AirPods may have ushered in the wire-free craze, but these days, there seems to be an endless influx of wireless earbuds looking to help you cut the cord. And we spend countless weeks — turned into months — putting earbuds at all price points to the test.
With so many options out there, CNN Underscored set out to find the best, much like we’ve done with on-ear, over-ear and ANC headphones. Following the beat of our own testing, we discovered the best true wireless earbuds out there.
Best wireless earbuds for Apple users
The Beats Fit Pro pack all of the AirPods Pro’s key features into a more comfortable and sportier design, and they pair effortlessly with all Apple devices.
Best wireless earbuds for Android users (and best wireless earbuds for calls)
Samsung’s Galaxy Buds Pro offer up a ton of great software features that let Android users fine-tune the audio and customize the controls, and deliver some very solid noise cancellation.
Best budget earbuds
For those not looking to spend a ton, the EarFun Air rival the AirPods Pro on sound quality in the right environment and have a reliable microphone for taking important work calls.
Best for working out and running
The Jabra Elite Active 75t are secure, comfortable and durable enough for high-intensity training and have enough battery life to get you through a long day at the gym.
Best noise-canceling earbuds
Sony’s WF-1000XM4 buds block out noise in a way that no other earbuds can match — stretching further than our previous top pick, the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds, with a more defiant shutout of higher-end sounds.
The Beats Fit Pro pack everything we love about the AirPods Pro into a sportier, more secure and more affordable package, making them our new favorite earbuds for folks in the Apple ecosystem.
True to their name, the Beats Fit Pro really stand out when it comes to fit and comfort. These rubber-coated buds have a unique wingtip design, which provides some extra support for your inner ear without feeling intrusive or heavy. It’s a much more compact solution than the massive ear hooks you’ll find on the Powerbeats Pro (we barely noticed the extra padding), and still felt perfectly secure during workouts.
We also appreciate that you get three sets of swappable silicone ear tips, and like on the AirPods Pro, you can perform an Ear Tip Fit Test to find the right size. On top of their impressive comfort, the Fit Pro are also some of Apple’s best-looking buds yet. You get a choice of black, white, sage gray and an especially attractive stone purple, which is a nice variety compared to the white-only AirPods.
Sportier design aside, the Beats Fit Pro are essentially an update to the AirPods Pro in everything but name. That means you get active noise cancellation (ANC), a Transparency mode for amplifying the outside world, and all of the usual perks of Apple earbuds — including instant pairing with Apple devices and the ability to control Siri hands-free. The Fit Pro’s noise cancellation worked pretty well in our testing, doing a good job dampening (but not completely silencing) the sounds of a chatty train car or a noisy construction site. Likewise, Transparency mode made it easier to hear oncoming cars and pedestrians when we were out for a walk.
When you’re not using ANC or Transparency mode, the Fit Pro’s Adaptive EQ mode kicks in to automatically optimize your music based on your surroundings. The difference is subtle, but we did find things to sound just a bit louder and fuller with Adaptive EQ on. These buds also support Spatial Audio, which is a neat feature that kind of makes you feel like you’re experiencing a song live thanks to 360-degree sound.
The Beats Fit Pro are best suited for those in the Apple world, as you’ll get all of the above perks as well as a very painless pairing process for iPhones, iPads and Macs. But unlike the AirPods Pro, the Fit Pro are also pretty great if you’re on an Android device. The Beats app for Android lets you take advantage of nearly all of the Fit Pro’s key features, including the ability to switch sound modes, customize the controls and perform an Ear Tip Fit Test. Android users will have to live without a few perks including Find My support for tracking your lost buds and automatic switching between paired devices, but for a pair of Apple earbuds, there’s an impressive amount of parity between the two platforms.
The Fit Pro also have among the longest battery life of Apple buds we’ve tested, lasting us nearly 7 continuous hours with ANC on and allowing us to go about three days of normal on-and-off use before having to charge the case. That edges out the six hours and 10 minutes we got out of the AirPods 3, as well as the five hours we saw on the AirPods Pro.
The only notable drawback of the Beats Fit Pro is its charging case, which is fairly bulky, though still pocketable. The AirPods Pro case is much more compact, and unlike the Fit Pro’s, can charge wirelessly. But unless that specific benefit matters to you, there’s virtually no reason to buy the AirPods Pro over the Beats Fit Pro — especially when the latter are $50 cheaper at retail. They’re the new Apple buds to beat.
