• Jabra Elite 85t True Wireless

  • Apple AirPods Pro

  • Jabra Elite Active 75t

  • Samsung Galaxy Buds+

  • Bose QuietComfort Earbuds

  • How We Tested

  • What You Should Know About Headphones

  • Other Wireless Earbuds We Tested

  • Additional Wireless Earbuds Options

  • More Articles You Might Enjoy

Our Favorite Wireless Earbuds of 2021

  1. Best Overall

    Jabra Elite 85t True Wireless

    Pros

    • Outstanding features and design

    • Rich, balanced sound

    • Impressive noise canceling

    Cons

    • Not as sport-friendly as other Jabra buds

    Skip to the full review below
  2. Best Value

    Samsung Galaxy Buds+

    Pros

    • Great features for the price

    • Flexible fit

    • Long battery life

    Cons

    • Occasionally tinny treble

    • May not work with older phones

    Skip to the full review below
Jabra Elite 85t
Credit: Reviewed/Ryan Waniata

The Jabra Elite 85t offer the best features, usability, and controls no matter which phone you choose.

Best Overall
Jabra Elite 85t True Wireless

Jabra’s Elite 85t really have it all: smooth and balanced sound, impressive active noise cancellation (ANC), comprehensive controls, a compact form factor, solid battery life, and a barrel full of other top-flight features. It all adds up to the best wireless earbuds around—whether you pledge your allegiance to Android or iPhone.

Perhaps more than any one feature, it’s the open-style design of these earbuds that make them our favorite all-around bombers. While a more bulbous design means fit isn’t quite as secure as their Elite 75t predecessors, the Elite 85t's oval ear tips provide a proper seal without plugging up your ears. The innovative design means you won’t hear yourself chewing, walking, jogging, etc. in the same way as most earbuds, and yet music and noise canceling are intimate and effective respectively.

This makes the Elite 85t direct competitors to Apple’s open-style AirPods Pro, but with more features for either side of the mobile aisle, and a more active-ready design to boot. Since they’re device agnostic, you can choose any of the major voice assistants (or none), and they offer all the controls you need (including volume control by default) for whichever mobile device you prefer.

Speaking of controls, they’re customizable through Jabra’s excellent Sound+ app, allowing you to configure the buds’ two easy-push buttons how you see fit. Also customizable is noise cancelation and transparency mode, the latter of which is among the most natural-sounding you’ll hear on the market to keep you aware of your environment in style—again, a direct shot across the AirPods Pro bow.

The word "natural" keeps coming up when using the Elite 85t, and it's a big key to their success. You can wear them for hours, even when you’re not listening to audio, and never miss a beat thanks to how seamlessly they transition between noise canceling and transparency mode; a few taps of the keys (even while wearing gloves) lets you slide between jamming out in solitude and striking up a conversation. Multi-point connection also makes it easy to switch between fun and work modes.

As for downsides, the Elite 85t’s IPX4 water resistance rating means you can splash them but they’re not as weather-ready as their cousins, the Elite and Elite Active 75t earbuds (though they meet or beat almost all other similarly equipped competitors). As referenced above, the fit is also less stable than what you’ll get in purpose-built workout buds.

There’s not much else to complain about, though, as these buds are about as well-rounded as they come. If you can afford their not-insignificant cost, you’ll be rewarded with impressive sound, great features, and the best usability on the market.

Pros

  • Outstanding features and design

  • Rich, balanced sound

  • Impressive noise canceling

Cons

  • Not as sport-friendly as other Jabra buds

Apple-AirPods-Pro
Credit: Reviewed / Jackson Ruckar

The Apple AirPods Pro are an unstoppable force, especially if you own an iPhone.

Best For iPhone
Apple AirPods Pro

Apple's AirPods Pro take everything we love about the traditional AirPods and ramp things up a notch (or three). They sound better than all Apple earbuds before them, deliver excellent noise reduction, and add proper water-resistance (finally). What’s more, these are the first Apple earbuds with swappable silicone ear tips, making it easy for just about anyone to get a comfortable fit.

While battery life is middling at 4.5 to 5 hours (Jabra's Elite 85t offer up to 7 hours without noise canceling), the pocket-friendly charging case holds multiple recharges for 24 hours total listening time. In addition, quick charging provides an hour of listening in just five minutes, so you'll rarely need to worry about dead earbuds.

