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A bunch of different true wireless earbuds side by side on a table Credit: Reviewed / Geoffrey Morrison

The Best True Wireless Earbuds Under $100 of 2022

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A bunch of different true wireless earbuds side by side on a table Credit: Reviewed / Geoffrey Morrison

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Editor's Choice Product image of Anker Soundcore Space A40
Best Overall

Anker Soundcore Space A40

The Soundcore Space A40 set a new mark for earbuds under $100 thanks to their excellent ANC that's better than more expensive earbuds and great sound. Read More

Pros

  • Amazing ANC for the price
  • Customizable sound profiles
  • Great battery life

Cons

  • Little sizzly out of the box
  • Lows can cover vocals
2
Editor's Choice Product image of JLab Audio Epic Air Sport ANC True Wireless Earbuds
Best for Sports

JLab Audio Epic Air Sport ANC True Wireless Earbuds

A secure fit, long battery life, great sound, and a splash of noise canceling make for great all-around headphones—especially for the price point. Read More

Pros

  • Secure, adaptable fit
  • Multiple sound options
  • Very long battery life

Cons

  • Over-ear loop isn't for everyone
3
Editor's Choice Product image of JLab Go Air Pop
Best Value

JLab Go Air Pop

While they definitely can't compete with our favorite pairs, at a fraction of the cost, there’s no better way to try true wireless earbuds guilt-free. Read More

Pros

  • Great battery life
  • Solid controls and connection
  • Ample water resistance

Cons

  • Pedestrian sound
  • Very slim feature set
  • Materials feel flimsy
4
Editor's Choice Product image of Jabra Elite 3

Jabra Elite 3

Jabra's Elite 3 prove that true wireless buds are capable of stellar value. The Elite 3 deliver good sound, reliable design, and excellent battery life at an unbeatable price. Read More

Pros

  • Good, punchy sound
  • Great battery life
  • Comfortable fit

Cons

  • Limited features
  • Case feels flimsy
5
Editor's Choice Product image of Anker Soundcore Liberty 2

Anker Soundcore Liberty 2

Comfortable, highly customizable, and offering great sound, the Liberty 2 check all the right boxes. Read More

Pros

  • Good sound you can EQ to taste
  • Multiple wings and ear tips
  • Full-day battery

Cons

  • Case feels flimsy

The average price of true wireless earbuds has dropped significantly over the last few years, while quality has only improved. The absolute best wireless earbuds you can buy will perform better than pairs on this list, but these options hold their own.

We've spent years testing dozens of models to find the best budget wireless earbuds. None are perfect, but there are some gems sitting at the top of the mountain. Our top pair for most people are the Anker Soundcore Space A40 (available at Amazon), which offer impressive active noise cancellation for their price, great features, and lots of ways to customize. But there are plenty of other enticing options, including some sportier pairs, and some that will barely even ding your wallet.

These are the best budget true wireless earbuds we tested:

  • Anker Soundcore Space A40
  • JLab Epic Air Sport ANC
  • Jlab Go Air Pop
  • Jabra Elite 3
  • Anker Soundcore Liberty 2 Wireless
  • Skullcandy Grind Fuel
  • House of Marley Champion
  • JLab Epic Air ANC
  • Google Pixel Buds A-Series
  • Sony WF-C500
  • Anker Soundcore Life Dot 2
  • Tribit FlyBuds NC
  • 1More ColorBuds
A man wearing the Anker Soundcore Space A40 earbuds while standing outside in front of a tree.`
Credit: Reviewed / John Higgins

The Anker Soundcore Space A40 earbuds deliver the best ANC performance you can get for under $100.

Best Overall
Anker Soundcore Space A40
  • Battery life: 10 hours, up to 50 with the case
  • Ambient sound modes: Adaptive ANC, Transparency mode
  • Dust/water resistance: IPX4 rating

It’s amazing how far active noise canceling in inexpensive headphones has come over the past couple years, and Anker has been at the forefront of the improvements. The Soundcore Space A40 are not only the best ANC earbuds under $100, they compete above their price class. The Space A40’s ANC is at least as good as earbuds for $150, like the Jabra Elite 5.

The adaptive ANC on the Space A40 does a great job with low drones, such as airplane cabin noise or HVAC units, and it even takes the edge off of midrange conversation that you’ll find at the local coffee shop. The noise canceling doesn’t completely remove it, but if you’re listening to music at a low level it’s enough to block out your surroundings. Within the Soundcore app you can choose between two Transparency modes, one full range and one that puts the focus on letting voices through if you need to have a quick conversation.