Best true wireless earbuds for Android users: Galaxy Buds Pro ($149, originally $199; amazon.com or samsung.com)
Galaxy Buds Pro
Thanks to the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro, Android users have a worthy AirPods Pro alternative built specifically for those not tied up in the Apple ecosystem. While these Buds will work fine with an iPhone, they offer a ton of useful features exclusively for Android phones — not to mention strong active noise cancellation (ANC) and the ability to let in outside noise when you need it.
While not quite on the level of the AirPods Pro, the Galaxy Buds Pro’s noise cancellation is solid for a pair of earbuds that undercuts many of its ANC competitors in terms of price. In our head-to-head tests against the AirPods Pro, the Buds Pro noticeably dampened the sounds of nearby cars, trains and street chatter. It helped make our everyday walks around the neighborhood more pleasant, though it didn’t quite stack up to Apple’s buds, which all but silenced those noises by comparison.
However, the Buds Pro really shine when it comes to letting in the outside world. Like the AirPods Pro’s Transparency mode, the Buds Pro’s Ambient Noise feature uses the earbuds’ microphones to amplify sounds around you so you can better hear things like incoming vehicles or someone in your home trying to talk to you. And if you’re on Android, you can switch between four different levels of noise based on how well you want to hear your surroundings.
That ability to customize your ambient noise is very handy — and something that other buds like the AirPods Pro can’t do. While both earbuds let in a comparable amount of ambience on default setting, the Galaxy Buds Pro were able to amplify way more nearby noises (such as the sounds of people talking or our dog tossing a toy around in the next room) with Ambient Noise cranked up.
Better yet, the Buds Pro have a neat Voice Detect feature that allows Ambient Noise and ANC to work in tandem. With this feature activated, the Buds will automatically switch from ANC to Ambient Noise as soon as you start talking, and switch back after a few seconds of silence. This worked as advertised in our testing, and made it easy to do things such as order from our favorite cookie shop without having to fumble with any controls.
Other handy features exclusive to Android owners include the ability to switch between multiple sound presets, customize the Buds Pro’s touch controls and activate the Bixby virtual assistant with your voice on Samsung devices.
Fancy features aside, the Buds Pro are simply a great pair of wireless earbuds. They’re the most stylish and comfortable buds Samsung has made to date, with a sleek, curvy design that comes in Phantom Black, Phantom White and an especially gorgeous Phantom Violet. They also formed a secure but soft seal in our ears that made it easy to forget we even had them on after long hours of use. And thanks to their IPX7 rating, they endured splashes of water and kept on ticking.
The Buds Pro sounded great with a variety of music genres, providing deep bass, crisp guitars and vocals as well as a solid soundstage that allowed us to hear every component of our favorite songs clearly. Colleagues and friends had no issues hearing us when we used the Buds Pro to make calls, and voice recordings sounded similar in quality to that of the AirPods Pro.
On the subject of call quality, the Galaxy Buds Pro fared very well in our tests. Each earbud features three onboard microphones per ear, which held up well in our testing with a keen ability to focus in our voice while ignoring background foder. We didn’t notice any background noise when listening back to recordings from the Buds Pro. Furthermore, for a pair of earbuds that are $50 cheaper than AirPods Pro, these sound nearly identical to them. More anecdotally, colleagues reported having no issues hearing us during calls regardless if they were cellular or VoIP.
The Galaxy Buds Pro fared very well in our call quality tests, producing clear voice recordings that were largely on par with the AirPods Pro in terms of overall clarity. Our voice sounded bright and crisp on Samsung’s buds, though a little more distant than they did on the AirPods.
Samsung’s earbuds lasted roughly five straight hours with ANC on, and close to two days of on-and-off mixed use with the charging case. That’s largely in line with Samsung’s own estimates of four and a half hours with ANC on and up to 28 hours with extra features turned off while using the case.
We’ll make this really simple for you: If you want to spend less than $100 on wireless earbuds, you won’t find a better pair than the EarFun Air. We know it might seem almost too good to be true, but these earbuds have almost everything you can ask for.
Let’s start with the sound, which is just as good as the Apple AirPods Pro in controlled, quiet, indoor settings. The sound is expansive, deep and about as good as any high-end options. Keep in mind, though, the EarFun Air don’t have any active noise cancellation and depend entirely on sound isolation created by the soft plastic tips when inserted into your ear canal. So, it was no surprise to us when these buds fell short of providing the clarity and quality sound that other leading noise-canceling buds do in noisy settings. Still, there was enough passive soundproofing that we could enjoy our favorite songs.
