Best wireless earbuds Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?'s round-up of the best wireless earbuds you can buy in 2021.
Wireless earbuds are everywhere, right? Walk down the street and you're virtually guaranteed to bump into a pair. The market has grown so rapidly and exponentially that it's now flooded with earbud options.
The good news is you can now find a pair to fit every budget. Whether you want a cheap pair of wireless earbuds or a premium pair of noise-cancelling earbuds, the market has something for everyone.
But why the appeal? Well, with no wires running between headphones and smartphone, they won't restrict your movement one bit. This newfound freedom is handy for general day-to-day life and great if you're into exercise.
Some wireless earbuds have a cable or neckband connecting the buds together, but many of the options you'll see on the list below don't – you get the buds without the wires. Other extras to look out for include noise-cancelling tech, customisable touch controls and hands-free access to personal assistants like Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri.
If you're currently drowning in a sea of wireless earbuds and just want to be pointed in the direction of the best pairs, help is at hand. We've rounded up the best wireless earbuds to have passed through the What Hi-Fi? test rooms. So whether you want the comfiest pair on the planet, one with brilliant battery life or just want the best-sounding wireless earbuds on the market, we're sure to have pairs that tick all those boxes and a few more besides...
- Read the new AirPods 3 review
Somehow, Sony's managed to build on the huge success of the WF-1000XM3 (below) and produce a pair of wireless earbuds that take everything up a notch.
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. If you want the new benchmark for wireless earbuds, this is it.
Read the full review: Sony WF-1000XM4
Panasonic isn't a brand that immediately springs to mind when you think of the best wireless 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
The WF-1000XM3s offer solid and stable Bluetooth connectivity and stellar noise-cancelling, which places them above most of the competition (apart from their new siblings, the WF-1000XM4).
The fit is excellent, as is battery life and the all-important sound quality. They come with more tip sizes than most rivals, feature intuitive touch controls for playback and volume control and sound wonderfully musical. Despite their tiny proportions, there's a good sense of scale. Instruments sound natural and authentic, with plenty of detail and composure to the performance.
You get six hours of playback as standard, while the case has enough power for an extra three charges, giving a total of 24 hours when using Bluetooth and noise-cancelling. Plus there's a fast-charge function: 10 minutes of charging breathes 90 minutes of life into these buds.
They might have lost out to the newer WF-1000XM4, but these wireless earbuds represent sensational value for money and should still be on any shopping list.
Read the full review: Sony WF-1000XM3
The Melomania 1 Plus have some big shoes to fill given the popularity of the originals (which you'll find further down this list). But we're glad to say that these wireless earbuds hit the spot.
They boast app support, customisable EQ settings and the British audio firm's innovative High-Performance Audio Mode. Your colour options are white and black.
Like the originals, the real selling point is battery life. The 1 Plus provide a whopping nine hours from one charge, and you get an additional four charges from the carry case. That makes 45 hours of total run time. The fact there's no noise-cancelling onboard helps to explain the marathon battery life, as the tech can be a real drain.
The Melomanias deliver an impactful and expansive musical performance. They sound clear and more dynamic than their predecessors and there's a smidgen more detail too. If you want an affordable and accomplished pair of wireless earbuds the Cambridge definitely warrant a closer look.
Read the full Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus review
Google's latest wireless earbuds are packed with features and come in at a very low price which is an attractive package in itself. But how do they sound?
They're light and comfortable, and while they don't offer noise cancelling, they do a good job of isolating you and are aided by rubber fins that keep them secure. They are vented, though, so some background noise inevitably creeps in, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Your colour choices are either white or 'Dark Olive'.
Battery life is okay at around five hours, plus another 20 or so from the carry case in four charges. The Pixel Buds A-Series pair with your device very easily indeed, too, especially if you're using an Android smartphone or tablet that boasts the Fast Pair feature. IPX4 water resistance means they should be ok for exercise too.
These wireless earbuds put in an admirable performance come music time, with a clean, balanced sound that doesn't lean too far into any part of the sonic spectrum. This is a great pair of wireless earbuds at a great price.
Read the full Google Pixel Buds A-Series review
Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2s produce one of the most refined sounds we've heard from a pair of wireless buds.
