These are the best wireless earbuds you can buy at every price

The best wireless earbuds are comfortable, sound great, and have long-lasting battery life. These tiny headphones from companies like Jabra, Samsung, Sennheiser, Sony, and others are almost as important as the phones we have in our pockets, and the market has become crowded over the years with options. We've reviewed a sizeable number of models available and rated the absolute leaders of the pack, helping you find the best fit and value for your ears and budget. Our buyer's guide will help you navigate this space and find the pair that suits your needs and tastes the best, no matter what you like listening to.


What are the best wireless earbuds you can buy today?

Like any pair of headphones, which wireless earbuds are right for you is subjective in a few key ways. They have to fit right, feel comfortable over longer periods, and produce sound that's pleasing to your ears. If audio fidelity is paramount for you, there are good options for that, just as there are options for being active or present great value without breaking the bank.

Topping our list for the best wireless earbuds are the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro because they strike the right notes where it counts. We're talking about excellent sound quality, good fit, solid microphones, and accessibility — and all at a pretty reasonable price. Slightly bigger and more expensive, but better-sounding, are the newer Jabra Elite 85t, which also come with active noise cancelation (ANC).

If sound really matters — and money is no object — the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 are so good they could rival many over-ear headphones with their clarity. It won't matter what genre you like most, and with improved battery life to boot, these are premium earbuds worth a look.

The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds are the best when noise cancelation is a priority, but they don't skimp out on sound quality, either. They are among the best available if audio clarity is on your must-have feature list. Google's Pixel Buds (2020) play nice with any Android phone or tablet, and you'll probably find them to be among the most comfortable to wear for long periods. The Samsung Galaxy Buds+ are solid value for what they bring to the table, but even the tightest budget can find something within reach in this list.

Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro

Best Wireless Earbuds Overall

Bottom line: It took a few attempts, but Samsung is finally in a groove with its wireless earbuds. While battery life takes a hit, the improvement in sound quality, ANC, spatial audio, microphone performance, and water resistance make the Galaxy Buds Pro the pair to beat.

Best Overall Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro
Water-resistance IPX7
Bud battery life 8 hours
Case battery life 28 hours
Case size Small
Digital assistant Bixby, Google Assistant, Siri
Audio codecs SBC, AAC
Speaker size 13mm drivers
Wireless charging Yes
Other features ANC, HearThrough, 360 Audio, Voice Detect

Pros:

  • Excellent sound
  • Effective ANC
  • Rugged water and sweat resistance
  • Comfortable design
  • Spatial 360 Audio
  • Reliable microphone quality

Cons

  • Lower battery life than before
  • Finicky touch controls
  • Needs custom EQ

Samsung's Galaxy Buds Pro take the best features from the previous Galaxy Buds+ and Galaxy Buds Live wireless earbuds and make a stand for being one of the best available. It's a distinction the company has wanted from the start, but it took several attempts to get to this level of respectability.

There are various reasons why they're in the top spot. The design borrows heavily from the past, yet puts a different twist on these earbuds to accommodate all the extra tech inside. They're small and nimble, but they have more girth to pack in the active noise cancelation (ANC) and other sensors that bring in the new features. They also have larger drivers to pump out clearer and crisper sound by default, with the option to choose among six equalizer presets in the Galaxy Wearable app. It's just too bad there's no custom EQ to add your own presets to the list.

ANC has two settings (high and low) and four Ambient mode settings, but both can work together in unique ways. Voice Detect lowers the volume of the audio you're listening to and turns on Ambient once you start talking to make it easy to hear a conversation. The audio comes back when there are no voices for up to 10 seconds. Samsung claims the ANC can cut out up to 99% of background noise, but that's mostly accurate for low-frequency sounds. Higher pitches could still break through.

With 360 Audio inside using Dolby Head Tracking technology, the Galaxy Buds Pro are also great for watching content coded in 5.1 and 7.1 surround sound. It's a virtual spatial audio effect that enhances the reverb of a movie or show, though it's a shame you can't listen to music from streaming services with the same effect.

Samsung also managed to continue its steady improvement in call quality. We were impressed with how clear calls were, with those we spoke to not realizing we were using earbuds. The one caveat to handling these earbuds is the overly responsive touch controls, where accidental taps can often happen when adjusting them in your ears.

The good news is that they're more rugged than you might expect. With an IPX7 rating, the level of water and sweat resistance means the Galaxy Buds Pro are perfectly suited to a run or workout.

These features come at the expense of battery life, where you max out at up to five hours per charge when ANC is on. It goes up to eight hours if you keep ANC off, but either way, those numbers aren't as good as some competitors. The included case will get you an extra three charges, which you can charge via USB-C or wireless charging pads. A quick five-minute charge through USB can get you up to an hour of playback.

Best Overall Wireless Earbud

Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro Bluetooth Earbuds

$180 at Amazon $180 at Best Buy $180 at B&H

Samsung did a lot for the Galaxy Buds Pro, especially when it comes to the extra features that make them so easy to listen to.


