The best wireless earbuds are truly amazing bits of tech. Not so long ago wireless meant compromising, but today's models deliver incredible sound and excellent battery life, often for a very reasonable price. And most include passive or active noise cancelling to insulate you from the world.
Although this is a guide to the best wireless earbuds, we've been a little flexible with our definition: by wireless we mean that there isn't a cable between the headphones and your phone or other audio source. Some models do still have one wire connecting the two earbuds together, although it's often reserved for certain sports headphones, mainly for running.
Best wireless earbuds 2023: The top 3
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The best wireless earbuds for most people are the Sony WF-1000XM4. These have the best overall balance of any wireless earphones, both in terms of sound, price and build.
The best budget wireless earbuds are the Sony WF-C500. No noise cancelling here, but no big price either. And the sound at this asking price is super.
The best wireless earbuds for Apple's ecosystem are the AirPods Pro. They're popular for a reason: they sound great, the ANC is great, and the controls are great too. Work best with Apple, but don't rule out Android either.
Sony's top-end true wireless buds are, with all factors considered, the best wireless earbuds you can buy today. They're like a master of all trades, jack of none: while you'll find very microscopically better sound quality elsewhere and others may be able to squeeze out a few joules more battery, no other manufacturer has managed to generate a combination as winning as this.
Sure, they're not the cheapest, but if you want a significant advancement on their ANC you need to throw a whole stack more cash at the Bowers & Wilkins PI7 (further down in this list).
As we concluded in our Sony WH-1000XM4 review: "by keeping the sound as good as it always was to satisfy music lovers and adding some extra features tech heads wanted, Sony manages to keep its nose in front of Bose, Bowers & Wilkins and Beats. There's nothing better in the world of in-ear headphones right now."
If even the affordable options on this list seem a little steep to you, the Sony WF-C500 might be more your style. They're seriously cheap but that doesn't mean you have to sacrifice on sound.
Not only will your music sound fantastic but you'll be able to adjust it to exactly how you like it as well thanks to the preset sound modes and manual equaliser in the app. What's more, connecting to them is instantaneous thanks to Google Fast Pairing on Android and Swift Pair with Windows PCs.
Whatever you plan to use these for, they're comfortable and secure. Perfect for commuters and for your workouts! Although admittedly there's no ANC so you might have to deal with a small amount of noise from the world around you. Find out more in our Sony WF-C500 review.
The AirPods Pro 2 remain massively popular because they also remain massively impressive. The noise cancelling remains solid (and is still at the very top of the class for wind reduction), the sound is detailed and full, and Apple has updated them with new features over time, including Spatial Audio 3D sound.
As we said in our AirPods Pro 2 review: "Apple learned from the mistakes of the past and improved their top-performing true wireless earbuds to not only match the competition but, on occasion, surpass it. The sound is brilliant as is the fit, without a price increase generation on generation".
Contrary to what some people think, all AirPods work perfectly well with Android phones and other equipment. But you get lots of extra features when you use them within Apple's ecosystem, including fast-pairing, auto-switching between your Apple products, 3D Spatial Audio support (which is very cool), and Find My support for locating them when they seem lost. Very nice.
Best wireless earbuds: The best of the rest
The Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds are, as their name suggests, the 'ultimate' noise-cancelling earbuds. They're pricier than many of their competitors, but if blocking out extraneous noise to the extreme is your goal then these are the market leaders.
As we say in our Bose QC Ultra Earbuds review: "if you're in the market for one of the best-sounding pairs of earbuds, these sit in scarce company. Complete with a top-notch app you'll even find exceptional noise cancelling properties and a listening experience which doesn't fatigue on long sessions."
So why aren't these 'buds in the number one slot? Well, it's down to the overall package. While stupendous in many ways, it's the balance of features to price. But if ANC is your everything and you have the cash available then look no further than these, you won't regret it.
The second-gen of Nothing's earbuds, the Ear (2), knocked the T3 team's socks off (well, ears off really). Described in our review as "everything you need and nothing you don't", these affordable in-ears "build on the brand's position as a fashionable start-up offer[ing] a genuine knockout product with excellent sound quality, a top-notch app interface, and great battery life."
Indeed it's hard to find fault with these affordable ANC in-ears, unless you don't particularly enjoy the transparent design and motifs. But come on, they're much more fun to look at than pretty much everything else out there – and for all the right reasons in our view. Best of all, though, they're very keenly priced.
If it's ANC you're after, the PI7s have it in spades: arguably the best of best, which is why our 2021 T3 Award winners for both Best Headphones and Best True Wireless Earbuds were bestowed upon these earbuds.
They do have their slight issues, in that the battery is bettered by most competitors and the price is enough to make you weep. And if you're small-eared, their somewhat bulky design (which packs in some serious drivers) may be more than you can handle in terms of fit.
