Apr 28, 2024

The 4 Best Wireless Bluetooth Earbuds of 2023

We tested over 30 new pairs of wireless earbuds, and our picks have not changed. But we’ve added new models to the Other good wireless Bluetooth earbuds and Competition sections.

There’s no shortage of good wireless earbuds on the market, but the best pair should offer a level of performance, reliability, and comfort that elevates it above the pack.

In our most recent round of tests, no pair exceeded our expectations like the Soundcore Space A40.

With excellent noise cancellation, customizable sound, a compact size, good microphone quality, wireless charging, and a comfortable fit, the Soundcore Space A40 performs so well that it’s hard to believe this true wireless pair is priced around $100.

These tiny earbuds have great sound, excellent noise cancellation, and a long battery life. But they don’t support a voice-activated assistant like Alexa or Siri, and the touch controls are slightly limited.

These earbuds sound great, fit securely, and offer the convenience of hands-free Siri voice control. However, they lack dual-device pairing, and the chunky case can’t charge wirelessly.

This pair offers your choice of voice-activated Alexa or Google Assistant control, as well as good sound and excellent noise cancellation. But the touch-based controls have some bothersome limits.

This affordable pair is loaded with features and performs respectably well, but the sound quality and features fall short of the best competitors.

Our audio experts compared hundreds of earbuds, listening for clear, true-to-life sound with a solid Bluetooth connection.

A good design should fit most ear shapes, so we have people with various ear sizes try on our top contenders.

Your callers should understand you no matter where you are, so we test mics in a quiet room, with background noise, and in wind.

The battery must last at least five hours for true wireless earbuds (ideally more), and we test to confirm that they meet manufacturers’ claims.

These tiny earbuds have great sound, excellent noise cancellation, and a long battery life. But they don’t support a voice-activated assistant like Alexa or Siri, and the touch controls are slightly limited.

The Soundcore Space A40 outperforms some big competition with a great combination of performance, features, and price. The sound quality is enjoyable right out of the box, but if it’s not your ideal, there are multiple ways to fine-tune the sound using the Soundcore app. The tiny, lightweight earbuds should fit most ears comfortably, and 10 hours of battery life per charge is impressive, especially for earbuds this small. The pocket-sized charging case holds an additional 40 hours worth of power and supports wireless charging. You can use either earbud on its own, and there are six microphones that deliver clear phone calls and a natural-sounding hear-through mode. Dual-device connectivity allows you to effortlessly switch between listening to music on your laptop and taking a call on your phone. The IPX4 water-resistance rating means your earbuds are protected from a little rain or sweat, and the 18-month warranty protects you from unexpected mishaps. Though the active noise cancellation isn’t the absolute best we’ve tested, it’s still excellent.

The touch-based controls work reliably and are customizable in the app, but they don’t offer everything: You’ll have to choose one function, such as track reverse, to omit. If you want to use your phone’s voice-activated digital assistant, you’ll have to tap the controls to initiate it; this pair isn’t always listening for a wake word. If that’s a feature you really want, consider one of our also-great picks instead.


These earbuds sound great, fit securely, and offer the convenience of hands-free Siri voice control. However, they lack dual-device pairing, and the chunky case can’t charge wirelessly.

If you are an Apple fan who wants all the pairing and voice-control conveniences of AirPods, but are looking for better all-around performance, the Beats Fit Pro is for you. This pair can transition seamlessly between your commute, workplace, and gym. The Fit Pro sounds great, with a somewhat boosted bass and excellent vocal clarity, and the built-in microphones do a good job of reducing wind and background noise. The active noise cancellation succeeds in bringing down the loudness of airplane/train engines, vacuum cleaners, and air conditioners. You can use either earbud individually if you prefer to keep one ear open, and the six hours of listening time is decent (though not as good as our other picks). The charging case holds an additional 18 hours but lacks the option for wireless charging and isn’t as small as we’d like.

These earbuds have a high enough water-resistance rating (IPX4) to provide protection for most activities, and the flexible, stabilizing wings keep them securely in place. Our test panel found the winged design to be comfortable and liked the extra security it provided, but people who are sensitive to pressure in the ear might dislike the way the wings feel.

Just like the AirPods Pro earbuds, these offer easy pairing and connection swapping to iCloud-connected Apple devices, as well as touch-free “Hey Siri” voice control. The physical buttons control track skip, phone calls, and volume on Apple devices; some button customization and one-touch pairing is available for use with Android devices (if you download the Beats app). The main downside with these earbuds is the inability to pair them with two devices simultaneously (such as a phone and laptop), but the easy connection swapping makes that less of an issue for Apple users. Apple’s warranty covers Beats headphones against manufacturing issues for one year from the date of purchase.

This pair offers your choice of voice-activated Alexa or Google Assistant control, as well as good sound and excellent noise cancellation. But the touch-based controls have some bothersome limits.

If you want a pair of true wireless earbuds that supports Alexa or Google Assistant voice control, you’ll love the JBL Reflect Aero TWS. This is the top pick in our guide to workout headphones because the winged earbuds stay securely in place, have simple controls, and are waterproof and sweatproof, with an IP68 rating. But the Reflect Aero TWS goes beyond workouts. The sound is good out of the box, and you can fine-tune it to your preferences using the equalizer controls in JBL’s mobile app. This pair’s eight hours of battery life is solid for true wireless earbuds, and the pocket-sized case offers up an additional 16 hours of power (though we wish it supported wireless charging). The active noise cancellation is very effective, and should you need to hear your surroundings, a hear-through mode is a tap away. Or, if you prefer, you can choose to use only one earbud at a time. Six microphones ensure clear phone calls, and you can connect the Reflect Aero TWS pair to two devices simultaneously.

Like the Beats Fit Pro, this pair uses stabilizing wings to help keep the earbuds in place. JBL includes three sizes of wings, so you can choose the fit that grips your ear most comfortably. Our testers found the fit to be comfortable, but people who have very small or sensitive ears may find the wings’ pressure fatiguing over time. Although the Reflect Aero TWS’s touch-based controls are easy to learn and use, we wish that they could adjust volume, playback, noise cancellation, and the hear-through feature inclusively, but unfortunately you’ll have to choose one of those functions to omit. If anything goes wrong, JBL covers this pair with a one-year warranty.

This affordable pair is loaded with features and performs respectably well, but the sound quality and features fall short of the best competitors.

If you want completely wireless earbuds that cost around $50, the EarFun Free 2S is the best pair we’ve found. EarFun gives you a lot of premium features for the money, including a better-than-average waterproof rating of IPX7, a Qi-compatible charging case, a solid battery life of seven hours per charge, and an 18-month warranty. The Free 2S is the successor to our previous budget pick, the Free 2. The majority of specs are the same, but the new earbuds are noticeably smaller and use a newer version of Bluetooth. The Free 2S earbuds have the full complement of touch-based controls, and the quality of the background-noise-reducing microphones rivals that of earbuds priced $100 or more.

This pair isn’t perfect, though. It lacks advanced features like active noise cancellation and a hear-through mode. And although the Free 2S is less bulky than its predecessor, the chassis is smooth and has less grip than other designs, so people with very small ears may have fit issues. Plus the touch-based controls are fussier than physical buttons.

