The 10 Best True Wireless Earbuds of 2021

Ditch the wires once and for all

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The Rundown
"Their pairing and connectivity are second to none."
Runner-Up, Best Overall:
Samsung Galaxy Buds Live at Amazon
"The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live take audio quality to a new level, incorporating noise cancelling, improved bass, and a new, comfortable design."
"Music automatically pauses when you remove the buds and resumes when you put them back in. On top of that, controls are a breeze."
"Great sound, insane battery life, and a very attractive price tag."
"Samsung has enlisted AKG to help them tune the drivers in these speakers for solid sound quality."
"Boasts seven hours of continuous playback time when listening locally."
"Not just because they sport great quality, but also because they truly embrace the spirit of a wireless set of earphones."
"The Momentum True Wireless Earbuds' 7mm driver is a good deal larger than those in competitor's models, allowing for a fuller, more well-rounded sound profile."
"A subtle fin design that hooks into the upper groove of your ear and rests so naturally that you’ll forget you’re wearing them."
"While they are designed mainly with athletes in mind, they work equally as well for daily use."

Investing in the best true wireless earbuds is a great way to untether yourself from your tech. If you've never had the pleasure of listening to music or your favorite podcast on a pair of completely cord-free, modern 'buds, you may be stunned by the comfort and convenience some of the top models offer. Not only is audio quality often on par with the best wired headphones, these tiny earbuds often provide remarkable noise cancellation, and are tremendously handy when working out.

But even if you're not an elite athlete, true wireless earbuds have a lot to offer. Most are tiny and discrete, and thus ridiculously portable even when you're not actively wearing them, but the best of the best (the ones we've selected for this list) stay snugly in place regardless of activity, and provide high fidelity audio reproduction across low, mid, and high tones. Some of them even include flashy cutting edge features like Qi wireless charging or responsive touch controls, making them a no-brainer alternative to their full-size counterparts amongst the best wireless headsets.

Our top choice is the Apple Airpods (2nd Generation) due to their excellent sound quality, ease of pairing, and extra features like wireless charging. Read on to see what we think of the Airpods and ther other devices on our list of the best true wireless earbuds.

Best Overall: Apple Airpods (2nd Generation)

What We Like
  • Fantastic sound quality

  • Seamless pairing

  • Qi wireless charging

What We Don't Like
  • Divisive design

The Apple AirPods continue to be one of the most divisive pairs of truly wireless earbuds on the market, but that doesn't mean they're not still the king of the hill. On the one hand, they stray from the more popular (and arguably more attractive) sleek black look of options from Jabra and Samsung. But the look Apple has gone for here has turned into something people want to wear. However, the real calling card for AirPods, in general, is just how seamlessly they pair with Apple products. That’s all thanks to the amazing H1 chip that will recognize a nearby device as soon as you pop open the included battery case. No need to fumble through awkward Bluetooth menus.

A new addition to the second gen of the AirPods is the inclusion of wireless charging functionality on the battery case, allowing you to charge it up just by dropping it on a Qi-compatible wireless charger. The AirPods themselves give you up to 5 hours of music listening on a single charge, which is on par with a lot of true wireless earbuds, but where this package truly shines is the fact that you can get a total of 24 hours listening time on a single charge of the battery case. This leads the class, and when you pair that with just how small, sleek, and premium these are, it’s a no-brainer to pick up the new, improved AirPods 2. Our reviewer praised them for delivering the quality sound and flawless connectivity we've come to expect from Apple.

"Added Siri functionality and wireless charging are a nice addition to a great-sounding pair of earbuds." — Jeffrey Daniel Chadwick, Product Tester

Runner-Up, Best Overall: Samsung Galaxy Buds Live

What We Like
  • Comfortable in ears

  • Decent noise-cancelling

  • Multiple equalizer options

  • Quick charging case

What We Don't Like
  • Universal fit

  • Battery runtime falls short

  • Some cutouts on windy days

The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live are the latest offering from Samsung designed to go head-to-head with the Airpods Pro. The Buds Live look almost like kidney beans compared to the Galaxy Buds+ and other earbuds on the market. The new design is intended to be more ergonomic, giving you a better, more secure fit in the ear. touch controls, and a charging case that can also be topped up wirelessly.