Jabra Elite 75t

Best Value Earbuds

Bottom line: Jabra has been hard at work at the audio game for the last few years, and the Elite 75t are the result. They address some previous shortcomings, particularly related to size and battery life while maintaining an excellent audio soundstage.

Category Device
Water-resistance IP55
Bud battery life 7.5 hours
Case battery life 20.5 hours
Case size Small
Digital assistant Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri
Audio codecs SBC, AAC
Speaker size 6mm drivers
Wireless charging Yes (optional case)
Other features ANC (firmware), HearThrough, equalizer

Pros:

  • Customizable sound
  • Long battery life
  • USB-C for charging
  • Water and dust resistance
  • Excellent comfort
  • ANC through firmware

Cons:

  • Lacks wireless charging case
  • Mono mode only in right earbud

The Jabra Elite 75t have become great value wireless earbuds primarily because they are so comfortable. As an experienced hearing aid company, it shows. But comfort means nothing if they sound bad, and Jabra's aced that test, too. They feature a bass-heavy but enjoyable sound signature that can easily adjust in the excellent Sound+ app available for Android and iPhone. The Elite 75t also have a wide soundstage, a smooth mid-range, and treble frequencies that won't hurt your ears, even during piercing high notes.

Jabra was the first to add active noise cancelation (ANC) to a pair of earbuds through a firmware update, giving the Elite 75t a feature they didn't otherwise have from the start. There's excellent passive noise cancelation here, which helps, but given this is ANC driven more by software than hardware, the effect won't be as pronounced as others on this list.

As for battery life, you get around seven hours per charge, which is outstanding for a pair of true wireless earbuds, and the included case nets two and a half additional charges for an overall total over around 28 hours. The case itself is charged via USB-C and does so quickly. The lid opens and closes with a satisfying snap, too, and you may find yourself fidgeting with it from time to time.

The Elite 75t are also IP55 water and dust resistant, which means they'll have little issue with sweat, rain, snow, or other water-absorbing activities. If you do want a little extra protection, the Elite Active 75t are always an option, though you do pay more for the protection.

These earbuds are also incredible for making calls. In our tests, the receiver on the other end told us it was among the clearest phone calls they'd ever heard from a pair of headphones. There's also an included "transparency" mode available at the tap of a button — did we mention there are physical controls here? — that pumps in sound from the outside world through one of the three included microphones. That makes it easier to talk to people or hear the outside world without removing the earbuds.

The Elite 75t aren't perfect, though. You can only use the right earbud if you want to listen in mono mode, and the case lacks wireless charging. Jabra had noted it was looking to offer an optional wireless charging case for these earbuds, but that never materialized.

Best Value

Jabra Elite 75t

The Jabra Elite 75t are the best wireless earbuds by far when it comes to sound quality, battery life, comfort, and portability.


Jabra Elite 85t

Best Upgrade Pick

Bottom line: Jabra followed up its excellent Elite 75t with a pair that sounds just as good, if not better, and also features active noise cancelation.

Category Device
Water-resistance IPX4
Bud battery life 7 hours
Case battery life 24 hours
Case size Medium
Assistant support Google Assistant, Siri
Audio codecs SBC, AAC
Speaker size 12mm drivers
Wireless charging Qi
Other features ANC, Ambient sound, equalizer

Pros:

  • Hybrid ANC
  • Great sound quality
  • Better call quality than Elite 75t
  • Comfortable fit
  • Responsive controls
  • Wireless charging case

Cons:

  • Bigger size than before
  • Mono still limited to right earbud
  • More proprietary ear tips
  • Taller and heavier case

Big things were expected of Jabra as they released the Elite 85t in taking on the competition and delivering key features that had otherwise been missing. Despite releasing a firmware update that gave the Elite 75t ANC, it was largely a software-based functional attempt. It was an impressive feat on its technical merits, given no one else had tried it before, but not the same as having the feature built-in. That's what these earbuds were for.

Except Jabra didn't just throw in two extra microphones and create a hybrid ANC setup that would rival all others. It gave the Elite 85t larger drivers for better sound, brought wireless charging to the case, and quietly removed Alexa from its feature set to focus more on the assistants people use most on their phones. All of those concessions to appease fans meant the company had to make the earbuds and case bigger, and that's partly why they're not in first place on this list. The Elite 85t eventually got their own firmware update that added a MyFit feature to the Sound+ app to improve the fit for a tighter seal and better ANC performance.

There are a couple of other considerations, too. Despite being the newest kid on the block, the Elite 85t are less water-resistant than the Elite 75t. And with ANC now onboard, battery life is more in flux than in previous models. And lastly, the ear tips on these are proprietary because of their oval shape.

While that might all seem like Jabra dropped the ball here, the reality is they did almost everything right. The larger drivers do a better job of cranking out big sound with less need to raise the volume. The sound profile will be familiar to previous Jabra owners but with better clarity this time around. Plus, you get to use the built-in equalizer in the Sound+ app to tweak it however your ears like it.

