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The best wireless earbuds for every situation

No cords to tangle, no problem.
The best wireless earbuds for every situation Credit: Pexels

Best For Earbuds
Pros & Cons
The Good
Decent sound Fantastic noise cancellation Water resistant Comfortable thanks to ear tip test Made for syncing
The Bad
Battery life isn't the greatest Expensive option
The Bottomline
If you need an easy set of earbuds that are perfect for taking on regular travels, these are the ones for you.
Best For Flexibility
Pros & Cons
The Good
Distinctive shape Highly functional, feature-packed Wireless PowerShare from Galaxy devices Handily lightweight Spotify integration
The Bad
Low waterproof rating A bit of sound leakage
The Bottomline
Durable and highly customisable earbuds. Even Apple devotees can get behind them.
Best For Running
Pros & Cons
The Good
Beats sound, Apple tech Purpose built for running Good battery life Great fit that holds firm Seamless connectivity
The Bad
Bulky case No noise cancellation
The Bottomline
A few oversights prevent these from being the complete package, but for running earbuds, they're advanced and offer high levels of performance.
Best For Comfort
Pros & Cons
The Good
Adjustable noise cancellation Voice assistant connectivity Semi-open design for comfort Great sound and call quality Plenty of colour choices
The Bad
Middling battery life
The Bottomline
They may not get the same mainstream cred as AirPods, but Jabra's long-lasting earbuds are excellent.
Best For Sound
Pros & Cons
The Good
Premium, upgraded tech Excellent Sony sound Clear voice calls Very smart app Fast multipoint pairing
The Bad
A touch wobbly in the ears Top brand, top price
The Bottomline
Nothing is truly perfect but these come close — the best all-round buds that money can buy.
Best For Running
Pros & Cons
The Good
IP68 waterproof Sweat and dust proof Fast charging from case Best in class battery Various ANC modes
The Bad
Too bass-heavy for some
The Bottomline
Running earbuds that are hard to beat — particularly for sound quality, endurance, and reliability.
Best For Android
Pros & Cons
The Good
Cool Google features Very fast charging Nice aesthetic
The Bad
Poor volume control system Lack of noise cancellation
The Bottomline
While they lack some details that feel standard for earbuds, they make up for it with unique Google features and very good sound.
Best For Battery
Pros & Cons
The Good
Massive battery life Precision-perfect sound Range of pre-set EQ levels Transparency mode Selection of tips for customisable fit
The Bad
Only passive noise cancelling
The Bottomline

This content originally appeared on Mashable for a US audience and has been adapted for the UK audience.

We all know the pain of untangling your headphones. It's like some ludicrous puzzle that we must solve every single day. It’s the curse of owning wired headphones — so infuriating that someone once did a scientific study into why it happens.

Perhaps that’s why the top audio brands have largely ditched the classic headphone jack and moved towards almost exclusive wireless listening. Well, that and the ever-evolving technology. Unsurprisingly, wireless earbuds have risen in popularity and become a must-have bit of tech for busy and active lifestyles.

What are wireless earbuds?

Just like a pair of standard wired buds, these little guys fit snugly inside your ear's concha (that's the shell-shaped cavity right next to the entrance of your ear canal). But instead of sending digital audio signals through a cord, they transmit them via a wireless connection.

What is true wireless?

True wireless is a term you’ll come across a lot when researching and shopping for earbuds. Technically, earbuds fall into several categories. For instance, “wireless” earbuds connect to each other via a cord, while “true wireless” have no cord whatsoever — they are completely independent of each other and your device. True wireless headphones can use different types of wireless technology to transmit the sound into your ears. The most common form is Bluetooth.

With brands and listeners favouring true wireless, we’ve followed suit — all the earbuds in this roundup are true wireless.

Are earbuds better than headphones?

If portability and a lower price point appeals to you, you'll probably prefer wireless earbuds over the on-ear counterpart (wireless headphones). And luckily for you, Apple is no longer the only major brand cranking them out. From Bose to Beats, almost every audio brand has got a couple of wireless earbud offerings on the market nowadays.

Headphones are generally considered the go-to option for serious audiophiles. But there are earbuds geared towards high-quality sound that can match up to over-ear headphones at the same price point. Wireless sound quality is affected by factors such as distance and obstructions between your headphones and device, and the codec software that your headphones support.

What are Bluetooth codecs?

