The best true wireless earbuds are an absolute must-have in audio tech today. Apple AirPods may have started the craze, but since their launch a few years back, countless rivals have reared their heads, providing ambitious features and even better sound quality – although the 'Pods Pro have bitten back on that front, the competition is fierce.
The best workout earbuds you can buy are true wireless - they give you wire-free runs and gym sessions, keeping you motivated without the distraction of getting tangled up... so long as they don't fall out en route. If that's a worry then the best wireless earbuds for you might be those with extra security from a connecting wire or ear hook.
Despite there being tons of different types of headphones to choose from, Apple's AirPods still rule the best-sellers lists, while the launch of the more lush sounding AirPods Pro has only deepened their grip on the market. I can't tell you they aren't a fantastic choice because they are, nevertheless, it's definitely worth shopping around - and that's where I come in.
True wireless headphones are dominating the audio world and are way out in front of even the best noise-cancelling headphones, so without further ado, here's the list of the best true wireless buds you can buy today.
How to buy the best true wireless earbuds for you
True wireless buds are getting better all the time – this year's batch are leagues ahead of last year's, which were waaay better than the first wave. The only serious issues remaining with the best true wireless buds are that battery life is still fairly short. However, it's worth remembering that they all come with little cases that recharge your buds when not in use, without the need for a power socket – as long as you remember to periodically charge up the case itself, of course. So while 5-9 hours may seem like quite short battery life overall, it's surely enough for most purposes. Add the additional battery life from in-case recharging, and you're looking at well over 20 hours in most, er, cases.
The other remaining issue is that if a true wireless should fall out of your ear, you are way more likely to lose it than wired buds, or standard Bluetooth ones. Happily, this happens much less easily now, thanks to design refinements. The best true wireless buds, whether intended for exercise or not fit securely, despite usually being very discreet.
Sound quality generally remains of lower quality than comparably priced wired or standard Bluetooth headphones but again is vastly improved over earlier true wireless.
As well as being great for listening to music, true wireless headphones are also very handy for making and taking calls and, with compatible models, triggering Siri, Google or Alexa. You can usually use just one, like an old-school Bluetooth wireless headset. Due to the increased latency involved with linking the two buds together wirelessly I wouldn't say they're great for movies and TV, where lip-syncing is needed, but you can use them for that at a push.
True wireless earbuds have one massive advantage: they give you complete freedom from cables. Believe me, it's quite hard going back to wires after trying true wireless.
Best true wireless earbuds, in order
In a world of thousands of true wireless earbuds, the Bowers & Wilkins PI7 are some of the very best. They have exceptional sound but there are no compromises here. Everything about the audio quality is exactly what you want from a pair of headphones you'll love to wear day in, day out. You'll hear music exactly as it was meant to be heard. Phenomenal.
You won't just be blown away by the sound quality from the Bowers & Wilkins PI7 earbuds - they have plenty of extra features that make them well-worth their rather expensive price tag. With a USB-C-to-USB-C cable and a 3.5mm-to-USB-C cable in the box, you can use either of these to plug the PI7's case into a computer or analogue audio source, effectively as a wireless adapter. The case will then send sound to the headphones over aptX LL (so: CD-quality audio). A very unique feature that will be incredibly handy.
However, while they will fit most really comfortably and securely, this is the first time I've seen a pair of in-ear earbuds that someone literally couldn't use due to their small ear size/shape. Despite that, the Bowers & Wilkins PI7 are a true wireless masterpiece. If you have the money to spend on them, and big enough ears, you can't really get much better.
Arguably £99 isn't 'cheap' as such, but it's a great price for true wireless buds of this quality. Putting it as basically as I can, the Melomania from UK hi-fi dons Cambridge Audio combines the sound quality of the Beats buds with the portability of the Jabras whilst costing very considerably less than either of them.
You might think these bullet-like in-ear true wireless headphones look like they're either uncomfortable or prone to falling out, but actually neither of those assumptions is true. Although admittedly they are somewhat more uncomfortable and prone to falling out than their pricier rivals above. They're generally fine though. Admittedly it is easy to get the left and right buds mixed up, but that's no big deal.
Where the Melomania buds excel, particularly given their price, is in how they sound. With support for AAC, apt-X and SBC and drivers made of miracle substance graphene, the Melomania 1 are uniformly excellent with all types of music.
Their battery life is also right up there with the very best at 9 hours, with a complete recharge possible in just 30 minutes. Your colour choices? 'Stone' (light grey) and 'black' (very dark grey, I'd call it). You can't go wrong.
For a pair of true wireless earbuds that combine superb sound with a long-lasting battery, look no further than the Master & Dynamic MW08.
