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If you hate wires and have a fairly healthy budget, we recommend cable-free true wireless earbuds, like the Sony WF-1000XM4 and the AirPods Pro – many of which now come with extra features, including noise-cancellation.
Perhaps you value security and audio fidelity above all else. In that case, check out the wired earbuds we’ve selected. Or, opt for something that has the best of both worlds with a pair of the best wireless earbuds. These styles are able to connect to your phone via Bluetooth but still retain a cord between the two earbuds themselves – which means less chance you’ll lose one.
Although there are different designs, prices and brands to choose from, all of the top earphones in our list below are compact, sound fantastic, and are super-convenient to use compared to bulky over-ear headphones.
[Update: Apple has announced its latest earbuds. The long-awaited Apple AirPods 3 come with support for Spatial Audio, adaptive EQ, and longer battery life than their predecessors. Not only that, but the 2019 AirPods have also been given a permanent price cut, rather than being discontinued altogether.]
Our top earbud picks
If you want earbuds that come with a cable to keep them secure and avoid losing them, the 1More Triple Driver in-ear headphones are the best wired earbuds you can buy in 2021. After spending a few weeks with both the 1MORE Triple Driver in-ear headphones and the 1MORE Quad Driver in-ear headphones we were blown away at just how much value each one gave in their prospective price ranges.
For $100 / £100 (around AU$168), it’s hard to find a better sounding pair of earbuds than the 1MORE Triple Driver. That said, if you want just that little extra refinement and luxury materials, the 1MORE Quad Driver in-ear headphones are still a bargain at twice the price.
There’s very little we can fault the Triple Drivers for. Their rubber cable can be annoying and its remote control feels cheap, but these are just nitpicking. For their price, they’re impossible to beat.
Sony is largely responsible for the health of the active noise-cancelling true wireless earbuds market. With the WF-1000XM4, the company has combined performance, ergonomics, and build quality more effectively than ever before.
Compared to their predecessors, the Sony WF-1000XM3, the new wireless earbuds offer enough quality-of-life features to make them worth upgrading to, even if they are more expensive.
While other true wireless earbuds surpass the Sony WF-1000XM4 in particular areas – noise cancellation, for example – no other model comes close to offering such excellent quality across the board. That’s why the Sony WF-1000XM4 are hands-down the best true wireless earbuds you can buy today.
NuraLoop boils down the essence of the company’s first product, the Nuraphone, into a much more compact, rugged, and affordable package. The great news is, it doesn’t lose much in the process.
The star of the show in the Nuraloop headphones – and all products from this brand – is its adaptive audio technology. This is able to automatically determine a listening profile for users and then feeds them customized, well-balanced, lush sound as a result.
On top of this, features like active noise-canceling, social mode, an IPX3 rating, Immersion mode, a great battery life, and the ability to attach an analog cable for 3.5mm headphone jacks make this pair of wireless earbuds truly shine.
The NuraTrue are probably the most personalized wireless earbuds you can buy today – and some of the best-sounding, too.
They’re the first true wireless earbuds from Australian audio brand Nura, following in the footsteps of its NuraLoop earphones, which are in the positive above in this list and some of our favorite wired earbuds of all time.
They offer unbeaten levels of customization that allow the earbuds to be tuned to your ears exactly. The accompanying app even analyzes how well the buds fit into your ears. The end result is outstanding audio performance that reveals superb levels of detail in your music, and a wide soundstage that enables every instrument to sing.
They also come with plenty of features that will appeal to anyone who wants a cheaper alternative to popular models such as the AirPods Pro and the Sony WF-1000XM4, including decent noise cancellation, an IPX4 water-resistance rating, fast charging, and support for hi-res audio too.
If you’re an over-ear headphones aficionado, the Sennheiser IE 900 are the best in-ear headphones for trying out the smaller form actor – if you can afford them, that is. These pricey audiophile earbuds deliver an incredible audio performance that’s a testament to their great design. It’s a shame there’s no in-line remote on any of the cables, but that’s a small bugbear.
Cambridge Audio might be best known for its high-end audio equipment, but over the past few years, the British company has branched out into the world of true wireless earbuds.
Its first offering is the Melomania 1, which is among the best wireless earbuds you can buy. However, the new Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus are a worthy upgrade, putting many other earbuds in the shade in terms of audio performance, battery life, and ease-of-use.
While the design of the Melomania 1 Plus hasn’t deviated too far from its predecessors, there’s a clear step-up in terms of audio performance, with levels of detail and clarity that could rival some of the best over-ear headphones.
A helpful app, easy controls, and excellent connectivity just makes us love them even more. The only downside is that there’s no active noise cancellation. However, when these earbuds sound this good, we doubt you’ll miss it much.
When we first reviewed the original Lypertek PurePlay Z3 true wireless earbuds (then known as the Lypertek Tevi), we were blown away – and they were so good, we made them our headphone product of the year.
Fast-forward a couple of years, and we’re now looking at their successors, the Lypertek PurePlay Z3 2.0 true wireless earbuds. They’re very similar to the originals, with a few key improvements, and yet still come in at the same affordable price point as their predecessors.
You’re getting everything we loved about the original PurePlay Z3 (detailed balanced sound, a whopping 80 hours total battery life from its petite USB-C charging case, and a comfortably fitting bud with physical buttons), as well as wireless charging, a powerful new LDX Audio mode, improved app functionality and a hear through ambient mode.
On paper, the GT220 from Grado seem to have their work cut out. $259 / £250 / AU$365 for small, humdrum-looking true wireless earbuds with no active noise-cancelling and no control app.
