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The 21 best wireless earbuds for 2021

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The market for a true wireless earbud has exploded over the last few years. Sure, Apple's AirPods and AirPods Pro remain bestsellers in the category, but there is more to a pair of earbuds than the brand. Plenty of excellent competitors are available, several of which are new for 2021, and they offer superior audio quality, battery life and performance. Some of these buds are more suited for Android users who can't take advantage of the AirPods' and AirPods Pro's Apple-only features such as hands-free Siri and spatial audio with head-tracking, in the case of the AirPods Pro. 

The best wireless earbuds have an ergonomic design that not only creates a secure fit but also makes the buds comfortable to wear over long periods. A tight seal against the ear canal is also crucial for optimizing sound quality and noise-canceling performance if you're using noise-isolating earbuds with ear tips like the AirPods Pro (the standard Apple AirPod has an open design). If you can't get a snug fit with in-ear headphones, you'll likely feel disappointed and ripped off, which is why I suggest buying your wireless earbuds from a vendor with a decent return policy, such as Amazon. This also helps if the earbuds don't meet your expectations when it comes to anything from noise cancellation (and reduction of ambient noise during calls) to how well the touch controls work or how long the buds last on a single charge. 

It can be a bit overwhelming if you're not completely sure what you're looking for. Luckily, CNET has you covered with this breakdown that highlights the best features of each option so you can get the earbuds that are right for you. This list focuses on the overall best wireless earbuds. We also have lists for wireless headphones, the best-sounding true wireless earbuds and the best cheap true wireless earbuds under $100. I'll update this list regularly as we review new wireless earbuds.

Are wireless earbuds really worth it?

In recent months there has been a bunch of articles about how Gen Z is making the "humble" wired headphone cool again, particularly Apple EarPods (you know, the headphones that used to be included in the box when bought an iPhone but no longer are). That's fine -- and we have nothing against wired headphones -- but a cord can be a nuisance. When you're working out or running, going totally wireless feels liberating. Also, most new phones these days don't have a headphone jack so you need to go wireless unless you get a Lightning or USB-C headphone or use an adapter for a standard headphone with a 3.5mm plug.

You can get wireless headphones with a cord between the buds. Neckband-style earbuds are still a thing and some people like that style because you can let the cord dangle around your neck when you don't have the buds in your ears. However, true wireless earbuds ultimately offer more freedom and are stored in a compact charging case that's convenient to carry. And both the sound quality and reliability of their wireless connection have improved considerably over the last couple of years. 

As far as prices go, while you can certainly find plenty of premium wireless earbuds, there are also lots of decent affordable models, some of which cost less than $50.

How do I keep wireless earbuds from falling out of my ears?

With wireless earbuds, it's important that you get the right fit so they not only stay in your ears but so they sound and perform at their best (a tight seal is crucial for optimal sound and noise canceling if the earbuds have active noise canceling). If the buds come with silicone ear tips, you should use the bud that's a little bigger rather than too small for your ear. Also, in some cases, like with the AirPods Pro, you can buy third-party foam ear tips that grip the inside of your ear better and keep your buds from falling out. Note that sometimes people have one ear shaped differently than the other, so you might use a medium tip in one ear and a large tip in the other. 

The original AirPods and AirPods 2nd Generation (and now the 3rd Generation) didn't fit all ears equally well, and a lot of people complained about how they would stay securely in their ears. You can buy third-party wingtips -- sometimes called sport fins -- that lock the buds in your ears. But you have to take them off every time you use your buds because they won't fit in the case. 

If you have trouble keeping earbuds in your ears, your best bet is to look for a model that includes wingtips. 

How do I clean my wireless earbuds?

We have an article on how to clean your AirPods that also applies to other earbuds. But if you don't want to read that, the condensed version is this:

Wipe down both the buds themselves and ear tips with a slightly dampened soft, dry, lint-free cloth (like the kind you use to clean glasses or your phone's screen) and avoid using any soap or harsh cleaning liquids. A 70% isopropyl alcohol wipe or a Clorox disinfecting wipe is OK but avoid getting too much moisture in any ports or inside the buds themself. You can also use a toothpick for any little crevices or a Q-tip with a bit of alcohol on it. Avoid saturating the Q-tip with alcohol. Finally, wait a few minutes until any moisture evaporates before using the buds.

