaller ears, so that may be something to bear in mind when you’re deciding. One of the best parts is that the price is 50 lower than previous generations. If you’re looking for sound quality, look toward these Sennheiser true wireless headphones as a top pick.

Google Pixel Buds Pro

With nice audio, strong ANC, and excellent battery life, the Pixel Buds Pro deliver a premium earbud experience in ways that Google’s past attempts could not. If you are an Android user with 200 to spend on earbuds, these are a great pick.

  • Good audio with ample bass
  • Competent ANC and a great transparency mode
  • Great touch controls
  • No high-bitrate codec support
  • Somewhat bulky
  • Can be tricky to get out of the case

With full and satisfying audio, ANC, and a great transparency mode, the Pixel Buds Pro deliver a premium earbud experience in ways Google’s past attempts couldn’t. Packed with useful features like the always-on Hey Google detection, Bluetooth multipoint, and marathon battery life, the Pixel Buds Pro don’t have any glaring weaknesses. While the Pixel Buds Pro did launch without a customizable equalizer, five-Band EQ eventually made its way to the Pixel Buds app, addressing a considerable flaw the buds suffered at launch. Google even ironed out the connectivity issues that plagued the past couple of pairs released.

They don’t have the very best audio quality or ANC money can buy, but strong fundamentals, batteries that can go for up to seven hours (with ANC) on a single charge, and a hassle-free experience might be worth the premium to you. So if you’re an Android user with 200 to spend on earbuds, the Pixel Buds Pro are a great pick. The buds fit might feel odd for some, but you get used to it rather quickly.

OnePlus Buds Pro 2

Look at that lovely green

The OnePlus Buds Pro 2 are a bit more expensive than the first generation was, but the Airpods-like stem-style buds have better sound quality and battery life. They’re also available in a lovely green color.

  • Strong, bassy audio
  • Very good call quality
  • Multipoint connectivity and Fast Pair support

The OnePlus Buds Pro 2 are a tame upgrade over the first-generation OnePlus Buds Pro, but the newer set features better sound and slightly improved battery life. Audio here is full and bouncy with lots of bass, but not too much. The call quality is also great. Battery life is just okay at six hours on a charge, and ANC isn’t quite top of the line, but with a fun sound and a good feature set, these are easy earbuds to like at 179. If you’re into stem-style earbuds, the Buds Pro 2 have plenty to offer.

Jabra Elite 5

The Jabra Elite 5 earbuds offer good audio quality and feature noise cancellation in an entire package priced less than Apple’s standard Airpods. With a solid seven hours of battery life with ANC, support for Google Fast Pair, and a stellar companion app, it’s easy to see why these are one of the best wireless earbuds you can get for 150.

  • Good audio and ANC
  • Seven hours of battery life per charge
  • Lots of convenient features

For a middle-of-the-road MSRP of 150, the Jabra Elite 5 earbuds offer good audio quality and noise cancellation, plus a strong battery life of seven hours of music playback with ANC. They also support numerous convenient features like Google Fast Pair, multipoint connectivity, and wireless charging. They’re not the absolute best earbuds on the market today in any particular way, but for the price, there’s very little to complain about here.

Anker Soundcore Liberty 3 Pro

The Anker Soundcore Liberty 3 Pro offer great audio quality and ANC, strong battery life, and lots of fit customization options thanks to user-replaceable ear tips and stabilizing wings.

  • Bulkier than other options
  • Touch controls aren’t the best
  • Less water-resistant than many other buds

Anker’s Soundcore Liberty 3 Pro offer some of the best sound quality from a pair of wireless earbuds, along with plenty of tip and wing options for even the most persnickety ear canals. With excellent ANC, decent call quality, better-than-average battery, and an app you’ll actually want to use, the Liberty 3 Pros are among the best wireless earbuds you can buy today.

On the downside, they’re a bit big and bulky and may not be the right style for everyone — especially those who work out a lot. With an IPX4 water resistance rating, these are not going to survive much more than a passing rain shower or mild sweat session, but for everyone else, these are some of the best buds out there. They’re also available for about 110 most of the time lately.

Jabra Elite 7 Pro

The Jabra Elite 7 Pro are light on the lobes and pleasant on the eardrums, but strongest when you’re making calls while on the run with crisp and clear delivery.

Jabra’s tackling the true wireless earbud market with a strategy of small iteration: the Elite 7 Pro try to toe the line between price and performance, between compact and capable, and they nail almost everything. What they get right — sound quality, battery life, comfort, and call quality — they get really right. Even where they’re lacking active noise cancellation and some comfort issues, they’re actually still not bad.

In our Elite 7 Pro review, we found that the earbuds are good for most circumstances, but if you make a lot of phone calls, there is no peer in the industry. In addition to high-quality noise-canceling microphones, Jabra uses a bone conduction sensor — one that can sense minute vibrations in the bones of your jaw — to fill in the blanks in noisy environments, and the results are spectacular. At 180, the Elite 7 Pro are at the upper end of mainstream but worth looking at if you want a pair of earbuds that does everything pretty well, but Jabra has been discounting them pretty heavily the last few months, so chances are you’ll be able to catch them 60–80 off.

Jaybird Vista 2

While the Jaybird Vista 2 aren’t are favorite-sounding pair of Airpods alternatives, they do have an incredible IP68 rating, making them some of the more durable headphones on the market — the best gym buddy you can have. The ANC works well enough to give you a little quiet time when you need it, and the 8-hour battery life on the buds themselves can make sure you get through even the most intense workouts.

The Jaybird Vista 2 are the follow-ups to the originals, released primarily as comfortable, workout-friendly, and true wireless earbuds that still sound good. This successor, released in 2021, improves on the design, fit, sound quality, battery life, and water protection while also adding active noise cancellation. Jaybird takes comfort and earth proof durability very seriously: the earbuds have three tip sizes that fit better than most of the competition, allowing for intense workouts that don’t dislodge either earbud.

An IP68 water and dust ingress protection rating and a MIL-STD 810G rating make these appropriate for extreme weather, too (though if you’re working out in the ice or snow, that’s on you). The Vista 2’s secret weapon is actually Jaybird’s app, which allows you to select custom equalization settings, modify ANC intensity, and more. At 150, the Jaybird Vista 2 are not cheap, but if you want the best workout buds available, these are for you.

