Tired of your headphone cable flapping around while you run? We researched hundreds of Bluetooth earbuds before bringing the 11 best into our testing lab for some head-to-head competition. wireless freedom can really transform tour workout, and can add another level of convenience to more mundane tasks like sitting on a long flight. However, Bluetooth earbuds vary wildly in both price point and performance, making it difficult to find the best balance for your needs and budget. We thoroughly examined the sound quality, comfort, athletic performance, and battery life of all our earbuds, so that you can find the perfect pair.
Best Bluetooth Earbuds of 2018
Analysis and Award Winners
We've kept our eyes on all the newest Bluetooth earbud offerings that hit the market in the last month, and we still feel that the Beats by Dre Powerbeats are the most stable earbuds for working out and that the JBL Reflect Mini offers the best overall performance. If you really like the totally wireless design of the Apple AirPods but wish they were more athletically inclines, you might want to check out the new Bose SoundSport Free. These earbuds are essentially identical to the original SoundSport that we tested but lack the keeper wire.
Best All-Around Bluetooth Earbuds
JBL Reflect Mini
The JBL Reflect Mini is one of those rare products that manages to provide top shelf performance for a reasonable cost. These well-designed earbuds are light and fit securely enough to stand up to long workouts, pack down quite small and can easily fit into almost any pocket, and the battery lasted for more than 11 hours in our testing, providing plenty of entertainment for long flights. Yes, they can't quite produce the same powerful bass as the Powerbeats, but they also only cost half as much. If you're looking for great sound but can't justify spending three figures, get the Reflect Mini, you won't be dissapointed.
Read review: JBL Reflect Mini
Best Bluetooth Earbuds for Working Out
Beats by Dr. Dre Powerbeats
If your workouts are defined by gallons of sweat and lots of squat jumps, you're going to want the Beats by Dr. Dre Powerbeats. Not only do these earbuds pump out powerful bass that can push you through even the most lung searing of workouts, they also stay put like dog clinging to its favorite chew toy. These earbuds excel in quieter moments as well. The superb clarity makes things like podcasts sound great and Jad Abumrad's commentary sound as insightful as ever. They can also last 10 hours on a single charge, providing you with enough entertainment for all but the longest flights.
Read review: Beats by Dr. Dre Powerbeats
Best Bang for the Buck
If you're not too fussy about sound quality and just want a cheap, cord free way to add a soundtrack to your next workout, get the Anker SoundBuds. They have a comfortable secure fit that can stand up to even the most jarring workout routines, and list for only $36 (and are often even cheaper online). Yes, their sound quality is on the lower end. High notes can often sound a bit garbled, and the bass doesn't have as much thump as the more expensive models. However, they're still more than capable of pumping out a power ballad that will get you through the last set or sprint in your workout.
Read review: Anker SoundBuds
Top Pick for Travel
If you're mostly looking for earbuds that can help ward off the alternating cycles of boredom and stress that come with airports, long flights and layovers, look no further than the Apple AirPods. Not only do these earbuds sound pretty good, they come with a convenient carrying/charging case that can fully recharge the earbuds 3-4 times. This means you can have the earbuds recharging in your pocket while you deal with security or deplane for your second layover. They also conveniently pause your music automatically when you take one of the earbuds out, so no worries about losing your place when you take them off to order that pre-flight latte. And the lack of any behind-the-neck- wire means you can fidget with your travel pillow all you want.
Read review: Apple AirPods
Analysis and Test Results
Bluetooth earbuds have made everything from commuting to working out more convenient by eliminating annoying headphone wires. However, that freedom comes with some new considerations. For example, fit and stability become more of an issue when your headphones don't have a leash. Battery life also becomes a factor, and they still need to sound good (no amount of convenience can compensate for making Beyonce sound like bad karaoke). We used a battery of side-by-side tests divided into 5 testing metrics to determine the best earbuds for any budget.