David Carnoy/CNET

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 great noise canceling, solid voice-calling capabilities and good battery life, these buds check all the boxes.

Water-resistantYes (IPX4 rating -- splash-proof).

Read our Sony WF-1000XM4 review..

 

(Watch this: Beats Fit Pro are the sports AirPods you've always wanted).

David Carnoy/CNET

Hot on the heels of the third-generation AirPods, Apple has another new set of earbuds, this time from its subsidiary audio company, Beats. Technically, the new Beats Fit Pro ($200) aren't AirPods, but they're built on the same tech platform as the AirPods Pro. Unlike Beats' earlier and 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. 

Water-resistantYes (IPX4 rating -- splash-proof).

Read our Beats Fit Pro review.

 

Drew Evans/CNET

Available in four color options, the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 hew more closely to the newer Galaxy Buds Pro and Galaxy Buds Live, both of which have eye-catching glossy curved designs and the same compact charging case as this new model. In fact, it's the Buds 2's design and fit -- they're 15% smaller and 20% lighter than the Buds Plus -- that make them a potentially more likable alternative to the slightly better-sounding Buds Pro.

Like the Buds Pro, the Buds 2 are equipped with active noise canceling. That means all the latest Galaxy Buds models now feature some form of active noise canceling, though it's slight with the Buds Live, which have an open design sans ear tips. While the Buds 2 look more like shrunken versions of the Buds Pro, I found them more akin to the Buds Live in that they barely stick out of your ears and are fairly discreet. Because they sit more flush with your ears -- and have that curved design -- they also pick up less wind noise. 

Water-resistantYes (IPX2 rating -- sweat-resistant).

Read our Galaxy Buds 2 review.

 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Even if they don't sound quite as magical as you'd hope a $249 model would, the Apple AirPods Pro still manage to be a great pair of true wireless earphones with noise cancellation. That's largely due to their winning design and fit, improved bass performance, effective noise canceling and spatial audio, a virtual-sound mode for watching movies and TV shows (only works with iPhones and iPads running iOS 14 or higher).

They're an excellent Apple device choice when you want to make a call or listen to music during your workout. Yeah, they're expensive at $250, but the good news is they tend to sell for $200 or less. And the updated version adds MagSafe compatibility, so these stick to magnetic wireless chargers.

Water-resistantYes (IPX4 rating -- splash-proof).

Read our Apple AirPods Pro review.

 

David Carnoy/CNET

In many ways, Bose's QuietComfort Earbuds are excellent true wireless earbuds, particularly when it comes to their great sound and noise canceling, which is some of the best out there right now in a set of earbuds. Performance-wise, they clearly have a leg up on Apple's best-selling AirPods Pro. However, the AirPods Pro's smaller design, somewhat more comfortable fit and superior voice-calling capabilities make it hard to declare the Bose the straight-up champ. Ultimately, it depends on what your priorities are.

Water-resistantYes (IPX4 rating -- splash-proof).

Read our Bose QuietComfort Earbuds review.

 

David Carnoy/CNET

Take one look at the new design of the third-gen AirPods ($179), and the first thing you'll probably think is: "Those look like the AirPods Pro without ear tips." You wouldn't be wrong. While they're more fraternal than identical twins, the AirPods 3 are shaped like the AirPods Pro, with the same shorter stems and same pinch controls as those of the Pro. Aside from the design change, which should fit most ears better than the AirPods 2nd Generation (though not very small ears), the biggest change is to the sound quality: It's much improved. Also, battery life is better, and the AirPods 3 are officially water-resistant.  

Water-resistantYes (IPX4 rating -- splash-proof).

Read our AirPods 3rd Generation review.

 

David Carnoy/CNET

Bang & Olufsen's earlier Beoplay E8 earbuds were good but underwhelming for their high price. The new Beoplay EQ are also rather expensive, but at least they're among the very best true wireless earbuds available right now, with top-notch sound and adaptive noise canceling, along with a natural-sounding transparency mode. Multipoint Bluetooth pairing means you can connect them to a smartphone and computer simultaneously. They have three microphones on each bud and are good for voice calling though not exceptionally good. 

