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The best true wireless earbuds for 2021

Thinking of grabbing a set of true wireless earbuds for the new year? There’s a ton of choice, and it’s easy to get swayed by all of the five-star reviews on Amazon.

We’ve has a chance to listen to virtually all of the major brands and, right now, our top pick is the Jabra Elite 85t. They feature a small and comfortable earbud, great sound quality, excellent active noise cancellation (ANC), and a wealth of customization options. They’re also less expensive than several of the leading competitors.

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We think the Elite 85t are the best choice for most people, but if your budget can’t stretch that far, or you’re looking for earbuds for specific activities, we’ve found lots of excellent alternatives. Just keep in mind that some of our recommendations are likely to change in the coming year, especially now that CES 2021 has shown us what we can expect.

Want a set of true wireless earbuds that won’t break the bank? Check out the best cheap true wireless earbuds.

Best true wireless earbuds at a glance:

The best true wireless earbuds: Jabra Elite 85t

Jabra Elite 85t
Jabra

Why you should buy them: They tick more boxes than any other true wireless earbuds we’ve tested so far.

Who they’re for: Those who want great sound, good battery life, tons of customization, and superior ANC in a compact package.

Why we chose the Jabra Elite 85t:

In the ever-growing world of true wireless earbuds, you will find a few sets with better sound quality than the Elite 85t. You may find some that have better noise cancellation. You’ll probably find quite a few that offer more protection from dust and water. But you won’t find any that boast the Elite 85t’s impressive quality and their array of features at any price — which makes their $230 asking price quite reasonable.

The Elite 85t pick up where the Elite 75t and Elite Active 75t left off. They’re compact — far smaller than the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds or the Sony WF-1000XM3 that used to be in our top spot — and that means they’re going to fit more people. The ergonomic shape is also one of the most comfortable for long listening sessions.

A single physical button for each earbud means you never have to wonder if you tapped correctly, thanks to a satisfying click. By default, these buttons can be used to control every major function, but you can also change what they do using the Jabra Sound+ app. Our favorite feature is the one-click mode change between HearThrough (Jabra’s name for ambient sound) and noise cancellation. It’s fast and easy and you never have to remove an earbud to chat with someone. If you do remove one or both buds, your music automatically pauses and resumes when you replace them.

The Elite 85t employ a semiopen design, which means that some air is allowed to make its way into your ear through tiny openings. It keeps the earbuds from creating that blocked-ear feeling that so many true wireless buds tend to do. Comfort aside, the semiopen structure also imbues the audio with a much wider soundstage than you get on the Elite 75t, albeit at a cost: The 85t are only rated at IPX4 for water resistance, while the 75t are IP55.

The Sound+ app gives you tons of EQ settings to play with, but out of the box, the Elite 85t sound fantastic. They possess all of the low-end power that blew us away on the Elite 75t, but deliver bass response in a far more balanced way. Now, instead of being profoundly aware of the low-end boom, you’re aware of how well anchored and warm the sound feels. The midranges and highs are equally well rendered, with plenty of definition and separation. Vocals pop, but they’re never harsh.

Call quality is excellent and you can adjust the amount of sidetone (how much of your own voice you hear), for a natural-sounding experience. Noise cancellation is also very good — we’d say this is one of the only sets of ANC buds that can do battle with the awesome AirPods Pro. It’s also adjustable inside the app, in case it’s too aggressive.

The wireless-charging case helps the 85t deliver almost exactly the same battery life as the 75t: 5.5 hours per charge with ANC on, 7 hours with it off (25 or 31 hours when you include the case). That’s not going to set any endurance records but it’s more than enough for a day’s worth of listening.

It’s also worth noting that Jabra products are some of the few that offer multipoint Bluetooth: The ability to keep the Elite 85t paired with two devices simultaneously.

If you have small ears or simply want to spend less money, the Jabra Elite 75t remain an excellent alternative, but we think the Elite 85t offer a premium experience that helps justify their higher price.

Read our in-depth Jabra Elite 85t review

The best noise-canceling true wireless earbuds: Bose QuietComfort Earbuds

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds
Bose

Why you should buy them: They’re the gold standard for noise cancellation and call quality, and they sound terrific, too.

Who they’re for: Those who want to silence the world around them while enjoying premium sound quality.

Why we picked the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds:

If you know anything about Bose, you know that noise cancellation is kinda the company’s calling card. Bose was the first to debut the technology in a set of headphones, and we’ve been waiting patiently for what we knew would one day come: A set of Bose true wireless earbuds that could perform the same magic.

It took a few years, but make no mistake: The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds are exactly what we were hoping for. Their ANC is the new best in class for a set of true wireless earbuds, beating out even the venerable AirPods Pro because of their uncanny ability to mute both low- and high-frequency sounds — something than most ANC products struggle to do.