In our lab tests, we found the AirPods Pro’s noise cancellation was on par with pricier noise-canceling headphones, with a minimal hit to battery life. Their Transparency Mode is also among the most effective and natural-sounding we’ve experienced, allowing you to pipe in the outside world for those times you want to be aware of your surroundings. The call quality—which uses dual microphones plus digital distortion reduction—is also excellent. The design also makes them incredibly easy to pair, control, and wear.

The AirPods Pro are pricey, but they offer enough of a meaningful upgrade that we think they’re worth it—especially for those who use iPhones—since they can be your go-to headphones for everyday use, long trips by train or plane, and even light workouts. It's for all these reasons the AirPods Pro are some of the most popular earbuds on the planet.

Pros

  • Active noise cancellation

  • Silicon tips ensure a more comfortable fit

  • Easy setup and syncing

Cons

  • Sub-par audio quality, given their price

Related content

Jabra-EA-75t-header
Credit: Reviewed / Jackson Ruckar

The Jabra Elite Active 75t are great for working out, and so much more.

Best for Running
Jabra Elite Active 75t

The Jabra Elite Active 75t are a great set of wireless earphones for just about anyone. But they're particularly suitable for folks who spend a lot of time running or working out, thanks to their nimble design and their hearty, IP57-rated dust and water resistance, allowing you to safely rinse them off after a workout.

The Elite Active 75t will net you nearly every bell and whistle you might need. You'll get everything from a finder function so you won't lose track of them to transparency mode, which allows you to hear the world around you so you can stay aware in nearly any situation. Jabra even released a firmware update that adds digital active noise cancellation to the impressive passive noise isolation, which helps make these already versatile buds all the more so.

The Elite Active 75t sound good, though their heavy, bass-forward sound signature won't be for everyone, and it might take some tinkering in the accompanying app to find an equalization setting that fits your playlist. Still, their sound performance will satisfy most casual listeners and power users alike, and it's bolstered by around 7 hours of battery life per charge (or around 5.5 hours with ANC).

We also love the Elite Active 75t’s playback controls; their buttons are easy enough to press without needing much force, yet firm enough that they rarely get pressed accidentally. Jabra’s intuitive controls and customization (thanks to the loaded Jabra Sound+ app) make for one of the best user experiences in the true wireless game.

One small point of caution: Their small size and rigid plastic design isn't a perfect fit for everyone, and they also may wear on those with smaller ears after a few hours—though that's the case with the majority of true wireless earbuds to some degree.

All in all, the Jabra Elite Active 75t are a great pick for folks looking for superb performance, durability, and a well-rounded experience. In addition, if you don't see the need for your earbuds to be fully submerged in water—and you want to save a few bucks—the Elite 75t earbuds are nearly identical to their cousins, only with a less-rugged IP55 dust/water-resistance rating.

Either way, you'll be getting a great pair of durable earbuds, armed for virtually any scenario you can throw at them.

Pros

  • Durable, dunkable design

  • Sleek and small

  • Loaded with features

Cons

  • Sound lacks balance

  • Fit may be tricky for some

Galaxy Buds+ in-hand
Credit: Reviewed/Jackson Ruckar

The Samsung Galaxy+ Buds are exceptionally easy on the wallet and offer impressive fit and features.

Best Value
Samsung Galaxy Buds+

The winning follow-up to Samsung's original Galaxy Buds, the 2020 Samsung Galaxy Buds+ check off a lot of the right boxes where true wireless headphones are concerned, starting with their light and comfy design and incredibly long playback time, making for excellent usability—which is really what true wireless earbuds are all about.

While they don't sound as good or have all the features of our top picks, the Galaxy Buds+ still sound plenty good, and their price has dropped significantly from their already low MSRP, making them among the most enticing buds on our list.

Key Galaxy Buds+ features include transparency mode (which Samsung calls Ambient Sound), basic water resistance, Qi wireless charging for the case, a well-appointed app, onboard volume controls, and a whopping 11 hours of max playback per charge (and up to 22 hours total with the case). That's four more hours than the max playback time of Jabra's Elite 85t, and more than double the AirPods Pro, though you'll have to give up any form of noise cancellation in the bargain.

