Wireless earbuds

The Best Wireless Earbuds to Buy Right Now

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When Apple debuted its AirPods, I wasn’t really convinced of their value for, well, just about anyone. Earbuds with average sound quality that needed charging every few hours and could be easily lost? No thanks. Were true wireless earbuds actually something the world needed or wanted?

Skip forward a few years, and the answer is clearly yes. The technology has improved dramatically, and it’s now impossible to walk through an airport or down the street without seeing those little white accessories dangling from someone’s ears.

The AirPods’ success spawned many imitators, and dozens of other audio companies have brought high-quality versions to market. While the AirPods remain a good option for some, they’re no longer the only or best choice for most people: other models offer higher sound quality, better noise cancellation, longer battery life, and lower prices.

I’ve tried out many different brands and models over the years, from cheap and (not very) cheerful models from companies you’ve never heard of to premium versions from companies you definitely have, and everything in between.

Some have been terrible, many have been kind of mediocre for the money, but now and again, there’s a diamond in the rough that offers great sound, solid value, and doesn’t have something about it that particularly annoys me. It’s not a long list.

It is a list that exists, however, which is more than I would have expected when those first Airpods came out. If you’re looking for a new pair of wireless earbuds at the moment, these are the ones I’d recommend across a range of budgets.

Best Overall: Sony WF-1000XM5

  • Earbud Weight: 5.9g/0.2oz
  • Case Weight: 39g/1.4 oz
  • Battery Life (Earbuds): 8 hours
  • Battery Life (Case): 16 hours
  • Noise Cancellation: Yes

Best for Noise Cancellation: Bose QuietComfort Ultra

  • Earbud Weight: 6.2g/0.3oz
  • Case Weight: 77g/2.1oz
  • Battery Life (Earbuds): 6 hours
  • Battery Life (Case): 18 hours
  • Noise Cancellation: Yes

Best for Making Calls: Apple AirPods Pro

  • Earbud Weight: 5.3g/0.19oz
  • Case Weight: 51g/1.8oz
  • Battery Life (Earbuds): 6 hours
  • Battery Life (Case): 24 hours
  • Noise Cancellation: Yes

Best Value: Samsung Galaxy Buds FE

  • Earbud Weight: 5.8g/0.2oz
  • Case Weight: 41g/1.4oz
  • Battery Life (Earbuds): 6 hours
  • Battery Life (Case): 21 hours
  • Noise Cancellation: Yes

Best for Working Out: Beats Powerbeats Pro

  • Earbud Weight: 20.3g/0.7oz
  • Case Weight: 109g/3.8oz
  • Battery Life (Earbuds): 9 hours
  • Battery Life (Case): 14+ hours
  • Noise Cancellation: No

Best Overall: Sony WF-1000XM5

Sony WF-1000XM5 Noise-Canceling Earbuds with Alexa, 24hr Battery, IPX4 Rating - For iOS & Android

For the last few years, Sony’s over-ear noise-canceling headphones have been some of the best on the market. The company’s first attempt to do the same for wireless earbuds was a bit of a flop, but more recent models hit all the right notes. That’s very much true with the latest version, the WF-1000XM5.

With impressive battery life, some of the very best noise cancellation in its class, and fantastic sound quality, they’re my top wireless earbuds pick right now.

The understated design of the buds and charging case is stylish in a way that most others aren’t. The design has been tweaked compared to the previous version: it’s not as big a change as between some earlier generations, but the buds are still noticeably smaller than before.

Available in either black or silver, both are an attractive option. I personally prefer the black, and that’s the color I went for, but who knows, maybe you’ll like the silver.

Sony can’t seem to make up its mind when it comes to how many sizes of tip it wants to include with these earbuds. There was as many as half a dozen with early models, but the XM4’s only had three. This latest version comes with four. Why the changes? Who knows.

The tips run from extra-small through to large, although the labels are somewhat meaningless: there’s no official size guide for ear canals, after all. They’re made from a tacky memory foam that does an unusually good job of deadening outside sound even before the active noise cancellation kicks in.

It also increases the comfort levels: once I found tips I liked (which weren’t the same for both ears, I might add), I was happy to wear them for a few hours at a time.

Wearing them for hours is something I was actually able to do, since battery life on the WF-1000XM5’s is about as good as it gets for noise-canceling wireless earbuds, both one the spec sheet and more importantly, in reality.

