Apple’s AirPods may have ushered in the wire-free craze just a few short years ago, but now it’s hard to find a pair of in-ear Bluetooth headphones that isn’t a pair of AirPods-style true wireless earbuds. And now that the style has taken over, you’ll find varieties for every taste and need and budget, from noise-canceling earbuds to help you shut out the world, to exercise-oriented models that can stand up to sweat to high-end designs meant to satisfy audiophiles into high-resolution listening.
With so many options out there, CNN Underscored staffers continually test new headphones, much as we’ve done with the best over-ear headphones, the best workout headphones and the best noise-canceling headphones. We’ve gotten ears on the latest models, and after months of listening we’ve found the best true wireless earbuds for you.
The best true wireless earbuds overall: Beats Fit Pro
The Beats Fit Pro not only do everything th AirPods Pro do, but they do it with more style, fit more securely, and are more comfortable. Add to that a more universally compatible USB-C charging case and support for Android via the Beats app, and they’re not just great for Apple users, but make a great workout headphone and are now our favorite true-wireless earbuds overall.
True to their name, the Beats Fit Pro offer outstanding fit and comfort. These rubber-coated buds have a wingtip design, which keeps them in place during strenuous activities and provides some extra support for your inner ear without feeling intrusive or heavy — they are more compact than the hooked Beats Powerbeats Pro but felt just as secure during workouts.
If you’re using them with an iPhone or other Apple devices, you get the full AirPods experience: an Ear Tip Fit Test lets you get the best seal, you get active noise cancellation (ANC), a Transparency mode for amplifying the outside world, Adaptive EQ, Spatial Audio, instant pairing with Apple devices and the ability to control Siri hands-free.
But unlike the AirPods Pro, the Fit Pro are also pretty great if you’re on an Android device. The Beats app for Android lets you take advantage of nearly all of the Fit Pro’s key features, including the ability to switch sound modes, customize the controls and perform an Ear Tip Fit Test. Android users will have to live without a few perks (you don’t get Find My support for tracking your lost buds or automatic switching between paired devices), but for a pair of Apple earbuds, there’s an impressive amount of parity between the two platforms.
The Fit Pro also have among the longest battery life of Apple buds we’ve tested, lasting us nearly 7 continuous hours with ANC on and allowing us to go about three days of normal on-and-off use before having to charge the case. That edges out the six hours and 10 minutes we got out of the AirPods 3, as well as the five hours we saw on the AirPods Pro.
Read the full review: https://www.cnn.com/cnn-underscored/reviews/beats-fit-pro
Other true wireless earbuds we recommend
How we tested
To find the best true wireless earbuds, we set out for an initial round of testing with a pool of products representing the full range of what was available in the format — noise-canceling, workout, audiophile and specifically Apple- and Android-friendly models across the budget and style spectrum. Since then, we’ve continued to add to this review as we’ve updated our testing with new and improved versions of our earlier picks and added wholly new models to the lineup.
With each earbud we test, we used them day-in and day-out for weeks or months to understand how they’ll serve in daily use. And we put them through the same testing regimen that we’ve used across our headphone reviews.
Comfort and build quality
We wore each pair of earbuds for an extended period of time, using them on daily basis, traveling with them, and wearing them to the gym, to determine whether they fit securely, what sort of retention mechanisms (such as wings or hooks) were used and if they were comfortable, and used any sort of fitting software supplied by the manufacturers or experimented with supplied eartips and attachments to make sure enough of a variety of was included to fit a range of wearers.
We also looked carefully at the quality of the materials used, how clean construction was and how well assembled each headphone was. We also looked at how compact each model folded, and at case materials and construction.
Active noise cancellation (ANC)
We assessed how well the ANC software and hardware of each pair of headphones dampened environmental sound. We created two noisy conditions to test: running on a treadmill with a TV on high volume nearby and sitting next to an active washing machine; later testing added a kitchen hood fan and window air conditioner. This section also required intensive cross-comparison to figure out which headphones were dampening more sound, and what range of sound was being affected.
In addition to personal favorites our testers knew well, we used a baseline set of well-engineered contemporary songs, including acoustic, electric and electronic music, so we could easily establish direct comparisons. This included “Bad Guy” by Billie Eilish, “Royals” by Lorde, “Jazz Crimes” by Joshua Redman, “I’m on Fire” by Bruce Springsteen, “Neon Lights” by Molotov Jukebox, “Let Me In” by Laminate Pet Animal and “Might Be Right” by White Reaper.
We listened carefully for how well each headphone reproduced bass and revealed midrange and treble detail, how realistic a soundstage it created and overall clarity, paying special attention to whether noise cancellation and transparency modes interacted with or interfered with the overall sound. And for headphones that used virtual surround modes, we assessed the realism and usefulness of the included effects.