Aside from aesthetics, you get improved sound quality along with the big selling point, active noise cancellation. This helps blot out sound and reduce background noise, especially helpful while commuting. There are other audio enhancements for improved bass, touch controls, and a charging case that can also be topped up wirelessly.

"For those who prefer to use the Buds for voice calls, you’ll be pleased to know they use three microphones and a voice pickup unit to capture your voice for crystal clear phone conversations." Rebecca Isaacs, Product Tester

Best Controls: Jabra Elite 65T True Wireless Earbuds & Charging Case

What We Like
  • Solid noise isolation

  • Great, comfortable fit

  • Auto pause feature

What We Don't Like
  • Fewer features than its predecessor

While the new Elite 65t drop some fancy features of the previous model, namely a built-in heart rate monitor, the paring down has allowed for a more streamlined design that is smaller and more comfortable. They are noise-isolating, so while they don’t have an active noise-cancellation feature like others, they do passively prevent ambient noise from leaking in. If you’re running or biking with these, you can activate the HearThrough transparency feature via the Jabra Sound+ companion app and adjust the amount of sound you wish to let in.

You can configure your earphones so that music automatically pauses when you remove the buds and resumes when you put them back in. On top of that, controls are a breeze: You can skip and repeat tracks by holding down the volume buttons on the left earbud. It also integrates seamlessly with Siri and Alexa, although unlike on an Amazon Echo, the dual microphones are not always listening, so you have to press and hold a button on the right earbud before you can issue a command. Our tester, Jason, praised the 65t for its killer sound, build quality, and functionality.

"These headphones check pretty much every box, and any workout regiment or commuter bag would be all the better for having these there." — Jason Schneider, Product Tester

Best Budget: Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 In-Ear Headphones

Soundcore Liberty Air 2
What We Like
  • Good sound quality

  • Premium build & features

  • Reasonable price point

What We Don't Like
  • Very tight fit

  • Some Bluetooth hiccups

  • Clunky on-board controls

If you're looking for a very solid pair of earbuds for roughly half the price of Apple's AirPods, the Soundcore Liberty Air 2 from Anker is a great option. They're a big step up from the first generation in terms of build quality, but retain the strong sound quality, great feature set, and excellent battery life that made the originals a favorite.

The Liberty Air 2 supports wireless charging, aptX codecs, and fit snugly and stably in the ear, even during vigorous exercise. They're also Bluetooth 5.0 ready, meaning a very generous wireless range. Our reviewer, Jason, loved the competitive feature set and quality, both in design and sound, particularly with that attractive price tag in mind.

"They’ve brought out all the big guns here: fancy materials for the drivers, top-quality Bluetooth codecs, and fancy software to customize the sound." — Jason Schneider, Product Tester

Best Samsung: Samsung Galaxy Buds

What We Like
  • High-quality, lossless sound

  • Intuitive touch controls

  • Ambient Sound mode

What We Don't Like
  • Occasional sync issues

With their just-released Galaxy Buds, Samsung has a serious response to the Airpods' seamless connectivity experience. We’re giving the Galaxy Buds the runner-up spot here for two reasons: first, because the Apple ecosystem is more established and enthusiastic, and secondly because the Galaxy Buds are so new, that the jury is still out on how seamless their connectivity actually is after months of use. But they should work and switch well between all your Galaxy devices, from phone to smartwatch. Samsung has also enlisted AKG to help them tune the drivers in these speakers to offer really solid sound quality. And because you have AAC, SBC and Samsung’s reportedly more lossless Scalable codec, your music has the potential to hold up pretty well even after Bluetooth compression.

