Just a few years back, neckbud-style earbuds – those with a cord or band behind the neck – were all the rage. Partisans praised the freedom to exercise while listening to music, podcasts, and audiobooks without cord tangling or pressure over their heads. Granted, I'd take the clumsiness of something dangling behind my neck over fully wired headphones anytime. I'm all for love and diversity, but when it comes to cords, I'm a hater.
That's why neckbud-style earbuds seem half-baked to me: they're not truly cordless. Sure, they come in handy for those prone to losing things, but I didn't feel genuinely untangled until I got my first pair of (truly) wireless earbuds, which I swear by. And that's despite having a history of "misplacing" my belongings.
It's hard not to feel uneasy at the thought of losing earbuds until you give them a shot. True wireless buds typically come with ear tips in different sizes, so you can find a secure fit and make the most of your sound experience. Some models have additional, round-the-ear wingtips for more vigorous workouts, and a few brands have addressed these concerns by offering replacement buds at a discount.
The wire-free concept is enough to convince me, but that's not all there is to true wireless earbuds.
With each new release, premium earbuds seem to be decreasing in size, but growing in style. As you'll see when we present our picks for best wireless earbuds, different colors and finishes are often available, and some buds almost look like jewelry.
Nowadays, true wireless earbuds come with a travel case that takes care of charging even if you're on the go. So long as you keep the case charged, you won't run into battery trouble. Most premium products, and many mid-range and budget options have a fast charging feature, which can give you an hour (or more) of playtime in 15 minutes.
As with design, the average battery life for wireless earbuds is steadily improving. Our list includes models with up to X hours of playtime per charge (not including the extra charging case power).
Don't let their size fool you: these tiny gadgets can pack a punch. Our favorite wireless buds boast a long list of features. Sweat- and water resistance, multi-microphone call technology with noise reduction, active and passive noise canceling, hear-through modes, wind noise protection, and smart assistant compatibility are but a few examples. One of them even pledges to personalize the sound for each user, based on hearing tests.
We've considered the highest-performing products according to the Versus ranking, as well as our users' favorite true wireless earbuds and the following features:
Check out our selection below and as always, keep your needs in mind when choosing your next (maybe first!) earbuds.
1. Anker SoundCore Liberty Air 2
Anker's SoundCore Liberty Air 2 earbuds can put up a fight with pricier competitors. With an elegant finish, a smaller, wireless-compatible charging case, as well as improved audio and battery life, the Liberty Air 2 are many steps ahead of their predecessors.
The second-gen Liberty Air earbuds don't pack fancy features such as active noise cancellation or a mode to integrate surrounding sounds. However, you may find you'll get a bang for your bucks for this price tag. Bass is reasonably strong, the noise-isolating design is effective, the buds are water-resistant, and you can tweak the sound and touch controls via the companion app.
2. Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus
After the industry-wide boom of branded mobile lenses, Samsung is advertising branded earbud speakers. The Galaxy Buds Plus feature a two-way dynamic speaker with the signature of audio specialists AKG, acquired by Samsung a few years back. With a tweeter for high notes and a woofer for punchy bass (that, yet, doesn't match up to Jabra's Elite Active 75t), these earbuds offer a solid sound experience.
Available in Cosmic Black, Cloud Blue, white, and red versions, the Galaxy Buds Plus have a subtle design and pack an impressive 11 hours of battery life on a single charge. This can be extended to 15 years of talk-only time, or stretched by another 11 with the charging case. According to the manufacturer, it only takes three minutes of charge for the earbuds to be juiced up for another hour. Additionally, the buds can be charged wirelessly.
The Galaxy Buds Plus offer a snug fit, but be aware that there's no vent system. Although this typically makes for better passive noise cancelation, some may find the seal too strong. Furthermore, the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus don't have an active noise cancelation feature, pairing two devices simultaneously isn't possible, and its sweat resistance rating isn't as high as of its competitors.
Back to the positive side, the Galaxy Buds Plus offer superior call quality and can bring in external sounds with the Ambient Aware mode. The charging case has a LED indicator for each earbud, a feature that's not yet so common, but that's appreciated by users. Finally, besides the basic play–pause–skip, call answering, and activating voice assistance, the touch controls can be personalized for specific actions, such as accessing Spotify.