Apple Airpods Pro (2nd generation)

If you’ve got an iPhone, get these

Apple’s accessories work best with Apple hardware, and its earbuds are no different. The second-generation Airpods Pro are excellent for iPhone users, with good audio quality and ANC, plus lots of in-ecosystem perks. If you have an Android phone, you should get one of our other picks on this list, but if you’re an Apple user, these should be your go-to.

If you typically use Android devices, this one’s not for you, but Apple’s second-generation Airpods Pro are a fantastic option for anybody who spends a lot of time in Apple’s ecosystem. Their audio quality is up there with the best Samsung and Sony have to offer, and Apple’s ANC is very good. For Apple users, the biggest drawback is a mediocre battery life of about five hours per charge.

On Android, not so much. Apple’s proprietary ecosystem perks, like fast pairing and automatic device switching, only work with iPhones, iPads, and Macs. Even more basic features, like in-ear detection to automatically pause media when you take your earbuds out, are absent on non-Apple devices. But if you carry an iPhone more often than not, the second-gen Airpods Pro should be your default pick.

What are the best wireless earbuds you can buy?

It’s hard to go wrong with any pair of true wireless earbuds for over 100 anymore. Models from reputable brands are consistently good, but a few companies are making standout products, and they’re usually the ones you know. Sony, for instance, earns its place at the top of the list with the WF-1000XM4, shrinking the size of its fan-favorite buds without sacrificing sound quality or noise cancellation effectiveness. If you want the absolute best ANC in earbuds today, the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II should be at the top of your list. Just be aware they lack convenient features like multipoint and wireless charging.

On the matter of more budget-friendly wireless earbuds, there are plenty of great options, like Jabra’s Elite 4, whose ANC will blow you away considering their modest 100 price tag.

Sony WF-1000XM4

The Sony WF-1000XM4 offer superb audio quality, top-tier ANC, and long battery life — up to eight hours per charge with noise cancellation on. They’re pricey at an MSRP of 280, but the XM4 do a lot to justify their asking price.

The 8 Best Wireless Earbuds of 2023

Quentyn Kennemer is a consumer technology writer with experience writing for Businessinsider.com, Digitaltrends.com, Androidcentral.com, and more.

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The best wireless earbuds bring you high-quality sound, noise-canceling, and free you up from wires, all at the same time. Wireless earbuds, also called true wireless stereo earbuds (or TWS), connect to your phone or media player via Bluetooth and are stored in a case that also charges the buds.

In addition to sound quality, look for a comfortable fit, good isolation and noise cancellation, and battery life.

Best Overall

Apple Airpods Pro

  • Amazing ANC
  • High-quality sound
  • Water/Sweat resistance
  • iPhone simple pairing

If you asked us to award any Apple earbuds as our top pick before the Airpods Pro came out, you would’ve gotten a hard pass. But the Airpods Pro finally addressed every issue we’ve ever had with Apple’s earbuds. They have excellent isolation, impressive Active Noice Cancellation (ANC), and solid battery life. That checks all of our boxes.

Apple’s never been a slouch on sound quality, but the addition of the silicon ear tips that rest inside your ear canals makes a world of difference.

In addition to great ANC, Apple has one of the best ambient noise modes. Ambient mode allows you to hear your surroundings in situations like jogging or when having a conversation. This is a complete package when you add all that to the dead-simple pairing to an iPhone that Apple enables. Plus, Airpods work with iPhone and Android (without the simple pairing), so they’re an easy top pick.

Type: TWS | Connection Type: Bluetooth | ANC: Yes | Water/Sweat Resistant: Yes

Best Budget

Anker SoundCore Liberty 2 Pro

Reviewer Jason loves the Liberty Pro 2’s sound quality. I can confirm that these earphones sound amazing, and that’s before you even factor in their budget-friendly price tag. Soundcore has put two separate speaker drivers (a standard 11m and a Knowles balanced armature driver), aligned on top of each other, inside each earbud.

Jason goes on. What I found most surprising is that the battery case itself supports Qi-enabled wireless charging—meaning you can just drop that case onto the same wireless charger you use for your phone, and it should work. This is a highly sought-after feature for true wireless earbuds because even the best in the business (from Sony to Apple’s entry-level Airpods) leave this option out. Wireless charging is making its way into more and more TWS because many of the best smartphones include reverse wireless charging. That’s not ideal for phone-to-phone charging but is excellent for charging accessories.

There’s a lot to like with these earbuds. They’re priced right for the features they offer. We also like the physical buttons on the buds for controls. Touch surfaces are all the rage, but they’re flawed.

Type: TWS | Connection Type: Bluetooth | ANC: No | Water/Sweat Resistant: Yes

Best Noise Cancelation

Sony WF-1000XM3

The Sony WH-1000XM earbuds continue Sony’s tradition of high-quality audio and best-in-class ANC. Jason, our reviewer, came away quite impressed with the earbuds. He writes, As with the WH-100XM3 over-ears, the sound quality of the WF-100XM3 earbuds is virtually best in class. The closed 0.24-inch driver is a competent little speaker that provides an impressively rich response across the full 20–20kHz range. This is not common in earbuds by any stretch, and I can say in practice, these earbuds took everything I threw at them completely in stride, from bass-heavy hip-hop music to the lightest acoustic tunes.

One concern that Jason had was in the connectivity of the earbuds. Jason found the buds had trouble connecting to his phone in a crowd. That’s not uncommon, but we would have hoped, considering the price tag, that Sony could have avoided that trouble.

One other area of concern is the lack of an official IP rating. That in and of itself isn’t terrible, but sweat and train resistance can be vital for those looking for earbuds for workouts or working outside. Jason writes, This could be a dealbreaker for some users, especially those who want earbuds for working out. While I did bring these along for a gym session, and they didn’t seem to be harmed by any sweat, I can’t say with any firm confidence that they’d survive a long, strenuous session or even some light precipitation. Take note of this if you want an all-around pair of earbuds.

Type: TWS | Connection Type: Bluetooth | ANC: Yes | Water/Sweat Resistant: Yes

Best for Sound Quality

Sennheiser Momentum True

Sennheiser has been a leader in sound for a long time, and now it’s bringing that expertise to TWS. Reviewer Jason Schneider calls them the best-sounding true wireless earbuds on the market. Jason continues, One spec Sennheiser lists is the harmonic distortion, which measures at less than 0.08 percent on the Momentum earbuds and is about the same as you’ll get on the Sennheiser HD 600 studio earbuds. you’ll find Qualcomm’s aptX and aptX low latency, both of which give you higher resolution compression and seamless transfer speed. This allows for better sound quality and sync with videos and games.

