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Best true wireless headphones 2020: Sony, Sennheiser and more compared

Many people are looking for cheap true-wireless headphones, but if you're looking for something with top-notch sound, this is the list for you.

It's now relatively easy to find inexpensive true wireless earbuds that sound pretty decent, and if that's what you're looking for, we've got a list of the best cheap true-wireless earbuds. But alas, many of the best wireless headphones cost a lot. And if sound quality is your top priority, you're going to have to spend more -- and in some instances, a lot more. 

The best wireless headphone models also tend to be on the bigger side because size does seem to matter when it comes to the sound quality of wireless earbuds. And that's where the one big caveat to all this comes into play: To achieve optimal performance, the best wireless earbuds need to feel comfortable and fit right -- and you have to get a tight seal. If you can't get a snug fit with in-ear headphones, you'll think you got ripped off and be sadly disappointed, which is why I suggest buying from a store with a decent return policy, such as Amazon

Below is a list of the best wireless headphones, with a breakdown of features, including performance, noise cancellation, battery, audio quality and how comfortable they are. I'll update this list as I test new models (the Anker Soundcore Liberty Pro 2 and Master & Dynamic MW07 Plus have been added as part of the latest update). 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Sony hasn't been much of a player in the true wireless (AirPods-style) headphone arena, but its new WF-1000XM3 earbuds may change that. While this pair of wireless noise-canceling headphones isn't cheap, at $228 it's the best-sounding set of truly wireless earbuds at this price, matching and perhaps even exceeding the sound quality and performance of pricier competitors from SennheiserBeatsMaster & Dynamic and Bang & Olufsen. The WF-1000XM3 wireless earbuds also have a feature that those models don't have: active noise cancellation to reduce ambient noise.

The only drawback is that they aren't rated as being sweat- or water-resistant. That said, I've used these for light workouts at the gym without a problem.

The Sony WF-1000XM3 active noise-canceling headphones use Bluetooth 5.0 with support for AAC but not aptX.

Water-resistant: No (lacks IPX certification). Read our Sony WF-1000XM3 review.

Now playing: Watch this: The best true wireless earbuds available now
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Read more: Best noise-canceling headphones of 2020

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Sennheiser's Momentum True Wireless earbuds started out at $300, but we're seeing them on sale for $250.  They're more expensive than Bose's SoundSport Free and Jabra's wireless earbuds, but they sound superior, with better bass and cleaner, more detailed audio for a great listening experience. They also feature good sound quality for making phone calls, with solid ambient noise-reduction capabilities, and offer a generally comfortable fit, though they're bigger than the Jabras and stick out of your ear a little more. Their only significant downside is that they gradually lose their charge in the charging case and can end up completely dead after about four days if you don't recharge the case.

I've used these wireless earbuds in the gym, but they don't fit quite securely enough in my ear canal to go running with them -- though the touch controls make them easy to use. Battery life is rated at 4 hours, and you get two extra charges from the carrying case. These use Bluetooth 5.0 with support for AAC and aptX and a firmware update has improved their performance slightly.

Water-resistant: Yes (IPX4 rating -- splash-proof). Read our Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless review.

Read moreBest headphones for running in 2019

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Anker is known more for its value headphones, but it's trying to step into more premium territory with its Soundcore Liberty 2 Pro earbuds, which carry a list price of $150. From a design standpoint, they share some similarities with Sony's WF-1000XM3, although the Liberty 2 Pro 'buds don't have active noise cancellation. Anker says they have large 11mm drivers combined with Knowles Balanced Armature, with up to 8 hours of battery life on a single charge (32 total hours of playtime with the case) and noise-canceling microphones to help reduce ambient sound so callers can hear you better. They charge via USB-C and also support wireless charging.

I'm not sure they sound quite as good as the Sony WF-1000XM3, but they certainly sound like premium true wireless earphones, with rich sound that includes powerful bass performance and lots of detail. Some people may have some quibbles over the fit -- I had to supply my own XL tips to get a tight seal and found the Liberty Air 2 model a little more comfortable -- but the Soundcore Liberty 2 Pro earbuds are a good value.

They use Bluetooth 5.0 with support for AAC and aptX.

Water-resistant: Yes (IPX4, splash-proof).

Read more: Best wireless headphones for making calls in 2020

Sarah Tew/CNET

Yes, the Powerbeats Pro's jumbo charging case with its built-in battery is a notable drawback. But incorporating all the features that make Apple's AirPods great while delivering richer sound and better battery life in a design that won't fall out of your ear ultimately is a winning proposition. Just make sure to buy them somewhere with a good return policy in case you're in the small minority that doesn't find them comfortable to wear.

They use Bluetooth 5.0 with support for AAC but not aptX.

Water-resistant: Yes (IPX4 rating -- splash-proof). Read our Beats Powerbeats Pro review.

Read more: Best headphones of 2020

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At first glance, the Elite 75t earbuds, which were originally supposed to cost $200 but now sell for $180 (£170, AU$299), seem like a minor upgrade from the highly rated Elite 65t. But the updates turn out to be a little more substantial than I first thought. The smaller size (the buds and case are 20% smaller than the Eilite 65t's), boosted battery life and USB-C charging are significant upgrades. And then there are the smaller changes, like the new charging case design with magnets inside that make it easier to open and close and to keep the 'buds from falling out. While the Elite 75t earbuds aren't quite as comfortable to wear as the AirPods Pro and don't have active noise cancellation, their sound is better, with clearer overall sound and better bass definition.

