Best Bluetooth Earbuds of 2021
$199.99 at Amazon
$199 at Amazon
$197.00 at Amazon
$199.95 at Amazon
$129.99 at Amazon
|Pros||Sound quality, secure fit, water resistance, very portable, battery life, great in-app EQ||Unique design, sound quality, battery life||Good sound quality, active noise cancellation, great user interface||Good sound quality, very secure athletic fit, long battery life||Fantastic sound quality, great battery life|
|Cons||Noise cancellation only average||No charging case, heavy, no noise cancellation||Expensive, Android users lose many of the unique features||Can be uncomfortable when worn for 2+ hours, relatively large charging case||Comfort is quite hit or miss, athletic performance also hit or miss|
|Bottom Line||Our favorite earbuds to recommend combine great sound with a secure fit and impressive battery life to keep up with your lifestyle||These unique high-quality athletically-inclined earbuds are excellent for high-intensity activity without blocking out your surroundings||For Apple users that are willing to pay a premium for great sound and versatility, these are a great choice||Our favorite model for hard charging activities, but not great for all-day use||Fantastic if they fit well, but very uncomfortable if they don't|
|Rating Categories||Jaybird Vista 2||Bose Sport Open Ear...||Apple AirPods Pro||Beats by Dre Powerb...||Jabra Elite 75t|
|Sound Quality (30%)|
|Athletic Performance (20%)|
|Battery Life (15%)|
|Ease Of Use (5%)|
|Specs||Jaybird Vista 2||Bose Sport Open Ear...||Apple AirPods Pro||Beats by Dre Powerb...||Jabra Elite 75t|
|Waterproof Rating||IP68 buds
|Measured Battery Life (hours)||9||9.5||5||11.25||7|
|Claimed Battery Life (hours)||8||8||4.5||9||7.5|
|Charging Carrying Case?||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Wireless Charging Option?||Yes||No||Yes||No||Yes|
Best Overall Earbuds
Jaybird Vista 2
The Jaybird Vista 2 earbuds excel in just about every way wireless earbuds can. The sound quality is almost unreal—we were able to hear vocalists' breaths in the tracks we listened to on them. They sound crystal clear, with a smooth warm bass, and excellent clarity during both playbacks and calls. They're comfortable and secure enough in your ears to stay put through even high-intensity workouts, and the water-resistance protects them from profuse sweat and light rain. The app has an incredibly useful EQ that you can customize or select from a plethora of handy presets. Strong battery life, a small charging case (with a wireless charging option), and simple onboard controls round out an excellent package.
We were hard-pressed to find anything to criticize about these buds. Our main gripe is that their noise cancellation capabilities aren't the best in the competition. Other models exceed the Vista 2 in this area, but that's about it. These earbuds are simply the best all-around model we've tested, and we recommend them most readily for those looking for exceptional performance.
Read review: Jaybird Vista 2
Best Bang for Your Buck
Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen)
Living up to the high bar of quality established by their predecessor, the Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen) are an excellent product at an even more excellent value. They are extremely lightweight and portable, with a protective charging case that is small and convenient. These buds offer good sound quality with impressive bass that is fun to blast as you complete a workout.
Speaking of workouts, the Echo Buds (2nd Gen) offer a secure fit and fair-to-good athletic performance overall. One of our few criticisms of these buds is that they can get uncomfortable after periods of long wear. Also, they require you to set up Amazon Alexa to use, which can be annoying for some, especially those who aren't too keen on the idea of voice assistants. Overall, these buds provide a positive and enjoyable user experience. At about at least half the price of most of their competitors, these buds represent just about the greatest value that you are going to find for true wireless Bluetooth earbuds.
Read review: Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen)
Best Choice for Outdoor Use
Bose Sport Open Earbuds
We feel a bit bizarre labeling the Bose Open Sport earbuds as earbuds because they lack, well, the bud. As opposed to traditional earbuds, these things don't go in your ears so much as they go over and around your ears. We're hardly complaining, though; the unique shape of these buds informs all of the rest of the features we love about them. As they aren't stuck in your ears, they are extremely comfortable, and honestly sometimes easy to forget that you're wearing. The little bit of distance that comes from where the micro speakers are placed relative to your ears adds to a fuller soundscape and some of the most impressive full, warm, and booming bass we've ever heard out of an earbud.
By nature of their not fitting directly into your ears, these buds lack the Active Noise Reduction that seems to have become industry standard for most other Bluetooth earbuds. Also, they lack the convenience of a charging carrying case, which is becoming standard among earbud competitors. They make up for this shortfall several times over however with their peak athletic performance. One of our testers was able to hang completely upside down without these devices falling off her ears. Because of their exceptional sound quality and athletic performance, we highly recommend these earbuds for outdoor use, where they exceed just about any of the competition.