The A40 earbuds have a nice sound profile, although their highs (especially cymbals) can be a tad piercing and mids are a little covered by the low end. They can be tuned a bit, thanks to the 8-band EQ in the app. There’s also HearID Sound, which profiles your hearing perception in each ear and creates an EQ curve customized to your ears. It works pretty well and delivers a nice improvement over the default profile. Hi-res audio and LDAC are both supported.

The touch controls—single tap, double tap, and hold for two seconds—can be turned on and off per control. They’re also fully customizable, assignable to volume, track controls, and for the two-second hold the added options of Ambient Sound Mode select, Voice Assistant activation, and Game Mode toggle.

Throw wireless case charging on top of the features pile and the Anker Space A40 set a new standard for earbuds performance under $100.

Pros

  • Amazing ANC for the price

  • Customizable sound profiles

  • Great battery life

Cons

  • Little sizzly out of the box

  • Lows can cover vocals

JLab Epic Air Sport ANC earbuds
Credit: Reviewed/Geoffrey Morrison

JLab's Epic Air Sport ANC earbuds are great for working out, and everything else you do.

Best for Sports
JLab Audio Epic Air Sport ANC True Wireless Earbuds
  • Ambient sound modes: Noise canceling, transparency mode
  • Dust/water resistance: IP66
  • Battery life: Up to 13 hours per charge, over 50 hours with case

Just because the JLab Epic Air Sport ANC are our best sports pick doesn’t mean you should dismiss them if you’re not sporty. The same things that make them great for active types make them good for most people. They offer a comfortable fit, especially those who struggle with traditional earbuds. They’re also IP66 rated, meaning they’ve got good dust resistance and you can get them quite wet—but don’t submerge them.

The over-ear loop design fits comfortably even with glasses. Some people aren’t a fan of this style, but it allows for a very secure fit—we never once felt that they’d fall out and get lost.

The sound is a bit bass-heavy, but there are extensive EQ options to help you fine-tune a balanced sound. Battery life was slightly less than claimed. We measured around 13 hours on a single charge to JLab’s claim of 15, but still, that’s a ton for true wireless headphones. Features like noise canceling will diminish battery life, although their noise canceling is mild at best, so if that’s your focus it’s best to look at the Anker Space A40.

The case, a bit larger than the others, also holds a big battery, offering about 3.5 additional charges. It (oddly) has an attached USB cable, but more importantly, it has wireless charging. If you’re headed out for a walk or hike, these are the ones you’d want to grab. If you don’t like the over-ear loops, however, the Anker Space A40 or Liberty 2 are the better choice.

Pros

  • Secure, adaptable fit

  • Multiple sound options

  • Very long battery life

Cons

  • Over-ear loop isn't for everyone

Aqua green earbuds sit in front of a small charging case on a black matte desk.
Credit: Reviewed/Ryan Waniata

JLab's Go Air Pop earbuds are shockingly affordable and offer some solid specs.

Best Value
JLab Go Air Pop
  • Ambient sound modes: None
  • Dust/water resistance: IPX4
  • Battery life: Up to 8 hours per charge, 32 hours with case

JLab’s Go Air Pop are by no means the best earbuds on this list. But with a lower level of commitment than your choice of pizza toppings, there’s no better guilt-free entry point for wireless earbuds. You could call these your trainer pair—a great way to see if true wireless is for you, with very little commitment.

The Go Air Pop are easy to pair and offer solid connection. The sound is serviceable for listening to music and podcasts in a variety of scenarios. There’s not much delicacy, depth, or dimension here, and they can struggle to deliver higher frequencies—especially cymbals. But there’s also no egregious sibilance or bloated bass. If you’re not super picky about sound, they should do just fine.

Both the earbud housings and the case reflect their low price. But this is also a strikingly nimble package that easily fits in your pocket. They also met their battery life claims, lasting for 8 hours in testing, which meets or beats some of the best around. The case holds 3 more charges.

Features are unsurprisingly slim, with no transparency mode or Active Noise Cancellation. There are also no extras like wireless charging, auto-pause, or a dedicated app for fancier fare like tracking your lost buds. The touch controls are solid, though, allowing for basic playback control (including volume control) and even basic EQ to boost bass.

