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The market for earbuds was forever changed when Apple first launched AirPods, the first earbuds to be truly wireless, dropping the mess of cables that normally tethers you to your phone (and gets tangled in your bag, no less!). And while AirPods remain some of the best—and most ubiquitous—of the wireless earbuds out there, they’re no longer the only ones. There now exists a whole slew of alternatives that each offer something slightly different to appeal to varying tastes and preferences. Maybe the AirPods frustratingly won’t sit in your ear securely (a common complaint). Or, maybe you want an option that’s better designed for Android. Style is another consideration; earbuds are practically a fashion accessory as much as a practical gadget.
Below is a selection of some of the best wireless earbuds available today. Of course, that includes the AirPods, as they remain the standard-bearer for the market as a pair of wireless headphones that work, and work seamlessly. But other wireless earbuds in the lineup are just as good (if not better), and should offer something for everybody.
Read More: Best Wireless Headphones
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Apple AirPods Pro
Apple released the AirPods Pro in 2019 as a follow-up to the original AirPods with more premium features, notably noise-canceling technology and some physical hardware controls. Best paired with an iOS device, the AirPods are known for their ability to instantly connect to an iPhone or iPad. And thanks to ear detection, when you remove one of the earbuds from your ear, your music will immediately stop playing. We also like that these headphones will read your notifications—like text messages—aloud, so you don’t have to reach for your phone. Most new AirPods and Beats headphones do this.
The Pro model is a $70 premium over the standard AirPods, but noise cancelation really makes a big difference when you’re in loud environments—and “Transparency” mode can be enabled to let in some outside noise. The AirPods Pro also come with three sizes of ear tips, so you can find a fit that sits snugly in your ear canal, whereas the standard AirPods are a one-size-fits-all type of deal. One downside to the AirPods Pro is that noise cancelation puts a hit on battery life, but at 24 hours of listening with the charging case, you’ll still go a long time before you have to charge up.
The AirPods Pro are IPX4 water-resistant, which means they should hold up fine against normal wear like sweat and splashes, but not sustained submersion in water.
- Hardware buttons make it easy to skip tracks.
- Battery life is lower than previous models.
Best for Android Users
Beats by Dr. Dre Beats Studio Buds
Those outside of Apple’s ecosystem have an alternative from the same company in the form of the Beats Studio Buds. Even though Beats is owned by Apple, the company released these specifically with non-iPhone users in mind by creating an Android app, where users can see battery charge levels and customize the Beats Studio Buds’ touch-sensitive controls for doing things like pausing music. The Studio Buds come with many of the same features as the AirPods, like noise cancelation and interchangeable tips, but at a lower price-point of $149.99. Sound quality is considered to be on par with the AirPods Pro—the stylish, classic Beats design is also nice and stands out from the AirPods’ ubiquitous look. The Beats Studio Buds feature a compact, in-ear design, so you’re not going to have tips hanging out of your ears like with the AirPods.
That being said, the AirPods Pro are often available on sale for less than $200 and include some useful additions the Studio Buds don’t have, like wireless charging and spatial audio, a special effect that makes it feel like you’re listening to audio in a surround-sound environment. For that reason, the AirPods Pro are the better choice for iPhone owners—but Android users should consider the Beats Studio Buds as the better of the two choices.
The Beats Studio Buds are IPX4 water-resistant, which means they should hold up fine against normal wear like sweat and splashes, but not sustained submersion in water.
Best For Runners
Beats by Dr. Dre Powerbeats Pro
Wireless earbuds are great for their compact size but tend to hang loosely in the ear and therefore are prone to falling out when you’re running or making any other jerky movements. Thankfully, Beats has a model of wireless earbuds designed specifically for use during exercise. The Powerbeats Pro are similar to the Beats Studio Buds or even the AirPods Pro, except the Powerbeats feature ear-hooks that keep the earbuds locked securely in your ear canal. The Powerbeats Pro do not feature active noise cancelation, unfortunately, but you will get some level of isolation thanks to the design that keeps them locked into your ears and not hanging out. The charging case is also kind of large to accommodate the hooks, which is unfortunate. But if you do lots of running or other exercises, the Powerbeats Pro is a solid product and the best option out there. We also like the built-in volume up/down controls on each earbud, and the Beats logo also functions as a button to control playback or access Siri.
The Powerbeats Pro are IPX4 water-resistant, which means they should hold up fine against normal wear like sweat and splashes, but not sustained submersion in water.
Read More: Beats by Dr. Dre Powerbeats Pro Review
- Ear-hooks ensure the earbuds remain secure while you exercise.
Samsung Galaxy Buds 2
Samsung hasn’t gotten a lot of attention for its wireless earbuds, but the Galaxy Buds2 are a solid product. The bean-shaped Buds2 live svelte in your ear, sans the white tips that make the AirPods stand out in a crowd. Active noise cancelation, interchangeable tips, and simple touch controls—call, mute, track selection, and volume adjustment—round out these earbuds that come in an array of bright colors. At $149.99, the Buds2 won’t give you the best noise cancelation or sound quality, but for the price, they hit a solid middle-ground. For $50 more you can nab the Buds Pro, which include enhancements to water resistance, noise cancelation, and a spatial audio feature that creates a surround-sound-like experience.
