Looking to pick up a pair of wireless earbuds but not sure which to get? You’re not alone. Since Apple launched its first-generation AirPods many moons ago, the true wireless form factor has become an increasingly popular choice for music listeners.
Here to help make sure you don’t invest in a poor set of wireless earbuds, we’ve created this guide detailing all the best sets we’ve personally tested. Every set here has been personally checked and used by the team of audio experts at What Hi-Fi? so you can trust our buying advice.
You can see a detailed breakdown of what we look for when testing wireless earbuds below, or scroll down to see our choice of the best sets money can buy right now.
The quick list
The best wireless earbuds overall
The WF-1000XM5 are the current benchmark for wireless earbuds thanks to their fantastic blend of performance and features. As an all-round proposition, they're tough to beat.
The best value wireless earbuds
These five-star Sonys tick multiple boxes, with good ANC, excellent sound quality, and impressive comfort levels in an attractively-priced package. A fine effort from the Japanese tech giant.
The best cheap wireless earbuds
If you're looking for some of the cheapest five-star wireless earbuds we've tested, then make a beeline for the Earfun Air. They deliver a great sonic performance for very little money.
Best battery life
The best wireless earbuds for battery life
With ten hours of juice available per charge, the WF-C500 should be able to withstand the longest of journeys. There's no noise-cancelling on board, but the brilliant sound quality and budget price make these earbuds hard to ignore.
The best noise-cancelling wireless earbuds
These excellent noise-cancelling earbuds are Bose's finest to date. They cut out external chatter with ease which leaves you free to enjoy their comfy fit and excellent sound quality. Expensive, but worth it.
The best AirPods
The AirPods Pro 2 are Apple's finest wireless earbuds to date. They work seamlessly with your iPhone while sound quality and noise-cancelling have gone up a notch from the previous version. Apple fan? These buds are a no-brainer.
The best wireless earbuds overall
With the WF-1000XM5, Sony has managed to produce another sensational pair of wireless earbuds.
There's a new design to behold, and it's a big step forward. The XM5 are also comfortable, nice to use and noise-cancelling and call quality are up there with the competition. Looking for the clearest and most detailed sonic performance from a pair of wireless earbuds on the market right now? The WF-1000XM5 produce it – and by quite some distance.
They're not quite as rich or full in the bass as we've come to expect from flagship earbuds from Sony but there's so much detail and texture to every track you play through them, it makes them a great choice for fans of any musical genre.
Add to that an eight-hour battery life (plus 16hrs from the case), Multipoint Bluetooth (so you can connect to two devices simultaneously), excellent noise cancellation (they seem to remove an extra layer of midrange noise compared to their predecessors, the XM4) and IPX4-rated sweat resistance, and this is a solid offering across the board.
There's no shortage of competition at this price, including the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II and AirPods Pro 2, which also feature in this list for different reasons, but for most people, most of the time, the Sonys are great all-rounders.
Read the full review: Sony WF-1000XM5
Best value wireless earbuds
And they're a brilliant option that more than justify their price tag. The buds are impressively small, and their lightweight design helps make them even more comfortable than Sony's XM4. Battery life is competitive at seven and a half hours.
They lack aptX HD and LDAC but do feature noise-cancelling tech, which the WF-C500 lack. Adaptive Sound Control automatically switches listening modes depending on your location, and Sony's DSEE (Digital Sound Enhancement Engine) upscales low-res digital audio files to higher quality.
The sound quality is superbly balanced too, with deep, detailed bass, expressive mids and engaging highs. They're a very musical listen for the money.
Downsides? The lack of support for aptX HD and LDAC is disappointing, while Multipoint – which lets you switch seamlessly between devices – won't arrive until later in the summer. And, the charging case only provides one extra charge which seems a little mean. But the superb sound and great feature set make these easy to recommend as some of the best Sony headphones available.
Read the full Sony WF-C700N review
Best cheap wireless earbuds
These wireless buds aren't from what you'd consider one of the larger, heavy-hitting brands, but they are ridiculously affordable and they sound great for the money too!
