No market has moved faster in 2021 than the true wireless earbud scene. They’ve gotten smaller, more portable, longer battery life, and have more features than ever before. Sound quality has also gotten significantly better. But with so many on the market, you might be wondering: Which are the best for me?
Regardless of what your budget is, there are a few things you should take into consideration before buying a new pair of earbuds. These are each important and can affect your overall listening experience:
- Price and Value: No two pairs of earbuds are alike in their design and feature set. You can snag a cheap pair for $15 and sure, they’ll technically work, but they won’t sound great or last long. Aiming for at least mid-range true wireless earbuds, or even a more premium pair, will net you a more comfortable and durable design. That way, you can have a quality listening experience whether you’ve got on a podcast, movie, or your favorite playlist.
- Audio Quality: The best true wireless earbuds make great-sounding audio a priority. They pack excellent hardware and well-thought-out software that, together, create a full and balanced sound, with crystal clear highs, robust mids, and powerful lows. In fact, if they’re good enough, you’ll put away your over-ear headphones and never look back. Bonus points if they have a companion mobile app with an equalizer.
- Fit and Design: Good earbuds should sit comfortably in your ear, create a good seal, and not hurt you or feel like they might fall out if you move around too much. The best buds typically come with extra tips in different sizes, too, so you can swap out the defaults for a better fit. Of course, it’s also nice when the earbuds are small and don’t stick out from your ear too much, and when they have a modern, stylish design.
- Battery Life: No one wants tech that’s gonna die on them in the middle of the day, so make sure you choose earbuds with plenty of battery. We recommend options with at least five hours, and that come with a case that’ll tack on at least another 20 hours. Some cases even offer wireless charging or a fast-charge feature that’ll give you a little extra juice (like another hour) in just 15 minutes.
- Extra Features: Audio quality and a comfy fit are great, but some fun extras are also nice to have. The best true wireless earbuds have active noise cancellation (ANC) that’ll block unwanted background noise and some variation of transparency mode for when you want to hear what’s going on around you without removing the buds. We also love buds that let you connect to multiple devices simultaneously so you can switch between the audio on your smartphone and your desktop seamlessly.
- ✓ Excellent sound quality
- ✓ Good, comfortable fit
- ✓ Incredible ANC
- ✓ Great battery life and wireless charging
- ✓ Bluetooth multipoint
- ✗ SideTone could sound more natural
- ✗ Only right bud works solo
- ✗ IP rating downgrade
The Jabra Elite 85t is an easy choice for our best overall pick. Why? They pack outstanding sound quality with 12mm drivers, a comfortable fit, top-notch active noise cancelation, and stellar battery life. Oh—and they’re reasonably priced to boot. The buds check all of the boxes while managing a modern, stylish look.
While we wish their IP rating was higher (it’s IPX4, which is only resistant to a quick splash and not anything more substantial), and that SideTone made the user’s voice sound a little more natural, it’s really hard to complain about the Elite 85ts. And did we mention they can last up to 31 hours on a single charge? Because that’s awesome. Their fast-charging feature lets you get another hour in just 15 minutes. Overall, they sound and look great, and have all the features we need and want. What’s not to like?
Jabra Elite 85t
Jabra's Elite 85t earbuds have outstanding sound, stylish design, a comfy fit, and terrific battery life.
- ✓ Super affordable
- ✓ Solid audio quality
- ✓ Convenient touch buttons
- ✗ Battery life is underwhelming
- ✗ No ANC
- ✗ Cheap-feeling case
- ✗ Uncomfortable during long use
Looking for a high-quality pair of buds that won’t break the bank? The Skullcandy Dime is the pair for you. For the cost of a movie ticket and some snacks, you’ll get rock-solid audio, a stylish and quality design, and access to Google Assistant and Siri for those who want it. The buds are available in four neat color combinations, too: Dark Blue/Green, Dark Grey, Light Grey/Blue, and True Black.