We tested these earbuds across a wide variety of musical genres, including classical, rock, pop and dance. In every single category, the EarFun Air shined. Songs like “Bad Guy” by Billie Eilish and “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk were driven by punchy bass lines and electronic rhythm sections. Other iconic songs like Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” and Herbie Hancock’s “Watermelon Man” were balanced, with moments of clarity on both the high and low end. We struggled to find any song that didn’t sound great in these earbuds — and could discern no difference compared to Apple’s AirPods Pro in controlled, quiet settings.
For most people, the high-quality sound is probably a big enough selling point, but in case you’re looking for extras, the EarFun Air feature plenty. One of our favorite additions is an IPX7 waterproof rating, meaning they can be submerged into about 1 meter of water for about 30 minutes. We don’t often see waterproofing on devices this cheap, so of course this came as a huge plus and one we gladly accepted. In terms of practical use cases, this means you can wear them in light rain or even while working out. Heck, you can even wash off these earbuds under the faucet without much worry. It’s not the flagship feature, but we think it works as a great insurance policy for protecting your investment.
Another major benefit to these headphones is the four-way microphone, which assists in much better sound isolation during phone calls and video conferencing. The sound isolation is not as clean as other high-end over-the-ear headphones like the Bose Noise-Canceling Headphone 700, and the controls are nowhere near as easy to manage as the competing Apple earbuds, but we still found these earbuds to be formidable during work hours. We used the EarFun Air during regular work hours for more than a week with no problem. Some colleagues even commented at how great they looked and sounded. Put simply, they can perform everyday tasks just as well as many earbuds that cost twice their price.
Beyond sound and microphone quality, the EarFun Air earbuds had impressively long battery life with a full seven hours of playback, as advertised, with an extra 28 hours in the case. Although we were skeptical they’d last as long as the company promised, our weeks of testing proved these claims to be true. The EarFun Air rarely needed to be charged and typically lasted the full duration of their marketed battery life. In comparison to other budget options, EarFun Air stretched an hour longer than the next closest (the EarFun Air Pro) and blew the most affordable option in the group by more than two hours.
So what’s the catch to such a great-sounding, affordable pair of earbuds? We found that the connectivity and controls were nowhere near as intuitive as the AirPods Pro but just as intuitive as most other budget models. Across the board, connectivity between sub-$100 earbuds and devices wasn’t as instantaneous as Apple AirPods. Luckily, you only need to pair the earbuds once per device, so this should not be a deal breaker unless you’re frequently switching between devices.
By comparison, the Apple AirPods Pro and Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro both offer fast pairing and easy switching between devices made by the same company. The touch controls on the EarFun Air were simply less useful than either of the more expensive Apple and Samsung options we tested them against, but we found that we could still very easily control the sound through our phones. Still, we wouldn’t have minded seeing a companion app to let us customize and equalize the sound, but for half the price of the competitors with audio that’s just as good, we really couldn’t complain.
For most people, pressing a couple of extra buttons during the setup is well worth the savings — and we promise you will not be able to tell the difference in audio and performance.
Best earbuds for working out and running: Jabra Elite Active 75t ($178; amazon.com)
Despite their name, the Jabra Elite Active 75t are some of the best wireless earbuds you can buy even if you’re not hitting the gym every day. But these buds truly shine once it’s time to break a sweat, thanks to their secure fit, strong battery life and extra features that put much more expensive earbuds to shame.
Once we found the right ear tips for our liking (the Elite Active 75t includes three), Jabra’s earbuds formed a cozy and secure seal and never felt like they were going to fall out of our ears during days of heavy use in and out of the house. The Elite Active 75t have an attractive, understated look that won’t raise an eyebrow at the gym while still letting you express yourself with six slick color options, including navy, mint green and sienna orange.
We’re also big fans of the Elite Active 75’s compact charging case, which is much more pocket-friendly than the giant case that Apple’s Powerbeats Pro come in. Jabra’s buds offer some of the best on-ear controls we’ve tested, with physical buttons that prevented us from making accidental presses, and voice alerts that will tell you exactly which sound mode you’ve activated. (The Buds Pro and AirPods Pro use somewhat indistinct chimes by comparison.)