Codecs are algorithms that encode and decode digital audio signals. Look out for earbuds with low latency (this is the time it takes for the sound to hit your ears) and support for Qaulcomm’s aptX codecs. These are the best, most up-to-date codecs — particularly for streaming video content and keeping the image and audio in sync. This is important if you’re a Netflix nerd or have a passion for Prime.

What is noise cancellation?

Noise cancellation is another important feature in tech-savvy headphones. There are two kinds of noise cancellation — passive and active noise cancelling. Passive noise cancellation is achieved by the design of the headphones, which may physically block out noise. Active noise cancellation (ANC) uses a system of small microphones which pick up external sounds and create anti-noise sound waves to cancel them out.

Earbuds tend to offer some level of passive noise cancellation because of their in-ear design. But some also have specific ANC modes, such as "transparency mode" which allow select ambient sounds to seep in. A transparency mode is especially useful when listening out for announcements at the train station or talking to colleagues — all without having to stop your music every 30 seconds.

What are the best wireless earbuds?

All of these options can make for a tricky decision when it comes to finding the right pair of wireless earbuds in terms of fit, style, and intended use. That's why we've done the research to bring you the best wireless earbuds featuring the latest Bluetooth technology. There should be something for everyone at every budget on this list, including popular models from top brands. All you need to do is pick a favourite pair.

These are the best wireless earbuds in 2023.

Apple AirPods Pro

Best For Earbuds

The good
Decent sound Fantastic noise cancellation Water resistant Comfortable thanks to ear tip test Made for syncing
The Bad
Battery life isn't the greatest Expensive option
The Bottomline
If you need an easy set of earbuds that are perfect for taking on regular travels, these are the ones for you.
Specs
  • Battery Life: Up to 6 hours
  • Colours: White
  • Noise cancellation: Yes
  • True Wireless: Yes

AirPods have been the iPhone standard for several years now. And if it’s time for you to upgrade, the AirPods Pro step things up by refining the sound and packing in extra tiny mics for improved ANC.

Those mics are impressively smart. They scan your ears to ensure the AirPods fit properly (you get a selection of small, medium, and large tips). If you’re someone who tends to have a problem with earbuds dislodging and falling out, the AirPods Pro are sure to fix that problem. They hold very firm. Even better, they live up to the ‘Air’ moniker — so lightweight you’ll barely notice they’re in.

To activate noise cancellation and playback features, just give the stems a little squeeze. There’s a mildly frustrating design quirk — you have to control the volume on your phone (or by asking Siri, which isn’t always practical in public). The sound itself has punchy bass and vocals. They’re great for contemporary music, though it's fair to say that no one buys Apple products expecting the most nuanced, detailed, or audiophile-pleasing sounds.?

Other features include IPX4 water resistance (though don’t be mistaken: these are not the best option for working out), ANC transparency mode, and a charging case that will give your AirPods 30 hours’ worth of power overall. ?

Samsung Galaxy Buds Live

Best For Flexibility

The good
Distinctive shape Highly functional, feature-packed Wireless PowerShare from Galaxy devices Handily lightweight Spotify integration
The Bad
Low waterproof rating A bit of sound leakage
The Bottomline
Durable and highly customisable earbuds. Even Apple devotees can get behind them.
Specs
  • App Support: Yes
  • Battery Life: 6 hours
  • Battery with Charging Case: Up to 7 hours
  • Noise cancellation: Yes

The Apple and Samsung rivalry runs deep. There's no doubt that Galaxy users will get the most from these Galaxy Buds Live but iPhone users will also enjoy them. Especially if you enjoy personalising the user experience.

For starters, Samsung's Galaxy Wearables app is a must-download. It allows you to tweak your Buds' touchpad controls, adjust their notifications, and customise their sound via an equalizer for a personalised listening experience.?There are also options to switch your Buds to an Ambient sound mode, which lets you hear some of your surroundings, and enable a "Find My Earbuds" tool that'll pinpoint a lost bud's hiding place.

Even the charging options are flexible. Pop the buds inside their charging case for up to seven extra hours of battery life on the go, or use the Wireless PowerShare feature to steal juice from your Galaxy S10 series smartphone. As for controlling playback and volume, just give the outer surface a quick tap.

The biggest issue reviewers have is that the noise cancellation isn't quite up to scratch. Of course, that's not an issue for everyone. Otherwise, they come highly recommended — a great Apple alternative and among Samsung's best.