I hold a bachelor’s degree in both music performance and audio production from Ithaca College, and I also have tested more than a thousand pairs of headphones and earbuds while working for Wirecutter.

In addition to reviewing gear for AV magazines, I’ve been in and out of top recording studios for more than a decade, first as a radio producer and on-air talent, then as a professional voice actor. My articles have been featured in Fast Company, Forbes, the Los Angeles Times, and Time, and on Good Morning America, the BBC World Service, and NBC Nightly News.

We’ve also engaged the ears of experts—including audio reviewers, musicians, and composers—to get feedback on the various earbuds we’ve tested.

This guide is aimed at the person who wants a great all-purpose pair of wireless earbuds. Whether you’re sitting at your desk, commuting to work, or taking the dog for a walk, any of these wireless earbud picks should offer a reliable way to transmit great-sounding music to your ears and a clear-sounding voice to your phone-call recipients. On- or over-ear Bluetooth headphones are also capable of hitting these points, but they can get in the way of glasses and are quite bulky compared with earbuds.

Many of the headphones in this category are resistant to water or sweat but aren’t necessarily designed for high-impact workouts or very wet conditions. For workouts, we suggest looking at our guide to the best workout headphones.

Although we do take active noise cancellation into account as a helpful feature for the earbuds in this guide, if you fly a lot or need earbuds with the very best noise cancellation possible, check out our guide to the best noise-cancelling headphones.

If you want to spend less, you can turn to our guide to the best earbuds under $50, where our focus is on delivering the best combo of sound and features for the least amount of money.

There are two types of wireless earbuds on the market: those that are tethered via a cable (usually referred to as a collar or a neckband) and those that we call “true wireless” Bluetooth earbuds, which don’t have a cord connecting them either to your music device or to each other.

True wireless earbuds have become increasingly popular because of how light and unobtrusive they feel. As such, many manufacturers now focus their attention on releasing earbuds in this style, and we’re seeing fewer tethered options outside of the budget-earbud category. We still test both styles for this guide, but we highly prioritize a true wireless design, as we’ve found that both our testers and our readers prefer the comfort and convenience that is possible when all the cables are removed.

To find the best wireless earbuds for everyday use, we use the following criteria:

Fit is crucial to earbud performance. If you’re struggling to get a good fit with the provided tips, replacement earbud tips might be the solution.

We’ve spent hundreds of hours testing more than 400 pairs of wireless earbuds. Our panelists evaluate for sound quality, ease of use, fit, and comfort before ranking their favorites.

If a pair makes it past our initial tests, I then try out the microphones over phone calls in both quiet and noisy areas. I test battery life to make sure that the actual use time lines up with each manufacturer’s claim. And I check the Bluetooth signal reliability by wandering a good distance away from my mobile device, putting it in a pocket or bag, walking outside, and going several rooms away.

I test each pair of earbuds with both iOS and Android phones, as well as an Apple laptop, to look for Bluetooth connectivity issues. Most manufacturers will stipulate that their wireless earbuds are designed to work specifically with mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. That doesn’t mean the earbuds won’t work with a computer, but depending on your operating system, you could experience a less reliable Bluetooth connection. We discuss this issue in greater detail in the article “Bluetooth Headphones Don’t Always Play Nice With Computers. Here’s Why.”

Once we have a sense of how each pair of earbuds performs, we take the price and extra features into account to choose our top picks.

These tiny earbuds have great sound, excellent noise cancellation, and a long battery life. But they don’t support a voice-activated assistant like Alexa or Siri, and the touch controls are slightly limited.

It’s remarkable that the Soundcore Space A40 packs great sound, 10 hours of battery life, good microphone quality, dual-device connectivity, and excellent noise cancellation into earbuds the size of slightly squashed marbles—with a price around $100. This little pair of true wireless earbuds outperforms sets that cost double. While we wish the Space A40 had a few more control options and the ability to activate a digital assistant using your voice, there isn’t much else that we can complain about.Out of the box, the sound of the Space A40 is quite good. The upper bass is boosted a little too much for our taste, and female vocals lack a bit of presence, but it’s still very pleasant to listen to. If the default sound profile is not completely to your taste, the app offers multiple avenues to fine-tune the sound—including a plethora of EQ presets, a manual frequency-range adjustment, and a listening-test-based personalization system. We were pleased with the spacious soundstage, the clarity of the highs, and the bass presence we achieved with some adjustment. Once you find your favorite tuning, the app saves your settings to the earbuds, so you don’t need to repeat the process over and over.

The smooth, ergonomic design of the A40 earbud does a better job at sitting comfortably in a variety of ears than the vast majority of earbuds we’ve tested. Not only are the earbuds small, they’re also lightweight—so the design isn’t fighting gravity and tugging at your ear canal. We were able to wear the A40 pair painlessly through an entire workday. This set has an IPX4 water-resistance rating, which means it can take a little rain or sweat. However, the earbud design lacks a wing or hook to secure it in place. For workouts that involve bouncy or high-impact moves, we’d recommend you take a look at one of our picks in our guide to workout headphones instead. This is especially true if you have small ears: Because small ears have less surface area to grip, true wireless earbuds are notoriously difficult to hold in place without added support.

The A40’s 10-hour battery life means you can easily wear this pair all day long. The case charges wirelessly or via cable, fits easily in most pockets, and holds an additional 40 hours of playtime. The quick-charge feature powers your earbuds for four hours of use after only 10 minutes in the case. Of course, your volume level and the number of calls you take can cause some variation in battery life, but we found that we nearly never needed to put our buds back into the case before bedtime.

The active noise cancellation on this pair is among the best we’ve measured. The Space A40 can reduce lower-pitched noises like vacuum cleaners or plane engines well, and the included tips do a decent job of dampening higher-pitched sounds like babies crying or dogs barking. When you turn on the ANC, you’ll immediately notice a difference, especially on a plane. Using the app, you can adjust the intensity of reduction or choose an adaptive mode that automatically shifts the ANC to match the kind of sounds around you. For folks who are bothered by the phenomenon we call eardrum suck, the ability to choose a comfortable ANC level is a nice benefit.

For those times when you want to hear what’s going on around you, a hear-through mode is a tap away. The sound piped through the earbuds is remarkably lifelike—not tinny or overly muffled. Some earbuds have hear-through modes that are fine for a quick conversation, but not really tolerable for long-term awareness. In contrast, the A40’s transparency sounds good enough to leave on for situational awareness as you go about your day. Or, if you prefer, the Space A40 allows you to use either earbud on its own.

The call quality on this pair is excellent, thanks to the use of the six microphones combined with software help to reduce background noise and ensure you come through clearly, even in breezy conditions. The A40’s dual-device connectivity allows you to pair with two Bluetooth sources simultaneously. This is handy when switching back and forth between video conferences on your laptop and streaming music from your phone.

This pair uses touch-based controls rather than physical buttons to do things like play/pause, change tracks, call up your digital assistant, toggle between ANC and hear-through, and adjust volume. You can customize the controls using the Soundcore app—but no matter what series of taps and holds you choose, you have to omit one major function. In our case, we decided to leave out the track-reverse function so that we could keep volume controls. While it’s nice that owners have the ability to choose their own customized settings, we wish that Soundcore had come up with one more gesture so that we could have access to every control directly from the earbuds.

