On the hunt for headphones with amazing sound? If you want to go easy on your wallet, we’ve got a list of the. But if you want to find the absolute best-sounding wireless earbuds, the hard truth is you’ll need to expect to spend more — a lot more, in some cases. However, in recent months we’ve come across a few models that cost less than $75 and still deliver surprisingly impressive sound, so we’ve now added them to this list.
The best wireless headphones tend to be on the bigger side because when it comes to the sound quality of a pair of true, size does seem to matter. And that’s where the one big caveat comes into play: To achieve optimal performance, the best true wireless earbuds need to feel comfortable and fit right in your ear — and you need to get a tight seal. If you can’t get a snug fit with a pair of in-ear headphones, you’ll be sadly disappointed and think you got ripped off, which is why I suggest buying a pair from a store with a decent return policy, such as Amazon. I’d also like to add, if you have trouble finding earbuds that work for you, try ones that can accommodate an ear hook. It’s life-changing.
We wanted to make sure you know about your options beyond the ubiquitous Apple AirPods, especially if you’re not carrying an Apple device. Below is a list of the best-sounding wireless earbuds, with a breakdown of features, including performance, noise cancellation, battery life, audio quality and how comfortable the headphones are.
Bowers & Wilkins, the venerable British audio company acquired last year by Sound United, has released its first true wireless earbuds. They are well worth the wait — if you can afford them. The new flagship noise-canceling PI7 earbuds sound terrific — they’re arguably the best sounding true-wireless earbuds out there right now — but cost a whopping $400. The step-down noise-canceling PI5 buds retail for $250.
Aside from stellar sound and very good noise canceling, the PI7 buds have a few bonus feature that may or may not help you rationalize paying $400 for them. For starters, they’re the first earbuds I’ve encountered where the wireless charging case converts into a transceiver, so you can plug the case into the headphone port on an airplane’s inflight entertainment system and wirelessly stream audio from the case to the earbuds.
Additionally, Bowers & Wilkins says the PI7 supports Qualcomm aptX Adaptive wireless transmission (which includes the aptX HD codec) from compatible mobile devices, allowing for “high-resolution music transmission from suitable streaming services, such as Qobuz.”
They’re IPX54 splash-proof and have four hours of battery life with noise canceling on (that’s a little disappointing), plus an extra four charges from the case. Read our Bowers & Wilkins PI7 first take.
No earbuds are perfect, of course, and not everybody will love the fit of the Sony WF-1000XM4 buds or be able to afford their high price. But if you’re looking for great-sounding earbuds with brilliant noise canceling, solid voice-calling capabilities and good battery life, these buds check all the boxes.
For me anyway the traits of excellent sounding wireless headphones involve such adjectives as accurate, articulate, well-balanced, dynamic and smooth. These exhibit those traits and their sound is up there with the best-sounding models. They’re also splash-proof, with an IPX4 rating.
I A/B tested these with the Bowers & Wilkins PI7, which arguably have the slight edge — the PI7 may just be the best-sounding true-wireless earbuds out there right now. But the Sony WF-1000XM4’s noise canceling and headset performance is superior and they cost $120 less, so you may see the PI7 come down in price to compete with the Sony because it’s hard to justify spending the extra dough on the PI7, even if its charging case doubles as a Bluetooth transceiver and it does support the aptX Adaptive format. Read our Sony WF-1000XM4 review.
Master & Dynamic’s earlier MW07 and MW07 Plus delivered top-notch sound for true wireless, but they were a little lacking in the features department and weren’t so great for making calls. The new-for-2021 MW08 offers some significant improvements, including the addition of solid noise canceling and call quality, that makes it one of the top models for 2021. Alas, it’s expensive at $299.
Battery life has improved a bit (up to around 12 hours of battery life at 50% volume versus 10 hours for the MW07 Plus), and the earbuds are equipped with Bluetooth 5.2, active noise cancellation with three microphones on each earbud (noise reduction during calls isn’t up to the level of the AirPods Pro but overall call quality has improved). The noise-canceling on the MW07 Plus was pretty weak; the MW08’s is much more effective.