The Elite Active 75’s design is as practical as it is good-looking, with an IP57 rating that makes them fully waterproof enough to be dunked in a few feet of water. The $249 Powerbeats Pro, our previous pick for best workout buds, carries only an IPX4 rating for surviving splashes by comparison.
But that’s not the only area where Jabra outclasses more expensive earbuds. Thanks to a post-launch software update, the Elite Active 75t now support active noise cancellation — and it’s good. In fact, the 75t performed neck and neck with the AirPods Pro when we tested both against a recording of airport sounds, nearly silencing the noises of wind, chatter and footsteps that played over our speakers.
Earbuds with quality ANC at this price range are extremely rare — the $169 Samsung Galaxy Buds Live technically offer ANC, but it’s not very noticeable lik the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds, are usually $100 more than the Jabras. This also gives the Elite Active 75t a big edge over more expensive workout buds like the Powerbeats Pro and $199 Bose Sport Open, allowing you to silence your noisy surroundings when it’s time to focus on your workout. You also get six levels of HearThrough (think Transparency mode on the AirPods Pro), which made it easy for us to hear nearby cars and pedestrians when roaming around.
Speaking of workouts, the Elite Active 75t serve up more than enough high-quality audio to keep you motivated while at the gym or on the track. Music sounds loud and lively on Jabra’s buds, with a nice balance of bass and treble that made drums, bass, guitars and vocals shine with equal aplomb. The Powerbeats Pro sound a bit brighter and do a better job separating various instruments, but you’re not sacrificing much for the lower price here.
Better yet, you can tweak the Elite Active 75t’s sound output via the Jabra Sound+ app for iOS and Android, which is one of the best audio companion apps we’ve used. Jabra’s app provides six total sound presets (including neutral, speech and bass boost), and also lets you manually adjust the bass, midrange and treble yourself to find the perfect balance. You can also toggle ANC or HearThrough on the app as well as save up to three different profiles with your preferred noise and audio mix options. As a nice bonus, you can use the app to play ambient sounds, such as white noise for focusing on work and ocean waves for cooling down after a workout.
The Elite Active 75t’s built-in microphones are some of the better ones we’ve tested for calls, producing a mostly warm and accurate rendition of our voice during recordings and work chats. Jabra’s earbuds offered similar call quality to the Powerbeats Pro and made the Bose Sport Open sound distorted and fuzzy by comparison.
Jabra rates the Elite Active 75t as having five and a half hours of playback time on a charge with ANC on, and they actually gave us closer to six in our own testing. When you factor in the charging case, Jabra says to expect up to 24 hours of juice with ANC on and 28 hours with it off. That largely lines up with our tests, as Jabra’s buds lasted through a full weekend of heavy use with a mix of ANC on and off without even giving us a low battery warning.
If you asked us last fall if a pair of earbuds could top the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds noise-canceling chops, we’d be a little doubtful. Sony has done it, though, and the WF-1000XM4 managed to block out all the noise in any given space — achieving a level of silence that the AirPods Pro, Galaxy Buds Pro, QuietComfort Earbuds or any other buds we tested can’t match.
And while you don’t get 11 levels of noise cancellation like on the QuietComfort Earbuds, you get one mode that manages to shut out the world. In a simulated airplane environment with multiple speakers blaring, these brought it down to a relatively low hum and, with music, blocked it out entirely. Standing next to an HVAC blower or under a vent gave us the cooling benefits of AC minus an earache caused by the sound. Regardless of the environment, by blocking out distractions, Sony’s WF-1000XM4 let you focus and do whatever you need to do. Compared to the Bose, it’s a close experience, but Sony edges ahead with better higher frequency and the ability to do more with fewer level controls.
It’s all powered by a new integrated V1 processor that not only handles the noise cancellation in real time but also connectivity and the music mix. There are four microphones on board, with two in each earbud to help with noise cancellation as well. Essentially, the processor is listening to the space you’re in and works to block out sounds in real time.
The WF-1000XM4 have the longest runtime of any earbuds we’ve ever tested. With noise cancellation engaged, the WF-1000XM4 lasted eight hours and 10 minutes; they stretched to 12 hours and 30 minutes with ANC off.
We’re also big fans of the listening experience on Sony’s XM4, as they worked for every genre we threw at them. The 6-millimeter drivers inside deliver a wide range of sound, and you can customize the mix to your liking. Just open the companion Sony Headphones app and customize the EQ. You won’t find markings, like low or high, but instead individual frequencies to play with. The XM4 can hit strong bass without crackling on tracks like “Good 4 U” by Olivia Rodrigo or let you hear every instrument on “John Henry” by Bruce Springsteen.
To test earbuds, we first start off by selecting a pool of products that represents of big and small hitters alike across specific use cases and at varying price points. We also combined our pool for best budget earbuds to make this list as complete as possible.
We then go about setting up the earbuds and using them day-in and day-out for weeks to get a real feel for them. Do they really fast pair? Can they quickly switch between connected devices? How long do they take to charge?
When it comes to sound, we pull together multiple listeners with varying ear shapes and sizes to complete panel testing — this way we can be representative when it comes to sound quality. We listened to a wide range of genres from pop to classic rock, focusing on bass as well as soundstage and sound clarity.
To sum it up, we used each pair on this list in the same vein that you would … just with a lot more listening hours logged. We charged each pair to full and let them drain. We wore them for hours at a time to get a feel for how they fit. We also analyzed and rated the nuances of each device’s control scheme.
AirPods Pro ($197, originally $249; amazon.com)
The AirPods Pro had a long reign as our top earbuds pick for Apple users, thanks to their great sound, noise cancellation and seamless connectivity with iPhones, iPads and Macs. But the newer Beats Fit Pro do all of that within a sportier, more comfortable design — and for $50 less.
AirPods 3 (starting at $174; apple.com or amazon.com)
The AirPods 3 are a nice improvement over the previous-gen model, delivering better sound quality and borrowing some AirPods Pro features including Spatial Audio and Adaptive EQ. They also deliver six hours of listening playback, which is pretty strong over any other AirPods model. But unless you’re really tied to the classic AirPods design, we’d recommend springing a few extra bucks for the Beats Fit Pro or snagging the AirPods Pro on sale.
Apple AirPods Gen 2 (starting at $119.99, originally $159; amazon.com)
Apple’s second-generation AirPods provide a really close experience to the AirPods Pro, but these lack some of the wideness for sound quality (as well as bass) and feature no noise cancellation. You get the classic AirPods design with a white finish, and there are no gel tips — these just go right into your ears. You still get five hours of battery life on each charge, fast pairing and hands-free “Hey Siri” access. They’re still a good buy if you want AirPods for cheap, but you’ll get better features and sound quality on the newer AirPods 3.
Beats Studio Buds ($149; amazon.com)
The Beats Studio Buds were once our top pick for comfort, thanks to a low profile design that we enjoyed wearing for hours on end. They’re also built to fast-pair to both iOS and Android devices, which is a unique perk for a pair of Apple-made buds. There’s a lot to like here for $150, but the Beats Fit Pro offer even better comfort and features for those willing to pay up.
Beats Powerbeats Pro ($179, originally $249; amazon.com)
The Powerbeats Pro enjoyed a long reign as our favorite workout earbuds, largely thanks to their comfortable earhook design that kept them secure in our ears during intensive exercise. They also sound fantastic with especially satisfying bass, and pair effortlessly to Apple devices. The Powerbeats Pro are still a great buy if you prefer workout buds that wrap around your ears, but the Jabra Elite Active 75t are our new favorites due to their active noise cancellation, superior durability and cheaper price.
Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 ($149.99; samsung.com)
The Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 are among the best-looking and most comfortable buds we’ve tested, have strong battery life and hold their own against Apple’s AirPods in terms of sound quality. While they’re worth considering on those grounds if you’re an Android user, overall we think you can do better for your money.
The buds offer a good amount of features via Samsung’s Galaxy Wearable app (including customizable controls, an ear tip fit test and an adjustable ambient noise mode for letting the outside world in), but you’ll need an Android phone to take advantage of them. Not to mention, the Buds 2 are held back by overly sensitive touch controls that don’t always work reliably, and an active noise cancellation feature that doesn’t cancel all that much noise.
Samsung Galaxy Buds Live ($99, originally $169; amazon.com)
The Galaxy Buds Live are our former pick for the most comfortable earbuds, and they still largely live up to that moniker. These buds have a unique bean-shaped design that’s ergonomic, stylish and easy to forget about during long hours of listening to music and podcasts. However the arrival of the superior Galaxy Buds Pro, which offers an even more comfortable design in addition to superior audio and active noise cancelling, makes the Buds Live less enticing these days. Still, the Buds Live are worth considering if you’re on a tighter budget.