Read review: Bose Open Sport
Best for Travel and City Commutes
Apple AirPods Pro
The Apple AirPods Pro are the perfect companions for airports or crowded subways. They feature impressive active noise cancellation, a slim carrying/charging case, and a fit that is still comfortable after hours of wear. In crowded or loud situations, we found the noise cancellation to be effective enough to listen to music or podcasts at a reasonable volume without being distracted by the outside world. When stuck in a metal tube with dozens of disgruntled travelers, that's just about all you can ask for. The noise cancellation also ups the overall quality of the music reaching our ears, providing clear mids and treble with more bass than most people expect from Apple earbuds. The majority of our testers even found the silicon earpieces to be plenty secure for gym workouts.
The apparent downside of these buds is the high price. Additionally, some of our testers noticed that the silicone tips started to slip towards the end of sweaty runs (though none actually fell out). And perhaps most importantly, Android users won't be able to access all the unique features that those utilizing Apple products (iOS devices) will. Hence, we only recommend them for use with compatible Apple products. These buds are still unique in that they can follow you from the subway to the gym while offering good sound, excellent noise isolation, and reliable comfort. We think many people will find them well worth the hefty price tag.
Read review: Apple AirPods Pro
Best Choice for Calls
There are plenty of reasons to invest in a pair of true wireless Bluetooth earbuds. Maybe you want them as a companion for distance running, or for listening to in busy places where you don't want to deal with chords or to listen to your podcasts without bothering your roommates. If the reason you're looking for a pair of true wireless Bluetooth earbuds is to make phone calls, these might be the right option for you. The Sony WF-1000XM4 earbuds boasted exceptional call quality that was only enhanced by its smart, self-correcting ANC features.
These buds are not perfect. Multiple testers found them difficult to fit specifically in the left ear. They aren't ideal for exercise, as they were apt to fall out when running or jumping. They're nearly the most expensive earbuds we reviewed, and their hefty price tag could turn off a lot of potential buyers. That all being said, these buds have an elegant and intuitive user interface that you can further customize through Sony's Headphone app. If you're in a position where you're going to be making a lot of calls and could really use smart continuous ANC features, these might be the buds for you.
Read review: Sony WF-1000XM4
Why You Should Trust Us
In designing our sound quality testing process, we enlisted the help of sound recordist Palmer Taylor. Palmer's professional experience is anchored in location audio and runs the gamut from music recording to composition. In his career, Palmer has amassed an impressive list of clientele, including The History Channel, Apple, and The Food Network. Serving as the testers and authors for this review, Steven Tata and Max Mutter have been leading TechGearLab's audio product reviews for over 3 years. As a result, they have personally used and listened to well over 100 of the most highly regarded consumer-audio products on the market, which supplies them with an in-depth knowledge of the current market.
This review represents more than 200 hours spent with these earbuds. In that time, we completed thorough, side-by-side sound quality comparisons using a wide variety of musical genres. We took these earbuds on airplanes, used them in the office, and generally wore them for hours on end to ascertain their relative comfort levels. Perhaps most importantly, we used them while engaging in many athletic endeavors, including running, mountain biking, hiking, yoga, and challenging workouts in the gym. In the end, we found the best pair for every activity and budget.
Related: How We Tested Bluetooth Earbuds
Analysis and Test Results
Freedom from earbud wires is a surprisingly liberating and indulgent luxury, but ditching the leash brings up a slew of new considerations. We've tested every aspect of these buds, from battery life and comfort to athletic performance and overall sound quality, to make sure your transition to the wireless realm is as seamless and pleasant as possible.
Bluetooth earbuds are a product category where you don't necessarily get more if you pay more. For instance, the Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen), the Bose Quiet Comfort, and the Sony WF-1000XM4 models all offer similar levels of performance. But, the Amazon Echo buds are nearly half the price and offer all-around performance, which the Bose and Sony offerings are more specific in their intended uses. For the very best sound quality, top-notch noise cancellation, or excellent microphone clarity, you'll pay more. But for coming pretty close, you don't have to fork over as much and possibly be just as pleased. It should also be noted that our favorite model overall falls right in the middle of the price range of all models tested. For value and performance, the Jaybird Vista 2 is truly the best.
