The best wireless earbuds are the greatet examples of what remains a relatively new form factor for headphones. In a way that makes them even more impressive — the Apple AirPods may have codified true wireless earbuds, but the models on this list have gone their own way, and are just as deserving of your money. If not more so.
This is a broad church too, so in addition to top-of-the-line earbuds with active noise cancellation and spatial audio features, we’ve also included our favorite mid-range and cheap earbuds. All based on our usual testing, naturally. Keep reading through our picks of the best wireless earbuds and you’re sure to find a pair that fits you.
Editor’s Note: The Tom’s Guide Awards 2021 for audio have been announced, and the Jabra Elite 85t has won the Best wireless earbuds award! Head to the audio awards page to see all the winners and recommended runners-up.
What are the best wireless earbuds?
The technology behind wireless earbuds has improved markedly, and now they have become as ubiquitous as wired headphones. The very best wireless earbuds offer long battery life, great sound, and call quality, and some noise cancellation, as well as water- and sweat-resistance, so you can use them for working out without worrying about damage. And the best wireless earbuds rise to the top of the list fit comfortably within your ears and don’t budge while you’re running or working out.
After reviewing dozens of models, the best set of wireless earbuds overall is the Jabra Elite Active 75t thanks to its customizable fit, personalized sound, passive noise cancellation, and waterproof protection. The AirPods Pro is a close second with built-in active noise cancellation, seamless iOS integration, easy-to-use controls, and sweat resistance.
The Sony WF-1000XM4 recently launched straight into 3rd place, thanks to its own great sound and ANC, with the new OnePlus Buds Pro a place further back at no.4. If you’d prefer something cheaper, check out the Sennheiser CX True Wireless further down.
The best wireless earbuds to buy now
The market’s best wireless earbuds (and best sport headphones) just got better, thanks to a free over-the-air ANC update that adds active noise cancellation into the mix. Don’t think that you’re going to get Bose-caliber results, or anything close to what the more premium Elite 85t delivers, but Jabra did do an impressive job tweaking its algorithm to block out a good amount of external sounds.
Even before the inclusion of ANC, the Elite Active 75t proved itself as the model to beat, offering better battery life, durability, sound, and special features than its biggest threat: the AirPods Pro. The design remains sleek, though it is sturdier this time around, with IP57 certification granting waterproof protection and dust and sweat resistance. Sound is lively and can be customized through the Jabra Sound+ app, which is loaded with presets and other cool features that enhance both sound and call quality.
Read our full Jabra Elite Active 75t review.
It’s pretty amazing how Apple continues to enhance the performance of its noise-cancelling earbuds through software updates, and if it keeps up the good work, then the AirPods Pro could climb its way back to the top of our best wireless earbuds list. Spatial audio is an incredible addition that creates a 3D-like soundscape to enjoy movies and video games a whole lot better. Even simple, but practical, inclusions like auto-switching make a noticeable difference with functionality, allowing users to easily switch between iDevices that are connected to the same iCloud account.
The great news is that without the latest iOS 14 updates, the AirPods Pro still operate at a top-tier level, thanks to improved sound, strong ANC, a more ergonomic design for better comfort and fit, and all of the perks that come with the H1 chip. If there is any complaint to be made, it’s the same one every Apple fan has voiced since the first-gen AirPods hit the market, that being the subpar battery life.
Read our full Apple AirPods Pro review.
The Sony WF-1000XM4 improves on just about everything about the old WF-1000XM4, from reworking the design to enhancing ANC and tweaking the sound signature for better frequency balance. That all comes with a higher price, but the WF-1000XM4 sounds good enough to deserve.
This is also a particularly well-featured set of wireless earbuds. There’s LDAC support for higher-quality music, a highly customizable ambient listening mode, support for all three of the big digital assistants and full EQ customization. Want to bring back the WF-1000XM4’s bass-heavy sound? No problem.
Read our full Sony WF-1000XM4 review.
