The best wireless earbuds for 2024


It’s pretty easy to find a solid pair of wireless earbuds today. New wireless Bluetooth earbuds are arriving at a constant pace nowadays, and most of them from big players like Sony, Bose, Beats and others will serve people well. While all that variety is good for your wallet, that also means deciding which pair of earbuds is best for you can be tricky. You’ve got to consider things like active noise cancellation (ANC), waterproof ratings, sound quality, design and more. We at Engadget are constantly testing and reviewing new Bluetooth earbuds at all price ranges to provide the best buying advice and refine our favorites. This buying guide breaks down our current top picks, and lays out everything you need to know before choosing the best wireless earbuds for your needs.

What to look for in wireless earbuds

When it comes to shopping for earbuds, the first thing to consider is design or wear style. Do you prefer a semi-open fit like AirPods or do you want something that completely closes off your ears? If you’re shopping for earbuds with active noise cancellation, you’ll want the latter, but a case can be made for the former if you want to wear them all day or frequent places where you need to be tuned in to the ambient sounds. The overall shape of earbuds can determine whether you get a comfortable fit, so can the size and weight, so you’ll want to consider all that before deciding. And remember: audio companies aren’t perfect, so despite lots of research, the earbud shape they decided on may not fit you well. Don’t be afraid to return ill-fitting earbuds for something that’s more comfortable.

As wireless earbuds have become the norm, they’re now more reliable for basic things like consistent Bluetooth connectivity. Companies are still in a race to pack as much as they can into increasingly smaller designs. This typically means a longer list of features on the more premium sets of earbuds with basic functionality on the cheapest models. Carefully consider what you can’t live without when selecting your next earbuds, and make sure key items like automatic pausing and multipoint connectivity are on the spec sheet. You’ll also want to investigate the volume controls as you’ll often have to sacrifice access to something else to make that adjustment via on-board taps or swipes.

When it comes to battery life, the average set of earbuds lasts about five hours on a single charge. You can find sets that last longer, but this is likely enough to get you through a work day if you’re docking the buds during lunch or the occasional meeting. You’ll want to check on how many extra charges are available via the case and if it supports wireless charging.

Companies will also make lofty claims about call quality on wireless earbuds. Despite lots of promises, the reality is most earbuds still leave you sounding like you’re on speakerphone. There are some sets that deliver, but don’t get your hopes up unless reviews confirm the claims.

Sound can be subjective, so we recommend trying before you buy if at all possible. We understand this isn’t easy at a time when we’re doing most of our shopping online. But trying on a set of earbuds and listening to them for a few minutes can save you from an expensive case of buyer’s remorse. If a store doesn’t allow a quick demo, most retailers have return policies that will let you take earbuds back you don’t like. Of course, you have to be willing to temporarily part with funds in order to do this.

We also recommend paying attention to things like Spatial Audio, Dolby Atmos, 360 Reality Audio and other immersive formats. Not all earbuds support them, so you’ll want to make sure a perspective pair does if that sort of thing excites you.

How we test wireless Bluetooth earbuds

The primary way we test earbuds is to wear them as much as possible. We prefer to do this over a one- to two-week period, but sometimes embargoes don’t allow it. During this time, we listen to a mix of music and podcasts, while also using the earbuds to take both voice and video calls. Since battery life for earbuds is typically less than a full day, we drain the battery with looping music and the volume set at a comfortable level (usually around 75 percent).

To judge audio quality, we listen to a range of genres, noting any differences in the sound profile across the styles. We also test at both low and high volumes to check for consistency in the tuning. To assess call quality, we’ll record audio samples with the earbuds’ microphones as well as have third parties call us.

When it comes to features, we do a thorough review of companion apps, testing each feature as we work through the software. Any holdovers from previous models are double checked for improvements or regression. If the earbuds we’re testing are an updated version of a previous model, we’ll spend time getting reacquainted with the older buds. Ditto for the closest competition for each new set of earbuds that we review.