Because of the low price point here, however, the Dime doesn’t offer you many features. For one, the battery trails behind the other options; you’ll get a total of just 12 hours. The case lacks a premium feel as well, plus the earbuds lack ANC and aren’t the most comfortable to wear during long sessions. But, if you’re looking for the best possible sound on the cheap, these are the buds to beat.
These affordable buds have solid audio quality and a stylish design for their price point.
- ✓ Unbeatable audio quality
- ✓ The best ANC out there
- ✓ Adjustable Ambient Mode
- ✗ Expensive
- ✗ Finicky touch controls
- ✗ Only three foam tip options
No list of earbuds would be complete without the spectacular Sony WF-1000XM4. These buds have seriously great audio that blows every other option here out of the water. So if price is no issue, just stop reading and go pick these up right now. Seriously, you’ll thank me.
The XM4s are slightly bigger than others, but it’s forgivable because they sound so damn good. They also don’t sound so good … as in, their ANC is the best out there and you won’t hear anything you don’t want to once you turn it on. Perhaps their only downsides are their fussy touch controls and their foam tips, which aren’t for everyone. But honestly, any nitpicks are overshadowed by how wonderful they are otherwise.
Sony's XM4 earbuds are an audiophile's delight, and are worth every dollar.
- ✓ Incredible sound quality
- ✓ Great battery life
- ✓ Good fit most of the time
- ✓ Great IP rating
- ✗ May slip out if sweating heavily
- ✗ Could have better bass
- ✗ No wireless charging
Every good workout deserves an equally good pair of earbuds that’ll keep up with it. When it comes time to hit the gym, we have to go with Jabra’s Elite Active 75t earbuds. With their stellar IP65 rating, they’ll stand up to sweaty workouts and an accidental drop in the shower or pool. Of course, they also offer terrific sound and battery life, which is perfect for long runs. They also have ANC, which is perfect if you want to tune out everyone else at the gym and focus on your podcast while you get swole.
Their one downside is that they might eventually slip out if you’re a heavy sweater but are otherwise ready to keep up with all your adventures. Prefer your workout earbuds to have a more secure fit? Check out the Powerbeats Pro. For around the same price, you’ll also get great sound quality and battery life plus a super stable fit.
Jabra Elite Active 75t
These earbuds make it easy to listen to your favorite tunes while you get swole.
- ✓ Good, intuitive controls
- ✓ Noise Cancelling and Transparency mode are both great
- ✓ Streamlined case with wireless charging
- ✗ Pricey
- ✗ Lacking bass
- ✗ Lack a "back track" gesture and volume control
If you’re already entrenched in Apple’s ever-expanding universe, you can’t go wrong with the AirPods Pro. They’re easy to connect with any of your Apple devices and boast quality active noise canceling, Transparency Mode, and interchangeable tips. The case supports wireless charging, which is convenient, and the buds’ controls are intuitive and easy to use.
They are pricey (comparable with our best overall pick) but still below that premium level despite packing some pretty premium features. You can take advantage of the Ear Fit Tip Test to find the right size tips for your ears, and once you do, you’ll be ready to enjoy their wonderful sound quality Our only complaints? We’d love to see the bass amped up as well as a “track back” gesture and volume control.
Apple AirPods Pro
Are you an Apple fan? These are a great choice for you plus they boast wonderful sound and ANC.
- ✓ Extremely comfortable
- ✓ Good sound quality for the money
- ✓ Spatial vents are the real deal
- ✗ No ANC or transparency
- ✗ No wireless charging
If you’re using an Android phone (and especially a Google Pixel), the Pixel Buds A-Series are a match made in heaven. Though the buds lack many premium features, they get a lot right and are an absolutely solid choice at this low price point. We do wish they had ANC and a transparency option, however.
The Pixel Buds absolutely nail the design and fit, keeping their size small and using a built-in stabilizer arc that ensures a stable fit. The spatial vents on these are also terrific and eliminate that annoying “clogged” feeling some earbuds cause. And with their damn decent sound, the Pixel Buds are a nice and relatively affordable pick for dedicated Android users.
Google Pixel Buds A-Series
These earbuds offer decent sound and a super comfy fit for the price, but lack a few creature comforts.