The best wireless earbuds of 2020 combine compact designs with stellar audio performance and Bluetooth connectivity. They’re so good in fact, that many give some of the best wired earbuds a run for their money.
You can find an endless list of true wireless earbuds under that price on Amazon from random brands you’ve probably never heard of.
But I’m sticking with some tried and true companies that can be found in stores and have established customer service operations. Just because you’re being sensible about money doesn’t mean you should be left in the lurch if something goes wrong.
This guide will take a look at the two different kinds of wireless earbuds on the market today; true wireless earbuds and neckbud-style Bluetooth earphones. The former have no cables whatsoever, while wireless neckbuds retain a single cable that connects each earbud – usually worn around the neck.
What are the best wireless earbuds?
The technology behind wireless earbuds has improved markedly, and now they have become as ubiquitous as wired headphones. The very best wireless earbuds offer long battery life, great sound, and call quality, and some noise cancellation, as well as water- and sweat-resistance, so you can use them for working out without worrying about damage.
And the best wireless earbuds rise to the top of the list fit comfortably within your ears and don’t budge while you’re running or working out.
10 Best Wireless Earbuds of 2021:
|Sony WF-1000XM3||5.6 x 4.72 x 2.5 in||3.53 ounces|
|SKULLCANDY JIB TRUE||7.8 x 5.28 x 1.7 in||4.2 ounces|
|Jabra Elite Active 75t||0.86 x 0.76 x 0.64 in||9.5 ounces|
|Cambridge Audio Melomania 1||2.3 x 2 x 0.9 in||9 ounces|
|Bose SoundSport Wireless||0.98 x 1.2 x 1.2 in||0.8 ounces|
Considering it’s still rare to get noise-cancellation in earbuds at all, the fact that Sony has managed to pack it into a pair that are not only wireless, but true wireless is very impressive indeed.
The Sony WF-1000X manage to offer a level of noise-cancellation that’s very good for a pair of earbuds – it won’t offer the same isolation as a pair of over-ear cans, but if you’re after a sleek form factor then the compromise is well worth it.
There may be a few minor problems with these wireless earbuds, but we think Sony has knocked the ball out of the park with the WF-1000XM3; not only are these hands down the best-looking true wireless earbuds out there, but they combine serious noise cancelling tech with fist-pumping musicality.
Skullcandy just recently put out its most affordable pair of true wireless earbuds yet. The $29.99 Jib True — available in black or this very attention-getting mix of blue, red, and yellow — manage to deliver a solid mix of specs and serviceable sound quality. Battery life lasts up to six hours, they’ve got the status quo IPX4 sweat resistance rating, and you can use either of the earbuds independently. That last part is something that many more expensive earbuds (hi, Jabra) still don’t offer.
The earbud controls aren’t customizable, but Skullcandy packs in pretty much all of the functions you’d want (track skip / back, volume, voice assistant, and play / pause) into the large single button on each earbud. They’ve been easy to memorize in my time testing the Jib True buds.
If there’s one hangup with the Jib True, it’s that Skullcandy hasn’t really optimized them for use with multiple devices. Whereas pricier earbuds tend to remember a handful of pairing sources, the company recommends that you delete these from their current device’s Bluetooth list before repairing with another. It’s not the end of the world, but it’s also fairly inconvenient.
The market’s best wireless earbuds (and best sport headphones) just got better, thanks to a free over-the-air ANC update that adds active noise cancellation into the mix. Don’t think that you’re going to get Bose-caliber results, or anything close to what the more premium Elite 85t delivers, but Jabra did do an impressive job tweaking its algorithm to block out a good amount of external sounds.
Even before the inclusion of ANC, the Elite Active 75t proved itself as the model to beat, offering better battery life, durability, sound, and special features than its biggest threat: the AirPods Pro. The design remains sleek, though it is sturdier this time around, with IP57 certification granting waterproof protection and dust and sweat resistance. Sound is lively and can be customized through the Jabra Sound+ app, which is loaded with presets and other cool features that enhance both sound and call quality.
Cambridge Audio isn’t just about hi-fi separates. The Melomania 1s are the company’s first-ever true wireless earbuds and, for the money, they’re pretty special. Available in Black or Stone, the in-ears come with their own pocketable carry case. It’s a neat design and doubles as a charger adding an extra 36 hours of battery life. Added to the nine hours you get when the in-ears are fully juiced, that works out at a whopping 45 hours.
Each bud has a 5.8mm graphene driver, a triple-core processor (with support for AAC and aptX audio codecs), a beam-forming mic for clearer calls or chatting to Siri/Google Assistant, plus Bluetooth 5.0. The IPX5 rating means they’re water and sweat-resistant, too.
The fit can be a little tricky depending on your ears, but once in place, you’ll be rewarded with rich sound. Vocals detailed, while there’s precision and cohesion to the soundstage.
There’s no dedicated app for the Melomania 1s, so you can’t, for example, tweak the EQ settings. But on the upside, pairing is refreshingly simple. Want the best-sounding budget buds around? These are a no-brainer.
Comfortable, great-sounding, splashproof and weather-resistant for sweaty outdoor workouts… these wireless earbuds have it all. They’re more versatile than most thanks to their wing tips to keep them in your ears, meaning you can head for a run and not worry about them falling out.
Sound is superb, full of punchy, powerful bass that should get you running that bit faster. They’re reliable too, with no issues with the wireless signal and easy-to-use controls. The neckband cable incorporates a remote housing part-way down, but the power pack appears to live in the earpieces, which may explain the modest six hours battery life.
On the upside, they’re IPX4 rated, meaning they can’t be submerged in water but will handle sweat and splashes better than normal earphones. The addition of NFC tech means they’re particularly easy to pair with Android devices.
