Where once were wires, now Bluetooth reigns. And if it’s cordless audio you’re after, this is the list to listen to: from accessible in-ears to premium earphones, we’ve ranked the best wireless earbuds you can buy right now.
Whether you’re tired of tangled wires or upgrading to a port-free phone, there are buds for every ear and budget. The top options go light on your lugs but sizeable on sound, offering sonic capabilities to rival any cabled competitor. Many also augment the listening experience with in-app adjustments and active noise cancellation.
Every pair is tested extensively by our keen-eared team. Trialled in real-world conditions and challenged with a range of genres to rival your average Glastonbury line-up, you can be sure that the wireless earbuds below all cut the musical mustard. Looking for specifically for gym buds? Check out our dedicated list of the best wireless in-ears for sporty sorts.
Our pick of the best wireless earbuds
Continuing its record of true-wireless winners, the WF-1000XM4 show once again that Sony knows how to make excellent earphones. Successors to the brilliant WF-1000XM3, the upgraded earbuds deliver a listen that’s as punchy as it is detailed. Spacious and balanced, they’re endlessly engaging in the ear. Besides their convincing sonic talents, the WF-1000XM4 cancel outside sounds effectively, with the option to tweak ANC levels in the outstanding partner app. That’s also where you can tinker with EQ levels, touch controls and more. Battery life is par for the course, but the trade-off is a tidy design that’s smaller than before – mirrored by a charging case that’s more pocket-friendly by 40%. The WF-1000XM3 remain better value, but the WF-1000XM4 set a fresh bar for in-ear superiority.
Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3
With a few simple improvements, the third generation of Sennheiser’s Momentum True Wireless in-ears cement their place among the best. Build quality feels as bomb-proof as before, while a 16% size reduction and means the updated ‘phones look less chunky. Each earbud features a touch interface, customisable through the feature-packed app. Taps can be set to cycle through ANC settings, which include effective transparency and anti-wind modes. Battery life is acceptably average at seven hours from the earbuds, but superlative audio performance makes up for it: fire up the 7mm drivers and they treat your ears to a poised recital. Favouring balance and fidelity over punishing bass, the Momentums demonstrate remarkable sonic control. Detail is engrossing across the range, with a spacious and tonal soundstage.
Cambridge Audio Melomania 1+
Building on the five-star benchmark set by their predecessors, Cambridge Audio’s Melomania 1+ shape up as a feature-packed and remarkably affordable pair of hi-fi wireless earbuds. With bullet-shaped shells, the flat-topped ‘phones are lightweight at 4.6g apiece. There’s no ANC, but superb sound isolation creates a hushed backdrop for a balanced listen. Even without tweaking EQ settings in the smartphone app, the 5.8mm graphene drivers produce a soundstage with real width, depth and texture. Wear detection is notably absent from the spec sheet, but class-leading battery life more than compensates, managing a formidable 45 hours with top-ups from the tidy charging case. At full price, they’re hard to fault. At their discounted ticket, the Cambridge Audio Melomania 1+ are unbeatable for buyers on a budget.
Beats Fit Pro
Pairing AirPods tech with sporty styling, the Beats Fit Pro are some of the finest fitness earbuds around. With the help of flexible wingtips, their fit is equal parts comfortable and unshakeable. Sound quality is excellent, courtesy of Apple’s H1 chip and 9.5mm drivers inside: bass is predictably punchy, but overall output also proves rich, crisp and clear. Spatial audio support means sonic immersion with compatible tracks, plus Adaptive EQ tweaks sound to suit your surroundings. ANC and transparency modes ape the AirPods Pro, even if noise-cancellation isn’t the strongest. Battery life is competitive enough at 30 hours, while wear-detect sensors pause the playlist when you can’t hear it. The earphones reward iOS users with seamless connectivity, although the Android app also offers welcome customisation.