If you or a loved one are looking to get into fully wireless earbuds on a very thin dime, JLab’s Go Air Pop are surprisingly well-stocked (especially in the battery department) at a price that barely registers.

Pros

  • Great battery life

  • Solid controls and connection

  • Ample water resistance

Cons

  • Pedestrian sound

  • Very slim feature set

  • Materials feel flimsy


Other Affordable True Wireless Headphones We Tested

Product image of Jabra Elite 3
Jabra Elite 3
  • Ambient sound modes: Transparency mode
  • Dust/water resistance: IP55
  • Battery life: 7 hours per charge, 28 hours with case

Jabra’s Elite 3 are heavy hitters in their price range. Jabra makes some of our favorites, like the Jabra Elite 85t, so it’s no surprise that the Elite 3 deliver solid quality for a very friendly price, including some of the best sound in their price range.

What’s the catch? Jabra’s kept things simple: You don’t get active noise canceling, or even adjustable EQ—both features we love on Jabra’s pricier buds. The transparency mode is also a scant addition at best.

There are some comfort features like Google Fast Pair and solid controls, but the almost bare-bones feature set is the Elite 3’s biggest weakness. But the Elite 3 make up for their lack of extras in audio and microphone quality. We were taken aback by their robust sound, which provides a satisfyingly punchy soundscape without burying subtler musical elements. Call quality is also stellar for a set of earbuds this affordable.

The Elite 3 deliver mightily on the core basics, keeping their cost low by paring down some features that are standard on pricier models. If you just want steak and don’t need much sizzle, the Jabra Elite 3 are seriously satisfying.

Pros

  • Good, punchy sound

  • Great battery life

  • Comfortable fit

Cons

  • Limited features

  • Case feels flimsy

Product image of Anker Soundcore Liberty 2
Anker Soundcore Liberty 2
  • Ambient sound modes: Noise canceling, transparency mode
  • Dust and water resistance: IPX5
  • Battery life: Up to 7 hours per charge, 28 hours with case

The Anker Soundcore Liberty 2 are an excellent choice for most people thanks to customizable fit, customizable sound, and above-average battery life. They include multiple ear tips and silicone wings so just about anyone can get a comfortable, secure fit, and the Anker app lets you dial in the sound you want. You may prefer the fit or sound of another pair of Bluetooth earbuds, but the Liberty 2 are one of our favorites.

The sound is among the best we tested in this price range. It’s a bit bass-heavy, and a touch sharp in the upper register, but the EQ options in Anker’s companion app can tune the sound to your preferences. In fact, the app has a feature called HearID that will help find the EQ settings best for your ears.

Battery life was a bit less than claimed—we tracked 7 hours of playback per charge instead of 8. That’s mid-pack for this category, but still above average compared to more expensive options. The case should offer about 3 full charges. Speaking of the case, it feels a bit flimsy; its thin plastic cover slides to open, and seems like it could get knocked open in a purse or backpack.

The Liberty 2 are IPX5 Certified, which means they’re waterproof against strong splashes, and even light jets. You can’t dunk them, but you can work out without worrying about your sweat causing damage.

The Anker Soundcore Liberty 2’s fit and sound options offer the most for the most people, and at a great price.

Pros

  • Good sound you can EQ to taste

  • Multiple wings and ear tips

  • Full-day battery

Cons

  • Case feels flimsy

Product image of Skullcandy Grind Fuel
Skullcandy Grind Fuel
  • Ambient sound modes: Transparency mode
  • Dust/water resistance: IP55
  • Battery life: 9 hours per charge, 40 hours with case

Skullcandy’s Grind Fuel earbuds are a prime example of just how capable budget buys can be. For just under $100, the Grind Fuel offer 9 hours of battery life per charge, good water resistance, and even their own hands-free (and internet-free) voice assistant.

All of those features live up to their specs, and are bolstered by other neat capabilities. They have built-in Tile tracking technology, and you can tether two pairs of Skullcandy IQ earbuds together for shared listening.

The native voice assistant, which responds to the wake words “Hey Skullcandy,” doesn't match standouts like Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant, but performs basic functions like changing tracks and adjusting volume hands-free.