The Earfun Air Pro are also packed with features. Noise-cancelling is out of the picture at this price, but there's excellent noise isolation and these well-fitting wireless earphones feel comfy too. They're also waterproof to IPX7 standards (submersible in one metre of water for up to 30 mins), support virtual assistants and include Qi wireless charging if you've got a suitable charger to hand.
Calls sound clear, and the battery life is seven hours from the buds and a further 28 hours from the charging case. Amazingly it all feels fairly premium too. The Bluetooth 5.0 connection is solid and stable and for the money, the wireless earbuds offer an energetic and spacious sound.
If you’re after something fun-sounding and affordable, the Earfun Air wireless earbuds could be just the ticket.
Read the full review: Earfun Air review
Best wireless earbuds for battery life
Think of Sony's WF-C500 wireless earbuds as a no-frills version of the WF-1000XM4 found further up this page. They deliver a lot of what makes those wireless earbuds a success without cutting too many corners.
They're good for running and sports, thanks to their IPX4 rating, while you also get ‘fast pair’ connectivity with Android devices and ‘swift pair’ with Windows 10 PCs.
The sound is nicely balanced, there's loads of mid-range detail on show and it's presented in a cohesive and musical package.
Battery life is 10 hours from the buds themselves, which is excellent and should be plenty for most, and the case provides another 10 hours. If you're looking for the best Bluetooth earbuds with great battery life and don't want to spend a fortune, the Sony WF-C500 should be on your shortlist.
Read the full Sony WF-C500 review
Best noise-cancelling wireless earbuds
Say hello to the 'Best wireless earbuds over £200' at the What Hi-Fi? Awards 2022. As the title of the award suggests, these premium Bluetooth in-ears sound amazing and set a new benchmark for wireless earbuds at this level.
Smaller and lighter than the original QC Earbuds (which you can find a few places below), the Earbuds II provide a comfortable fit and lots of features. Bluetooth 5.3 is a big bonus, and the Bose app allows you to alter the amount of noise-cancelling on offer via a number of customisable presets.
Speaking of noise-cancelling, the Bose are at the top of their game. They can automatically adjust the amount of ANC on offer so your music isn’t drowned out by particularly loud noises and the effect is deeply impressive. As for sound, it's balanced and neutral and overflowing with fine detail.
It's a shame there's no support for high-quality wireless audio codecs such as LDAC or aptX HD, nor is there wireless charging or Bluetooth multipoint. But we don't think this is the end of the world when you consider that these classy buds ooze such sophistication.
Read the full Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II review
Apple's in-ear AirPods have always been decent wireless earbuds, but unremarkable. They've picked up quite a number of four-star reviews over the years. But with the AirPods Pro 2, Apple has made a pair of wireless buds that delivers the goods.
How? Noise-cancelling is better, battery life is longer, and you get new features and, more importantly, much improved sound quality. They also cost the same as the original AirPods Pro, which helps.
Fit is very good, and the tweaked design feels a lot less intrusive than some in-ears. Apple has finally added on-bud volume controls, which takes the user experience up a level too.
The noise-cancelling works a treat, while Adaptive Transparency muffles loud noises when letting in ambient sounds. And the sound quality? With weight, detail and a good dose of dynamic subtlety, they really are accomplished performers.
Read the full Apple AirPods Pro 2 review
Best wireless earbuds for running
Yes, you can get wireless earbuds not geared towards sport that, for a similar price, deliver more detail and dynamic subtlety (look further up this list for inspiration). But, unlike these JBLs, they won’t have the finely-honed ergonomics or rugged design that's required to be hailed as ideal fitness buddies.
Within the context of wireless earbuds for exercise, the Reflect Flow Pro perform well across the board. They're waterproof, lightweight, comfortable and come with multiple ear tip fin options. Battery life is a very decent 10 hours (or eight with ANC on) while the wireless charging case stores an extra 20 hours. They also produce a lively, detailed sound that makes them easy to recommend.