The OnePlus Buds Pro gets almost everything right, from its premium and durable build — complete with IP55 water resistance — to its reasonable $149.99 price. The Active Noise Cancellation is a first for OnePlus, but you wouldn’t guess: it’s really well implemented, cutting out almost all background sounds in the Max mode, our favorite of the three main options here. Sound is excellent throughout and there are plenty tweaks you can make to suit your listening preferences.
Possibly the standout feature, though, is the Warp Charging: this can give you 10 hours of use from just 10 minutes of charge. It can also juice up wirelessly, if you have the right tech. OnePlus owners get a couple of extra treats including a gaming mode and fast pairing, and only its rather lacklustre battery life in ANC mode prevents it scoring full marks.
Read our full OnePlus Buds Pro review.
The Master & Dynamic will draw you in with its styling and keep your attention with its performance. ANC and its “Awareness” ambient mode work well, battery life is good even with noise-cancelling, and sound quality is among the best in its field.
The MW08 is, admittedly, an expensive choice: right now it’s even more expensive than the AirPods Pro. But you do get a much, much better design in exchange, with earbuds built from ceramic, aluminum and stainless steel instead of plastic. The black color option is nicely understated, but go with the white or blue versions if you really want to stand out.
Read our full Master & Dynamic MW08 review.
The follow-up to our favorite pair of wireless earbuds is a sonic beast equipped with 12mm drivers that produce loud, well-balanced audio and some of the finest noise neutralization we’ve heard in the category. Jabra’s ANC technology is capable of blocking out 90% of external sounds, allowing for disruption-free listening and audible calls. The Elite 85t connects to the Sound+ app to extend functionality, offering up a plethora of special features that range from adjustable noise cancellation to customizable controls. Connectivity is stable too, thanks to Bluetooth 5.0 and Qualcomm’s fast-operating processor.
We feel Jabra could have done more to increase playtimes, as the Elite 85t falls right in between the AirPods Pro (4.5 hours) and Bose QuietComfort Earbuds (6 hours). However, the buds have terrific battery management that squeezes every minute out of the battery. The inclusion of wireless charging is appreciated as well.
Read our full Jabra Elite 85t review.
The Ear (1) is Nothing’s debut product, and what a first attempt it is. Outwardly, the most striking thing about this set of buds is the transparent plastic design (a trait it shares with the charging case), but what’s really impressive is how technically capable the Ear (1) is for such little money.
$99 gets you water resistance, a comfortable fit, excellent call quality and sound that’s just as balanced and enjoyable as that of the AirPods Pro. The Ear (1) also offers adjustable active noise cancellation, so if you want a more affordable alternative to Apple’s ANC buds, this is one of the best options.
Read our full Nothing Ear (1) review.
In a field full of excellent AirPods alternatives, the Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus still manages to stand out. While it lacks ANC there’s still plenty about this sleek pair of wireless earbuds to love, not least the superb sound quality. This even gets a boost from the same amplification tech that Cambridge Audio uses in its CX hi-fi stereo amplifiers, should you engage the buds’ High Performance mode.
There’s also water resistance, full EQ customization and some very reliable voice assistant support, all for less than you’d pair for a set of the most basic AirPods. Battery life deserves a mention too: with High Performance mode on you can expect between 6 and 7 hours of uptime, which jumps to 7 to 8 hours with the Low Power profile.
Read our full Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus review.
Sennheiser’s latest pair of affordable earbuds both looks and feels like the CX 400BT Wireless, but adds some nifty features like IPX4 water resistance. Sound quality isn’t entirely superior, but the CX True Wireless does have an intense low-end punchiness that its predecessor didn’t.
The biggest difference, though, is battery life. You can get extremely close to the official 9-hour figure on medium volume, which means the CX True Wireless outlasts both the CX 400BT and the more popular AirPods by several hours. Throw in a comfortable, secure fit and an affordable price, and it’s hard to go wrong.
Read our full Sennheiser CX True Wireless review.
The Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro are easily the best wireless earbuds Samsung has ever made: their design, waterproofing and ANC are all significantly improved over the previous Galaxy Buds Live.