One of the biggest knocks is the lack of active noise canceling. ANC was once unthinkable at this price, but competitors like the Anker Soundcore Space A40 and Jabra Elite 4 Active add impressive ANC for a teensy amount more (or the same price on sale). The Grind Fuel do offer transparency mode to hear the world around you, and their tight fit passively blocks out noise well.

The lack of ANC and a sound signature that’s inconsistent at best are the biggest reasons to pass on Skullcandy’s Grind Fuel. Otherwise, these buds really are a bargain.

Pros

  • Great features and battery life

  • Good fit

  • Wildly useful app

Cons

  • Inconsistent sound

  • No auto-pause functionality

Product image of House of Marley Champion True Wireless
House of Marley Champion True Wireless
  • Ambient sound modes: None
  • Dust/water resistance: IPX4
  • Battery life: 8 hours per charge, 24 hours with case

The House of Marley Champion are a tiny pair of earbuds made predominantly from sustainable and recycled materials like bamboo, natural fibers and silicone from post-consumer waste. Even the charging cable is “post-consumer recyclable polyester.” For anyone looking for a greener alternative in a sea of plastic headphones, these are a great place to start.

Beyond their Earth-friendlier materials, the earbuds themselves are quite good. They aren’t right on the podium with our top picks, but they’re definitely near it. We got more than their claimed 8 hours of battery life in testing, and the tiny case can charge them back up more than twice.

The case charges with USB-C, and, like the earbuds, has a small bamboo accent that looks great. The buds are IPX4 water-resistant, which means you can splash them but not submerge them.

The sound quality is good, though the bass is a bit messy and there’s more emphasis on the treble than their more balanced competitors. They do especially well with podcasts and audiobooks. The biggest issue is their lack of extras. They don't offer features like ANC or even transparency mode, and they only come with two sets of tips, so those with larger ears and/or ear canals might not be able to get a secure fit.

Still, if you’re looking for a more planet-friendly pair of earbuds for your money, the House of Marley Champion may be the pick for you.

Pros

  • Eco-friendly design

  • Comfortable

  • Wood offers nice aesthetic

Cons

  • Only two tips included

  • May not fit large ears

Product image of JLab Audio Epic Air ANC True Wireless Earbuds
JLab Audio Epic Air ANC True Wireless Earbuds
  • Ambient sound modes: Noise canceling, transparency mode
  • Dust/water resistance: IP55
  • Battery life: Up to 12 hours per charge, 48 hours with case

The Epic Air ANC seem like they’d be similar to their siblings, the Epic Air Sport ANC, minus the over-ear loops. However, their performance is weaker. Claimed battery life for the buds is a bit lower, at 12 hours versus 15 for the Sports, and they measured less in testing. The case should recharge the buds around three times, the same as the Sport.

That’s not the only place they came up short. They offer lower water resistance, IP55-rated instead of IP66. The bass is less-defined and sloppier. They feel loose in the ear, and people on the other end of phone calls had trouble hearing us.

Like their Sports sibling, the noise canceling is very mild. The app-adjustable transparency mode, called Be Aware, can actually increase the sound of the world around you in a sort of reverse-noise canceling that is useful in certain situations.

They’re light, and like the Sport, the case has a built-in USB connector and wireless charging. But unless you really hate over-ear loops, the Sport are the better option.

Pros

  • Light and comfortable

  • Good battery life

  • Wireless charging case

Cons

  • Fit isn't particularly secure

Product image of Google Pixel Buds A-Series
Google Pixel Buds A-Series
  • Ambient sound modes: Adaptive volume
  • Dust/water resistance: IPX4
  • Battery life: 5 hours per charge, 24 hours with case

The Pixel Buds A-Series are the follow-up to the 2020 Google Pixel Buds and deliver a full-scale improvement. Streamlined and shored up, the A-Series notably undercuts the previous model’s pricing while still delivering the best of their predecessor.

These buds provide relatively good sound quality (though the Pixel Buds Pro handily outdo them). Where they really stand out is their design and fit: the pocketable case is composed of buttery-smooth plastic, while the buds themselves are as space-saving and fashion-conscious as much pricier competitors. There's also hands-free Google Assistant for Android, a definite plus in this price range, and their rubberized fins make sure they stay put.

On the other hand, they’re missing some notable popular features. Neither noise canceling nor transparency mode make the cut, but you’ll still find features like adaptive sound that adjusts the volume when things get noisy, in-ear detection, and a Find Device feature.

