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The best wireless earbuds in 2021

Best wireless earbuds
(Image credit: Regan Coule/Tom's Guide)

The best wireless earbuds aren’t just a chance to ditch wires. They’re hands-free multitaskers, capable of taking voice commands for digital assistants just as well effectively as they can deliver crisp sound quality. Some are even starting to include advanced features like digital surround sound and active noise cancellation.

 This is also a market that’s exploded recently, so in addition to wireless earbud champions like Apple and Jabra, expect to see buds from established audio veterans like Bose and Sony as well. And there are many more wireless earbuds to come, such as the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro, so we’ll be updating this list with those that prove worthy of joining the best.

What are the best wireless earbuds?

The technology behind wireless earbuds has improved markedly, and now they have become as ubiquitous as wired headphones. The very best wireless earbuds offer long battery life, great sound, and call quality, and some noise cancellation, as well as water- and sweat-resistance, so you can use them for working out without worrying about damage. And the best wireless earbuds rise to the top of the list fit comfortably within your ears and don’t budge while you’re running or working out.

After reviewing dozens of models, the best set of wireless earbuds overall is the Jabra Elite Active 75t thanks to its customizable fit, personalized sound, passive noise cancellation, and waterproof protection. The AirPods Pro is a close second with built-in active noise cancellation, seamless iOS integration, easy-to-use controls, and sweat resistance.

For extremely effective noise cancellation, try Bose's all-new QuietComfort Earbuds. And if you’re a fitness junkie, the Beats Powerbeats Pro features well-balanced sound and a stable, comfortable fit. And keep an eye out for Samsung’s Galaxy Buds Pro, which are expected to debut in January.

The best wireless earbuds to buy now

Best wireless earbuds: Jabra Elite Active 75t

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Tom's Guide)

1. Jabra Elite Active 75t

The best wireless earbuds overall

Size: 0.8 x 0.7 x 0.6 inches | Weight: 0.19 ounces (per bud) | Battery life (rated): 7.5 hours; 28 hours (with charging case) | Bluetooth range: 30 feet (10 meters) | Special features: Active and passive noise cancellation, customizable EQ, fully waterproof

Crisp and well-balanced audio
Sleek, waterproof design
Strong battery life
Active and passive noise cancellation
Can get extremely loud at max volume

The market’s best wireless earbuds (and best sport headphones) just got better, thanks to a free over-the-air ANC update that adds active noise cancellation into the mix. Don’t think that you’re going to get Bose-caliber results, or anything close to what the more premium Elite 85t delivers, but Jabra did do an impressive job tweaking its algorithm to block out a good amount of external sounds.

Even before the inclusion of ANC, the Elite Active 75t proved itself as the model to beat, offering better battery life, durability, sound, and special features than its biggest threat: the AirPods Pro. The design remains sleek, though it is sturdier this time around, with IP57 certification granting waterproof protection and dust and sweat resistance. Sound is lively and can be customized through the Jabra Sound+ app, which is loaded with presets and other cool features that enhance both sound and call quality.

Read our full Jabra Elite Active 75t review.

Best wireless earbuds: AirPods Pro

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2. Apple AirPods Pro

Best wireless earbuds for Apple users

Size: 1.2 x 0.9 x 0.9 inches | Weight: 0.19 ounces (per bud) | Battery life (rated): 4.5 hours; 24 hours (with charging case) | Bluetooth range: 800 feet | Special features: Active noise cancellation, “Hey Siri” support, spatial audio

Great active noise cancelling
Easy to use controls
Comfortable fit
Great sound
Battery life could be longer

It’s pretty amazing how Apple continues to enhance the performance of its noise-cancelling earbuds through software updates, and if it keeps up the good work, then the AirPods Pro could climb its way back to the top of our best wireless earbuds list. Spatial audio is an incredible addition that creates a 3D-like soundscape to enjoy movies and video games a whole lot better. Even simple, but practical, inclusions like auto-switching make a noticeable difference with functionality, allowing users to easily switch between iDevices that are connected to the same iCloud account.

The great news is that without the latest iOS 14 updates, the AirPods Pro still operate at a top-tier level, thanks to improved sound, strong ANC, a more ergonomic design for better comfort and fit, and all of the perks that come with the H1 chip.  If there is any complaint to be made, it’s the same one every Apple fan has voiced since the first-gen AirPods hit the market, that being the subpar battery life.