Beats PowerBeats Pro

Best For Running

The good
Beats sound, Apple tech Purpose built for running Good battery life Great fit that holds firm Seamless connectivity
The Bad
Bulky case No noise cancellation
The Bottomline
A few oversights prevent these from being the complete package, but for running earbuds, they're advanced and offer high levels of performance.
Specs
  • Battery Life: Up to 9 hours
  • Colours: Black, Ivory, Cloud Pink, Glacier Blue, Lava Red, Moss, Navy, Spring Yellow
  • Noise cancellation: No
  • True Wireless: Yes

Beats is one of the biggest names in quality audio tech. And they're technically an Apple product — Apple bought the brand back in 2014. That means the Beats PowerBeats Pro give you the full package: The brilliant sound of Beats’ bass wizardry, plus Apple’s all-powerful H1 chip.?

Beats PowerBeats Pro wireless earphones are a good alternative if you aren't a fan of the AirPods Pro fit. And “fit” is the operative word. The Powerbeats Pro have a slimline silicone nozzle (with different size options) and over-ear hooks that ensure these never come loose.

They come with intuitive controls, which include playback and volume buttons. In fact, you can control the volume via either earbud — a small but subtly brilliant addition that other brands would do well to follow.?Other nice touches include hands-free Siri, micro-laser barometric venting holes to relieve in-ear pressure, and an oversized charging case (though it may be too big for some people). The case will give you two full charges before it needs plugging back in.

There are downsides. These are splash proof rather than fully waterproof. Plus, there's no ANC or adjustable EQ levels. But these gripes can be overlooked given how impressive the Powerbeats Pro are elsewhere.

Jabra Elite Active 85t

Best For Comfort

The good
Adjustable noise cancellation Voice assistant connectivity Semi-open design for comfort Great sound and call quality Plenty of colour choices
The Bad
Middling battery life
The Bottomline
They may not get the same mainstream cred as AirPods, but Jabra's long-lasting earbuds are excellent.
Specs
  • App Support: Yes
  • Battery Life: 5 hours
  • Battery with Charging Case: 25 hours
  • Noise cancellation: No

The Copenhagen-based Jabra will already be familiar to exercise enthusiasts — the brand makes excellent true wireless buds for running and fitness. The Jabra Elite 85t are pretty much the full package — durable and well-constructed, with great sound and in-ear stability. In terms of comfort, they also have a partially open design, which is good for airflow and stops that bunged up feeling you can sometimes get with earbuds.

They also come highly recommended thanks to something called HearThrough, a mode which uses the buds' built-in microphones to pick up and filter some ambient sounds in through your music.?Ultimately, it's a souped-up version of active noise cancellation, which you can adjust via the Jabra's Sound+ app. In fact, you'll find plenty of other features on the Sound+ app, including tools to customise a music profile, monitor your earbuds' charging status, and connect them to your preferred voice assistant (Alexa, Siri, or the Google Assistant).?

There’s another bonus that will suit all users: The Elite Active 85ts boast excellent calling capabilities. The only thing they're missing is a bigger battery life. Five hours is fine but not quite up there with the best batteries on this list.

Sony WF-1000XM5

Best For Sound

The good
Premium, upgraded tech Excellent Sony sound Clear voice calls Very smart app Fast multipoint pairing
The Bad
A touch wobbly in the ears Top brand, top price
The Bottomline
Nothing is truly perfect but these come close — the best all-round buds that money can buy.
Specs
  • App Support: Yes
  • Battery Life: Up to 8 hours
  • Battery with Charging Case: Up to 24 hours
  • Noise cancellation: Yes

Without going down the specialist audiophile route, the Sony WF-1000XM5 are the best earbuds around right now. They’re not cheap but they're worth the cash for hi-def sound, cool features, and best-in-class noise cancellation.?

There’s lots of Sony technology inside these little buds, including a new amplifier and processor chip, plus audio tech — DSEE Extreme, Edge-AI, and Sony’s LDAC codec. They also added multipoint pairing (missing on the last iteration). Adaptive Sound allows you to control the ambient sounds you let in, while Speak-to-Chat pauses the music whenever you start a conversation.

These are smaller than the previous-gen Sony buds, and some listeners might find them a tricky fit. But we're nit-picking, really. Overall though, they're magnificent. Not to mention easy to use. Just tap the outer surface of the buds for volume and playback controls. The sound comes via mini 8.4mm dynamic drivers, creating a listening experience that’s both big and nuanced. This is a sound rarely matched by other tech-heavy earbuds.

