Let’s face it: No matter how good they may sound, untangling the wires of your favorite earbuds can be a nuisance. Meanwhile, as more and more phones ditch the headphone jack, an increasing number of companies have taken the leap into wireless headphones.
When it comes to true wireless earbuds (i.e., those with no cables at all), the marketplace has its fair share of poorly functioning products. Whether it’s short battery life, poor sound, or shoddy connection, there are many true wireless buds that don’t make the grade. And in many cases, tethered Bluetooth headphones give you much more bang for your buck. That said, if you’re ready to leave the wires — all the wires — behind for a set of completely wireless earbuds, we’re here to help.
From sweatproof sports buds to stripped-down in-ears, here are the best fully wireless earbuds available right now.
The best fully wireless earbuds
Jabra Elite Active 65t
Why you should buy them: Solid sound, long battery life, and sweatproof performance.
Who they’re for: Listeners who want comfortable wireless autonomy, great usability, and good sound.
How much they will cost: $190
Why we picked the Jabra Elite Active 65t:
Jabra’s Elite 65t Active look like tiny versions of the Bluetooth headsets that once helped define the brand, but don’t be fooled by the design throwback: They’re legit. With five hours of battery life, an IP56 waterproof rating, and a myriad of useful app-based features, the 65t best Apple’s industry leading AirPods as the best fully wireless headphones you can buy.
Three sets of silicone tips and a very ergonomic design all but guarantee a perfect seal in your ears, serving up a comfortable fit with excellent passive noise isolation. Sound comes through clear and detailed, with punchy bass and a surprisingly agile treble register.
Five hours of battery life per charge puts them among the best on the market, and a charging case adds two extra charges on the go. In addition, the company’s Sound+ app allows you to adjust equalization and pick whether or not you want to use your phone’s built-in smart assistant (Siri on iOS, Google Assistant on Android) or Amazon Alexa. Like Apple’s AirPods, the headphones automatically play and pause music when you remove them from your ears, but go even further, piping in adjustable ambient sound — great for hearing announcements on the train or that angry driver behind you while biking.
Speaking of biking — or of sweating in general — the IP56 rating means that you won’t have to worry about damaging your buds with sweat or moderate amounts of dust. Simply rinse them off after a particularly hard workout, and you’re good to go.
A great feature set, comfortable fit, and good sound signature are all great assets, but the main reason to buy the Jabra Elite Active 65t is that they just work. That’s still fairly rare in this segment, and when combined with the tech, it makes these the best fully wireless headphones available right now.
The best for sound quality
Why you should buy them: They look good, sound great, and always work as they should.
Who they’re for: Those looking for the simple pleasures of great, hassle-free sound.
How much they will cost: $130 to $175
Why we chose The Headphone:
Sure, German startup Bragi showed a bit of hubris when it named its second-generation fully wireless earbuds “The Headphone,” but as far as we’re concerned, that’s one of the few points that detracts from these excellent buds. Where the company’s first product — The Dash — failed, The Headphone succeeds. Offering good looks, great battery life, and impressive sound, The Headphone are streamlined and easy to use, rather than feature-packed and difficult to decipher.
Along with music streaming, The Headphone can also handle phone calls, as well as allow you to control playback and even access your phone’s digital assistant via tiny buttons on the buds themselves. Like many pricier headphones, they’ll also play/pause music when you set them in or remove them from your ears, respectively. The only thing missing in the package is a portable charging case, which is a big reason the Jabra took the top slot. With six hours of playback per charge, however, The Headphone’s battery life shouldn’t be a problem for those who don’t venture too far from an outlet.
The earbuds are also great for wire-free beginners: They’re intuitive to use, and if you’re afraid of losing one, you can purchase a leash from Bragi’s website to keep them strung together until you’re ready to set them free. Best of all is the price. For just under $150, The Headphone earbuds are a killer deal that offers almost everything you want, and nothing you don’t.
The best for iOS
Why you should buy them: They’re reliable, ultra-functional, and they sound good enough to be a smart upgrade from Apple’s wired EarPods.
Who They’re for: Apple devotees, and those who like to wander from their phone.
How much they will cost: $120 to $160
Why we chose the Apple AirPods:
Apple’s iconic white earbuds have long been the bane of Apple-wielding audiophiles. The one-size-fits-some tubes are often tough to get correctly seated in your ears, and the sound quality is middling at best. But unlike Google’s tethered Pixel Buds, with the AirPods, Apple has delivered a solid upgrade worthy of consideration.
While sound is still fairly muddy, the AirPods boast better audio chops than their wired counterparts, and they also pack in several useful features that work consistently (a rarity in the fully wireless universe). Fans of Apple will appreciate Siri connectivity, intuitive touch controls, and accelerometers that recognize when the buds are in or out, and pause and play automatically. They offer a solid 5 hours of music streaming per charge (still among the best in their class over a year after their release), and even boast an extended range of around 100 feet without obstructions.
The Airpods also come with a well-engineered charging case for 24 hours of total playback time on the go, and they work well for making or receiving phone calls — the ‘buds work independently, so you can take calls while letting one bud charge. If you don’t mind the golf-tee look — and if you can get them to fit — Apple’s AirPods are worth a good look.
The best for athletes
Jabra Elite Sport
Why you should buy them: You want fully wireless earbuds that love a good sweat as much as you do.
Who they’re for: Those with an active lifestyle who need earbuds that stay put, keep up, and keep track.
How much they will cost: $159 to $250
Why we chose the Jabra Elite Sport:
Jabra has added some of the best elements of its hearty workout buds to the fully wireless world with its Elite Sport headphones, giving fitness fanatics something new to drool over.
In addition to being sweatproof and waterproof — they can be submerged in shallow water for up to 30 minutes — the Elite Sport headphones also feature a built-in heart rate monitor, helping listeners keep track of their vitals during strenuous workouts. Perhaps most important, the earbuds come with a wide variety of eartips and support connectors, allowing you to draw up a secure fit that ensures they won’t jostle around during your workout.
Beyond the gym, potential buyers will be happy to know that the Elite Sport offer solid sound quality with ample bass response, to help keep you rocking out longer and harder as you train for that half marathon or Crossfit event.
The best for everyday audio enhancement
Why you should buy them: You’re looking to enhance or modify the sounds of the world around you, and jam out while you do it.
Who they’re for: Those who are hard of hearing, or who have other specific live-audio needs.
How much they will cost: $240 to $300
Why we chose the Nuheara IQbuds:
Nuheara’s IQbuds will play your favorite tunes, of course, but their primary purpose is to help those who are hard of hearing control ambient sound and boost speech, augmenting their sonic environment.
The Nuheara do an excellent job of separating words from background noise, turning difficult hearing situations into easy listening environments — all with the help of an extremely in-depth (but surprisingly intuitive) app. And unlike some competitors in the “wearable” genre, they also boast decent battery life, coming in at around 3.5 hours of music playback per charge with augmentation engaged.
The IQbuds are also some of the most comfortable fully wireless earbuds we have tested thus far, making them perfect for longer listening endeavors in the real world. Audio performance is relatively impressive, too, and best of all, they work very efficiently, offering listeners a stable connection.