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 audio punch. We listened to every style of music imaginable, from twangy country ballads to bass heavy hip-hop tracks, to assess the various musical strengths and weaknesses of our earbuds. We also made phone calls with each model to assess the quality of their embedded microphones.
Three models shared the top score of 8 out of 10 in our sound quality testing. The Beats by Dr. Dre Powerbeats and the Bose Soundsport both had the most powerful bass of our selection, and in turn were able to produce the most well rounded and full sound. These headphones almost made us feel like we had a portable surround sound system everywhere we went. The Beats by Dr. Dre BeatsX, in contrast to the Powerbeats, had noticeably less powerful bass. This made the music feel somewhat less full bodied. However, the BeatsX's clarity was the best of all the models we tested, which made every note in a complex melody clear and crisp. It also made the BeatsX our favorite earbuds for listening to podcasts. All of these top scorers also made for clear and crisp phone calls.
One step down from the top scorers were the Apple Airpods and the JBL Reflect Mini, both of which scored 7 out of 10. As a point of reference, the standard wired apple earbuds that come with an iPhone would score a 7 in our tests. Both of these models performed very similarly, with reasonably clear clarity and decently deep bass. The Reflect Mini created a slightly more robust overall sound when listening to music, but its microphone made for staticy phone calls. The AirPods, on the other hand, are one of our favorite models for making phone calls. There isn't a conference call in the world for which we wouldn't use the AirPods.
The LG TONE PLATINUM scored a 6 out of 10 in our sound quality testing. Despite opting for an all caps, in your face name, the LG TONE doesn't deliver in your face audio. It does, however, provide great quality, making it a good choice for podcasts. The bass is a bit weak, so music doesn't have as much punch. The microphone tends to create some static and white noise, so it wouldn't be our first choice for making phone calls.
On our sound quality scale, a 5 out of 10 would be about even with the $10 wired earbuds you can get at any gas station. Three different models earned this score. The Anker Soundbuds were average across the board with the clarity, bass fullness, and call quality all sounding about the middle of the road. The Mpow Jaws V4.1 had poor clarity but decent bass, and made average sounding phone calls. The Sony XB50BS also had poor clarity but exceptionally powerful bass, making it great for workouts where you just need some thumping music and aren't looking for a nuanced listening experience. It made very poor quality phone calls where the audio cut in and out, even when in plain sight of a cell phone tower.
The worst scorers in our audio quality testing were the Jaybird X3 Sport and the TaoTronics TT-BH07. Both of these earbuds had the weakest bass of our selection, making them a poor choice for workout pump up playlists. The Jaybird did produce a slightly fuller sound than the TaoTronics, but made terrible quality phone calls, one area where the TaoTronics did excel.
The best sounding earbuds can be worthless if they're too uncomfortable to keep in your ears for more than a few minutes. We passed our Bluetooth earbuds around the office and got fit and comfort opinions from multiple people with different sized ears. We also spent at least one full workday wearing each pair to make sure no annoying hot spots developed during extended wear. Most models offer some sort of sizing adjustment. We took the effectiveness and ease of those adjustments into account as well.
Not surprisingly, models that offered more sizing adjustments tended to do better in our comfort testing. The three top scorers which included the BeatsX, the Anker SoundBuds, and the Sony XB50BS, all come with four different earpiece sizes (the rubber tip that actually goes into your ear. They all also have multiple ear fin sizes (the small rubber fin that nestles into that flap of skin and cartilage above your ear canal, fun fact: that's called the crus of helix). This wide array of sizing option meant most everyone we gave the earbuds to were able to get a comfortable and secure fit.