Adding the mics for ANC also means there's a nice boost in call quality. HearThrough mode, which lets ambient sound seep in, is as good as it's ever been. The Bluetooth connection is solid, and once you get a good seal, the passive isolation alone is fantastic. It's just unfortunate you can still only use the right earbud independently in mono.

If you're looking to upgrade from an older Jabra pair or even earbuds from another brand, the Elite 85t will sound great, whether you're blocking the outside world or not. They're also the only Jabra earbuds you can actually rename in the app.

Best Upgrade Pick

Jabra Elite 85t

$180 at Amazon $180 at Best Buy $230 at Newegg

The Elite 85t are Jabra's way of adding features they needed to add, and they get the performance just right.


Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2

Best Sound Quality

Bottom line: Putting on a pair of Sennheiser headphones comes with a bigger set of expectations, and these should be no exception. The Momentum True Wireless 2 are the best sounding in this category for the simple fact they offer the best soundstage, belying their diminutive size. They also have a much better battery life than their predecessors and include superb noise cancelation.

Category Device
Water-resistance IP55
Bud battery life 7 hours
Case battery life 21 hours
Case size Medium
Assistant support Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri
Audio codecs aptX, SBC, AAC
Speaker size 7mm drivers
Wireless charging No
Other features ANC, Ambient mode, equalizer

Pros:

  • Great comfort
  • Great audio quality
  • Excellent ANC performance
  • Improved battery life
  • Companion iOS and Android app

Cons

  • Onboard controls need work
  • No official sweat resistance
  • Expensive

Sennheiser got the sound part right with the first Momentum True Wireless, only to struggle in delivering adequate battery life. The Momentum TW2 does a much better job staying on for longer periods, and coupled with the excellent sound they pump out, it's hard to argue with them being the best for audio quality. Battery life is now up to seven hours per charge, with a total of 28 hours coming from the nifty charging case. It features USB-C for wired charging but lacks wireless charging, which is disappointing at this price.

Another big addition was including ANC support. While not necessarily the best in the business in that particular aspect, they are no slouches in keeping background noise to a minimum. The Momentum TW2 manages to punch above their relative weight in reducing ambient noise to a level that comes really close to the best ANC performance out there.

As for the sound, the bass-forward profile should acclimate well to any pair of ears. It has an elegant feel to it, matching the physical design. The bass is pronounced without feeling overbearing, even if it slightly overtakes the mids, while the high notes are clear, crisp, and warm throughout. If the default profile doesn't work for you, Sennheiser's Smart Control app lets you use the onboard equalizer to customize how you want them to sound.

The earbuds themselves are larger than others on this list, so not every pair of ears will feel like a natural fit. Thankfully, that's not a big problem considering how good they sound for their size, especially compared to on-ear or over-ear headphones.

Best Sound Quality

Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2

$248 at Amazon $250 at Best Buy $250 at B&H

Sennheiser's penchant for excellent sound isn't hamstrung by smaller size, and the Momentum True Wireless 2 are audible proof.


Creative Outlier Air V2

Great Sound Quality For Less

Bottom line: A pair of budget wireless earbuds that actually sound good? Creative's Outlier Air V2 earbuds will be a pleasant surprise when you try them. You lose out on some other features, and the case is on the fatter side, but you may accept that once you start listening.

Category Device
Water-resistance IPX5
Bud battery life 12 hours
Case battery life 34 hours
Case size Large
Assistant support Google Assistant, Siri
Audio codecs aptX, SBC, AAC
Speaker size 5.6mm drivers
Wireless charging No
Other features Dual Voice Calls

Pros:

  • Great audio quality
  • Awesome bud battery life
  • Comfortable fit
  • Improved onboard control
  • Affordable price

Cons:

  • Touch controls aren't all great
  • No ANC or transparency modes
  • Bulky case

Creative is often underrated as an audio brand, but the original Outlier Air proved to do more with less. When we reviewed the Outlier Air V2, we found that Creative continued to avoid packing in bells and whistles, preferring to maintain a clearer focus on clearer sound quality. These budget earbuds impress with better overall fidelity, though they keep with a bass-friendly soundstage that makes almost everything sound good.

Creative had originally changed the ear tips and shaved some size with the Outlier Gold, and that's where the Outlier V2 gets its design inspiration. It results in a better fit — and better seal to preserve the best of the audio. You also get the same great codec support that includes aptX and AAC. While these earbuds aren't officially aptX LL (Low Latency), they should be decent when watching video on a phone or tablet with less lag. Perhaps not as sharp for gaming, though.

While Creative did include its excellent Super X-Fi technology in these earbuds, it only works with actual music and video files — not with anything you stream. Touch controls have replaced physical buttons, too. They're mostly okay, but not always great. You get no ANC or Transparency modes, either.