Needless to say, the premium design elements are here -- the aluminum-shelled case opens and closes with precise smoothness, and the buds themselves have their own aluminum accent on the outer surface where the touch controls live.

The buds are fairly large and do stick out of your ears like premium buds from Sony and Sennheiser. They fit me comfortably and securely and are suitable for sporting activities, with an IP54 splash-proof rating. Battery life is rated at around 6.5 hours at moderate volume levels, and you get an extra two charges from the case, which has USB-C and wireless charging.

The sound is big and dynamic with deep, well-defined bass and a wide soundstage. The mids sound natural, and the treble has nice sparkle to it. They're a pleasure to listen to and among the best-sounding true wireless earbuds. I didn't experience any listening fatigue over longer listening sessions. AptX is available for devices that support the AptX audio codec; these have AptX Adaptive and use Bluetooth 5.2. 

Are they better than the Sony WF-1000XM4, which cost $120 less? The answer to that will depend partially on just how well they fit your ears and just how good a seal you get from the included ear tips. I personally ended up getting the best fit using Sennheiser's large tips, which work best for my ears. They're a great set of earbuds if you can afford them. Just buy them from a retailer that has a good return policy in case you're not completely satisfied.

Water-resistantYes (IP54 rating -- splash-proof). 

David Carnoy/CNET

After a long wait, Bowers & Wilkins has finally released a couple of sets of true wireless earbuds -- the PI7 ($399) and PI5 ($249) -- both of which are excellent and feature active noise canceling along with a transparency mode. The flagship PI7 has a different driver design and sounds slightly more detailed and refined with a little more bass energy. They both sound excellent, but if you're looking for the absolute best sounding set of earbuds, the PI7 are arguably just that, besting the Sony WF-1000XM4 by a small margin. (They also sound slightly better than the excellent Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless II and Master & Dynamic MW08.)

While the PI7's noise canceling is quite decent, the Sony's noise canceling is superior. I also thought the Sony did better with voice calling (it has better noise reduction so people can hear you better in a noisier environments) and it has better battery life.

The PI7's case does transform into a Bluetooth transceiver, so you can plug it into your laptop for AptX streaming or an in-flight entertainment system. That's a nice bonus feature (the PI5 doesn't have it), but the Sony is the overall better value. However, if sound quality is your priority, the PI7 is worth considering if you can afford them. Hopefully they come down in price over time.

The PI5 buds also sound excellent and are a touch lighter than the PI7. At $250, the PI5 competes directly with the $280 Sony 1000XM4. As with all in-ear headphones, you have to try them to see how they fit your ears. Bowers & Wilkins' buds may fit your ears better than Sony's and vice versa. 

Water-resistantYes (IP54 rating -- splash-proof). 

Read our Bowers & Wilkins PI7 first take.

 

Sarah Tew/CNET

The second-generation Momentum True Wireless 2 are among the best-sounding earbuds, have a slightly smaller, more comfortable design and earned a CNET Editors' Choice Award in 2020. They list for $300 but are now selling for closer to $200 as we await the arrival of Momentum True Wireless 3 (they'll most likely turn up in 2022).

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 -- splash-proof).

Read our Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 review.

 

David Carnoy/CNET

The Beats Studio Buds look a lot like the rumored stemless AirPods we've been waiting for. Geared toward both iOS and Android users, they are missing a few key features on the Apple side of things (there's no H1 or W1 chip), but they're small, lightweight buds that are comfortable to wear and offer really good sound. While their noise canceling isn't as good as the AirPods Pro's they do have a transparency mode and they're decent for making calls. Ultimately, their fit and sound quality are their strongest selling points -- and they are about $50 cheaper than the AirPods Pro.

Water-resistantYes (IPX4 rating -- splash-proof). 

Read our Beats Studio Buds review.

 

David Carnoy/CNET

Anker makes several earbuds that cost less than $100. But its Soundcore Liberty Pro is its "high-end" model that features premium sound, as well as support for Sony's LDAC audio codec with compatible devices (mostly Android phones).