Read our full Apple AirPods Pro review.

best wireless earbuds: Jabra Elite 85t

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Tom's Guide)

3. Jabra Elite 85t

Top-tier sound and noise cancellation

Size: 0.91 x 0.75 x 0.64 inches | Weight: 0.25 ounces (per bud) | Battery life (rated): 5.5 hours (ANC on), 7.5 hours (ANC off), 24 hours (with charging case and ANC on), 28 hours (with charging case and ANC off) | Bluetooth range: 35 feet (10 meters) | Special features: Adjustable ANC, customizable EQ, wireless charging

Bold, dynamic sound
Strong active noise cancellation
Lots of personalization features via companion app
Robust spec sheet
Middling battery life

The follow-up to our favorite pair of wireless earbuds is a sonic beast equipped with 12mm drivers that produce loud, well-balanced audio and some of the finest noise neutralization we’ve heard in the category. Jabra’s ANC technology is capable of blocking out 90% of external sounds, allowing for disruption-free listening and audible calls. The Elite 85t connects to the Sound+ app to extend functionality, offering up a plethora of special features that range from adjustable noise cancellation to customizable controls. Connectivity is stable too, thanks to Bluetooth 5.0 and Qualcomm’s fast-operating processor. 

We feel Jabra could have done more to increase playtimes, as the Elite 85t falls right in between the AirPods Pro (4.5 hours) and Bose QuietComfort Earbuds (6 hours). However, the buds have terrific battery management that squeezes every minute out of the battery. The inclusion of wireless charging is appreciated as well.

best wireless earbuds: Bose QuietComfort Earbuds

(Image credit: Brian Coule/Tom's Guide)

4. Bose QuietComfort Earbuds

Best noise-cancelling wireless earbuds

Size: 1.54 x 1.02 x 1.06 inches | Weight: 0.3 ounces (per bud) | Battery Life (Rated): 6 hours, 18 hours (with charging case) | Bluetooth range: 35 feet (10 meters) | Special features: Adjustable ANC, Bluetooth 5.1, Self Voice mode for enhancing calling

Unbeatable ANC
Excellent call quality
Dynamic sound
Strong, reliable connectivity
Battery life is shorter than advertised

A title once held by the remarkable Sony WF-1000xM3, the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds are now considered the best noise-cancelling wireless earbuds. How Bose managed to give its flagship buds almost the same ANC technology as the Bose 700, with half the mics, is an engineering feat. Distractions will go unheard, as you enjoy media (e.g. music, videos, IG clips) with rich, well-balanced sound. The buds are even capable of blending ANC with ambient listening, giving you full awareness of your surroundings with the utmost precision; external noises sound clearer and are less harsh on the ears. What you’ll appreciate most is call quality because Bose’s powerful mic array does a phenomenal job of picking up loud, crisp-sounding vocals, while minimizing background fracas at the highest level.

We do wish Bose optimized battery life better, especially since the listening modes take up a lot of power and the massive charging case holds a shorter amount of playtime than the AirPods Pro’s case. 

Read our full Bose QuietComfort Earbuds review.

Best wireless earbuds: Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus

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5. Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus

Excellent feature-laden Android buds

Size: 0.7 x 0.75 x 0.8 inches | Weight: 0.22 ounces | Battery life (rated): 11 hours; 22 hours (with charging case) | Bluetooth range: 120 feet (36 meters) | Special features: Ambient listening mode, multiple EQs, reverse wireless charging

Solid overall sound
Lengthy battery life (on a single charge)
Improved call quality
Innovative wireless features
Charging cases only offers one extra charge

The Galaxy Buds Plus may have been overshadowed by their noise-cancelling brethren, the Galaxy Buds Live, but don’t confuse that for superiority, as these are the better true wireless value. Battery life is rated at 11 hours, which is 3 hours longer than the Galaxy Buds Live and more than double the playtime of the AirPods. The wireless charging case adds an extra 22 hours to the equation. We also found the call quality, passive noise reduction, and ambient listening mode more reliable.

Samsung’s Galaxy Wearable app extends functionality with some cool software perks. The most serviceable are the EQ settings (normal, bass boost, soft, dynamic, clear, treble boost), along with one-touch Spotify activation to instantly pull up any favorited playlist from the streaming service. Having the Find My Earbuds is clutch as well for locating misplaced buds. Lastly, we’re smitten with the sexy colorways: White, Black, Light Blue, Red, and Aura Blue.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus review.
  

