The 9 Best True Wireless Earbuds of 2021

Ditch the wires once and for all

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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.

The Rundown
The latest generation of Jabra’s Elite line builds on the quality with dedicated ANC.
Their pairing and connectivity are second to none.
The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live take audio quality to a new level, incorporating noise cancelling, improved bass, and a new, comfortable design.
Great sound, insane battery life, and a very attractive price tag.
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.
While they are designed mainly with athletes in mind, they work equally as well for daily use.
With rich, powerful, detailed sound but virtually no bells and whistles, these earbuds are for a very specific listener.
The latest true wireless offering from Bose offers next-level sound quality.
Best Workout:
Motorola Tech3 at Amazon
This unique product gives you the option to wear these earbuds with a true wireless, sport loop , or even fully wired .

Best Overall: Jabra Elite 85t

Jabra Elite 85t
What We Like
  • Excellent build quality

  • Impeccable battery life

  • User-friendly app

  • Decent, customizable sound

  • Wireless charging case

What We Don't Like
  • Not as comfortable as some other earbuds

  • A tad pricey

  • No aptX codec

The Elite 85t earbuds are the latest offering in the true wireless space from Jabra. As a brand that made its name with Bluetooth headsets and phone peripherals, it’s perhaps interesting to see them claiming so much of the music-centric headphone market. The 85ts bring with them some really nice improvements on what Jabra has built in the past few years. For starters, the earbuds sound just plain great, with powerful 11mm drivers and a lifelike sound quality for most styles of listening. This sound quality can be even further improved by using the Sound+ app to customize the EQ and even create a sound profile tailored to the specific idiosyncrasies of your ears.

The newest generation comes with an improved active noise cancellation that uses a dedicated processor chip to filter out noise to a precise, 6-band EQ level. You can also pass through ambient sound via the HearThrough function, making these great for walking around busy areas or hearing your coworkers (when you want) in an office environment. The battery life is also quite impressive, with 7 hours of listening in the earbuds and 24 more hours via the battery charging case.

Those totals go down if ANC is activated, but either way, they’re reliable. USB-C fast charging is here, and the case can even be charged wirelessly with Qi-enabled charging pads. The whole package goes for around $230, so it’s certainly not a budget product, but with excellent IPX4 build quality, a sleek, subtle, business-friendly design, and tons of software-based customization, these headphones are definitely worth the premium price point.

"This year, Jabra has doubled down with a dedicated noise-canceling chip with what they’re promising are six bands of EQ analysis to better cancel out specific parts of the noise spectrum that are around you." Jason Schneider, Product Tester

Best for Apple: Apple Airpods (2nd Generation)

Apple AirPods (Second 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

Best for Samsung: Samsung Galaxy Buds Live

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 Budget: Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 In-Ear Headphones

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 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 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.

Best Basic: Sennheiser CX 400BT True Wireless

Sennheiser CX 400BT
What We Like
  • Truly excellent sound quality

  • Fairly decent battery life

  • Pretty affordable when on sale

  • aptX codecs included

What We Don't Like
  • Lackluster design

  • Less-than premium build quality

  • Limited, no frills feature set

The Sennheiser CX400BT true wireless earbuds are a simple, reasonably priced pair of earbuds that sound just plain incredible. Sennheiser’s audio prowess is on full display here with an impressive frequency response (5Hz - 21kHz) and impressively powerful 7mm drivers tuned by Sennheiser pros. This makes for an honest, detailed, powerful music listening experience. There’s also Bluetooth 5.1 for great connectivity and even the upscaled aptX codec to ensure your music isn’t completely downgraded from Bluetooth compression. There’s even pretty solid battery life, with around 7 hours of listening on one single charge of the earbuds, and a total of 20 hours when you factor in the battery case.