Using custom 11mm Beryllium drivers, the Master & Dynamic MW08 are very clearly focused on delivering high-end audio performance. I can tell you now, that is exactly what they do. And with 12 hours of music from each charge, and 42 hours provided by the case, you can be listening all day and all night, and then all day again, and all night again.
Feature-wise, they have ANC and Ambient modes to give you a musical experience without distraction. Plus, the ear-detection will pause the music when you take them out so you'll never miss a beat.
Tucked into a sleek matte case, these square buds are the epitome of class and style. Granted, they won't be to everyone's taste, but the ceramic finish is truly smart. It'd be hard not to recommend these earbuds.
Despite the sub-heading of this feature being 'AirPods alternatives' you would be foolish to discount Apple's market-leading buds. Their battery life may be on the short side compared to recent rivals but there's a reason they make up 80% of the true wireless market in terms of sales. Indeed, arguably there would be no true wireless market without them.
Version 2 of the original AirPods – released in 2019 – and the AirPods Pro are very different propositions, despite their vaguely similar looks and very similar names.
AirPods (2019) actually sound somewhat better than their reputation suggests, although there is almost no noise isolation so they are hardly ideal for music outdoors or on public transport. Not that this seems to put off their millions of commuting fans, it must be said.
However, the loose, comfortable fit makes them great for all-day wear – so long as you recharge periodically anyway; the battery life is somewhat less than all-day at around 5 hours. You can hear what's happening around you, easily pull them out and put them in as needed, take calls, listen to music, activate Siri on iOS devices… It's all very effortless, in the best Apple tradition.
Two models of standard AirPods are available, one with a wireless and Lightning cable charging case and one with a wired (Lightning cable only) charging case. You'll need a Qi charging mat of some sort for the wireless version.
AirPods Pro on the other hand feature noise cancellation and a whole raft of audio-enhancing features to give a much more immersive musical experience. As with the Jabras above, you can select hear-through mode, so you can talk to people without removing the buds, but you may prefer to ignore other people and just enjoy the music instead – I know I do.
As with Beats, some critics tend to be a bit sniffy about the sound quality of Apple products but AirPods Pro are definitely up there when it comes to making sweet, sweet music. As indeed they should be at their less-than-giveaway price. You do get a wireless charging case as standard, though.
Contrary to what some people think, all AirPods work perfectly well with Android phones and other equipment. You just don't get any fancy graphics when you pair, unlike on iOS devices, and you can't use Siri with them, for obvious reasons.
The House of Marley Champion true wireless earbuds are created using eco-friendly materials - even the charging cable is made up of 99% recyclable polyester. But that doesn't mean compromising on sound quality. Considering their price, these are an almost perfectly tuned pair of buds for most genres of music.
For most, they'll feel secure enough to use for your workouts, although if you have small ears you may find them uncomfortable to wear for long periods. Other useful features include water and sweat resistance, a clear-as-day microphone and long-lasting battery life.
It's fantastic to see a pair of true wireless buds that offer something for eco-conscious music lovers on a budget.
I've been using these for a year or so now and they are still the true wireless buds I always go back to. Clearly Beats Powerbeats are marketed as running/workout buds but their audio quality is on par with any other true wireless headphones out there, with the exception of the much more uncomfortable Sony WF-1000XM3.
The fit is absolutely unshakeable, which is obviously great for running and working out, but it also means the Powerbeats are great for any occasion when you're on the move. Sound is sufficiently good that they're also excellent for use when you're on public transport or even for home listening although, like all these buds, you get some lag when listening to a YouTube clip, movie or TV show.
Because of their over-ear hooks the Beats Powerbeats Pro are quite large, and the battery case is almost comically so. Other than that, they're well nigh the perfect buds.
The Jabra Elite 75t and their battery case, are extremely compact and fit beautifully. Once inserted there is very little to see, but what's visible is suitably stylish and well finished; ditto the compact, easily-pocketed case.
Sound quality could be described as a little artificial, but it's also pleasingly pumping – ideal for electronic, pop and a lot of rock music although maybe not so great for flute solos. I should think 90% of people would find very little to grumble about. Although there's no active noise cancelling, the excellent in-ear fit makes for very good noise isolation. The basic on-ear controls can be used to skip tracks and activate hear-through – this works really well. You can also tap an ear to awaken your favoured virtual assistant. Call quality is good, and you can use either bud on its own, in mono, should you wish.
While these are not technically sweat- and waterproof, they are IPX5 rated and I have never had any problems using them for most workouts. Battery life, at 7.5 hours, and 28 in total with case recharging, is surely sufficient for anyone's purposes outside of flights to Australia.
I don't really have a bad word to say about the Elite 75t, in fact. It will be interesting to see to what extent Jabra can top them with the Elite 85t.