Touch controls are notoriously prone to misfires, but the Space A40 provides optional beeps as sonic feedback to make it easier to ensure your taps are registering. That said, we still prefer well-made physical buttons like those on the Beats Fit Pro. We also wish that Soundcore had included at least one always-listening assistant, but since that function can drain battery life, we were willing to let it slide, especially since this pair is so affordable.

Last, these earbuds come with a “lost earbud finder,” but it is limited in usefulness. Unlike devices that use Tile or your phone’s GPS location to show you on a map where you last connected your earbuds, if your A40 earbuds are off or stored in the case, you’re out of luck. But if an earbud takes an odd bounce out of your ear, you can use the Soundcore app to make the earbud beep for (slightly) easier locating. We noticed that the beeps are high pitched, so if you are hard of hearing in that frequency range, it may be challenging to hear your earbuds calling to you.

These earbuds sound great, fit securely, and offer the convenience of hands-free Siri voice control. However, they lack dual-device pairing, and the chunky case can’t charge wirelessly.

If you’re willing to pay more to get hands-free “Hey Siri” voice control, the Beats Fit Pro is a delightful pair of true wireless earbuds. This set sounds fantastic, with slightly boosted bass and a good sense of detail in the mids and highs—without the need to fiddle with equalization controls to improve the sound. Pliable, stabilizing wings hold these buds comfortably in place better than most true wireless earbuds, and the IPX4 rating means it’s no big deal if you break a sweat. The active noise cancellation reduces the intensity of sounds like the subway or a lawn mower to a murmur, and the battery life is a solid six hours (with ANC on). The Fit Pro’s physical buttons don’t misfire as frequently as touch-based controls can, nor do they require a ton of pressing force that can jam the earbuds painfully into your ears. But you can’t control everything via the physical buttons, the Fit Pro will only pair with one device at a time, and the charging case is larger than we’d like.

In the past, Beats headphones were known for their bass-heavy sound quality, which ranged from “a bit much” to “completely overwhelming.” However, Beats has comparatively refined the sound profile on the Fit Pro, and this pair sounded pretty darn great in our tests. Are these earbuds completely neutral and authentic? No, but we found the extra bass boost to be pleasant, and the bass notes didn’t blur or reverberate. Higher frequencies, such as consonants and cymbals, were clear and didn’t pierce in our tests, though audio purists who like an extra pop in the high frequencies could accuse them of lacking some sparkle or detail. You cannot customize the sound profile of these earbuds; what you hear out of the box is what you get, so people who like the ability to tweak the sound may be disappointed.

The microphone quality is stellar for phone or video chats. In quiet rooms you’ll sound very clear, and if you need to take calls on the go, the background-noise reduction technology helps a great deal. Although removing noise somewhat compresses the sound of your voice, it also effectively removes wind and other sustained din, such as traffic whooshes. There is a catch: Because of the way the feature works, if the noise around you is in the vocal frequency range, like clattering silverware, your caller will hear it. So maybe hold off on doing dishes when you’re chatting with Grandma.

The battery life of around six hours (longer if you pause your music occasionally and don’t leave the noise cancellation on) is a bit lower than that of our other picks, but the combination of quick-charge capabilities and the three full charges provided by the case means that most folks will get through a full day of use with no problems.

Each earbud has a single physical button that is easy to find by feel and comfortable to press. That stands in contrast to the experience with many other true wireless earbuds, which typically have wonky touch controls or buttons that shove the earbud painfully into your ear canal when you depress them. The buttons handle play/pause and track skip, call answer/end, digital-assistant activation, and toggling between ANC and the hear-through mode that lets in outside sounds for more situational awareness. One bummer is that this pair lacks volume controls, which can be a pain if you prefer to keep your phone someplace inaccessible. In the Apple settings menu or (for Android users) the Beats app, you can swap in volume controls in place of the ANC/hear-through and digital assistant controls, but we found that configuration had more drawbacks for Android users than Apple users—since the always-listening “Hey Siri” feature made the assistant button easier to give up.

We were impressed by the flexible wings that hold these earbuds securely in place. These wings, or fins, grip the outer ear without creating too much pressure, and the earbuds are light and small enough that there isn’t too much heft dragging them down. However, those with very small ears and people who are sensitive to tactile response in the ear area may find that the wings create a “too full” feeling that can be fatiguing during long listening sessions. This wasn’t a problem for any of our testers, however.

Because this pair fits so securely, the Fit Pro is equally comfortable on a jog as it is at the office. The water resistance rating of IPX4 means that the Fit Pro should be sufficient for the average run or workout. However, for heavy sweating, water-based workouts, or tough mudders, we recommend looking at our guide to workout headphones.

The noise cancellation on this pair is very effective, though only in a specific frequency range. We talk more about how well the Fit Pro compares with other earbuds in this regard in our guide to noise-cancelling headphones, but folks using the active reduction to combat airplane noise should find it useful. Those who want to block out higher pitches such as voices or baby cries will find that the Fit Pro offers solid noise isolation. Because of the distinct, intense range of noise cancellation on the Fit Pro, people who are prone to eardrum suck may discover that the ANC on this pair triggers that feeling of unease—and the level of reduction is not adjustable. Personally, I’m prone to that feeling. One trick I discovered that helps to combat my ANC collywobbles is to have music playing before activating the noise cancellation. Somehow this keeps my brain occupied enough to reduce the psychosomatic unease.

In contrast, the hear-through mode on the Fit Pro sounds excellent and makes it very easy to carry on a conversation or maintain situational awareness without adding too much distracting sibilance to the sound of the world around you. As an added bonus, either of the Beats Fit Pro earbuds will function alone if you prefer to use only one like a traditional headset for calls or to simultaneously hear your surroundings.

Apple users will be pleased to know that the Fit Pro takes all the reasons you might want to own the AirPods Pro—easy Apple pairing and device swapping, touchless “Hey Siri” control, head tracking and spatial audio via Apple Music, and the “Find My” function—and puts it all in a smaller, more secure pair of earbuds with physical button controls (Beats is owned by Apple). Although bonus features like spatial audio and head tracking have yet to really show lasting value, others such as the touch-free “Hey Siri” control and “Find My” function can prove especially helpful. Since these earbuds are equipped with the same H1 chip as the Apple AirPods, they pair with Apple devices nearly instantly: Simply open the case next to your iPhone, and an icon asking if you’d like to connect appears on the phone screen. Tap and you’re good to go. If you are signed in to your iCloud account, the Beats Fit Pro also automatically appears in all of the Bluetooth menus on your various Apple devices, so you need to pair to only one device.

You can also quickly pair these earbuds with Android devices, but in that case you need to download the Beats app to experience the instant pairing pop-up. Switching from one device to another is a process similar to that of other Bluetooth earbuds or headphones, and you can only be connected to one device at a time.

Whereas most of the lost-earbud location trackers we’ve tested are clunky and less than pinpoint accurate, the “Find My” function on Apple devices is truly stellar. If you’ve seen how an AirTag functions, you’ll be familiar with the process, which is a combination of GPS, Bluetooth proximity, and speaker chirp. It’s really the only system we’ve tested that is useful enough to merit consideration as a factor in purchasing one device over another. Between the stabilization fins on the earbuds and the “Find My” feature, losing an earbud becomes far less likely—so if you’re an iPhone user prone to misplacing small things, the Beats Fit Pro might be worth extra consideration. Android users aren’t completely left out. Once you enable location permissions in the Beats app, it will note the last location you powered your earbuds on, as well as offer directions back to their general locale in the maps feature. This is less helpful when you know they’re somewhere in the house, but it’s helpful if you can’t recall when you last saw your earbuds.

