The best wireless earbuds: Our top picks for the best sound on the go

Tech 31-7-2022 Mashable 35
woman wearing wireless earbuds

With fewer devices having headphone jacks, Bluetooth headphones and earbuds have become the norm in recent years. A wireless pair of earbuds means you don’t have to worry about cords getting tangled in your pocket or bag. You just pop them out of their case and into your ears and you’re good to go.

Whether you’re listening to the latest episode of your favorite podcast, or hitting the gym with your playlist on repeat, the right pair of wireless earbuds can make or break your listening experience. 

Just because you’re ditching the cord, doesn’t mean that you have to sacrifice performance. Today’s wireless earbuds offer sound quality that’s nearly comparable to many wired earbuds. And with Bluetooth technology getting better and better, you don’t have to worry about frequent dropped connections. 

The wireless earbuds on our list are some of the best-performing, longest-lasting, or best-value out of various models available on the market. If you’re looking for portable sound without the disruption of a Bluetooth speaker, check out our list of the best wireless earbuds below.

Wired earbuds vs. wireless earbuds

Wireless earbuds connect to your devices via Bluetooth, and usually after you’ve paired them once, they connect automatically when you put them in your ears. Most devices have Bluetooth capabilities, but not every electronic has an aux port, so wireless earbuds are honestly the safer choice, unless you want to carry around an adapter everywhere you go.

Connection with Bluetooth earbuds is quite reliable, so you shouldn’t experience too many audio drops or connectivity issues with wireless earbuds.

While wired headphones can provide better connection and sound quality, they tie you to your phone or computer, so you’re not able to walk around freely while still listening to your audio. On the plus side, you don’t have to worry about battery life with wired earbuds since they’re not battery-powered. They’re also usually cheaper than wireless earbuds if budget is a consideration. Though thanks to Black Friday deals and other sales, finding a pair of wireless earbuds at a reasonable price is less of a challenge than it used to be.

Ultimately, we do prefer to go wireless, and we’re guessing you do too since you’re here reading this.

Earbuds vs. headphones

One of the first things you’ll want to consider when it comes to selecting the best headphones for your unique sitch is whether you prefer earbuds or headphones. Headphones go over or around your ears while earbuds go inside them and have a much smaller profile. Choosing between the two mainly comes down to style, comfort, and sound quality.

Something to keep in mind is that headphones can squeeze your head and give you a headache if you wear them too long, and while earbuds won’t do the same, they can make your ears feel sore after extended wear. It’s all about personal preference as to which fit you like better.

SEE ALSO: 10 of the best wireless headphones

Some benefits of earbuds are that they are easier to transport, and because they’re smaller, you don’t have many restrictions headphone users often face when it comes to wearing them. You can also wear wireless earbuds while also wearing a helmet or hat, which is not so easy or comfortable with a pair of headphones.

That said, on-ear and over-ear headphones do provide a better seal and have larger speakers than earbuds, causing them to be the winners in the sound quality department. There’s some give and take when choosing between wireless earbuds and wireless headphones, depending on how you’ll use them and what sort of sound quality you’re looking for.

What to look for when buying wireless earbuds

Battery life is one of the most important features to look at in a pair of wireless earbuds. You don’t want to have to take a break from your music or podcast in the middle of listening because your earbuds’ battery died. You want a pair of buds that have a long playback time as well as a decent extended battery life from the charging case. If the playback battery life is less than five hours, you’re going to have to pop the earbuds back in their case more frequently than you might want. On the bright side, though, charging cases usually work pretty quickly and a fast 15-minute charge will provide you with an hour or more of listening time. And if you prefer wireless charging, look for a pair of earbuds that has that capability.

You’ll also want to pay attention to how the earbuds actually fit. Do you want rubber tips? Ear hooks? If fitted silicone tips don’t sit right in your ears, the original AirPods might be more comfortable for you. PowerBeats Pros are also good if standard earbuds don’t stay in your ears, because they feature over-the-ear hooks to ensure those puppies stay put.

Sound quality and noise reduction or cancellation are also important to consider when buying wireless earbuds. Like we said, headphones are probably going to give you better audio quality, but you can still get some crisp, full sound from earbuds. Brands like Bose, Sony, and Sennheiser are known for their great sound quality, so you can expect their reputations to shine through their wireless earbuds.

Active noise cancellation in wireless earbuds

When wireless earbuds first hit the market, we didn’t see many with noise cancellation abilities, but now it seems that noise-canceling earbuds are the standard. This means newer models of wireless earbuds cost a bit more than their predecessors, but in our opinion, the extra cost is worth it.

SEE ALSO: Best noise-canceling headphones for blocking out the world

Active noise cancellation isn’t the same in earbuds as it is in headphones. Over-ear headphones can create a sound-blocking seal that you just physically cannot get with earbuds. But earbuds with silicone tips still do a pretty good job creating a seal that allows for ANC. It’s definitely enough for blocking out noisy coworkers or a loud, bustling street.

Most earbuds with active noise cancellation also have some form of transparent or ambient mode that you can turn on to hear what’s going on around you.

Are true wireless earbuds worth it?

Let us put it simply: YES. Truly wireless earbuds give you totally free mobility (within range of your device, which is usually about 30 feet). You're able to walk around the house or office, go for a run, and so much more without being tethered to your phone. You also won't experience the awful yank that happens when you drop your phone while wearing wired earbuds.

Wireless earbuds that have a connecting cord still run the risk of getting caught on something and getting tugged out of your ears. Truly wireless earbuds are the only way to avoid this hassle.

Are cheap wireless earbuds good?

Wireless earbuds are an item to splurge on. A low price tag may sound appealing, but you’re going to be losing out on sound quality, features, and durability. Dropping $200 for a pair of earbuds might not seem ideal, but you know for that price they’re going to last. Opting for a cheap pair of wireless earbuds could mean that you’ll have to replace them not long after buying. And in the end, that’ll cost you more than if you just bought the nice, expensive pair from the start.

However, there are a few decent wireless earbuds under $100 — you just won’t get as many features. Which is totally fine if you’re more budget-focused. Just know that if you dip into the $20 to $30 range, you shouldn’t expect much in terms of quality and longevity.

How AirPods compare to other wireless earbuds

Apple is almost always going to be one of our top picks. The company just knows what it’s doing. That said, there are some other wireless earbuds that give Apple's buds a run for their money.

Bose, Jabra, and Sony have stellar sound quality that meets or surpasses Apple. And the brands feature different designs for their buds if you don’t like the way AirPods look. It seems like most wireless earbuds now have silicone ear tips, so the original AirPods stand out by having an earpiece we’re familiar with from Apple’s wired earbuds.

Choosing the best wireless earbuds for you mostly comes down to your personal preferences, but here’s a guide to help you directly compare the top earbuds on the market based on specs like battery life, style, noise-canceling features, music controls, and more.


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