They’re also no slouches in the sound quality department. For this price, you should expect excellent audio, and the QuietComfort Earbuds deliver. Our reviewer gushed over their ability to produce “a generous helping of detail, lightning-fast transient response, and punchy bass that can start and stop on a dime.”

Call quality, as you might predict, is enterprise-grade. These are the buds you want if phone calls are an important part of your day.

Battery life is on the lower end of the true wireless spectrum: Six hours per charge, with an additional 12 hours in the wireless charging case. You can quick-charge the earbuds, which earns an extra two hours after 15 minutes.

The shape of the QuietComfort Earbuds may be their most controversial quality. They’re big — especially when compared to the Elite 85t or AirPods Pro — as is their charging case. And, they use a silicone ear tip with an integrated earfin for greater stability. Not everyone is going to like how that feels, and there’s no way to remove it. You do, however, get used to them with time.

Unlike the Elite 85t, there is no Bluetooth multipoint pairing. On a less expensive set of earbuds, or perhaps a set that isn’t as clearly targeted to travelers as the QuietComfort Earbuds, we might look the other way on this oversight, but we think it’s a missed opportunity.

These caveats aside, the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds are easily some of the best true wireless buds you can buy, and a must-have for those who crave quiet.

Read our in-depth Bose QuietComfort Earbuds review

The best-fitting true wireless earbuds: Earin A-3

Earin A-3 true wireless earbuds
Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

Why you should buy them: They’re tiny, super-comfortable earbuds that don’t stick a wad of silicone in your ear canal.

Who they’re for: Those who have struggled to find a comfortable set of true wireless earbuds.

Why we chose the Earin A-3:

In the true wireless earbud world, there are two major types of earbuds: Those that seal your ear canal with silicone ear tips, and those that simply sit inside your outer ear. The silicone tip version usually produces better sound and deeper bass because of its tight seal, but a lot of folks don’t like the way they feel.

But the alternative, epitomized by Apple’s AirPods, can suffer from poor sound quality and a loose, easily dislodged fit. Earin’s A-3 is an attempt to create the best of both worlds, and for the most part, they succeed.

The A-3 look like someone took a pair of AirPods and then radically altered them, discarding the iconic golf-tee stems and painting them black. It’s a set of design changes that manages to accomplish two key improvements: The A-3 are now the smallest and lightest earbuds you can buy, but they’re also impressively secure once placed in your ear.

Earin has also compensated for the A-3’s “open” design by installing big and powerful dynamic drivers, which go a long way toward closing the sound quality gap. The A-3 may not sound as good as the Elite 85t or AirPods Pro, but they’ve got punchier bass and better overall sound than the AirPods with wireless charging.

All of this adds up to a set of earbuds that balance comfort, security, and sound quality like no other earbuds we’ve seen so far. The A-3 are also no slackers when it comes to extra features. Their sleek and small aluminum-wrapped charging case is beautifully designed and can be wirelessly charged. The Earin A-3 app lets you tweak the controls and update the firmware. And there’s no need to make sure you’ve put the correct earbud in each ear — the A-3 can automatically sense which ear they’re in.

The only thing missing from the A-3 is active noise cancellation (ANC). That would be nice to have, but if the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live are any indication, open designs and ANC are still not a very effective combo.

Read our in-depth Earin A-3 review

The best true wireless earbuds for iOS: Apple AirPods Pro

Apple AirPods Pro

Why you should buy them: They keep all of the best features of the original AirPods and add better sound, active noise cancellation, and water resistance.

Who they’re for: AirPods fans who have been itching for something better. A lot better.

Why we chose the Apple AirPods Pro:

AirPods have become the poster child for the true wireless earbuds revolution thanks to their iconic design, ease of use, and tight integration with the iPhone and other iOS devices. But they’re far from perfect. Middling sound quality and no sweat- or water-resistance have been among the top criticisms.

That’s why the AirPods Pro are so welcome: They address both of these concerns, and up the ante even further by adding active noise cancellation, an in-ear design that’s more snug and secure, and an intelligent EQ system that automatically adjusts to each users’ ears. We were frankly blown away by both the improvement in sound quality and the effectiveness of Apple’s noise-canceling tech.

Meanwhile, all of the features that Apple fans have come to rely on like Siri connectivity, intuitive touch controls, and accelerometers that recognize when the buds are in or out of your ears to pause and play sound automatically, are all preserved. Battery life is unchanged at 5 hours of music streaming per charge — a number that is less impressive now than it once was — but you get a wireless charging case that would normally cost you $50 more than the price of a regular set of AirPods.

Another plus for iPhone and Apple TV 4K owners: The latest versions of iOS and tvOS have enabled spatial audio on the AirPods Pro, making movies with surround sound soundtracks an even more immersive experience.