All that aside, battery life is one of the best you will find on any pair of earbuds. The Outlier Air V2 get better with up to 12 hours at default volume and add almost another two full charges from the case. If you like the sound and they fit right, that kind of juice can come in really handy for longer listening periods.

Great Sound Quality for Less

Creative Outlier Air V2

Creative makes key improvements to the Outlier Air V2, and that's why they are fantastic for those who want to save money.


Bose QuietComfort Earbuds

Best Noise-Canceling Earbuds

Bottom line: They're easily the bulkiest earbuds on this list, but Bose has pushed Sony from the crown for the best noise-canceling performance with the QuietComfort Earbuds. These are technical marvels in that they sport active noise cancelation that belies their size, as bulky as they may be. You get great sound for your troubles, but no way to tweak it to the way you'd want it.

Category Device
Water-resistance IPX4
Bud battery life 6 hours
Case battery life 18 hours
Case size Large
Assistant support Google Assistant, Siri
Audio codecs SBC, AAC
Speaker size 6mm drivers
Wireless charging Qi
Other features ANC (adjustable with 11 levels)

Pros

  • Superb sound quality
  • Outstanding ANC performance
  • Solid ambient mode
  • Comfortable fit
  • Wireless charging case

Cons

  • Larger in size by comparison
  • Case is much bigger
  • App needs an EQ
  • Pricey

Slowly but surely, ANC is finding its way into more true wireless earbuds out there, including at different price points, but the pair to beat is now the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds. For a long while, Sony's WF-1000XM3 were the pair to beat, and Bose finally has something good enough to do just that. That's why they're an easy choice for this list, even if they won't win accolades for beauty. Still, they're effective at doing what they're supposed to.

Bose chose to keep the sound profile neutral, avoiding any significant bumps toward the bass. That helps the mid-range breathe and come through with greater detail, while the highs maintain a warm signature throughout. The bass is less thick than you might expect, but it's not necessarily missing. The only issue is there's no way to customize it because Bose's app doesn't have an EQ to tune the sound — a thoughtless omission in this price range.

Battery life is pretty good, though it does vary when ANC is on. You're more likely to get just above five hours when it is and an additional 18 hours with the charging case. For a pair of true wireless ANC earbuds, the QC Earbuds are a cut above the WF-1000XM3, making them elite in this particular category. As with most ANC headphones, the QC Earbuds have an ambient sound mode that reverses the ANC microphones to allow the outside world in, removing the need to take off your earbuds if you'd like to hear what's going on around you.

There's a lot to like about these earbuds, and though they are the best noise-canceling pair available, they aren't without some drawbacks. The fit may not be for everyone, and the case isn't going to be as easy to pocket as others are. There's also the price, which is expensive by any true wireless standard, so you have to really want the best ANC available.

Best Noise-Canceling

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds

$279 at Amazon $279 at Best Buy $279 at Walmart

The QuietComfort Earbuds feature superb ANC performance that underpins the excellent sound quality and good battery life.


Google Pixel Buds (2020)

Best For Android Users

Bottom line: Google's reimagined Pixel Buds are not only a worthy successor, but they are also good enough to warrant completely forgetting about their predecessors. With an emphasis on comfort and control, they are the easiest pair to use with any Android phone, and hands-free Google Assistant is far more useful when you don't have to touch anything.

Category Device
Water-resistance IPX4
Bud battery life 5 hours
Case battery life 24 hours
Case size Small
Assistant support Google Assistant, Siri
Audio codecs SBC, AAC
Speaker size 12mm drivers
Wireless charging Qi
Other features Adaptive Sound mode, translation

Pros:

  • Wireless charging case & USB-C wired charging
  • Integration with Android and Google Assistant
  • Good sound
  • Fantastic media controls

Cons:

  • Lacks active noise cancelation
  • Battery life could be longer
  • Comfort might not be great for everyone
  • Bass could be better

It's hardly surprising the 2020 Pixel Buds work so well on Android, much like how the AirPods are great when paired with an iPhone. Open the case the first time, and with one tap, they're paired to most modern Android phones. Unless you're using a Pixel device, where the settings are within the phone's system settings, you can download the companion app during setup on other Android handsets to access some of the extras available. You can customize the touch gestures and a "find my buds" feature if you misplace one or both.

Google subsequently added newer features through firmware updates that included turning off the touch controls entirely — even by voice — and a Bass Boost toggle to add some extra focus on the low-end (they do need it). There's still no proper equalizer to customize the sound further, though — not that you would want to always keep the touch controls off, either. They are among the best and most consistent of any pair of earbuds we've tested to date.

The translation features, which are already quite good, got their own boost by adding Transcribe mode to help Spanish, French, Italian, and German speakers translate into English. The move, in turn, also improves how English speakers get translations from those languages too. Sharing Detection lets you share one of your earbuds with someone, where each of you can control volume individually. You might need to share a bud if it's an important phone call or you're both listening to the same podcast, for instance.