In addition, we really enjoy the Galaxy Buds+'s simple and comfortable form factor, which adds rubberized grips alongside three sizes of ear tips for a secure fit. The buds and compact charging case are also available in multiple colors to suit your style or even match your phone. While they're only IPX2 rated for water resistance, it's enough to use them for modest workouts and in drizzling rain.

This is the hill we're prepared to die on: these will be a better choice for most folks than the classic AirPods, especially if you use them alongside the minimalist and intuitive Samsung Wearables app. The only major drawback is that they don't work with older phones, so check those requirements before you pull the trigger. If you don't need noise canceling, but just want something affordable and versatile, the Galaxy Buds+ are your pick.

Pros

  • Great features for the price

  • Flexible fit

  • Long battery life

Cons

  • Occasionally tinny treble

  • May not work with older phones

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds
Credit: Reviewed/Ryan Waniata

The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds offer the most tranquil earbud experience on the market.

Best Active Noise Canceling
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds

It will come as no surprise to Bose fans that the QuietComfort Earbuds were designed from the ground up for one thing: brilliant active noise cancellation. On that front they succeed immensely, instantly offering best-in-class canceling alongside a premium design, clear sound, and a comfy and secure fit that keeps them in place under duress.

In order to get those features, however, you’ll have to deal with a hefty price tag and some compromises elsewhere in the design, which is why these buds slip down in our overall ranking. Those compromises include extra-large earbuds that weigh around 50% more than the AirPods Pro and a chunky charging case that offers only two recharges for a relatively low 18 hours of total battery between buds and case, making them tougher to take along.

On the other hand, we applaud Bose for adding onboard volume control to the earbuds about a month after release via swipes up and down on the right bud. In addition, the versatile Bose Music app allows you to adjust noise cancellation levels in multiple ways, the loudness of your own voice during phone calls, and other parameters (though we would have liked some form of EQ).

While we wish Bose would have thrown in a bit more for your money, what you're really paying for is world-class noise cancellation, and that's exactly what you get. Simply put, if you want the best noise cancellation in the true wireless genre, it’s Bose or bust.

Pros

  • Class leading noise canceling

  • Comfy, secure fit

  • Tight, present audio

Cons

  • Chunky design

  • Case has mediocre battery

How We Tested

True Wireless Earbuds Hero
Credit: Reviewed.com / TJ Donegan

True wireless earbuds all come with two individual buds—no wires between them—and a charging case.

For this list, we focus on several key pain points that consumers typically run into when buying both wireless and “true wireless” earbuds (those completely free of any wires): battery life, ease of use, controls, wireless range, sound quality, sound isolation, and comfort.

For sound quality tests, we put our earbuds through some basic audio tests in our labs in Cambridge, MA to give us data on a few things such as max volume, passive and active noise attenuation (including active noise cancellation), and how well each earbud blocked outside noise. From there, we use all the earbuds extensively, playing a wide variety of test tracks ranging from classical to hip-hop, rock, jazz, and more.

The other features are all tested in real-life situations, including sweat proofing, short- and long-term comfort, battery life, microphone quality, and connectivity over distances and through obstacles like doors and walls.

Perhaps the biggest missing link in all headphone reviews is durability. It's simply impossible for us to test a single pair and come to a meaningful conclusion about how well they'll hold up over time and with regular use (and abuse). To account for this, we noted any major issues that popped up in user reviews (where available), though this didn't impact the final scoring. We also use these earbuds over a prolonged period and update their firmware when available to test out the latest features and update relevant articles and reviews with our findings.

The truth is that wireless earbuds across the board have struggled with durability, so this is a major cause of concern for us. Since some of these models are quite new, we are reserving the right to re-evaluate our conclusions as we become aware of any major issues or pain points as time goes on.

What You Should Know About Headphones

You've probably seen a bunch of different headphones in your everyday life. While they have a number of different selling points, headphones are primarily categorized into three types: in-ear (including all earbuds), on-ear, and over-ear. For this article we'll be focused only on in-ear models. These are primarily designed to be inserted into your ear canal and, apart from audiophile options or professional in-ear monitors, the vast majority will connect to your source device wirelessly.

different_headphone_types
Credit: Reviewed

Three popular types of headphones: in-ear, on-ear, and over-ear.