Build quality is an issue here. Jason calls it middle of the road. Battery life is also not impressive. Sennheiser advertises about 5 hours on a charge, which is consistent with our testing and not bad in the category, but the case only holds another 5 hours for a total of ten. That will get you through a workday and maybe even a commute, but not much else. And you’ll be charging every night, which is not awesome. Jason reports he often opened the case for the buds only to find them dead. That’s not a great experience.

The bottom line, our reviewer sums it up best. If you’re an audiophile, first and foremost, you should consider the Momentum True Wireless earbuds, but if you want an all-around product, look elsewhere. That’s not as bad as it sounds. Indeed, Jason wrote that the sound quality is so good that it will outshine any other inconvenience for some. If you want the best sound you can get, these are the buds for you.

Type: TWS | Connection Type: Bluetooth | ANC: No | Water/Sweat Resistant: Yes

Best for Outdoors

Jabra Elite 85t Wireless Bluetooth Earbuds

The Elite 85t earbuds are Jabra’s best step forward in the audio space. This is a more refined generation of earbuds, succeeding the Jabra 75ts. They have the same durability and ruggedness. Our reviewer Jason says, the Elite 85t earbuds are quite possibly Jabra’s best foot forward into the audio space. the massive 11mm drivers they’ve managed to squeeze into these earbuds. The frequency range of 20Hz to 20kHz isn’t the widest I’ve seen but is certainly enough to cover the full spectrum of human hearing.

In addition to bringing excellent call quality, Jabra also brings software expertise. Jason writes, Jabra is one of my favorite companion apps for headphones because it tows a nice line falling short of too complicated but still enough to be called full-featured. It’s user-friendly and a huge selling point for these earbuds.

The Jabra Elite 85 t’s also brings up to 30 hours of battery life when you include the charging case. They also have an IPX4 rating for splash and sweat proofing. Add to that the rugged build, earbuds that can stand up to a good run, being caught in the rain, and still sound great for phone calls.

Type: TWS | Connection Type: Bluetooth | ANC: Yes | Water/Sweat Resistant: Yes

Best EQ Settings

Samsung Galaxy Buds Live

The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live earbuds are a solid entry into the TWS space. Because of their distinctive shape, the Galaxy Buds Live, also called ‘the beans’, do not go into your ear canal like other buds. Rather they slot into your ear just outside the canal, forming a seal around the ear itself. This can be a tricky fit for some ears, so bear that in mind. But if the fit works, it’s much more comfortable than silicone tips in the ear canal.

Because of that seal, ANC is possible, and on the Buds Live, it’s pretty good. As is the sound quality and isolation. Additionally, the Galaxy Wear app gives you six different present EQs to fit your preferred sound profile. That includes bass-heavy settings for songs that thump and more neutral settings for podcasts and audiobooks. Whatever you’re listening to, Buds Live has an EQ setting for you.

Type: TWS | Connection Type: Bluetooth | ANC: Yes | Water/Sweat Resistant: Yes

Best for Running

Beats By Dr. Dre Powerbeats Pro

Before the Airpods Pro, there was the Powerbeats Pro. The Airpods Pro are our top pick, which should give you a good idea of what the Powerbeats Pro is capable of. They’re pretty awesome. You get excellent sound quality, solid battery life, and physical controls that some prefer over touch controls. You can get up to 12.5 hours on a single charge which is pretty unheard of in the TWS space. The case is pretty big, but that’s because the buds themselves are pretty big. The case can charge up the earbuds in 45 minutes, which is fast for this category.

The physical controls are easy to learn and easy to use. You can access your phone’s assistant with a single touch. If you’re using an iPhone, the buds also support Hey Siri activation. The physical controls include both volume and track skipping, which is fantastic. The passive noise isolation is good, but there is no ANC.

We also like these for runners because of the ear hooks built into the buds. They’re adjustable and can fit most ears. Our reviewer, Danny, writes, This ensures they never fall out, no matter what you do. From working out to taking a walk around town or even hanging upside down, once the Powerbeats Pros are in your ear, they stay there until you take them out. The tough part is that they can be difficult to put in with one hand, but we consider that a small price to pay for ensuring that your expensive earbuds aren’t going anywhere once they’re in.

Type: TWS | Connection Type: Bluetooth | ANC: No | Water/Sweat Resistant: Yes

Best for Audiophiles

Grado GT220

Grado is an audio brand known for very high-quality audio. You might wonder if high-quality audio and wireless belong in the same sentence. Grado thinks they do, and our reviewer, Jason, agrees. The Grado GT220 earbuds have been tuned to the flattest sound possible, allowing the listener to hear the music as the artist intended without artificially changing the equalizer. Some earbuds are tuned to provide deep bass or a V-shaped equalizer to help the music pop. Not so with the Grado GT220 earbuds.

Jason, our reviewer, notes, the FOCUS is on providing detail and support in the mid-range. This section of the spectrum is usually the weakest part of consumer earbuds and can get fairly muddy if not treated well. The Grados let you hear all of your music. Also, the earbuds have good battery life, lasting between four and five hours on a charge, with an extra 30 hours in the case.

The earbuds do not have ANC, relying instead on passive noise isolation. That’s not unusual for audiophile gear. The controls on the headphones are not the best. Jason writes, Each earbud has touch controls that should, in theory, allow you to skip tracks, adjust volume, pause music, answer calls, and all the usual parameters. I found these controls not nearly as responsive as I’d like, and the one control I wanted access to (putting the headphones into pairing mode by holding a touch panel when the earbuds are off) didn’t work every time.

But overall, if you like to hear the music as the artist intended, these earbuds are probably for you.

Type: TWS | Connection Type: Bluetooth | ANC: No | Water/Sweat Resistant: No

What to Look For in Wireless Earbuds

Wireless earbuds command a massive section of the audio market for several reasons. First, since more and more smartphones are doing away with the headphone jack, Bluetooth-connected headphones are a virtual necessity for those who listen to music on the go. Second, wireless earbuds are much more convenient than pulling a tangled nest of wired headphones out of your bag.

Since Apple released the first generation of Airpods in 2016, flagship wireless headphones have largely gone the way of “true wireless,” so much of this guide will FOCUS on the features and considerations when purchasing this style of headphones. These earbuds cut the cord completely, untethering each earbud, so they fit into your ears. Others usually sport earbuds, keep a neckband for a secure fit, have larger batteries, and add features like water and sweat proofing and various ear tip sizes.

Does Wireless Compromise Sound Quality?