If you’re an Apple fan, there’s a lot here to love except perhaps the price. Apple debuted the AirPods Pro at $249, putting them near the top of the true wireless earbud market.

Really like the Apple AirPods Pro but don’t want to deal with the long delivery times? Here are the best AirPods Pro alternatives.

Read our in-depth Apple AirPods Pro review

The best true wireless earbuds for Android: Google Pixel Buds 2

Google Pixel Buds
Nick Woodard/Digital Trends

Why you should buy them: Google’s second-generation Pixel Buds have a wide set of features, a new design, and greatly improved sound quality.

Who they’re for: Specifically, Pixel smartphone or Android mobile device owners that want to seamlessly add a pair of true wireless earbuds.

Why we picked the Google Pixel Buds 2:

Two generations of Samsung Galaxy Buds previously sat atop this category, but no longer. With the recent release of the Google Pixel Buds 2, there’s a new king in this corner.

They won’t outwardly say it, but Google seemed to make the Pixel Buds 2 almost exclusively for Pixel and Android users. It starts as soon as you pull them out of their charging case, with Google’s Fast Pair on Android feature immediately starting the process.

From there, the possibilities are near endless with the Pixel Buds/Android combination. The Pixel Buds 2 are the first Google Assistant hotword-enabled buds, meaning you can call on Google’s own A.I. with just your voice, no buttons needed. It works as flawlessly as you’d expect, allowing you to change tracks, hear notifications, and control connected smart home devices among a ton of other perks.

Then there’s Google Translate, Google’s unique feature that lets you navigate different languages with the help of the Google Translate app, or just the buds themselves. It may not be a feature that’s needed during the age of social distancing, but when we’re clear to travel abroad once more? It will be an incredibly intuitive tool to have.

Aside from the Android-specific features, the Google Pixel Buds 2 were given a near-total overhaul, with a comfortable new design and above-average sound quality. Essentially, these were made to be Android’s version of the AirPods. Mission accomplished.

Our full Google Pixel Buds 2 review

The best true wireless earbuds for working out: Sony WF-SP800N

Sony WF-SP800N

Why you should buy them: Great sound, secure fit, big battery, ANC, and water-resistant — what more could you ask for?

Who they’re for: Anyone who likes to listen to music while working out.

Why we picked the Sony WF-SP800N:

When it comes to true wireless earbuds for workouts, the Powerbeats Pro get a lot of attention. That’s fair: They’ve got a huge nine-hour battery life, great bass response, and built-in ear hooks for a secure fit. But at $250, they’re very expensive for what you get. Sony’s $200 WF-SP800N cost less, and we think they’re even better for those who want to power their workouts with motivational audio.

They don’t have ear hooks, but the included silicone wing-tips and ear tips provide a very secure fit — these buds won’t be going anywhere unless you want them to. Those same ear tips also do a heck of a good job of passively isolating your ears from external sounds. So good, in fact, you may not even need their ANC.

But if you do use ANC, you’ll be pleasantly surprised — these Sony earbuds easily diminish external sounds to the point where you’ll hardly notice them. Between their ambient and quick-listening modes, you’ll never be out of touch with your world if you need to know what’s going on.

As you might expect, the WF-SP800N have been tuned with a pronounced bass response, courtesy of Sony’s ExtraBass feature, something that any workout buds worth their price simply must offer. Unlike some other workout earbuds, if that bass is too much, or your podcast addiction calls for an emphasis on vocals, the Sony Headphones app gives you lots of control over low, mid, and high frequencies.

They also have a huge list of additional features like auto-pause/play, the ability to use either Google Assistant or Alexa instead of the voice assistant on your phone, customizable controls, and a big nine-hour battery life (with ANC) that jumps to a huge 13 hours when ANC is off.

The only thing missing is wireless charging. We’d also love it if Sony let WF-SP800N users decide which functions they want to control, instead of making us choose from preset function families like volume or ANC.

For a very similar set of features and an even lower price, check out JBL’s Reflect Mini NC.

Read our in-depth Sony WF-SP800N review

The best true wireless earbuds for sound quality: Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2

Nick Woodard/Digital Trends

Why you should buy them: They’re the best-sounding true wireless earbuds available today, with exceptional battery life and solid features.

Who they’re for: Those who want the best sound possible in a long-lasting, sleekly designed set of buds.

Why we chose the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2:

The first generation Momentum True Wireless provided seriously high-end sound, although they came at a high-end price. They were also lacking in battery life.

The Momentum True Wireless 2 sought to solve its predecessor’s lack of juice. Sennheiser increased playback time from four to seven hours on a single charge and beefed up the earbuds’ charging case to include three additional charges for a total of 28 hours.

