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Best Wireless Earbuds of 2024

We've tested the best wireless earbuds on the market. CNET's reviewed top wireless earbuds from Apple, Beats, Bose, Samsung and more.

Updated Feb. 23, 2024 3:09 p.m. PT

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Written by  David Carnoy
Our expert, award-winning staff selects the products we cover and rigorously researches and tests our top picks. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. Reviews ethics statement
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David Carnoy Executive Editor / Reviews
Executive Editor David Carnoy has been a leading member of CNET's Reviews team since 2000. He covers the gamut of gadgets and is a notable reviewer of mobile accessories and portable audio products, including headphones and speakers. He's also an e-reader and e-publishing expert as well as the author of the novels Knife Music, The Big Exit and Lucidity. All the titles are available as Kindle, iBooks, Nook e-books and audiobooks.
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What to consider

Budget

Fit

Return policy

$300 at Best Buy
Best Sony earbuds
Sony WF-1000XM5
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$190 at Amazon
Best Apple noise-canceling wireless earbuds
Apple AirPods Pro 2 (USB-C)
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$249 at Bose
Best for noise-canceling
Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds
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$56 at Amazon
Best budget noise-canceling wireless earbuds
Earfun Air Pro 3
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$200 at Best Buy
Best semi-open earbuds
Jabra Elite 10
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$299 at Bose
Best new open earbuds with an innovative clip-on design
Bose Ultra Open Earbuds
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$300 at Best Buy
Best Technics wireless earbuds
Technics EAH-AZ80
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$180 at Amazon
Best sports buds for everyday use
Beats Fit Pro
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$399 at Master & Dynamic
Great-sounding wireless earbuds
Master & Dynamic MW09
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$170 at Amazon
Best wireless earbuds from Beats
Beats Studio Buds Plus
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$100 at Amazon
Best Anker noise-canceling earbuds
Anker Soundcore Liberty 4 NC
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$200 at Amazon
Best durable earbuds
Jabra Elite 8 Active
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$319 at Best Buy
Best-sounding wireless earbuds with small updates for 2023
Bowers & Wilkins PI7 S2
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$180 at Samsung
Best Samsung wireless earbuds
Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro
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$250 at Amazon
Best wireless earbuds with a touchscreen display in their case
JBL Tour Pro 2
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$40 at Amazon
Best new budget open earbuds
Amazon Echo Buds 2023
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View details
$369 at Amazon
Best-sounding wireless earbuds with stems
Bang & Olufsen Beoplay EX
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View details
$121 at Walmart
Compact Sony wireless earbuds with big sound
Sony LinkBuds S
View details
View details
$162 at Amazon
Best wireless earbuds for Android users
Google Pixel Buds Pro
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View details
$179 at B&H Photo-Video
Best open wireless earbuds
Apple AirPods 3rd Generation
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$48 at Amazon
Best cheap open earbuds
Soundpeats Air3 Deluxe HS
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$150 at JBL.com
Best AirPods Pro alternative for less
JBL Live Pro 2
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What are the best wireless earbuds overall?

I've been testing earbuds for almost 20 years and have reviewed hundreds of models. Today the category is dominated by true-wireless earbuds, which come in a lot of different styles. With so many excellent buds on the market, it's difficult to name one single model as the best overall wireless earbuds. That said, a few models do stand out a bit, which is why they're at the top of this list. These include the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds, the Apple AirPods Pro 2 (now with USB-C charging) and Sony's next-generation Sony WF-1000XM5 (its predecessor, the WF-1000XM4, earned an Editors' Choice Award along with theBeats Fit Pro). These earbuds offer not only excellent ambient noise-muffling capabilities but also a comfortable fit, very good sound and strong voice-calling performance. Those are the key factors I evaluate when determining which products end up with "best" status. Pricing is also a consideration for value picks and when it comes to open earbuds, like the new Bose Ultra Open Earbuds, design and sound quality (compared to other open earbuds) are key factors, with strong battery life a plus.

I've fully reviewed or had hands-on testing with all the earbuds on this list, which gets updated regularly with the latest top earbuds. While this is a list of what we think are the best Bluetooth wireless earbuds available right now, what we're really talking about are true-wireless buds that have no cord between the buds and are truly wireless. Some are equipped with ear tips, while others like the standard AirPods (now on their third generation), have an open design without tips that are best for people who don't like to have ear tips jammed in their ears and want to allow some sound in from the outside world. For the most part, only "noise-isolating" earbuds with silicone or foam ear tips offer active noise canceling -- or "noise cancelling" (with a double l), as Bose and Google like to spell it.

