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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.

True wireless earbuds cheat sheet

Our quick-hit recommendations:

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 (05/14/19): Added our review of the Powerbeats Pro, which is our new pick for best true wireless earbuds for working out.

Best true wireless earbuds

There are plenty of good true wireless earbuds out there in the sub-$200 range, but none quite deliver the “whole package” for iPhone and iPad users like Apple’s 2nd-generation AirPods.

These near-ubiquitous wireless earbuds are unmatched in their compact design and ease of use. They maintain a rock-steady connection, slick design, plenty of comfort, good battery life, and pleasing sound quality. Yes, you can buy similarly-priced wireless earbuds that beat the AirPods in one or two of these aspects, but Apple’s product is placed right in the sweet spot, and nobody offers a better total solution for Apple fans.

Apple has recently replaced the original AirPods with a new second-generation model, which adds a surprisingly useful hands-free “Hey Siri” activation, faster pairing and switching, and better battery life when talking on the phone. You can also get an optional wireless charging case for $40 more, but it’s not really worth it.

If you have very particular needs, like supreme sound quality or a really rugged workout build, you might want to look elsewhere. For the average listener with an iPhone, though, the new AirPods will be tough to beat.

Best low-cost true wireless earbuds

There are lots of True Wireless Earbuds out there for less than $100, but most of them are terrible. They either sound awful, have terrible fit and finish, poor construction quality, or lots of technical problems. Often, it’s most of those things at once.

The Funcl W1 are the exception that proves the rule. With a cost right around $50, they work surprisingly well, free from most of the glaring technical, design, and usability problems of their peers. No, they are not completely foolproof, nor do they have the kind of sound quality you can expect from headphones three times their price. 

But for the price they completely outshine every other pair of sub-$100 true wireless earbuds we’ve tried.

Best true wireless earbuds for working out

The Powerbeats Pro are Beats’ first true wireless earbuds, and they’re just the thing for people looking for the AirPod experience, tailored for an active lifestyle. They use the new H1 chip found in the second-generation AirPods, so you get the same pairing and syncing experience as with AirPods, and hands-free “Hey, Siri” capabilities.

Beyond that, they resemble Beats more than AirPods. The design is similar to Powerbeats 3, only slightly smaller and lighter, angled for a better fit and better look, and of course without the cord between them.

Sound quality is quite good—better than AirPods, thanks to the rubberized tips that fit snug in your ears. In particular, you get much better bass response than with AirPods, though these aren’t as bass-overheavy as some Beats brand gear. They’re splash and sweat proof, and stay put in your ears through all sorts of rigorous physical activity.

Battery life is exceptional, too. The earbuds last for up to nine hours playing music, or six hours of phone calls.

Best true wireless earbuds for audiophiles

With 3.5 hours of battery life, per charge, the Master & Dynamic MW07 aren’t the longest lasting truly wireless earphones that we’ve tested. But that didn’t keep us from selecting it as our favorite pair of truly wireless earbuds for audiophiles. Simply stated, they’re the best-sounding pair that we’ve ever tested.

Offering excellent aural separation and a surprisingly wide sound stage, the MW07 will fill your ears with rich, punchy bass, clear mids, and crisp high-frequency audio. Everything we listened to on them sounded great. Master & Dynamic includes five different sizes of silicon ear tips with the MW07, so finding a good seal and comfortable fit should be achievable for most people. Thanks to Master & Dynamic’s proprietary fit fins, the MW07 will stay in your head, no matter what you’re doing, until you’re ready to remove them.

Between the juice in the headphones and the battery reserve in the MW07’s stainless steel charging case, users can expect a total of around 14 hours of listening time. When the time comes to recharge, you’ll be able to do so via USB-C.

For those who value you top quality audio and aesthetics over all else, these are the earphones to get.

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

AirPods may not have the best sound quality of all wireless earbuds, and we'd love a more snug fit that blocks a little more ambient sound. But their convenience, ease of use, and fit and finish remain unmatched.

Pros

  • Hands-free 'Hey, Siri'
  • Optional wireless charging case
  • Excellent comfort and ease of use

Cons

  • Sound quality is just okay
  • The best features only work with Apple devices

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

More than just AirPods for athletes, the Powerbeats Pro feature better sound quality and much longer battery life.

Pros

  • Good sound quality
  • Comfortable fit
  • Epic battery life

Cons

  • Pricey
  • Case is too big for your pocket

Pros

  • Outstanding sound quality
  • bespoke materials and excellent build quality
  • USB-C charging
  • Control buttons are easy to find and use
  • Bluetooth 4.2 - aptX
  • Flawless connectivity during testing

Cons

  • underwhelming battery life
  • battery case is a scratch and fingerprint magnet
  • Expensive

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.

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Sound great for the price
  • Light and comfortable to wear
  • Easy pairing
  • Sylish

Cons

  • Limited audio controls
  • middling battery life

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 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

Pros

  • Outstanding sound quality
  • Comfortable to wear
  • Sleek, modern design
  • User scupltable EQ
  • USB-C charging

Cons

  • Not ideal for those with smaller ears
  • touch controls aren't always responsive
  • Expensive
  • Frequent connectivity issues

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

Pros

  • pleasant, but mediocre sound quality
  • Long battery life
  • audio augmentation for thousands less than the price of many hearing aids

Cons

  • Underwhelming bass
  • Large battery case foils portability
  • Occasional connectivity issues
  • Uncomfortable to wear for long periods of time
  • firmware updates require a computer
  • Expensive

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

  • Offer great situational awareness
  • Lightweight
  • Water resistant

Cons

  • Difficulties pairing with audio source during testing confirmed by third-parites
  • Limited audio controls
  • No on-earphone Siri controls
  • Charging case zipper could be of better quality

Pros

  • Rock solid build quality
  • Allows for exception situational awareness
  • USB-C charging

Cons

  • Frequent connectivity issues
  • gesture controls frustrating to use
  • Design makes finding physical controls difficult
  • Lackluster sound quality
  • Expensive given their numerous flaws

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

Pros

  • inexpesnive
  • Battery case can also be used to charge smartphones
  • reasonable sound for the price

Cons

  • comes out of the ear too easily
  • huge battery case
  • No Siri control
  • Limited audio controls
  • Battery level reported in iOS does not reflect true power level of both headphones
  • earbuds do not start/stop with removal from case

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

Pros

  • They didn't catch on fire while in my ears

Cons

  • Terrible build quality
  • medicore audio quality
  • Large, poorly designed battery case