We tested each physical control to find out whether the user interface of each model was easy to understand and how intuitive it was to control playback, calls, volume, Bluetooth pairing and features like ANC and transparency modes. We paid equal attention to companion apps, examining the extended settings available and how intuitive and useful the software was in daily use.
We paired each headphone with multiple Apple, Android and Windows devices, assessing ease of pairing and switching between multiple devices (where that was supported) as well as speed of reconnection, carefully noting range and latency.
To check battery life, we used a long playlist and following a full charge to capacity, ran each headphone to exhaustion at normal listening level (75% volume) with ANC on and off. We also used them as part of our daily routines, charging them to capacity and then using them for work and commute until exhaustion to get a sense of how many days of real-world use they would support. After exhausting the battery, we also double-checked quick-charge features, testing to see if we could get the claimed battery life.
We researched what the warranty covered for each device, what period it covered and whether extended warranties or service plans were available.
Other true wireless earbuds we tested
Anker Soundcore Liberty 3 Pro
$170 $85 at Amazon
The Soundcore Liberty 3 Pro are Hi-Res certified and support the LDAC standard, making them a worthy consideration for folks who use high-resolution music services such as Tidal and Qobuz. They’re also competitively priced. However, we didn’t get the best battery life from these buds, and we think the Sony WF-1000XM4 are a better high-end option thanks to their superb noise cancellation.
Anker Soundcore Life P2
$46 $35 at Amazon
We generally love Anker products and really wanted to recommend this pair of affordable earbuds, but after hours of testing, we simply couldn’t in good conscience. The Soundcore Life 2 earbuds fell just a bit short in all of the most important categories. The sound quality isn’t exactly bad and it was generally well-balanced with decent range.
When you compare them to other earbuds in the category, though, they just weren’t quality enough to stack up against some of the best in the category, namely the Earfun Air. With only two microphones dedicated to noise canceling and 6 hours of battery life, we found that they fell just short of earning an enthusiastic recommendation. They’re good earbuds for the price, but they fell short of being considered the best.
Apple AirPods Pro (1st generation)
$249 $220 at Amazon
The first generation AirPods Pro had a long reign as our top earbuds pick for Apple users, thanks to their great sound, noise cancellation and seamless connectivity with iPhones, iPads and Macs. But the newer Beats Fit Pro do all of that with a sportier design and more comfortable and secure fit, and the 2nd generation AirPods Pro add useful touch controls and improve on the sound quality and case design.
Apple AirPods (3rd generation)
$169 (with Lightning case) or $179 (with Magsafe case) at Apple
The AirPods 3 — Apple’s take on a traditional earbud without a foam or silicone tip — are a nice improvement over the previous-gen model, delivering better sound quality and borrowing some AirPods Pro features including Spatial Audio and Adaptive EQ. They also deliver six hours of listening playback, which is pretty strong over any other AirPods model. You can get them with a wired charging case, or wireless for another $10. But unless you really don’t like an earbud that seals, whether for situational awareness or comfort reason, we’d recommend springing for the Beats Fit Pro or snagging the AirPods Pro on sale.
Beats Powerbeats Pro
$250 $180 at Amazon
The Powerbeats Pro enjoyed a long reign as our favorite workout earbuds, largely thanks to their comfortable earhook design that kept them secure in our ears during intensive exercise. They also sound fantastic, with the satisfying bass you expect from Beats, and pair effortlessly to Apple devices. The Powerbeats Pro are still a good buy if you prefer workout buds that wrap around your ears, but we think the smaller Beats Fit Pro offer better control and are just as secure (and even more comfortable) for both workout and everyday use.
Beats Studio Buds
$150 $100 at Amazon
The Beats Studio Buds were once our top pick for comfort, thanks to a low profile design that we enjoyed wearing for hours on end. They’re also built to fast-pair to both iOS and Android devices, which is a unique perk for a pair of Apple-made buds. There’s a lot to like here for $150, but the Beats Fit Pro offer even better comfort and features for those willing to pay up.
Belkin SoundForm Freedom True Wireless
$120 From $42 at Amazon
The Belkin SoundForm Freedom True are among the few third-party earbuds that support Apple’s Find My app for tracking down your lost buds. They sound good and have good battery life. But they’re an older model, don’t pair as smoothly to iPhones as Apple’s own earbuds, and Android users are better off with a host of other newer options.
Bose Sport Open Earbuds
$199 at Bose
The Bose Sport Open Earbuds are the most unique workout earbuds we’ve tested, with a unique open design that pumps out quality audio while leaving your actual ears free to better hear your surroundings while you’re out on a run. While the Sport Open Earbuds deliver big for their very specific audience — people who want exercise buds that don’t actually go in your ears — their rigid design and lack of a charging case makes them a tough sell for most folks.