Another thing to consider before jumping into wireless specs: wired headphones are still where you’ll find the true audiophile headphones. While there are many excellent options in the wireless space, one thing that will naturally hold the audio quality back: is the presence of Bluetooth transmission. That’s because, with Bluetooth, your audio is compressed to make it easier to transmit, but it will naturally lose some information in the original file.

That doesn’t mean wireless earbuds can’t sound impressive—they certainly can with lossless protocols like aptX and LDAC. On top of that, there’s the fact that earbuds like the Airpods Pro come with noise-cancellation, letting them blot out background noise to improve your overall listening experience. It’s a feature that you rarely get on a wired pair of earbuds, and best-in-class noise canceling from companies like Sony and Bose is only available through their Bluetooth offerings.

Form Factor: How Much Cord to Cut?

Before getting into the nuts and bolts, ask yourself how vital true wireless is to you. Before true wireless even existed, consumers could purchase wireless headphones where a wire remained to connect the two earbuds. That is still the case and can give you much more bang for your buck. If you don’t mind having a short wire between the earbuds, you’ll get fantastic sound quality from options like the Bose SoundSport wireless earbuds or the Jaybird Tarah or X lines.

Many true wireless users are prone to a poor fit in the earbud department so a non-true wireless earbud pair might be ideal. If the headphones fall out, they will still be draped around your neck rather than falling to the ground. However, you tend to lose battery life with non-true-wireless earbuds because most don’t include the typical charging case with true wireless units.

Design: Keep Profile in Mind

The look of a pair of earbuds can go in a few directions: you’ll have the bud-and-stem design made famous by Apple, or you’ll have the oblong oval design seen on earbuds from Sony and Anker’s Soundcore brand. You can also get earbuds that are so low-profile that they virtually disappear into your ear, sticking out only marginally.

While many brands stick to a darker color for their earbuds, others stand out with many color options (think: Samsung Galaxy Buds or the MD MW series). While earbuds are, on some level, always earbuds, this category has a fantastic amount of versatility. But this is subjective, so we recommend considering a lot of brands to find your style.

Comfort: A Snug Fit Matters

One common gripe about Airpods is that they don’t fit snugly into your ear—a fact that Apple responded to with the silicone-tipped Airpods Pro. The stakes for earbud fit become much higher when you consider that true wireless earbuds can fall out of your ear and suffer actual damage when they hit the pavement or get lost.

Most earbuds will come with interchangeable silicone tips (some even include additional foam options), so it’s essential to try all the sizes before wearing them outside. Another consideration of fit and comfort is whether there is a second point of contact outside that ear tip.

While some of the most popular brands (Sony and Apple included) rely solely on a snug ear tip fit, other brands like Bose and Samsung offer an additional rubber wing that grabs the cartilage of your outer ear. This is a game-changer for those who can’t find a proper fit and is an important consideration.

One last point is on snugness: on the one hand, you want to ensure the earbuds are snug enough to stay in and provide a good seal for better sound quality. However, this can be a little stifling for some listeners. If you don’t love a snug fit and want some breathability, consider Bose SoundSport’s pinched, breathable ear tips or the Apple-style fit.

Build Quality and Durability: Protect Against Water and Sweat

The build quality of wireless headphones is paramount for two reasons: first, it ensures that this often-premium purchase will last you a reasonable amount of time, and second, it ensures that the headphones feel fancy and premium, just like their price tag. Most products are made of soft-touch plastic and a softer-touch silicone ear tip design. Many of the more budget options will lean on a plastic build—so if you want a premium-feeling product, you’ll have to shell out for it.

The other key factor here is waterproofing and dust resistance. This is not a given. Most will sport an IP rating. The letters, followed by a number, denote the ingress protection or how well the devices keep out dust and water.

You will often see earbuds with IPX4 or IPX5 (the 4 and 5 denoting mid-to-moderate splashes and drip resistance but minimal resistance to complete immersion into water). Regarding water resistance, the higher the number, the better. An IPX4 device is resistant to splashes from any direction, while IPX5 can resist low-pressure water (being run under a sink, for instance). IPX6 can handle higher-pressure water sprays, while IPX7 means the earbuds can survive complete immersion in 1 meter of water for 30 minutes.

Most earbuds don’t fill in a number for that X, meaning there’s no dust resistance, though there are a few exceptions. What this amounts to is that most true wireless earbuds are water-resistant enough to survive a sweaty gym workout or moderate precipitation on the run but might not survive if dropped into a pool.

Controls: Buttons or Gestures

Onboard controls sit in two categories: push buttons and touch gestures. The former is more common in low-to-mid-priced models and tends to be clunkier as they require you to push the earbud into your ear physically. Touch gestures can be tricky to get the hang of, but they will give you much more powerful onboard control of your earbuds.

Expanding that control, many manufacturers offer a significant and robust accompanying smartphone app. An app can add functionality like allowing for EQ controls, battery monitoring, and intelligent assistant adjustment. Some earbuds will enable you to adjust commands for the touch area using the app. In short, a well-made app can differentiate between a good experience and a great one.

Audio Quality: Your Biggest Considerations

From an audiophile perspective, there are standard specs across all headphones that you should keep in mind. First, what is the frequency spectrum? Usually displayed in hertz/kilohertz, this number represents the frequency range (bass through treble) reproduced by the headphones.

The widest range the human ear can hear is 20Hz through 20kHz. Most earbuds will cover slightly less than this, usually skimping on the bottom end, but that is a tradeoff for portability. That’s mainly due to the earbud speaker’s driver size—usually measuring only a few millimeters, and therefore, less able to produce a truly bolstered bottom end.

As a result, most manufacturers choose to include a lot of software audio processing to boost bass or clarify the midrange of earbuds artificially. Therefore, if you like that flatter Bose sound, your ear will likely prefer Bose’s wireless earbuds. If you prefer Sony or Sennheiser, go for their earbuds. You aren’t getting a perfect audio representation like you would in a pair of wired studio monitors. Still, you’re getting a top-timanufacturer’sr’s best attempt at molding a quality sound spectrum for your ears.

Drivers: Size Matters But Isn’t Everything

Generally, the size of a pair of headphones drivers (the tiny speaker inside each earpiece) primarily affects its power across the frequency spectrum. At its simplest form, the larger the driver, the more capable it is at performing at a high level on the low end of the sound spectrum. Earbuds across the board have much smaller drivers (usually around a quarter-inch) than over-ear headphones, and as a result, they will tend to perform better in the high/mid-range of the spectrum.