3. Jabra Elite Active 75t
Another exceptional product in Jabra's true-wireless line, the Elite Active 75t are tiny, sweatproof earbuds with excellent fit. Available in navy, copper black, and titanium black versions, these sports earbuds have a special grip coating and a pressure relief vent. Unlike Google's Pixel Earbuds 2 (see below), the Jabra Elite Active 75t buds block ambient sound and don't compromise bass.
The 7,5-hour battery life can be extended to 28 hours via charging case. Unfortunately, there's no wireless charging, although a wireless-charging variant is in the works. Moreover, the HearThrough feature allows for surrounding sounds to be heard (safer for those running or walking around the city), and the most popular smart assistants can be activated via an earbud button.
Our favorite feature is MySound, which we wish was available for all of Jabra's true-wireless series. On the premise that each of us hears things differently, MySound optimizes sounds to the user's profile after a hearing test. This can be activated via the Jabra Sound+ App, which includes customizable call and music EQ.
4. Apple AirPods Pro
As it tends to be with all things Apple, the AirPods Pro are a polarizing product. While you may not understand why someone would choose earbuds with plastic stems, others wouldn't consider stepping out of the brand's ecosystem. Whichever group you're in, we can still objectively acknowledge pros and cons.
As in Apple's previous earbuds, the AirPods Pro are equipped with wireless charging. The construction, however, is much better than the former model's. The AirPods Pro have an in-ear design, which makes them less likely to fall off someone's ear. Although this is already the case for most earbuds, the AirPods Pro bring a rare feature to the table: active noise cancelation. Not only is it something that you can't find in most earbuds on the market, but users have rated the AirPods Pro's ANC as highly effective. Another impressive trick is Adaptive EQ, which tailors sounds to the user's ear shape (!).
Like most premium buds, Apple's AirPods Pro tackle the "clogging" effect with vents – this means you won't feel the earbuds are stuck in your body. Despite the strategic apertures, the bass performance is still powerful, provided that you've found the right fit. The product's companion app can help you find the right tip.
You can control the AirPods Pro by squeezing the stems. There's no button, you'll hear "click" sounds. As with regular touch controls, different squeeze patterns make for various commands. As expected, the earbuds have hands-free Siri integration, and integration is optimal for those using other Apple products. Although you can pair your earbuds with Android phones, you won't have access to everything the AirPods Pro can offer – such as sharing audio with someone else. Finally, at 4.5 hours, battery life disappoints, even though you can extend that to up to 24 hours of use with the charging case.
5. Google Pixel Buds 2
Google's first true wireless earbuds, the Pixel Buds 2 pack many improvements. For starters, it offers hands-free Google Assistant voice control – just say "Hey Google," and your smart assistant will be there. There's no need to touch your phone to control smart home devices, receive weather reports, listen to podcasts, and even use Google Translate.
The Buds 2 offer five hours of continuous listening, which is quite average compared with competitors. However, the charging case can prolong that to up to 24 hours. The case can be charged wirelessly and has two status lights: one for both earbuds, and one for the case itself.
The product's design is a significant development from the previous, wire-behind-the-neck version. Taps and swipes make the earbuds play, pause, and skip tracks, as well as adjust the volume, and a "stabilizer arc" helps keep the buds in place. Yet, those have brought about mixed reviews. While some users have reported a snug fit, others have experienced discomfort. Another addition was an integrated venting system to dodge an excessive seal sensation. As with the stabilizer arc, the venting system isn't for everyone. It lets in an amount of ambient noise that's ideal for runners, but not the best fit for those looking to be shielded from neighboring sounds.
Speaking of sounds: there's no EQ customization, and some competitors are way ahead in terms of bass. If you don't rely on that, you'll likely enjoy the sound experience. Finally, the Google Pixel Buds 2 can only connect to one device at a time, but Android pairing is simple, quick, and efficient.
|dust- and water-resistance||sweat resistance||Bluetooth aptX||active noise cancellation (ANC)||noise-canceling microphone|
|Anker SoundCore Liberty Air 2|
|Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus|
|Jabra Elite Active 75t|
|Apple AirPods Pro|
|Google Pixel Buds 2|