Best wireless earbuds

Photo by Billy Steele / Engadget

Battery life: 8 hours, up to 24 hours with charging case | Water resistance: IPX4 | Noise cancellation: Yes | Multipoint: Yes

Read our full review of the Sony WF-1000XM5

With the WF-1000XM5 flagship earbuds, Sony improves its already formidable mix of great sound, effective ANC and handy features. These earbuds are undoubtedly the company’s best and most comfortable design of its 1000X models so far, which was one of the few remaining riddles Sony needed to solve. Sony still manages to pack in more features than anyone else too, including trademark ones like adaptive sound and Speak-to-Chat. Add in upgraded drivers, new chips, eight hours of battery life and significant improvements to sound quality and these are Sony’s best earbuds yet. But all of the advancements come at a cost: these are also Sony’s most expensive set of wireless earbuds in the 1000X lineup.

Pros

  • Excellent sound quality
  • Improved design
  • More comfortable fit
  • Loads of handy features
Cons

  • More expensive
  • No battery life improvement
  • Head tracking is Android only
  • Some features still need fine-tuning

$278 at Adorama

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Photo by Billy Steele / Engadget

Battery life: 6 hours, up to 30 hours with charging case | Water resistance: IPX4 | Noise cancellation: Yes | Multipoint: Yes

Read our full review of Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Generation)

Apple’s second-generation AirPods Pro are a huge improvement over the previous models. These buds have improved sound quality and active noise cancellation, while maintaining all of the conveniences that make AirPods the best earbud option for iPhone, iOS and Mac. When we reviewed them, we found the most impressive feature to be transparency mode, which is more natural sounding than any other earbuds by a mile. You can leave these in during a conversation and it’s like you’re not even wearing them. Of course, fast pairing, hands-free Siri, spatial audio, good battery life, and now, a USB-C charging case that can also power up wirelessly will also come in handy.

Pros

  • Improved sound
  • Stellar transparency mode
  • Solid ANC
  • Seamless switching between Apple devices
Cons

  • Same design
  • New touch gesture takes practice
  • Average battery life
  • Personalized Spatial Audio results vary

$200 at Walmart

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Photo by Billy Steele / Engadget

Battery life: 11 hours, up to 31 hours with charging case | Water resistance: IPX4 | Noise cancellation: Yes | Multipoint: Yes

Read our full review of Google Pixel Buds Pro

Google has hit its stride when it comes to true wireless earbuds. Every new model the company introduces is an improvement after its first attempt failed to impress. With the Pixel Buds Pro, Google offers deep, punchy bass, solid ANC performance, reliable touch controls and wireless charging, all in an IPX4-rated package that will be great for Android users. Plus, there are added convenience features for Android and Pixel devices including Google Translate Conversation Mode.

Pros

  • Deep punchy bass
  • Solid ANC performance
  • Reliable touch controls
  • Wireless charging
Cons

  • Pairing could be quicker
  • Priciest Pixel Buds yet
  • Call quality
  • Spatial audio isn’t ready
  • Transparency mode needs work

$180 at Amazon

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Photo by Jeff Dunn / Engadget

Battery life: 10 hours, up to 50 hours with charging case | Water resistance: IPX4 | Noise cancellation: Yes | Multipoint: Yes

The Anker Soundcore Space A40 offer the kind of features you’d expect from wireless earbuds that cost twice as much: ANC, multi-device pairing, wireless charging, IPX4 water resistance, a transparency mode, eight to ten hours of battery life and LDAC support. When we tested them, we found their warm sound to be pleasing right out of the box, but Anker’s companion app makes it easy to customize the EQ curve if needed. And while their ANC isn’t quite as strong as our top picks, it’s still effective for a noisy office or long flight. For $80 or so, this is a superb value. – Jeff Dunn, Senior Commerce Writer

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Good battery life
  • Multipoint connectivity
  • Transparency Mode
Cons

