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Best true wireless earbuds: Free yourself from the tyranny of cords

Our top picks offer a comfortable fit, good battery life, and great audio.

Rob Schultz / IDG

Earbud makers have been busy doing away with wires—a good thing whether or not your phone still has a headset jack. You no longer have to deal with cords if you don't want to. True wireless earbuds connect to one another and your audio source via Bluetooth.

No wires mean no inline microphones or controls, but truly wireless earbuds sound just as good as traditional Bluetooth counterparts (for better or worse). They also boast all of the features we've come to expect from earbuds designed to work with your smartphone, tablet, or PC.

Since Apple’s AirPods became a runaway hit, an endless stream of companies have rolled out their own true wireless earbuds and earphones. As you might expect, not all of them are worth your time or money—so we've got your back with buying suggestions to meet a wide variety of needs.

Latest update (9/26/2018): Our review of the Yevo Air has been added to our overall list. You can read the full article here.

Best true wireless earbuds

The $169.99 Jabra Elite 65t are priced close to our former Best True Wireless Earbud pick, the Jaybird Run, and only cost a few bucks more than a pair of AirPods. With their customizable sound, comfortable fit, light weight and excellent battery life, we feel the Elite 65t are better than either of these truly wireless earbud options, and worthy of top honors. (Read our review here.)

There are very few downsides to owning the Elite 65t. Sure, they feel a little cheap to the touch, but their build quality is actually great. And while their bass response may not please all music lovers (even after making EQ adjustments via Jabra’s free Sound+ app), they still sound great. When looking at the 65t as a total package, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better set of truly wireless earbuds for the money.

Best low-cost true wireless earbuds

To be honest, this category doesn't really exist. Truly wireless earbuds are a luxury item and their price reflects this.

However, given the current field of true wireless earbuds, Apple AirPods do the best at offering good value for a (relatively) reasonable price. (Read our review here.) A pair costs $20 less than the Jaybird Run, and if you have ears that will work with the one-size-fits-all design, they can sound great under the right circumstance. And for iPhone and iPad users, you can't find an better set of earbuds for ease of pairing.

You should know, however, AirPods aren’t as easy to use as other true wireless earbuds for controlling your music. It also has terrible passive sound cancelation, so you’ll hear a lot of the world around you when using it.

Best true wireless earbuds for working out

Bose’s $250 SoundSport Free is water- and sweat-resistant, can go five hours between charging, and is insanely comfortable to wear. (Read our review here.) What’s more, the design of these earbuds' silicon tips makes them almost impossible to shake out of your head—but you still keep a good deal of situational awareness, making the SoundSport Free a good choice for joggers or cyclists.

The only knock against the SoundSport Free is its size: The earbuds are considerably larger than its competition, making them a less than fashionable choice for style conscious individuals.

Best true wireless headphones for audiophiles

B&O’s Beoplay E8 true wireless earbuds cost $300, but if high-fidelity sound quality is important to you, they're worth every penny. (Our review here.)

Though you can't expect a set of earbuds to match the sound you'd find in a wired set of cans, the E8s provided the most pleasurable listening experience out of all the true wireless earbuds we've tested so far. As icing on the cake, you can further modify your audio experience using the free Beoplay app.

The Beoplay B8 is incredibly easy to use, too—touch panels make changing the volume of what you’re listening to or tinkering with audio tracks no big deal.

What to look for

Sound

Sounding good is a set of earbuds' raison d’être. When you invest in a new pair of true wireless earbuds, it’s fair to assume that they should make everything sound its best.

We start each sound test by listening to a playlist of five songs that spans different genres and features strong, layered performances: that we know very very well: Feel Right (Mark Ronson, featuring Mystikal); Up & Rise (Hazmat Modine); Shake Your Hips (The Legendary Shack Shakers); Déjà Loin (Yann Tiersen); and I’m a Little Mixed up (Diana Krall).