Best wireless earbuds: Beats Powerbeats Pro

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Tom's Guide)

6. Beats Powerbeats Pro

Top-tier fitness earbuds with energetic sound

Size and Weight: 1.1 x 1 x 0.9 inches, 0.7 ounces | Battery life (rated): 9 hours; 24 hours (with charging case) | Bluetooth range: 33 feet (10 meters) | Special features: Automatic switching, Fast Fuel charging, sweat resistance

Magically seamless setup
Long battery life
Well-balanced sound
Comfortable, stable fit for running
Bulky charging case

One of our top picks for the best sport headphones, the Powerbeats Pro is everything you have always wanted from Beats on the wireless audio front. The bass-forward sound profile is balanced extremely well, meaning your eardrums will still be on the receiving end of some hard-hitting sonic booms, while taking in crisp mids. Apple’s H1 processor brings over many of the performance perks found on the AirPods Pro, including seamless pairing, automatic switching, and “Hey Siri” voice activation. More features may also be on the horizon via future iOS 14 updates.

But let’s talk about the real star of the show: battery life. A good 9 hours of use on a single charge is the most we’ve seen in the sporty wireless earbuds sub-category, plus you get an extra 24 hours from the massive charging case. Fast Fuel technology will also earn you 1.5 hours of playback on a 15-minute charge. We can’t forget about the wrap-around-the-ear design either, a clutch element that ensures the buds remain put when performing lateral workouts.

Read our full Powerbeats Pro Review.

Best wireless earbuds: Google Pixel Buds 2

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7. Google Pixel Buds 2

Smart buds with excellent Google integration

Size: 0.8 x 0.7 x 0.7 inches | Weight: 0.18 ounces | Battery life (rated): 5 hours, 24 hours (with charging case) | Bluetooth range: 300 feet (91 meters) | Special features: Adaptive sound, “Hey Google” support, real-time translation

Works flawlessly with Google's ecosystem
Ultramodern design
Vastly improved sound
Fast, wireless charging
Same  battery life as the AirPods 

Google’s first-ever true wireless model has impressed the critics, including us, enough to be featured on our best wireless earbuds list. The Pixel Buds 2 live up to the promise of what the original should have been, Android-friendly buds that offer an amazing Google experience and nail the basics. Google made several upgrades on both the inside and outside, going completely wireless with a stylish, comfy design that sits flush on the ears, while creating custom-designed 12mm dynamic drivers that pump out warm, rich sound. Though their biggest selling point is the flawless Google integration that grants users access to Google Assistant (and its hundreds of commands) and Translate wherever they want, as well as instant pairing to Android devices.

It’s a bummer to see these buds share the same battery life as the AirPods Pro (with ANC on), but the attractive 24-hour charging case and insane quick-charging technology (10 minutes = 2 hours) helps remedy this. And just recently, 9to5Google discovered that the Google Pixel 5 will have its own automated reverse wireless charging feature that may let you juice up the Pixel Buds by placing the charging case on the back of the smartphone.

See our full Google Pixel Buds 2 review.  

Best wireless earbuds: Sony WF-1000xM3

(Image credit: Sony )

8. Sony WF-1000XM3

Superb noise cancellation with Sony sound

Size: 5.6 x 4.7 x 2.5 inches | Weight: 0.3 ounces | Battery life (rated): 6 hours (NC on), 8 hours (NC off) | Bluetooth range: 30 feet (10 meters) | Special features: Active noise cancellation, customizable EQ, NFC

Stellar audio performance
Great noise cancellation
Serviceable app with lots of features
Touch controls could use some work
Poor call quality

Boasting an estimated six hours of battery life (with ANC on) and a stylish, elegant design, the Sony WF-1000XM3 richly deserve a spot on our best wireless earbuds list. They successfully combine great audio quality with impressive noise cancellation.  Deep, rich bass and tonal balance give the buds an edge over the competition. 

The Sony WF-1000xM3 is built specifically for casual listening, not fitness, since the casing doesn't support water-resistant protection. Still, the earbuds are incredibly comfortable, with each bud weighing practically nothing at 0.3 ounces. While the tap gestures don’t operate as well as they do on AirPods, Sony does offer a great free app. Listeners have the option to play with the built-in EQ and create their own sound profile or choose from nine different presets as well as adjust the ambient sound levels. And what’s this about the WF-1000xM3 supporting aptX HD? Well, there’s a rumor floating around that these buds might receive an update for wireless streaming on Hi-Res Audio codecs, which would definitely increase its value in the category.