I got around eight hours per charge with noise cancellation turned on, and longer on the rare occasion I turned it off, usually when I was walking or running on busy streets and needed to be aware of my surroundings. That’s dramatically better than pretty much anything else on the market.

The case holds two extra charges, giving a total 24+ hours of listening time before I need to find a power socket. It takes around 1.5 hours to charge the buds from empty to full, although a five-minute quick charge gives about an hour of listening if they’re flat when I’m about to head out the door.

A fairly recent addition to this model is wireless charging, meaning I use either a USB C cable or Qi-compatible pad to juice the case back up. They’re just like the Airpods Pro and other high-end buds in that regard: wireless charging is slower, but because I tend to just drop them on the charging pad as I walk past, it rarely matters.

Noise-cancellation has long been hit or (mostly) miss on wireless earbuds, because of the small size and limited battery life. While the WF-1000XM5’s still won’t block out quite as much low-end sound as the equivalent over-ear models, they’re getting closer and closer with each new release.

Do they entirely eliminate the engine drone on an overnight flight? No, they don’t, but I tell you what, they still make a hell of a difference. They’re at the point now where I would (and do) leave my big headphones behind when I’m traveling carry-on only, because the earbuds do a good-enough job.

I’m (just) going with the Bose QuietComfort II as my top pick for noise-cancelation specifically, but honestly, in a noisy environment, you’ll be thrilled with either.

Sound quality, too, is remarkably high for a set of wireless earbuds. Bass is strong and distinct, while mid notes are crisp and clear for both music and podcasts. Whatever I listen to sounds great with these earbuds, whether I’m taking advantage of the inbuilt LDAC codec support or not.

Other useful features from the over-ear model made their way into these earbuds. There are adjustable levels of Ambient Sound (which lets in some noise when I want to hear it), for instance, plus a “Quick Attention” mode that lets me long-tap the left earbud to pull in outside sound like boarding calls.

Take either earbud out, and playback pauses automatically. Stick it back in, and my music, podcast, or audiobook resumes where it left off.

Pairing is seamless via either NFC or Bluetooth, and connections remain reliable even at some distance. Each earbud maintains its own Bluetooth connection to the source device, making for better (although not perfect) audio syncing when watching a video.

Phone calls have never been the strong suit of Sony’s flagship earbuds, and while the new beamforming microphone system is a noticeable improvement, these still aren’t my top pick for those planning to make hours of calls a day.

They do a good job in quiet environments, but as with many other wireless earbuds, wind noise and loud rooms tend to pose more of a problem. Callers have reported that they can hear background noise, but it’s at least subdued compared to my own voice.

New this time around is (finally) proper sweat resistance, the IP42 rating meaning I can safely wear these buds during a heavy workout or sudden rain shower without worrying that they’ll stop working because of it. I’ve gone for several 10+ mile runs on warm days while wearing them without issue, so that’s a win.

Do the WF-1000XM5’s get everything right? No, but they’re damn close. Even my main complaint about the last model, the lack of multipoint Bluetooth, was addressed in this latest version, so it’s easy to stay connected to two devices at once and automatically switch to (e.g.) my phone when a call comes in.

Now, my only real niggle is they don’t feel quite as good in my ears as some of the earlier models. They’re fine for two or three hours, but do sometimes get a bit itchy or uncomfortable after that. Judging by other reviews, I’m not the only person with this complaint.

Other than that, though, there’s precious little to complain about it. The 1000XM5’s are a premium set of noise-canceling wireless earbuds, and when you consider everything they do well, are reasonably priced for what’s on offer. This latest model seems set to keep Sony at the top of the category for another year.


  • Strong, reliable connection
  • Fantastic battery life
  • Very good noise cancellation
  • Great audio quality
  • Sleek design


  • Call quality still needs improvement
  • Can get uncomfortable after a few hours
Buy on Amazon

Best for Noise Cancellation: Bose QuietComfort Ultra

Bose QuietComfort Ultra Wireless Noise Cancelling Earbuds, Bluetooth Noise Cancelling Earbuds with Spatial Audio and World-Class Noise Cancellation, Black

Bose took a long time to get into the noise-canceling earbud game, but the QuietComfort Ultra was worth the wait. Now onto their third version, they continue to set the bar for how good active noise cancellation can be from a set of wireless earbuds.