The biggest downside of the Beats Fit Pro is that these earbuds can only pair with one device at a time, so you can’t connect simultaneously to a computer and a phone. However, based on what we’ve experienced and heard from many users, this feature can also be a point of consternation—especially as video-conferencing services like Zoom and Google Hangouts change software settings that impact the way headphones connect. Plus, the easy connection swapping you get from Apple’s H1 chip makes this less of an issue for Apple users.

Another downside is the case. Not only does it lack Qi wireless-charging capabilities (it charges via USB-C), but it’s also a little larger than we’d like—too large to fit in the coin pocket of men’s jeans (or the main pocket of tight jeans that have that annoying half-pocket design). However, Beats has improved the wear sensor of the Fit Pro so that the earbuds are far less likely to activate when they’re not in your ears. So unlike other true wireless earbuds that require the case to power off, these earbuds are safe to slip into your pocket in a pinch without completely draining the battery or triggering music playback. Although we consider the case’s size to be a flaw, a few of our testers preferred the larger case—they said it was easier to find in their bag.

This pair offers your choice of voice-activated Alexa or Google Assistant control, as well as good sound and excellent noise cancellation. But the touch-based controls have some bothersome limits.

Our favorite workout earbud pair, the JBL Reflect Aero TWS is also a good all-purpose pair for someone who wants hands-free Alexa or Google Assistant voice control. This completely wireless pair of earbuds is excellent for the gym because the IP68 water-resistance rating gives the earbuds an exceptionally high level of protection against water and dust, and the stabilizing wings hold the small earbuds securely in place. But the good sound quality, wind-resistant microphones, dual-device connectivity, and effective active noise cancellation elevate this set to great everyday earbuds, too. The Reflect Aero TWS has eight hours of battery life, plus an additional 16 hours in the charging case. The large touch controls are easy to activate, and the pair’s always-listening Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant support allows fans of those digital assistants to get the help they need without lifting a finger (Apple-device users can call up Siri using the physical controls).

Out of the box, the JBL Reflect Aero TWS sounds exciting, albeit not completely neutral—with some added intensity in the bass and a few added decibels in the frequency range where consonants and cymbals sit. Many folks are likely to enjoy the sound as is, but we liked it better after doing a little EQ tinkering in the app. Once you’ve found your ideal sound, either through presets or via the frequency-range faders, the tuning is saved to the earbuds, so you only need to make this adjustment one time.

The battery life is around eight hours (this can vary depending on how loudly you listen, the frequency of phone calls, and whether you use ANC or hear-through). If you run out of power, the charge case holds 16 hours of additional battery life. Plus, the pocket-sized case features quick-charge capabilities: 15 minutes in the case provides a respectable four hours of playtime. However, the case does not support wireless charging, as you get with some competitors. The case also has a wristlet-style lanyard that we wish was detachable.

Like the Beats Fit Pro, this pair relies on stabilizing wings to keep the earbuds securely in place. Three sizes of flexible, gripping wings and three sizes of eartips provided a secure fit for all of our testers. These earbuds are lightweight, sleek, and minimal in size, with no parts that significantly protrude from the head. However, if you dislike the feeling of pressure in your ears or you have very small ear canals, you may prefer a different, non-winged earbud design.

The large, touch-based controls are easy to find and use without looking, though mastering the timing of taps—which can be less intuitive than the tactile feedback provided by a physical button clicking under your finger—may take some practice. You can assign two sets of controls, covering the playback controls, ANC/hear-through controls, or volume controls—but not all three at the same time. Alexa and Google Assistant fans may not mind that limitation; since their preferred digital assistant is always listening for its wake word, no tap is necessary. However, Apple users will need to use a tap-and-hold to access Siri. If that’s a dealbreaker for you, the Beats Fit Pro pair offers hands-free “Hey Siri” compatibility.

Though the active noise cancellation is not the absolute best we’ve tested, the amount of reduction is nonetheless impressive, and similar to that of the Soundcore Space A40. You can see how the Reflect Aero TWS stacks up against other noise-cancelling earbuds in our ANC headphones guide. If you’d like to be aware of your surroundings or have a conversation, you can use one earbud alone or activate the hear-through mode to let outside sounds in. We were impressed by the sound of this mode, which avoided the tinny or muffled quality found in much of the competition. It’s also adjustable, so you can choose how much of the outside world you want mixed into your ears.

This pair has dual-device capability, which means people who switch between devices regularly can stay connected to both devices simultaneously without having to muck about in Bluetooth settings. Your calls will be clear too, thanks to the six-microphone array that picks up your voice and helps to reduce background and wind noise. One slight quibble is that, during calls, this pair lacks adequate sidetone (when you hear a bit of your own voice in the earbuds as you talk), which for some people may cause an urge to speak louder than is necessary. If that bothers you, we recommend considering the Soundcore Space A40 or Beats Fit Pro, both of which have a greater amount of amplified sidetone.

The manual isn’t the clearest we’ve read. We wanted to do a factory reset as part of our testing, and the diagram was less than accurate on how to accomplish the task. (Incidentally, you take the left earbud out of the case and put it in your ear, leaving the right one in the case. Next, you tap-tap-hold on that left earbud until you hear the earbud shut down.) We managed to figure out the most important instructions, but the lack of clarity is a little annoying.

This affordable pair is loaded with features and performs respectably well, but the sound quality and features fall short of the best competitors.

For those who covet a completely wire-free earbud design but don’t have a large budget, the EarFun Free 2S earbuds provide an experience that is on a par with—and occasionally better than—true wireless earbuds that cost twice as much. The 2S is the updated version of our previous pick, the Free 2. Most of the specifications are the same, but the Free 2S earbuds are much smaller than their predecessor, and they use a newer version of Bluetooth to enhance connection stability. Though the Free 2S can’t rival our top picks in performance and this pair lacks active noise cancellation, our test panel was impressed with both the sound quality and the number of premium features this pair offers while still selling for around 50 bucks. (If you aren’t interested specifically in true wireless earbuds or want to spend even less, pop over to our guide to the best earbuds under $50, where you’ll find more recommendations for neckband-style and wired earbuds that offer surprisingly good sound for the money.)

In terms of sound quality for the price, EarFun did an excellent job in tuning the Free 2S’s mid and low frequencies. Bass notes have actual pitches rather than thumps, and the attack and decay of kick-drum hits are clear and defined. The Free 2S provides more detail in the high frequencies than many similarly priced earbuds—but there is a big spike in the range of “s” and “t” sounds or cymbal crashes, which can be fatiguing to listen to, especially at louder volumes. Sensitive folks may find this spike off-putting and prefer the more balanced sound of the Beats Fit Pro or the more customizable sound of the Soundcore Space A40 or JBL Reflect Aero TWS. Fortunately, if you don’t like the Free 2S’s sound profile, you can adjust it (as well as update the firmware and customize controls) in the EarFun app.

