Regardless of how you feel about Bluetooth, wireless earbuds are here to stay. As a category, they combine some of the best features of both true wireless and wired earphones. Wireless earbuds offer the convenience of Bluetooth, portability, a greater capacity for battery life, with the stability of secure fits with a single cable linking your buds together. Whatever your reason, if it’s going for a run or needing a comfortable in-flight solution, we’ve compiled the best wireless earbuds for you.
Editor’s note: this list was updated on September 13, 2021, to add the Sennheiser IE 100 PRO Wireless, Sony WI-1000XM2, and Jabra Elite Active 45e to the best list. The Audio-Technica ATH-CKS550XBTBK, Jabra Evolve 65e, and Philips Performance PN402BK were also added to the Notable mentions list.
The best wireless earbuds is Sennheiser IE 100 PRO Wireless
Sennheiser is a heavy hitter in the world of audio, manufacturing some of the best high-end products on the market. It turns out that knowledge trickles down into the more reasonably priced Sennheiser IE 100 PRO Wireless. The IE 100 PRO Wireless scores high for excellent sound quality. One of its great features is the generous selection of codecs, including aptX and aptX-Low Latency. These codecs mean Android users get high-quality audio and low latency when watching videos, or if they choose to play along to music.
Sennheiser IE 100 PRO WirelessFull Review
Of course, the option for wired playback is always a bonus. This could be especially handy because while the IE 100 PRO Wireless has over 9 hours of battery life, it does not have fast charging. So you’ll have to plug in the USB-C Bluetooth connector for about 90 minutes while it juices up. The upshot is you can still listen on the wired connection.
Related: Best Sennheiser headphones
Pretty much everything on the Sennheiser just works, and effortlessly. Pairing via Bluetooth 5.0 happens with ease, as do the dedicated buttons for voice assistant and volume, and play/pause. The microphone onboard sounds reasonably accurate, however, you may need to remain mindful that if it knocks around your neck, the mic picks up the noise.
If your priority is sound quality, the IE 100 PRO Wireless is a solid choice.
Who should get the best wireless earbuds?
This variety of earbuds is for the general consumer who can’t decide between true wireless or wired earbuds. The difference between true wireless earbuds and wireless earbuds is that wireless earbuds are connected to one another by a neckband wire whereas true wireless earbuds don’t have any wires at all.
Related: The best headphones available
Wireless earbuds serve a large swath of listeners and provide a relatively long battery life, a comfortable fit, and a more appealing price tag than their totally wireless counterparts. Depending on which model you end up investing in, the best wireless earbuds are also for athletes. Take the Jabra Elite Active 45e, designed with athletes in mind and featuring a highly durable IP67 rating. The best Bluetooth earbuds category is so old that there’s bound to be something for everybody here.
The Sony WI-1000XM2 is a great pair of wireless noise cancelling earbuds
Maybe you have a familiarity with the WF-1000XM3 and WF-1000XM4. Meet their sleeper sibling, the WI-1000XM2 which comes with a similar QN1 processor for noise cancellation. It also has Sony’s DSEE HX technology which basically uses an algorithm to upsample low-quality audio files. Android users can rejoice with the LDAC codec, which doesn’t always perform as consistently as you’d hope. The variable bit rate is nice, though you can force it to transfer data at a steady rate in developer settings.
Sony WI-1000XM2Full Review
Sony promises a 10-hour battery and 80 minutes of audio on a 10-minute quick charge. The WI-1000XM2 optimizes its performance for whatever activity you do with Adaptive Sound Control, adjusting for ambient sounds and awareness. Using Sony’s accompanying Headphone Connect app you can customize your preferences for ANC and awareness settings. The app also offers options to change EQ settings.
With an optional headphone jack for those times when Bluetooth isn’t an option, and a design that keeps your ears from feeling pressurized, the WI-1000XM2 gives listeners an elevated experience.
The best wireless earbuds for outdoor workouts is the Jabra Elite Active 45e
If the only reason you want wireless earbuds is for outdoor exercise, you’re not alone. Gaining the security of your buds sticking together and withstanding sweat is what the Jabra Elite Active 45e offers. You get the benefit of an IP67 rating, meaning you can take the earphones to the dustiest and wettest event you can think of. While the sound quality won’t impress most people, it’s designed so you remain aware of your surroundings. This means folks who exercise outdoors can stay safe.
