Many people are happy with cheap true-wireless headphones. But if you need something with top-notch sound, this is the list for you.
True-wireless earbuds have come a long way in the past few years, particularly when it comes to sound quality. You can now get decent sound with some budget-friendly earbuds, so everyone can enjoy their music and podcasts on the go without breaking the bank. But if you're looking for buds that deliver a truly premium audio experience, you typically have to spend more: The best-sounding wireless earbuds on the market right now are pricey, and some are downright expensive. However, I've included a handful of more affordable models on this list for those on tighter budgets.
Sound is subjective and everybody's ears are different, so it's hard to declare one set of earbuds the best-sounding over all the rest. But there are some standouts, including the Bowers & Wilkins PI7 S2, Sony WF-1000XM4 and even Apple's AirPods Pro 2, which deliver very impressive sound for how lightweight and small they are.
Size and fit also play into sound quality, which suffers if you can't get a good fit. Not all but many of the best-sounding earbuds tend to be on the bigger side and may not fit some ears. To get optimal sound quality -- and bass performance, in particular -- it's crucial to get a tight seal, so finding a set of buds that really fit your ears well is an important part of the sound quality equation.
The included ear tips often play a big role in how well a set of earbuds fit, and sometimes you may have to buy third-party ear tips to get the right fit. Not everybody wants to bother with that, so make sure you buy your earbuds from a retailer that allows you to return your purchase without penalty.
This list is updated regularly as new models come out.
Bowers & Wilkins has upgraded its fantastic-sounding PI7 noise-canceling earbuds. The new S2 model has better battery life and Bluetooth range, now up to 25 meters (double the previous range). Additionally, the buds now integrate into the new Bowers & Wilkins Music app for iOS and Android and have a much improved setup experience.
While not a major upgrade from the originals, the PI7 S2s, which feature a dual-driver design, are easily among the very best-sounding true-wireless earbuds. The step-down PI5 S2s, which have a single driver design, don't sound quite as good but are more affordable.
You should expect a lot from earbuds that cost $300 -- and yes, that's still a lot to pay for headphones, even if plenty of people seem to be willing to pay upwards of $450 for the likes of Apple's AirPods Max headphones. Overall, Panasonic has done a nice job of creating an all-around top-performing set of buds that offer an improved fit with terrific sound, very good noise canceling and a robust feature set.
Voice-calling capabilities are decent but don't quite live up to their billing (yet). Hopefully we'll see some firmware upgrades that improve the voice-calling experience in noisier environments. Despite that caveat, as long as they fit your ears well, the Technics EAH-AZ80 are right up there with the best wireless earbuds on the market right now.
Bose's second-generation QuietComfort Earbuds 2 are not only about 30% smaller than their predecessors, but their case is about 40% smaller and truly pocketable. They feature best-in-class noise canceling and improved sound, thanks to Bose's new CustomTune sound calibration system that customizes the sound for your ears. Voice-calling performance is also significantly better than that of the original QuietComfort Earbuds.
The other big change is to the ear tips. Bose has ditched its one-piece StayEar wing tips for a two-piece Fit Kit system that features separate ear tips and "stability bands" in three size options, giving you more flexibility to get a secure fit and tight seal.
Earfun has put out a series of wireless earbuds over the last couple of years with one important commonality: They're very good values, made more so by frequent discounts. The company's new-for-2023 Earfun Air Pro 3 earbuds feature the latest Qualcomm QCC3071 system-on-a-chip with aptX Adaptive for Android and other devices that support the new LE Audio standard and LC3 audio codec, which is superior to the SBC codec (they also support AAC for Apple devices).
Lightweight and comfortable to wear -- I got a good seal with the largest ear tip size -- these aren't a huge upgrade over the Earfun Air S, but they are better. They have slightly larger wool-composite drivers (11mm versus 10mm), slightly improved noise canceling and better battery life (up to seven hours with noise canceling on, according to Earfun).
In short, the Earfun Air 3 deliver strong performance for their modest price, with robust bass, good clarity and a relatively wide soundstage. They also pack in a lot of features, including a wireless charging case and "multidevice" connectivity. (I could pair them to two devices simultaneously but had to pause the music on one device and hit play on the other for the audio to switch.) They're IPX5 splash-proof and also work well (though not exceptionally well) as a headset for making calls.