Although the Momentum True Wireless 2 are 2mm smaller than the originals, their style and design remains largely unchanged. The same goes for their ease of use, with intuitive touchpads letting you effortlessly change tracks and adjust volume. They can even pull up your preferred voice assistant for help in selecting something to listen to.

Most importantly, the new Momentum buds have Sennheiser’s signature sound, aided by a new feature. With the addition of active noise cancellation, you’re able to experience that superb sound profile without the outside environment getting in the way.

The $300 price point is a tall order, but if you’re after the best sound true wireless earbuds can offer, the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 are worth the cost.

Read our in-depth Momentum True Wireless 2 review

The best true wireless earbuds for bass: Beats Powerbeats Pro

powerbeats pro
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Why you should buy them: They have superb battery life, water resistance, and the kind of punchy bass the Beats brand is known for.

Who they’re for: Those who need a robust set of wireless earbuds that sound great and have the stamina for even the most grueling workouts.

Why we chose the Beats PowerBeats Pro:

Battery life has long been one of the biggest challenges for true wireless earbuds, which is why the PowerBeats Pro’s 9 hours of playback time per charge is so noteworthy. There are only a few prime options in the field that do better, with the MW07 Plus being one of them. With this kind of stamina, you can probably leave the charging case at home, which is a good thing because it is massive.

They also provide a shake-proof fit, with earhooks that may look bulky but are surprisingly easy to get on and off your ears when the time comes, though they’re not the comfiest for long listening sessions. Thanks to built-in optical sensors, removing an earbud instantly pauses the music, making for quick and easy transition from listening to talking.

Sound quality is also quite good — especially low-end bass, which is powerful but never flabby. The PowerBeats Pros aren’t perfect, though. We experienced some frustrating connection problems, especially in high-traffic areas, even though the earbuds use Apple’s touted H1 wireless chip. If you keep your phone close, though, the Powerbeats Pro have plenty going for them.

If you appreciate the workout-friendly design of the Beats Powerbeats Pro, but you need a more affordable option, here are the best Powerbeats Pro alternatives.

Our full Beats PowerBeats Pro review

The best stylish true wireless earbuds: Klipsch T5 True Wireless

Klipsch T5 True Wireless Hands-on
Dan Baker/Digital Trends

Why you should buy them: These earbuds are one of the few that sound as good as they look, and we think they look awesome.

Who they’re for: Those who want truly wireless earbuds that sound great, last long, and make a design statement.

Why we chose the Klipsch T5 True Wireless:

With the Klipsch brand, the bar tends to get set pretty high when it comes to sound quality. Thankfully, the company’s true wireless earbuds are no exception. In fact, these earbuds are bested by only a few buds we’ve tried, including the MW07 Plus. The superlatives continue, too, with 8 hours of battery per charge and an additional 24 hours of juice on-tap in the charging case.

Let’s take a moment right now and give proper admiration to that charging case: It looks like (and opens like) a Zippo lighter, and we think it imparts the same cool factor on anyone who carries it. It’s a tad heavy, but those curved corners and metal finish make it all worthwhile.

It’s also worth mentioning that the T5 offer great call quality, something that’s important for most wireless earbuds users. Usability is also excellent thanks to the T5’s built-in controls for volume, track control, play/pause, and voice assistants.

Rounding out the strengths of the Klipsch T5 True Wireless are IPX4 water-resistance — good for all but the wettest environments — and uniquely shaped sound tubes that not only project sound directly into the ear, but also allow the mass of the earbuds to sit squarely in the center of the ear itself. It’s a much more comfortable arrangement than many earbuds.

If you need more water and dust resistance, the Klipsch T5 II offer the same great sound, battery life, and stylish design as the T5, but they’re smaller and more durable with an excellent IP67 rating.

Read our in-depth Klipsch T5 True Wireless review

Research and buying tips

Can wireless earbuds connect to a PC?

Yes, as long as the PC has Bluetooth. Some have Bluetooth by default, but if yours doesn’t, you can add it with an affordable USB adapter.

Can wireless earbuds be used on airplanes?

Yes. You can enable most devices’ Bluetooth radio while in airplane mode.

Can wireless earbuds connect to the PS4 and Xbox One?

Not to the Xbox One, but check out our handy guide for connecting Bluetooth headsets to the PS4.

Can wireless earbuds connect to a TV?

Only if your TV has Bluetooth transmission, or via an external device like this.

Are wireless earbuds better than wired?

Not usually for sound quality, but they are for convenience, especially now that many phone makers have stopped including a headphone jack.

Do wireless earbuds always have a charging case?

Not always, but the vast majority do come with a charging case. If they don’t come with a case, we strongly recommend you don’t buy them.

Are wireless earbuds good for working out?

Yes, they are awesome for workouts, as long as they have waterproofing or an IP rating and fit snugly in your ears.

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