Fully charged, the earbuds will play music for around seven hours, though this can vary depending on how many phone calls you make and the volume at which you generally listen. The charging case is relatively small and should fit in a jeans pocket. It is compatible with Qi wireless chargers and has a quick-charge feature that will supply two hours of listening time after just 10 minutes in the case. If you happen to leave the earbuds out of the case, a 10-minute auto-shutoff will prevent you from draining your battery once your audio device disconnects.

Many budget-priced true wireless earbuds offer a limited number of controls on the earbuds themselves, but the EarFun Free 2S has a full control suite, including play/pause, volume control, track forward/reverse, call answer/end, and digital-assistant activation. Though our team generally prefers physical buttons over touch-based controls, the large touch-surface area on these earbuds is more forgiving than other similar systems we’ve tested. It’s still not as foolproof as earbuds that have mechanical buttons to press, but because we didn’t have frequent misfires, we forgave this minor drawback.

Three tip sizes are included, and all of our testers were able to get a secure fit. But the earbuds are slightly larger than the diminutive Space A40 buds, and they don’t have wings or hooks to stabilize them like our Beats and JBL picks. So although the shape is contoured in a way that should make the Free 2S comfortable for most people, someone with very small ear canals may have a little more trouble keeping these earbuds in place.

We were very impressed with the microphone quality for phone and video calls, but this pair isn’t resistant to wind noise the way our other picks are. A solid gust will lead to a buffeting sound, so you’ll want to duck inside to take a call on a blustery day. Unfortunately, this pair also lacks a hear-through mode, but either earbud can be used independently if you need to stay alert.

With a higher dust/water resistance rating of IPX7, the EarFun Free 2S can definitely handle rain. IPX7 means the device can be dropped in a meter of water for 30 minutes with no adverse effects. The rating only applies to clear water, so be sure to rinse any saltwater, sweat, or dust off of the Free 2S after exposure and allow the earbuds to dry thoroughly before placing them back in a case. Should anything go wrong, EarFun covers the Free 2S with an 18-month warranty.

If your priority is excellent sound quality: The KEF Mu3 is one of the best-sounding pairs of true wireless earbuds out of the box we’ve ever tested. Clear highs, deep (but not overpowering) bass notes, and a surprisingly large soundstage for tiny earbuds. The fit is comfortable for all but the most diminutive ears, with small, smooth earbuds that fit securely. The single-button controls are intuitive to use, but there’s no track-reverse control. And the active noise cancellation is just middle-of-the-road.

If you want the best noise cancellation: The Sony WF-1000XM5 has the best combination of active noise cancellation and passive noise isolation of any pair of earbuds we’ve tested. Read more about them in our guide to the best noise-cancelling headphones.

If you want a more luxurious aesthetic: The Master & Dynamic MW08 has stellar build quality, with an earbud chassis made from ceramic and stainless steel and a small but weighty metal charging case. The noise cancellation on the max setting is quite effective on low-frequency sounds, the battery life of 12 hours per charge is impressive, and the fast-charge feature powers both the earbuds and case to 50% capacity after just 15 minutes plugged in. The physical buttons are easy to understand and activate, though folks with large fingers may struggle a bit with the teeny volume toggle. The IPX5 water-resistance rating is sufficient protection should you get caught in the rain or work up a light sweat, and the dual ambient awareness modes are helpful for conversations or navigating a public space.

The sound quality is excellent, but because these are $300 earbuds, we feel the need to quibble. The over-emphasis on both bass notes and high frequencies is fun but doesn’t feel fully authentic. The soundstage is less three-dimensional than we’d prefer in a premium product. While the microphones handle calls clearly and reduce background noise and wind noise well, we’d like some sidetone to avoid the urge to speak too loudly. But if money isn’t a concern and you like the luxurious look, you’ll be happy with the MW08 earbuds.

If you want earbuds in the Samsung ecosystem: For Samsung devotees who want to access all the features their Galaxy device has to offer, the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro earbuds represent the best option available. Seamless connecting means that once you pair the Pro to a device that is signed in with your Samsung account, all other Samsung devices to which you’re signed in will automatically be paired. The microphone quality is impressively clear, even in wind.

The sound quality, though a touch on the bass-heavy side, is enjoyable. The hear-through mode can be triggered by speaking, but if you stop talking to listen to your conversation partner, it shuts off after 15 seconds, which is mildly annoying. The controls are limited: Play/pause, track skip, and answering calls are always accessible, but you must choose between ANC on/off, Bixby, Spotify, or volume control. Both the case and earbuds are very small, but the included tips run on the smaller size, so people with large ear canals may have to buy third-party tips to get a seal. The noise cancellation is minimal, and the earbuds themselves don’t isolate very well.

If you want affordable earbuds that don’t seal off your ear canal: The Amazon Echo Buds (2023) may be designed for Alexa users, but this is also a decent, affordable option if you don’t like the feeling of sealed earbuds in your ears. The sound isn’t as full and rich as what you’ll hear with our picks, but it’s far better than the vast majority of unsealed earbuds. The touch controls are customizable, and the call quality, while slightly compressed, is clear and handles wind noise admirably.

With the Amazon app installed on your phone, you can use always-listening Alexa voice commands, but you also can assign a button tap to engage your phone’s built-in assistant. Dual-device connectivity allows you to swap sources easily. The five-hour battery life (six if you turn off always-listening Alexa) isn’t competitive, though, and the IPX2 water resistance won’t handle more than the lightest of drizzles. But for around $50, these are a worthy solution.

If you want voice activation that isn’t tied to a certain phone’s OS: The Skullcandy Grind Fuel earbuds have a bunch of innovative features, such as Skullcandy’s earbud-based voice-assistant system, which doesn’t require an internet connection to function (though you do need to leave the Skullcandy app open in your phone while using the earbuds). It also offers voice-activated Spotify and (most nifty of all) the ability to use the earbud button as a remote to take a picture with your phone’s camera.

We were able to get these earbuds to sound pretty good using their combination of hearing-test-based EQ and manual adjustments. Unfortunately, the voice-activation system can be fussy in windy conditions, so folks who dream of verbally changing tracks while biking or whizzing down a ski slope may be disappointed. Also, the microphone sounds a little compressed and quiet over calls and is prone to wind noise. And although the fit is comfortable, these earbuds were not as stable in our ears as our picks are.

Still, for folks who want the hands-free digital assistant experience usually reserved for owners of Galaxy Buds, AirPods, and Google Buds headphones, the Grind Fuel offers a more-affordable Wi-Fi–free alternative that could be especially valuable to people with dexterity and mobility challenges.

If you are looking for earbuds that provide hearing protection: Although active noise cancellation reduces lower-frequency sounds, it isn’t effective enough to provide adequate protection during very loud activities like mowing the lawn or operating a jackhammer. For that, consider the Elgin Rebel, an NRR-rated, OSHA-compliant pair of true wireless earbuds that will keep your ears safe when worn properly. The Rebel earbuds are the first protective earbuds we’ve tested that are comfortable, sound good, and easy enough to use that most people should be able to find an effective (and safe) fit.

Twelve hours of battery life per charge should get you through a full workday, and the IP65 dust- and water-resistant rating means you can work up a sweat without worry. The microphone works well for taking calls (though you’ll need to do so in a quieter environment), and the charging case doubles as a flashlight. Elgin includes several pairs of tips; however, the standard black pair is not protective and only for day-to-day activities—be sure to use the yellow triple-flange or foam tips when on the job.