The earpieces are slim, so they don't protrude too much from your ears, and, more importantly, they're comfortable to have in place for long listening sessions. The noise-cancelling works extremely well and is pretty much on par with the Sony WF-1000XM3. They're nice to use too, with touch-sensitive pads on each earpiece which can be customised to control music playback and features.
Battery life is competitive too, with a single charge giving seven hours of playback and the charging case providing an additional three charges, bringing the total battery life at your disposal to 28 hours.
It's all positive and we haven't even touched on the sound quality, which is extremely refined and sophisticated for the money. Highs and lows are composed and controlled but dynamics aren't sacrificed. The Sennheisers present a detailed soundstage with impressive scale and authority. They're a little pricier than other wireless earbuds, but if your budget can stretch, your ears will be rewarded.
Read the full review: Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2
If you want a rival to the excellent Sony WF-1000XM4 at the top of this list, look no further than these Bose. They feel lightweight enough for the average commute or exercise session (the QuietComfort are both sweat and weather-resistant) and they're great to live with. Battery life is a claimed six hours from a single charge, with the charging case supplying an extra two charges, making 18 hours in total – a decent reserve, but by no means class-leading. You can customise some features and controls, and adjust the excellent noise-cancellation, in Bose's handy companion app.
The sense of enthusiasm and excitement conveyed by the Bose buds is highly infectious. There’s power, poise and a fantastic sense of dynamism. Bass notes sound full-bodied, go deep and the QuietComfort Earbuds squeeze out lots of detail.
All in all, the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds are sensational all-rounders, capable of impressive musicality and topped off with excellent noise cancelling. These wireless earbuds are more than a match for any rival at this level, including the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2, mentioned above.
Read the full review: Bose QuietComfort Earbuds
Comfortable, great-sounding, splashproof and weather-resistant for sweaty outdoor workouts... these wireless earbuds have it all. They're more versatile than most thanks to their wing tips to keep them in your ears, meaning you can head for a run and not worry about them falling out.
Sound is superb, full of punchy, powerful bass that should get you running that bit faster. They're reliable too, with no issues with the wireless signal and easy-to-use controls. The neckband cable incorporates a remote housing part-way down, but the power pack appears to live in the earpieces, which may explain the modest six hours battery life.
On the upside, they're IPX4 rated, meaning they can’t be submerged in water but will handle sweat and splashes better than normal earphones. The addition of NFC tech means they're particularly easy to pair with Android devices.
If the rather average battery life isn't a deal-breaker, you'll like these buds – they're comfortable, sound great and enjoyable to use.
Read the full review: Bose SoundSport Wireless
JBL is a heavy hitter when it comes to wireless sports earbuds, and the JBL Reflect Flow is a value-packed effort.
The Reflect Flows are very good indeed, especially if you desire a bass-heavy sound for the gym – without resorting to on-ear or over-ear headphones. You get 10 hours of battery in the buds plus an extra 20 hours from the case, and JBL promises a quick 10-minute charge will provide an hour's playback.
With the right tip and fin combination, they produce a stable fit that holds them securely in place when tackling all manner athletic pursuits, while that extra helping of deep but accurate bass should see you over the finish line.
One notable feature is the ambient mode: press the left bud and the volume decreases, allowing you to hold a conversation without removing the buds. It's worth comparing these to the sporty five-star Jaybird Vistas (below), but for fit and sound, we think the JBL Reflect Flows have the edge.
Read the full review: JBL Reflect Flow
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
The CX 400BT are a great option for anyone in the market for an affordable, yet extremely musical pair of wireless earbuds.
They're neither water- nor sweat-resistant but the Sennheisers do boast Bluetooth 5.1 support and a companion app. This means you're guaranteed solid Bluetooth connectivity, while the latter gives you EQ adjustment and the ability to customise their touch controls.
Tap the right earbud once to activate your phone’s voice assistant or accept incoming calls, twice to jump forward a track or rejects calls, or hold it down to increase volume. Battery life is seven hours, which is decent for the money but not class-leading.
But it's the sound quality where these Sennheisers excel. They produce an insightful and entertaining sound with bags of enthusiasm. For the money, they're difficult to fault.
