Best True Wireless Earbuds of 2021
$199.00 at Amazon
$169.99 at Amazon
$199.95 at Amazon
$149.99 at Amazon
$197.00 at Amazon
|Pros||Unique design, sound quality, battery life||Sound quality, secure fit, water resistance, very portable, battery life, great in-app EQ||Good sound quality, very secure athletic fit, long battery life||Fantastic sound quality, great battery life||Good sound quality, active noise cancellation, great user interface|
|Cons||No charging case, heavy, no noise cancellation||Noise cancellation only average||Can be uncomfortable when worn for 2+ hours, relatively large charging case||Comfort is quite hit or miss, athletic performance also hit or miss||Expensive, Android users lose many of the unique features|
|Bottom Line||These unique high-quality athletically-inclined earbuds are excellent for high-intensity activity without blocking out your surroundings||Our favorite earbuds to recommend combine great sound with a secure fit and impressive battery life to keep up with your lifestyle||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||For Apple users that are willing to pay a premium for great sound and versatility, these are a great choice|
|Rating Categories||Bose Sport Open Ear...||Jaybird Vista 2||Beats by Dre Powerb...||Jabra Elite 75t||Apple AirPods Pro|
|Sound Quality (35%)|
|Battery Life (20%)|
|Ease Of Use (15%)|
|Specs||Bose Sport Open Ear...||Jaybird Vista 2||Beats by Dre Powerb...||Jabra Elite 75t||Apple AirPods Pro|
|Measured Battery Life (hours)||8||8||9||7.5||4.5|
|Claimed Battery Life (hours)||9.5||9||11.25||7||5|
|Waterproof Rating||IPX4||IP68 buds
|Charging Carrying Case?||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Wireless Charging Option?||No||Yes||No||Yes||Yes|
Best Overall Wireless Earbuds
Jaybird Vista 2
Of the earbuds we tested, we were the most impressed overall by the Jaybird Vista 2. Not only do they sound fantastic, but they were also comfy for the duration of a long flight and never budged during a high-impact workout. They stayed put during squat jumps and even when mountain biking on some bumpy terrain. Our testers were impressed by their robust bass power, clarity, and richness of sound. Comfort tends to be a personal perspective among earbud users, but nearly all of our dozen testers found these buds comfortable enough for hours of wear. To complete the package, the Vista 2's small charging case and excellent battery life make these buds up to snuff for nearly any wireless earbud need.
Our main issue with the Jaybird Vista 2 is the high cost, and if we're being supercritical, the performance of the noise cancelation, which isn't the best on the market. Still, there aren't many products that will match the all-around performance of these buds. If you want comfortable earbuds with amazing performance and you don't mind paying more (but not the most) for them, these are a great option.
Read review: Jaybird Vista 2
Best Bang for the Buck
Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen)
Budget shoppers needn't look any farther than the Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen) for the winning combo of high performance and low price. These are priced significantly lower than the top-shelf competitors while still providing remarkably immersive sound and a fairly comfortable fit. They also have the added benefit of 'active noise reduction.' Even though it wasn't advertised as the main selling point, the 'noise reduction' seemed to work just as well as the 'noise cancellation' in other models we tested. Rowdy subway rides and noisy coffee shops were all made much quieter and more favorable for music listening when these earbuds were in use.
The Echo Buds (2nd Gen) are a poor fit for some of our testers during a high-intensity workout or run. Most of our testers had no issues using these buds for athletic endeavors, but if you're looking for a pair of buds specifically to exercise with, you may want to look for a more secure pair. They also require you to set up Amazon's digital assistant, which may not vibe with folks already using Google or Siri. Ultimately, if you are looking for the best performance-per-dollar earbuds of those we tested, these are the best to meet your needs.