It isn’t all good news, though. If you want a lot of features in your earbuds, you just won’t find them here. There’s no active noise cancellation, no transparency mode, and no fancy proximity sensors to auto-detect your ears. What’s more, is the plastic used on the earbuds looks and feels a little cheaper than you might want, and with no official IP rating, they aren’t ideal for heavy precipitation. But, for the price, the value provided on the sound quality alone is great here. If a great listening experience is your number one priority, then you should totally consider this option.

"In keeping with the focus on great sound quality, the Bluetooth technology packed into these earbuds fully supports the experience." Jason Schneider, Product Tester

Best Design: Bose QuietComfort Earbuds

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds
What We Like
  • Rich, detailed sound

  • Truly impressive active noise cancellation

  • Premium design

  • Solid build quality and comfortable to wear

What We Don't Like
  • Fairly pricey

  • Lackluster battery life

  • No aptX

The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds are an impressive new entry into the truly wireless earbud space. This product category has become increasingly crowded in recent years, so it has become harder and harder for manufacturers to differentiate themselves, even for a top-tier brand like Bose. The QC earbuds make for a really compelling package nonetheless. With remarkable active noise cancellation and the clear, detailed, powerful sound that Bose is known for, from a listening experience perspective, these earbuds are top-notch. They do feel a little quiet at times--most likely due to Bose’s adaptive Active EQ--but that’s a small price to pay for excellent ANC and truly detailed sound.

The rest of what you might hope for is here, too: a beautiful design that is both rugged for workouts (thanks to the IPX4 water resistance) and premium to go with the rest of your stylish tech. There’s Bluetooth 5.1 for really stable sound, and the Bose app provides a really solid level of control for when you want to customize the amount of ANC or you want to personalize what the touch controls do. It’s not all perfect though.

With only 6 hours of use on a single charge and a battery case that only holds about 12 hours of use, these aren’t the best earbuds for battery life by a long shot. The price tag is up there with some of the most expensive earbuds on the market. But if Bose is your thing and your most important features are sound quality and ANC, these really are some of the best truly wireless buds available right now.

"The active noise cancellation on the QC earbuds is truly one of the best noise-canceling experiences I’ve had with earbuds." Jason Schneider, Product Tester

Best Workout: Motorola Tech3 Headphones

Motorola Tech3 Headphones
What We Like
  • Ultra-unique, 3-in-1 build

  • Surprisingly good sound quality

  • Decent battery life

  • Really affordable

What We Don't Like
  • Cheap-feeling build quality

  • Lackluster mics for phone calls

  • Awkward design

The Motorola Tech3 Bluetooth earbuds make for one of the most interesting takes on true wireless devices. That’s because, in truth, these are more than just true wireless earbuds. This package comes complete with a set of two different cables--one that connects the earbuds to each other into a Bluetooth “Sports Loop” format, and another that connects it to a 3.5mm jack. This means that you effectively get three different styles of headphones in one, letting you wear true wireless buds when you don’t want to mess with wires and plugging in wired earbuds when you want to use a DAC or a headphone amp. This is, on paper, the best of all worlds when it comes to earbuds.

While this is a neat little trick, the actual offering here is a mixed bag. The build quality feels slightly cheap, with thin plastic used on the charging case (which also doubles as a way to wrap your cables and take them with you). The design also feels a little dated, with giant circular enclosures that fill up your whole ear and a hockey-puck-shaped case that won’t fit into your bag as easily as something like AirPods.

On the other hand, the earbuds themselves sound surprisingly good for the price, even in Bluetooth modes, and because you can plug them in, you’ll be able to listen to lossless music, uncompressed. The battery life is pretty solid, too, with 7 hours of listening afforded by the buds themselves and an additional 11 hours with the battery case (though you can always plug them in if you run out of juice). A lot of the drawbacks can be forgiven for the price point, though. So if you like the idea of having options on the form factor of your earbuds, this is a great deal, and honestly, it’s the only product like it on the market.

"One of the most surprising aspects of the Motorola Tech3s is just how good they sound for typical music listening." Jason Schneider, Product Tester

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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