Knowing the basic terminology of modern headphones is the best way to estimate what you need, which will guide you toward deciding on where you may want to compromise to fit your budget. Below are a few important terms to know before you shop.

  • Bluetooth/wireless: Do you want wireless headphones? A pair of Bluetooth headphones will let you unplug from your source device, while a set of "true wireless" earbuds are even more minimalist, offering totally wire-free listening with no cable between the earbuds. If you're looking for an experience that won't tether you to your phone, tablet, or laptop, Bluetooth headphones are what you need—and fortunately, they're ubiquitous enough these days that you can find them in every style and price range.

  • Active Noise Cancellation: Noise-canceling headphones, i.e those with active noise cancellation (ANC) aren't just for frequent flyers. Originally developed for pilots, these headphones reduce the volume of ambient noise around you. Over the last several years they've become a mainstay for travelers, public transit commuters, gym-goers, and those working in distracting environments in the office or at home. Most of our top picks include ANC as the feature has become more popular.You can also check out our guide of the best noise-canceling headphones we've tested.

  • Transparency mode: This feature goes by many names, including hear through mode, ambient sound mode, etc. All of these phrases refer to the same technology, which uses tiny microphones on the exterior of your headphones or earbuds to filter in sound from your environment. The purpose is to keep you aware of your surroundings, letting you play tunes while you jog or hike, while still being aware of dangers or alerts. Not all transparency mode is created equal, though, and how a headphone’s hardware and software handle things like wind gusts can make a serious difference in the feature’s utility.


Other Wireless Earbuds We Tested

Sony WF-1000XM3

Our former pick for the Best Active Noise Canceling earbuds, Sony’s WF-1000XM3 are among the best wireless earbuds you can buy, full stop. Like their over-ear siblings the WH-1000XM3 and the newer WH-1000XM4, these fully wireless earbuds are loaded with tech, offer impressive sound, and have the ability to whisk away the outside world with some of the most powerful noise cancellation around.

While their lack of water resistance make them a tough sell for gym rats, anyone who wants great sound and serious noise cancellation to complement the sheer convenience of fully wireless earbuds should consider these. Along with whisper-quiet noise canceling, the WH-1000XM3 offer solid battery life at 6 hours per charge with noise cancellation engaged, and 8 hours without it, with an extra three charges in the charging case for up to 24 hours total.

In addition, Sony's powerful Headphones Connect app lets you customize a carousel of settings to make things just right for your listening habits. Perhaps best of all to value hunters, as they've hung around on the market, you can often find them on sale at a great price.

With their impressive collection of features and stellar performance, the WF-1000XM3 are a fantastic option, packed with value. If you’re looking for the same mix of gorgeous sound, great features, and class-leading active noise cancellation (ANC) offered by Sony's stellar over-ear models—but in a tiny, wireless form factor—these are the earbuds for you.

Pros

  • Great sound quality

  • Solid battery life

  • Excellent noise canceling

Cons

  • Not water-resistant

  • Finicky controls

Panasonic RZ-S500W

Panasonic's RZ-S500W won our favor with a brilliant combination of great sound and top-notch noise canceling at a price that easily undercuts major competitors. Honestly, we utilize noise canceling more than any other true wireless feature as we're often wearing them for tasks like vacuuming or lawn mowing, which is why we're so taken with these relatively affordable buds.

Whereas many wireless earbuds offer noise canceling as something of an afterthought, the RZ-S500W serve up powerful cancellation across frequencies for a comforting realm of sanctity from barking dogs, yelling kids, and much more.

As noted, sound is also impressive, with a clear and mostly even sound signature that offers quality listening across musical genres, podcasts, and more. Panasonic’s app adds to the fun, letting you adjust everything from EQ to noise cancellation and transparency mode (AKA ambient sound mode, hearthrough mode, etc.) so you can choose exactly how much environmental sound you let in or keep out. With around 6 hours of playback per charge, the RZ-S500W sit directly in the middle of their biggest competitors in the ANC earbuds space, but at a lower price.

