- True wireless earbuds connect to your phone with Bluetooth instead of wires, and are stored inside a small case that recharges the earbuds when they’re inside.
- As such, wireless earbuds are very convenient and great for carrying around all day.
- The Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 earbuds are the best ones we’ve tested.
- They are simple to use, have exceptional battery life, offer superb sound that’s suitable for every type of music, are sweat resistant, and come with a reasonable price tag.
Just like the name suggests, true wireless earbuds are headphones that fit neatly in your ear and are completely without wires. Because they are so small and wire-free, these earbuds can be easily transported and stored in small charging cases when you’re not wearing them.
There’s no shortage of true wireless earbuds available today, making any buying decision difficult. The sheer convenience of this type of headphone makes them suitable for everyday wear in just about every situation.
Bang & Olufsen, Cambridge Audio, and Sennheiser all have new wireless earbuds, so how do they compare with two established players – Apple’s AirPods and Samsung’s Galaxy Buds? They will need to have the right balance of comfort and long battery life, a great audio experience that works at home, on the street, and in noisy environments, and not cost a fortune either.
Which out of these is the one to buy? We compared all pairs over a few weeks to see which ones came out on top.
I’ve reviewed audio and mobile products for seven years, and I tested each pair of headphones here in various environments, including on noisy trains and streets, at the gym, at home, and walking around town.
I listened to both music and spoken word to test the audio performance, either from locally stored sources on a few different phones, or through streaming apps like Spotify or Google Podcasts. I used an iPhone XS Max as the primary source, but also tested the headphones with the Huawei P30 Pro, the Oppo Reno 10x Zoom, and the OnePlus 7 Pro to make sure they work well across different phones. If there was an app available, I also installed it and tried it out.
Here are the best truly wireless earbuds you can buy:
Prices and links are current as of 01/28/2020. We're currently in the process of testing new wireless earbuds for consideration on our list.
The best wireless earbuds overall
The Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 earbuds have a fantastic sound that suits all music types, long battery life, and they are really easy to use - all for a great price.
Let's get this straight from the start: Most truly wireless earbuds look unattractive because they stick out of your ears. You won't buy the Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 for the look, unless Frankenstein's Monster is your style icon.
Our review model came in black, but they are available in white too. The shape is best described as bullety, and the control system classic, as the end caps are big physical buttons that are easy to locate and press. You get simple controls too. Hold the buttons to raise or lower the volume, double tap to advance or go back, and press once to pause. Easy, and more importantly, reliable.
The case is small, black, and made of plastic. It's similar in size to the AirPods, but cheaper feeling with its quickly smudged soft-touch finish. Flip the top to take out the bullet earbuds, which are securely fixed in using magnets.
Of all the earbuds tested here, these were the ones that were hardest to get a comfortable fit. They're not heavy at only 4.6 grams, but because they poke out of my ears quite far - ears are all different, so they may fit you differently - they tended to feel like they're loose. I settled on the included Comply foam tips in the end, which made sure they felt secure. Despite this looseness, they never once fell out, even when used at the gym.
Each bud has a 5.8mm graphene driver inside and paired with the iPhone XS Max, the Melomania 1 headphones are little rockets. They deliver an overwhelming level of volume, a bass response that borders on the extreme, and a stunning clarity that reveals every detail in the music you're listening to.
Cambridge Audio dedicates itself to the "British sound," which has been embedded deep inside the Melomanias. Guitars and drums are front and center, while the vocals fill the wide soundstage. The listening experience is exciting, joyous, and often epic.
The British sound really suits guitar-driven, vocal-heavy rock and pop songs. Band Maid's "Daydreaming" kicks like it should, with lead singer Atsumi Saiki's voice never being overpowered by Tōno Kanami's guitar or Hirose Akane's drums - instead getting the balance exactly right. The real surprise comes when you discover how fantastic the Melomania earbuds are for dance and bass-heavy music.