You can opt for two levels of noise cancellation in the new M&D Connect app for iOS and Android, as well as two levels of transparency that lets you hear the outside world. The app currently has no way to tweak the sound profile (‘m OK with that because the sound profile is just fine for my tastes) and the earbuds have a physical button on each bud to control playback, not touch controls.
The ‘buds may not fit everyone’s ear equally well, but they certainly have a distinct look, as well as excellent sound and a great listening experience if you can get a tight seal (I was able to get a secure fit with the largest tip). They deliver more of an audiophile sound profile, with smooth, well-balanced sound and well-defined bass. This model has new 11mm drivers, which add a bit of punch to the bass and a touch better clarity. The MW08 works well with all genres of music.
Available in a variety of color options for $300, like their predecessors, the MW08 includes a swanky stainless-steel charging case (it charges via USB-C) that’s compact but carries more weight than your typical buds cases. I prefer the matte finishes of the cases that come with the black and blue versions, and you also get a secondary pouch for safekeeping (yes, the charging case can get scratched up if you leave it in a bag).
These truly wireless earbuds now support both the aptX and AAC audio codecs and have an extended range of more than 20 meters, according to Master & Dynamic. They have an IPX5 rating and can withstand sustained sprays.
JBL has a few new true-wireless noise-canceling earbuds for 2021, including the Reflect Mini NC and Club Pro Plus. However, the flagship Tour Pro Plus ($200) is clearly the best of the bunch and among the best sounding true-wireless earbuds, with clean, dynamic, well-balanced sound with powerful bass and a relatively wide soundstage. Noise canceling and call quality are also quite decent.
Like many of the other buds on this list, these are somewhat bulbous and do stick out of your ears a bit. But I found them pretty comfortable and got a secure fit with the largest ear tips. They’re IPX4 splash-resistant and have a battery life rating of six hours with noise canceling on and eight hours with it off, at moderate volume levels.
It took Bose quite a while to get them into stores, but the $279 noise-canceling QuietComfort Earbuds are finally here. In many ways, they’re excellent true wireless earbuds, particularly when it comes to their sound and noise canceling, which is arguably the best right now in a set of earbuds.
The Bose are right up there with the best-sounding true wireless earbuds and go toe to toe with the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2. They work well for a variety of music genres but fans of hip-hop and EDM will find they have plenty of kick to their bass. They’re splash-proof, with an IPX4 rating.
Read our Bose QuietComfort Earbuds review.
The second-generation Momentum True Wireless 2 aren’t cheap, but since they’ve been out a while, they’re being discounted — we may very well see a Momentum True Wireless 3 in the near future. These buds are better all around than the originals, with a slightly smaller, more comfortable design, active noise canceling that rivals that of the AirPods Pro, improved battery life (up to seven hours versus the original’s four) and better noise reduction during calls. And if you don’t like these Bluetooth earbuds in black, a white version is available. Most importantly, though, the Momentum True Wireless 2 have the same stellar sound — for true wireless earbuds, anyway — offering clearly superior sound quality to the AirPods Pro. They earned a CNET Editors’ Choice Award in 2020.
These use Bluetooth 5.1 with support for the AAC and aptX codecs (for devices that have aptX, like Samsung’s Galaxy smartphones). They have an IPX4 water resistance rating, meaning they’re splash-proof. Read our Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 review.
Sennheiser last year released the CX 400BT True Wireless, a more affordable alternative to its excellent Momentum True Wireless 2 earbuds. I liked the CX400BT but thought the $200 list price was high and felt there was some room for discounts based on their build quality. Sure enough, their price quickly dropped to $150, then sporadically hit $100 on Amazon, and bottomed out at $80 for Prime Day 2021. Now we get the new Sennheiser CX, which have essentially the same design as their predecessors but offer some small improvements, along with a lower $130 price tag. They sound very good for their price point but do stick out of your ears a little more than some buds.
