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.
These days there are more sets that can easily be counted covering pretty much every price and type of user you can think of. In fact, if you jump onto any retailer now you’ll find everything from cheap true wireless that cost less than a takeout pizza to top-of-the-line units for audio-enthusiasts, movie aficionados, runners and gamers.
While this choice is in many ways great, it’s also a two-edged sword as it can make picking the right pair for your specific needs and budget fairly tricky.
On top of that, based on our experience testing them, not every pair of wireless earbuds is created equal. All too often we’ve had earbuds that look great on paper fail to deliver with real-world use when we’ve gotten them in for testing. Common failings we experience testing wireless earbuds include an uncomfortable fit, poor audio quality, ineffective active noise cancellation and unresponsive touch controls.
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. Sony currently dominates the top of this list with the WF-C700N the latest model we've reviewed and deemed worthy of inclusion as a new entry.
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.
The WF-1000XM4 produce one of the most dynamic, detailed and balanced performances we've heard from a pair of Bluetooth buds. Bass notes sound tight and textured, while vocals ooze refinement and sophistication. Their musical delivery keeps you coming back for more, and also makes you thankful for the eight hours of battery life, which is class-leading in this field.
The Sonys are comfortable to wear too. The new-look earpieces include touch-sensitive controls and a new ear tip design which helps with noise isolation. Combine this with the excellent noise cancelling provided by Sony's Integrated Processor V1 and you've got a pair of headphones that effectively block out the hustle and bustle.
IPX4 water resistance comes as part of the WF-1000XM4 package, as does Sony's clever Headphones Connect app for iOS and Android and clever features such as Quick Attention and Speak-To-Chat which both allow you to have a conversation without removing the earbuds. And, following a February 2022 update, the headphones now also have Multipoint Bluetooth so you can connect two devices simultaneously. We're expecting a successor to the Sonys to launch at some point in 2023 but for now, if you want the best in-ear wireless headphones on the market right now, look no further.
Read the full review: Sony WF-1000XM4
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 should be plenty for most, and the case provides another 10 hours. If you're looking for the best Bluetooth earbuds and don't want to spend a fortune, the Sony WF-C500 should be on your shortlist.
Read the full Sony WF-C500 review
Sony's newest wireless earbuds slot neatly between the budget WF-C500 and premium WF-1000XM4, both of which feature higher up this list.
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
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
If you've got a decent-sized budget to play with but can't stretch to more premium options like the Sony WF-1000XM4 or the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II (below), then these JBL earbuds could be right up your street.
For the money, you get all the features you could wish for, including ANC, IPX5 water resistance, a thorough control app which offers some customisation, a good user experience, and a comfortable enough design. A few more ear tip options to help get the perfect fit wouldn't go amiss, though.
Battery life is good at eight hours with Bluetooth and noise-cancelling on, while the wireless charging case will top the total combined time to 30 hours. Touch controls are included at the top of each stem and you also have Multipoint Bluetooth so you can connect two sources simultaneously.
The excellent sound quality is the icing on this cake, with the JBLs favouring a lively and entertaining sound. Bass weight is nicely judged and there's good extension there too. Detail levels are excellent at this level as are the dynamics on offer. If you're looking to make the step up from a cheap pair of earbuds and want an entertaining sound these JBLs have to be on your list.
Read the full JBL Live Pro 2 TWS review
Panasonic isn't a brand that immediately springs to mind when you think of the best earbuds. But perhaps it should be. The RZ-S500W are the company's first foray into the market and they're sensational performers for the money.
Specs are thorough, with noise-cancelling tech, an Ambient Mode, twin mics for voice calls, and battery life that totals 19.5 hours (6.5hrs from the buds and 13hrs from the charging case). A 15-minute USB-C quick-charge can deliver 70 minutes of playback. The touch controls on each bud are responsive and intuitive, allowing you to control your music and switch between noise-cancelling modes with zero fuss.
You also get five sizes of ear tips to help with fit. We found this a little hit and miss, so we'd definitely experiment and consider mixing the sizes if it means getting a more secure fit.
Both noise-cancelling and sound quality are excellent. There's plenty of agility through the low end and loads of texture across the frequencies. Music sounds clear and there's a great deal of refinement on show, which is to be welcomed at this price level. To sum up, these Panasonic wireless earbuds are superb for the money.
Read the full review: Panasonic RZ-S500W
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
Sennheiser's Momentum True Wireless earbuds have performed consistently well in recent years and this third generation is its finest offering yet. The wireless noise-cancelling earbuds boast an improved performance that's right up there with the likes of the Sony WF-1000XM4 that also feature on this list. The spec sheet is competitive and includes great battery life (28 hours) and Bluetooth codec support (aptX Adaptive), and includes the bonus of extra in-app personalisation. They're even priced cheaper than the old model.
The Sennheisers are nice and comfortable, deliver one of the most mature, spacious and refined performances in the market, and have the bonus of noise cancellation too.
Building on an already winning recipe with an improved feature set, decent step up in performance and sensible price tag, the Momentum True Wireless 3 are as competitive as ever. A brilliant pair of earbuds.
Read the full Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3 review
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
Earfun builds on the success of its Earfun Air (below) by cramming even more features into a new ‘Pro’ variant, the main addition being active noise cancellation. There is now a 10mm driver and three mics per earpiece, too. But, considering the claims on the spec sheet, the price remains jaw-droppingly low.
They're a solid proposition for the money: they fit securely, connect easily, have reliable controls and feature basic but effective noise-cancelling profiles – for just a small premium on the Air model.
There’s also USB-C charging and wearer detection, plus the sound is pretty decent for the money – well-balanced, relatively transparent, taut and full through the bass, and musically pleasing overall. We haven't come across anything at this level that does everything these Earfuns do, as well as they do it.
Read the full review: Earfun Air Pro
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
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
How to choose the right headphones
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.
Trouble is they increasingly are commercialised - promoted reviews etc. etc. Sounds sensible to me but doubt they will employ that.
I was very happy with the sound on the earphones, but they have gone back. Why? Mainly because I found the touch control unusable. Repeatedly, I got the two-tap-skip-a-track result when I tapped once to pause/restart. Sometimes, I got the normal beep, but nothing else happened at all, unitl I stopped them and rerstarted. Moreover, while I really liked the feature that pauses playback when an earphone is removed, I found that sopmetimes it worked, but quite often it didn't. So I would end up with no way either to pause or to undo a false skip-forward, exept by getting the phone out.
I tried them with three different devices, a Redmi Not 8T phone, and iPad and a Samsung Tab A6 tablet. Problams with all, so it was tthe phones, not the devices.
I really tried to overcome this, because the sound and noise cancellation itself was great. I tried varing the force of my taps, tapping with different parts fingertips or flat of the finger/ I have never had any problem using multi-tap touch controls on any other device. I systematically experimented to see if I could make them work consistently. The performance seemed to vary while I was counting outcomes. Sometimes I got only one rogue skip in ten taps. At others, any tap, however light or careful, skipped tracks, or less frequently, did nothing burt cause a beep.
And I returned the phones and got a second pair through my supplier, in case I had a faulty pair. No good - the touch controls were still too unreliable to use.
This gives me no satisfaction. I really wanted these phones. The saound and noise cancellation impressed me. But they were just unusable in practice. What a shame.
WTF IS THAT ?