Crank the adjustable ANC up to 10, and the outside world just disappears. I’ve experienced the same thing from the best noise-canceling headphones in the past, but until this model came along, it just didn’t seem possible from a set of earbuds. City streets, noisy neighbors, and even rumbling plane engines are no match.

While fit is a subjective and personal thing, Bose does what it can to ensure the buds sit comfortably yet tightly in your ears. Three different-sized tips come in the box, along with three silicone “stability bands” that sit on each earbud and ensure that once it’s in place, it stays that way.

Speaking of being active, the earbuds are IPX4 rated. They’ll survive sweat and splashes, but not much more. Since many wireless earbuds don’t have any kind of official water resistance at all, though, I’ll take what I can get here.

Sound quality is typically Bose, by which I mean that music usually sounds great, if somewhat bass-heavy. That’s how many people like to listen to their favorite tunes, but if you’re a purist about these things, you’ll likely want to reach for the EQ settings in the accompanying app.

Call quality has been improved in this version, but it needed to be: earlier models were a bit of a letdown in this area. Now it’s generally fine indoors or in the car, and while some wind noise and background sound still makes it through outside, it’s unlikely to provoke much comment from the person on the other end.

The size and shape of both the case and the earbuds has changed quite a bit since the first version, from bulky to slimline and now somewhere in the middle. Personally I don’t love the design of the latest earbuds, finding them a bit chunky compared to the competition, but they don’t offend me.

New on this model, and something that Bose is making a big deal about, is Immersive Audio. As the name suggests, it changes the audio profile to make it seem like sound is coming less from inside your head, and more from a set of well-positioned speakers nearby.

It works, to a degree: the effect is definitely better in “Still” mode (for when you’re sitting in one place) than “Motion” for when you’re on the move. It also has a major impact on battery life, which isn’t class-leading in the first place, so it’s not something I’d use for long periods anyway.

With noise canceling on and immersive audio off, the buds last a bit over six hours. Turn the latter on, and it drops to closer to four. That’s not great. The case at least adds another three full charges: it’s bigger than some others, but that’s the reason why.

Disappointingly, wireless charging isn’t built into the case, an increasingly unacceptable proposition for wireless earbuds at the top end of town. Yes, you can buy a case “sleeve” that enables it, but this really isn’t something that should cost extra.

There’s also (still) no multipoint support, so it’s only one device at a time. If you’re listening to music from your laptop and your phone rings, expect some frantic clicking and tapping if you want to take the call on your earbuds. Again, this isn’t a problem I expect to have when I’m paying this much for a set of earbuds.

If the absolute best noise-cancellation is your top priority from a set of wireless earbuds, these are the earbuds you’ll want to buy. For almost anybody else, though, the missing features versus the above Sony buds above make the Ultra a harder sell. That’s why, despite being great in many areas, it didn’t quite make my top pick overall.


  • The best noise cancellation from a set of earbuds
  • Comfortable fit for most people
  • Music sounds very good


  • No wireless charging by default
  • No multipoint support
  • Battery life is ok, not great
Buy on Amazon

Best for Making Calls: Apple AirPods Pro

Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Gen) Wireless Earbuds, Up to 2X More Active Noise Cancelling, Adaptive Transparency, Personalized Spatial Audio MagSafe Charging Case (Lightning) Bluetooth Headphones for iPhone

Following on from the unmitigated success of the original Airpods, the Pro version added major upgrades like a wireless charging case and noise cancellation.

There was a lot of talk about the improved quality of voice calls as well, and after using the Pro buds for several months, I can confirm it wasn’t hype: they just do a better job in more situations than anything else I’ve used.

The noise cancellation does a pretty good job of cutting out ambient noise, so I can hear my caller even in relatively noisy environments like coffee shops and city streets.

Going the other way, the three microphones on each bud are pretty effective at isolating my voice from the surrounding din: even when it sounds to me like there’s a house party happening a few feet away, the person I’m talking to can still hear me.

Connectivity has been good: the AirPods immediately connect to other Apple devices, and stay connected from up to 100 feet (30 meters) away. Non-Apple devices like my Android phone don’t get the fast pairing, but I’ve still had strong, reliable connections with them.

This second-gen version came with four different ear tip options instead of the previous three, and in my testing I’ve found that they’ve provided a tight seal for both my partner and me (with different tips). Once fitted properly in my ears, they’ve tended to stay there even when I’m running or working out.