That said, they do have a few drawbacks. For one thing, their charging case only holds two charges, meaning you’ll have to top it off more frequently than most rivals. On top of that, while we found the RZ-S500W quite comfortable, fit can be tricky due to their somewhat bulky design. Even when they're properly sealed, they tend to jostle during rigorous activities, making them a much better fit for your office (home or otherwise) than your daily jog.

On the other hand, unlike Sony’s WF-1000XM3, the RZ-S500W offer IPX4 water resistance, allowing you to easily combat the elements. Add in their other generous features and the Panasonic RZ-S500W earbuds sit among our favorite earbuds to come out in 2020. We'll add that they're often on sale for far below their already low price point which, if you can snag it, makes them among the best value propositions in the space.

Pros

  • Excellent noise cancellation

  • Clean, balanced sound

  • Impressive feature set

Cons

  • Battery life is so-so

  • Fit may be tricky for some

Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro

Samsung’s Galaxy Buds Pro represent Samsung's obvious attempt to create a pair of earbuds just as special and impressive for Samsung phones as Apple’s AirPods Pro are for iPhones. And the gambit worked pretty dang well. Samsung has loaded up a feature-packed pair of earbuds bespoke for the Samsung faithful that offer plenty for those outside the Samsung family, too.

The big headliner for these earbuds is solid active noise cancellation, a first for Samsung’s true wireless buds if you don’t count the Galaxy Buds Live (and with ANC that light you probably shouldn’t). But that’s just the beginning. They also offer adjustable ambient audio, which is boostable for super hearing, alongside a truckload of other popular features we expect in flagship earbuds, from the ability to use one bud at a time to a wireless charging case and a Find My Earbuds function.

One particularly interesting feature is Voice detect, designed to pause ANC and engage ambient mode when you speak so you can keep in touch with those around you hands-free, though we found it can be overzealous at times.

Most of the Galaxy Buds Pro’s top features will work for any phone once you download Samsung’s well-equipped Wear app. But Samsung didn’t stop there, offering a litany of extra features for the Samsung faithful, including auto-pairing, Bixby wakeup, and even a new 3D audio feature that’s saved for those with the Galaxy S21 and up. In other words, it pays to be heavily invested in Samsung’s ecosystem.

Samsung does well to straddle both sides of that line, though, adding design traits everyone can enjoy such as class-leading water resistance (IPX7) and impressive, well-balanced sound that’s as good at bumping beats as it is carving out ultra-clear detail or serving up phone calls.

There are some downsides, including a lack of volume control by default (you’ve got to swap out another function), a fit that can wear on the ears over time, and battery life that’s just so-so for 2021 (less than 5 hours per charge with ANC). In addition, so far we’ve found the case doesn’t charge the earbuds as quickly as advertised, meaning you’ll have to wait longer once you lose juice.

That said, Samsung has created a winner here thanks to a well-rounded feature list, impressive audio performance, and a great price that make its Galaxy Buds Pro instant contenders—especially if you’re toting around a new Samsung phone.

Pros

  • Powerful, nuanced sound

  • Plenty of features

  • Stylish, micro-sized design

Cons

  • No separate volume

  • Pedestrian battery life

  • Sluggish charging

Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2

Sennheiser’s new-and-improved Momentum, the Momentum 2 True Wireless offer the best sound in the category, though their amazing performance comes with a hefty price tag.

First, the good stuff: The Momentum True Wireless 2 serve up a rich, dynamic listening experience regardless of genre, thanks in part to their mild (but relatively effective) active noise cancellation.

In fact, they sound so good that you might find yourself discovering sonic details in songs you thought you knew like the back of your hand. Listening to music on the Momentum 2 is an altogether inviting experience, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a better sounding pair of wireless earbuds of any kind in 2020. They also offer desirable features like transparency mode for environmental awareness alongside their basic active noise cancellation.

Compared to the original Sennheiser Momentum, the Momentum 2 offer a vastly improved selection of touch controls on the outside of each earbud. And as a bonus, Sennheiser’s Smart Control app has also improved, making the customization experience painless and surprisingly granular, allowing you to change up the controls in any configuration. With Bluetooth 5.0, they also offer a better wireless connection overall.