Available in four color options, the third-gen Liberty 3 Pro have updated dual drivers and are about 30% smaller than their predecessor. They fit my ears significantly better than the Liberty 2 Pro buds, which I didn't love as much as some people. This new version is improved and a good value compared to other so-called premium buds. 

The Liberty 3 Pro deliver a solid noise-canceling experience (they also have three different transparency modes) and feature Anker's HearID ANC that "analyzes your ears and level of in-ear pressure to create a tailored profile that optimizes noise reduction and reduces external sound to suit your ears."

The earbuds also perform well -- though not exceptionally -- as a headset for making calls. They're IPX4 splash-proof and deliver up to 6 hours of battery life with noise canceling on and up to 8 hours with it off. The case charges wirelessly, and I liked how the tips of the buds are illuminated by a pair of LEDs on the inside of the case when the buds are charging.

Unlike with the Liberty Air 2 Pro, I had no problem getting a tight seal with the included ear tips, and I found the sound to be on par with other premium earbuds that cost more. They have big, open sound with lots of energy in the bass and good detail. While they have a list price of $170, they're sporadically on sale for $20 less. If you're not quite willing to step up to the Sony WF-1000XM4 or other high-end models, the Liberty 3 Pro are worth considering.

Water-resistantYes (IPX4 rating -- splash-proof). 

Read our Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro review.

 

David Carnoy/CNET

Sennheiser last year released the CX 400BT True Wireless, a more affordable alternative to its excellent Momentum True Wireless 2 earbuds. I liked the CX400BT but thought the $200 list price was high and felt there was some room for discounts based on their build quality. Sure enough, their price quickly dropped to $150, then sporadically hit $100 on Amazon, and bottomed out at $80 for Prime Day 2021. Now we get the new Sennheiser CX, which have essentially the same design as their predecessors but offer some small improvements, along with a lower $130 price tag. They sound very good for their price point but do stick out of your ears a little more than some buds. 

The buds are equipped with Bluetooth 5.2 and presumably an upgraded chipset. Battery life is up to nine hours at moderate volume levels (the slightly bulky charging case stores an additional three charges) versus seven hours for the previous model. The CX also adds an extra microphone on each bud, which does improve the voice-calling experience and makes it easier for callers to hear you speak, even in noisy environments. To be clear, however, these are not active noise-canceling earbuds, they simply offer noise reduction for calls. 

Water-resistantYes (IPX4 rating -- splash-proof).

Read our Sennheiser CX first take.

 

Samsung

Samsung's Galaxy Buds Pro are slightly superior to the new, slightly more affordable Galaxy Buds 2 -- at least when it comes to sound, noise-canceling performance and water-resistance (they're fully waterproof). They also have a couple of features missing from the Buds 2, including Samsung's new 360 Audio virtual surround feature that's similar to Apple's spatial audio (360 Audio only works with certain Galaxy devices, but the list is growing). 

The Buds Pro are mostly impressive, although just how good you think they are will ultimately depend on how well they fit your ears. For some people, the smaller Galaxy Buds 2 will be the better fit -- and better choice. 

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

Read our Galaxy Buds Pro review.

 

David Carnoy/CNET

Edifier has a few different new true-wireless earbuds and most, including the TWS 330NB, are very good values. While the TWS 330NB buds are missing a sensor that automatically pauses your music when you take them out of your ears, they feature very good sound quality for the money, decent active noise canceling with a transparency mode, and solid voice calling (they have three microphones in each bud for noise canceling and noise reduction during calls).

They fit my ears well -- they're essentially AirPods Pro clones -- and while the touch controls are a little limited, they are programmable using the Edifier Connect app for iOS and Android (you can also set their level of touch sensitivity). They have an IP54 rating, which means they're splash- and dustproof, and battery life is rated at four hours with noise canceling on and five hours with it off (at moderate volume levels). That's only OK, but you do get an additional two charges via the charging case. They're also available in black, light purple and pink. 

Water-resistantYes (IP54 rating -- splash-proof).