Comfortable, clever and equipped with active noise-cancellation, Apple’s AirPods Pro are a stellar set of wireless in-ears for iPhone fans. From Spatial Audio to automatic device-switching, the feature set is smart from start to finish. Find a good seal with assistance from Apple’s fit test and the AirPods reward you with a personalised listen: Adaptive EQ attunes audio output to suit your ear, while ANC monitors noise 200 times per second. The latter makes a notable difference in removing unwanted interruptions, while the former ensures a consistently rich, warm and detailed listen. Smarts are restricted for Android users and the AirPods Pro are easily beaten on battery life and price. But they’re an enticing choice for iPhone owners, with lightweight, ergonomic and neatly familiar packaging
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds
Bose is synonymous with noise-cancelling earphones. So it’s little surprise that the QuietComfort Earbuds are winners when it comes to ANC. Styled like chunky lozenges, each earphone is home to multiple microphones. Together with a tiny chip, these work magnificently to counter background noise: on the top setting, they eliminate outside sounds better than any in-ears we’ve tested, with no pressure or hiss. Atop this quiet foundation, the Earbuds perform formidably. Bassier than you might expect, the low-end is nicely rounded with no lack of detail, while a wide soundstage contributes to a really fun listen. An 18-hour total battery life is less than we’d like, especially given the size of the packaging, but it’s hard to complain when the reward is such excellent ANC.
Shure AONIC Free
Big and borderline gawky, Shure’s AONIC Free focus on sonic perfection over fashionable impressions. Robustly built and comfortable to wear, there’s no escaping their heft. Nor are the dimensions justified by a comprehensive feature set: there’s no ANC, the interface uses physical buttons and battery life is average at seven hours. So why are they in this list? Simple: they offer outstanding sound quality across the board. Few earbuds at any price can match their combination of accuracy, detail, punch and fidelity. The soundstage is large yet well-defined. Dynamic potency is considerable, rhythmic expression is naturalistic, and the overall tonality is entirely convincing. In short: if you’re willing to ignore their shortfalls in exchange for the best-possible sound, you need to hear the AONIC Free.
Bowers & Wilkins PI7
Ask any audiophile and they’ll tell you the Bowers & Wilkins name carries certain expectations of audio excellence. Luckily, the British hi-fi brand’s debut wireless earphones emphatically fulfil them. Bold by design, machined caps contribute to a premium finish. Not the smallest or lightest, each earbud harbours dual drivers and two individual amplifiers, producing incredible separation. Lows are deep but refined, while mids are given freedom to breathe, with incredible detail across the range. Which is good, because there’s no option to tweak the EQ. Noise cancellation is impressive, if not quite at Bose’s level for total blackout. Battery life should be better for the eye-watering price, but that’s countered by the clever charging case: retransmission tech means it can broadcast non-wireless signals via Bluetooth.
Adopting a dangly stem design, Denon’s first true wireless in-ears don’t upset the status quo. But with well-made, ergonomic shells, they represent a relatively stylish example of the form. They also benefit from ANC, although performance is decent, rather than outstanding. With muting smarts enabled, the AH-C830NCW deliver around five hours of battery life, plus a further four from the charging case. Each earbud features a touch surface, although you can’t use it to control the volume. Nor do you get an app, EQ or voice-assistant support. But these boldly old-school earbuds do have solid audio chops: bass frequencies are deep and textured, yet nicely balanced against an expressive mid-range and well-judged high frequencies – something not all true wireless earphones are brave enough to deliver.
Sony LinkBuds S
Lighter and smaller than Sony’s flagship WF-1000XM4, the LinkBuds S are miniature earbuds for all-day audio. Barely there at 4.8g per bud, Sony reckons they’re the world’s lightest noise-cancelling wireless earphones. They a little practice to position, but silicone tips seat them securely and comfortably, while tap controls are easy to master. Relatively small drivers mean the LinkBuds S can’t compete with the WF-1000XM4 on energy. But while they feel a little lacking at higher frequencies, bass is decent and the listen is broadly balanced and enjoyable. Battery life could be better at six hours with ANC, but the overall experience is easy to live with. Sony’s Headphones app offers adaptive ambient sound control, while noise-cancelling excels when it comes to silencing wind during calls.
This article originally appeared on https://www.stuff.tv/features/best-true-wireless-earbuds/