  • ANC isn’t as strong as competitors

$49 at Amazon

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Photo by Billy Steele / Engadget

Battery life: 6 hours, up to 24 hours with charging case | Water resistance: IPX4 | Noise cancellation: Yes | Multipoint: Yes

Read our full review of Bose QuietComfort Ultra earbuds

Since the company introduced the first model, Bose’s QuietComfort Earbuds have consistently provided the best noise cancellation out of all the earbuds we’ve tested. It’s not surprising that its most-recent version, the QC Ultra Earbuds, only improved in ANC performance. However, the bigger story here is that Bose finally has the audio chops to compete with the best earbuds thanks to its new Immersive Audio tech. The feature brings spatial audio to all by not requiring specially-made content to use it. Rather than employ music and movies where the sound is coming from all directions, QC Ultra Earbuds put you in the middle of the acoustic “sweet spot” by relying heavily on virtualization. A dedicated gesture for volume controls, better-than-advertised battery life and customization settings round out the spec sheet.

Pros

  • Stellar ANC
  • Spatial audio doesn’t require special content
  • Upgrades with no price increase
Cons

  • Earbuds are still big
  • Immersive Audio significantly impacts battery life
  • Wireless charging costs extra

$249 at Amazon

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Photo by Billy Steele / Engadget

Battery life: 7 hours, up to 30 hours with charging case | Water resistance: IP54 | Noise cancellation: Yes | Multipoint: Yes

Read our full review of the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 4

Once again, Sennheiser has retained the top spot on this list in terms of pure sound quality. Sure, you’ll find better ANC performance from Bose and a longer list of features from Sony. But the Momentum True Wireless 4 has great detail and clarity. It delivers warm, inviting sound that is enjoyable to listen to for hours on end and even though the bass is boomy when it needs to be, it never overpowers. Those pairing to Android devices can enjoy high-res audio thanks to compatibility with Snapdragon Sound, while the iPhone faithful will get the best experience with Apple Music – especially on Dolby Atmos tracks.

Pros

  • Excellent sound quality
  • Support for higher-resolution audio on Android
  • Good battery life
  • Customization options
Cons

  • $50 more than previous model
  • No design refresh
  • No spatial audio

$300 at Amazon

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Photo by Billy Steele / Engadget

Battery life: 6 hours, up to 24 hours with charging case | Water resistance: IPX4 | Noise cancellation: Yes | Multipoint: Yes

Read our full review of Beats Fit Pro

Most of the best AirPods features in a set of workout earbuds? That’s the Beats Fit Pro. Thanks to Apple’s H1 chip, these buds offer one-touch quick pairing, hands-free Siri and Find My tools. They’ll also allow you to use Audio Sharing with an Apple device and another set of AirPods or Beats wireless headphones for tandem listening or viewing. Balanced and punchy bass will keep the energy up during workouts while good noise cancellation, an IPX4 rating and comfy silicone ear tips make these a solid option outside of the gym too. And there’s plenty of support for Android devices, so these aren’t just a good buy for iOS users either.

Pros

  • Comfortable design
  • Good ANC
  • H1 chip offers quick pairing and switching between Apple devices
  • Plenty of Android support
Cons

  • Call quality could be better

$180 at B&H Photo

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Sony

Battery life: 6 hours, up to 20 hours with charging case | Water resistance: IPX4 | Noise cancellation: Yes | Multipoint: Yes

One of the biggest surprises this year wasn’t Sony’s unique open-wear LinkBuds, it was the more mainstream follow-up. With the LinkBuds S, the company debuted a more traditionally designed pair of earbuds akin to its premium WF-1000XM4, only this model is much smaller and lighter which leads to a much more comfy fit. These tiny wireless earbuds muster some punch when it comes to sound quality too and support for high-res listening (LDAC and DSEE Extreme) are both onboard. Capable ANC lends a hand with environmental noise and transparency mode can keep you tuned in when needed. What’s more, handy Speak-to-Chat is here and Adaptive Sound Control can automatically change settings based on activity or location. That’s a lot of premium features at a mid-range price.