David Carnoy/CNET

Master & Dynamic's earlier MW07 and MW07 Plus delivered top-notch sound for truly wireless, but they were a little lacking in the features department and weren't so great for making calls. The new-for-2021 MW08 offers some significant improvements, including the addition of solid noise canceling and call quality, that make it one of the top models for 2021. Alas, they're expensive at $299.

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 let you hear the outside world to varying degrees. 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). Each earbud has a physical button to control playback, not touch controls.

These buds 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 case. 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).

These truly wireless earbuds now support both the AptX and AAC audio codecs and have an extended range of more than 20 meters, according to Master & Dynamic.

Water-resistantYes (IPX5 rating -- withstands sustained spray).

Say what you will about the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live's bean-shaped design, but they might just be the most innovative new true wireless earbuds of the past year. Like the standard AirPods, they have an open design -- you don't jam an ear tip into your ear -- and they're quite comfortable to wear and fit my ears more securely than the AirPods. That said, they won't fit everybody's ears equally well. These wireless buds are discreet and basically sit flush with your ear without a little white pipe extending out from them.

They deliver good sound and work well as a headset for making calls, with good background noise reduction so callers can hear you clearly even when you're in noisier environments. While they feature active noise canceling, it's mild compared to the noise canceling in earbuds that have a noise isolation design. In other words, buy them for their design and sound, not their noise-canceling features.

Water-resistantYes (IPX2 rating -- sweat-resistant and protects against light splashes).

Read our Samsung Galaxy Buds Live review.

 

David Carnoy/CNET

At one time, we had the cheaper EarFun Free on this list, but the newer and more feature-rich EarFun Free Pro buds are the ones I'm using more for sporting activity these days. They have active noise cancellation with a transparency mode, wireless charging and Bluetooth 5.2. Rated for seven hours of battery life without the noise-canceling function on, or about six hours with it on, they're IPX5 water-resistant, which means they can withstand a sustained spray of water.

They sound very good for the money, with relatively clean, balanced sound and bass that has some kick to it -- they're pretty open-sounding. Lightweight and comfortable to wear, they have little fins that help keep them securely in your ears, and they're fairly discreet-looking.

Don't expect them to cancel noise as well as the AirPods Pro, but they do provide some decent muffling. It's worth noting that you can use either the left or right earbud independently and there's a low-latency mode for video watching (and presumably gaming). Call quality was decent, too: Callers said they heard some background noise but it wasn't intrusive and they could hear my voice well. The touch controls were responsive. 

Water-resistantYes (IPX5 rating -- can withstand a sustained spray of water).

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

The Elite 75t isn't quite as comfortable to wear as the AirPods Pro, but they arguably sound a touch better, with clearer overall sound and slightly better bass definition, so long as you get a tight seal. (The step-up 85t has more powerful bass).

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. 

Water-resistantYes (IP55 rating -- can withstand heavy sprays of water).

Read our Jabra Elite 75t review.

 

David Carnoy/CNET

Google's Pixel Buds A-Series are kind of unusual, in that they're new but not exactly an upgrade. They look and sound very similar to last year's Pixel Buds 2, which debuted at $179 but are now selling for less. However, instead of adding new features -- like active noise canceling -- they've actually lost a few. Why? They only cost $100: The "A" stands for affordability. That new lower price is the real story here and what makes these a bonafide true-wireless value, particularly for Android users.

Water-resistantYes (IPX4 rating -- splash-proof).

Read the Pixel Buds A-Series review.

 

Sarah Tew/CNET

One of our top picks for runners, the Jaybird Vista is a good set of true wireless sports earbuds that lock in your ears and are fully waterproof. Jaybird recently released the Vista 2 ($200), which adds noise canceling and a transparency mode (their design and sound is similar to the originals). With the Vista 2 arriving, the Vista is being discounted and may be the better value. 

Water-resistantYes (IPX7 -- fully waterproof and sweat-proof).

Read our Jaybird Vista review.

 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Yes, the Beats 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 features ear hooks and won't fall out of your ear is a winning proposition. Just make sure you buy these Beats Powerbeats earphones somewhere that has a good return policy, in case you're in the small minority who have ears that aren't quite a match for these Bluetooth headphones.

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

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

More headphone recommendations