Note that after you activate the instant 10%-off coupon at Amazon, adding the code EAP3CNET at checkout gives you an additional 20% off, bringing the buds' price down to $56.
No earbuds are perfect, of course, and not everybody will love the fit of the Sony WF-1000XM4 buds or be able to afford their high price. But if you're looking for great-sounding earbuds with active noise cancellation, solid voice-calling capabilities and good battery life, these buds check all the boxes.
The new AirPods Pro are powered by Apple's new H2 chip, which delivers more processing power while being more energy efficient, according to Apple. The new chip, combined with new low-distortion drivers, allows for improved sound that offers better clarity and depth. The noise canceling is also improved -- Apple says the new AirPods have "double" the noise canceling of the original AirPods Pro. Additionally, the new AirPods add an extra hour of battery life, up from five to six hours with noise canceling on. Plus, a speaker in the case that emits a sound that helps locate your buds via Find My should they decide to hide from you.
Note that while Apple has discontinued the original AirPods Pro, they'll remain on sale at discounted prices until supplies are exhausted. However, most people should get this newer model if they can afford it. The AirPods Pro 2 continue to see small discounts, and are currently on sale for $49 off at Amazon.
Status Audio's earbuds aren't exactly the sleekest or most attractive earbuds you can buy, but if you don't mind their utilitarian look and giant stems, you are getting an excellent sounding set of earbuds. The Between 3ANC, the company's first noise-canceling earbuds, also do a good job muffling ambient sound, though they aren't up to the level of the Bose QuietComfort 2 earbuds for noise-canceling prowess. They did perform very well in my voice-calling test, reducing much of the background noise around me in the streets of New York while picking up my voice clearly, or so callers told me.
While they have multipoint Bluetooth pairing -- you can pair them to two devices simultaneously -- they are missing a few features, including ear-detection sensors, and they only support the AAC audio codec (they're equipped with Bluetooth 5.2), not LDAC or aptX. Some people with Android devices that support those codecs may not be thrilled with that, but, as I said, they sound quite good using AAC, offering clean sound with punchy bass and good clarity. That's in part due to their driver design, and why the buds are on the larger side -- they feature two balanced armature drivers, plus one 10mm dynamic driver in each earbud.
Despite being heavier than earbuds like Apple's AirPods Pro 2, they fit my ears comfortably and securely. Their case charges wirelessly and battery life is very good at up to 8.5 hours with ANC on. There's also a transparency mode that sounds only OK, not great (a physical button on the earbuds activates it) and they have an IPX5 water-resistance rating, which means they can withstand a sustained spray of water. The companion app for iOS is fairly basic, but you can upgrade the firmware and tweak the sound profile with a customizable EQ option.
Beyerdynamic may be late to the game, but it's finally introduced its first true-wireless earbuds, which feature active noise canceling, up to 11 hours of battery life (with noise canceling off) and impressive sound quality.
Beyerdynamic is known for its over-ear wired studio headphones, including the newish DT 700 Pro X ($259). The Free Byrd earbuds, which support the AAC and aptX Adaptive audio codecs, exhibit many of that model's sonic traits, including clean, accurate sound and an airy open quality (wide soundstage).
If you can get the proper fit and a tight seal, these are excellent-sounding earbuds that are right at the top of their price class in terms of sound quality. The Free Byrd are closer to the middle of the road in other areas, particularly their noise-canceling performance. But Beyerdyanic has said it made sound quality its highest priority and that definitely shows. Read our Beyerdynamic Free Byrd review.
The Galaxy Buds 2 Pro offer improved noise canceling along with very good sound and voice-calling performance, plus support for high-resolution wireless audio streaming if you're a Galaxy device owner with the right setup. That said, their biggest upgrade may be their new design and smaller size, which make them a better fit for more ears. Aside from their somewhat high price tag, their only drawback is that some of their key features only work with Samsung Galaxy devices.
Following the third-generation AirPods, Apple has another new set of earbuds, this time from its subsidiary audio company, Beats. Technically, the new splash-proof Beats Fit Pro ($200) aren't AirPods, but they're built on the same tech platform as the AirPods Pro. Unlike Beats' earlier, less expensive Studio Buds, the Beats Fit Pro include Apple's H1 chip and have most of the AirPods Pro's features, including active noise canceling, spatial audio and Adaptive EQ. I'd venture to call them the sports AirPods you've always wanted. And for some people, they might just be better than the AirPods Pro.