There’s Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity for the latest stability, intuitive touch controls, and an Ambient Sound mode for filtering in outside noise to keep you alert while walking and running. They also have a built-in accelerometer for monitoring workouts and tracking activity. Again, because these buds are so new, it remains to be seen what the real-world battery life actually is, but the built-in 58mAh battery and the extra 252mAh of juice in the case are in line with many of the best true wireless earbud options around. The new Galaxy Buds are available now, and you can pick them up in black, white, or our favorite: yellow. Our tester, Jason, was especially wowed by their quality finish and that aforementioned lengthy battery life.

"The premium case, top-notch battery life, and perfectly serviceable sound quality make the Galaxy Buds an amazing addition to an already crowded field." — Jason Schneider, Product Tester

Best Battery Life: Samsung Gear IconX (2018 Edition)

What We Like
  • Great sound

  • Amazing battery life

  • Strong connectivity

What We Don't Like
  • Requires the case to connect to smartphones

The updated version of Samsung’s Gear IconX makes many improvements over the first-generation model. This time, it nails the basics, like quality sound and a strong wireless connection. Where it blows us away, though, is in the battery life category. It boasts seven hours of continuous playback time when listening locally, though this is closer to five hours if you’re streaming over Bluetooth. On top of that, you can get up to an hour of juice in as little as 10 minutes via the charging case.

Samsung also packs on a slew of neat features for athletes, including compatibility with the Samsung Health app. This lets you track your runs through stats like distance, speed and calories burned. There’s also an audio coach that reads your current stats and even relays tips like “Lengthening your stride can increase your pace. Give it a try!” All in all, it strikes the sweet spot on features, making it one of our favorite pairs.

Best for Exercise: Jabra Elite Sport Earbuds

Jabra Elite Sport IP67
What We Like
  • Durable and waterproof

  • Good frequency response

  • Hear Through ambient mode

What We Don't Like
  • Sound quality slightly below the 65t

While the Jabra Elite 65t are a standout set of earbuds, when it comes to exercise, we're giving the edge to the brand's Elite Sport Earset—not just because they sport great quality, but also because they truly embrace the spirit of a wireless set of earphones.

The Elite Sport Earset puts athletes first with a handful of specialized features. First off, they're exceptionally durable and guarantee a waterproof design that protects them from sweat. Standing behind that promise is also a three-year warranty for added peace of mind. When it comes to performance, they offer solid sounds with nice oomph and enough frequency response to cover whatever music you’re listening to. One of the coolest standout features—and again, one that embraces the on-the-go nature of true wireless—is their “Hear Through” technology. Once you activate this mode, it’ll keep your music going, but will also use external-facing microphones to filter in outside sound and noise. This helps you to stay alert—an especially helpful feature when you're running, biking or walking in a busy area. 

Best Sound Quality: Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless Earbuds

Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 Earbuds
What We Like
  • Fantastic 7mm drivers

  • Top build quality

  • Handy built-in controls

What We Don't Like
  • Slightly underwhelming battery life

Sennheiser entered the true wireless headphone game in 2018, and even though they were late to the party, they introduced a stellar option for those most concerned about sound quality. The Momentum True Wireless Earbuds' 7mm driver is a good deal larger than those in competitor's models, allowing for a fuller, more well-rounded sound profile. The capacitors that connect the headphones to the charging points in the battery case are gold-plated, so clearly construction quality was also a priority. With four hours of battery life and an additional eight hours available in the charging case, the battery life isn’t the best we’ve seen, but the built-in controls are quite interesting. Sennheiser has employed a spinnable metal plate that lets you easily control your music or pull up your preferred voice assistant. There are four different sets of ear tips, so the customization of fit is pretty great, and with a nice light metallic gray color and a heathered case, the look of the set is pretty unique, too.