The A-Series get 5-hours of playback time per charge, which is pretty low in 2022, but should suffice for most use cases. The Pixel Buds A-Series look and feel more expensive than they are, but lag behind the competition in features. For budget-conscious Googlers who don’t need noise canceling, they're worth consideration.

Pros

  • Solid sound with bass boost on

  • Magnificent design

  • Excellent Google Assistant integration

Cons

  • No transparency mode

  • Sub-par battery life

  • No onboard volume controls

Product image of Sony WF-C500
Sony WF-C500
  • Ambient sound modes: None
  • Dust/water resistance: IPX4
  • Battery life: 10 hours per charge, 20 hours with case

In the ever-growing pantheon of wireless buds, Sony’s C500 are unremarkable, except for their sizeable 10 hours of playback time per charge. That doubles rivals like the Pixel Buds A-Series and plenty of others, especially at their $100 MSRP.

Their relatively stylish (if understated) design provides mid-level water resistance and a comfy fit that lets you wear them for hours. In nearly all other regards, though, these earbuds are decidedly ordinary. They don’t offer active noise canceling or even transparency mode, something we’ve come to expect at this price point.

They also skip a wide swath of features from Sony’s Headphones Connect app. You get multi-band EQ, and extras like Sony’s 360 Reality Audio. Otherwise, there’s not a lot here. Even the slim charging case is underpowered, offering only one extra charge. Their sound performance does offer some sparkling detail, especially if you really dig jazz and acoustic instrumentation. But it can also get a bit sharp in the upper registers.

These are entry-level buds from a premium brand, and the chance to nab Sony buds for $100 alone makes them worthy of consideration. If you just want a base-level experience from relatively stylish and comfy earbuds, the C500 definitely deliver. But if you’re looking for extras, you’re better off looking elsewhere.

Pros

  • Stylish, comfy design

  • 10 hours of playback time

  • Good instrumental separation

Cons

  • Minimal features

  • Sound can be too bright

  • No transparency or ANC modes

Product image of Anker Soundcore Life Dot 2
Anker Soundcore Life Dot 2
  • Ambient sound modes: None
  • Dust/water resistance: IPX5
  • Battery life: 8 hours per charge, up to 100 hours with case

The Life Dot 2’s curved, shell-shaped “Airwings” look odd, but they fit quite well in testing. Unfortunately, the larger AirWings routinely slid down over the metal contacts that allowed the earbuds to charge. If we didn’t notice this when they were put away, they wouldn’t charge.

Battery life is good; testing backed up their claimed 8 hours per charge. The case has a huge battery which should offer about 12 charges. They’re IPX5 certified, meaning there's no dust resistance and you shouldn't submerge them but splashing water (and even a bit more) should be OK.

Audio performance is mid-tier. There's a bit too much sizzle to the Life Dot 2’s upper mid-range, which can be mildly unpleasant. Unlike the Space A40, you can’t connect the Dot 2 to Anker’s app to adjust this. The price, however, is great.

Pros

  • Tiny, yet comfy

  • Lots of battery in the case

Cons

  • Sound is so-so

  • AirWings don't fit securely on buds

Product image of Tribit FlyBuds NC
Tribit FlyBuds NC
  • Ambient sound modes: Noise canceling, transparency mode
  • Dust/water resistance: IPX4
  • Battery life: Up to 11 hours per charge, ~30 hours with case

If we had a “budget runner-up” category, the FlyBuds would take it. They’re among the few pairs we’ve tried with the long pillar design that actually fit well, and they're regularly priced lower than most options on our list.

The sound is quite good, a bit mid-heavy and a little brittle, but solidly above average. Like many noise canceling options, it’s mostly here in name only, with very little actual noise reduction. Battery life was very good. We measured 11 hours without NC active, higher than their claimed 10. The case should offer a bit more than two additional charges.

They’re IPX4 rated, and you can toggle between the noise canceling and a transparency mode Tribit calls Ambient. Ambient works fine, but the NC is mild enough that you might not need it. The voice prompts between modes are nicely clear.

Their mid-pack performance, however, is greatly offset by their low price. These would be a great option for someone who wants something better than the very lowest priced buds, but doesn’t want to shell out for our pricier picks.