If the rather average battery life isn’t a deal-breaker, you’ll like these buds – they’re comfortable, sound great and enjoyable to use.
Apple’s most recent true wireless earbuds bring active noise cancellation, a (finally) much better fit, and an improved design, in a bid to lure more iPhone users into the true wireless fold.
That said, if you’re an iPhone user looking for some well-fitting earbuds with strong sound quality, you could do a lot worse than the new AirPods – the redesign means they’re far less likely to fall out, and the additional microphones provide strong noise-canceling (particularly when commuting), as well as a useful Transparency mode, which really does let the outside world in.
The sound quality of the AirPods Pro has certainly improved since the previous iteration – there’s a notable emphasis on vocals and bass, meaning these earbuds are better for pop fans than those that enjoy a more natural presentation that lends itself to classical music or more orchestral sounds.
1More is one of those companies that’s quietly been making great audio products for a long time. With the ColorBuds, the focus is on comfort — each bud weighs only 4.1 grams, barely more than an AirPod — and looks. Sound quality is also a clear step above the previous two picks, with greater clarity, a wider soundstage, and more nuance in general. (There’s still plenty of bass kick, though.) You’d hope for good sound at their $100 price, and these do come through.
Battery life is up to six hours of continuous listening (22 with the case), and the ColorBuds are rated IPX5 for water and sweat resistance. While most of the picks on this list support the standard AAC and SBC Bluetooth codecs, 1More adds Apt-X to the mix on Android.
The ColorBuds are available in a handful of attractive colors which, combined with the price and excellent performance, might be enough to sway some people toward them instead of AirPods.
The follow-up to our favorite pair of wireless earbuds is a sonic beast equipped with 12mm drivers that produce loud, well-balanced audio and some of the finest noise neutralization we’ve heard in the category. Jabra’s ANC technology is capable of blocking out 90% of external sounds, allowing for disruption-free listening and audible calls. The Elite 85t connects to the Sound+ app to extend functionality, offering up a plethora of special features that range from adjustable noise cancellation to customizable controls. Connectivity is stable too, thanks to Bluetooth 5.0 and Qualcomm’s fast-operating processor.
We feel Jabra could have done more to increase playtimes, as the Elite 85t falls right in between the AirPods Pro (4.5 hours) and Bose QuietComfort Earbuds (6 hours). However, the buds have terrific battery management that squeezes every minute out of the battery. The inclusion of wireless charging is appreciated as well.
Bose’s first-ever pair of noise-cancelling true wireless earbuds are a huge success. The Bose feel lightweight enough for the average commute or exercise session (the QuietComfort are both sweat and weather-resistant) and they’re great to live with. Battery life is a claimed six hours from a single charge, with the charging case supplying an extra two charges, making 18 hours in total – a decent reserve, but by no means class-leading. You can customise some features and controls, and adjust the excellent noise-cancellation, in Bose’s handy companion app.
The sense of enthusiasm and excitement conveyed by the Bose buds is highly infectious. There’s power, poise and a fantastic sense of dynamism. Bass notes sound full-bodied, go deep and the QuietComfort Earbuds squeeze out lots of detail.
All in all, the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds are sensational all-rounders, capable of impressive musicality and topped off with excellent noise cancelling. These wireless earbuds are more than a match for any rival at this level, including the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2, mentioned above.
Samsung’s sequel to the popular Samsung Galaxy Buds serves as the best wireless buds for Android users. After the company retooled the design, audio performance is a highlight with dual AKG-tuned drivers pumping out crisp, neutral sound that gives instruments and vocals prominence. The call quality could be better, but you get improved battery life (nearly six hours) and a wider set of controls than the AirPods.
The companion mobile app is also user-friendly, making it seamless to adjust the ambient-listening levels, cycle through EQ modes, and customize the touch controls. And, of course, the earbuds are beautiful as well as comfortable and come with an aesthetically appealing, pill-shaped charging case that supports reverse charging to juice up the buds when placed on the back of your newly purchased Samsung Galaxy S20. Samsung sells the Galaxy Buds Plus in several attractive colorways too, including White, Black, Light Blue, Red, and the all-new (and sexy) Aura Blue.
How we tested the wireless earbuds
By using a dummy head, audio engineers are able to test out how audio products will perform for most people — and so do we. Specifically, we tested frequency response, isolation, and battery life to keep things simple. You can read more about it here if you want to know more about the specifics.
- For each product, we played several sine sweeps through the earphones and logged the frequency response once we arrived at a repeatable result that demonstrated the hallmarks of a good seal.
- To test the battery, we use pink noise and a real-time analyzer to find the setting needed to output 75dB(SPL) over the products, and we play music on an infinite loop. This means every reading can be directly compared to each other.
- To test isolation, we took a sample of pink noise at 90dB SPL at one meter, once with the headphones off, and another with the headphones on. We then subtracted one curve from the other.
While these three tests are simple, they cover the biggest areas of concern with true wireless earbuds. Keep in mind that your battery life will vary if you tend to crank the volume. Additionally, you could squeak out better isolation performance if you use third-party tips.
Why you should trust us
I hold a bachelor’s degree in both music performance and audio production from Ithaca College, and I also have tested more than a thousand pairs of headphones and earbuds.
In addition to reviewing gear for AV magazines, I’ve been in and out of top recording studios for over a decade, first as a radio producer and on-air talent, then as a professional voice actor. My articles have been featured in Fast Company, Forbes, the Los Angeles Times, and Time, and on Good Morning America, the BBC World Service, and NBC Nightly News.
At the end of the day, we want you to enjoy what you listen to, which means we want you to enjoy what you’re listening through. None of us see a dime from partnership deals or referral purchases, and we absolutely don’t benefit from swaying to one product or another.