One of the biggest reasons to consider the Pixel Buds over anything else is how they integrate with Google Assistant. You can activate it via a touch gesture or verbally by using the trigger word, hands-free. The charging case is smaller than most others, though you will need to keep it handy because the Pixels Buds aren't battery stalwarts. At least you get quick charging through USB-C and wireless charging convenience.

Best for Android Users

Google Pixel Buds (2020)

$130 at Best Buy $129 at B&H

The Pixel Buds feature great integration with Android and Google Assistant, plus cool features that make them feel unique.


Sony WF-SP800N

Best For Workouts

Bottom line: Sony shaves off some girth from its other earbuds and gives the WF-SP800N a rugged enough body to handle workouts and general activity. The IP55 rating probably could be higher to make that case, but as is, they are water and sweat-resistant, capable of taking some punishment to keep on playing the next day. They also sound great and include ANC and excellent battery life to round out a stellar package.

Category Device
Water-resistance IP55
Bud battery life 13 hours
Case battery life 26 hours
Case size Medium
Assistant support Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri
Audio codecs SBC, AAC
Speaker size 6mm drivers
Wireless charging No
Other features Adaptive Sound Control, Equalizer, Ambient mode

Pros

  • Bass-heavy sound
  • ANC support
  • Comfortable fit
  • App-based EQ options
  • Decent IP55 protection
  • Long battery life

Cons

  • Finicky touch controls
  • No wireless charging
  • No aptX or LDAC codecs

Sony had already struck gold with the WF-1000XM3 as one of the best noise-canceling wireless earbuds, but the WF-SP800N are the pair aimed at those looking to stay active. The IP55 rating is modest by water and sweat resistance standards, but it is good enough for most workouts and running situations. You just have to be diligent in wiping them down and cleaning them after you're done.

You get much of the ANC support Sony offers in its other earbuds, including Adaptive Sound Control, to switch the noise-canceling effect dynamically. The mode isn't without its faults, but the key is to adjust the ANC to apply to staying, running, walking, or transport. You may find them lacking a bit on the low end out of the box, but the equalizer in the Headphones Connect app can remedy that to give the bass an audible thump. You may end up making most of your changes through the app, considering how finicky the touch controls can be.

They sound great to begin with, so quality isn't the issue here at all. It's just finding the sound that works best for your tastes. The best part is that the sound signature is bold, especially for a pair at this price. The mids and highs stand out, and there's plenty of leeway to bring the bass in. While that may cater more to music genres that prefer better bass, you can tinker with these enough to play whatever you want. It's just unfortunate Sony skimped out on the codecs by not including aptX or its very own LDAC.

As for battery life, you will get up to nine hours per charge with ANC on. Turn it off, and you may hit 13 hours. That's outstanding for any pair of wireless earbuds but is mitigated somewhat by the case, which can only hold one extra charge. No wireless charging, so you'll have to stick to USB-C to fill it up every time.

Best For Workouts

Sony WF-SP800N

$98 at Amazon $98 at Best Buy $98 at B&H

The Sony WF-SP800N were made to balance the need for something rugged that also sounds great.


AirPods Pro

Best For Apple Users

Bottom line: Apple made the AirPods Pro, of course, for Apple users, and the feeling of exclusivity is obvious from the moment you first crack open the case. The Pro introduced ANC and a host of iOS-friendly features that make it perfect for anyone with an iPhone. It's a breeze to switch between Apple devices, except the pinch-based controls are what have us hooked.

Category Device
Water-resistance IPX4
Bud battery life 5 hours
Case battery life 24 hours
Case size Small
Assistant support Siri
Audio codecs SBC, AAC
Speaker size High-excursion Apple driver
Wireless charging Qi
Other features H1 chip, ANC, Transparency mode, Adaptive EQ

Pros:

  • Excellent noise cancelation
  • Transparency mode works very well
  • Super comfortable design
  • Playback gestures are great
  • Compact, high-quality charging case

Cons:

  • So-so battery life
  • No customizability on Android
  • Lightning for charging
  • Expensive

Despite being somewhat limited on Android (no auto-play/pause, Google Assistant, or customization), the AirPods Pro join the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 and Sony WF-1000XM3 at the top of the heap for ANC true wireless earbuds. The AirPods Pro benefit from stellar ANC performance, and while they won't beat out the others at the top, they do come close to almost everything else on the market.

Sound quality is solid with the AirPods Pro, with more bass and mid-range than the regular AirPods 2 can squeak out. Focusing on the mids creates the illusion that sound is moving closer to you, and that's because instruments and vocals are often in that part of the spectrum. The highs do suffer a bit because of that, creating an uneven profile that may be more pronounced with certain genres.

They're smartly designed to aid in a comfortable fit, and we can attest to how good they are in that regard. Unlike other earbuds with plastic "stem" silicone ear tips, the AirPods Pro attach directly to the bud's speaker. That makes the tip more malleable to mold itself into the shape of your ear.