Best wireless earbuds of 2024

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$300 at Best Buy

Best Sony earbuds

Sony WF-1000XM5

When Sony's WF-1000XM4 earbuds came out in 2021, we awarded them a CNET Editors' Choice. And while they're excellent, we had some quibbles -- they're on the large side and aren't a good match for certain ears. Clearly, Sony took those gripes to heart when it set out to design its next-generation WF-1000XM5 flagship noise-canceling earbuds. Not only are the XM5s smaller, but they also offer improved performance pretty much across the board, with better noise canceling, sound and voice calling. Are the XM5s perfect? Not quite. And at $300 -- $20 more than their predecessor -- they're costly, too. But overall they're really impressive -- easily among the very top earbuds on the market.

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$190 at Amazon

Best Apple noise-canceling wireless earbuds

Apple AirPods Pro 2 (USB-C)

Apple not only swapped in USB-C for Lightning connectivity in its new iPhone 15 models, but it made the switch with the AirPods Pro (2nd generation). The new AirPods Pro 2 with MagSafe (USB-C) are nearly identical to their Lightning predecessor, delivering the same excellent sound, noise canceling and voice-calling performance. That said, they offer some other small upgrades, including additional dust resistance and a new acoustic architecture that allows for Lossless Audio with the Vision Pro, Apple's upcoming wearable headset that's set to be released in early 2024 and costs $3,499. Is it possible that new acoustic architecture makes the buds sound subtly different with current devices like the iPhone? Maybe, maybe not. Either way, the AirPods Pro 2 (USB-C) are easy to recommend to Apple users despite their high price.

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$298 at Bose

Best for noise-canceling

Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds

While the QC Ultra Earbuds aren't a major upgrade over Bose's excellent QC Earbuds 2 that were released in 2022, they're definitely a little better. They should fit most ears very well, and they feature superb noise canceling, arguably the best out there. And a natural-sounding transparency mode with a new ActiveSense feature kicks in some ANC should the sound get too loud around you (it's sort of similar to the AirPods Pro's Adaptive Audio feature). They also sound slightly better overall, with a touch more clarity, and their new Immersive Audio feature opens up the sound a bit.

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$56 at Amazon

Best budget noise-canceling wireless earbuds

Earfun Air Pro 3

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. 

Use the code EAP3CNET at checkout at Amazon to drop the price to just less than $50.

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$200 at Best Buy

Best semi-open earbuds

Jabra Elite 10

Yes, the Elite 10s do have some potential drawbacks (their noise canceling is lighter compared with competitors) and they're pretty pricey at $249 and will probably have to come down a bit to better compete with the AirPods Pro 2 -- at least for Apple users. Still, they're really good earbuds that are not only comfortable to wear for long periods but also sound excellent. In fact, if their voice-calling performance is leveled up a bit with a firmware update, the Elite 10 buds may just be in Editors' Choice territory.

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$348 at Bose

Best new open earbuds with an innovative clip-on design

Bose Ultra Open Earbuds

The Bose Ultra Open Earbuds have one of the most unusual designs of any earbuds I've tested over the last several years. They literally clip onto the side of your ears, kind of like earrings, and their open design has micro speakers that fire sound into your ears while still being able to hear what's happening around you. At $299, they're somewhat overpriced, but otherwise there's a lot to like about them, including a surprisingly comfortable, secure fit and very good sound quality for open buds.

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$300 at Best Buy

Best Technics wireless earbuds

Technics EAH-AZ80

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.

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$180 at Amazon

Best sports buds for everyday use

Beats Fit Pro

While the Beats Fit Pro technically aren't AirPods, they're built on the same tech platform as the AirPods Pro (yes, Apple owns Beats). Unlike Beats' earlier and less expensive Studio Buds and new-for-2023 Studio Buds Plus, 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.

