I test wireless earbuds for a living — and these are the best of 2023

Sony WF-1000XM5 hero shot with earbuds in white charging case

As audio editor, I get to listen to the best wireless earbuds in the world on a daily basis. 2023 has been one of the busiest years in my career so far, and as part of my job I've been lucky enough to listen to dozens of new wireless earbud releases (and updates) from some of the biggest names in audio, including Apple, Bose, Denon, Devialet, Google, Jabra, Samsung, Sony and Technics — to name a few.  

I have been lucky enough to get to try out wireless earbuds at all kinds of budgets. From the JLab JBuds Mini at $39 to Devialet's Gemini II at $449 (one of my best wireless earbuds for audiophiles), and every price point in between, there has been a constant stream of wireless earbuds arriving at my door, vying for my expert attention.

To keep up with the pace of new model launches, I'm constantly swapping wireless earbuds to ensure I don't become influenced by one particular sound or control platform. In fact, I regularly carry several pairs of wireless earbuds with me in my work bag for train commutes, as well as a couple of pairs of the best running headphones in my gym bag so that I don't get too familiar with one model's sound and features over another.

While I've enjoyed listening to them all, there are several designs that have stood out for their features and performance, and I wanted to share my expert opinion on my favorite designs this year. With prices spanning $249 to $449, they are all undeniably upmarket models. Each delivers excellent sound quality, strong noise-canceling and awesome features via their control apps though, and fulfilling that criteria really doesn't come cheap. Read on to discover my 3 favorite wireless earbuds of 2023.

1. Apple AirPods Pro 2 USB-C: Best for iOS   

Apple AirPods Por 2 USB-C in hand over a pool

(Image credit: Future)

Although the AirPods Pro 2 have been around since 2022, Apple released a USB-C version in September 2023. Already one of the best wireless earbuds for iOS users, the USB-C version brought the flagship earbuds in line with all others in terms of a universal charging port. While on the face of it the differences between the new USB-C and outgoing Lightning port charging case versions are slim, we're told that the updated version includes a modified acoustic architecture that will be compatible with Apple's new lossless audio protocol when it arrives on the Apple Vision Pro headset next year. 

Adaptive audio makes the AirPods Pro 2 one of the most intelligent pairs of wireless earbuds in 2023.

At the same time as the Pro 2 USB-C update, Apple rolled out Adaptive Audio features with iOS 17 — a suite of features that use machine learning to understand environmental conditions along with your listening preferences to make automatic transparency and noise-canceling mode adjustments accordingly. The adaptive audio suite of features make the AirPods Pro 2 one of the most intelligent pairs of wireless earbuds in 2023.

Other highlights include 2x the noise canceling performance versus the original AirPods Pro, a handy Transparency mode and up to 6 hours of battery life on a charge and an additional 30 hours via the included charging case. And if you have an iPhone 15 or iPhone 15 Pro, you can charge the new AirPods Pro via a USB-C cable attached to the handset. 

The AirPods Pro 2 with USB-C continue to offer a customizable fit via various silicone ear tips, and they are dust, sweat and water resistant. I also like that you can control the volume on the earbuds via the stem. What's more, the AirPods Pro 2 USB-C can already be found discounted to $199 at Amazon, and we saw them drop to $189 in November's Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales.

2. Sony WF-1000XM5: Best for Android

Sony WF-1000XM5 hero shot with earbuds in white charging case

Launched in July 2023 to replace the popular Sony WF-1000XM4, the XM5 flagship earbuds went straight to the top of our best wireless earbuds list thanks to their outstanding performance even at the slight increased price. They launched at $299 / £259 / AU$499 (although they can already be found discounted to $248 at Amazon). The redesigned ergonomic shape means the WF-1000XM5 wireless earbuds are smaller and lighter than their predecessor, yet come with even stronger features and improved performance. 

The Sony WF-1000XM5 are the best wireless earbuds for their balance of top-drawer features and sound quality.

As I said in my Sony WF-1000XM5 review, these really are the best wireless earbuds for their balance of top-drawer features and sound quality I've encountered this year. They offer outstanding levels of performance for Android phones thanks to their LDAC support that achieves greater data transfers over Bluetooth than rival aptX HD and aptX Adaptive codecs. 

Along with some of the most dynamic and engaging sound I've heard, their noise-canceling performance easily matches that of the Apple AirPods Pro 2, and is only just shy of the Bose QuietComfort Utra Earbuds (also released in 2023).