• Jabra alternatives. The Elite Active 75t is essentially the same as the 75t but adds full waterproofing and sweat-proofing for gym goers and runners. It's also still well worth getting the older Elite 65t and Elite Active 65t if the price is right. They are very slightly bigger and have poorer battery life (5 hours/24 hours) but they remain excellent options. This handy pricing widget will show you where the best value is today!
I got these at the weekend – they just launched in the UK, after being released in the US a while back. I kind of assumed Google Pixel Buds would be a typically slick Google product that would find favour with true Google believers but would mean very little to anyone else. However, they're genuinely good true wireless earbuds at a pretty reasonable price. By that, I mean they are a fair bit cheaper than the Apple AirPods Pro that they are obviously meant to be wrestling with, in the Octagon of Tech Confrontation.
Audio is not quite up there with AirPods Pro – it's a bit boomy – but it's good, and you've got IPX4 water resistance and a very nice, secure-but-not-unpleasant fit. There's no noise cancelling, but I am not entirely sold on the usefulness of noise cancelling anyway, when it's applied to buds that sit in your ears so well that they block out exterior sound effectively anyway.
When used in conjunction with a Pixel phone you apparently get all manner of slick stuff around pairing and activating Google Assistant, like a mirror image of AirPods Pro. Like most people in the universe, I don't have a Google Pixel phone, and Google didn't send me one of them at the weekend, but they paired very easily with my iPhone and worked in exactly the way I'd expect, while sounding very good indeed.
I am not too sure Google Pixel Buds will set the world on fire sales-wise, because Google hardware has a tendency not to, but they clearly represent better value for money than their more illustrious Apple forebears. The only thing I really didn't like was the 'Adaptive Sound' feature, which 'dynamically and subtly adjusts the volume as you move between quiet and noisy environments.' It seemed decidedly unsubtle to me – when entering and leaving shops, for instance, it was quite jarring. However, it is easy to turn off and an interesting feature that I expect a lot of people will like a lot. Just not me.
Overall, a well-priced pair of true wireless buds with a lot to offer. And they're available in 'Almost Black' and 'Clearly White', which I am sure seemed like a good idea to someone, at the time. Up next: limited edition 'Quite Mint' and 'Oh So Orange'. No, really.
If you want true wireless earbuds with active noise cancelling but you’re on a budget, the Huawei Freebuds 4i are worth considering, they’re some of the cheapest ANC earbuds you can buy.
You’ll be able to rely on these earbuds to last you the day with 10 hours of uninterrupted music, which gets bumped up to 22 hours with the extra juice provided by the charging case. Best suited to lovers of pop music, the sound quality was well-balanced and loud. It is worth knowing that they struggled more with bass-heavy music, but if that’s not your jam anyway, that won’t be too much of a problem.
Suitable for gym workouts, they stay put in your ears and are IP54 sweat resistant. To control them, there are basic touch controls to pause and play the music or to answer or reject a call. Easy to use, easy to set up, these are a simple, stylish pair of true wireless earbuds.
Having a focus on cleanliness across their tech products is a good move from LG, because who isn’t more focused on it now? The LG Tone Free FN7 come with a UVnano case which uses UV light to supposedly kill 99.9% of bacteria on earbuds when they are charging.
The previous generation of the earbuds had the same case but it lacked a feature most have come to expect from a pair of high-quality true wireless earbuds - active noise cancelling. The LG Tone Free FN7 rectified this, and although it did mean upping the price slightly, it made for a much better pair of earbuds. Having the ANC not only blocks out exterior noise but also boosts the quality of the sound. If you are looking for a reliable pair of discreet earbuds with good sound quality, the LG Tone Free FN7 will be a great choice.
Okay, is £99/$99-ish not cheap enough for ya? Get a load of this cast-iron, copper-bottomed, ocean-going bargain. For less than the price of some AirPods cases, you get solid, 7-hour battery life, a good fit that's somewhere between AirPods and AirPods pro in its mix of comfort and security, 4 mics and voice noise suppression for great call quality, AND an IPX7 rating for waterproofing and sweat resistance.
Despite being marketed largely as being for making and taking calls, music quality is also perfectly okay, and there's support for aptX as well as Bluetooth 5. Build quality is also far better than you might expect, for such a low price? How does Anker do it? I don't know, but it does 'it' very consistently especially in its Soundcore audio guise.
• Also consider: Anker Soundcore Liberty Neo is another great Soundcore option. Also sweat-proof, these true wireless buds are a much better shape and fit for use when working out or running than the P2. To put it as simply as I can, P2 is a great, cheap AirPods rival and the Liberty Neo is a great, cheap Jabra Elite Active 75t rival. Again, the sound quality is no great shakes but it's also nothing to complain too bitterly about, given the cost.