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$399 at Master & Dynamic

Great-sounding wireless earbuds

Master & Dynamic MW09

Master & Dynamic headphones and earbuds have always featured unique, eye-catching designs that include premium materials like aluminum, sapphire glass and Kevlar. Its latest MW09 flagship earbuds look pretty similar to its earlier MW08 buds but have some upgrades on the inside that deliver better performance, particularly when it comes to noise canceling (it's now very close to what Bose and Sony offer, though not quite at their level for ANC) and battery life. They're IP54 dust-proof and splash-proof and despite being on the larger side, I found them comfortable to wear, and they stayed in my ears fairly securely.

If you can get a tight seal (seven ear tips are included), the MW09s sound great. They sound natural with nice detail and deep bass that is well defined and not overpowering. A touch on the warmer side -- there's no treble push -- with an open, refined quality, they're earbuds you can listening to for long stretches without any listening fatigue. They're right up there with the best-sounding buds.

Other highlights include the aforementioned very strong battery life (up to 16 hours), Bluetooth 5.4 (up to 30-meter range and LE Audio ready) and multipoint Bluetooth pairing. While their voice-calling performance is good, it's not up to the level of the AirPods Pro 2 in terms of noise-reduction and voice clarity during calls. Maybe Master & Dynamic can improve in that area with a firmware upgrade but either way, they're worth checking out if you're looking for high-end earbuds. They're available in multiple color options.

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$170 at Amazon

Best wireless earbuds from Beats

Beats Studio Buds Plus

Alas, for those of you who bought the original Beats Studio Buds, which remain on the market for now, I'm sorry to report that these new Plus buds are significantly improved, with better sound, noise canceling and battery life. Additionally, they now deliver top-notch voice-calling performance.

The transparent version is getting a lot of attention (who doesn't like transparent electronics?), but the big changes are on the inside. Beats says 95% of the components are new and improved, and the buds' "acoustic architecture" has been revised. The speaker drivers remain the same, but the Studio Buds Plus are powered by a new, more powerful custom chipset and have three new microphones in each bud, which are three times larger and more sensitive than the ones found in the Beats Studio Buds.

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$100 at Amazon

Best Anker noise-canceling earbuds

Anker Soundcore Liberty 4 NC

New for 2023, the Anker Soundcore Liberty 4 NC earbuds carry a lower list price than last year's Liberty 4 buds and are arguably better. They have improved noise canceling and better sound quality, along with support for the LDAC audio codec for devices that support it. (Many Android smartphones do, and in theory it offers slightly improved sound quality when paired with a music streaming service that offers high-res tracks.) They're lightweight buds that should fit most ears comfortably with four sizes of ear tips to choose from. 

The Liberty 4 NC buds have single custom drivers compared to the Liberty 4's dynamic dual drivers -- and a completely different case design -- but I thought they delivered more pleasant sound than the Liberty 4s. Their treble is a little smoother and they feature strong bass performance. They came across as fairly open, with a reasonably wide soundstage. You can tweak the sound profile in the companion app for iOS and Android. 

The buds come in several color options and are IPX4 splashproof, so they're suitable for running and gym use. They feature excellent battery life -- up to 10 hours on a single charge at moderate volume levels -- and there's also a transparency mode that lets ambient sound in and sounds pretty natural with only a very faint audible hiss. While the noise canceling is an improvement over the Liberty 4's and is effective, it falls a bit short of what you get from Bose's and Sony's premium ANC earbuds. 

Like the Liberty 4, the earbuds have six integrated mics for noise canceling and making calls, and callers said they thought the buds did a pretty good job of reducing background noise, with my voice coming through relatively clearly. They're an all-around good performing set of buds for the money, and they offer a strong feature set, including ear-detection sensors and wireless charging.

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$200 at Amazon

Best durable earbuds

Jabra Elite 8 Active

Equipped with six microphones instead of four, slightly improved adaptive noise canceling and wind-reduction technology along with a higher durability rating, the Elite 8 Active look, feel and perform like a modestly upgraded version of the Elite 7 Pro and Elite 7 Active. Jabra is billing them as the "world's toughest earbuds," and based on our tests (they survived several drops without a scratch), that may very well be true.

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$319 at Best Buy

Best-sounding wireless earbuds with small updates for 2023

Bowers & Wilkins PI7 S2

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. 

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$180 at Samsung

Best Samsung wireless earbuds

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro

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.

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$250 at Amazon

Best wireless earbuds with a touchscreen display in their case

JBL Tour Pro 2

JBL's Tour Pro 2 earbuds have received a lot of attention for bringing something new to true-wireless earbuds: a full color touchscreen display embedded in the case that allows you to access the earbuds' key features and control playback as well as adjust volume levels. It's a bit of a gimmick but also useful. 