Read the full review: JBL Reflect Flow Pro
How to choose wireless earbuds
How to choose the best wireless earbuds for you
Why you can trust What Hi-Fi? Our expert team reviews products in dedicated test rooms, to help you make the best choice for your budget. Find out more about how we test.
One thing you will need to bear in mind is that everyone's ears are different, which means that whether or not a pair of earbuds are comfortable tends to come down to personal preference. We can give a bit of guidance in this area once we've tested them, but there's no substitute for sliding them into your own ears.
After comfort, you'll want to think about other factors such as when and where you're going to use them. Do they need to be water-resistant, sport-friendly earbuds or do they just need to pair to your smartphone and survive your daily commute?
Tied to this, of course, are other factors such as battery life. The best wireless earphones all have enough battery life for the average listening session but some do last longer than others. It's also worth noting the number of hours you get can vary depending on what other features you have enabled. Don't forget that wireless earbuds come with charging cases so they're kept topped up between outings.
Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) can increase battery drain, but it can come in handy if you want a more private listening experience, and some of the top pairs we've reviewed boast excellent noise-cancelling. Similarly, some sound processing modes can take a little bit extra out of your battery, but these can usually be turned off.
Other features you might want to consider include touch controls, which can come in handy if you want to skip tunes or change volume without having to take your phone out of your pocket. Many modern pairs also offer voice control via personal assistants like Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri.
If you're feeling a little overwhelmed by the amount of choice out there, don't be. You'll find the best true wireless earbuds to have passed through the What Hi-Fi? test rooms below. And if you want a bargain, don't forget to check out our pick of the best wireless earbuds deals too.
How we test wireless earbuds
How we test wireless earbuds
Before we put them in place we'll also experiment with any tips provided to make sure we've got a perfect seal pre-testing, and ensure that bass performance isn't affected.
We'll also start with a full charge and see how accurate battery life claims are and just how it's drained during day-to-day use.
Although we have dedicated testing facilities in London, Reading and Bath, the bulk of our wireless earbuds testing happens outside those facilities, whether that's on the street or in our busy office.
It's only when nailing down the finer details of audio quality, we head for quieter environments where we compare the wireless earbuds we're testing to price comparable models and current class-leaders at the money. This gives us the chance to come to solid conclusions and peg each pair on sound quality.
Obviously, testing ANC wireless earbuds requires quite the opposite - here we venture outside to really put those noise-cancelling algorithms through their paces and also test any transparency mode to see how well it works.
We'll also test the call quality of the earbuds, to make sure the wearer can be heard in both calm and windy conditions (weather permitting, of course).
As with all headphones, we run wireless earbuds in for a number of hours before evaluating sound quality. We'll also download and fire up any Android/iOS apps that are available that can affect the user experience. How easy is it to use, what features does it offer, how useful are they and how well are they executed?
All our review verdicts are agreed upon by the team rather than an individual reviewer to eliminate any personal preference and to make sure we're being as thorough as possible, too. There's no input from PR companies or our sales team when it comes to the verdict, with What Hi-Fi? proud of having delivered honest, unbiased reviews for decades.
Our pick of the best headphone deals
Which wireless earbuds have the best sound quality?
It really depends on your budget and how much you have to spend. Our entry-level pick of earbuds would be the Sony WF-C500 which are a brilliant pair of budget buds. At the premium end of the Bluetooth earbuds market, you're spoilt for choice with models like the Sony WF-1000XM4, Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II and Apple AirPods Pro 2 all excellent options.
Are premium wireless earbuds worth it?
In our opinion, the best pairs are most definitely worth it. You get a clear step up as far as sound quality goes with more detail uncovered, even greater dynamics and just a more overall polished performance. Many budget models don't have the same spread of features of more expensive designs and might be missing key things like active noise-cancelling.
What are the best earbuds for Zoom meetings?
Whether you're taking voice or video calls you want a pair of wireless earbuds with a good microphone set-up. Some premium pairs even have special technology that helps to emphasise voices so your voice should come through even clearer. Pairs we would recommend include the Sony WF-C700N at the affordable end of the spectrum and the Sony WF-1000XM4 and Apple AirPods Pro 2 at the more premium end.