Pros

  • Comfortable design
  • Good sound quality
  • Speak-to-Chat
  • Adaptive Sound Control

$148 at Amazon

Other wireless Bluetooth earbuds we tested

Bose Ultra Open Earbuds

Bose created something very unique for this set of earbuds that allows you to stay in-tune with the world while listening to audio content. The clip-on design is very comfortable, but sound quality suffers due to the open-type fit, especially when it comes to bass and spatial audio.

Audio-Technica ATH-TWX7

These stick buds have a compact design that’s comfortable to wear and the warm sound profile is great at times. However, overall audio performance is inconsistent and there’s no automatic pausing.

Master & Dynamic MW09

Retooled audio, better ambient sound mode and reliable multipoint Bluetooth are the best things the MW09 has to offer. They’re expensive though, and you can find better ANC performance elsewhere.

Beats Studio Buds +

Updates to sound, ANC and battery life top the spec sheet here, and the new clear color option has some throwback energy I love. But there are some basic features missing, and Beats doesn’t come close to Apple’s natural audio quality in transparency mode.

JBL Tour Pro 2

These earbuds are feature-packed, including a touchscreen “smart case.” They aren’t the most consistent in terms of overall performance though, and I’m not convinced that case provides a lot of utility just yet.

FAQs

What is considered good battery life for true wireless earbuds?

Most wireless earbuds will last five hours on a single charge, at the least. You can find some pairs that have even better battery life, lasting between six and eight hours before they need more juice. All of the best wireless earbuds come with a charging case, which will provide additional hours of battery life — but you’ll have to return each bud to the case in order to charge them up.

Is sound quality better on headphones or earbuds?

Comparing sound quality on earbuds and headphones is a bit like comparing apples and oranges. There are a lot of variables to consider and the differences in components make a direct comparison difficult. Personally, I prefer the audio quality from over-ear headphones, but I can tell you the sound from earbuds like Sennheiser’s Momentum True Wireless 3 is also outstanding.

Which wireless earbuds have the longest battery life?

With new models coming out all the time, tracking the hours of battery life for each this can be difficult to keep tabs on. The longest-lasting earbuds we’ve reviewed are Audio-Technica’s ATH-CKS5TW. The company states they last 15 hours, but the app was still showing 40 percent at that mark during our tests. The only downside is these earbuds debuted in 2019 and both technology and features have improved since. In terms of current models, Master & Dynamic’s MW08 offers 12 hours of use on a charge with ANC off (10 with ANC on) and JBL has multiple options with 10-hour batteries.

What wireless earbuds are waterproof?

There are plenty of options these days when it comes to increased water resistance. To determine the level of protection, you’ll want to look for an IP (ingress protection) rating. The first number indicates intrusion protection from things like dust. The second number is the level of moisture protection and you’ll want to make sure that figure is 7 or higher. At this water-resistance rating, earbuds can withstand full immersion for up to 30 minutes in depths up to one meter (3.28 feet). If either of the IP numbers is an X, that means it doesn’t have any special protection. For example, a pair of wireless earbuds that are IPX7 wouldn’t be built to avoid dust intrusion, but they would be ok if you dropped them in shallow water.

Which earbuds stay in ears the best?

A secure fit can vary wildly from person to person. All of our ears are different, so audio companies are designing their products to fit the most people they can with a single shape. This is why AirPods will easily fall out for some but stay put for others. Design touches like wing tips or fins typically come on fitness models and those elements can help keep things in place. You’ll likely just have to try earbuds on, and if they don’t fit well return them.

What wireless earbuds work with PS5?

PlayStation 5 doesn’t support Bluetooth audio without an adapter or dongle. Even Sony’s own gaming headsets come with a transmitter that connects to the console. There are universal options that allow you to use any headphones, headset or earbuds with a PS5. Once you have one, plug it into a USB port on the console and pair your earbuds with it.



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