Got golden ears that crave the best possible sound quality from true wireless earbuds? Look no further than the Sony WF-1000XM3. The Beats and Apple Pro buds above sound great, but Sony's rivals thrash even those star performers with a big stick when it comes to big, satisfying sound. The noise cancelling is also best in class. That's particularly true on transport that runs on wheels or rails, and it does a pretty decent job on flights as well.
As with several other of the buds here, a 'hear-through' system means you need never remove these buds, even when you wish to converse, or listen to announcements. Due to their rather large size – necessary include such high quality drivers, presumably – they are kind or uncomfortable though, so maybe you'll want to take them out to listen instead.
We gave these audiophile earbuds a five-star review at launch but over time I started to find them increasingly irritating to use when on the go, largely because they are pretty large, quite uncomfortable/hard to fit, and have a tendency to boom quite nastily as you walk as a result. I'd probably give them four stars now. However, in the 'credit' column, the price of the WF-1000XM3 has come down quite a bit from their launch price of £219 , even though they remain the best-sounding true wireless buds you can buy, by a comfortable margin.
So if you mainly want to listen while sitting down, whether at home, at the office or on various means of transportation, the WF-1000XM3 are definitely still worth considering.
For a pair of true wireless earbuds that are a cheap alternative to the classic Apple AirPods, the Urbanears Luma could be a good choice. They have the same one-size-fits-all design with a dangling stem, but they come in way more interesting colours.
Although you can get headphones with better sound quality, you'll be hard pushed to find a pair at such a small price. Despite not having manual EQ settings or noise cancelling, they'll easily satisfy the needs of most, whether you're into pop, rock or podcasts.
Not only that but they come with a charging case providing you with an extra four full charges, IPX4 splash resistance and clear microphones on both earbuds. In summary, these true wireless earbuds are fantastic value for money.
The Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 improves over Sennheiser's first stab at this type of bud with much improved battery life. Despite looking identical, these buds are also a but smaller and hence more comfortable.
Despite that, they still suffer a bit for the exact same reason as Momentum TW version 1. They're the most expensive buds on test but they don't seem to me to quite justify that lofty pricing.
The Sennheisers naturally sound very good but In terms of pure sound quality, to my ears, the Sony WF-1000XM3 are better, as well as being cheaper and having better noise cancelling. These Momentum buds also aren't very suitable for workouts, unlike many of the options here.
On the other hand, these have a more comfortable and reliable fit than the Sony buds and I dare say some listeners will prefer their more natural sound – and, arguably, more 'natural', though less effective, noise cancelling – over the thrillingly propulsive Sonys. I also expect to see the price coming down fairly soon.
Bose SoundSport Free was where true wireless came of age, and they duly scooped a T3 Award.
At last, someone made a pair of true wireless headphones that sound perfectly alright – I'm not going to say amazing, because they're not, but most people will have no quibbles – do not drop connection, power up and connect reliably when you take them out of the case, and are no less comfortable to wear than any pair of Bluetooth in-ears.
Sonically they are better than the Apple AirPods, they fit better, and while they don't have the same smart AI features, does that really matter for most users? I would suggest not.
Five hours of battery life is actually pretty good by true wireless standards, while the case isn't overly bulbous and charges reliably and quickly (15 minutes for 45 minutes use).
Despite their name, I don't consider these great for running. That's partly because the fit is comfortable rather than unshakeable, but mainly because I have never encountered a headphone so susceptible to wind noise. Seriously, in a high wind, it destroys the sound.
That, I assume, is because they protrude quite a long way from the ears. That's why they're so comfortable and also possibly why the connectivity is so good (the antennae not being imprisoned in your ear canal). And, uh, it's also why they make you look slightly alien when wearing them.
However, for indoor fitness or running in fine weather or just for use as a pair of musical, true wireless headphones, Bose SoundSport is a great option.
The Beoplay E8 2.0, like the Sennheiser above, was a big step forward over the very annoying E8 1.0, but still quite hard to recommend wholeheartedly. In this case, this was due to its connectivity 'quirks', relatively uncomfortable and non-secure fit and irritating touch controls. Oh and the battery life was a bit 2 years ago as well, at just 4 hours.
When not randomly disconnecting from each other and/or your phone, the E8 2.0 was and is still one of the best true wireless options in terms of audio quality, however, and now that its price has tumbled from £250/$250 to under £150/$150, fans of the audio wares of Bang & Olufsen's lifestyle offshoot may be tempted.
• Also consider: I've never actually tried the third generation BeoPlay E8 but I can only assume it's a big improvement over this in terms of connectivity and battery life. But then it should be, given what it costs…