The only flaw is that the Rebel earbuds lack a hear-through function, which would be really helpful for job-site conversations. But considering there literally isn’t anything else available that comes close to the Rebel pair’s performance, we will just have to hope it’s included in the next version.

If you have wired in-ear monitors with detachable cables that you want to use wirelessly: FiiO’s UTWS3 is technically not a pair of earbuds; it’s an adapter. But it’s worth considering if you already have wired in-ear monitors with detachable cables that you love. You can read more in our guide to the best wired earbuds.

We’ve discussed the sustainability issues related to wireless earbuds before. Unfortunately, until manufacturers create earbuds with rechargeable batteries that can be easily replaced by owners, or third-party companies offer broader refurbishment systems akin to the AirPods-specific program The Swap Club, most wireless earbuds—especially true wireless earbuds—are trash once the batteries die. The companies that responded to our questions about battery life said their devices have about 400 to 500 charge cycles before they start to lose capacity. As a result, how often you use your earbuds will determine how frequently you need to replace them.

As convenient as wireless earbuds can be, wired models are the more sustainable option. Wireless earbuds and headphones that can work with an optional cable have lifespans that extend beyond the life of the battery. While a dead battery means power-based features like voice control and active noise cancellation will cease to function, at least the headphones themselves can still be useful. Corded listening is more common in over-ear headphones than wireless earbuds.

Bose's new $300 QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds will replace the QuietComfort Earbuds II. Bose says that the new Ultra pair remedies the call-quality issues that marred the Earbuds II, and it will also have ear-canal-acoustics-based calibration, IPX4 water resistance, six hours of battery life per charge, and an improved fit. We are testing them now.

Apple recently announced a slightly updated version of the AirPods Pro that adds an IP dust-resistance rating and changes the connection on the charging case from Lightning to USB-C. Also, some new accessibility features are available through an iOS update. Otherwise, the earbuds will remain the same. We plan to check out these differences, but we don’t expect any major changes or surprises.

We’ve tested more than 400 sets of Bluetooth earbuds to date, so we can’t list every competitor here. Below we discuss some of the newer and more high-profile earbuds we’ve tested, but we also keep a running list of previously tested earbuds. If you’re curious about a specific pair, feel free to reach out to our team with questions.

Apple AirPods (3rd generation): These have a few of the features of the AirPods Pro (Qi charging, spatial audio, and a shorter stem) but no noise cancellation. Like the original AirPods, this pair has limited physical controls and very little bass. At this point, most people have encountered AirPods somewhere, so you pretty much know what you’re getting here. If you liked the way previous AirPods fit and sounded, you’ll like the improved battery life and water resistance of the 3rd-gen set. But for Apple-friendly earbuds, we prefer the overall experience of the Beats Fit Pro.

Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation): There are a few neat features for Apple fans (like the ability to charge the case with your watch charger cable). But most of the major specs—including six hours of battery life, always-listening Siri voice control, head-tracking spatial audio, and an IPX4 water-resistance rating—are similar to those of the Beats Fit Pro, which has a smaller design, a more secure fit, easier-to-use controls, and a lower price. Overall the controls are still frustrating to use compared with the more-straightforward button design you get on the Beats Fit Pro. The overall ANC performance isn’t as effective in the airplane band as that of our top noise-cancelling picks. We recommend these earbuds only for people who use Apple devices exclusively and who prioritize the niceties of staying in the Apple ecosystem above all else. Otherwise, there are better options for the money.

Baseus Bowie MA10: For $30, the MA10 is surprisingly decent. The ANC is average, and the sound quality is remarkably pleasant. However, the case is massive, the controls are very limited, and the app is buggy—with some questionable notification and location privacy requests. We’d recommend spending a few more dollars for something vastly more user-friendly like the Edifier TWS1 Pro 2.

Beats Studio Buds +: The upgraded version of the Studio Buds, this pair offers better battery life (9 hours), Android customization, and noise cancellation compared with the original—and a stylishly transparent shell. But the core earbud design remains the same. This is a solid pair of earbuds overall and shares a lot of iOS-friendly features with the Beats Fit Pro set. But we like the Fit Pro earbuds better because they’re more secure in the ears, they still offer better noise cancellation, and their button design is more ergonomic.

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II: This former top pick in our ANC guide was recently bested by the Sony WF-1000XM5. You can read more about it that guide.

Edifier TWS1 Pro 2: While this pair doesn’t have the level of performance of the Soundcore Space A40, the sound quality is excellent for the price. We like the IP54 water/dust resistance and the adjustable awareness mode. But the battery life of 4 hours with ANC on is too short, and the suite of touch controls is limited.

Final ZE8000: This pair suffers from a bulky fit, lackluster noise cancellation, and boomy out-of-the-box sound that isn’t able to be rectified by the app’s EQ.

Google Pixel Buds Pro: These colorful, true wireless earbuds feature ANC, spatial audio, dual-device connectivity, a hear-through mode, and always-listening “Hey Google” capabilities (on Google devices). The earbuds themselves have IPX4 water resistance, and the case is IPX2-rated. The battery life of 11 hours of listening time (up to 7 hours with ANC turned on) is impressive for true wireless earbuds. However, the earbud design, while smooth and comfortable in larger ears, is likely to be tricky for people with medium to small ear canals to keep in securely—and the touch-control sensor is easy to activate accidentally when you’re pushing the earbuds back into place. In our tests, the sound was decent, but we found the peak in the cymbal and consonant range to be fatiguing, especially when the volume was turned up a bit. Overall, if you have bigger ears and want to stay in the Google ecosystem, these earbuds are fine but not excellent.

HiFiMan Svanar Wireless: This $500 pair has high-quality drivers, but the balance leans heavily toward high frequencies. So unless you prefer a top-heavy sound, these aren’t for you. It’s a shame that the Svanar lacks an EQ function, because this set might have broader appeal if tuned a little differently. This pair was not designed to be a practical, everyday set of earbuds: The noise cancellation is below average, and the hear-through mode is very muffled. The earbuds are large but surprisingly comfortable in medium or larger ears, but the hefty build may not seat properly for those with small outer ears. Multitude tips are included, but none are big enough to seal large ear canals. (This can be remedied with third-party tips, but for a pair this pricey, that shouldn’t be necessary.) The charge case—shaped like an angular kiwi—is interesting to look at, but large and awkward to open.

HyperX Cirro Buds Pro: This pair is middle-of-the-road in most ways. The noise cancellation is effective on very low frequencies but not not much else, the sound is a little bloated in the lows and dull in the highs (but not offensively so), and the fit is on the larger side. The tap controls can be finicky, and the case is large. None of these flaws alone is a dealbreaker, but the sum total disqualified this pair from being a pick.

Jabra Elite 4: Though the earbud design is comfortable and the full suite of controls is intuitive, active users might feel as though these earbuds aren’t secure enough in their ears. The noise cancellation is minimally effective, and the sound is just okay—the highs have a sizzling aspect that the five-band EQ can’t fix. Five and a half hours of battery life is decent, but is only half the playtime of the Soundcore Space A40.

Jabra Elite 8 Active: This pair is built to be comfortable and durable, and we compare them to our workout headphone picks in that guide.

