Best True Wireless Earbuds of 2021
$129.99 at Amazon
$129.99 at Amazon
$179.95 at Amazon
$197.00 at Amazon
|Pros||Great sound Quality, exceptional athletic performance, comfortable||Fantastic sound quality, great battery life||Good sound quality, very secure athletic fit, long battery life||Good sound quality, active noise cancellation, great user interface||Good sound quality, active noise reduction, comfortable, relatively inexpensive|
|Cons||Expensive||Comfort is quite hit or miss, athletic performance also hit or miss||Can be uncomfortable when worn for 2+ hours, relatively large charging case||Expensive, Android users lose many of the unique features||Some may find it hard to get a secure, athletically inclined fit|
|Bottom Line||The best balance of sound quality, athletic performance, and comfort that we've found||Fantastic if they fit well, but very uncomfortable if they don't||Our favorite model for hard charging activities, but not great for all-day use||For Apple users that are willing to pay a premium for great sound and versatility, these are a great choice||Offers almost everything you could want from truly wireless buds for far less than most competitors|
|Rating Categories||Jaybird Vista||Jabra Elite 75t||Beats by Dre Powerb...||Apple AirPods Pro||Amazon Echo Buds|
|Sound Quality (35%)|
|Battery Life (20%)|
|Ease Of Use (15%)|
|Specs||Jaybird Vista||Jabra Elite 75t||Beats by Dre Powerb...||Apple AirPods Pro||Amazon Echo Buds|
|Claimed Battery Life (hours)||6||7.5||9||4.5||5|
|Measured Battery Life (hours)||5.75||7||11.25||5||5.25|
|Carrying Case Yes/No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
Best Overall Wireless Earbuds
Impressing us as one of the best overall of the earbuds we tested is the Jaybird Vista. Not only is the sound great, but they also stayed comfy on a long flight and didn't budge 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 most of our dozen testers found that these buds were comfortable enough for hours of wear. To complete the package, the Vista's small charging case and adequate battery life make these buds up to snuff for all your wireless needs.
You might find that the only hindrance of the Jaybird Vista is the cost. Though not the priciest true wireless earbuds available, they aren't exactly a budget option. Still, there aren't many products that will match the all-around performance of the Jaybird Vista earbuds. If you want earbuds with amazing performance and you don't mind paying more for them, these are a great option.
Read review: Jaybird Vista
Best Bang for the Buck
Amazon Echo Buds
Budget shoppers needn't look any farther than the Amazon Echo Buds for the winning combo of high performance and low price. The cost of these buds is significantly lower than competitors while 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 a 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 one small drawback we have with the Amazon Echo Buds is the stability of the fit 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 workout buds specifically to work out with, you'll want to make sure to order these from a retailer with a good return policy in case they don't happen to fit securely enough for your activity of choice. 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
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 we've enjoyed, these buds can flatter a wide range of musical stylings.
The biggest issue 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. Additionally, they make for poor workout companions as the fit isn't super stable for most people. However, if you're just looking for the convenience of true wireless earbuds for listening to music 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 while just 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 Intense Workouts and Activities
Beats by Dre Powerbeats Pro
The Beats by Dre Powerbeats Pro is a pair of true wireless earbuds that can handle hard workouts and hard-charging activities. The over-ear hooks make the catastrophic loss of one of your buds nearly impossible, allowing you to completely focus on the next turn of your favorite downhill mountain bike run. Similarly, even the most secure-fitting buds may create an inner-ear tugging sensation when you're blasting through a set of burpees, a feeling some find annoying, and that again is almost eliminated by the over-ear hooks of the Powerbeats Pro. Plus, these buds have a proclivity for booming bass, making them perfect for motivational workout playlists. To top it all off, they feature a proprietary H1 chip, meaning they work seamlessly with any Apple device.
Our biggest complaint with the Powerbeats Pro is their long-term comfort. While we had no issues wearing them during workouts, using them at our desks for 2+ hours inevitably led to some uncomfortable hotspots and itchiness. This varies a bit from person to person, but you probably shouldn't expect these to pull double duty as all-day earbuds. Additionally, depending on your specific sunglasses, the over-ear hooks can sometimes get in the way, which is a big bummer for summertime outdoor pursuits. Still, these are the first buds we found ourselves reaching for when prepping for a hard gym session or clipping into mountain bike pedals.
Read review: Beats by Dre Powerbeats Pro
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.
This review represents more than 100 hours of hands-on testing. The majority of that time was 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 had multiple testers wear each pair for at least a full workday to assess both short and long-term comfort. Those same testers logged dozens of miles on the trails and dozens of hours at the gym to assess each model's suitability for athletic activities. Finally, we used all of the on-bud controls and associated apps, measured and weighed each charging case, and conducted 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 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 Jaybird Vista fell just behind the Jabra Elite 75t. 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 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 Apple AirPods Pro lacks a bit of the bass oompf of the top models but make 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.
The Bose SoundSport Free balances good overall clarity with relatively powerful bass, though not quite as powerful as the Jabra Elite 75t.
The original Apple Airpods fall a step below most of the models in our test in terms of sound quality. These buds lack a bit of bass power, and while the articulation through the mid and treble ranges is quite good, it lacks some of the brightness of the top-tier models. These buds still sound good, just not phenomenal.
The Jabra Elite Active 75t also falls into the good but not great bucket. These buds add extra waterproofing to the fantastic sounding Jabra Elite 75t. In our opinion, this extra waterproofing dulls the sound a bit, taking the powerful edge off the bass and muddling some of the clarity and separation.
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.
While we wouldn't particularly describe the performance of the Sony WF-1000XM3 as poor, we were disappointed with the overall sound quality. The active noise cancellation did block a decent amount of sound in our testing, providing a better listening environment. However, we found the bass to be quite underpowered compared to other models, and a slightly fuzzy quality throughout made things sound less than clear.
The Samsung Galaxy Buds+were our least favorite buds to listen to. While they don't sound particularly bad, a lack of bass power makes things sound relatively hollow.
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. 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 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.
If you are specifically looking for buds that will stay put and feel secure during hard-charging, jostling activities, we recommend the Beats by Dre Powerbeats Pro. The over-ear hooks of these buds make them inherently more stable than most other options. Though they are great for hard workouts, we wouldn't recommend these buds for all-day wear, being that most of our testers found them uncomfortable when worn for multiple hours at a time.
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 every pair 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. 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 as well as 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 Beats by Dre Powerbeats Pro led the pack in our battery life testing, lasting a full 11 hours before needing to be docked again. The Samsung Galaxy Buds+ stood out in our tests as well and weren't too far behind, posting a 10.5-hour battery life.
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, Jabra Elite 75t, and the Apple AirPods Pro all 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. This is primarily because the large button on each bud is easy to find, and a 'click' 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 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