Read review: Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen)
Best on a Tight Budget
Anker Soundcore Liberty Neo
The Anker Soundcore Liberty Neo is one of the few pairs of true wireless earbuds that manages to offer good performance at a true budget price. The sound quality in particular is impressive. It has good clarity and separation that is anchored by the relatively well-defined and powerful bass. Though not the best listening experience in the lineup, these buds can still satisfy most folks shopping on a budget.
Our main gripe with these buds is the fit. Almost all of our testers found them comfortable for short-term use, but most reported some sort of discomfort when worn for an hour or more. Because their fit isn't as stable as others, they make for poor workout companions. However, if you're just seeking the convenience of true wireless earbuds for enjoying some tunes or a podcast while walking the dog, commuting, or during coffee breaks, the Anker Soundcore Liberty Neo delivers for far less than the competition.
Read review: Anker Soundcore Liberty Neo
Best for Travel and Commuting
Apple AirPods Pro
If we had to choose one pair of earbuds for long plane rides, the Apple AirPods Pro would be our go-to. The silicon tips of these buds create a good enough seal to block out much of the ambient noise and provide all-day comfort. Add Apple's fairly effective active noise canceling technology on top of that, and you get a much more isolated auditory experience than most other buds offer. Though the noise cancellation isn't perfect, it allows you to enjoy music on planes, in gyms and subways, or when trying to get some work done while the kids are making noise, without cranking the volume up uncomfortably high. The pinch controls used to play/pause the music and skip tracks are some of the most intuitive and responsive that we've seen, which is great for those moments when you don't want to take your phone out of your pocket or when summoning Siri would be awkward. Back this all up with a fairly impressive soundscape that can flatter many genres of music, and you've got a great pair of buds.
The major downside of the Apple AirPods Pro, as you might have been able to guess, is the cost — they are some of the priciest buds currently on the market. Additionally, if you don't use an iPhone, you lose some of the advanced features they offer, like a fit test and control customization. If you're an Apple user and are willing to pay a bit of a premium, these buds are some of the best on the market, particularly for traveling and city commuting.
Read review: Apple AirPods Pro
Best for Outdoor Use
Bose Sport Open Earbuds
The Bose Open Sport are a very unique entree into the earbud field, as they aren't exactly earbuds. They utilize weighted fins that sit on top of your ears and there aren't buds that go in your ear. This design has several advantages. First off, since they're not inside your ears, you can hear your surroundings more, giving you increased situational awareness when running or biking outdoors. You also don't need to worry about them getting sweaty and wriggling out of your ears. Bose is well recognized when it comes to high-quality audio, and these are no exception, featuring clear highs and mid, plus powerful bass sounds.
The Bose Open Sport model doesn't have active noise canceling features, which many folks rely on for working in busy coffee shops and long flights without distractions. They also lack a charging case, though they do have a respectable 8-hour battery life. Despite these shortcomings, we believe they are an excellent choice for high-intensity (or mellow) outdoor activities like running and biking.
Read review: Bose Open Sport
Best for Walking and Talking
For those who need to constantly be on the phone for business or pleasure, the Sony WF-1000XM4 are the optimal earbuds for high-quality, hands-free conversations. These buds have an excellent microphone that transmits your voice with excellent clarity, while the "focus on the voice" feature deftly employs active noise cancelation while you speak. On top of all that, the WF-1000XM4 delivers the exceptional audio quality we've come to expect from Sony that can be tweaked to your liking.
These earbuds fall short when it comes to athletic performance. Across the board, our testers found them comfortable but insecure and unsuitable for working out, even with the three included earpiece sizes. We struggled to find a secure fit that could remain in our ears during dynamic movement. If this isn't a big concern, you'll be very content with the superb sounds and high-quality calls from the WF-1000XM4.
Read review: Sony WF-1000XM4
Why You Should Trust Us
Authors Max Mutter and Michelle Powell have tested more than 150 consumer audio products over the last four years using an exhaustive, side-by-side sound quality approach. Their techniques were honed with the help of Palmer Taylor, a professional sound recordist who has completed audio-based projects for the likes of National Geographic, Apple, and The History Channel.