Jabra Elite 10: When used for work, the Elite 10 pair is fantastic. These earbuds sound good, feature dual-device connectivity, have clear mics for calls, and are perhaps the most comfortable earbuds we’ve tested. However, the six-hour battery life may not be enough for long days, and the noise cancellation isn’t competitive with the best options.

JBL Tour Pro 2: There isn’t much bad to say about the Tour Pro 2; this pair was simply edged out by our picks. These earbuds come with a control-panel case that duplicates app functionality without a phone, which is nifty. The noise cancellation is well above average, but not the best we tested. The fit is comfortable, and the six microphones reduce wind noise on calls better than just about anything we’ve tested. The 9 hours of battery life is excellent, the IPX5 rating a benefit, and the sound quality is very good after you adjust the EQ. We wish the touch controls included the full suite (you have to choose one to leave out, be it volume, track forward/back, etc.). But overall these are fantastic, albeit pricey earbuds if you don’t need the absolute best in noise cancellation.

JBL Tune Buds: We love the 12 hours of battery life and the sound quality (once we adjusted it a tad in the app to reduce the high highs). However, the somewhat bulky shape might pose a fit challenge for smaller ears, and the noise cancellation and passive isolation, while above average, aren’t competitive with our picks.

JBL Tune Flex: This pair is designed to be worn either sealed or unsealed, depending on which tips you choose. However, the ANC is limited to a narrow band of low frequencies. And all of the tips are small. Because the buds aren’t fixed in place by the tips or wings, the earbuds can shift, causing the sound to change drastically depending on the angle at which the sound tubes aim at your ear canal. When they are positioned perfectly, the Tune Flex can sound quite good. But once the buds shift, the experience is less enjoyable. Open/closed earbuds is an interesting idea, but to swap on the go, you need to carry the tips with you separately (there isn’t a place to store them in the case), and we didn’t feel either style was excellent enough to recommend these as a pick.

JLab JBuds Mini: These are the smallest earbuds we’ve tested, so if you have small ears, these are likely to fit better than other true wireless earbuds. But if you usually choose a large tip in other earbuds, the Mini is not for you. The included large tip is what would pass for medium in other brands, and if you use third-party tips that are bigger, the charging case won’t close. The tap controls are customizable, but can easily misfire when you adjust the earbuds. The microphone quality is only passable, and the sound is frustrating. The drivers sound cheap and tend to distort on complex songs. The three pre-programmed EQ settings are either muddy, bass-forward, or tinny. And the custom EQ setting is challenging to use and didn’t produce great results. That said, these are relatively inexpensive, with a two-year warranty, so if small size is your primary need and you aren’t too picky about everything else, these might work for you.

JLab Work Buds: This pair has an optional boom mic that attaches to one earbud, reducing background noise on calls. It’s novel, and we like that the boom mic can be stored in the charging case (even if that makes the case quite large.) The hear-through mode sounds comparatively natural. But the controls are fussy, the sound quality is below average, and the earbuds are chunky in a way that can be uncomfortable for people with medium to small ears.

JVC Marshmallow Noise Cancelling HA-A25T: This pair suffers from sub-par ANC efficacy, a muffled-sounding hear-through mode, and three EQ settings that never quite find a decent sonic balance.

LG Tone Free TF8: We like this pair’s various sizes of wings and tips, as well as the charging case, which doubles as a Bluetooth transmitter. Out of the box, the sound wasn’t our favorite. But with some patience, we were able to dial in EQ settings (via the app) that made us happy. The noise cancellation is middle-of-the-road; it’s useful, but it is not a compelling reason to purchase this pair. Unfortunately, the touch controls are fussy and incredibly difficult to use while you’re in motion; it takes time to get a sense of the proper cadence of double and triple taps.

LG Tone Free T90: This set has some interesting features, including a UV light that LG says disinfects the earbuds and a case that doubles as a Bluetooth transmitter. However, these earbuds and the included tips are very small, so folks with medium to XL ears may find them tricky to keep in place. The noise cancellation is decent, but the sound quality isn’t worth the original $250 price tag. While the idea of a transmitter case is somewhat neat, we’d say to get a better, less expensive pair and a separate inexpensive transmitter for travel.

MEE Audio Pebbles: Putting in this earbud pair is like slipping elongated fava beans into your ears. The design neither isolates nor allows for unencumbered situational awareness. It also feels more invasive than traditionally designed earbuds. The sound is pretty dismal, with coarse highs and bass notes that distort on hip-hop tracks like a subwoofer with a blown cone.

Motorola Moto Buds 270 ANC: If noise cancellation is your priority, these aren’t for you. The majority of reduction came from passive isolation, and it didn’t sound as though it was making any significant difference. Though the sound quality is decent for the affordable price, the chunky earbud shape and short soundtube length can make it challenging to fit these in small and large ears.

Motorola Moto Buds 600 ANC: The noise reduction is above average, but the sound has boomy bass, and the chunky earbud design can make it difficult to get a seal. The controls are limited and, like many touch-control earbuds, can be fussy. Even with the added benefit of wireless charging, this pair doesn’t meet our high standards.

Nothing Ear (2): Nothing’s app is very well designed, with some beneficial personalization of ANC and EQ that make the listening experience quite pleasant. The fit is comfortable, the ANC is above average, the microphone quality is clear, and the futuristic design could be appealing to some. However, the squeeze-style controls are limited and very frustrating to use. Not only are they prone to misreading your squeeze, but the act of squeezing can dislodge the earbuds and is likely to be difficult for people with dexterity issues.

One Plus Nord Buds 2: The most compelling feature is access to the “Melody” voice-activated assistant. (Melody is OnePlus’s version of Alexa or Siri.) Otherwise this pair is middling. The noise cancellation is average, and the music reproduction has too much bass emphasis, recessed mids, and peaked highs that make female vocals sound recessed and yet consonants coarse and shushing. It’s not objectionable, but not fantastic, and there’s no EQ.

Poly Voyager Free 60+ UC: If you work in an office environment, especially one where you work regularly on desktop computers that lack Bluetooth, this pair could be worth the expense. The case has a touch screen that mimics features generally found in a mobile app, which is helpful for desktop users, since app features like EQ and control customization aren’t accessible to folks connected to a desktop. The charging case also stores a USB Bluetooth transmitter that enables these true wireless earbuds to connect to computers that otherwise lack wireless capabilities. The microphones are designed for voice clarity and background noise reduction, which reduces the frequency ranges it picks up, so don’t be surprised if colleagues think you sound like you’re calling from an old-school landline. Also, the noise cancellation is only average.

Raycon The Impact: Though we appreciate the stable fit afforded by the multiple pairs of wings and tips, the sound quality is middle-of-the-pack, with undefined bass notes and recessed mids that make hip-hop lack punch and male vocals feel lost. Additionally, this pair is not among the best at reducing noise, and the hear-through mode sounds muffled while lacking sufficient amplification.

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro: The fit is comfortable, the case is adorably small, and the sound is flawed but still pleasant. But the noise cancellation is significantly less successful than we’d like, and the Buds 2 Pro pair doesn’t offer dual-device connectivity. The touch controls are easy to inadvertently activate when you’re adjusting the earbuds in your ears.