We play this set of songs for an hour, paying attention to low, mid, and high-frequency performance, and whether they provide a broad, rich soundstage. We also listen for any sign of distortion at low or high volumes. Afterward, we use the earbuds in our daily lives for a minimum of three hours a day over the course of a week, making sure to take in at least one TV show or movie. (This allows us to verify that the audio keeps in sync with the video we see.) Finally, we pay attention to incoming and outgoing call quality, to make sure that you won't get annoyed during a chat.

Fit

A set of earbuds or earphones may sound amazing, but no one will know it if they don’t fit well—a good seal keeps environmental noise out and your audio channeled into your ears, where it belongs. Because no two pairs of ears are identical, we note if a set of true wireless earbuds comes with different ear pieces.

We also pay attention to the tightness of a seal, as a snug fit provides passive noise cancellation (aka the hush that falls over your life when you jam a pair of earphones or earplugs into your skull). If you're in a noisy airport, tuning out your environment is a plus—but it's less than ideal if you're out running, for safety reasons. We take this into consideration when evaluating earbuds designed for working out.

Comfort

They might fit and sound great, but if your new true wireless cans hurt your ears, you won’t wear them. We wear the earbuds for at least three hours a day for a week and note if a particular set becomes uncomfortable after a few hours of use.

Connectivity

True wireless headphones use Bluetooth to connect to each other and to your audio device. We pay attention to connectivity issues stemming from signal interruptions between the earbuds and their audio source, and also note if audio drops from the left or right side during playback.

Features

At minimum, a good pair of true wireless earbuds should be able to accept calls as well as play and pause music. If a pair offers additional features beyond the basics, those functions should work well and be easy to use.

Price

It almost goes without saying that if you pay a premium for earbuds, they should sound spectacular. If a pair of headphones sound great and don’t cost much? Even better!

All of our true wireless earbud reviews

Click on the links below to read the full reviews of all the products we tested. We'll continue to update this article as we put more true wireless earbuds and earphones through their paces, so keep checking for our latest opinions.

At a Glance

While they rate amongst the most expensive true wireless headphones we’ve tested, the B&O Beoplay E8 are without a doubt, the best sounding and most luxurious-feeling headphones that we’ve tested. If you can afford them, you’ll most likely be very pleased with your purchase.

Pros

  • Exceptional sound quality, especially for Bluetooth
  • Variable audio transparency settings
  • Easy to use sound profiles and the ability to create your own
  • Sleek, understated design
  • Small battery case that’s easy to pocket
  • Solid build quality

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Design may not fit all ears
  • Controls occasionally unresponsive due to environmental conditions

Pros

  • Comfortable to wear.
  • Lightweight.
  • Water resistant.
  • Two-year warranty against dust and water damage.
  • Audio properties can be changed with companion app.
  • 15-minute charge provides 90 minutes of music.

Cons

  • Inferior passive noise cancellation.
  • Unimpressive low frequency performance.
  • Lightweight materials make them look a little cheap.

At $249, the Bose SoundSport Free are expensive: you can find a number of competent true wireless headsets for significantly less. But with their nearly unflappable Bluetooth reception, water resistance, easy to use controls and brilliant sound, we feel that they’re worth the price of admission.

Pros

  • Forward-sounding bass, excellent balance of mids and highs
  • Outstanding Bluetooth connectivity
  • IPX4 weather resistance
  • Provide good situational awareness for runners
  • 15 hours total battery life, charging case battery included

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Larger than most hardware in its class
  • Designed to allow outside sound in—may not appeal to all listeners

The AirPods have good battery life and great sound, and the integration with iOS can't be beat, but if you listen to your music with third-party apps, Siri is only half as helpful as she could be.

The Jaybird Run sound great, are weather resistant, and packed full of functionality. That they provide all of this at a reasonable price makes them an excellent choice.