Battery life is hardly anything to get excited about, unfortunately. They can theoretically hit 4.5 hours of playback with ANC on — five hours with ANC off — but that also depends on volume level. The saving grace lies with the charging case that can offer around 20 hours of additional listening time. Apple users won't mind that it charges over its proprietary Lightning connector, whereas Android users certainly might. You could get around that, to some degree, by making use of the wireless charging support.

Best For Apple Users

AirPods Pro

$197 at Amazon $200 at Best Buy

Apple takes care of its users with the AirPods Pro by getting the fundamentals right on comfort, playback, and ease of use.


Samsung Galaxy Buds Live

Most Comfortable Earbuds

Bottom line They may look like beans, but there's no maligning what Samsung pulled off here. The Galaxy Buds Live are earbuds without a driver or tip protruding into your ear canal, and the result is a comfortable fit and an impressive sound profile. They work perfectly fine with non-Samsung devices and are helped further by good app support to customize them your way.

Category Device
Water-resistance IPX2
Bud battery life 8 hours
Case battery life 29 hours
Case size Small
Assistant support Bixby, Google Assistant, Siri
Audio codecs SBC, AAC, Scalable
Speaker size 12mm drivers
Wireless charging Qi
Other features ANC, Ambient sound, equalizer

Pros

  • One-size-fits-all design
  • Compact and well-built case
  • 12mm drivers kick out great audio
  • Long-lasting battery life
  • Extremely useful companion app
  • Supports Qi wireless charging

Cons

  • Touch controls can be finicky
  • ANC isn't the best out there
  • Certain features exclusive to Samsung phones

If you look at the Galaxy Buds Live and immediately feel skeptical about them conceptually, you can be forgiven for doing so. The design is unusual by any measure, but Samsung did it in an attempt to conform to as many ears as possible. That focus meant cutting off the driver from sticking into the ear and letting it rest over the ear canal instead. The lack of fatigue makes wearing them for longer periods easier to manage.

That one-size-fits-all approach could finally be the fit that smaller ears are looking for. While still subjective, given every pair of ears is different, it's evident fairly quickly after wearing these that there was some merit to Samsung's line of thinking. However, it was an odd choice to debut ANC support. Earbuds typically have some passive noise isolation to block out at least some of the ambient noise around you, and adding ANC helps take care of the rest. That's not really the case here because the more open design doesn't really passively isolate noise the same way.

The Buds Live has 12mm drivers aimed toward the ear canal to offset any loss in power or volume. Since getting a good seal is entirely contingent on where they rest along the ear, the Buds Live are surprisingly resonant and sound great. The onboard touch controls are okay, though in need of some refinement to make them more reliable on the fly. The Galaxy Wearable app offers some custom presets for equalizer settings, along with learning the controls or using Ambient mode to bring in outside noise when necessary.

Like any pair of earbuds with ANC, battery life will depend on how much you use it. The Buds Live can go up to eight hours when it's off — six if always on. The charging case is small and elegant, but also a fingerprint magnet. At least it uses USB-C and supports wireless charging. The color options are familiar, save for the Mystic Bronze, which matches the Galaxy Note20 devices.

Most Comfortable

Samsung Galaxy Buds Live

Comfort is the name of the game, and they don't get much more comfortable than these excellent earbuds and their unique fit.


Razer Hammerhead True Wireless Pro

Best for Gaming

Bottom line: Razer shows off its true wireless chops by crafting these gaming-ready earbuds that come with the audio trappings to make them viable for every session. Low latency performance and THX certification deliver plenty, but these earbuds also do just fine for more than just playing games.

Category Device
Water-resistance IPX4
Bud battery life 4 hours
Case battery life 12 hours
Case size Medium
Assistant support Google Assistant, Siri
Speaker size 10mm drivers
Wireless charging Qi
Other features EQ and Gaming mode, THX certification

Pros

  • Fabulous audio quality
  • ANC support
  • Low latency for gaming
  • Extra ear tips
  • Good app support

Cons

  • Mediocre battery life
  • Clunky button controls
  • No spatial audio

For Razer, the Hammerhead True Wireless Pro make mobile gaming worth doing without worrying about wires or cables. They're nicely crafted with a design that should fit most ears, with a tighter seal that makes a big difference in the passive isolation, which works well with the onboard ANC. There's ample bass to listen to, with steady balance for the rest of the audio spectrum, and there's more where that came from.

Razer includes six pairs of silicone ear tips, plus an extra pair of Comply Foam tips. Somewhere in there, you will find a pair of tips fitting your ears well enough to keep the bass from leaking out. The ANC does the rest of the work to block out background ambient noise, with a helping hand available through Razer's app's equalizer to tweak the sound further. The Gaming Mode steps in for the 60ms low latency when it's time to play a game on your phone or tablet.

When it comes to gaming and movies or TV shows, the THX certification adds something more to everything you watch, and is worth using. It's just a bummer that Razer didn't also give the Hammerhead Pro an update to the spatial audio feature it has in its over-ear headphones. It is theoretically possible to do it through a firmware update, but it hasn't happened yet.