The buds are equipped with Bluetooth 5.2 and presumably an upgraded chipset. Battery life is up to nine hours at moderate volume levels (the slightly bulky charging case stores an additional three charges) versus seven hours for the previous model. The CX also adds an extra microphone on each bud, which does improve the voice-calling experience and makes it easier for callers to hear you speak, even in noisy environments. To be clear, however, these are not active noise-canceling earbuds, they simply offer noise reduction for calls. Splash-proof, they have an IPX4 rating.
Read our Sennheiser CX first take.
Known for its excellent sounding, retro-designed, open-back wired headphones, Grado has long been a favorite among audiophiles, earning extra points for building many of its headphones by hand in Brooklyn, New York, for over 60 years. But with the world moving to wireless audio, the company has slowly shifted into the Bluetooth headphone arena, first with its GW100 on-ear model (in 2018) and now with its first true wireless earbuds, the GT220 ($259). Grado says it’s been working for two years to fit them with its “signature” mini-drivers and tune them accordingly. The good news is they sound fantastic — for true-wireless earbuds anyway — and perform well as a headset for making calls.
Their more penetrating fit (the buds have to be jammed into your ears), which provides very good passive noise-muffling, may not work for everybody. But if you’re OK with it, these are easily among the best-sounding true-wireless earbuds out there — and maybe even the best-sounding.
Audiophile headphones are often associated with more of a flat or neutral sound profile that delivers “accurate” sound. These are well-balanced but they have a more exciting sound profile, with bass that’s a touch more forward and nice sparkle in the treble. They are more revealing and articulate than Sennheiser’s True Wireless Momentum II earbuds, which come across as warmer and a bit more open with slightly bigger sound.
These use Bluetooth 5.0 with support for the AAC and aptX codecs (for devices that have aptX, like Samsung’s Galaxy smartphones). They have an IPX4 water-resistance rating, so they’re splash-proof. Read our Grado GT220 review.
I’ve been a fan of Samsung’s recent Galaxy true wireless earbuds. The Galaxy Buds Plus fit my ears really well and have become one of the better true wireless values, sometimes selling for less than $100 online. And the Galaxy Buds Live, also discounted a bit since their original debut, feature a discreet and innovative “open” design and I like to use them for running and biking. Now the $200 Galaxy Buds Pro — Samsung’s long-awaited active noise-canceling model — have arrived with upgraded sound and high expectations. (Yes, the Buds Live also have noise canceling, but it’s rather modest.)
The Buds Pro are mostly impressive, although just how good you think they are will ultimately depend on how well they fit your ears. The other caveat is that Samsung’s new 360 Audio virtual surround feature (similar to Apple’s spatial audio) only works with Samsung’s latest Galaxy S21 models. I do expect that over time firmware upgrades will offer small improvements and we’ll see some discounts sooner rather than later. They’re fully waterproof with an IPX7 rating.
Read our Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro review.
Edifier has a few different new true-wireless earbuds and most, including the TWS 330NB, are very good values. While the TWS 330NB buds are missing a sensor that automatically pauses your music when you take them out of your ears, they feature really good sound quality for the money, decent active noise canceling with a transparency mode, and solid voice calling (they have three microphones in each bud for noise canceling and noise reduction during calls).
They fit my ears well — they’re essentially AirPods Pro clones — and while the touch controls are a little limited, they are programmable using the Edifier Connect app for iOS and Android (you can also set their level of touch sensitivity). They have an IP54 rating, which means they’re splash- and dust-proof, and battery life is rated at four hours with noise canceling on and five hours with it off (at moderate volume levels). That’s only OK, but you do get an additional two charges via the charging case. They’re also available in black.
Yes, the Powerbeats Pro’s jumbo charging case with its built-in battery is a notable drawback. But incorporating all the features that make Apple AirPods great while delivering richer sound and better battery life in a design that won’t fall out of your ear ultimately is a winning proposition. Just make sure to buy these bluetooth headphones somewhere with a good return policy in case you’re in the small minority that doesn’t find them comfortable to wear.
They use Bluetooth 5.0 with support for AAC but not aptX. They’re splash-proof with an IPX4 rating.
Read our Beats Powerbeats Pro review.
More wireless earbud recommendations
Source from www.cnet.com