There are a few drawbacks should you decide to shell out the dough for a pair. For one thing, while the Momentum 2 True Wireless offer better battery life than their predecessor, they top out at around seven hours (or a little over five with noise cancellation enabled), which is better than Apple's AirPods Pro, but less than we'd like for their price point.

In addition, the Momentum 2 aren’t quite as durable as some of the more affordable true wireless earbuds we’ve tested, and while they're relatively easy to use, the interface isn't quite as dead-simple as Apple's AirPods Pro.

Still, if you value high-quality sound first and foremost, and you've got the means, Sennheiser's Momentum 2 are a fantastic pick. They’re better than their predecessor and stand toe-to-toe with our top picks in a wide range of categories.

Pros

  • Glorious sound

  • Noise cancellation

  • Customizable controls

Cons

  • Battery could still be better

  • Not as rugged as we'd like

Klipsch T5 II True Wireless

Klipsch’s second generation of true wireless earbuds are just as stylish as the company’s first pair, the original T5, but with some impressive upgrades. What hasn’t changed here is the sound, which is among the best in the category. The T5 II offer clear, detailed sound that’s as dynamic as it is engaging, alongside crystal clear phone calls.

The new buds offer plenty of handy features such as comprehensive controls (including onboard volume control), a light and comfy fit, top-notch dust and water resistance (IP67), and a Zippo-like metallic case that's as robust as they come but still fits perfectly in your pocket.

There are a few downsides, of course (otherwise they’d be our top pick, right?). Those include a lack of some sought after features like active noise cancellation and a wireless charging case. In addition, the controls can be finicky.

That said, these earbuds won our hearts with a simple and stylish design that's easy to take along, and some of the best sound in the genre. If sound is your top concern, and you don’t want to spring for the much pricier Sennheiser Momentum 2, you’ll want to give the T5 II a long look.

Pros

  • Clear, vividly detailed sound

  • Great style, fit, and finish

  • Good battery life

Cons

  • Some controls are finicky

  • Missing some features

JBL Club Pro+ TWS

The Club Pro+ TWS mark JBL's most serious foray into the true wireless space. While these aren't exactly revolutionary, JBL does deserve kudos for how many of the right boxes the Club Pro+ TWS check off. At the end of the day, however, while they're a jack of all trades, they also fall a bit short of mastery.

You'll find an agreeable list of features here, including robust sound quality, decent noise canceling, standard battery life at around 6 hours per charge, and ample customizability thanks to JBL's dedicated My Headphones app. We also found ourselves impressed with the hyper-compact design of the charging case—it's small enough to fit right in the palm of your hand. And while multiple ear tip options, an IPX4 rating, and USB-C quick charging don't exactly make for exciting extras, it's good to see JBL taking the proper cues from its forebears in the true wireless space.

For what you're paying, the Club Pro+ TWS are, simply put, a solid product. But that's also their weakness: they aren't the best-sounding buds on the list, nor do they cancel noise as effectively as competitors like Bose and Sony. Yet they stand head and shoulders above many options in this price range, and are flexible enough in terms of potential use cases that the average listener won't have any complaints.

In many ways, this lack of exaggerated ability is what gives the Club Pro+ their attractively mid-range price point, making them potentially a great fit for listeners who want to save money without sacrificing features.

Sony's WF-SP800N are formidable workout earbuds, offering an embarrassment of features for their price point, along with impressive sound, a strong and stable connection, and a sporty, water-resistant design—something the flagship WF-1000XM3 buds don’t have.

Packing everything from light noise cancellation and transparency mode to automatic audio adjustment and Bluetooth 5.0, the SP800N are impressively well-appointed for their cost—especially since you can often find them on sale. They're also highly tuneble thanks to Sony's Headphones Connect app, including a five-band EQ with a separate bass control so you can easily pull back (or ramp up) their booming "Extra Bass" feature.

As for negatives, the SP800N’s noise cancelation is nothing to write home about, the buds are fairly bulky, and the charging case stores only one extra charge, though their 9 hours of playback per charge makes this more palatable. In addition, we found a tear in one of the silicone ear fins after just a few days, but based on over 1,000 user reviews, we’re inclined to write this off as a fluke. Because their fins are fairly involved, it can also be a pain to put them in and take them out, but that’s also what makes them so stable for high-impact activities.