It's also too bad the company couldn't stretch out more than four hours of bud battery life, especially when cheaper earbuds often beat that. The case is limited to only two extra charges, so you will need to charge these up more often. Luckily, you can do that by either plugging in via USB-C or placing it on a Qi wireless charging pad.

Best For Gaming

Razer Hammerhead True Wireless Pro

$180 at Amazon $180 at Best Buy

Razer goes after more than just gamers with these loud and effective earbuds that sound off on everything.


Aukey EP-N5

Best Cheap AirPods Alternatives

Bottom line: It's always nice to find something at a bargain that performs above expectations. That's the Aukey EP-N5, in a nutshell. They could easily be mistaken for AirPods clones, but the form factor is incidental. Sound quality is among the best you can find at this price, and with ANC onboard, the feature set isn't too shabby, either.

Category Device
Water-resistance IPX5
Bud battery life 7 hours
Case battery life 35 hours
Case size Medium
Assistant support Google Assistant, Siri
Audio codecs SBC, AAC
Speaker size 10mm drivers
Wireless charging No
Other features ANC

Pros:

  • Good audio quality
  • ANC support
  • Lightweight build
  • Onboard controls
  • IPX5 water resistance
  • Great price

Cons

  • Random audio cutouts
  • Spotty voice assistant control
  • Touch controls can be sensitive
  • No official sweat proofing

Healthy skepticism is warranted for any product, regardless of whether it's expensive or cheap. The Aukey EP-N5 invite plenty of that because of what they offer on paper relative to the price. Yet, they handle such scrutiny with the kind of verve often associated with pricier models.

Not surprisingly, the 10mm drivers are tuned to skew further toward the low end to bring out more bass, and it ultimately works well because of two key factors. First, these have been engineered to be sufficiently louder than most at default volume, and second, the included ear tips (coupled with the angled drivers) provide a nice seal that allows the lows and mids to breathe.

What's a little surprising is that they include ANC support. It's a useful feature to have any time, but even better when it doesn't come at a premium. It won't be nearly as effective as that found in better models, like the Sony WF-1000XM3, but it is good at drowning out consistent and steady background noise.

With excellent call quality in most situations, plus solid battery life, the EP-N5 covers important bases along the way. However, that's not to say there aren't some concerns to go with them. The touch controls are too sensitive, affecting how easy it is to trigger your phone's voice assistant. Plus, with no sweat proofing, it's hard to know how much they can withstand repeated rigorous workouts or runs.

Random cutouts do happen, though oddly, they may be more common when within range, rather than moving closer to out of range. Still, the benefits outweigh the flaws in the areas that matter, and without breaking the bank on top of it.

Best Cheap AirPods Alternative

Aukey EP-N5

$50 at Amazon

Aukey makes the EP-N5 True Wireless Earbuds feel like so much more than what the AirPods are, and at a mere fraction of the price.


Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro

Most Versatile Earbuds

Bottom line: There's more than one reason why Anker's Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro earbuds are on this list, and the biggest of them all is because they're one of the best we've heard to date. They may not have every single feature but make up for that with solid performance across the board.

Category Device
Water-resistance IPX4
Bud battery life 7 hours
Case battery life 26 hours
Case size Medium
Assistant support Google Assistant, Siri
Audio codecs SBC, AAC
Speaker size 11mm PureNote driver
Wireless charging Yes
Other features HearID EQ, 6 microphones

Pros:

  • Great sound quality
  • Excellent battery life
  • USB-C and Qi wireless charging
  • Extremely comfortable
  • Custom equalizer

Cons:

  • Lacks aptX codec
  • Touch controls are finicky
  • Not the best for sweaty workouts

It's always nice to find a pair of earbuds that don't try too hard. That's very much the case with the Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro, which focus largely on audio performance to offer what is a truly effective pair worthy of serious consideration. The bass and mids get equal opportunity in the sound signature, which does chip away at the highs, but the overall result is very resonant audio despite the lack of aptX codec support.

Anker also addressed fit and comfort in ways that make these among the most comfortable earbuds to wear. With nine different tips in the box, odds are good you'll find your comfort zone, which affects how tight the seal is for better passive noise isolation. That matters for getting even more out of the onboard ANC, which comes in four modes, and performs more admirably than you might expect compared to the best options. The companion app has the company's HearID equalizer to help adjust how you want the sound to feel.

It helps that Anker also addressed call quality, significantly improving it to the point where clarity is paramount in each conversation. Part of the reason is that there are six microphones instead of four, and they do a better job of picking up your voice. Unfortunately, touch controls don't always work as advertised, no matter if it's for audio playback or phone calls, so it's something the company will have to address with a firmware update.

On the other hand, battery life does hit the right levels for the price. The buds can go up to seven hours per charge with ANC off (six hours with ANC on), and the case adds another 26 hours on top of that. It charges via USB-C and also supports wireless charging.