This is why cheap earbuds tend to sound tinny and thin. On the premium side of the market, brands use techniques like ported enclosures and digital EQ processing to give you additional low-end for the smaller drivers. But for genuinely bass-heavy performance, go for earbuds that sport slightly larger drivers when possible.

Audio Codecs: How Do They Improve Sound Quality?

The other side of this conversation is the Bluetooth codecs available on the device. A codec is the Bluetooth device’s compression format to send the data, often making a trade-off for file size vs. speed.

Three codecs are at play here: SBC, AAC, and aptX/aptX HD. The Bluetooth standard requires at least compatibility with SBC. SBC and AAC are standard across most modern headphones and need the most compression of your file. It’s oversimplifying the technology to say that more compression means more degradation to the file, so you get less sound quality.

AptX and its HD counterpart employ a proprietary compression algorithm Qualcomm developed to give you a better-represented source audio file while maintaining quick transmittance. Many higher-end earbuds use this protocol to achieve awe-inspiring sound quality. While the codec is only half the story (the headphone hardware and digital processing are the other half), it’s essential if sound quality is high on your list.

Noise Cancellation: Blot Out Background Sound

The only other major feature you’ll likely find on a pair of wireless earbuds is the presence of active noise cancellation and active pass-through of outside sounds. The top brands, like Jabra, Sony, and now Apple, all offer perfectly serviceable noise cancellation, and reversing those microphones and passing through sound from outside helps maintain awareness of your surroundings while wearing the headphones.

This does tend to be a premium feature only, so don’t expect to find these marquis functions or a robust app with anything under 100. You’ll also generally find better quality noise canceling on over-ear headphones rather than earbuds.

Connectivity and Software: Staying Connected While Listening

The setup process for Bluetooth earbuds sits in two camps: basic Bluetooth pairing and software-based connectivity. In both cases, your phone or computer will connect to the earbuds via Bluetooth, but some device manufacturers have chosen to develop software-based walkthroughs to make it easier.

The most prevalent example of this is Apple Airpods. Thanks to Apple’s S1 chip in each earbud, when you unbox headphones that include this protocol, you have to snap open the battery case, and there will be a popup on your iPhone asking you to pair. This skips a few steps, making it a more seamless pairing experience.

Other earbuds require you to make sure they’re in pairing mode (most earbuds, if charged, will be in pairing mode automatically upon their first power-up) and then enter your device’s Bluetooth menu to find the device to pair. Once initially paired, turning on your headphones should automatically reconnect them to the most recent device.

The two most common Bluetooth versions in today’s market are Bluetooth 4–4.2 and 5.0. The former allows your headphones to remember multiple devices but only play music one at a time, while the latter will enable you to play dual music on multiple devices. In practice, for headphones, you’re still going to want to switch between host devices manually, but we’ve found that Bluetooth 5.0 allows jumping between computers, phones, etc., to be much easier.

Range and Stability: How Far Can You Wander?

Much detail goes into Bluetooth 4.0–4.2 and 5.0; the two most important things for the average listener are range and stability. The Bluetooth 4 family allows for about 10 meters or 33 feet of coverage in most environments, though that range can extend through the line of sight when outdoors.

While this is likely plenty for the average user, Bluetooth 5.0 gives you more than 40 meters or over 130 feet of indoor coverage. While most of us don’t have rooms that require this much range, what it means is that you are likely never going to push a Bluetooth 5.0 pair of headphones to their range limit. And because Bluetooth 5.0 transfers data much faster (virtually double the speed of 4.0), you’ll get a much more reliable connection with your device and slightly less lag when syncing with video.

Battery Life and Charging Cases: How to Stay Charged on the Go?

The final piece of the puzzle here is the charging case that comes with the earbuds. Because the onboard batteries for the earbuds have to be small to keep the device small, manufacturers have opted to put a larger rechargeable battery into the case. Interestingly, this is the feature where you’ll see the widest swing of difference, with some devices giving you only about 12 hours of use even with the case and some providing closer to 30 hours.

Interestingly, a high price tag doesn’t always guarantee battery life—we’ve seen some budget pairs clocking in at over 36 hours and some premium brands lacking. Most cases charge via micro-USB, but we’re seeing a strong push in the market toward USB-C charging cables. Some charging cases even support wireless charging, letting you eliminate the wires.

Price: How Much Do You Want To Spend?

The price of wireless earbuds ranges from sub 20 to 400. What’s more, when you get into the premium side of the price range, you’ll still have to make some trade-offs. Bose SoundSport Free earbuds, for example, have excellent fit and solid sound quality but don’t offer much battery life. Soundcore Liberty headphones, on the budget end, are competent in the battery department but feel cheaply made. In short, you can spend as much or as little as you want in this category, but research is paramount.

For iPhone users, the best wireless earbuds are going to be the Airpods Pro due to their seamless integration with iOS. The H1 chip allows instant pairing and switching between devices, and there’s also noise-canceling built-in helping dampen a significant amount of background noise. Sound quality is also great, with improved bass, crisper highs, and numerous quality of life improvements.

Android users have plenty of options when it comes to wireless earbuds. Brands like Anker, Sony, Sennheiser, Plantronics, and Samsung will all work with Android devices. We favor the Anker SoundCore Liberty 2 Pro for those on a budget and the Sony WF-1000XM3 for its excellent noise cancellation that’s some of the best you can get in the industry.

True wireless earbuds are often abbreviated as TWS which you’ll notice are not the first letters of true wireless earbuds. What TWS Stands for is true wireless stereo. Since true wireless earbuds come in pairs and work in stereo, they’re abbreviated as TWS. It’s a bit clumsy, but it caught on, and now that’s the standard abbreviation in the industry.

What Are True Wireless Earbuds And Are They Worth It?

There are substantial differences between wireless earbuds and true wireless earbuds and if you want to shop smartly you need to learn what they are.

This author has been vetted and has the necessary know-how or education to be able to write about this topic. Learn more on our about page.

True wireless earbuds offer unprecedented freedom of movement and a uniquely satisfying listening experience, but there are still a lot of issues plaguing this new technology, not least of which is its exorbitant price and short battery life.

Those who don’t like cords and want to eliminate them at all costs will not regret buying them, but others would be better off sticking to regular wireless earbuds for now.

That’s the question most of us ask ourselves when we set out to buy new earbuds or headphones.

Arriving at an answer is easy – if you want the most stable connection and hate batteries, then go wired (it’s cheaper anyway); if you value freedom of movement and hate cable clutter, then go wireless.