I've been using the new Sony earbuds constantly since they launched, and at 8 hours with ANC enabled, they outperform the AirPods Pro 2 in terms of battery life and are one of the longest lasting wireless earbuds I've encountered this year. Despite being very impressed by the new version though, not everything hit the mark on my first try.

The smaller and lighter design made the fit tricky to get right for my ears, and it took some time to achieve the optimum noise canceling experience. Thankfully, Sony's awesome Headphones Connect app came to the rescue via the eartip fit test to help me get the best fit and optimize performance for my ears. The Sony WF-1000XM5 wireless earbuds have the most comprehensive adaptive feature sets outside of Apple's ecosystem, and they come highly recommended for Sony Xperia 1 IV phone users.

3. Devialet Gemini II: Best for mind-blowing bass

Devialet Gemini II in white

(Image credit: Devialet)

At $449 / £349 (around AU$699), the Devialet Gemini II wireless earbuds are a very premium purchase. They're the most expensive earbuds I've tested this year, and although they aren't as well featured as either the Sony WF-1000XM5 wireless earbuds or the AirPods Pro 2 USB-C, they come with plenty of new tech to justify the price tag. 

If you enjoy high-quality bass that digs deeper than any other set of wireless earbuds, then the Devialet Gemini II are made for you.

That starts with a brand-new custom 10mm titanium coated driver fitted in each earbud, and Bluetooth 5.2 with aptX codec support. The design may look a bit bulky and unconventional by today's slender standards sported by many new versions, but these are some of the best-sounding wireless earbuds for bass that I've encountered. With all kinds of tunes including the 5 best bass tracks to show off a music system, I love the bass energy the Devialet Gemini II wireless earbuds bring to my music. 

These earbuds really got into the groove with pretty much everything I played. Their energetic sound really was quite remarkable, and if you enjoy high-quality bass that digs deeper than any other set of wireless earbuds, then the Devialet Gemini II are made for you. The sound is rich but controlled and nuanced all at the same time, allowing me to hear into the music and follow multiple stands of the mix.

As with my two other favorite wireless earbuds, they're equipped with adaptive noise cancelation technology, although it's not among the top performers to rank in our best noise canceling earbuds.

Devialet's Gemini app is a joy to use. Touch controls can be customized and it's one of the only control apps I've found with a left/right balance control. It's a nice touch, but I'm not entirely sure of its value. Battery life is nothing to rave about at 5 hours of playback on a single battery charge, and 22 hours with the charging case. The 'buds are IPX4-rated for water resistance, which is pretty standard. Nevertheless, these wireless earbuds are built for those who like big driving bass beats without compromising other parts of the sound.

More from Tom's Guide

Lee Dunkley
Audio Editor

As a former editor of the U.K.'s Hi-Fi Choice magazine, Lee is passionate about all kinds of audio tech and has been providing sound advice to enable consumers to make informed buying decisions since he joined Which? magazine as a product tester in the 1990s. Lee covers all things audio for Tom's Guide, including headphones, wireless speakers and soundbars and loves to connect and share the mindfulness benefits that listening to music in the very best quality can bring.

  • BAFLGV60
    Guess they never heard of Peerless Audio or STATUS earbuds. The Between Pro True Wireless earbuds are by far and superior when compared to all of these. Check the specs and triple driver design over at STATUS audio. I test ear buds and headphones, and by the way these are more attainable because of there price. The selection components are unique with nothing coming close in audio quality. If you want to compare something to the competitors mentioned in this, then try Status Audio's Between or ANC3 earbuds. Or just check the AIRBUD 3's. Guess where flopple stole there AIR mame from. Any way i said enough. Just check out Status between Pro's or the ANC3 if anything. You'll know what i mean once you hear them. Nothing comes close to the audio from be this company.
    How can someone that tests earbuds for a living, have airpods pro 2 at the top of the list? These things are defective! Every single pair that I have owned have ended up with crackling/static noises, sometimes, even after only 3 months of use!

    Apple knows about this defect, but has continued to sell these things for years now, without fixing the problem. I have returned so many pairs. I finally got tired of it and just gave up trying. It's unfortunate to see a self-proclaimed expert in the field pushing these as top pick.
  • GHL
    Has anyone else heard of Status Audio. These are the best earbuds I have ever used. Deep bass, great depth of sound and good features for a solid price. Live them.