However, by performing with absolute confidence and assurance, they stand head and shoulders above the majority of true wireless earbuds on the market today in terms of exceptional audio performance and quality.
This is because they extract every shred of information from the digital files of your favorite music and deliver it with such authority, and in such a complete and coherent manner, that it manages to sound completely fresh even if you’ve heard it a thousand times before.
But it’s not just about sound, we found them to be comfortable and lightweight and even though there’s no control app, there’s great, responsive touch and voice control on offer here.
The Bowers & Wilkins PI3 are the first neckband headphones from the brand, and they’re a great start. These wired earbuds are well-designed, comfy, and simple to use.
They’re a great option if you want the security of a neckband and the quality of a trusted brand. But it’s their great sound that makes them some of the best earbuds you can buy today.
Thanks to dual drivers, these buds sound absolutely fantastic, with crisp highs, lively mids, and plenty of powerful bass. You’ll need to look past the fairly unremarkable battery life and limited features, but you’ll be mostly very impressed by what these in-ear headphones offer.
The PI3 seem to be out of stock in the US currently, but they haven’t been discontinued.
The sound quality, battery life, and design of the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 earbuds are truly brilliant – and they’re a great alternative to the Sony WF-1000XM4, particularly if your idea of the best earbuds are a little more flashy.
We did find that those with smaller ears sometimes find these earbuds a little uncomfortable, however, and their high price just stops them from beating the Sony’s to second place of this round up.
Otherwise, Sennheiser has pretty much knocked it out of the park with these in-ear headphones, offering great noise cancellation alongside smart, sleek looks and stunning sound.
OnePlus is mostly known for its “flagship killer” phones, like the OnePlus 7 and OnePlus 7 Pro, but the company also makes headphones – the best example are the company’s excellent Bullets Wireless 2, which offer incredible value in the neckbud earphones category.
In terms of audio quality, these neckband earbuds boast a lively sonic presentation and an accurate-feeling soundstage, although bass-heads may want to look elsewhere for headphones that pack a bassier punch.
They’re comfortable to wear, too, it’s just a shame that they don’t have a waterproof rating and the inline remote is so fiddly, because otherwise, they could make a decent pair of running headphones.
They may be $30 more expensive than their predecessors, but the improved battery life and sound quality makes up for that; it also makes it worth upgrading if you have the originals and are due a new pair of wireless earbuds.
They’re expensive, but the 1MORE Quad Driver in-ear headphones are worth every penny. 1MORE hit it out of the park with this flagship pair of wired earbuds, with their balanced sound build quality, smartphone compatibility, and price. These in-ear headphones will make mobile audiophiles very happy.
The only reservation that we have is that the Quad Drivers face tough competition from 1MORE’s own cheaper Triple Driver sibling which costs half the price (which sit pretty at the number one spot on our list).
In terms of value, the 1MORE Triple Driver headphones are among the best you can buy, but if you’re willing to spend a little more on build and sound quality, the 1More Quad Drivers are even better.
Apple’s noise-cancelling true wireless earbuds, the AirPods Pro, deliver a much better fit and an improved design compared to the original AirPods.
However, at $249 / £249 / AU$399, they’re pretty pricey too, and as such can’t be called the very best true wireless earbuds in terms of value for money – but they may be the best true wireless earbuds for Apple fans. That said, AirPods Pro deals are becoming more commonplace as the buds age.
These snug-fitting earbuds offer a great sound, and the additional microphones provide strong noise-cancelling (particularly when commuting), as well as a useful Transparency mode, which really does let the outside world in. They even support Dolby Atmos immersive sound, following an update last year.
Apparently, there’s a new AirPods model set to join the original buds and the newer Pros. The AirPods Pro 2 are rumored to be a new, cheaper variant of the company’s popular true wireless earbuds, and they could be released in the next few months.
The SoundMagic E11BTs are an extremely capable pair of wireless in-ear earphones, and given their low price, it really is difficult to fault them. The audio quality on offer here is fantastic and they look very elegant, too.
They’re comfortable to wear thanks to ergonomically-designed ear tips and they’re attached to a flat neckband that won’t irritate you while running or working out. thanks to an IPX4 rating, they should withstand sweaty sessions, too, making them a solid option for an spare pair of workout buds.
It’s Bose’s second attempt at a set of true wireless headphones, and the QuietComfort Earbuds are leaps and bounds better than the older SoundSport Free. Not only is the design a lot better, but the noise cancellation is also exemplary. The sound quality is also really very good – albeit a touch less bassy as compared to Sony – with superb clarity. They’re incredibly comfortable and well–balanced too, despite their bulky form factor.
How to choose the best earbuds for you
The best earbuds for you need to feel ultra-comfortable to wear for extended periods of time, and must fit securely in your ear for decent noise isolation.
If you’re looking for a pair of running headphones, your new earphones should have an IPX4 water-resistance rating or above; this means that they’ll be able to withstand a little sweat as well as a spot of rain.
There are wired and wireless earbuds on this list, but you don’t have to compromise on audio quality by going wire-free. Our current favorite true wireless earbuds, the Sony WF-1000XM3 combine class-leading sound with high-quality noise cancellation tech.
If you do opt for wireless or true wireless earbuds, make sure the battery life is up to scratch, otherwise, you could find yourself caught short without any music in the middle of your commute.
Most importantly, the best earbuds for you should sound good to your ears. If you’re a dedicated audiophile, look for buds that support Hi-Res Audio codecs like LDAC and aptX HD Bluetooth for stellar connectivity.
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