However, audio equipment manufacturers had to go and make our decisions (and lives, if we want to get dramatic) all the more difficult by introducing the term true wireless.

Needless to say, true wireless and regular wireless technologies are indeed different, even though you may not be able to guess what the differences are based on just the names.

So let’s compare and contrast these technologies now to see whether the new true wireless devices are indeed worth it.

What’s the Difference?

Before we go over the differences between true wireless earbuds and regular wireless earbuds, let’s see what they have in common.

The main similarity lies in the lack of wires connecting the earbuds to the audio source. So both true wireless and regular wireless earbuds rely on wireless technologies (most often Bluetooth) to establish and maintain a connection with an audio source (smartphone, laptop, MP3 player, etc.).

The main difference is that regular wireless earbuds still have a wire connecting the two earpieces. In contrast, true wireless earbuds feature two earpieces that aren’t physically connected in any way, shape, or form.

So the true in true wireless refers to the absence of a wire that connects the two earbuds. They’re both equally wireless in terms of the connection with the audio source.

What About True Wireless Headphones?

Sometimes, you’ll hear or read about true wireless headphones.

There’s no such thing!

At least not if we conclude that headphones are meant to be what Google says they are: ‘A pair of earphones joined by a Band placed over the head, for listening to audio signals such as music or speech.’ The lack of consistent and standardized terminology is at the root of this issue.

We use the term earbuds to refer to small headphones worn inside the ear (in-ear headphones). Some call them earphones. Others just call them headphones, making no distinction between the devices that go inside the ear canal and ones that go over the ears and are connected by a firm Band (over-ear headphones).

In any case, we can only distinguish between true wireless and regular wireless technologies with in-ear headphones (referred to as earbuds). The ones that go over the ear and are connected by a Band that goes over the head (referred to as headphones) can use only one type of wireless technology.

Since they simply have to be connected by a headband anyway, not connecting the two earcups simply for some sort of bragging rights would be ridiculous.

So whenever you hear someone talk about true wireless headphones, know that they mean true wireless earbuds.

Now that we know what exactly true wireless earbuds are, let’s see whether they’re worth getting over regular wireless earbuds, starting with the advantages of the former over the latter.

The Advantages of True Wireless

The main benefit of true wireless earbuds is just what we’ve been talking about this whole time – the lack of any wires connecting the two earpieces.

This might seem trivial to some (especially after looking at the price gaps between true and regular wireless earbuds), but it goes a long way for activities that earbuds are generally bought for, such as exercising.

Whether you’re hitting the gym or just out jogging, you don’t want wires constraining your movement. The switch from wired to regular wireless earbuds was revolutionary for this, as it finally allowed us to stop lugging around our audio devices while exercising.

Even though a short and simple wire that connects one earbud to the other isn’t going to restrict your movement in any meaningful way, it can still get irritating, particularly if you’re doing cardio and the wire ends up flopping around and repeatedly smacking you on the back of the neck.

Of course, everyone can enjoy the feeling of no wires touching the skin, whether they’re exercising, walking, sitting, or lying down. But that’s basically all there is to it…well, that and the feeling of prestige you may get from using such new technology.

Having two separate earpieces is also more aesthetically pleasing than when they’re conjoined by a pesky cable, so those for whom aesthetics are paramount should also look towards investing in a pair of true wireless earbuds. But that’s where the advantages end.

Now for the disadvantages.

The Disadvantages of True Wireless

Price

First things first, true wireless is still a relatively new technology.

This means that there’s still a lot of room for improvement and that the manufacturing process hasn’t yet become refined to the point where we can label the price-to-performance ratio as anything close to cost-effective. Just remember what 4K TVs were like back when they first debuted – exorbitantly expensive.

Nothing illustrates this better than the comparison between the original Samsung Gear IconX and the Apple Airpods Pro.

The former is one of the first-ever true wireless earbuds, released back in 2016, and the latter is a much more recent model.

The Gear IconX was released with an MSRP of 200 while the Airpods Pro was released with an MSRP of 250, so not an exact match but still pretty close. The older model has a battery life of around an hour and a half, while the newer one has approximately four and a half hours of juice in it.

Just from this, it should be obvious that the technological jump that happened within the three years between the releases of these two pairs of true wireless earbuds is immense, and that’s just the battery life! The original Gear IconX also had some issues with maintaining stable connectivity, and let’s not even mention the sound quality.

If you’re okay with spending more money just to have the coolest new gadget, then go for it, but if not, it’s good to remember that true wireless earbuds will only get better with time and that the day will come when they will not only be supremely awesome but also much more affordable (think 4K TVs again).

Batteries

Of course, even a battery life of four and a half hours isn’t really anything to write home about. True wireless earbuds have to accommodate both the batteries and the drivers within a very cramped space.

Granted, it’s not as if regular wireless earbuds have more room for these things, but they at least don’t have to maintain a wireless connection between the two earpieces, courtesy of the pesky wire.

This means that even if we had a hypothetical pair of true wireless and regular wireless earbuds that were exactly identical in every regard except for the presence or absence of the wire connecting them, the true wireless earbuds would have shorter battery life.

Everything else would be the same, including the type and size of the battery, but not the battery life.

There’s just no getting around this.

The good thing is that all true wireless earbuds come with charging cases. And most, if not all, of these charging cases also double as power banks.

This means that you can effectively charge your true wireless earbuds on the go with no cables required, which essentially extends their effective battery life several times (depending on the model).

Easy to Lose

The last point comes up quite often in discussions, and that’s the fact that true wireless earbuds are simply easier to lose than regular wireless earbuds.

The lack of a wire connecting one earbud to the other may be a plus in every other regard, but it also makes these earbuds way easier to lose or misplace.

To be fair, though, whether this will be an issue for you all depends on how conscientious you are about keeping the earbuds in the charging box whenever they aren’t in use.

These earbuds are generally made with exercising in mind, so they feature some sort of extra hooks or wings to ensure they stay firmly locked in place.

Consequently, losing them as a result of one earpiece spontaneously slipping out of your ear is rather unlikely. However, if you’re the type of person who’d just plug them out of your ears and place them on the desk or wherever seems convenient, then perhaps true wireless earbuds aren’t the wisest investment for you.

There’s just no reason not to keep them inside the charging case whenever you aren’t using them.

Stuff That Stays the Same

Everything else we didn’t mention is the same between these two wireless technologies.