Their incredible playback time of 9 hours on a single charge with noise cancellation—and a whopping 13 hours without it—helps make up for their charging case's shortcomings. Add in their wealth of other features and the SP800N are steeped with value, making them a great choice if you're looking for action-ready sports buds.

Pros

  • Good sound quality

  • Sleek design

  • Highly customizable

Cons

  • No on-set volume controls

  • So-so noise canceling

Beats Powerbeats (4th Gen)

The 4th-gen Beats Powerbeats are basically the same headphones as the Powerbeats Pro—they simply aren't "true wireless," featuring a small cable that runs between the two buds and behind your neck.

However, what you're sacrificing by way of true wireless freedom, you're making up for in cost. People love the Powerbeats Pro, but they're often just too darn expensive (at full price anyway) for many budgets. The Powerbeats are a great stand-in, priced well below the Powerbeats Pro's suggested retail price, and their price tag is only falling. Not only that, but you'll also get longer battery per charge (though there's no charging case for a top-off).

Outside of the wire situation, Beats fans will be very glad to know that the connected Powerbeats sound just as good as the "Pro" model, and offer similar levels of flexibility and style (i.e., they come in a bunch of colors). Like other Beats headphones, their sound profile is still bass-forward, but it’s thankfully restrained here for excellent clarity. As you’d expect for fitness headphones, the Powerbeats are also sweat- and water-resistant so you won’t have to worry about going for the gusto.

They also offer shockingly good connection quality that outdoes their siblings, as well as any other true wireless earbuds we've ever tried. Seriously, they've got such good range you may actually forget where you put your phone.

While the Powerbeats Pro scored a bit higher in overall testing, the value quotient makes the Powerbeats the better buy for most looking for purpose-built workout buds. These are an excellent choice if you've been after the workout-ready, sound-forward style of the original Powerbeats Pro but don't want to shell out that much cash. Heck, if you don't mind the addition of one little wire, there's really no reason not to buy these instead.

Pros

  • Incredible wireless range

  • Clear, powerful sound

  • Workout ready

Cons

  • No transparency mode

  • Ear hooks can get uncomfortable

Beats by Dre Powerbeats Pro

Priced similarly to Apple's AirPods Pro, the Beats Powerbeats Pro are impressive true wireless earphones in their own right. Though they've lost some luster in recent years with heated competition, they offer impressive playback time per charge, great sound, and a durable, sporty design. They're relatively stylish (as you might expect from Beats), available in ivory, black, navy, or moss colors, and feature adjustable ear hooks to help keep them in your ears during just about any workout.

Like the Powerbeats, they offer great water resistance and vastly improved sound quality over previous Beats earbuds, making them a good choice for general use, though their ear-hook design can get uncomfortable over time. Like virtually all true wireless earphones, they come with a pocketable charging case (thanks to their ear hooks, it’s a lot larger than most), but their impressive 9 hours of battery life per charge allows you to leave the case behind.

The Powerbeats Pro are less minimalist than Apple's AirPods, and come at a premium price point—especially for headphones that don’t include active noise cancellation or even any form of transparency mode, which makes them less-than-ideal for jogging in busy areas. Because of their Apple-first design, they're also not as good an option if you own an Android phone.

Their price point has also dropped a fair bit over time, though, and if you’re looking for fitness first, the top Beats earbuds are a fine choice, especially if you find them on a good sale.

Pros

  • Water-resistant

  • Available in a number of colors

  • Long battery life

Cons

  • Bass-forward sound not for everyone

  • Ear hooks can be uncomfortable

Google Pixel Buds (2020)

Google’s first Pixel Buds were kind of a mess. They were tethered by an odd cable, packed in a terrible case, and had a fit as awkward as their sound. With a full overhaul for 2020, the new Pixel Buds are leaps and bounds above their predecessor, and that starts with their new minimalist design. Nimble, and bearing a built-in rubberized wing to keep them in place and flush with your ears, the 2020 Pixel Buds are both comfy and stylish.

The egg-shaped charging case is equally stylish, with a pocket-ready form factor, wireless charging, and a unique look that takes cues from Apple’s AirPods and AirPods Pro, yet stands on its own. The Pixel Buds also offer clear sound—though the midrange and bass could definitely use some more oomph—and features like Find My Earbuds via the app, and even voice wake up for Google Assistant.