They’re not audiophile-grade earbuds, but music sounds nicely balanced, with an appropriate amount of bass for the kind of music I usually listen to, and clear vocals. There’s not as much warmth as some of the other buds I use, but whether that’s good or bad is more of a personal preference.

I’ve found the buds to have a useful but not great six hours of play time per charge: that’s pretty much the minimum I’ll accept for premium earbuds these days. Still, at least there’s another three full charges in the case, so I can still make it through endless travel days with relative ease.

Swapping between devices also happens noticeably faster than most other earbuds, at least if those devices are also made by Apple. They’re still not true multipoint, but the switch happens so quickly that it doesn’t make a lot of difference in most cases.

As with other Apple devices, you can use Apple’s “Find My” feature to track down a missing earbud if it’s nearby and out of its case, or to at least know where it was seen. In my case, the answer is always “at the bottom of the bed”.

Even though they work with both Android and iOS devices, I’ve found the AirPods to be noticeably better with Apple gear. Some features don’t work by default, like pausing and restarting when buds are inserted/removed, or virtual assistant support. Third-party apps help with some of this, but it’s just not as seamless.

Setup and pairing are also slower on my Android devices, since it uses the standard Bluetooth approach, and the multipoint-esque switching doesn’t happen either. In short, while you can use Airpods with non-Apple devices, I wouldn’t go out and buy them for that purpose.

If you do have an iPhone, however, and call quality is particularly important to you, the Airpods Pro are the way to go.


  • Strong, reliable connection
  • Excellent call quality
  • Decent noise cancellation
  • Wireless charging
  • Fast pairing and device switching


  • No Android support for some feature
  • Battery life not amazing
Buy on Amazon

Best Value: Samsung Galaxy Buds FE

SAMSUNG Galaxy Buds FE True Wireless Bluetooth Earbuds, Comfort and Secure in Ear Fit, Auto Switch Audio, Touch Control, Built-in Voice Assistant, Graphite [US Version, 1Yr Manufacturer Warranty]

If your budget doesn’t stretch as far as high-end models from the likes of Sony and Apple, but you still want quality wireless earbuds from a well-known brand, check out Samsung's Galaxy Buds FE instead. I’ve been using a pair most days for the last two months, and honestly, I’m very impressed.

I first came across them a few days after launch when my mother picked up a pair at a local electronics ship. After trying them out myself for a while, they were so surprisingly good that I went home and ordered some for myself.

That’s turned out to be a great decision. For under $100 (sometimes a long way under), these things just perform so much better than they should.

Not only do they have noise cancelation, for example, but it actually works. No, it’s not on par with the best-in-class like the Bose or Sony models above, but for a third of the price, noise cancelation on the Buds FE is a hell of a lot more than one-third as effective.

That’s true for both low rumbles like truck and plane engines, and higher-pitched sounds like birds and conversations. There’s nothing in the way of adjustment (noise canceling is either on or off, with no middle ground), but it’s good enough out of the box that I don’t miss it.

Ambient sound mode, though, is a bit of a flop. It just amplifies everything to a somewhat uncomfortable level, where every scrape of cutlery on plates or car engine is harsh and annoying.

There’s only a single driver in each earbud, which you’d think would make the audio quality noticeably worse. For some people, maybe it does, but for me it mostly just makes for a neutral audio profile that doesn’t mess much with what I’m listening to.

If I want more bass or crisper midrange, it’s there in the EQ settings (I have it set to “Dynamic” most of the time, whatever that means), but it’s not forced on me by default. Inoffensive would be a good word to describe it.

Given how offensive I’ve found the sound from some similarly-priced buds in the past, that’s a lot higher praise than it sounds.

The fit is good: I wouldn’t have minded a bit more choice than the three tip sizes that came in the box, but the different sizes of wing that come with the buds go some way towards making up for it, certainly in terms of keeping them in my ears.

I’ve found the buds comfortable to wear for several hours at a time: on a few big work days recently, I was surprised by the low battery beep on more than one occasion, having worn them all day until that point.

Speaking of battery, that’s something else that I don’t expect a lot from with earbuds at this price point, Again, the Buds FE do well here: I regularly get close to six hours of listening with noise cancelation on, and the case gives roughly another three charges.