They also challenge the AirPods Pro with a lengthy list of features, such as Voice Detect, which can automatically engage the ambient sound mode when the mics hear you speaking. This is a great pair of buds on the whole, though be warned that some features — like the 360 Audio surround sound mode — only work when paired with a Samsung Galaxy smartphone running OneUI 3.1 or later.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro review.
This isn’t the first pair of sub-$30 wireless earbuds we’ve seen, or even tested, but is is the best. Th Go Air Pop is a light, bass-rich, long-lasting set of buds that even throws in IPX4-rated protection against water and sweat.
There are some drawbacks to going so cheap: the touch controls aren’t always reliable, and call quality is so bad you’re better off disconnecting and answering on your phone instead. But for everyday music playback, you won’t find better value than what the Go Air Pop provides. And certainly not with four fun color options.
Read our full JLab Go Air Pop review.
The Beats Studio Buds is unusual, not just for how much it deviates from Beats (and by extension, Apple) design norms but in how it interacts with both iOS and Android devices. Usually, Beats buds are like AirPods, offerings special features to iOS users alone; the Studio Buds breaks this pattern by adding fast-pairing and digital assistant support on the Android side. (If you’re having trouble deciding, check out our Beats Studio Buds vs. Beats Powerbeats Pro comparison).
That comes at the cost of some more advanced iOS-only features, but this is still a very good-value set of buds for either camp. The Studio Buds offers ANC and great sound quality at an affordable price, and the tiny earpieces are nice and comfortable.
Read our full Beats Studio Buds review.
How Bose managed to give its flagship buds almost the same ANC technology as the Bose 700, with half the mics, is an engineering feat. Distractions will go unheard, as you enjoy media (e.g. music, videos, IG clips) with rich, well-balanced sound. The buds are even capable of blending ANC with ambient listening, giving you full awareness of your surroundings with the utmost precision; external noises sound clearer and are less harsh on the ears. What you’ll appreciate most is call quality because Bose’s powerful mic array does a phenomenal job of picking up loud, crisp-sounding vocals, while minimizing background fracas at the highest level.
We do wish Bose optimized battery life better, especially since the listening modes take up a lot of power and the massive charging case holds a shorter amount of playtime than the AirPods Pro’s case.
Read our full Bose QuietComfort Earbuds review.
How to choose the best wireless earbuds for you
With so many wireless earbud options to choose from, you may find it difficult to settle on one. There are several factors to weigh, and which one is most important depends on personal preference.
One factor to consider is fit. How comfortable is the earbud in your ear? Do the earbuds come with different sized tips so you can adjust them to your ear? The fit of wireless earbuds becomes even more crucial if you want to use them while working out. And if that’s the case, water and sweat-resistance is another factor to consider.
Battery life is also key in choosing the best wireless earbuds. Check out the rated battery life and whether any carrying case comes with the earbuds to provide additional power. Then there’s sound quality of both music and phone calls, which you can determine from reviews by professional testers and people who’ve bought the earbuds.
And of course, price is a big consideration. If you can splurge, you have a wider array of choices. But if you need to be budget-conscious, you may want to go with lower-priced brands or with older generations of wireless earbuds.
How we test the best wireless earbuds
In determining the best wireless earbuds, we consider fit, battery life, sound quality, design and value (are they worth the price?). We also factor in features like how well the controls work and how easily the earbuds pair with phones.
In terms of audio, we listen to many sample tracks that span a number of genres, including hip-hop, rock, jazz, classical and R&B, while evaluating volume, clarity and fullness. We also make phone calls to assess both call quality and microphone performance.
During the testing phase, our reviewers wear each pair of headphones for hours at a time throughout the course of a week. Reviewers will make note of battery life and how well it matches the rated battery life provided by earbud makers.
We evaluate earbuds based on our five-point system (1 = worst, 5 = best). If a product hits nearly every mark, it’s awarded an Editors’ Choice badge.