There was a time when avoiding true wireless earbuds made sense. Those early models suffered from a few conspicuous issues, after all, such as unstable wireless connections, an unsecure fit, and a higher price point than most folks were willing to spend. Fortunately, that’s all a thing of the past, with the past couple of years turning out models that did away with many of those old deficiencies.
Today, true wireless earbuds are hands-down the best option when it comes to portability, allowing you to enjoy your favorite playlists with the minimum of gear. Sure, there’s still the downside of the darn things being incredibly easy to lose, but they can stand toe-to-toe with any other wireless option when it comes to sound quality, stability, and modern tech conveniences.
Only problem is, the newfound popularity of true wireless earbuds means there are more models than ever competing for your attention. As such, if you’re having a hard time deciding on which one to get, this brief guide offers a primer on the best the category has to offer.
This model, along with its predecessor before it, is arguably the crowning glory of the category, effectively combining sound quality, ergonomic fit, and advanced features in a diminutive package. Does it have the best sound? That’s arguable. How about the best noise cancellation? Again, different people will have different takes. What this model does, however, is score high marks on every area, achieving high levels of performance across the board.
The sound? It’s clear and full-bodied, although you may have to fiddle with the companion app if the exact tuning isn’t exactly to your liking (by default, the bass and midrange frequencies tend to be more prominent). The fit is great, with the three sizes of memory foam ear tips able to cover most individuals and the companion app allowing you to test how well the fit works, although it is still quite big compared to some of the most compact models out there. Some people might even argue that the model has the best active noise canceling, although we’re quite partial to Bose’s Quietcomfort model for that.
Bose Quietcomfort Earbuds
Bose, pretty much, set the field for active noise cancelling in the category with the Quietcomfort, offering a model that drowned out ambient noise better than anything else in the market could hope to offer. Of course, things have changed quite a bit since then, with other outfits closing the gap, although the Quietcomfort’s ANC arguably remains the most stellar with its ability to eliminate both low- and high-frequency noise. Sound quality is pretty rich, too, with the active equalizer ensuring you hear the nuances, whether you’ve got the volume turned up or turned down, while taking phone calls on it is nothing short of enterprise-grade.
Two things, though, have held it back from dominating in the fast-evolving category: lower battery life (six hours onboard, 12 hours extra in the case) and a somewhat larger profile. If neither one is that big of an issue for you, this makes for a downright excellent pick.
Master & Dynamic MW08
If you don’t care about all these fancy features other models are touting and simply want the best-sounding option, you’ll definitely want to give the MW08 a listen. It’s no surprise, given the outfit’s penchant for appealing to audiophiles, but the clarity and detail its sound signature produces are downright unmatched, all while delivering a tight bass response that’s just outright satisfying. Not to mention, it creates a very wide soundstage – far bigger than you expect from such a compact earpiece.
The ear buds’ design matches the sound quality, too, with its premium-feeling ceramic and aluminum build, making it one of the more refined-looking options in the category. ANC is pretty average, so you’ll hear a decent amount of noise in crowded settings, although it does make up for it with a really long 12 hours of battery life and another 30 hours in the case.
Klipsch T5 II ANC
The original T5 II offered one of the best combinations of sound quality, premium build, and stylish looks in the category, although they suffered from one glaring flaw: the lack of noise cancelling. This model changes that, adding that critical ANC feature to the mix, along with a transparency mode and a smart noise shield feature that blocks out loud sudden noises even with the transparency mode running. Heck, they even added a bunch of gesture controls, including skipping a track by shaking your head. Sound remains stellar, with the new thinner diaphragm and Dirac HD refining it to an even greater clarity and crispness, with the eight-hour battery life getting you through a good chunk of the day (plus another 24 in the case).
Samsung Galaxy Buds 2
Do you own an Android smartphone? Do your musical tastes veer towards more popular, contemporary genres? Do you want true wireless earbuds at a relatively affordable price? Samsung’s Galaxy Buds 2 just might be your ideal pick, with its punchy sound profile, excellent ANC, and battery rating of up to 7.5 hours between charges (the case holds another 29 hours). It also comes with a decent amount of customization from the Android-only companion app (yep, no iOS option here), which allows you to perform fit tests, adjust EQ, and even customize the touch controls. The microphone has also gotten an upgrade from the Buds+, making it better for taking phone calls than its predecessor.
Apple AirPods Pro
You know AirPods have arrived once it became impossible not to see people walking with those stems hanging out of their ears. As popular as they were, there were plenty of complaints and the AirPods Pro addresses those very well. Sound quality has taken a big leap in this iteration, while the fit is a lot more secure and the noise canceling ranks up there with the higher-end of the lot. However, battery life remains limited at five hours maximum, with the charging case holding another 24 hours. Is it the best true wireless earbuds? While it’s great, it sits at a price range where better offerings abound. If you’re an Apple fan, though, we doubt that will do anything to discourage you from picking one up.