Featuring excellent sound, improved noise canceling and voice-calling performance as well a smaller, more refined design that includes stabilizing fins (so the earbuds stay in your ears more securely), the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3 were among the best new true-wireless earbuds in 2022. They're also one of the best true-wireless earbuds overall, giving the Sony WF-1000XM4 a run for the money.
Bang & Olufsen's Beoplay EX buds are the company's best true-wireless earbuds yet. They feature a comfortable, secure fit (except perhaps for those with much smaller ears), top-notch build quality, great sound, good noise canceling and improved voice-calling performance over B&O's EQ buds, with three microphones in each earbud that help with reducing background noise while picking up your voice. While they're out of most people's price range, they're arguably the best earbuds out there with stems and offer superior sound to the AirPods Pro, with better clarity, deeper more powerful bass and richer, more accurate sound.
Battery life is rated at 6 hours at moderate volume levels with noise canceling on and there's an extra 14 hours of juice in the brushed aluminum charging case (wireless charging is supported). The buds have an IP57 water resistance rating, which makes them waterproof and dust-resistant. They feature Bluetooth 5.2 and multipoint Bluetooth pairing so you can connect to two devices at the same time, such as a computer and smartphone. You can use a single earbud independently and the earbuds have ear-detection sensors so your music pauses when you remove them from your ears.
The earbuds support aptX Adaptive for devices like Android smartphones that support Bluetooth streaming with the aptX HD audio codec (AAC is also supported). They're available in the gold tone pictured as well as a graphite color.
Audio-Technica has put out several true-wireless earbuds over the last few years but none of them have been terribly good. That changes with the ATH-TWX9, which sports a premium design plus premium sound and a pretty robust feature set, including strong active noise canceling, Multipoint Bluetooth pairing and a case equipped with wireless charging and UV LED sterilization. In the box you'll also find a plethora of ear tip options and I was able to tight seal and comfortable fit. These buds are IPX4 splash-proof and are rated for 6 hours of battery life at moderate volume levels.
Audio-Technica says the ATH-TWX9 have high-resolution 5.8mm drivers and the buds support Qualcomm's aptX Adaptive audio codec and Sony's 360 Reality Audio. I tested them with an iPhone 14 Pro and a few different Android phones that support aptX streaming. In terms of sound, these buds do sound better -- and reach their full sonic potential -- with an Android phone that supports aptX Adaptive and is paired with a higher-resolution audio streaming service like Qobuz, Tidal or Amazon Music HD. While you can tweak the sound profile in the companion app, the buds have a more balanced default sound signature (I did bump the bass a bit) and offer good treble detail, tight bass and natural sounding mids.
I thought the noise-canceling performance was good (you can calibrate it for your surroundings) though not at the same level as what flagship earbuds from Bose, Sony and Apple offer. There's also a transparency mode and voice-calling performance was good with decent noise reduction. I don't know if the ATH-TWX9 necessarily beats out other earbuds in this price range, but Audio-Technica has finally produced a set of high-quality wireless earbuds that can compete with other premium true-wireless earbuds.
Unlike the "open" LinkBuds, the LinkBuds S are traditional noise-isolating earbuds with tips you jam in your ears. They're more compact and lighter than Sony's flagship WF-1000M4 and also feature Sony's V1 processor. While their sound and noise canceling don't quite measure up to the WF-1000XM4's, they're close and cost less. They're the Sony buds for people who can deal with larger buds like WF-1000XM4 but want 80% to 85% of those buds' features and performance for $80 less.
Japan-based Final Audio, which makes some high-end audiophile headphones, including the $4,299 D8000 Pro, has released its ZE8000 true-wireless earbuds that feature a unique stick design and excellent sound. The largest tips fit my ears comfortably and securely, though they do stick out a bit.
Their noise canceling is lighter than many of the top noise-canceling earbuds and the noise reduction for voice calling isn't great -- you'll want to avoid making calls in noisy environments. Also, these don't have ear-detection sensors that pause your music when you take a bud out of your ear. But I really did like their sound. (They have "13mm equivalent ultra-low distortion dynamic drivers," Final says.)