Whether you're powering through another set of burpees or the last hour of a long-haul flight, you'll want your Bluetooth earbuds to have some real audio punch. We listened to every genre of music imaginable, from bass-heavy hip-hop tracks to twangy country ballads, to assess our earbuds' various musical proficiencies. We also made phone calls with each model to evaluate the quality of their embedded microphones.
The big winner in our sound quality testing was the Bose Open Sport earbud. We were impressed by the nearly impeccable clarity of these buds. They made everything from nuanced scores to talk radio sound great. The clarity is backed up by exceptionally powerful, full, booming bass, which provides plenty of punch for any workout playlist. Which is a good thing, because these buds also scored outstandingly on athletic performance tests. More on that later.
Also near the top of our sound quality podium is the Bose QuietComfort. Their clarity is just as clear and bright as that of the Bose Open Sport, but they fall short of the Open Sport's scores in just about every other category, and their lack of a consistently secure fit can sometimes distract from their excellent sound.
Several other models shared the second step on our sound quality podium, with each of their strengths slightly differing. The Powerbeats Pro offers a very well-rounded sound that makes most music sound full-bodied. The Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen) and Jaybird Vista 2's both have impressively deep and powerful bass, making them great for the kind of pump-up soundtracks that accompany the workouts they're designed for. This 2nd generation of Bluetooth true wireless earbuds impressed us with their general trend towards a consistently secure fit.
The Sony WF-1000XM4 model impressed us with their consistently high-end sound quality during phone calls. Combined with its reliable smart ANC capabilities, these buds are a great choice if you intend to use its microphone with any sort of regularity. We still think the bass power and overall fullness of models like the Bose models (Open Sport and QuietComfort) create better overall sound quality. Still, the noise cancellation gives the Sony WF-1000XM4 a leg up in noisy scenarios like cafes and airports.
Ears come in all shapes and sizes, and earbud preferences vary widely. Therefore, we had more than a dozen people try on each pair and share their thoughts on comfort. We also wore each pair for an entire workday to see how they fared in long-term use. Finally, many buds offer different-sized earpieces. In our final comfort score, we considered each model's sizing options and how easy it is to switch between them.
To no surprise, the models that offer more sizing adjustments tended to do better in our comfort testing. All of the top scorers come with swappable ear fins (small rubber finger-like projection that nestles into that flap of skin and cartilage above your ear canal) or earpieces (the rubber tip that goes into your ear) sizes. These include the Jaybird Vista 2, the Bose QuietComfort, the Sony WF-1000XM4, the Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen), and the Apple AirPods Pro. This wide array of sizing options meant that almost everyone we gave the earbuds to was able to get a comfortable and secure fit.
One model that deserves special attention is the Bose Open Sport. These earbuds don't fit in your ears as other earbuds do. Instead, these earbuds fit over and around your ears. These uniquely fitting buds actually offer a bit of a richer soundscape just by nature of the bit of space between your ear and the speaker. The eccentric way these buds sit on your ears doesn't inhibit the security of their fit. If you are not a fan of in-ear earbuds, we strongly recommend giving the alternative design of the Open Sport a shot. One caveat, though, is that these earbuds don't play well with glasses.
In terms of comfort level, the Jabra Elite 75t and the similarly designed Jabra Elite Active 75t are hard to classify. In our testing, people either loved the fit provided by these buds, to the point where they have no issue wearing them for the majority of the day, or they hated the buds so much they could barely stand wearing them for more than a few minutes. In this regard, these are the most polarizing products we've ever tried. If they happen to fit well, they are fantastic, so they're worth a shot, but just in case you can't stand them, you should order them from somewhere with a flexible return policy.
In terms of comfort, the Beats Powerbeats Pro buds are hit or miss. The over-ear hooks add a lot of security and eliminate any inner-ear tugging that can occur when running or walking briskly. However, a few testers found that the ear hooks pushed the buds into their ear, which created a bit of pressure that became uncomfortable when wearing the buds for more than an hour or two. For most workouts, this is fine, but they could get annoying if you want to use them during a cross-country flight.
The compact and convenient shape of the earbud often makes them the perfect gym companions. To find the models most likely to keep up with your workout, we used each pair while mountain biking, doing jumping jacks and burpees at the gym, and sweating profusely on long trail runs. In doing so, we noted how securely they felt in our ears, whether high-impact activities created uncomfortable tugging sensations, and considered each model's water and sweat resistance rating.
Much like their predecessor buds, the Jaybird Vista 2 proved to be the most athletically inclined earbuds in our testing group. Our cadre of testers almost universally reported a secure and comfortable fit, even on long runs and mountain bike rides under a sweltering, sweat-inducing sun. Even the big bumps encountered on the mountain bike rides failed to jostle the Vista 2 buds from our testers' ears. Combine this with the buds' full booming sound quality and you've got a pair of Bluetooth earbuds that are perfect for a pump-up jam.
