Best wireless earbuds 2022: Earbud picks for all budgets

The best wireless earbuds for audio, battery life and comfort, providing great sound with total freedom – whatever your budget

Best wireless earbuds 2022 woman wearing AirPods
(Image credit: Apple)

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 many include passive or active noise cancelling to insulate you from the world. That doesn't just screen out annoyances. It helps protect your hearing too: it means you don't have to turn up the volume as loud to hear your playlist or podcast.

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 here do still have one wire connecting the two earbuds together. Not only can that really bring the price down, but it can also make your earbuds that little bit harder to misplace or lose too.

Those headphones are technically wireless, but they're not "true wireless" – and that's where all the action is in the headphone market right now, so true wireless headphones make up the majority of the models you'll find here. We've included models with and without active noise cancellation, which analyses the sound around you to reduce or remove unwanted audio; if you're certain that you want noise cancelling, check out our guide to the best noise cancelling earbuds to screen out the non-cancelling options.

Don't trust batteries or Bluetooth? Don't worry, there are some great wired headphones too. Our guide to the best wired headphones has the best options for anybody who still wants or needs wires.

Best wireless earbuds 2022: The top 3

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 WF-1000XM4 on white backgroundT3 Awards 2021 winner badges

(Image credit: Sony)
Best wireless buds in the world, full stop, end of story

Specifications

Battery life: 8 hours (buds), 24 hours (case)
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.2
Active noise cancellation: Yes
Weight: 8g per bud, 41g charging case

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent sound
+
Brilliant build
+
Tremendous noise cancellation

Reasons to avoid

-
A little bulky

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."

Sony WF-C500 in ice green on a white backgroundT3 Awards 2022 Highly Commended logo

(Image credit: Sony)
Best cheap wireless earbuds (without ANC)

Specifications

Battery life: 10 hours (buds), 10 hours (case)
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0
Active noise cancellation: No
Weight: 5g per bud, 35g charging case

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent sound quality
+
Manual equaliser settings
+
Comfortable fit 

Reasons to avoid

-
No noise-cancelling
-
Average battery life

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 the Sony WF-C500 review

Apple AirPods Pro on white backgroundT3 Approved badge

(Image credit: Apple)
Best earphones for Apple ecosystem

Specifications

Battery life: 4.5 hours (buds), 24 hours (case)
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0
Active noise cancellation: Yes
Weight: 5.4g per bud, 45g charging case

Reasons to buy

+
Great noise cancelling
+
Very good sound
+
Light and comfortable fit

Reasons to avoid

-
Short battery life in buds
-
Many features are iOS exclusive

The AirPods Pro might be a few years old now, but they remain massively popular because they also remain massively good. The noise cancelling remains impressive (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.

One thing about them that sometimes goes unnoticed is how light and un-bulky they are compared to most of the good noise-cancelling competition, so they might be rightly popular with lots of people for that reason. We're also big fans of the 'squeezy' controls, where you lightly pinch the sticks to play/pause/skip/etc – it's one of the few ways of controlling earbuds that don't mean you're poking them deeping into your ears!

With extra features that make them best when used on iPhone (though they work on Android perfectly well), they're an excellent choice for Apple users especially. Here's our full Apple AirPods Pro review for more.

Best wireless earbuds: The best of the rest

Bowers & Wilkins PI7 on white backgroundT3 Awards 2021 winner badges

(Image credit: Bowers & Wilkins)
Best premium wireless earbuds with incredible sound quality

Specifications

Battery life: 4 hours (buds), 16 hours (case)
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0, aptX
Active noise cancellation: Yes
Weight: 8g buds, 52g charging case

Reasons to buy

+
Astounding sound quality
+
Slimline case
+
Active noise cancellation

Reasons to avoid

-
Low battery life
-
Bulky design

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.

Panasonic RZ-S500WT3 Approved badge

(Image credit: Panasonic)
Best affordable wireless earbuds (with ANC)

Specifications

Battery life: 6.5 hours (buds), 13 hours (case)
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0, aptX
Active noise cancellation: Yes
Weight: 7g per bud, 45g charging case

Reasons to buy

+
Bang-on noise cancelling
+
Comfortable fit
+
Good price

Reasons to avoid

-
Very bulky
-
Plasticky case

Panasonic's first noise-cancelling true wireless buds landed in style in early 2021, and look like an even better deal right now considering that recent price cuts mean they offer wire-free active cancelling for less than the price of even Cambridge Audio's passive-only Melomania 1+. 