Like some of the other earbuds on this list, these use a Qualcomm chipset, support the company's aptX Adaptive audio codec and are optimized for Android smartphones with Snapdragon Sound (they also support the AAC audio codec). I used them with an iPhone 14 Pro and they sounded quite good but they arguably reach their full sonic potential with an Android smartphone with support for aptX Adaptive. They have a bold sound signature with nice detail and deep, powerful bass and a wide soundstage. You can tweak the sound profile in the companion app for iOS and Android. Battery life is rated at five hours at moderate volume levels and they're IPX4 splash-proof.
Over the years, JBL has put out some decent true-wireless earbuds, but nothing that really got me too excited. That's finally changed with the arrival of the Samsung-owned brand's new Live Pro 2 and Live Free 2 buds. Both sets of buds -- the Live Pro 2 have stems while the Live Free 2 have a pill-shaped design -- offer a comfortable fit along with strong noise canceling, very good sound quality and voice-calling performance, plus a robust set of features, including multipoint Bluetooth pairing, an IPX5 splash-proof rating and wireless charging.
The Live Pro 2 and Live Free 2 are equipped with the same 11mm drivers, six microphones, oval tubes and oval silicon tips. Aside from the design, the biggest difference between the two buds is battery life; the stemless Live Free 2 is rated for up to seven hours, while the Live Pro 2 is rated for 10 hours. The Live Pro 2 is available in four color options.
Master & Dynamic's earlier MW07 and MW07 Plus delivered top-notch sound for true wireless, but they were a little lacking in the features department and weren't so great for making calls. The MW08 offer some significant improvements, including the addition of solid noise canceling and call quality, that make them one of the top models for 2023. Alas, they're expensive at $299 (the more durable MW08 Sport, which sounds the same, is $349).
Battery life has improved a bit (up to around 12 hours of battery life at 50% volume versus 10 hours for the MW07 Plus), and the earbuds are equipped with Bluetooth 5.2, active noise cancellation with three microphones on each earbud (noise reduction during calls isn't up to the level of the AirPods Pro, but overall call quality has improved). The noise canceling on the MW07 Plus was pretty weak; the MW08's is much more effective.
You can opt for two levels of noise cancellation in the new M&D Connect app for iOS and Android, as well as two levels of transparency that lets you hear the outside world. The app currently has no way to tweak the sound profile (I'm OK with that because the sound profile is just fine for my tastes), and the earbuds have a physical button on each bud to control playback, not touch controls.
The earbuds may not fit everyone's ear equally well, but they certainly have a distinct look, as well as excellent sound and a great listening experience if you can get a tight seal. (I was able to get a secure fit with the largest tip.) They deliver more of an audiophile sound profile, with smooth, well-balanced sound and well-defined bass. This model has new 11mm drivers, which add a bit of punch to the bass and a touch better clarity. The MW08 works well with all genres of music.
Available in a variety of color options for $300, like their predecessors, the MW08 includes a swanky stainless-steel charging case (it charges via USB-C) that's compact but carries more weight than your typical buds cases. I prefer the matte finishes of the cases that come with the black and blue versions, and you also get a secondary pouch for safekeeping. (Yes, the charging case can get scratched up if you leave it in a bag.)
The MW08s now support both the aptX and AAC audio codecs, with an extended range of more than 20 meters, according to Master & Dynamic. They have an IPX5 rating (splash-proof), and multipoint Bluetooth pairing, so you can simultaneously pair them with two devices.
Known for delivering good bang for the buck, 1More has released a more premium set of buds that are equipped with a 10mm dynamic driver paired with a balanced armature. They have support for Sony's LDAC codec for high-resolution wireless streaming over Bluetooth with music services like Qobuz or Tidal that offer high-resolution music files.
The Evo buds sound better than the company's other earbuds, offering better clarity and bass definition as well as a relatively wide soundstage. They also feature solid noise canceling, multipoint Bluetooth pairing, wireless charging, a transparency mode and an IPX4 splashproof rating. Battery life is rated at five-and-a-half hours with ANC on and eight hours without it off. A 15-minute quick charge gives you four hours of juice.
While the earbuds have three microphones in each and tout excellent voice-calling performance, I'd rate it as decent but not great. The noise reduction isn't quite as good as what you get with some buds but that may improve with firmware upgrades. The 1More companion app is serviceable but could also be improved.
These are worth trying if you don't want to spend over $200 for some of the more expensive models on this list but still get excellent sound.