Just below the top scorers were a few models that generally fit well and are comfortable, but do have sizing concerns for some individuals. The JBL Reflect Mini comes with two earpiece sizes and two ear fin sizes, and our consensus was that the earbuds are quite comfortable. However, the earpieces provided correspond to small and medium sizes, so you may have trouble getting a snug fit if you have large ear canals. The Powerbeats have four earpiece sizes and the over-ear hook makes for a very secure fit. However, that over-ear hook may not fit so snugly if you have smaller ears. The LG TONE PLATINUM provides three earpiece sizes and great in-ear comfort, but the rigid neck piece can get a bit annoying after a while. The TaoTronics TT-BH07 come with three earpiece and ear fin sizes, but those earpieces are somewhat stiff.
The Jaybird X3 Sport have three sizes of earpieces and ear fins, but they just didn't seem to sit as snugly in the ear as other models. This feeling was exacerbated for those that have small ears. The Bose SoundSport feel much cozier in the ear, but don't come with any additional earpieces, so you're out of luck if those earpieces don't fit in your ears. The Bose SoundSport also provides four earpiece and three ear fin sizes, allowing for a good fit in any ear. The actual headphones are quite large and protrude quite a bit, which causes a slight tugging sensation that some may find less than comfortable.
The Mpow Jaws V4.1 have three earpiece sizes that provide decent in ear comfort, but the rigid neck piece is a bit cumbersome and less than ideal. At the bottom of our comfort scoreboard were the Apple AirPods. If you've always worn Apple earbuds and like the way they fit and never had them fall out on you, you'll like the AirPods. However, they provide no adjustability, and the lack of any sort of tether makes for a feeling of 'earbud vertigo' that is hard to get over.
The mobility offered by Bluetooth earbuds have made them popular workout companions. We tested our earbuds' athletic performance by trying to jostle them out on bouncy mountain bike rides and trail runs, and by trying to sweat them out in high-intensity cardio sessions.
Our three favorite models for all things athletic were the Beats by Dr. Dre Powerbeats, the JBL Reflect Mini, and the Anker SoundBuds. All of these models provide 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 Powerbeats do this with large over ear hooks that guarantee the earbuds won't fall off. The JBL Reflect Mini gains stability largely through a very lightweight (just half an ounce) combined with well-designed rubber ear fins that lend a stable fit. The Anker SoundBuds are similarly lightweight and have very secure fitting ear fins that lock them in place.
Not only is it dangerous to ride your bike on the street, in most states it is illegal (some states allow you to wear a single earbud, but not two).
Just behind the top scorers in terms of athletic performance was the Sony XB50BS. We found the earpieces and ear fins to provide a very stable fit. However, they do protrude from the ears quite a bit, which can cause a slight tugging sensation if you're workout tends to jostle you around. We think the vast majority of people would be able to find a secure enough fit that these earbuds wouldn't fall out, but that tugging could get somewhat annoying. The TaoTronics TT-BH07 also fell just behind the top scorers with a comfortable and secure fit that stayed in through all of our workouts but wasn't quite as stable as our that of our favorite models.
Scoring around average in our athletic performance testing were the Jaybird X3 Sport and the Bose SoundSport. Both of these models would work for most workouts, but might pop out if your workout is particularly bouncy (so no wind sprints or mountain biking). The SoundSport has a snug fit but are large enough that they could bounce out. The X3 Sport just didn't provide a secure enough fit in our testing to stand up to repeated jumping jacks.
The Apple AirPods and the Beats by Dr. Dre BeatsX provided the least fit security for athletic endeavors. The BeatsX lack any sort of ear fin, so you have to rely on simply the rubber earpiece to keep the headphones in. The AirPods don't even have any rubber on them, so sweat can make them slippery and prone to falling out.
Two models that we wouldn't even consider using for athletic pursuits are the Mpow Jaws V4.1 and the LG TONE PLATINUM. Both of these models have rigid neckpieces that annoyingly bounce around if you do anything more vigorous than a casual walk.