Points here are scored in so many departments: they're brilliantly well built, they're superbly responsive to touch controls, they sound amazing and their ANC is, considering this is Panasonic's true wireless debut, absolutely astonishing. 

The RZ-S500W buds compete handily with models well above them in the market, and absolutely deserve your attention if you're looking to save a penny or two. Check out our full Panasonic RZ-S500W review for more.

Philips Fidelio T1 on white backgroundT3 Approved badge

(Image credit: Philips)
The best wireless earbuds for noise cancellation with long battery life

Specifications

Battery life: 9 hours (buds), 25 hours (case)
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.2, aptX, LDAC
Active noise cancellation: Yes
Weight: 109g buds plus case

Reasons to buy

+
Superb audio quality
+
Excellent battery life 
+
Very effective noise cancelling

Reasons to avoid

-
Huge case and chunky buds 
-
Small amount of sound leakage 

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

Cambridge Audio Melomania 1+ on white backgroundT3 Approved badge

(Image credit: Cambridge Audio)
Another affordable option with excellent sound

Specifications

Battery life: 9 hours (buds), 36 hours (case)
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0, aptX
Active noise cancellation: No
Weight: 4.6g per bud, 37g charging case

Reasons to buy

+
Brilliantly small
+
Superior sound
+
Great battery
+
Excellent price

Reasons to avoid

-
Pushing the buttons pokes them into your ears
-
Slightly plasticky case

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.

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 in lavender on white backgroundT3 Approved badge

(Image credit: Samsung)
Best wireless earbuds for Android users

Specifications

Battery life: 5 hours (buds), 20 hours (case)
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.2
Active noise cancellation: Yes
Weight: 5g per bud, 41g charging case

Reasons to buy

+
Good sound quality
+
Active noise cancellation
+
Works seamlessly with other Galaxy devices

Reasons to avoid

-
Not waterproof or even water-resistant 
-
Battery life is just okay 

If you own an Android phone, and more specifically a Samsung Galaxy, then the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 should be towards the top of your list.  They work seamlessly with other Galaxy devices whether that's by adding a handy widget to your phone's home screen or letting you switch between devices without having to do a thing. 

The bean-shaped design will either win you over or it will turn you off them completely, but if you do love it then they come in a few cool colours: Olive, Graphite, Lavender and White. The touch controls are some of the most effective there are, while the noise-cancelling technology does a great job at keeping you immersed in your music. In the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 review, we found that "everything about them works well, very well in fact, if you ignore the average battery life."

Powerbeats Pro on white backgroundT3 Approved badge

(Image credit: Beats by Dre)
Best true wireless buds for workouts

Specifications

Battery life: 9 hours (buds), 24 hours (case)
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0
Active noise cancellation: No
Weight: 11g per bud, 80g charging case

Reasons to buy

+
Totally secure fit for gym or running
+
Remarkably good audio for 'workout buds'
+
Useful extra features on iPhone

Reasons to avoid

-
Humungous case
-
Not the most discreet appearance

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.' 

Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen) on white backgroundT3 Approved badge

(Image credit: Amazon)

10. Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen)

Best wireless earbuds for Alexa fans

Specifications

Battery life: 5 hours (buds), 15 hours (case)
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0
Active noise cancellation: Yes
Weight: 6g per bud, 44g charging case

Reasons to buy

+
Alexa built-in
+
Four sizes of ear tips included
+
Good sound for this price

Reasons to avoid

-
Short battery life
-
Noise-cancelling is just ok

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 ear buds 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 ear bud 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 ear bud, 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.

Alex Cox
Alex Cox

T3 magazine's own Gadget Guru is a 25-year veteran of the tech writing wars, and has the scars to prove it. He's written for the UK's biggest technology publications, and knows everything from smart doorbell voltage needs to how to bend Windows to his every whim.

With contributions from