In our obsessive pursuit for the best true wireless earbuds around, we've run 132 individual tests to accumulate a robust data set of the 15 models we've tested over a cumulative four years. This review represents more than 100 hours of hands-on testing. The majority of that time is spent listening to various genres of music with each pair of buds, specifically comparing the relative qualities of their bass, treble, separation, clarity, and overall fullness. We also have multiple testers wear each pair for at least a full workday to assess both short and long-term comfort. Those same testers log dozens of miles on the trails and hours at the gym to assess each model's suitability for athletic activities. Finally, we use all of the on-bud controls and associated apps, measure and weigh each charging case, and conduct exhaustive battery tests to determine overall user-friendliness and portability.
Analysis and Test Results
We split our testing and assessment of true wireless earbuds into five differently weighted metrics, including sound quality and comfort, in which we assessed comfort both while relaxing and while working out. We assigned a bit less weight to battery life, portability, and ease of use, as these factors can be important in specific situations but don't have as much of an impact on overall satisfaction.
Related: Picking the Right Bluetooth Earbuds
True wireless earbuds tend to be on the more expensive end of the spectrum when it comes to earbuds, but that doesn't mean you have to pay top dollar to get good performance. Case in point: the Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen) offers good sound quality and impressive noise isolation for significantly less than most other models. The Soundcore Liberty Neo provides a truly wireless form factor for a budget price, though you do make some sacrifices in terms of athletic performance and long-term comfort.
To save you from the specter of auditory dissatisfaction, we listened to a wide range of musical genres (and a plethora of podcasts for good measure) with each pair of earbuds. Throughout the process, we quickly switched between models so we could get an accurate, side-by-side comparison of sound quality. We focused on assessing how well each model articulates in the bass, mid, and treble ranges, instrument separation, the width of the soundstage, and overall fullness.
The Jabra Elite 75t garnered mixed results in some of our tests, but the sound quality was not one of them. Across the board, these buds proved to be the most booming of the bunch. In particular, the bass power of these buds is impressive, making them sound fuller and more lively than most models on the market. The Bose Open Sport also garners top scores in audio quality, especially in the low-end, which is to be expected from Bose.
The Jaybird Vista 2 fell just behind the Jabra Elite 75t and the Bose Open Sport. It provides exceptional clarity and separation with just a hint less bass power. Still, we pretty much loved listening to every genre of music with these buds.
The Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen) also impressed in our sound quality tests, largely because of the resonant yet well-controlled bass. They do sacrifice a bit of overall clarity and separation when compared to the higher-scoring models, but they still sound great. The Sony WF-1000XM4 excels in our audio testing and is also our favorite pair to use while making phone calls due to excellent onboard microphone performance.
The Apple AirPods Pro lacks a bit of the bass oompf of the top models but makes up for it with great clarity and separation. Because of this, we prefer these buds for podcasts and acoustic arrangements, but they still do quite a good job of blasting through a bass-heavy workout playlist.
Despite the budget price, the Anker Soundcore Liberty Neo produces a fairly good soundscape. During our testing, we enjoyed decent clarity through the mid and treble ranges anchored by reasonably rotund bass. They provided a good listening experience, but the overall effect isn't quite as full as that of some of the top models.
To ensure we garnered many opinions on each model's short and long-term comfort, we had more than a dozen testers wear each pair for multiple hours. Stability is also important, particularly for true wireless models, as the danger of one bud falling out and disappearing down a storm drain while out walking or running is real. Therefore, we also had all of those same testers go for runs and trips to the gym with each pair of buds to assess their stability and comfort for athletic endeavors. We believe the results of our comfort tests will apply to most people, but since everyone's ear anatomy differs, we still suggest that you only buy earbuds from a retailer with a good return policy just in case the fit doesn't suit you.