Bowers & Wilkins Pi7 S2
$399 at Amazon, Bowers & Wilkins
This latest update to the audiophile brand’s flagship earbud looks great, fits comfortably and sounds fantastic, with deep bass, smooth mids, and plenty of high end clarity — subtle sound quality improvements to its already high-performance predecessor. It supports the highest-quality aptX Bluetooth support if you’re using an Android mobile or Windows machine, and a cool travel-friendly case doubles as a transmitter if you need to interface with older gear — like a plane’s in-flight entertainment system. Given the price, however, it isn’t for everyone so we’d suggest it mostly for discerning audiophiles on the go.
EarFun Air Pro
$80 at Amazon
You would think that the Earfun Air Pro buds would be better than their predecessors because they have “Pro” in the name — but you’d be wrong. They do technically have some better capabilities such as active noise canceling, three microphones per earpiece instead of just two, and a new 10mm driver, all of which is supposed to provide better sound quality than the original Earfun Air models. They also have the same level of battery life and generally the same sound. Heck, we can barely tell the difference between the two.
When it comes down to it, though, the original Earfun Air edges out this model in terms of sound, waterproofing and wireless charging to boot. You won’t be upset if you buy the Earfun Air Pro earbuds — they are some of the best available for this price — but we think you’ll feel slightly happier jamming out to the EarFun Air.
EarFun Free Earbuds
$80 $60 at Amazon
Not all EarFun earbuds are created equal. The Earfun Free has decent sound quality and a reasonable 6 hours of battery life with 24 extra hours available in the charging case. But we found that sound quality and comfort were not as nice as the higher priced counterparts.
All of the Earfun earbuds we tested consistently ranked among some of our favorite budget earbuds, but we think the slight improvement in sound quality and comfort in the other models mean you should choose the EarFun Air instead.
Google Pixel Buds A-Series
$100 $80 at Best Buy
The Google Pixel Buds A-Series hold their own against the more expensive AirPods and Galaxy Buds 2 in terms of sound quality, comfort and battery life, all within an attractive and low-profile design. They also have some very useful Google Assistant controls, which allow you to do everything from play a specific song to translate an entire sentence using your voice alone.
Unfortunately, those Assistant tricks are exclusive to Android users, as there’s no Pixel Buds app for the iPhone — they’re just another pair of generic Bluetooth headphones so far as the iPhone can tell. It’s also worth noting that the Pixel Buds A-Series’ charging case — which comes in white across all models — is highly susceptible to smudges and scuffs. Its highly magnetic design also got stuck to other metal objects in our pockets, causing the buds to accidentally slip out on more than one occasion. But if the case isn’t a deal breaker for you, the $99 Buds A are about as good as you can get at this price if you’re on Android.
Jabra Elite 4 Active
$120 $80 at Amazon and Best Buy
The Jabra Elite 4 Active are one of many good workout earbuds Jabra offers, with excellent sound, a great fit and solid active noise cancellation and a useful HearThrough ambient mode for amplifying your surroundings. We still prefer the overall performance and simpler controls of the Jabra Elite Active 75t, but the Elite 4 Active are worth considering if you’re on a budget or prefer the design.
Jabra Elite 7 Pro
$200 at Amazon
The Jabra Elite 7 Pro earbuds deliver strong sound quality, decent active noise cancellation and reliable physical controls. At their current discounted price they are a good value, but we much prefer the Jabra Elite 85t or Jabra Elite Active 75t, which offers better ANC in addition to the same basic features.
Jabra Elite Active 75t
$72 at Amazon
The Jabra Elite Active 75t — our former pick as the best workout earbuds (we now recommend our overall favorites, the Beats Fit Pro, for that application) — are secure, comfortable and durable enough for high-intensity training and have enough battery life to get you through a long day at the gym. They aren’t quite as good as the Beats across the board, but they’re a very capable pair or true wireless headphones that come in a bit cheaper than the Beats and are a great choice if you like the Jabra look and feel.
Jabra Elite 85t
$230 $140 at Amazon
The Jabra Elite 85t offers good overall sound and tons of customization via Jabra’s excellent Sound+ app, including 11 levels of active noise cancellation. However, the Elite 85t’s design is a little bulky for our liking, and its semi-open design (which is great for situational awareness while exercising outdoors) makes its ANC less pronounced than on Elite Active 75t.
JLab JBuds Air ANC True Wireless
$70 at Target
You’re not going to find anything groundbreaking in these ‘buds, but for most people, that’s probably just fine. The sound quality is middle of the road out of the box, with an active bass boost option and decent EQ modes when you click a button on the earbuds.