Jabra Elite Active 45eFull Review
For under $50 don’t expect the sleekest design, but the fit and Bluetooth connection is stable. Outdated microUSB charging is annoying, but at least Jabra includes a 15-minute quick charge option, and about 9 hours of battery life total. Onboard you find a surprisingly good microphone beating headsets that cost twice the price, so you can probably use it for a Zoom meeting in a pinch too.
For the outdoorsy athlete who wants a reliable and easy solution the Elite Active 45e, and Jabra’s two-year warranty has you covered.
The Beats Powerbeats is the best wireless earbuds for iPhones
Since Apple acquired Beats, the Beats lineup has been decked out with Apple-compatible features like the integrated H1 chip and AAC support. If you’re not a fan of true wireless earbuds but use an iPhone, the Beats Powerbeats is for you.
Beats PowerbeatsFull Review
The standard Powerbeats offers the same level of compatibility as Apple-made earbuds like the AirPods Pro and Beats Powerbeats Pro, and costs significantly less. What’s more, it features a minimal design that aligns with Apple’s design language. The round cable joining the earbuds is comfortable and sturdy. It’s designed to look nearly identical to the Pro model but lacks high-tech sensors that enable automatic ear detection and play/pause functionality.
Athletes will love the ear hook design and sweatproof IPX4 rating, as will general consumers. Users can make volume adjustments directly from the right earbud and skip tracks with the multifunction “b” logo button. Battery life is great thanks to Bluetooth 5.0 firmware: you get 15 hours of listening on a single charge. The downside? When you need to fuel up, you have to connect via Lightning cable.
For people on a tight budget, get the Sony WI-C400
If you’re not looking to spend a whole lot on some wireless earbuds, the Sony WI-C400 is for you.
These affordable earbuds feature a neckband style construction that houses an impressive 20-hour battery, an integrated cable adjuster and stopper, and an in-line remote for playback control. The WI-C400 also includes a variety of ear tips sizes, allowing you to achieve a proper fit.
Given its low price, this pair of earbuds performs better than you’d expect, even if it doesn’t offer any support for high-quality codecs like aptX or LDAC. This sub-$50 headset won’t impress audiophiles, but it should be good enough for people who just need a cheap pair of wireless in-ears.
How we picked the best wireless earbuds
For this particular list, there are a few things that take priority, namely comfort. Plenty of us rely on a favorite pair of cheap earbuds that can be rolled up and thrown into a pocket. Not only do our picks have to be comfortable, but they also have to be convenient and comfortable when you’re not using them. You’ll find a few neckbuds on this list for that reason: when you’re done listening to music, you can just keep them around your neck.
— SoundGuys (@realsoundguys) October 9, 2017
The second priority for this list is sound quality. It would’ve been first, but if the headphones hurt when you wear them, who cares if they sound good? So we made sure to find headphones that on top of being comfortable, have a sound that wouldn’t make you want to throw them in the garbage. That is admittedly difficult to do, considering that Bluetooth inherently has some limitations, but even still, we feel confident that our picks are the exceptions to that rule.
The third feature we focused on was one that you all voted on in our Twitter poll—battery life, which makes sense considering that a dead battery means no music.
Best wireless earbuds: Notable mentions
- 1MORE Dual Driver ANC Pro: This pair of neckband buds has good sound quality and effective active noise cancelling, all at a pretty affordable price. It also has an IPX5 rating which makes it great for taking to the gym, and though its battery life could be better, its quick charging capabilities make up for it.
- Audio-Technica ATH-CKS550XBTBKL: You get seven hours of battery life, decent sized drivers for compact earphones, the SBC and AAC codecs, but it’s also a few years old so perhaps not it doesn’t offer some of the newest frills like ANC or app support.
- Beats Flex: These earbuds are essentially the successor to the BeatsX, delivering a 12-hour battery life, good sound, auto-pause, and magnetic housings for easy storage. It also features Apple’s proprietary W1 chip for seamless pairing and consistent connection performance.
- Bose SoundSport Wireless: Its comfortable StayHear+ ear tips, sweat-resistant build and relatively balanced sound quality, these wireless earbuds are an absolute steal—especially since it’s often on sale for less than a hundred bucks.