Amongst our comfort testers, the most universally loved buds were the Jaybird Vista 2. Almost across the board, they found these buds to be stable enough for even intense workouts and mountain bike rides and perfectly comfortable when worn for a full workday.
The Apple Airpods Pro and the Amazon Echo Buds both follow closely behind the Jaybird Vista 2 in our comfort testing. In both cases, almost all of our testers found the buds comfortable over multiple hours of wear and, though most found them more than suitable for long runs and workouts, a few failed to find a secure enough fit for athletic endeavors.
The Bose Open Sport utilizes over-ear hooks to stay in place, and there is no "bud" that goes in your ear, making them very comfortable, especially for folks who have trouble finding buds that fit properly and stay in their ears.
The most polarizing buds of our comfort testing were the Jabra Elite 75t and the more waterproof Jabra Elite Active 75t. Some of our testers found these buds matched to their ears perfectly and more than suitable for both all-day wear and intense workouts. Others found them completely uncomfortable from the start and couldn't find a stable enough fit for working out. Considering their quality sound, it might be worth taking that chance. In terms of fit, you will surely be taking a chance.
To test battery life, we fully charged each pair, then repeated the same playlist over and over at 75% volume until the buds died. While most pairs of buds we tested nestle into a carrying/charging case that can recharge them on the go, we focused our battery testing on how long the buds themselves last. Essentially, our tests are representations of how long you can listen to each pair of buds before you have to take a break and let them recharge in the case or plug them in (in the case of the Bose Open Sport). Though we found quite a difference in these figures, we did find that the total battery life of each pair — as in the playtime provided by the battery in the buds plus the battery in the charging case — was relatively consistent (around 20 hours) across the entire field. For example, if a pair of buds provided 5 hours of playtime in our battery test, the charging case usually provided about 3 additional charges. Alternatively, if buds lasted 10 hours in our testing, the charging case generally only held 1 full additional charge.
The Samsung Galaxy Buds+ led the pack in our battery life testing, lasting a full 11 hours before needing to be docked again. The Beats by Dre Powerbeats Pro stood out in our tests as well and weren't too far behind, posting a 9-hour battery life. The Bose Open Sport also has a respectable 8-hour run time, but it doesn't have a charging case.
Even the poorer performers in this test still last long enough to get through a long workout or an epic movie. For example, the Jaybird Vista and the Jabra Elite 75t both lasted more than 5 hours in our battery life testing.
Ease of Use
Possibly one of the best features of true wireless earbuds is that almost all of them automatically pause/play your music when you take one of the buds out and then put it back in. Beyond that, the actual user experience offered by each pair can be quite different. We assessed every aspect of these buds, from the on-bud controls to any advanced features offered by corresponding applications.
The Apple AirPods Pro are some of our favorite buds to use. This is mainly because of the white tips that stick out of your ears. While many consider these a fashion faux pas, they allow for a pinch gesture for play/pause and track skipping controls. This pinch is far more comfortable than having to push buttons further into your ear like you have to on most other buds. Plus, Apple users are treated to things like a fit test that determines if you're using the correctly sized earpiece as well as quick access to advanced settings.
We also enjoy the user experience of the Jaybird Vista 2. This is primarily because the large button on each bud is easy to find, and a 'click' sound effect is noticeably registered when pressed. It doesn't require an uncomfortable amount of pressure to activate.
The Jabra Elite 75t and their siblings, the Jabra Elite 75t, offer similarly tactile buttons that are easy to find and press, even in the middle of a run.
True wireless earbuds represent a wide range of sound quality, ideal use cases, and prices. The technology itself offers the awesome potential to enable greater freedom and versatility than their wired counterparts. They are quickly becoming the standard way to enjoy music and podcasts while on the go. We hope that the results of our exhaustive tests have helped you find your way through the seeds and discover the perfect pair for your needs and budget.
— Max Mutter and Michelle Powell