While the buds could sound slightly better for their list price, overall the JBL Tour Pro 2s are very good earbuds that offer a good fit, a robust feature set, strong battery life, plus solid noise canceling and voice-calling performance.

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$40 at Amazon

Best new budget open earbuds

Amazon Echo Buds 2023

Amazon's 2023 Echo Buds impressed me in a few ways that I wasn't expecting. For starters, they sound good for inexpensive open earbuds, delivering decent clarity and ample bass. But they also have a robust feature set, including multipoint Bluetooth pairing, hands-free Alexa and ear-detection sensors that pause your audio when you take one or both buds out of your ears. 

Their sound falls short of that of Apple's AirPods 3, which deliver fuller bass and overall fuller, smoother sound (they're better at handling more complicated music tracks with a lot of instruments playing at the same time). But the AirPods 3 cost around $150 and offer only about 15% to 20% better audio. In short, if you're looking for open earbuds -- or "semi-open" as these types of earbuds are sometimes called -- the Echo Buds are good value at their $50 list price and even easier to recommend when they go on sale.

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$369 at Amazon

Best-sounding wireless earbuds with stems

Bang & Olufsen Beoplay EX

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 really 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 they 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 (1st gen) 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 bud independently and the earbuds have ear-detection sensors so your music pauses when you remove them from your ears. 

The buds 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.

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$121 at Walmart

Compact Sony wireless earbuds with big sound

Sony LinkBuds S

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 former flagship WF-1000XM4 and also feature Sony's V1 processor (Sony has since released the more compact WF-1000XM5). While their sound and noise canceling don't quite measure up to either XM4's or XM5's, they're still quite good. They're the Sony buds for people who can't afford Sony's flagship earbuds but want 80% of those buds' features and performance for significantly less.

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$162 at Amazon

Best wireless earbuds for Android users

Google Pixel Buds Pro

The Pixel Buds Pro are Google's first earbuds to feature active noise canceling. While it's nice that they finally have a feature that a lot of true-wireless earbuds have had for a while, what ultimately sets the Pixel Buds Pro apart and makes them worth considering -- particularly for Android users -- is their distinct design and winning fit. That helps enhance their performance on both the sound quality and noise-canceling fronts. While not quite elite for voice-calling, they did perform well as a headset for making calls. A couple of features were missing at launch -- spatial audio and a five-band equalizer -- but both have now been added with firmware updates.

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$179 at B&H Photo-Video

Best open wireless earbuds

Apple AirPods 3rd Generation

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.

Since they're open earbuds, they let some sound in, so they're not as good as the AirPods Pro 2 for both listening and making calls in noisy environments. But they do a nice job reducing background noise during calls and picking up your voice clearly.

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$48 at Amazon

Best cheap open earbuds

Soundpeats Air3 Deluxe HS

What makes these Soundpeats Air3 Deluxe HS buds special is that they sound surprisingly good for open earbuds -- they're pretty close to what you get from Apple's AirPods 3 for sound. On top of that, they support Sony's LDAC audio codec for devices that offer it. Not too many cheap open earbuds have good sound but these Soundpeats have good bass response and clarity. They're also good for making calls and have a low-latency gaming mode. Battery life is rated at 5 hours at moderate volume levels, and these are IPX4 splash-proof.

Apply the code DCCNETSP at checkout to get an additional 13% off, bringing the price down to $34 -- a very good deal if you're looking for open-style earbuds.

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$150 at JBL.com

Best AirPods Pro alternative for less

JBL Live Pro 2

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.

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Other wireless earbuds we've tested

Sony WF-1000XM4: Released in 2021, Sony's WF-1000XM4 earned a CNET Editors' Choice Award. They're still excellent earbuds, but Sony has now released the next-gen WF-1000XM5. They may be a good option if you find them at a good discount. 

Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3: The Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3 were among the best new true-wireless earbuds of 2022. They're still among the best true-wireless earbuds, but Sennheiser has released the upgraded Momentum True Wireless 4. Also, the newer AirPods Pro 2 and Sony WF-1000XM5 buds are arguably superior, so only look to buy the Momentum True Wireless 3 when they're significantly discounted.

Beyerdynamic Free Byrd: 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. Read our Beyerdynamic Free Byrd review.