No earbuds are perfect of course. More battery life would always be nice. And they're not exactly cheap. But these are the buds to beat.

JBL Reflect Aero

Best For Running

The good
IP68 waterproof Sweat and dust proof Fast charging from case Best in class battery Various ANC modes
The Bad
Too bass-heavy for some
The Bottomline
Running earbuds that are hard to beat — particularly for sound quality, endurance, and reliability.
Specs
  • App Support: No
  • Battery Life: Up to 8 hours
  • Battery with Charging Case: Up to 16 hours
  • Noise cancellation: Yes

JBL are known for excelling with mid-level, no-nonsense headphones. The JBL Reflect Aero deliver on both performance and price. Designed for fitness in the great outdoors — particularly running — the JBL Reflect Aero are a step ahead of the competition.

The buds hold as firm as their sturdy Bluetooth connection. They have adaptive ANC but also offer Ambient Aware and TalkThru modes that you can activate by tapping the buds. JBL calls these modes "bionic hearing". They tinker with the volume to let in external noise. You can even stop mid-run for a chat.?

It's not the best sound that money can buy. It's never going to be at this mid-level range. But you'd have to be pretty fussy, or some kind of expert-level audiophile to find much fault. JBL does mid-level exceptionally well. Bass fans will be especially impressed with the power in these little buds.

If you are out running, there’s plenty of juice — a full 8 hours plus another 8 hours in the charging case. Also included are three sets of tips to make sure you get the fit just right, plus powerfins for extra in-ear security.

Google Pixel Buds A-Series

Best For Android

The good
Cool Google features Very fast charging Nice aesthetic
The Bad
Poor volume control system Lack of noise cancellation
The Bottomline
While they lack some details that feel standard for earbuds, they make up for it with unique Google features and very good sound.
Specs
  • App Support: Yes
  • Battery Life: Up to 5 hours
  • Battery with Charging Case: Up to 24 hours
  • Noise cancellation: No

If you want Apple-style tech and function but you’re in the decidedly non-Apple camp — or just want to spend significantly less — the Google Pixel Buds A-Series could be the ones for you. These are aimed largely at Android and Google phone users (though they work perfectly well with the iPhone) and cost less than the AirPods Pro.?

You’ll instantly see the benefits of being an Android user. They connect to Android devices using Fast Pair. You don’t even need to press anything — they hook up automatically. There’s also optional Google Assistant. Other Google features include Google Translate.

There’s a lack of active noise cancelling though an Adaptive Sound feature makes up for it. This adjusts the volume based on the outside noise. And the sound is very good, which combines with clear call quality.?

Various playback and call functions are operated by tapping the buds' outer surface. But these don’t extend to volume controls. Instead, you’ll have to adjust volume via Google Assistant or your device.?The battery life is a negative point, at a below par five hours, but you’ll get an extra four charges from the charging case — and three hours of charge from just 15 minutes.?

Cambridge Audio Melomania

Best For Battery

The good
Massive battery life Precision-perfect sound Range of pre-set EQ levels Transparency mode Selection of tips for customisable fit
The Bad
Only passive noise cancelling
The Bottomline
Specs
  • App Support: Yes
  • Battery Life: Up to 9 hours
  • Battery with Charging Case: Up to 50 hours
  • Noise cancellation: No

Cambridge Audio might not be the first brand you think of when shopping for new earbuds, but it’s well-regarded for delivering tiptop sound quality. And in the case of the Cambridge Audio Melomania, at a very reasonable price too.

The audio comes via custom-designed 7mm Graphene-enhanced drivers. The sound is both bold and nuanced — and totally immersive. There’s no active noise cancellation, though. Instead, they’re built to passively block noise, which they do by sealing in the ear. A transparency mode allows you to keep in touch with the outside world.

It's not only about the sound. There’s another good reason to buy the Cambridge Audio Melomania. Namely, their excellent battery life. Nine solid hours plus up to 50 hours with the charging case. That’s the best you’ll find with any earbuds.

In terms of the music, there’s a selection of EQ pre-sets on the Melomania app — perfect for finding a sound that perfectly suits you. The fit of the buds themselves is also customisable. They’re designed based on samples of 300 pairs of ears, with a selection of tips included to ensure the perfect fit for you.

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