Perhaps the biggest disadvantage of Bluetooth earbuds in comparison to their wired companions is the fact that you have to remember to charge the battery. 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 LG TONE PLATINUM was the clear winner in our battery life testing, keeping the music going for 13.5 hours. That's more than enough for a long workday and for all but the longest flights. The JBL Reflect Mini was a close second at 11.5 hours, still enough for a full workday, and probably enough for a full week of gym workouts. The Mpow Jaws V4.1 will keep you entertained for 11 hours. The Beats by Dr. Dre PowerBeats can power you through 10 hours of working out before needing to be charged. The Sony XB50BS also lasted 10 hours in our testing. The TaoTronics TT-BH07 was just behind at 9 hours. The Beats by Dr, Dre BeatsX would just last through a full workday, they died after 8 hours in our testing.
The Jaybird X3 sport just missed out on the full workday mark, lasting 7 hours in our testing. Both the Bose SoundSport and the Anker SoundBuds lasted 6.5 hours. If you use these for working out it's likely you'd have to remember to charge them mid week. The Apple AirPods were the first to die in our battery testing, lasting just 5.5 hours. However, the portable charging case holds about three charges within it, so you can easily charge the AirPods on the go. Also, if you're on a long flight you can listen with just one pod and leave the other charging, then switch when that pod dies. Sure you'll only be listening in stereo, but it'll get you through that transatlantic movie binge.
In terms of portability and packability, not all Bluetooth earbuds are created equal. While some can easily be shoved in almost any pocket, others use rigid neck pieces or earpieces that require a bit more forethought if you're going to pack them into your carry on. We evaluated each model's weight and shape and scoured online user reviews for any long term durability issues to figure out which ones could keep up with a mobile lifestyle.
The Apple AirPods were the clear winners in our portability testing. The lack of any sort of wire makes them the lightest (0.3 ounces) of any of the models we tested, and make them so low profile that you can toss them into any pocket (just be sure not to lose them). The portable charging case is about the size of a pack of floss and similarly portable. Plus it can be charged by the same cable as your phone (if you're using AirPods it's probably a safe assumption that you have an iPhone) negating the need to pack another charging cable.
The Jaybird X3 Sport, the JBL Reflect Mini, and the Anker SoundBuds all weigh less than an ounce. They also all have flexible wires with no rigid parts that drape around the neck. This allows all of them to be wrapped up into a tiny package that will fit into any pocket or purse. In essence, they have the same kind of portability as a small pair of wired earbuds.
Just behind these top scorers came the Beats by Dr. Dre. BeatsX. These earbuds are so lightweight, but the cable has a semi-rigid portion that cradles the neck. This prevents them from folding up into a tiny package, so you can't put them in your front pants pockets like the models above.
The Beats by Dr. Dre PowerBeats and the Bose SoundSport both completely flexible cables, but rather large earpieces. The large ear hooks on the Powerbeats and the generally large footprint of the SoundSort prevent either model from assuming a flat profile. This makes it hard to put them into pants pockets or the side pocket in a purse. The Sony XB50BS have even larger earpieces, making fitting them into small pockets slightly more difficult.
The Mpow Jaws V4.1 and the LG TONE PLATINUM were at the bottom of our portability scoring. Both of these models have rigid neckpieces that make them no more packable than a pair of over the ear headphones. They're ok for use at the office, but you'll risk breaking them if you shove them into a bag.
A Note on Ease of Use
For most products, we include some sort of ease of use or user friendliness metric to assess the intuitiveness of their interfaces and the all around user experience of each product. For Bluetooth earbuds we generally saw no significant differences in ease of pairing and control panels across the models we tested, so we did away with such a metric. The Apple Airpods are the one exception to this, and you can read more about their interface in their individual review.
It's the simple things in life, like not having to deal with a wire running from your pocket and up to your ears, that can put a smile on your face. We hope that our testing results have helped you find that wireless ecstasy that you were looking for. If you're still not sure which pair of earbuds will work best for you, take a look at our buying advice article. It has some more helpful information about what to look for in the world of wireless headphones.
Still not sure? Take a look at our buying advice article for more info.