While the Elite 75t model uses the same drivers as the Elite 65t, the Elite 75t's sound is a slight step up. Thanks to the smaller design, these should fit more ears better and allow more people to get a tight seal -- crucial to maximizing sound quality. These use Bluetooth 5.0 and have support for AAC, but not aptX. 

Water-resistantYes (IP55 rating -- can withstand heavy sprays of water). Read our Jabra Elite 75t review.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Master & Dynamic MW07 Plus is the second generation of the company's MW07. The update features greatly increased battery life (10 versus 3.5 hours), Bluetooth 5.0 and active noise cancellation with two microphones on each earbud. The 'buds may not fit everyone's ear equally well, but they certainly have a distinct look, as well as very good sound and a great listening experience if you can get a tight seal. They deliver more of an audiophile sound profile, with smooth, well-balanced sound and well-defined bass. 

Available in four color options for $300, these wireless earbuds include a swanky chrome charging case that comes with a secondary pouch for safekeeping (yes, the case can get scratched up if you leave it in a bag). The case, with its built-in chargeable battery, gives you an additional three charges (it charges via USB-C). These have support for AAC and aptX and have an extended range of more than 20 meters, according to Master & Dynamic.

Water-resistant: Yes (IPX5 rating -- withstands sustained spray).

Read more: Best over-ear headphones

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The Jaybird Vista earbuds are an excellent sports model that fit securely in your ears. They're arguably slightly more comfortable than the JBL Reflect Flow, but the Flow, which retail for $150, arguably sound better. They're very similar to the JBL UA True Wireless Flash but have a more compact case and cost about $20 less.

Water-resistantYes (IPX7 rating -- fully waterproof).

Read more: AirPods vs. Powerbeats Pro: The best wireless earphones are…

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I was impressed with the Klipsch's T5 True Wireless' sound -- it's nicely detailed with natural-sounding mids and punchy, well-defined bass. The only caveat is you really have to jam the tips into your ear to get a tight seal and block out noise, and the design may not be for everyone. 

While the Zippo-inspired case is somewhat heavy for its relatively compact size, it's sleek, sturdy and features USB-C charging. Battery life is also a highlight: The 'buds themselves can run for up to 8 hours on a single charge at moderate volume levels and the case with its built-in battery provides three additional charges on the go. 

The T5 Wireless uses Bluetooth 5.0 and has support for both AAC and aptX.

Water-resistant: Yes (IPX4 rating -- splash-proof). Read our Klipsch T5 True Wireless review.

Read more: Jabra Elite 75t unveiled: Our favorite AirPods rival gets a new and improved sequel

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Bang & Olufsen Beoplay E8 2.0 true wireless eEarbuds feature some of those extra design touches that you'd expect -- and end up paying for -- from Bang & Olufsen products. The charging case for this set of headphones is arguably the most aesthetically pleasing of any charging case out there (like the new AirPods' wireless charging case, this one also features wireless charging) and feels like a case you'd get at Tiffany's.

They also sound very good, with clear, well-balanced sound. The bass is well defined but doesn't have quite as much energy or oomph as the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless' bass. As a result, I wouldn't say these are the best wireless headphones for bass audio lovers (look to the Beats for that), but they do sound impressive when you're listening to well-recorded music. While they're the most expensive pair of wireless headphones in this roundup -- at $350, they're overpriced -- they come in a variety of color options, some of which are on sale for $100 less, putting them at $250.

Note that with version 2.0 of these wireless earbuds, Bang & Olufsen improved the battery life to 4 hours (plus three additional charges from the case with its built-in chargeable battery) and added USB-C and wireless charging. These use Bluetooth 4.2 with support for AAC but not aptX.

Water-resistant: Yes (they are splash-proof, according to B&O).

Read more: How to buy a Bluetooth headset

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I don't really know how stylish the 1More Stylish True Wireless earbuds are (yes, that's their name), but they do sound good. With a list price of $100, they're the least expensive of any of the models on this list. 1More made a name for itself with its wired earbuds, the Triple Drivers, which sound great and were a good value when wired headphones were still a thing. The same clear, balanced sound found in the Triple Drivers is present in 1More's first true-wireless earbuds; they don't sound as good as the Triple Drivers, but they sound very good for true wireless.

These have more of an audiophile sound profile, with more "accurate" sound, so bass lovers may be a little disappointed, but I liked them. Of course, it helped that I was able to get a tight seal with one of the included ear tips. However, the stabilizer fin did nothing for me -- I just jammed the tip into my ear to get a secure fit. 

Their battery life is rated at up 6.5 hours (expect closer to 5 hours if you're listening to your music at higher volumes), with an extra 17 hours or so of battery life available from the charging case. With a quick-charge of only 15 minutes, you'll get 3 hours of battery life for listening to your favorite programs and music. These use Bluetooth 5.0 with support for AAC and aptX.

Water-resistant: No (lacks IPX certification). Read our 1More Stylish True Wireless review.

Read more: Comfortable in-ear monitors that sound great, but at a cost

Originally published earlier this year. Updated as we review new products.