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Active noise-cancellation for total sound immersion. Transparency mode allows you to hear and connect with your environment while listening. Sweat- and water-resistant. Wireless charging case provides an impressive 24 hours of battery life.
A pricey choice compared to others.
Affordable. Active noise-cancellation. Optimized for mobile gaming. Includes 3 ear tips. Comprehensive companion app lets you fine-tune performance. Water-resistant. Up to 32 hours of battery life. Bright, customizable RGB lighting.
Its integrated microphone is average.
Featherweight. Deep bass. Impressively clear audio. Good active noise-cancellation. Features 3 ear tip sizes. Up to 29 hours of battery life on a single charge. Offers onboard touch controls. Optimized for Samsung Galaxy devices.
Limited water resistance. Design may not fit some ears or tastes.
Easy syncing with an iPhone. With a new Apple Watch, you can leave your iPhone at home and sync your AirPods to the watch. Good charge life and can handle several falls without breaking down.
Might not fit everyone's ears perfectly—especially people with smaller ears.
Comfortable design that stays in place with soft built-in stabilizers. Good sound quality with punchy bass and emphasized highs, ideal for phone calls. Intuitive tap-based controls. Sweat-resistant; good for workouts or chores.
Our testing found the battery life underwhelming.
We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.
For the last several years, the term “wireless earbuds” has been a bit of a misnomer. While most Bluetooth earbuds don’t require a wired connection to your smartphone, they still require a wire between the two earbuds themselves, so until recently, “wireless earbuds” has meant “mostly wireless earbuds.” New wireless earbuds have solved that problem, and to help sort out any consumer confusion, they’ve been christened “truly wireless earbuds,” because, well, there truly are no wires.
Of course, as with any new technological milestone, there are pros and cons related to the next big thing – truly wireless earbuds definitely solve tangle problems, but they rely on batteries, so owning a pair means keeping yet another device charged.
As you’re checking out various models, you’re likely to find truly wireless earbuds mixed with traditional wireless earbuds. The differences between the two go beyond the wire.
Wireless earbuds consist of two earpieces connected together by a thin wire intended to drape across the back of your neck. Because these earbuds are wired, they use less power, so you’ll find better battery life on these models. The connecting wire can get frustrating at times, particularly if you have long hair or you don’t like dealing with wires all the time.
Truly wireless earbuds are two separate earbuds that wirelessly (truly!) connect to both an audio source (like your smartphone) and each other. Truly wireless earbuds are more convenient and easier to use than traditional wireless models but often don’t hold a charge longer than a few hours.
All truly wireless earbuds are incredibly convenient, but there are a few additional features that set the best models apart from the rest. Here are our favorite bonus features.
Some truly wireless earbuds offer one-touch access to Google Home (on Android devices) or Siri (on Apple devices), and while that may seem a little gimmicky, there’s something magical and convenient about using your headphones to interact with a digital assistant. If you’ve grown fond of having an Amazon Echo or a Google Home device in your life, you’ll love having the same convenience from your headphones.
All truly wireless earbuds have built-in batteries so they can hold a charge on their own, but many include a handy carrying case that doubles as a charger pack, ready to recharge each earpiece on the go. Buying truly wireless earbuds that come with a charging case means you’ll always have a backup plan if the batteries die.
Noise cancellation is a pricey feature on any set of headphones, so it’s usually only found on the most expensive truly wireless earbuds. That said, the luxury of being able to touch a button and completely drown out all the background noise around you is definitely worth it if you can afford it.
Some truly wireless earbuds include a moderate amount of storage for music, usually between 2GB and 8GB, which is perfect for loading and playing your personal MP3s. With a local music player, you can listen to your music collection without the distractions of a phone, which is perfect for runners.
When it comes to truly wireless earbuds, it’s easy – but not necessary – to spend a lot of money to get the perfect pair. You can expect to pay from $40 to $450 and up for truly wireless earbuds.
In the $40 to $99 range, you’ll find a mix of solid performers and underwhelming knockoffs. Truly wireless earbuds in this price range will typically have good (but not great) battery life. If you just need a pair of earbuds for phone calls or working out, you don’t need to spend a lot, but if you’re buying a pair primarily for listening to music, plan on spending a little more to get a set of truly wireless earbuds that can deliver better audio fidelity.
In the $100 to $249 range, you’ll see a big jump in overall quality and more brands that you know. While on paper the feature set of these models may look the same as that of less expensive models, pricier truly wireless earbuds are more reliable and user-friendly. If you’re after a hassle-free experience that won’t drop connections or require frequent repairs, expect to pay more.
In the $250 to $450 range, there’s a handful of models from top-shelf brands known for premium audio, such as the offerings from Apple. Truly wireless earbuds in this price range deliver audiophile-quality sound and killer features and come in high-end finishes.
If you’re new to earbuds, practice getting a tight seal between your ear and the rubber tips. With earbuds, the sound quality you get is largely dependent on making a seal between the rubber or silicone earbud tips and your ear. If any air escapes, sound does, too, degrading your experience. To get a strong seal, pull down on the earlobe, insert the earbud, and then let go of your earlobe to allow your ear to form a seal around the earbud.
If you’re concerned about running out of charge while you’re on the go, buy a power bank to take with you. Most truly wireless earbuds won’t make it through a full workday without recharging, and in some cases, you might even need to recharge them more than once a day. While many truly wireless earbuds include cases that hold an extra charge, those only hold one extra charge. If you buy a good power bank, you can easily carry around a few extra charges at a time.
If you plan on working out with your wireless earbuds, get a model with ear hooks. Most truly wireless earbuds advertise that they’re great for working out, but depending on the size of your ears or how much you sweat, that may or may not be true. Many truly wireless earbuds include flexible plastic hooks that wrap around the backs of your ears and help the earbuds stay in place. Ear hooks let you focus on your workout instead of worrying about dropping your expensive new headphones.
If you want to swim wearing wireless earbuds, make sure the ones you buy are waterproof. Some truly wireless headphones are water resistant, which doesn’t mean you can wear them swimming. It does mean that you can wear them to work out without worrying about water damaging the electronics. If you need a pair of truly wireless earbuds for swimming, be certain to buy a waterproof model.
A. Different models offer varying amounts of talk time, but in most cases you can expect at least three hours from a single charge, and rarely more than five. To get more realistic estimates about a specific model, search for user reviews from owners.
A. Yes, although pairing them with an iPhone will unlock additional functionality. Apple’s AirPods can be used as a standard headset with just about any phone, meaning you’ll be able to use them for phone calls as well as listening to music. However, AirPods include additional features that are only compatible with iPhones; for example, iPhone owners can use AirPods to act as a conduit to Siri, Apple’s voice-activated digital assistant.
A. It depends. Audio quality is one of the key differentiators among different models of wireless earbuds, and it’s one of the features that will quickly drive up the cost. Moderately priced models typically only have so-so audio quality. If music is important to you, you’ll need to spend a little more.
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