But outside that, and even considering that, the PI7 are the best luxury wireless ear buds out there – read our full Bowers & Wilkins PI7 review for more gushing about the audio quality.
If you want a combination of good sound, effective noise-cancelling and incredible battery life, the Philips Fidelio T1 are about as good as things get.
You'll rarely have to plug these in because with ANC switched on you'll get a total of 34 hours of juice with the charging case, which goes up to a massive 48 hours without noise-cancelling. And when you do need to recharge the case, it'll only take about two hours!
Elsewhere, these are just as impressive, even though they are a little bulky. The sound is phenomenal and the noise-cancelling is about as good as it gets. It'd be hard not to recommend these wireless earbuds.
Want to find out more? Take a look at the Philips Fidelio T1 review.
The 2021 T3 Award winners for Best Value Headphones, and with very good cause; this sequel to the already amazing Melomania buds doesn't exactly fall into the category of budget true wireless buds, but the Melomania One Plus buds are still half the price of the earphones they're competing with, and Cambridge Audio has offered them every atom of its extensive audio expertise for an excellent listening experience.
Bullet-shaped, light, and supremely comfortable, the Melomania 1+ buds put in a supreme showing, with battery life that hits around 50 hours and newly-added app control which (unlike certain competitors) actually puts you fully in charge of your favourite sound profiles. There's no ANC, which is where most of the savings have been made, although the Melomanias' shape offers very solid passive noise cancelling. Here's our full Cambridge Audio Melomania 1+ review.
For workouts, you won't find wireless earbuds better than the Beats Powerbeats Pro. Comfortable and secure, they won't budge when you're exercising because they push upwards and in to the ear, while the hooks support them from above.
You can buy them in a few cool colours, and naturally they are water-resistant so will survive intense training sessions as well as a bit of rain.
These pack plenty of battery life too. The earbuds last about 9 hours per charge, and the case offers 24 hours of music in total. If you do run out, a quick 15 minutes will top you up by a few hours.
In the Beats Powerbeats Pro review, we thought that they 'sound massive and epic with rock, hip-hop, pop and electronic music – classic 'workout angry' music – but there is enough subtlety to carry off jazz, classical and acoustic sounds.'
Anyone who already owns anything Alexa will like these wireless earbuds. The Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen) connect up to your Alexa app and give you all of the benefits of the voice assistant. You’ll just need to use the wake word ‘Alexa’. You’ll be able to switch songs, control your smart home or ask for the weather forecast without needing to touch a thing.
Granted the battery life isn’t amazing, you’ll only get about 5 hours from a single charge and 15 hours provided by the case which is easily beaten by other options on this list, but in saying that you probably won’t actually need more.
The sound quality is good for a pair of cheap headphones, audiophiles steer clear but everyone else will get on fine with the audio. Whether you listen to podcasts or punk rock, it’s clear and punchy although it does lack detail slightly. Want to know more? Here’s the Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen) review.
The best wireless earbuds: what you need to know
In much the same way as the first nascent Bluetooth headphones were tragically poor, the initial wave of wireless earbuds was, to put it mildly, utterly rubbish. They weren't comfortable, they didn't connect reliably, they sounded pretty terrible. But as Bluetooth has grown, Bluetooth headphones have grown with it, taking advantage of the lower latency, higher bandwidth and better connectivity options now available.
Now that Bluetooth 5.0 is with us, and codecs like aptX and AAC are improving audio all over the show, those disadvantages are simply melting away. Phone manufacturers know this, hence the rapidly diminishing presence of 3.5mm connectors on modern handsets; buying the best set of wireless earphones you can find may not simply be a case of removing that cable out of convenience, it could be a necessity. If not now, then at your next upgrade.
You may find that connected wireless earbuds offer you a slightly better experience, in certain circumstances. Although true wireless buds are getting lighter all the time, connected buds tend to put a little less strain on your ears and offer marginally better battery life, albeit without the safety of a charging case to fall back on. They may also come in at a somewhat cheaper price - though the bottom end of the true wireless earbud market is growing apace. Latency tends to be a little lower outside of the true wireless space, though as most devices manage to compensate for this automatically it's not something you'll notice while watching video; gaming, though? You'll notice that.
True wireless buds, on the other hand, have their own advantages. Want to use just one earbud, in the style of your grandad sneakily listening to the cricket on a transistor radio during Sunday lunch? You got it. Want to avoid a bulky neckband, or indeed anything irritating your neck? That too - they're great for running, provided they fit well enough, and they usually do. Want the ultimate in cool? Let's face it: someone with no wires flapping around their face has the edge, and any element of pretentiousness presented by true wireless buds is quickly disappearing.