- Jabra Evolve 65e: There’s a super long battery life of 13 hours onboard the 65e, with app support, no ANC, and the price is a bit steep for this productivity-oriented headset.
- Jaybird X4: This was on this list for one short-lived month, because then the Jaybird Tarah came out which offers most of the same features but costs $30 less. Still, the Jaybird X4 earbuds are a great option for anyone hitting the gym.
- Philips Performance PN402BK: Great battery life, an IPX4 rating, and decent mic quality are on tap. Fit and Bluetooth reliability, users have reported could be better.
- V-Moda Forza Metallo Wireless: The Forza Metallo Wireless was previously on this list for best design mainly because you can buy fashionable accessories to add to it, but it might cost a little too much for most people.
What you should know about the best wireless earbuds
Bluetooth codecs 101
When picking Bluetooth headphones or the best wireless earbuds, you should keep an eye out for high-quality codecs. In a nutshell, Bluetooth codecs determine how media is transmitted from a source device to your headset. It does so by encoding and decoding a digital signal into a specific format. Compromises are made during wireless transmission. Ideally, you want a codec to be efficient while minimizing data loss. AAC is really only useful on iPhones and LDAC isn’t Hi-Res, aptX is still fairly reliable. That said, if you don’t want to shell out some extra cash for high-quality compatibility, your ears are likely too old to discern any major differences anyway.
Related: Headphone buying guide
Bluetooth SIG announced LE Audio and a new LC3 codec. This won’t immediately replace the legacy SBC codec, but it promises to help those who are deaf and hard-of-hearing as Bluetooth multistream and broadcast audio becomes ubiquitous. Such technology will transform standard Bluetooth hearing aids into multifunctional devices that users can use to tune into relevant information (e.g., flight announcements at an airport).
How your earbuds fit matters
Regardless of what Bluetooth codec you’re using, isolation is imperative for good audio quality. Even if you have the best wireless earbuds on the market, if they can’t seal to your ear, then auditory masking will degrade sound quality. For anyone unfamiliar with auditory masking, all you need to know is our brain has limited bandwidth and can only process so much information at once. If there’s a loud external noise, your brain is afforded less processing power to perceive the music coming through your earbuds.
If you’re having trouble getting a good fit with the provided ear tips, you may benefit from picking a pair of third-party ear tips.
Bluetooth isn’t dangerous
This is a ridiculous assertion made by some astroturf organizations claiming Bluetooth is dangerous when, in reality, it’s fine and won’t melt your brain. While you may read all sorts of garbage online about the dangers of Bluetooth, the truth is they’re overblown to the point of ridiculousness.
Why you should trust SoundGuys
We at SoundGuys want to create a clear path for anyone researching their next pair of headphones. There’s plenty of noise in the consumer audio space, and it can be overwhelming at times. Fortunately, we’ve compiled a list of features covering buying guides, intro to audio, and Bluetooth codecs to educate readers. The site does operate off referral links but our readers may not benefit from awarding one product over another.
Frequently Asked Questions
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Since the Sennheiser HD1 In-Ear Wireless support both the AAC and aptX codecs, they will deliver high quality audio from both an iPhone and an Android phone.
Although true wireless earbuds are certainly more convenient, traditional wireless earbuds (or “neckbuds”) still have some advantages over their cable-free counterparts. For starters, wireless earbuds tend to have a longer battery life since the communication between each earpiece is done through a wire, which is less taxing on the battery than a wireless connection. Also, wireless earbuds tend to maintain a more stable wireless connection, compared to true wireless earbuds which have to handle multiple wireless connection points simultaneously. Of course, true wireless technology has come along in recent years. However, if you’re looking for the best when it comes to balancing convenience, connection stability and battery life, it’s worth taking a look at wireless earbuds.
For starters, the Beats Powerbeats Pro are a pair of true wireless earbuds, whereas the Beats Powerbeats have a cable connecting the two housings. Along with the pro-variant comes improved comfort and microphone quality. Meanwhile, the Powerbeats’ advantage lies in its battery life, providing around eight hours of additional playback time compared to the Powerbeats Pro. For more details, be sure to check out our comparison of the two earbuds.