Pros

  • Good sound

  • Comfortable

  • Affordable

Cons

  • Don't stand out in any category

Product image of 1More ColorBuds
1More ColorBuds
  • Ambient sound modes: None
  • Dust/water resistance: IPX5
  • Battery life: Up to 8 hours per charge, 32 hours with case

The 1More ColorBuds are a stylish, tiny pair of earbuds that are available in a variety of colors including gold, green, pink, and of course, black. The earbuds and case are both among the smallest we tested.

They don’t perform as well as we’d hoped, however. Their swoopy shape didn’t sit as comfortably or as well in our ears as other tiny buds. While only fractionally smaller than the House of Marley Champions, they’re far less stable. They also lack any buttons on the buds, making you unable to easily pause or switch to a new track like most other options. They do offer an IPX5 water resistance rating, though, which outdoes much of the competition.

The sound profile also disappoints; it’s fairly brittle, sibilant, and very tilted toward the high end. While it’s alright for the price point, it sits somewhere in the middle of the “budget” pack overall.

We did get better than expected battery life. 1More claims 6 hours; we got over 8. The small case can charge them back to full over 3 times. Still, with so many options, nothing about the Colorbuds stands out, and your best bet would be to grab them during a fire sale.

Pros

  • Stylish design

  • IPX5 water resistance

Cons

  • No onboard controls

  • So-so fit

  • Mediocre sound

How We Test True Wireless Earbuds

The Testers

Geoffrey Morrison has been reviewing all types of gear for nearly 20 years. He’s reviewed headphones for numerous magazines and websites like Wirecutter and Forbes, testing everything from $6 earbuds to $3,000 open-back planar magnetic cans. He’s rarely more than arms-length away from a pair of headphones, but his preference is for something that is comfortable, unobtrusive and, of course, something that sounds great.

Ryan Waniata, Managing Editor for Reviewed's Electronics section, has been a tech writer and editor since 2012, reviewing TVs, audio gear, smart home devices, and more. As a former audio engineer, he has a particular passion for sound in all forms. From high-end studio gear and Dolby Atmos home theater systems to cheap headphones and clip-on portable speakers, he loves evaluating audio gear and finding the very best for the money.

John Higgins is Reviewed’s Audio/Video & Electronics Editor. He’s been reviewing all sorts of home theater gear, including headphones, speakers, TVs, projectors, soundbars, and AVRs for 20 years with bylines at IGN, T3, Wirecutter, ProjectorCentral, and Home Theater Magazine. He also has studied audio production and music performance, having earned degrees in both, so accurate and realistic sound is of utmost importance to him.

Reviewed’s former Home Theater Editor, Lee Neikirk, also contributed to this article. Lee has been reviewing home theater products since 2012, and his love for headphones goes back long before he graduated with a music performance degree.

Three sets of true wireless earbuds and their cases on a cyan backdrop

True wireless earbuds have no wires at all connecting them, offering real freedom.

The Tests

To narrow the field of affordable challengers, we placed a hard cap at $100. From there, we eliminated any headphones with extensive negative reviews from users or professionals, creating the list you see here.

Paramount with any wireless headphones are sound quality, battery life, microphone quality, and fit. Fit becomes especially critical with true wireless. With each headphone, we checked the fit and feel of whatever tips and/or wings came pre-installed out of the box. We then tried out each of the included options.

We also noted the aesthetics of each pair. Looks are certainly in the eye of the beholder, but some models look their price, and others don’t. We also tested cases, including how well they fit in a pocket, how easy they were to recharge, and how simple it was to place and remove the earbuds.

After letting each headphone run for a while, we listened to familiar songs on each pair, including songs from rock, classical, techno genres, and more. We also listened to familiar voice-heavy content like podcasts and YouTube channels.

We tested microphones using Facebook video chat and traditional phone calls. None were great, but voices were clear and intelligible with nearly all the headphones.

To test range, historically an issue with true wireless earbuds, we left the phone in one room and walked around the house with each pair, noting where the signal cut out. Most of the headphones fell into two categories: “almost perfect” and “I don’t like walls.” The farthest distance was roughly 40ft (12m) through two interior walls and one exterior.

Several earbuds claimed to be noise canceling. This proved to be…optimistic. Noise canceling isn’t binary, but a range, and most headphones under $100 don’t offer much. To test noise cancellation, we played airplane noise through a speaker system at 90dB, comparing each pair’s noise-canceling to high-quality noise cancellers, including the Bose QuietComfort 20 earbuds.