Given the kind of life I lead, my test with any earbuds like this is “can I fly to the other side of the world without needing to find a power socket”. The answer, even with the endless layovers I seem to be enduring lately, is a firm yes.

Even making and receiving calls is pretty good. It’s another area where cheaper buds (and many expensive ones) fall down, and while it’s not of the same quality as the Airpods Pro, it really isn’t bad.

My voice apparently sounds a little flat but otherwise normal, and wind and other noise are subdued enough that the people Ion the other end have had no complaints even when I’m walking around outside.

The only things these earbuds are really missing are wireless charging and true multipoint support. Then again, the latest high-end Bose model (above) costs three times as much and doesn’t have them either, so it’s hard to grumble about it.

Long story short, as I say at the end of my lengthy review of these buds: if you’re in the market for a set of mid-range earbuds that punch well above their weight, buy the Galaxy Buds FE.


  • Great value for money
  • Good fit and comfort
  • Noise cancelation works well
  • Impressive call quality
  • Good battery life


  • No wireless charging
  • No true multipoint support
  • Ambient sound mode is nothing special
Buy on Amazon

Best for Working Out: Beats Powerbeats Pro

Beats Powerbeats Pro Wireless Earbuds - Apple H1 Headphone Chip, Class 1 Bluetooth Headphones, 9 Hours of Listening Time, Sweat Resistant, Built-in Microphone - Black

If you’re anything like me, there’s one big gripe you’ll have with most wireless earbuds: they just won’t stay in your ears (especially my left one, for some reason). If that’s you as well, you’ll want to check out the latest true wireless earbuds from Beats: the Powerbeats Pro.

These buds will, quite simply, stay put. No matter how high you jump, how fast you run, or how excruciatingly bumpy your next long-distance bus ride is, they’ll stay firmly lodged in place, helped by the adjustable over-ear hook and choice of four sizes of tip. 

Built to handle light abuse, they’re IPX4-rated, and can easily deal with a little rain or sweat. It would have been nice if they could survive full immersion, though, given the challenges travel and life throws at electronics.

The earbuds remain comfortable to wear for long periods, even if they’re fairly large and not very subtle. The charging case, too, is huge by current standards. On the upside, all that extra bulk means you get great battery life.

It’s not unusual to get close to nine hours out of a single charge, and the case pushes that up to over a full day. A quick-charge feature gives the Powerbeats Pro 90 minutes of extra listening from five minutes back in the case.

A full set of volume and playback controls can be found on both earbuds, letting you use one or the other if you don’t want to wear both. Like many others, removing the bud from your ear pauses playback, and putting it back in restarts where you left off.

Pairing is fast and easy, especially if you have an Apple device, and the connection remains strong and reliable until you get a long way from the output device. Stuttering and audio lag, two common concerns with true wireless earbuds, aren’t a problem here.

Beats headphones have long had a reputation for big, bass-heavy sound, but that’s not the case with the Powerbeats Pro. If anything, the treble can overwhelm the mix at times, and you’re going to have to really mess with the EQ settings if you want a thumping low end.

Coupled with only average levels of noise isolation (and no active noise cancellation), these aren’t the best-sounding wireless earbuds by quite some margin. That’s a bit disappointing for the price, but not entirely surprising given they’re marketed at active users rather than audiophiles.

In a world that’s moving to USB C, Apple (owner of the Beats brand) has insisted on putting a Lightning socket on the charging case. Given that not even the latest iPhones have those any more, I expect this to change in the next update.

Still, if you’re looking for earbuds that can handle tough travel days and sweaty workouts, and have enough battery life to get you through the longest plane rides, the Beats Powerbeats Pros are definitely worth a look.


  • Sturdy and durable
  • Easy, reliable connections
  • Snug fit stays firmly in your ears
  • Great battery life


  • Large earbuds and massive case
  • Sound quality not great for the money
  • Average noise isolation
  • Charges via Lightning socket rather than USB C
Buy on Amazon

Main image via Kārlis Dambrāns, Airpods and Buds FE images via author, other product images via Amazon

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  1. Samsung had TWS earphones before apple did so might wanna edit out about others following apple ( icon gear X )

    1. Thanks — to be fair we didn’t say that Samsung had ‘followed’ Apple, just that it had also got into the wireless earphone game. I’ve tweaked that bit of the text though, so Samsung isn’t specifically mentioned now.

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