The battery life is also weak at just three hours — but, on the bright side, they offer good sound isolation from the wind and are rated at IP55 for dust- and water-resistance, which make them a solid choice as budget workout earphones.
Microsoft Surface Earbuds
$200 $130 at Microsoft
The Surface Earbuds performed well in our testing and real-world usage. You’ll get stable connectivity, a unique circular disc-like design, and eight hours of battery life. But for $199.99, you’re going to be left wanting more, especially when you compare them with our top picks. Microsoft super fans who use the 365 suite daily will be impressed by dictation and other integrated features.
OnePlus Buds Z2
$100 From $60 at Amazon or $80 $60 at OnePlus
The OnePlus Buds Z2 offer a lot for under $100, including impressive active noise cancellation, an IPX4 waterproof case and a robust companion app with lots of sound customization features. However, we found its audio quality and battery life to be just OK, and many of its key features are limited to those with OnePlus phones.
Razer Hammerhead True Wireless Earbuds (2021)
$130 at Razer
If you really want wireless earbuds that have RGB lighting, the Razer Hammerhead are about the only game in town. These earbuds offer decent sound quality and battery life for the price, but we found the controls to be finicky, and the audio to be not quite on par with our favorites from Apple, Sony, Samsung and others.
Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro
$200 From $144 at Amazon
Samsung’s Galaxy Buds Pro offer up a ton of great software features that let Android users fine-tune the audio and customize the controls, and deliver some very solid noise cancellation.
Samsung Galaxy Buds 2
$150 $100 at Samsung
While the company has since introduced newer versions of the Galaxy Buds, the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 are among the best-looking and most comfortable buds we’ve tested, have strong battery life and offer good sound quality. We found the touch controls overly sensitive in our testing, however, and the noise-cancellation can’t compete with newer models. While they’re worth considering still at their heavily discounted price if you’re an Android user on a budget, overall we think you can do better for your money.
Samsung Galaxy Buds+
$175 at Amazon
If you want a pair of true wireless earbuds that won’t break the bank, Samsung has you covered with the Galaxy Buds+. These lasted 11 hours on one charge — that’s six more hours than AirPods Pro and two more hours than Powerbeats Pro. That long runtime is paired with an equalizer in the companion app for iOS or Android, so you can up the bass or increase high tones as you see fit, which means you’ll get good sound quality that holds its own against more expensive options.
Samsung Galaxy Buds Live
$150 $90 at Amazon
The Galaxy Buds Live were a former recommendation for the most comfortable earbuds, and they still largely live up our original assessment, with a unique bean-shaped design that’s ergonomic and easy to forget about during long hours of listening to music and podcasts. However, newer models are more comfortable and sound better, and noise-canceling technology has improved markedly. We suggest looking at the superior Galaxy Buds Pro, but the Buds Live are worth considering if you’re on a tighter budget.
SkullCandy Sesh True Wireless
$50 $29 at Amazon
Unfortunately, the Skullcandy Sesh True Wireless earbuds were a disappointment. The sound was fine — not terrible — but lacked bass on some of our favorite dance and disco songs. The highs were also a little too overwhelming, creating an overall lack of balance in sound quality. Poor battery life and poor call quality make matters worse, and though sometimes you can justify lack of performance when a headphone looks cool (an area where Skullcandy typically excels), these earbuds are small and unobtrusive, and far from a fashion statement.
Sony WF-1000XM4 Earbuds
$278 $228 at Walmart or Amazon
Sony’s WF-1000XM4 buds block out noise in a way that few other earbuds can match — only bested by the new Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2. They sound great as well, with Sony’s typical well-balanced sound. A nicely designed, easy-to-use mobile app lets you fine tune ANC performance, EQ and more to let you tailor the sound to your personal taste.
Sony WF-1000XM3 Earbuds
$200 $150 at Amazon
A former top pick among true wireless headphones, the Sony WF-1000XM3s are still available, but newer designs are better. The XM3s are large and heavy compared to newer earbuds like our current recommendations, That said, the sound quality is still good, with a wide soundstage and an app for customization.
$449 $399 at Ultimate Ears
The latest from the custom-headphone specialists at Ultimate Ears, UE Drops take most of the annoyance out of the process of getting a custom fit by letting you take your own ear impressions at home. The procedure is simple and quick, and the results are impressive. Our test pair sounds great, fits comfortably and securely, and delivers a lot of the modern earbud features you know and love. There’s no ANC, though, and limited app features, so while the Drops are cheaper than most custom models, given how good today’s flagship true wireless models from Apple and Sony are, most potential buyer will find these too pricey.