Skullcandy Rail ANC: The standout feature is the inclusion of the “Hey Skullcandy” suite of voice controls (which is also available in the Grind Fuel). It functions separately from your phone’s digital assistant and works even if you are in a service-less or Wi-Fi–less location. Aside from that, these are middle-of-the-road earbuds. The sound quality is decent, but a bit bloated in the bass no matter how you fuss with the EQ. The ANC is comparatively mild, and the hear-through mode is somewhat unnatural and compressed sounding. The touch controls are easy to accidentally trigger when adjusting the earbuds in your ears.

Skullcandy Smokin’ Buds XT: It’s hard to get too upset about the performance of earbuds that are under $20. This pair is small, connects easily, and sounds okay. There is no way to change tracks or call up your digital assistant using the tap-based controls. Out of the box, the sound is tuned to Skullcandy’s bass-forward sound, but there are two additional EQ settings—one is tinny, and the other is reverb-y with even more bass. If our picks in the under-$50 earbuds guide weren’t so good, we’d probably recommend these with caveats—because they’re decent enough and cheap.

Sony WF-1000XM4 and Sony LinkBuds S: It’s worth discussing these true wireless earbuds together because they share a lot of similar features, like always-listening Google/Alexa control and a speak-to-enable thear-through mode. What differentiates these two models (aside from price) is that the XM4 provides wireless charging and a longer 8-hour battery life but, due to its bulbous and sizable design, is less comfortable to wear long-term. The LinkBuds S is smaller and lighter, with an earbud shape that is more universal, but this pair has a shorter, six-hour battery life and is less successful than the XM4 at isolating noise. The XM4 isn’t a pick because the large earbud size is cumbersome to wear, and the lack of included XL tips means that both smaller and larger ears may find these a challenge to wear comfortably. The LinkBuds S has middling noise cancellation, isolation, and sound quality, which makes the original $200 price feel steep. However, if you find these on sale and want a speak-to-enable hear-through mode, they’re both solid earbud pairs.

Soundcore Liberty 4 NC: The Liberty 4 NC has an overabundance of bass that can’t be tamed even by dropping the lowest EQ fader to the very bottom, so it’s challenging to hear male vocals, especially on hip-hop tracks. While the noise cancellation is on par with that of the Soundcore Space A40, there’s slightly less passive isolation, which can create the sensation of eardrum suck.

Status Audio Between 3ANC: This pair has above-average noise cancellation and can sound quite good if you are willing to spend the time meticulously adjusting the EQ. The controls are a combination of touchpads and physical buttons, which we generally don’t mind. However, the tiny buttons are placed too close to the microphones, so every time you press them, you also get a loud brushing sound if the hear-through mode is enabled. Additionally, the volume adjustments jump in dramatic chunks, which can quickly become too loud or quiet.

Technics EAH-AZ40M2: Out of the box, the sound has a veiled midrange and harsh highs that we weren’t able to remedy in the app’s EQ. We appreciated the small charging case and the earbuds’ ergonomic, lightweight design, but the plastic felt less premium than the price tag would suggest, especially when compared with the Soundcore Space A40. Also, the ANC is very mild and not adjustable, and it affects only very low frequencies.

Technics EAH-AZ60M2: Although we appreciate the inclusion of seven pairs of tips and the brushed-metal design, these earbuds may be too chunky for people with smaller ears to wear comfortably. The background-noise-reducing mic is quite good at removing constant sounds like an air conditioner or breeze. The sound is decent out of the box, but we weren’t quite able to dial in a balanced sound with any of the presets or custom EQ settings. The noise cancellation is above average, but not remarkable.

Technics EAH-AZ80: This pair is essentially the EAH-AZ60M2 with bigger drivers, so all of the 60M2’s flaws not associated with sound also apply to this pair. The larger drivers provide better bass response, and we found it was easier to dial in a sound profile we preferred. As with other pricey earbuds, the flaws seem small until you consider the original $300 price.

Tozo Golden X1: The sound quality has reverb-y bass that can distort on bass-forward tunes, and the highs have an icy, sibilant quality that can become painful when you are listening at a volume above 50%—and neither flaw could be addressed using the app-based EQ. The microphone seems to be attempting to reduce background noise, which it accomplishes by making your voice sound like it’s coming through an old-timey telephone. The noise reduction is restricted to very low frequencies, so even though you won’t hear the deepest notes of an airplane engine, you will hear the whoosh and hiss of the engine grind.

This article was edited by Adrienne Maxwell and Grant Clauser.

Lauren Dragan

Lauren Dragan is a senior staff writer and has tested nearly 2,000 headphones for Wirecutter. She has a BA from Ithaca College in music performance and audio production. She’s been featured in Good Morning America, NBC Nightly News, The New York Times, and more. Additionally, she’s a voice actor whose work includes projects for Disney and Mattel.

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by Lauren Dragan

Thanks to their collar style, our favorite wireless Bluetooth earbuds have a mic that sounds significantly better than that of many headphones we’ve tested.

If your priority is excellent sound quality:If you want the best noise cancellation:If you want a more luxurious aesthetic:If you want earbuds in the Samsung ecosystem:If you want affordable earbuds that don’t seal off your ear canal:If you want voice activation that isn’t tied to a certain phone’s OS:If you are looking for earbuds that provide hearing protection: If you have wired in-ear monitors with detachable cables that you want to use wirelessly:If your priority is excellent sound quality:If you want the best noise cancellation:If you want a more luxurious aesthetic:If you want earbuds in the Samsung ecosystem:If you want affordable earbuds that don’t seal off your ear canal:If you want voice activation that isn’t tied to a certain phone’s OS:If you are looking for earbuds that provide hearing protection: If you have wired in-ear monitors with detachable cables that you want to use wirelessly:If your priority is excellent sound quality:If you want the best noise cancellation:If you want a more luxurious aesthetic:If you want earbuds in the Samsung ecosystem:If you want affordable earbuds that don’t seal off your ear canal:If you want voice activation that isn’t tied to a certain phone’s OS:If you are looking for earbuds that provide hearing protection: If you have wired in-ear monitors with detachable cables that you want to use wirelessly:If your priority is excellent sound quality:If you want the best noise cancellation:If you want a more luxurious aesthetic:If you want earbuds in the Samsung ecosystem:If you want affordable earbuds that don’t seal off your ear canal:If you want voice activation that isn’t tied to a certain phone’s OS:If you are looking for earbuds that provide hearing protection: If you have wired in-ear monitors with detachable cables that you want to use wirelessly:If your priority is excellent sound quality:If you want the best noise cancellation:If you want a more luxurious aesthetic:If you want earbuds in the Samsung ecosystem:If you want affordable earbuds that don’t seal off your ear canal:If you want voice activation that isn’t tied to a certain phone’s OS:If you are looking for earbuds that provide hearing protection: If you have wired in-ear monitors with detachable cables that you want to use wirelessly:Great sound qualityA secure, comfortable fitGood battery lifeVoice-call qualitymildly splash and sweat resistantnoise cancellation and/or sound isolationa hear-through modemore than $250If your priority is excellent sound quality:If you want the best noise cancellation:If you want a more luxurious aesthetic:If you want earbuds in the Samsung ecosystem:If you want affordable earbuds that don’t seal off your ear canal:If you want voice activation that isn’t tied to a certain phone’s OS:If you are looking for earbuds that provide hearing protection: If you have wired in-ear monitors with detachable cables that you want to use wirelessly: