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Our top picks offer a comfortable fit, good battery life, and great audio.

Best wireless earbuds: Free yourself from the tyranny of cords

By

Editors,

Macworld |

Earbud makers have been busy doing away with wires—a good thing whether or not your phone still has a headset jack. At most, Bluetooth earbuds might have a wire that connects the buds themselves to each other—a nice option if you’re prone to misplacing small objects, or you want in-line controls. This is often the more affordable option too, although that is changing over time.

So-called true wireless earbuds are just that, free of any wire whatsoever. Apple AirPods are the standard bearer of this category, but there are plenty of alternatives—some more worthy than others.

That’s just one decision you have to make. Wireless earbuds also vary on price, sometimes greatly, and some might be better for audiophiles while others are better for sports. Our picks for best wireless earbuds run the gamut, so you can easily find a pair that meets your needs. Read our guide on what to look for in wireless earbuds below our recommendations.

You don’t buy AirPods (or AirPods Pro) because they deliver the ultimate listening experience. You buy them because they sound good, are super easy to connect to all your Apple gear, are incredibly compact, work hands-free with Siri, and are incredibly comfortable.

It’s not hard to find wireless earbuds that do one or two things better than the AirPods Pro, but for users of Apple products, it’s really hard to find earbuds that do so many things so right.The AirPods Pro live at the sweet spot of comfort, ease of use, features, and sound quality. 

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None of the really inexpensive wireless earbuds are without their foibles, but at only $50, the Monoprice True Wireless Earbuds (model 30878) really punch above their weight. Their sound quality is far superior to most others around the same price, and they provide excellent comfort and fit.

Battery life isn’t as long as some more expensive options, and the microphone is just serviceable, nothing more. But the earbuds themselves sound great, maintain their connection well, and do a great job of automatically reconnecting as soon as you pop them out of the case (a lot of cheap earbuds don’t).

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The Powerbeats Pro are Beats’ first true wireless earbuds, and they’re just the thing for people looking for the AirPod experience, tailored for an active lifestyle. They use the new H1 chip found in the second-generation AirPods, so you get the same pairing and syncing experience as with AirPods, and hands-free “Hey, Siri” capabilities.

Beyond that, they resemble Beats more than AirPods. The design is similar to Powerbeats 3, only slightly smaller and lighter, angled for a better fit and better look, and of course without the cord between them.

Sound quality is quite good—better than AirPods, thanks to the rubberized tips that fit snug in your ears. In particular, you get much better bass response than with AirPods, though these aren’t as bass-overheavy as some Beats brand gear. They’re splash and sweat proof, and stay put in your ears through all sorts of rigorous physical activity.

Battery life is exceptional, too. The earbuds last for up to nine hours playing music, or six hours of phone calls.

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With 3.5 hours of battery life, per charge, the Master & Dynamic MW07 aren’t the longest lasting truly wireless earphones that we’ve tested. But that didn’t keep us from selecting it as our favorite pair of truly wireless earbuds for audiophiles. Simply stated, they’re the best-sounding pair that we’ve ever tested.

Offering excellent aural separation and a surprisingly wide sound stage, the MW07 will fill your ears with rich, punchy bass, clear mids, and crisp high-frequency audio. Everything we listened to on them sounded great. Master & Dynamic includes five different sizes of silicon ear tips with the MW07, so finding a good seal and comfortable fit should be achievable for most people.

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Jaybird’s X4 wireless sports earphones are reasonably priced, sound great, and boast enough features that most people will find a lot to like about them. (Read our full review here.) With their IPX7 rating, they can be submerged in a meter of water for up to 30 minutes and still come out swinging. The silicone ear caps and ear fins that ship with with make them crazy comfortable to wear and allow for a measure of situational awareness. Alternatively, you can use a set of included Comply foam ear tips with the X4s for some serious passive noise cancellation.

The Jaybird X4s make most types of music sound great. Thanks to Jaybird’s free MySound iOS app, users can tune the sound of the earphones to suit their particular tastes. The only knock against them is that the X4s use a proprietary charging cable to connect to its waterproof pogo port—but that’s a small issue for a largely outstanding set of earphones.

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If you’re looking for a set of inexpensive earphones that won’t leave you embarrassed or frustrated, Aukey’s EP-B40 Latitude wireless earbuds are your huckleberry. Available for under $30, these surprisingly solid earbuds boast sound quality that bests headsets three times their price. Their subtle, mature styling belies their low price and, provided your audio source supports it, they’ll let you listen to your music using Qualcomm’s aptX technology. For the price, the EP-B40s’ audio performance can’t be matched.

Just keep in mind that these low-cost earbuds only provide between six and seven hours of use between charges. Additionally, we experienced a few minor connectivity problems during testing. As the EP-B40s only cost $28, though, these are easy issues to forgive.

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At $399, Shure’s SE535+BT1 buds are far more expensive than most people are willing to pay for earphones, Bluetooth or otherwise. But they sound exceptional, offering full bass, a wide soundstage, and aural separation that makes listening to complex, layered music a joy.

These buds also ship with a wide variety of foam and silicone ear caps that provide a comfortable fit and a high level of passive noise cancellation. In contrast to most earphones, the earbuds can be popped off of the cable they’re attached to, making it easy to extend their life.

We don’t have a lot of unkind things to say about these earphones: At moderate volumes, they’ll only provide between six to seven hours of playback. As the amount of fidelity they offer is so high, you’ll be able to hear the flaws in subpar audio of the likes you’ll find embedded in YouTube videos or while streaming from SoundCloud. Additionally, they’re a little more difficult to put on than most earphones you’ll run into. But man, do they sound great.

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The Bose QuietControl 30 earbuds have been around for a few years, but in the time since we first reviewed them, we haven’t found a pair of Bluetooth earphones that can match their mix of outstanding active-noise cancellation, comfort, high-quality audio, and decent battery life.

These earphones boast Bose’s signature neutral tuning, making them suitable for most types of music and spoken word content. There’s not too much bass, nor too much treble. You get just the right amount of everything.

You can also adjust the level of active noise cancelling: Using the companion app, you can turn it off completely or crank it up to 100 percent to enjoy a measure of peace and quiet.

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Sounding good is a set of earbuds’ raison d’être. When you invest in a new pair of wireless earbuds, it’s fair to assume that they should make everything sound its best.

We start each sound test by listening to a playlist of five songs that spans different genres and features strong, layered performances: “Feel Right” by Mark Ronson, featuring Mystikal; “Up & Rise” by Hazmat Modine; “Shake Your Hips” by The Legendary Shack Shakers; “Déjà Loin” by Yann Tiersen; and “I’m a Little Mixed” up by Diana Krall.

We play this set of songs for an hour, paying attention to low, mid, and high-frequency performance, and whether they provide a broad, rich soundstage. We also listen for any sign of distortion at low or high volumes.

Afterward, we use the earbuds in our daily lives for a minimum of three hours a day over the course of a week, making sure to take in at least one TV show or movie. (This allows us to verify that the audio keeps in sync with the video we see.) Finally, we pay attention to incoming and outgoing call quality, to make sure that you won’t get annoyed during a chat.

A set of earbuds or earphones may sound amazing, but you’ll never know it if they don’t fit well. Well-fitted earphones provide a good seal which, in turn, provides passive noise cancellation (or the hush that falls when you jam a pair of earphones or earplugs into your skull). If you’re in a noisy airport, tuning out your environment is a plus—but for safety reasons, it’s less than ideal if you’re out running. We take this into consideration when evaluating earbuds designed for workouts.

Because no two pairs of ears are identical, we note how many different sizes of interchangeable ear cups each set of earphones comes with. If they come with a neckband, we determine whether that band is appropriate for a wide variety of body types.

They might fit and sound great, but if your new true wireless cans hurt your ears, you won’t wear them. We wear the earbuds for at least three hours a day for a week and note if a particular set becomes uncomfortable after a few hours of use.

Wireless earbuds use Bluetooth to connect to your audio device, and to each other in the case of true wireless. Connectivity issues can affect battery life, range, and sound quality. We evaluate for signal interruptions between the earbuds and their audio source, and also note if audio drops from the left or right side during playback.

At minimum, a good pair of true wireless earbuds should be able to accept calls as well as play and pause music. If a pair offers additional features beyond the basics, those functions should work well and be easy to use.

It almost goes without saying that if you pay a premium for earbuds, they should sound spectacular. If a pair of headphones sound great and don’t cost much? Even better!

All wireless Bluetooth earbud reviews

Click on the links below to read full reviews of all the products we tested. We’ll continue to update this article as we put more models through their paces, so keep checking for our latest opinions.

This story, “Best wireless earbuds: Free yourself from the tyranny of cords” was originally published by

Macworld.

While they rate amongst the most expensive true wireless headphones we’ve tested, the B&O Beoplay E8 are without a doubt, the best sounding and most luxurious-feeling headphones that we’ve tested. If you can afford them, you’ll most likely be very pleased with your purchase.

Apple takes the smash-hit AirPods and improves fit, comfort, and sound quality while adding a decent active noise reduction system and great transparency mode. But at this price, they should probably sound just a little better.

AirPods may not have the best sound quality of all wireless earbuds, and we’d love a more snug fit that blocks a little more ambient sound. But their convenience, ease of use, and fit and finish remain unmatched.

These earphones would be perfect if there was a way to use them while their battery was dead.

More than just AirPods for athletes, the Powerbeats Pro feature better sound quality and much longer battery life.

At $249, the Bose SoundSport Free are expensive: you can find a number of competent true wireless headsets for significantly less. But with their nearly unflappable Bluetooth reception, water resistance, easy to use controls and brilliant sound, we feel that they’re worth the price of admission.

The AU Stream ANC wireless earphones deliver impressive sound and effective active noise cancellation in a comfortable, water-resistant design.

The Jaybird Run sound great, are weather resistant, and packed full of functionality. That they provide all of this at a reasonable price makes them an excellent choice.

Jabra’s Elite Sport are an exceptional workout companion, but their middling audio makes them a less ideal choice outside of the gym.

Bragi’s Dash Pro, with all of its capabilities (when they work) could be worth $330, to the right person. But considering their middle-of-the-road audio performance and slew of connectivity issues, most people may want to look elsewhere for their next set of true wireless headphones.

The WF-1000x sound good enough that they could have been a hit with mobile music lovers. But their disappointing ANC performance and lack of on-headphone controls makes them hard to recommend in light of other more capable options.

With marginal battery life, often overwhelming bass, and aggravatingly loud control buttons, these earphones are only a reasonable choice for those constrained by a fixed budget.

Despite offering extraordinary battery life, the Zolo Liberty+’s less than stellar audio performance and minor-but-frequent connectivity issues make them difficult to recommend.

The Soundcore Liberty Air 2 true wireless earbuds pack a lot of mediocre features into a small, gorgeous carrying case.

House of Marley’s Redemption ANC buds are good for your music thanks to their rich sound—and good for the earth since they’re made from recycled and sustainable materials. Unfortunately, the ANC comes up short, and the finicky controls do little to redeem that shortcoming.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

This Article was first published on itnews.com

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