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 headphones – over-ear (and a few in-ear) Bluetooth buds
- Best noise cancelling headphones – the big boys of Bluetooth
What are the best wireless earbuds?
In a hurry? Finger too tired to scroll? Here are our top picks.
For true wireless in-ears, we reckon the Sony WF-1000XM4 buds have the best overall balance of any wireless earphones, both in terms of sound, price and build.
If you're trying to save a penny, you have a few options, but don't overlook the SoundMagic S20BT, a true bargain set of neckband wireless headphones.
On the mid-range, Cambridge Audio's Melomania 1+ offer a truly excellent experience, with some amazing sound for not much money.
And if you're happy to spend and want the music quality there is, it's the Bowers & Wilkins PI7 all the way.
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.
The best wireless earbuds, in order
Sony's latest true wireless buds are, with all factors considered, the best wireless ear buds 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 B&W's noise cancelling might be an iota more powerful, 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. They're not the ugliest, packing a decent design upgrade from the somewhat unwieldy 1000XM3s, but many others offer a more discrete look. All of which makes it sound as if we're putting them down, which we're absolutely not: there's no ear buds we'd rather use at this point in time, as our full Sony WF-1000XM4 review explains.
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+, above.
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.
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, which we're big fans of.
It's true that the battery life in each charge of the buds isn't very impressive by today's standard, but it's not a problem that often, and the total charge from both buds and case actually remains strong overall.
One thing that 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.
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.
If it's ANC you're after, the PI7s have it in spades: in the true wireless sector, it's noise cancelling good enough that Bowers & Wilkins has Sony not only worried but beaten. Our 2021 T3 Award winners for both Best Headphones and Best True Wireless Earbuds earned that distinction through superior sound, that super-refined ANC, and a feel which exudes pure luxury: the top-end feel of the Bowers & Wilkins PI7s hits you immediately and doesn't go away.
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 PI7s 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 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."
Bag a saving on your purchase with one of our Samsung discount codes.
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.
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.
If you're not so keen on spending loads of money on your next pair of wireless headphones, the Nokia BH-205 Lite Earbuds are super cheap and a great buy.
You can't expect a fancy design or premium features, but you will get decent sound with plenty of battery life (that being 6 hours per charge and 42 hours in total with the case).
These earbuds are also completely waterproof so not only will they be fine with both sweat and rain, they'll even survive if you accidentally drop them in a pool or puddle.
In the Nokia BH-205 Lite Earbuds review, we noted that 'when it comes to sound quality, the Nokia BH-205 Lite Earbuds are actually pretty well-tuned. Music across most genres sounds balanced, with deep bass and a crisp treble' although we did also notice a small amount of distortion when you ramp the volume up.
Those trying to make more eco-conscious buying decisions certainly have a tough job when it comes to buying new tech, so we've found the best wireless earbuds that are made from sustainable materials, the House of Marley Rebels.
Despite being built with bamboo and recycled plastics, they don't feel any less premium than other earbuds at this price, and they're actually very capable when it comes to performance as well.
While you may not get a whole suite of fancy features like ANC or a manual EQ, you do get a couple of handy extras like two preset sound modes and ear detection to stop you from losing one.
This is a solid pair of headphones with decent sound and good battery life (each charge will give you 8 hours of uninterrupted music and the charging case provides a total of 30 hours). Read more in the House of Marley Rebel review.
Unlike the other entries on this list, the Beats Flex earbuds don't come with a matching charging case. They're connected to each other by a flexible rubber neckband, so you can use them for exercising without any worries about losing one or both of them.
Apple users will get the best experience for them because they use the Apple W1 chip which means they'll fit seamlessly into Apple's ecosystem of products. When you power them on they will automatically connect to your iPhone or iPad, and they have Audio Sharing which lets you share what you’re listening to with other Beats headphones or AirPods.
The audio quality won't blow you off your feet but even so, they're excellent value for money. Check out the Beats Flex review for more.