Google Pixel Buds A-Series ($79.99; originally $99.99; bestbuy.com)
The Google Pixel Buds A-Series hold their own against the more expensive AirPods and Galaxy Buds 2 in terms of sound quality, comfort and battery life, all within an attractive and low-profile design. They also have some very useful Google Assistant controls, which allow you to do everything from play a specific song to translate an entire sentence using your voice alone.
Unfortunately, those Assistant tricks are exclusive to Android users, as there’s no Pixel Buds app for the iPhone. It’s also worth noting that the Pixel Buds A-Series’ charging case — which comes in white across all models — is highly susceptible to smudges and scuffs. Its highly magnetic design also got stuck to other metal objects in our pockets, causing the buds to accidentally slip out on more than one occasion. But if the case isn’t a deal breaker for you, the $99 Buds A are about as good as you can get at this price if you’re on Android.
Jabra Elite 7 Pro ($199; amazon.com)
The Jabra Elite 7 Pro deliver strong sound quality, decent active noise cancellation and reliable physical controls. However, we still prefer the ANC on our top workout pick in the Jabra Elite Active 75t, which pack most of the same features and are also significantly cheaper.
Soundcore Liberty 3 Pro ($169; amazon.com)
The Soundcore Liberty 3 Pro are Hi-Res certified and support the LDAC standard, making them a worthy consideration for folks who use high-resolution music services such as Tidal and Qobuz. They’re also competitively priced. However, we didn’t get the best battery life from these buds, and we think the Sony WF-1000XM4 are still the better high-end option thanks to their superb noise cancellation.
Belkin SoundForm True Wireless ($119; amazon.com)
The Belkin SoundForm are a respectable alternative to the $129 Gen 2 AirPods, as they’re among the few third-party earbuds that support Apple’s Find My app for tracking down your lost buds. They sound good and last pretty long on a charge, too. But they don’t pair as smoothly to iPhones as Apple’s own buds, and Android users are better off with the oft-discounted Galaxy Buds 2.
Razer Hammerhead True Wireless Earbuds (2021) ($129; razer.com)
If you really want wireless earbuds that have RGB lighting, the Razer Hammerhead are just about the only option in town. These buds offer decent sound quality and battery life for the price, but we found the controls to be finicky, and the audio to be not quite on par with our favorites from Apple and Samsung.
Anker Soundcore Life P2 ($44.99; amazon.com)
We generally love Anker products and really wanted to recommend this pair of affordable earbuds, but after hours of testing, we simply couldn’t in good conscience. The Soundcore Life 2 earbuds fell just a bit short in all of the most important categories. The sound quality isn’t exactly bad and it was generally well-balanced with decent range.
When you compare them to other earbuds in the category, though, they just weren’t quality enough to stack up against some of the best in the category, namely the Earfun Air. With only two microphones dedicated to noise cancelling and 6 hours of battery life, we found that they fell just short of earning an enthusiastic recommendation. They’re good earbuds for the price, but they fell short of being considered the best.
Belkin Soundform Freedom True Wireless Earbuds ($119; belkin.com)
There’s a lot to like about the Belkin Soundform Freedom, though their coolest feature is limited to those with iPhones. One of the few third-party earbuds to support Apple’s Find My app, the Soundform Freedom allow you to track down the buds right from your iPhone should you misplace them at work or the gym.
If you’re on Android, you’ll still enjoy a solid pair of buds with a comfortable, water-resistant design, balanced overall sound and long battery life. The Soundform Freedom are a solid pick for Apple fans who want something cheaper than AirPods (complete with built-in tracking), but Android users are better off with the Galaxy Buds 2 or frequently discounted Jabra Elite Active 75t.
Bose Sport Open Earbuds ($199; bose.com)
The Bose Sport Open Earbuds are the most unique workout earbuds we’ve tested, with a unique open design that pumps out quality audio while leaving your actual ears free to better hear your surroundings while you’re out on a run. While the Sport Open Earbuds deliver big for their very specific audience — people who want exercise buds that don’t actually go in your ears — their rigid design and lack of a charging case makes them a tough sell for most folks.
EarFun Air Pro ($79.99, originally $99.99; amazon.com)
You would think that the Earfun Air Pro buds would be better than their predecessors because they have “Pro” in the name — but you’d be wrong. They do technically have some better capabilities such as active noise cancelling, three microphones per earpiece instead of just two, and a new 10mm driver, all of which is supposed to provide better sound quality than the original Earfun Air models. They also have the same level of battery life and generally the same sound. Heck, we can barely tell the difference between the two.