Most Versatile

Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro

The Liberty Air 2 Pro have a lot to offer, starting with how good they sound and how easy it is to find the right fit.


Bottom line

Wireless earbuds have grown more popular over the last few years, and the variety has grown with them, making it an important audio category. Choosing the right pair is easier than it may seem because so many vendors are getting in on the action, and price points now vary so widely.

For many, the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro are going to be the best option. They strike the right balance in the areas that really matter, like size, sound, durability, and supporting features. They're small enough to fit comfortably in most ears and are ruggedized to withstand water and sweat should you need extra protection. Sound quality is among the best available, call quality is superb, and the Galaxy Wearable app has features worth trying.

Equipped with good ANC, plus a multi-level Ambient mode and features to cater to video and gaming, there's a lot to work with. They provide excellent passive isolation with the right seal to listen to everything without worrying too much about the background. You also have the choice to turn the touch controls off if you don't want to mess with false positives unless you're working out or running.

Samsung hit a home run with these among the best wireless earbuds. They may not come in first place in every single category, but it's hard to argue with how consistently great they are to use.

How do true wireless earbuds differ from regular wireless earbuds?

In simple terms, true wireless earbuds function without cables and cords. Regular wireless earbuds are "wireless" because they don't connect to the device playing the audio, but do have a cable connecting the two earbuds. In that case, the Bluetooth connection from a smartphone connects to one earbud, which then relays that connection to the other earbud through the cable.

True wireless earbuds perform the same function, albeit wirelessly. So, in effect, you have something like a daisy chain, where the phone pairs with one earbud (usually the right one) and then relays that connection to the left. This method hasn't always been reliable, with audio hiccups and cuts happening because of it. Bluetooth 5.0 has helped improve that, whereas some true wireless earbuds will connect both sides to the phone.

What are the advantages of true wireless earbuds?

The most immediate advantage is that you're not dealing with any wires. No chance of cables tangling or accidentally breaking. You have two separate earbuds in a case that charges them on its own. The case has its own battery you can charge, meaning that you don't always have to plug it in to charge the earbuds themselves.

Some cases support wireless charging to add more convenience. Most also have USB-C ports for wired charging, some of which also include fast charging.

Despite their smaller size, true wireless earbuds are often equipped with many of the same features wireless earbuds have. They can include onboard controls for playback or even active noise cancelation (ANC) and voice assistants. There are models with higher water and sweat resistance and those more focused on increased audio fidelity.

What are the disadvantages of true wireless earbuds?

With no cables connecting the two earbuds, there is always the risk of losing one of them. Moreover, the lack of a cable connecting the two places more emphasis on the connection between the two earbuds themselves. While this has improved, there is a chance that one side's audio may drop out — brief as it may be.

Not having cables also makes true wireless earbuds easier to run or work out with. Comfort and fit are always considerations under those circumstances, but you should also be careful to use them with the right protection in place. That means an IPX4 rating or better if you want enough durability for workouts.

The constant charging cycles also take their toll on the lithium batteries' true wireless earbuds and their cases use. Not every manufacturer approximates a shelf life, but with regular usage, you may find your earbuds don't last as long after two years. Wireless earbuds aren't impervious to these issues themselves, but since they're not cradled in a charging case, the batteries don't go through as many cycles.

Does it matter what Bluetooth version my earbuds have?

Yes, but not always for the reasons you might think. For example, Bluetooth 5.0 doesn't really impact audio quality, so having that onboard doesn't mean they will sound better than a pair using version 4.2. Updated Bluetooth protocols will impact things, the way version 5.0 improves range and battery efficiency, for instance.

That additional range could make it easier to walk around at home wearing your earbuds listening to music while the phone isn't near you. Usually, major updates to the Bluetooth protocol add higher data transfer speeds, but the benefits aren't always shown with audio quality. Other times, they might.

What are the best codecs for wireless earbuds?

For Android devices, Qualcomm's aptX, aptX LL, and aptX HD codecs are generally better than SBC (subband codec), which is the standard codec all Bluetooth audio devices support. The main reason is that aptX has more bandwidth than SBC, which can positively affect audio quality. There is also aptX Adaptive, which automatically adjusts the bitrate in real-time to maintain smooth playback and reduce connection drops.

AAC (Advanced Audio Codec) is also common and is the preferred codec YouTube uses. While iPhone users benefit from it, it hasn't been as efficient on Android phones. Samsung has its own proprietary codec it calls Scalable, first introduced in the Galaxy Buds. Its purpose is to be adaptive, so the bitrate and connection don't impact what you're listening to. It's exclusive to Samsung's own earbuds, so not adopted by other brands the way Sony's LDAC is. It, too, also has a variable bitrate, though it's not widely adopted yet.

Credits — The team that worked on this guide

Ted Kritsonis loves taking photos when the opportunity arises, be it on a camera or smartphone. Beyond sports and world history, you can find him tinkering with gadgets or enjoying a cigar.



Source: androidcentral

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