Master & Dynamic MW08: 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.

Status Between 3ANC: Status 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.

Sony Linkbuds: The LinkBuds are, in a sense, Sony's answer to Apple's standard AirPods. While they don't sound as good as Sony's flagship WF-1000XM4 or the Linkbuds S noise-isolating earbuds, they offer a discreet, innovative design and a more secure fit than the AirPods, as well as decent sound and very good voice-calling performance. Like the third-gen AirPods, their open design allows you to hear the outside world -- that's what the ring is all about. Read our Sony Linkbuds review.

JBL Live Free 2: Like the Live Pro 2, JBL's new Live Free 2 buds are surprisingly good. With 11mm drivers, six microphones, oval tubes and oval silicon tips, they combine a comfortable fit along with strong noise canceling, very good sound quality and voice-calling performance. Features include multipoint Bluetooth pairing and wireless charging, and they're rated for up to seven hours with IPX5 water-resistance (splash-proof).

Beats Studio Buds: The Beats Studio Buds look a lot like the rumored stemless AirPods some people have 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. Read our Beats Studio Buds review.

Sennheiser CX: If you can't afford Sennheiser's flagship Momentum True Wireless 3 earbuds, the CX are a good alternative. They feature very good sound, plus decent noise canceling and voice-calling performance. The only issue is they stick out of your ears a bit and may not fit some smaller ears. This model, which often sells for less than $100 on Amazon, doesn't feature active noise canceling but the step-up CX Plus does (the CX Plus is also a good value, particularly when it goes on sale).

Factors to consider when choosing wireless earbuds

Budget

Before anything else, you'll want to figure out how much you're willing to spend on new earbuds. Value priced earbuds continue to improve, so you can find good "cheap" buds for not too much money (less than $60). But if you're looking for premium buds from Sony, Apple and Bose, be prepared to spend a lot more. 

Fit 

It's key that the earbuds you buy fit your ears well. They should offer a comfortable, secure fit. If you don't get a tight seal with noise-isolating earbuds, sound quality and noise canceling can be dramatically impacted for the worse. Open earbuds don't have that issue, but they should be comfortable to wear and sit securely in your ears.

Return policy

Because the fit of your earbuds is so important, it's critical to buy your buds at a retailer that has a good return policy, in case the buds aren't a good match for your ears.

How we test true-wireless earbuds

We test true-wireless earbuds based on five key criteria, comparing similarly styled and priced models. These criteria are design, sound quality, features, voice-calling performance and value.

  • Design: We assess not only how comfortable the earbuds fit (ergonomics) but their build quality and how well the controls are implemented. We also look at water- and dust-resistance ratings.
  • Sound quality: We evaluate sound quality by listening to a set playlist of music tracks and comparing the earbuds to top competing products in their price range. Sonic traits such as bass definition, clarity, dynamic range and how natural the headphones sound are key factors in our assessment.
  • Features: Some great-sounding earbuds aren't loaded with features, but we do take into account what extra features are on board. These include everything from noise-canceling and transparency modes (ambient sound mode) to special sound modes to ear-detection sensors that automatically pause your music when you take the headphones off your ears.
  • Voice-calling performance: When we test voice-calling performance, we make calls in the noisy streets of New York and evaluate how well the earbuds reduce background noise and how clearly callers can hear your voice.
  • Value: We determine value after evaluating the strength of the earbuds against all these criteria and what the buds are able to deliver compared to other models in their price class.
Wearing the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2
Enlarge Image
Wearing the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2

Our reviewer David Carnoy testing voice-calling performance on the noisy streets of New York. 

David Carnoy/CNET

Wireless earbuds FAQs

Wireless vs. true wireless: Are they different?

Before earbuds like the AirPods came along, wireless earbuds had a cord between the buds. They were wireless because they offered wireless Bluetooth streaming and didn't have a headphone cable that plugged into your device. Some companies still make those types of wireless earbuds -- the Beats Flex is one example -- and some people like having a cord that allows the buds to dangle from your neck when not in use.

True wireless earbuds have no cord between them. They are entirely cord-free and link wirelessly to create a stereo pair. They are sometimes referred to by the acronym TWS, which stands for true-wireless stereo. 

Are wireless earbuds worth buying?

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 true-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.

AirPods have never fit all ears equally well, and a lot of people complain that they won't 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 or actually integrates them