The Galaxy Buds2 are only IPX2 water-resistant, which means they are quite sensitive to water and should be wiped offer immediately after any contact with liquid. Again, consider the Buds Pro if this is a concern.
- Good value for the price.
- Noise cancelation could be better.
Best Noise Cancelation
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds
Bose remains the industry leader when it comes to noise cancelation technology, and the QuietComfort Earbuds include an adjustable 1-10 noise cancelation scale for precise control so you can decide whether you want to hear a little, or a lot, of the outside world. A quick-tap function will toggle your earbuds between complete noise cancelation and Bose’s so-called “Aware Mode,” which lets you hear your music and surroundings at the same time. Unfortunately, the built-in touch controls won’t let you skip tracks, but you can adjust volume and the noise cancelation settings, as well as answer calls. The earbuds are built with rubber wing-tips to keep them secure in your ear. Expect sound quality to be pretty solid, these are coming from Bose, after all.
The QuietComfort Earbuds are IPX4 water-resistant, which means they should hold up fine against normal wear like sweat and splashes, but not sustained submersion in water.
Read More: Best Wireless Headphones for Workouts
- Adjustable noise cancelation scale.
- Touch controls don’t allow navigating music.
Best Sound Quality
Sony was one of the first companies to release truly wireless earbuds featuring noise cancelation, and these are some of the best at drowning out noise, in turn providing you the best listening experience. The WF-1000MX4’s also feature great battery life, superb audio quality, and a compact design (with touch controls!) that fits snugly in your ear. Sony has packed larger speaker drivers into these earbuds than most competitors, which translates into richer bass and clearer mids. To help with noise cancelation, Sony chose foam rather than the traditional rubber tips, making for a better seal. You will have to clean these more, however, as foam is a magnet for ear wax. Eight hours of listening on a charge means you won’t have to worry often about being without your tunes and alone with your thoughts. Android users can also use the Alexa voice assistant to request music, directions, and more.
The WF-1000MX4’s are IPX4 water-resistant, which means they should hold up fine in your home gym, but not the pool.
- Large drivers make for rich bass and clear mids.
- Foam ear tips will need regular cleaning.
Best Budget Picket
JBL Tune 115TWS
Admittedly a budget pick, the JBL Tune’s provide good sound quality for the price. There’s no noise cancelation, however, and the microphones are pretty lackluster. The hardware controls are also difficult to use, and buyers have reported they are prone to disconnecting abruptly. But for less than $80, you aren’t going to find much better. They’ll get you listening to your tunes on the go without a mess of cables to deal with.
The JBL Tune’s are not water-resistant, meaning you must be careful about introducing them to any liquid.
- Lack of noise cancelation, middling microphones.
Master & Dynamic MW08
At $300, these Master & Dynamic earbuds are pricey. But for that price you’re getting a pair of headphones with long battery life and rock-solid build quality consisting of metal and ceramic finishes, rather than plastic present on many wireless earbuds. Noise cancelation helps good bass and vocals to sound clear at every decibel. Physical playback controls are a plus, and there are several noise cancelation modes to choose from. Master & Dynamic is synonymous with high-quality audio, but keep in mind that with wireless earbuds, you’re not likely to notice subtle sound differences when you’re out riding a train or getting your workout on. At some point, there are diminishing returns. Really, with these headphones, you’re paying a premium for the materials and the reputation of Master & Dynamic.
The MW08’s are IPX5 water-resistant, which means you can wear them confidently during a workout without worrying.
- Solid build quality and sound.
Best For Audio Geeks
Sennheiser Momentum 2
High-end design from a leader in audio, the Momentum True’s are for true audio aficionados—the associated app allows you to customize the earbuds’ sound profile, which says all you need to know (though buyers have said the app is clunky). The Momentum True’s charging case is cloth-wrapped and the buds feature a shiny metal backing. Sound quality and noise cancelation are said to be quite good for in-ear headphones. Originally priced at $300, the new going rate of $199 makes them an easier sell, especially if you’re already a fan of the Sennheiser brand.
The Momentum 2’s are IPX4 water-resistant, which means they should hold up fine in your home gym, but not the pool.
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- Solid audio quality, sleek hardware design.
Marshall Minor III
Marshall is an iconic audio equipment purveyor, so it’s no surprise the company would get in on the wireless earbud trend. The Minor III has a design nearly identical to the standard AirPods, but with a Marshall flare, including black leather encasing and gold etching. The earbuds themselves include touch controls; tapping the left earbud toggles “Transparency” mode, which allows in more external noise so that you’re aware of your surroundings. Keep in mind that these earbuds do not have active noise cancelation. 12mm drivers should provide for deep bass and clear highs, though buyers have reported that the connection of the Minor III’s often drops and the sound quality is a bit of a letdown coming from such a reputed brand in audio. The Minor III’s don’t have interchangeable tips to ensure a good seal, which likely contributes to the sound issues—noise cancelation would have been a big help here. Buyers have also reported that the touch controls are quite sensitive; even a light touch of the earbud can cause music to skip. And yes, it comes has wireless charging with the case.
The Minor III’s are IPX4 water-resistant, which means they should hold up fine in your home gym, but not the pool.
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