When it comes down to it, though, the original Earfun Air buds edge out this model in terms of sound, waterproofing and wireless charging to boot. You won’t be upset if you buy the Earfun Air Pro earbuds — they are some of the best available for this price — but we think you’ll feel slightly happier jamming out to the EarFun Air.
EarFun Free Earbuds ($59.99, originally $79.99; amazon.com)
We need to emphasize: Not all EarFun earbuds are created equally. The Earfun Free have decent sound quality and a reasonable 6 hours of battery life with 24 extra hours available in the charging case. But we found that sound quality and comfort were not as nice as the higher priced counterparts.
All of the Earfun earbuds we tested consistently ranked among some of our favorite budget earbuds, but we think the slight differences in sound quality and comfort in the other models, make the other models a better option.
Jabra Elite 85t ($149, originally $229; amazon.com)
The Jabra Elite 85t offer good overall sound and tons of customization via Jabra’s excellent Sound+ app, including 11 levels of active noise cancellation. However, the Elite 85t’s design is a little bulky for our liking, and its semi-open design makes its ANC less pronounced than that of the cheaper Elite 75t Active.
JLab Audio Go Air True ($29.99; bestbuy.com)
We’re not sure we’ve ever heard anything as truly terrible and unenjoyable as these earbuds. Please, no matter what you decide, avoid these earbuds at all cost. You deserve better.
JLab JBuds Air ANC True Wireless ($69.99; target.com)
You’re not going to find anything groundbreaking in these ‘buds, but for most people, that’s probably just fine. The sound quality is middling at best, with an active bass boost option and decent EQ modes when you click a button on the earbuds.
The battery life is also weak at just three hours — but, on the bright side, they offer good sound isolation from the wind and come with IP55 dust- and water-resistance, which make them a great choice as workout earphones. Plus at only $40, you won’t miss them if you forget them in your gym locker. If you can afford it, we’d recommend spending a little more for the Earfun Airs.
Marshall Mode II ($179; marshallheadphones.com)
There’s a lot to like about the Marshall Mode II earbuds, including rich overall sound quality and an attractive design that evokes the iconic amplifiers the company is known for. However, with no ANC and a so-so companion app, the Mode II simply don’t do enough for a pair of earbuds that cost this much — especially compared to the similarly priced Jabra Elite Active 75t.
Microsoft Surface Earbuds ($199.99; microsoft.com)
The Surface Earbuds performed well in our testing and real-world usage. You’ll get stable connectivity, a unique circular disc-like design, and eight hours of battery life. But for $199.99, you’re going to be left wanting more, especially when you compare them with our top picks. Microsoft super fans who use the 365 suite daily will be impressed by dictation and other integrated features.
Samsung Galaxy Buds+ ($99.99, originally $149.99; amazon.com)
If you want a pair of true wireless earbuds that won’t break the bank, Samsung has you covered with the Galaxy Buds+. These lasted 11 hours on one charge — that’s six more hours than AirPods Pro and two more hours than Powerbeats Pro. That long runtime is paired with an equalizer in the companion app for iOS or Android, so you can up the bass or increase high tones as you see fit, which means you’ll get good sound quality that holds its own against more expensive options.
SkullCandy Sesh True Wireless ($48.99, originally $59.99; amazon.com)
For all of the marketing and celebrity endorsements that go into Skullcandy headphones, you’d think they’d provide better-sounding earbuds. Unfortunately, the Skullcandy Sesh True Wireless earbuds were a disappointment. Usually it’s easy to justify the lack of performance because Skullcandy headphones typically look cool. But these earbuds are so small and hard to see they’re far from a fashion statement.
The sound was fine—not terrible—but lacked bass on some of our favorite dance and disco songs. The highs were also a little too high creating an overall lack of balance in sound quality. Add poor battery life and a terrible microphone, and you have yourself yet another pair of earbuds made for the clearance rack.
Sony WF-1000XM3 ($198; amazon.com)
We once ranked Sony’s WF-1000XM3s as the top in true wireless, but more than a year later, we’ve found some clear areas where they fall short, notably in design. We don’t like how much they stick out of and weigh down the ear. Additionally, there is no type of resistance, which makes them harder to recommend for wear in a variety of situations. Sound is still good, with a wide soundstage and an app for customization.