There are reasons the Pixel Buds aren’t higher on this list, however. While the feature set isn’t exactly austere, the Buds leave out desirable features like Active Noise Cancellation and Transparency Mode, instead going with Adaptive Sound, Google’s answer to noise control. Designed to turn the earbuds up when you’re in a busy area, Adaptive Sound didn't impress in testing, offering modest adjustment that was only noticeable when blasting extremely loud noises nearby.

The earbuds have also dealt with a lot of bugs, including spotty call quality, occasional swapping of the stereo image and, reported connectivity troubles. This latter issue may be due to the Pixel Buds’ small size (and therefore small antennas) but it’s not something we expect in earbuds at this price point. Not for nothing, while their 5 hours of battery playback (plus 20 in the case) is fine, it’s also exactly what Apple offered in its original AirPods four years ago, and nearly all newer buds at this price offer more playback time.

That said, if you love the Pixel Buds’ design (which we do) and don’t mind throwing the dice on some occasional bugs and connectivity issues, they’re a stylish and comfortable way to go, and still offer better sound and features than Apple’s standard Airpods.

Pros

  • Sleek and compact design

  • Comfy fit

  • Clean, effervescent sound

Cons

  • Slightly buggy performance

  • No transparency mode

  • Poor call quality

Additional Wireless Earbuds Options

  • The original Apple AirPods are still the same great, easy-to-use option they've been for years, and that's exactly why they didn't make our ranked list. Frankly you can do a lot better for sound, features, and durability for your money these days, but they're still a good buy if you really want Apple's signature white buds and don't want to pay up. Get Apple's AirPods from Amazon

  • Samsung's Galaxy Buds Live are an intriguing concept that never quite took off with us, mainly because the fit just never worked and their feature set is less than expected for the price. That said, they look cool and have decent sound quality so if you think the fit works for you they could be worth a try. Gest Samsung's Galaxy Buds Live from Amazon

  • Sony's WF-XB700 are perfectly respectable earbuds that simply didn't have what it takes to make our top picks due to a somewhat awkward design and a bass-first profile. That said, they're a great price (especially on sale) and could be a fantastic fit for those looking for a name brand on a budget. Get the Sony WF-XB700 from Amazon

  • Jabra's Elite Active 65t were among the first quality true wireless earbuds to offer something for nearly everyone, whether you're more comfortable at the gym or lounging in your backyard. They've been outdone by sleeker, smaller options over the years, but their price has also dropped accordingly. Get Jabra's Elite Active 65t from Amazon

  • Bose'sSoundsport Free are getting long in the tooth and offer a bulbous fit, but they do provide fantastic sound. If you can get them on a good sale, they may be worth the investment. Get the Bose SoundSport Free from Amazon

  • For those serious about sound, Shure's SE215 present a unique way to go wireless (or wired thanks to their breakaway design) without sacrificing sound quality, allowing you to swap for a wired or wireless cable. The real headline? These are some of the best-sounding earbuds at their price point. Get the Shure SE215 from Amazon

  • The Phiaton Curve BT 120 NC headphones offer an impressive collection of features for their price point. The Curve boasts quick charging, very sturdy materials, and a vibrating neckband design that alerts you with a buzz. Get the Phiaton Curve BT 120 NC from Amazon


Meet the testers

Michael Desjardin

Michael Desjardin

Senior Staff Writer

@Reviewed

Michael Desjardin graduated from Emerson College after having studied media production and screenwriting. He specializes in tech for Reviewed, but also loves film criticism, weird ambient music, cooking, and food in general.

See all of Michael Desjardin's reviews
Lee Neikirk

Lee Neikirk

Editor

@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.

See all of Lee Neikirk's reviews
TJ Donegan

TJ Donegan

Executive Editor

@TJDonegan

TJ is the Executive Editor of Reviewed.com. He is a Massachusetts native and has covered electronics, cameras, TVs, smartphones, parenting, and more for Reviewed. He is from the self-styled "Cranberry Capitol of the World," which is, in fact, a real thing.

See all of TJ Donegan's reviews
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 2013. 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.

See all of Ryan Waniata's reviews

Checking our work.

We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.

Shoot us an email