The Beats Powerbeats Pro was the only model that could compete with the athletic prowess of the Jaybird Vista 2 in our testing. Thanks to over-ear hooks that provide rock-solid stability, these buds feel more secure than any others during hard-charging and high-impact activities. However, the drawbacks are that they interfere with sunglasses and eyewear that also rest on the tops of ears and that they were less comfortable than the Vista 2 for multiple hours of wear.
Another athletics-forward bud is the Bose Open Sport. These buds' aforementioned unique over-and-around fit proved to be pretty secure through all of our athletic performance testing. These buds were also comfortable to wear for long periods, making them ideal for any bikers or long-distance runners. As with the Powerbeats Pro, though, the Bose Open Sport buds are not very compatible with sunglasses, which holds them back from our top recommendation in this assessment metric.
Athletic performance is where the tethered earbuds of the JBL Reflect Mini 2 are convenient. This model provides a very secure fit that will keep your headphones in your ears, even if your workout involves buckets of sweat and lots of squat jumps. The Reflect Mini 2 gains stability mainly through its very low weight (just half an ounce) combined with well-designed rubber ear fins that ensure a stable fit.
The Amazon Echo Buds (Second Gen) and the Bose QuietComfort Bluetooth earbuds both also score fairly well in terms of athletic performance. While they both tended to fall out during high-intensity workouts, they stayed secure during moderate exercise. Whether or not these buds are good choices for working out is wholly dependent on how you exercise. If you're somebody who enjoys more moderate exercise with less shaking around, either of these models could be the choice for you.
During most of our workouts, the IPX4 water-resistant Apple AirPods Pro felt quite secure and comfortable. Some testers reported the earpieces slipping when things got particularly sweaty on a run. Without ear fins, though, this model isn't as secure as earbuds that come with them.
We would not recommend the Sony WF-1000XM4 models if you're looking for athletic performance in a Bluetooth earbud. While they feature multiple earpiece options, these buds forgo ear fins. As such, they just don't hold securely in your ear once you start moving around. They only sport an IPX4 water resistance rating, and they're just pretty easily poised to be knocked away during any sort of higher intensity activity.
Not only is it dangerous to ride your bike on the street while wearing earbuds, but in most states, it is also illegal (some states allow you to wear a single earbud, but not two).
Having to remember to charge the battery is perhaps the most significant disadvantage of Bluetooth earbuds compared to their wired companions. The longer the battery life, the less likely your music will cut out mid-workout. We tested battery life by streaming music at 75% volume until each pair bit the dust.
The clear winner in our battery life testing was the JBL Reflect Mini 2 at 11.5 hours—enough for a full workday and potentially sufficient for an entire week of gym workouts. However, these buds lack a charging case that many modern earbuds have, which means that you'll be plugging them into a power source more frequently overall. So, while these earbuds might have the longest-lasting battery, we expect most individuals to be better served by pair of earbuds that have a charging case. Tapping out slightly behind were the Powerbeats Pro, registering a battery life of 11.25 hours. The included charging case also holds an additional 2 charges worth of battery.
Playing for 10.5 hours before needing to retreat to their charging case, the Samsung Galaxy Buds+ offers the longest battery life of any of the true wireless models we've tested. However, the charging case holds a bit less battery life than most of its competitors, so the total buds + charging case playtime is about the same as other true wireless models.
The Bose Open Sport buds lasted for 9 and a half hours on a single charge. That's an entire extra hour and a half longer than what the buds advertise. This relatively long battery life is one of several pieces why we recommend these buds so highly for someone who intends to use them primarily for outdoor use. However, this is another model without a charging case to re-up the battery once it runs out of juice.
The Jaybird Vista 2 and the Sony WF-1000XM4 performed very well in our battery life testing. Both models slightly exceeded their advertised 8-hour battery life. The Jaybird model ran nine hours on a single full battery charge. Its charging case also has three lights that indicate how much battery it has, a handy feature that most cases lack. The Sony was able to last about 8 and a half hours on a single charge. While not having the strongest batteries in the pack, these two models are likely to comfortably last through your entire workday. You'll also get multiple charges out of their charging cases.
The Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen) lasted only 5 hours in our tests, which was one of our few qualms with the product. The Airpods Pro fell a bit short of their predecessors, lasting 5 hours with active noise cancellation turned on. The Anker Soundcore Liberty Neo was the worst performer in this test, lasting only 3.5 hours. It does have an included charging case that can keep you going for a bit longer when on the go. It's important to note that the models that come with charging cases allow you to top them off while they're not in use. Consequently, depending on how continuously you use the buds, they can provide functionally longer battery lives before you need to find an outlet. You can also charge one bud while listening on the other, which can
Not all Bluetooth earbuds are created equal in terms of portability and packability. While some can easily be shoved in almost any pocket, others use rigid neckpieces or earpieces that require a bit more forethought if you're hoping to tote them into your carry-on. We evaluated each model's weight and shape and examined them for potential long-term durability issues to determine which ones could keep up with a mobile lifestyle.
The clear winners in our portability testing were the Apple AirPods. Both the original and Pro versions pack into sleek carrying/charging cases that easily slide into small pockets. Those cases also make them great for use while traveling because the buds can be in your pocket and charging as you're winding your way through the airport, trying to figure out how to get to your terminal. The case for the Pro version is slightly larger than the original, but we were still able to easily fit that case into even the smallest pants pockets. That case is also smaller than most of the charging cases of competing truly wireless buds.
Apart from the super-sleek carrying cases of the Apple models, most of the true wireless models we tested provide similarly sized cases, all of which fit into most front pants pockets. Though technically larger than the wired models, we still think the true wireless design's self-contained nature is more portable than the often tangled wires of the wired models.
The Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen) sport a hard case that, while a bit larger than their competitors' average case size, is shaped specifically to easily fit in your pocket. The Jaybird Vista 2 also sport a charging case that, while still larger than an Airpods case, is still incredibly tiny. The case also comes with an optional lanyard that some may find convenient.
Other slim, lightweight, and very portable earbud and charging case combos include the Samsung Galaxy Buds+ and the Jabra Elite earbuds. While still not the most portable, the Sony WF-1000XM4 model notably scores much higher than its predecessor in our portability metric. The hard, charging case is much smaller now, and it can stand up on its own with the lid uncovered (the previous model couldn't do this).
Ease of Use
Arguably one of the nicest things about switching to wireless buds is the fact that you don't have to pull your phone out of your pocket so often. And the easier it is to control your music and other basic functions from the earbuds themselves, the less you'll have to fumble around with your phone.
In our testing, we found all the tethered buds (those with a wire connecting the two individual buds) to be nearly identical in their ease of use. Almost all have a few basic buttons embedded into the wire. Where we saw real differences were in the truly wireless models, as packing controls into such small devices presents more of a challenge.
While the Apple AirPods Pro used to be our uncontested winner in the truly wireless Bluetooth earbud race, new version releases of multiple buds now offer a challenge to the throne. The Jaybird Vista 2 grants excellent ease of use that relies on a truly classy interface. These buds sport buttons that give you actual tactile confirmation that the buds have recognized your command. With their uncommonly good reliability and ability to adjust three different commands (via single and double taps and long holds) to your preference, these are the definition of user-friendly buds. The accompanying Jaybird app has perhaps the most user-friendly EQ customization, too.
The Bose Open Sport buds are also high-scoring, easy to use buds. Most functionalities go through a satisfying tactile button interface. The exception to the buttons is a touch sensor controls volume by sliding your finger up or down it. More customization options are available through Bose's app, though it's hardly necessary to download to use the buds. These are a great, easy-to-understand choice for folks at every level of technological literacy.
The Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen) and the Bose Quiet Comfort both scored fairly in our ease of use metric tests. Both models feature touch sensors that while providing generally good and reliable functionality, don't offer much of anything in the way of tactile feedback. You're just going to have to trust that the sensors read your command. The touch sensors on Amazon's buds might actually be a little too sensitive, as several of our testers recorded them interpreting every little bump as a command.
For anybody who's looking for a fun, reliable user interface that's engaging for users of every level, look no further than the Sony WF-1000XM4 earbuds. These buds feature easy-to-find, reliable touch sensors that give audible confirmation when they've registered a command. While the Sony app isn't a required download to utilize these buds, it does unlock a bunch more in the way of customization and advanced functionalities. These buds are a clear step above the other models in regards to customization, with the ability to set your preferences down to fairly minuscule details. The diverse options to fine-tune your earbud experience to your liking make them very fun earbuds to play around with.
It's the simple things in life, like not having to deal with a wire running from your pocket up to your ears, that can put a pleasant grin on your face. We hope that our testing results have helped you weed through the multitude of wireless earbuds out there and find that cord-free ecstasy that you were seeking.
— Max Mutter, Michelle Powell, Steven Tata, and John Giammona Wilber