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Weather and sweat resistant
  • Excellent sound and customizable EQ
  • Track and call controls buttons built into caps

Cons

  • Bulky battery case
  • Audio tracks can’t be replayed using earbud controls
  • Provide mediocre situational awareness for runners

Jabra's Elite Sport are an exceptional workout companion, but their middling audio makes them a less ideal choice outside of the gym.

Pros

  • Largely accurate heart rate and step tracking
  • Accelerometer allows headphones to track exercise reps
  • Bass-heavy sound great for working out
  • Sweat and splash-proof
  • Acceptable battery life
  • Companion phone app details workout metrics in easy-to-understand terms but also offers more advanced data for deeper performance analytics

Cons

  • Uncomfortable to wear for long periods of time
  • Large size makes for a potentially difficult fit
  • Audio transparency provides distorted sense of situational awareness
  • Bass-heavy audio drowns the enjoyment out of music when outside of the gym
  • Heart-rate sensor requires good fit in order to work well

Bragi’s Dash Pro, with all of its capabilities (when they work) could be worth $330, to the right person. But considering their middle-of-the-road audio performance and slew of connectivity issues, most people may want to look elsewhere for their next set of true wireless headphones.

Pros

  • Exceptional build quality
  • Waterproof
  • Capable of tracking heart rate and other health metrics
  • iTranslate integration
  • Alexa integration

Cons

  • Sound quality can’t match competitors at the same price point
  • Frequently unable to pair with iOS app during testing, hamstringing best features
  • Optical touch sensors frequently registered incorrect input

The WF-1000x sound good enough that they could have been a hit with mobile music lovers. But their disappointing ANC performance and lack of on-headphone controls makes them hard to recommend in light of other more capable options.

Pros

  • Provide great audio that can be tweaked via a free app
  • Comfortable
  • Can be paired via Bluetooth or NFC

Cons

  • Lackluster ANC
  • No onboard controls for changing/pausing/playing audio tracks
  • Shorter battery life than the competition

With marginal battery life, often overwhelming bass, and aggravatingly loud control buttons, these earphones are only a reasonable choice for those constrained by a fixed budget.

Pros

  • Slick, modern design
  • Lightweight
  • Comfortable to wear

Cons

  • Mid-range frequencies often overwhelmed by bass
  • Button presses make painfully loud clicks
  • Claims water resistance but no official rating given

Despite offering extraordinary battery life, the Zolo Liberty+'s less than stellar audio performance and minor-but-frequent connectivity issues make them difficult to recommend.

Pros

  • Exceptional 48 Hour battery life with charging case
  • Multiple fit options
  • Sweat resistant
  • Easy to pair with music source

Cons

  • Only 3.5 hours of use between charges
  • Frequent connectivity issues
  • Muddy audio, with little separation
  • Audio lag experienced while watching video

Pros

  • Charges via USB-C
  • Easy to pair
  • Compact and lightweight
  • Available in multiple colors

Cons

  • Poor battery life
  • Difficult to seat earphones in charging case
  • Buttons force you to ram buds deeper in ears
  • Lackluster sound quality

The Rowkin Micro are a fine example of what happens when hardware prioritizes form over functionality. While these sleek little earbuds might look like something out of a spy movie, they sound like something better left in audio’s distant past.

Pros

  • Impossibly small, sleek-looking
  • Battery case can be used to charge other USB devices

Cons

  • Poor sound quality
  • Lackluster call and personal assistant audio
  • Pairing more difficult than it needs to be
  • No way to tell which earbud, left or right, you’re putting in your ear

$150 should buy you a set of headphones that sound good, if not great. Alpha Audiotronics’ Skybuds don’t do that. We suggest you give them a hard pass.

Pros

  • Easy to pair with Bluetooth
  • Battery case is slim, can be fit in pants pocket
  • Lightweight

Cons

  • Underwhelming audio quality
  • Frequent Bluetooth disconnections
  • Battery life lower than reported
  • Unable to connect to companion app during testing
  • Overpriced in light of more capable competitors
  • During testing period, online support linked to nowhere