This means that, aside from comfort and an arguably better-looking design, there’s nothing new that true wireless earbuds bring to the table. Conversely, aside from the high price and sad battery life, there’s nothing they subtract from the regular wireless earbuds experience either.

We mentioned that the Airpods Pro sounded better and had a more stable connection than the original Gear IconX, but the sound quality mostly boils down to the drivers and the connection type.

The Gear IconX doesn’t have as stable a connection because it doesn’t have the benefit of Bluetooth 5, which all newer wireless earbuds enjoy.

All in all, just don’t expect true wireless earbuds to pack a superior sound as similarly priced regular wireless earbuds. Yes, they’re pricier, but in this case, the additional money does not translate to better performance.

Is It Worth It?

So with all this in mind, are true wireless earbuds worth investing in?

Well, it depends.

True wireless technology is still relatively new, and there’s lots of room to develop. These earbuds are definitely not the more cost-effective option, and it may take a couple of years for the price-to-performance ratio to reach a point where we’d feel comfortable recommending true wireless earbuds to everyone.

However, if you don’t appreciate the feeling of wires on your neck, hate untangling cords, or just want to experience the feeling of absolute freedom, you won’t regret getting these earbuds.

Just know that you should expect inferior battery life and sound quality than you would get from regular wireless earbuds of the same price.

This is a trade many are willing to make, and there’s nothing wrong with that. The right demographic can even get the best use out of the previously mentioned Samsung Gear IconX without any issues (read the full review for tips on how to make it work even today).

Still, it’s ultimately a trade-off we want people to be aware of and make willingly.

Why You Should Buy True Wireless Headphones (And Who Shouldn’t)

Thinking about getting your first true wireless headphones? Read on to find the benefits, drawbacks, and whether you should do so.

As many as 68 million pairs of true wireless headphones were sold in Q1 of 2022. In fact, their sales have been growing year over year since 2021.

Even looking up ‘true wireless headphones’ on Amazon brings pages of results, with each product having been sold more than a few thousand times. But why are they so widely popular?

If you’re wondering whether you should jump into the trend and buy true wireless headphones, we’ve got you covered. In this article, we have compiled the benefits, drawbacks, and whether or not you should hop on the true wireless hype train.

What Are True Wireless Headphones?

True wireless headphones are Bluetooth earbuds or IEMs that operate without any cord or wire between the ear pieces or to the audio source.

Typical wireless headphones have a cord connecting the left and right earbuds while they connect wirelessly to the audio source. But, in a pair of true wireless headphones, each earbud has its own Bluetooth chip and antenna that allows them to connect to each other, eliminating the need for a wire between them.

Some earbuds also have master-slave configurations. In this configuration, the primary earbud acts as a point of connection between the audio source and the secondary earbud. This means you can’t use the secondary earbud to connect directly with your phone without the primary one.

But most headphones today come with a setup of two primary earbuds. This configuration is known as dual-mode Bluetooth configuration. With this setup, each earbud can connect directly to your device. This enables you to only use one earbud at a time, further extending its battery life.

The dual connection allows the earbuds to work independently, like stereo speakers. This is why true wireless headphones are called true wireless stereo (TWS).

True Wireless vs Wireless Headphones: What’s the Difference?

True wireless headphones, as the name implies, have no wires or cables connecting the two earbuds. Wireless headphones, on the other hand, have a wire connecting the two earbuds (usually via a neckband), but use Bluetooth to connect to the source device.

If you have any problem picturing the differences, here’s an example: the Airpods and Airpods Pro are true wireless headphones, and the Beats Flex are wireless headphones.

Why You Should Buy True Wireless Headphones

Now that you’re clear on what true wireless headphones are, these are the top reasons you should consider getting them:

Complete freedom

Since they’re completely cord-free, you can move around without worrying about tangled cords or pulling on them too hard.

Support for active lifestyles

If you’re always on the go, TWS are the perfect type of headphones for you. They come in.size cases, meaning more space in your bag for other items.

Additionally, some TWS also come with an IP rating for sweat and water resistance, so you can wear them even when you’re sweating or under a drizzle. Even if you’re actively into sports involving rigorous activities, there are also earbuds with ear hooks to ensure they don’t fall out of your ears.

Convenient

True wireless headphones often come with built-in buttons or touch sensors, allowing you to control playback or answer calls without taking out your phone.

Due to their small size, it’s also easier to store a pair of TWS in your or bag compared to over-ear headphones. Since they’re wireless, you don’t have to worry about tangled cords.

They also come with a case, so you don’t need a headphone pouch or third-party cases to store your TWS.

Expandable battery life

While their battery life is comparatively shorter than wireless headphones, the case for a pair of TWS acts as a battery bank that provides additional charges.

For example, the Master Dynamic MW08 lasts about 12 hours on a single charge. But the case can provide up to 30 hours worth of battery – making them great for long trips where you don’t have access to power.

Why You Shouldn’t Buy True Wireless Headphones

While true wireless headphones are great, there are some caveats to their cord-free design. These are several reasons why you may not want to get a pair of TWS:

Easy to lose

If you’re someone who loses small objects like pens or keys, you should think twice before getting a pair of true wireless headphones. They’re tiny and easy to misplace – chances are you’ll lose them if you don’t have the habit of keeping things in place.

However, some models have a unique tracking system. For example, Apple allows you to track your Airpods via either iCloud or the “Find My iPhone” app. Some headphone companies, like Apple and SOL Republic, even go as far as to offer replacement earbuds for a discount.

Connection stability

While Bluetooth can stay connected for up to more than 1 kilometer, the average range of Bluetooth headphones is 10m or 32 ft. And this can become shorter depending on interference.

True wireless headphones are prone to interference with other wireless devices. If there is a high volume of wireless devices nearby (e.g., in the gym or a crowded office), there’s a good chance you’ll get choppy sound from your headphones.

Bluetooth is also prone to interference by solid objects like brick walls and furniture.

The more objects you have between your headphones and audio source, the shorter the effective range will be.

So despite them being wireless, you have a limited range before losing connection with your phone or laptop.

Sound quality

Despite the Rapid improvements, the sound quality of TWS is still marginally behind wired headphones.

The wireless connection protocol – in this case, Bluetooth – has limited bandwidth, meaning the amount of data that can be transmitted to the headphones is smaller. This means some details in the audio will be missing, which equals lower sound quality.

If you want the best sound quality – wired headphones are still the way to go.

Battery life

One of the most common cases against TWS is their somewhat ‘short’ battery life. If you’re someone who doesn’t have the discipline to charge your TWS every once in a while, chances are you’ll find yourself not listening to music more often.