Read the full review: Sennheiser CX 400BT
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
The Sony WF-SP800N earbuds certainly try to please everyone. They want to please those who need accompaniment to their workout and also those who have a commute to endure. They aim to please those who don’t want to spend an arm and a leg on some well-specified, wireless earbuds with active noise-cancellation, but also those who have spent enough on a Deezer or Tidal subscription to have access to 360 Reality Audio, Sony’s spatial audio format. And in a nutshell, they succeed.
These Sonys may have average battery life (18 hours total) and an arguably daft look (they aren't exactly discreet and do fill your lugholes), but their dynamic sound, decent noise-cancelling, and indisputable build combine to ensure they're front-runners in their field.
Read the full review: Sony WF-SP800N
Bowers & Wilkins has managed to make hay in the headphone market, building on its excellent reputation for making loudspeakers. Wireless in-ears with a neckband design is a new form factor for B&W, but the PI3s really do hit the spot.
Battery life is a solid eight hours and though they aren't IPX-rated, B&W claims they are "resistant to light rain, splash and sweat". It would be nice to get a few extra ear tips to sort the fit, so just give them a thorough audition out of the box.
The B&Ws produce an open, punchy and tonally balanced sound and they're a good fit for any musical genre. Battery life is a very respectable eight hours and a 15-minute quick-charge gets you two hours of playback. The in-line controls are nice to use with decent-sized buttons including a large textured button for the main play/pause and skip track function.
There is a bit of cable noise to contend with, but that's not uncommon for products of this type and shouldn't be a deal-breaker. If you're after entertaining sound, for the gym or your daily commute, the PI3s deliver.
Read the full review: B&W PI3
The AirPods Pros sit above the standard AirPods you'll find lower down this list. They're pricier, but you do get better sound quality, an improved level of comfort and the addition of Apple's own noise-cancelling technology.
Unlike the standard AirPods, the Pros come with a choice of silicone tips. Once you've achieved a good seal, you'll enjoy some of most effective noise-cancelling we've ever experienced.
Each bud has a force sensor on the stem – squeeze it to activate Siri, answer calls, skip a track, etc. The only disappointment is that Siri is the only method for adjusting volume without reaching into your pocket for your phone.
Battery life is a claimed five hours for the earphones with another 19 hours from the charging case. In a hurry? A five-minute charge will give you another hour of listening.
The AirPods Pro earbuds are sweat- and water-resistant, albeit to a lesser degree than sporty rivals, and they don't sound as good as other wireless earbuds around the same price. But if you're an iPhone user, you're going to want to give these superb wireless earbuds an audition. They're a joy to use.
Read the full review: Apple AirPods Pro
Whether you consider yourself a serious athlete or just enjoy a weekend jog in the park, the Jaybird Vista wireless earbuds should be on your shortlist. The fit is extremely secure (it's aided by tips with integrated fins), while they're also IPX7 water- and sweat-proof which should help them survive intense training sessions and the odd downpour, too.
Power up the clever Jaybird app and besides pairing you can also customise their sound for your ears and also customise the controls on each earbud. There's USB-C charging - a five minute 'super-charge' will give you one hour, while a full charge gives you six hours plus an additional 10 thanks to their charging case.
All this is topped off with an exciting, entertaining sound and a big dollop of bass. What they lack in detail, they make up for in sheer enthusiasm. They might not sound as refined as some earbuds further up this list, but if you’re tired of feeling your earphones slowly falling out of your ears when out running, the Vistas are a superb choice.
Read the full review: Jaybird Vista
The original, truly wireless Apple AirPods were a tech marvel let down by distinctly average sound quality. This second-generation version sounds better and packs in the features, meaning pairing and switching connections is now effortless,.
These Bluetooth 5.0 buds are powered by Apple's new H1 chip and you've got the option to splash out on a wireless charging case. The big news, though, is there's been a boost in the audio department, pushing the AirPods into hi-fi territory. They produce a louder and more sophisticated sound that benefits from a natural, fairly neutral sonic balance.
Battery life is excellent: five hours of listening and another 19 hours available via the supplied (non-wireless) charging case. The launch of iOS13 added Audio Sharing, a nifty feature that allows a second pair of AirPods to connect, and listen, to a single iPhone. And thanks to Siri, you can now reply to incoming messages using your voice.
Downsides? There are no interchangeable ear tips so you'll just have to hope that 'one-size-fits-all'. But if you're an Apple fan, there's plenty to like here.
Read the full review: Apple AirPods (2019)