Read our full Sony WF-1000XM3 earbuds review.

best wireless earbuds: Jabra Elite 75t

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Tom's Guide)

9. Jabra Elite 75t

High performance in super-compact form

Size: 0.8 x 0.7 x 0.6 inches | Weight: 0.19 ounces (per bud) | Battery life (rated): 7.5 hours; 28 hours (with charging case) | Bluetooth range: 30 feet (10 meters) | Special features: Active and passive noise cancellation, customizable EQ, water resistant

Active and passive noise cancellation
Great soundstage via customizable EQ settings
Smaller, attractive design
Mediocre call quality
Digital assistant needs work

The Jabra Elite 75t re-enters the rankings for one reason alone: active noise cancellation. But, wait, this model never launched with the feature? That’s correct. However, Jabra released a free over-the-air update that added ANC to these top-notch earbuds, which works surprisingly well, and is better than the noise neutralization update that was given to the Elite Active 75t. Then there are the other hallmarks that make the Elite 75t a superb option, including the sleeker design, dust and water resistance, and bass-forward sound that can also be customized through the Jabra Sound+ app.

You’ll discover some other cool features in the app as well that enhance the user experience such as MySound and MyControls. The former performs a hearing test that tailors sound to your hearing, while the latter lets you customize and expand the controls on both earbuds. With price drops occurring more frequently as we head into Christmas, you’d be foolish not to gift these to someone, or yourself.

Read our full Jabra Elite 75t review.

best wireless earbuds: Bose Sport Earbuds

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Tom's Guide)

10. Bose Sport Earbuds

The best Bose sport earbuds

Size: 0.74 x 1.05 x 0.83 inches | Weight: 0.24 ounces (per bud) | Battery life (rated): 5 hours, 15 hours (with charging case) | Bluetooth range: 30 feet (10 meters) | Special features:: Bluetooth 5.1, in-ear detection, sweat and weather resistant

Well-balanced audio
Stable and sturdy design
Super-compact charging case
Short battery life
Feels uncomfortable after an hour of use

Bose products are always popular, and if you’re someone who loves the brand and you need a pair of sporty earbuds to join you on outdoor runs, then we suggest the all-new Sport Earbuds. They come with a smaller, more comfy design than the QC Earbuds, plus the same dependable wireless performance and similar sound. Many will find the punchy bass just right for stimulating a second wind during long, tough workouts. The extra set of ear tips helps to establish a proper fit too.

It is disappointing to see that battery life is basically the same as the AirPods and the exclusion of a transparency mode doesn’t make much sense, especially since it has become standard on modern models. But knowing Bose’s commitment to improving new releases, that doesn’t mean we won’t see this mode added in a firmware update, or so we can only hope.

How to choose the best wireless earbuds for you

PICKING THE BEST HEADPHONES AND EARBUDS STYLES

Take a look at Tom’s Guide’s comprehensive guides for the best headphones and earbuds you can buy, across every major category and price point.

·      Best Noise Cancelling Headphones

·      Best Cheap Wireless Earbuds

·      Best Headphones

·      Best Fake AirPods

·      Best Running Headphones

·      Best Wireless Headphones

·      Best Cheap Running Headphones

·      Best Cheap Wireless Headphones 

·      Best Cheap Noise-Cancelling Headphones

·      Best Cheap Headphones

·      Best Cheap Earbuds

With so many wireless earbud options to choose from, you may find it difficult to settle on one. There are several factors to weigh, and which one is most important depends on personal preference.

One factor to consider is fit. How comfortable is the earbud in your ear? Do the earbuds come with different sized tips so you can adjust them to your ear? The fit of wireless earbuds becomes even more crucial if you want to use them while working out. And if that's the case, water and sweat-resistance is another factor to consider.

Battery life is also key in choosing the best wireless earbuds. Check out the rated battery life and whether any carrying case comes with the earbuds to provide additional power. Then there's sound quality of both music and phone calls, which you can determine from reviews by professional testers and people who've bought the earbuds.

And of course, price is a big consideration. If you can splurge, you have a wider array of choices. But if you need to be budget-conscious, you may want to go with lower-priced brands or with older generations of wireless earbuds.

How we test wireless earbuds

In determining the best wireless earbuds, we consider fit, battery life, sound quality, design and value (are they worth the price?). We also factor in features like how well the controls work and how easily the earbuds pair with phones.

In terms of audio, we listen to many sample tracks that span a number of genres, including hip-hop, rock, jazz, classical and R&B, while evaluating volume, clarity and fullness. We also make phone calls to assess both call quality and microphone performance.

During the testing phase, our reviewers wear each pair of headphones for hours at a time throughout the course of a week. Reviewers will make note of battery life and how well it matches the rated battery life provided by earbud makers. 

We evaluate earbuds based on our five-point system (1 = worst, 5 = best). If a product hits nearly every mark, it’s awarded an Editors' Choice badge.