Lastly, we checked battery life. We connected the earbuds to a device and left them running at a normal listening volume, checking back at 80% of the claimed battery life, then about every 30 minutes until one of the two earbuds died.

What You Should Consider Before Buying True Wireless Headphones

The Fit

Jabra Elite 85t in-ear
Credit: Reviewed/Ryan Waniata

Fit is one of the most important elements when choosing any earbuds, but especially for true wireless models.

True wireless earbuds are especially easy to lose. Friction is the only thing holding them in your ears, and the only safety net is your own reflexes to catch them if they fall. Without a firm seating, they may pop out if you brush them when putting your hair behind your ears or adjusting your sunglasses. They may even jump ship if you just tip your head the wrong way.

We say this not to discourage you from buying true wireless buds—they’re very cool, and the lack of wires is very freeing—but to emphasize the need to ensure the right fit. This is especially true if you don’t typically get a good fit with traditional earbuds.

Most earbuds (except Apple’s basic AirPods and their many copies) come with multiple tips that need to fit securely inside your ear canal. Generally, the more sizes provided the better you can customize your fit.

Nearly all earbuds also use the ear’s concha to seat themselves, with some using a “wing” to brace the earbud against it. Having some way to fit this part of your ear is vital. You may not need different-sized tips or wings, but it’s better to have them and not need them than the reverse. Finally, some earbuds also offer an over-ear loop for even more stability.

Battery Life

Battery life is very important for wireless earbuds, particularly true wireless earbuds (those without any wires at all) such as those on this list. You’ll want to think about not only the amount of time per charge, but also the overall longevity of your earbuds when considering their accompanying charging case.

Those with battery life above 5 hours or so are generally all you’ll need in most scenarios, as the accompanying charging case can usually juice them up quickly and store multiple recharges. That said, buds with longer battery life per charge means you don’t have to top them off as often and. The longer the internal battery, the longer your buds are likely to last.

Noise canceling and transparency mode

While price is a factor, many new wireless earbuds offer ambient sound modes, including noise canceling to block out external noise, and transparency mode to keep you aware of your environment. Most earbuds around $100 or so generally incorporate transparency mode as a default safety feature, and increasingly we’re seeing noise canceling added to cheaper options.

It’s important to remember that, particularly with noise canceling, quality matters. If this is an important feature for you, you may want to consider spending more for something like the Sony WF-1000XM series, Bose QuietComfort earbuds, or flagship options from Jabra, Sennheiser, Apple, or Samsung.

Bluetooth Range

Every pair of wireless earbuds comes standard with Bluetooth connection for at least 33 feet of distance from your device, depending on barriers. Some have increased antenna capacity, which may improve the connection quality and reduce cutouts. In general, the newer the Bluetooth version (Bluetooth 5.0 and up) the more stable the connection.

Additional Features

Other features to look for include the ability to use one earbud at a time (for safety reasons), multipoint connection for easy switching between a phone or computer, and advanced options like 360-degree virtual surround sound or Find My earbuds features. Some features, such as Apple’s Find My feature, may be unique to the manufacturer, while others like auto-pause will work with any phone or device.

Meet the testers

Geoffrey Morrison

Geoffrey Morrison

Contributor

@techwritergeoff

Geoffrey Morrison is a freelance tech and travel writer.

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Lee Neikirk

Lee Neikirk

Editor, Home Theater

@Koanshark

Lee has been Reviewed's point person for most television and home theater products since 2012. Lee received Level II certification in TV calibration from the Imaging Science Foundation in 2013. As Editor of the Home Theater vertical, Lee oversees reviews of TVs, monitors, soundbars, and Bluetooth speakers. He also reviews headphones, and has a background in music performance.

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John Higgins

John Higgins

Editor, Electronics & Audio/Video

@johntmhiggins

John is the A/V Editor for Reviewed. He is an ISF Level III-certified calibrator with bylines at ProjectorCentral, Wirecutter, IGN, Home Theater Review, T3, Sound & Vision, and Home Theater Magazine. When away from the Reviewed office, he is a sound editor for film and musician, and loves to play games with his son.

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Ryan Waniata

Ryan Waniata

Managing Editor - Electronics

@ryanwaniata

Hailing originally from Montana, Ryan parlayed his time working as a musician and audio engineer into a career in digital media in 2012. Since then he's had extensive experience as a writer and editor, including everything from op-eds and features to reviews on TVs, audio gear, smart home devices, and more.

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