Getting a pair of true wireless headphones means you’ll have to know how much power is left on the earbuds and charging case. If you’re not that person, you should use wired headphones.

Who Are True Wireless Headphones Best For?

Now that you know the pros and cons of having TWS, let’s talk about who should get true wireless headphones.

Fitness enthusiasts and sports athletes

Fitness enthusiasts and sports athletes do a lot of physical activities, so wireless earbuds are an excellent investment. Whether you’re hitting the track or lifting weights, the freedom to move without getting entangled in cables is something you will appreciate.

Some true wireless headphones also have fitness tracking systems to help you monitor your heart rate, pulse rate, etc. Bragi and Apple are big in those areas.

If you engage in outdoor sports, you will undoubtedly appreciate TWS with IP57 certification (water and dust resistant) to ensure they survive when you get home, like the Jabra Elite Active 75t.

Travelers

You should consider getting a pair of good true wireless headphones if you’re constantly on the road. The first benefit you’ll get is the freedom of cable-free music streaming while on a cross-country flight.

The second and third benefits apply when you get TWS with a solid ANC and transparency mode like the Sony WF-1000XM4 or the Airpods Pro 2.

An effective ANC will save you from a lot of humming engine sounds or the forsaken crying child down the aisle. It also helps you to sleep peacefully through long trips.

On the other hand, transparency mode lets you stay alert or have a conversation while still listening to your music. Both of these features are handy to have for frequent travelers or commuters.

Top True Wireless Headphones in the Market Today

If you’re convinced that you need a pair of true wireless headphones, here are our picks for the best ones:

Sony WF-1000XM4

The Sony WF-1000XM4 are a pair of top-of-the-line TWS from Sony with exceptional sound quality, ANC, and battery life. If you’re looking for no-compromise TWS, these are worth checking out.

In our review of the WF-1000XM4, we concluded that they arguably have one of the best ANC on the consumer headphones market. They can block out most unwanted noises, like speeding cars or train engines, while barely affecting the sound quality.

Sony also equipped the WF-1000XM4 with LDAC Bluetooth codec, which has one of the highest quality among Bluetooth audio codecs. Sound-wise, these have a slightly enhanced bass. But if that’s not your preference, you can download the Sony Headphones Connect app to customize your EQ. The app also lets you fine-tune the ANC and transparency mode.

A single charge on the WF-1000XM4 lasts for 8 hours, with the case providing an extra 24-hour battery. So, no shortage of entertainment even on a long road trip! But as with most flagship products, the WF-1000XM4 are slightly on the higher price tag.

Jabra Elite Active 75t

If you want a pair of TWS for workout, the Jabra Elite Active 75t are a perfect choice. They boast a secure fit, IP57 sweat and dust resistance, as well as ANC to keep you focused when in a loud gym.

Aside from the ANC, the Jabra Elite Active 75t also have HearThrough mode to keep you aware of your surrounding during outdoor activities.

The Elite Active 75t have a warm sound that you can adjust through the Jabra Sound app. Sadly, these only come with SBC and AAC codecs, with no support for AptX.

over, these still use physical buttons. Pressing the buttons means you push the earbuds further down your ear canal – which can be very uncomfortable.

Master Dynamic MW08

If you want a pair of TWS with long battery life, look no further than the Master Dynamic MW08. A single charge on these earbuds gives you up to 12 hours of playback time – no need to recharge for the entire day.

But in case you forgot to charge them, you can get 4 hours of playback with a 15-minute charge. The charging case provides an additional 24 hours of battery life.

However, MW08 offer more than just superb battery life. These earbuds come with AptX Bluetooth codec that delivers excellent sound quality. You also get a customizable ANC that you can fine-tune through the MD Connect app.

Unfortunately, you can’t customize the EQ or sound profile despite the MW08 having a companion app. So, you’re stuck with their default sound signature.

Edifier NeoBuds Pro

The Edifier Neobuds Pro are an excellent choice if you’re looking for a pair of TWS for phone calls and online meetings. These earbuds feature six microphones – three on each earbud – that deliver crystal-clear audio for phone calls or online meetings.

The NeoBuds Pro support LDAC codec and low-latency mode for gaming. They’re also IP54 water and dust resistant.

What makes NeoBuds Pro’s mic stand out is the way they handle background noises. While the background noises aren’t entirely gone, they get toned down significantly in favor of your voice when speaking.

The NeoBuds Pro also have a decent ANC and transparency mode (which the brand officially calls the Ambient mode). They’re also customizable through the Edifier Connect App and EQ and touch control settings.

However, we found that the automatic pairing process is a little finicky with both mobile and desktop devices – but it’s a mild annoyance at most.

Galaxy Buds 2 Pro

The Galaxy Buds 2 Pro are arguably the best TWS you can get for Android devices, especially if you also use a Samsung phone.

If you use a Samsung device, you also get Samsung’s proprietary Bluetooth codec called Seamless. It allows you to stream hi-res audio and enjoy lower latency. But even if you don’t, they still offer a complete package of sound quality, ANC, and versatility.

Out of the box, you’ll get a neutral sound signature that fits well with various content types. You can also tweak the sound through the EQ in the Samsung Wearable app.

The app also has features like earbuds fit test, 360 audio, control customization, and ANC/transparency mode customization. Unfortunately, the app isn’t available on iOS.

Airpods Pro 2

When it comes to earbuds for Apple devices, nothing can beat the Airpods Pro 2. These earbuds are made to work seamlessly with iPhones, iPads, or Macs.

Using the Airpods Pro 2 with an Apple device gives you exclusive ecosystem features, such as automatic device switching, Ear Tip Fit Test, one-step setup, GPS tracking, and conversation modes.

On top of that, the ANC and transparency mode on the Airpods Pro 2 are arguably one of the best in the earbuds market. They also pack a solid 10-hour battery on a single charge with an extra 20 hours on the charging case.

As you might expect, the features are severely limited on Android and other non-Apple devices. But even on Apple devices, you still don’t get customizable EQ or hi-res codec support on the Airpods Pro 2.

Conclusion

If you’re still on the fence, the best way to look at it is to weigh the features of true wireless headphones and assess how they can benefit you in the long run.

Before checking out true wireless headphones, make sure to rank which factors are most important to you. And remember, different brands have different strengths. Take your time to do your research before making the purchase.

Did you end up buying your first TWS? Let us know your experience in the Комментарии и мнения владельцев!