Best for Durability: Jaybird RUN True Wireless Headphones

What We Like
  • Great, comfy fit

  • Sweat resistant

  • Customizable sound profiles

What We Don't Like
  • Awkard pairing gesture control

For fitness fanatics, secure fit trumps most other features of true wireless headphones. After all, you don’t want to be fiddling with your earbuds every few steps and there’s no cord to prevent them from falling to the ground. The Jaybird RUN headphones solve this with a subtle fin design that hooks into the upper groove of your ear and rests so naturally that you’ll forget you’re wearing them. The sweat-resistant earphones also come with four sets of silicone tips as well as fin accessories, so you can find your perfect fit.

Beyond fit, runners will value the four-hour battery life, bolstered by an additional eight hours via the charging case. (In a hurry? You can get up to an hour’s worth of juice in just five minutes.) It pairs easily with a smartphone via Bluetooth and you can skip tracks by double-clicking the earbud button, though some complain that this gesture uncomfortably jams the bud into your ear canal. Still, they sound great for both music and podcasts and the sound profile can be customized with Jaybird’s mobile app.

Best Fit: Bose SoundSport Free

Bose Soundsport Free
What We Like
  • Three sizes for custom fit

  • Terrific sound across all tones

  • Impressive battery life

What We Don't Like
  • No noise isolation

Bose is known for creating comfortable headphones and the SoundSport Free are no exception. They come with three sizes of StayHear+ Sport tips, so you can find your preferred fit, and while they are designed mainly with athletes in mind, they work equally as well for daily use. Some customers who bought this product found the earbuds to be a bit bulky, but others concede that they just take getting used to.

As far as sound goes, they produce terrific mid-range sound, punchy bass and bright highs. The open design of the wingtips means they don’t create a noise-isolating seal, which can be annoying in a noisy environment but is helpful in staying aware of your surroundings. A single charge will score you an impressive five hours of battery life, and the charging case, albeit rather clunky, will extend that 10 additional hours. Perhaps best yet, you can track lost earbuds with the Bose Connect app's "Find My Buds" feature.

Final Verdict

The latest generation of Apple's AirPods remains the best overall pick for true wireless earbuds, mostly on the strength of their fantastic sound quality and seamless integration into an already vibrant Apple ecosystem. But Samsung's new Galaxy Buds Live (view on Amazon) offer strong competition with great sound reproduction, strong battery life, and noise cancellation; for Android owners, they're a no-brainer.

How We Tested

During the testing process for true wireless earbuds, our experts tried out our top picks by listening to music and making calls on a variety of mobile devices as well as their own computers. They keep track of the overall input and output quality, as well as paying attention to how long each earbud can last between charging.

About Our Trusted Experts

Before transitioning to a position as a content strategist for a tech startup, Meredith Popolo was a tech journalist with extensive expertise in Apple products and specifically with PC peripherals and accessories, particularly wireless earbuds.

Jeffrey Daniel Chadwick is a tech writer responsible for hundreds of tech documents across several top publications in the industry, and has tremendous experience with mobile audio accessories and peripherals.

Jason Schneider has been covering tech and media for almost ten years, and is an expert in audio equipment including earbuds and headphones. He's also written marketing copy for a number of industries like e-commerce and consumer electronics.

Rebecca Isaacs has been writing for Lifewire since 2019 to cover gadgets. She tested the Galaxy Buds Live, praising their numerous EQ settings and noise cancellation.

What to Look for in True Wireless Earbuds

Battery life - True wireless earbuds don’t have the battery life you’re used to from wired headphones. Five hours is considered good performance for wireless earbuds, though most come with charging cases that can double, or even triple, that amount. If you’d like to maximize battery life, it’s important to pay attention to that metric while looking.

Noise cancellation - Most wireless earbuds don’t sport noise cancelation features. But if you’re mainly using these earphones for traveling, then white noise and noise cancelation features may be important to you. Keep in mind that active noise cancelation can affect battery life, though.

Exercise - Are you going to be using your wireless earbuds to exercise? It makes sense; not being tethered to a smartphone is an ideal use case for true wireless earphones. However, these little buds are easy to lose, especially if you’re on a rigorous run. If you plan to work out, make sure you get a water-resistant pair with a snug and secure fit.

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