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We've rounded up the top-performing inexpensive true wireless earbuds and we've also got a list of the best cheap true wireless earbuds. But if you want to find the absolute best-sounding wireless earbuds, the truth is you'll need to prepare to spend more -- a lot more, in some cases.

The best wireless headphones tend to be on the bigger side because size does seem to matter when it comes to the sound quality of a pair of true wireless earbuds. And that's where the one big caveat comes into play: To achieve optimal performance, the best true wireless earbuds need to feel comfortable and fit right in your ear -- and you have to get a tight seal. If you can't get a snug fit with a pair of in-ear headphones, you'll think you got ripped off and be sadly disappointed, which is why I suggest buying a pair from a store with a decent return policy, such as Amazon. I'd also like to add, if you have trouble finding earbuds that work for you, try ones that can accommodate an ear hook. It's life-changing.

We wanted to make sure you knew about your options beyond the ubiquitous Apple AirPod, especially if you're not carrying an Apple device. Below is a list of the best sounding wireless earbuds, with a breakdown of features, including performance, noise cancellation, battery life, audio quality and how comfortable the headphones are. I'll update this list as I test any new pair of headphones. (The Anker Soundcore Liberty Pro 2 and Master & Dynamic MW07 Plus have been added as part of the latest update. They both have great sound.) And if having a true wireless bud nestled in your ear canal isn't your thing and you're looking for on-ear headphones, you're going to want to check out this list. This list was originally published earlier this year. Updated as we review new products.

David Carnoy/CNET

Known for its excellent sounding, retro-designed, open-back wired headphones, Grado has long been a favorite among audiophiles, earning extra points for building many of its headphones by hand in Brooklyn, New York, for over 60 years. But with the world moving to wireless audio, the company has slowly shifted into the Bluetooth headphone arena, first with its GW100 on-ear model (in 2018) and now with its first true wireless earbuds, the GT220 ($259, £250, AU$365). Grado says it's been working for two years to fit them with its "signature" mini-drivers and tune them accordingly. The good news is they sound fantastic -- for true-wireless earbuds anyway -- and perform well as a headset for making calls.

Their more penetrating fit (the buds have to be jammed into your ears), which provides very good passive noise-muffling, may not work for everybody. But if you're OK with it, these are easily among the best-sounding true-wireless earbuds out there -- and maybe even the best-sounding.

Audiophile headphones are often associated with more of a flat or neutral sound profile that delivers "accurate" sound. These are well-balanced but they have a more exciting sound profile, with bass that's a touch more forward and nice sparkle in the treble. They are more revealing and articulate than Sennheiser's True Wireless Momentum II earbuds, which come across as warmer and a bit more open with slightly bigger sound.

These use Bluetooth 5.0 with support for the AAC and aptX codecs (for devices that have aptX, like Samsung's Galaxy smartphones). Read CNET review.

Water-resistantNo (lacks IPX certification).

David Carnoy/CNET

It took Bose quite a while to get them into stores, but the new $279 (£250, AU$400) noise-canceling QuietComfort Earbuds are finally here. In many ways, they're excellent true wireless earbuds, particularly when it comes to their sound and noise canceling, which is arguably the best right now in a set of earbuds.

The Bose are right up there with the best-sounding true wireless earbuds and go toe to toe with the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2. They work well for a variety of music genres but fans of hip-hop and EDM will find they have plenty of kick to their bass. 

Water-resistantYes (IPX4 rating -- splashproof). Read our Bose QuietComfort Earbuds review.

David Carnoy/CNET

The second-generation Momentum True Wireless 2 aren't cheap at $300, but this true wireless earphone choice is better all around than the originals, with a slightly smaller, more comfortable design, active noise canceling that rivals that of the AirPods Pro, improved battery life (up to seven hours versus the original's four) and better noise reduction during calls. And if you don't like these Bluetooth earbuds in black, a white version is slated to follow later this year. Most importantly, though, the Momentum True Wireless 2 have the same stellar sound -- for true wireless earbuds, anyway -- offering clearly superior sound quality to the AirPods Pro. That makes them arguably the best true wireless earbuds on the market today and earns them a CNET Editors' Choice Award.

These use Bluetooth 5.1 with support for the AAC and aptX codecs (for devices that have aptX, like Samsung's Galaxy smartphones).  

Water-resistantYes (IPX4 rating -- splashproof). Read our Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 review.

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Sony's WF-1000XM3 earbuds have been out for a while and are probably due for an upgrade in the not-so-distant future. In recent months, we've seen them discounted by $50 off their list price and they remain a solid pick at that price. As far as sound quality goes, they're among the best-sounding wireless earbuds and also feature excellent noise-cancellation technology to reduce ambient noise.

The only drawback is the WF-1000XM3 earbuds aren't rated as sweat-proof or waterproof headphones. That said, I've used them for light workouts with a bit of a sweat at the gym without a problem. They use Bluetooth 5.0 with support for AAC but not aptX.

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

Read more: Best noise-canceling headphones of 2020

Angela Lang/CNET

Samsung's Galaxy Buds Plus look essentially the same as the original Galaxy Buds, but their battery life is rated at 11 hours for music playback (up from six hours of battery life), and these wireless earphones pack dual drivers for better sound and an additional microphone in each bud to help with external noise reduction while making calls.

I was impressed with the sound from this pair of earbuds. It's detailed and smooth, with deep, well-defined bass. The sound is richer and more spacious than that of the original Galaxy Buds. Well-respected Austrian audio company AKG, which Samsung acquired when it bought Harman, is behind the audio. While the original Buds were also "tuned" by AKG, these are a nice upgrade over the originals -- and right there with what you get with the Jabra Elite 75t, if not even a touch better. They use Bluetooth 5.0 and support for AAC (there's now an app for iOS users) and Samsung's scalable codec, which is similar to aptX but is proprietary to Samsung Galaxy smartphones. 

Water-resistantYes (IPX4 rating -- splash-proof). Read our Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus review.

Amazon

Urbanista may be based in Sweden, but it doesn't have a problem naming its earbuds after other European cities. Its London true-wireless earbuds ($150) look a lot like Apple's AirPods Pro and have noise canceling with a transparency mode, as well as a sensor that detects when you take the earbuds out of your ears and pauses your music. They sound better than the AirPods Pro, with clean, well-balanced sound and punchy, well-defined bass and nice detail. On top of that, they're good for making calls, with good noise reduction so people hear you well, even if there's noise in the background.

Their only downside is that their touch controls are somewhat limited and not quite as easy to use as those of the AirPods Pro. They also sound distinctly different when you have them in ambient (transparency) mode and in noise-canceling mode. Battery life is rated at five hours -- the same as the AirPods Pro -- but that's not as good as some of the latest true wireless earbuds with noise cancellation. The compact charging case, which charges via USB-C, gives you an additional four charges. 

Unlike the AirPods Pro, the Urbanista London earbuds are available in not just one color but four. Currently, on Amazon, the black or white versions are $100, and if you clip an instant coupon for 20% off, their price drops to $80.

Water-resistantYes (IPX4 rating -- sweat-resistant and splash-proof). Read more.

Same name, improved sound

1More True Wireless ANC

Amazon

The first-generation model of this headphone was on our list of best true-wireless noise-canceling earbuds, but the new upgraded version is THX-certified and has some tweaks, including improved drivers and more refined tuning. It already sounded good, now it sounds excellent.

The earbuds fit comfortably and securely in my ears (though they do stick out a bit), so I was able to get a tight seal, which is crucial for sound quality and noise cancellation. The previous version had a bit of treble push, but this updated version sounds fuller and richer, with more balanced, cleaner sound that's pretty dynamic (there's aptX support for devices like Samsung Galaxy phones that support aptX). Battery life is rated at 5 hours with noise cancellation on and 6 with it off. There's a quick-charge feature that gives you 2 hours of use from a 15-minute charge. The USB-C-equipped charging case also charges wirelessly. 

David Carnoy/CNET

The Mpow X3 sound shockingly good for the price, with good clarity and powerful bass (they play loud), and they even have active noise canceling that's fairly effective. They list for $60 on Amazon, but frequently dip to $50 or close to it.

They did fit me comfortably and securely, and I got a tight seal from one of the XL ear tips. They're fully waterproof (IPX7) and get up to seven hours of battery life at moderate volume levels with USB-C charging. (The charging case looks like a fatter version of the standard AirPods case.) Call quality is good -- they have a sidetone feature that lets you hear your voice in the buds -- but I've used other models with better noise reduction during calls. I noticed a touch of audio lag when I streamed a YouTube video, but I had no issues when streaming iTunes movies.

The touch controls take some getting used to (they're a little wonky), and it didn't help that the instructions in the box seemed to be for the old X3 (I found the current instructions online, which helped me figure things out). Aside from a few minor downsides, the X3 is a great value, and that's probably why Mpow is having a hard time keeping them in stock.

Sarah Tew/CNET

While the Elite 75t has been out a while, it's still one of the best true wireless earbuds out there and recently added noise canceling via a firmware upgrade. Earlier firmware updates improved voice-calling performance. 

The Elite 75t aren't quite as comfortable to wear as the AirPods Pro, but they do sound better, with clearer overall sound and better bass audio quality definition, so long as you get a tight seal.

The slightly more rugged Elite Active 75t is also available for about $20 more, but with the new Elite 85t's arrival we are seeing some sales on the Elite 75t. 

While the Elite 75t model uses the same drivers as the earlier 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.

Read more: Best wireless headphones for making calls in 2020

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 hours of battery life versus 3.5 hours of battery life), 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 true wireless earbuds include a swanky chrome charging case that comes with a secondary pouch for safekeeping (yes, the charging case can get scratched up if you leave it in a bag). The charging case, with its built-in chargeable battery, gives you an additional three charges (it charges via USB-C). These truly wireless earbuds have support aptX (but not AAC) and have an extended range of more than 20 meters, according to Master & Dynamic.

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

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 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 these bluetooth headphones 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.

More wireless earbud recommendations