Mat Zo's progressive house masterpiece "The Sky" is superb, for example: Soaring, detailed, and with a controlled, pumping bass line. Apink's Eung Eung, and Hug Me are full of bass and mids, but never at the expense of the group's stunning vocals. I could listen for hours.
Battery life is fantastic. Charged, the buds last for nine hours, and the case delivers a further four full charges for 45 hours listening before the whole thing needs plugging into a charger itself. Disappointingly, the case has a Micro-USB port, rather than a USB-C port. A decision that may have been made to keep the price down, this may annoy those who have made the switch to USB-C charging on their phones. However, it doesn't need constant recharging due to the long battery life, so it's not a disaster.
Provided you prioritize sound and battery over aesthetics - and in this case you really should - it's impossible to dismiss the Melomania's very low price, and welcome simplicity. They're one of the cheapest we tested, don't bother with a complicated app, and arguably sound just as good as the most expensive set, plus they have the longest battery life too. Our recommendation: Save some cash, buy the Cambridge Audio Melomania 1, enjoy the superb performance, and forget about the looks.
Pros: Long battery life, excellent sound, competitive price, simple to use
Cons: Unattractive design, fit takes work to get comfortable, Micro-USB charging port
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0
Battery: 2 hours recharge using Micro-USB
Charging: Nine hours use time, four charges from the case, for a total of 45 hours
Codecs: AptX, AAC codecs
The best wireless earbuds for sound
The Bang & Olufsen Beoplay E8 Motion true wireless headphones ooze style and quality, from the leather case to the sweet, classy sound. They're expensive but justifiable.
The Bang & Olufsen's E8 Motion true wireless headphones are apparently designed for sport and active lifestyles, due to water and sweat resistance.
Unlike the E8 2.0's, the E8 Motion headphones are only available in white, eschewing the obsession with making sporty headphones in color schemes better suited to your sneakers. While this is pleasing, the leather case isn't really suited to being thrown in a gym bag, as even after a few uses it picks up marks and gets grubby.
Slightly inappropriate materials aside, the case is rather special. Open it up and you're greeted by a stylish piece of brushed metal surrounding the perfectly shaped magnetic holes for the earbuds.
While there is a USB-C port to recharge the E8 Motions on the back of the case, it has a more convenient Qi wireless charging system. Pop the case down on a compatible wireless charging pad, and it'll be ready next time you leave the house. The earbuds last for around four hours, and the case's 530mAh battery has power for three charges.
The 7-gram buds themselves are substantial and in keeping with the traditional true wireless look - a small lozenge-shape earpiece that, thanks to a special "wing" at the top, fits very securely inside your earlobe. The size does mean they can get uncomfortable to wear after a while, but I found this can be cured by a few twists and turns of the bud itself, as it doesn't like, or need, to be jammed in your ear to stay in place. They never once felt insecure or about to fall out, even when at the gym.
I did have a few connection problems. The left bud would occasionally cut out and leave the right one working, then reconnect itself after a second. It's not terminal, and it doesn't happen all the time, but it's annoying when it does. Pairing isn't as easy as the Galaxy Buds, and requires you to hold the touch panels on the side of both buds for about five seconds.
A B&O app enables special tuning of the sound through an intuitive slider system, which stops you having to change an equalizer or understand frequencies to tailor the sound to your liking.
To control the earbuds you use the touch panel set in each one. Tap the right to play or pause, tap twice to advance a track, and touch and hold to increase the volume. A touch and hold on the left decreases the volume, and a single tap activates the "transparency" mode. This lets you hear the world around you, in a slightly amplified manner. You can hear conversations around you clearly, but it also captures other ambient sounds. It's effective enough to use on a plane or in an office.
Activate transparency on the earbuds and the music cuts out. Use the app and the degree of transparency can be adjusted, mixing the world around you with your music. The bias is definitely towards the outside world here, with the music taking a backseat and becoming almost incidental.
These are B&O headphones, and as you'd expect the sound quality from the 5.7mm electro-dynamic drivers is outstanding. An intimate and immersive soundstage keeps music tight, and masses of volume means you can easily drown out life around you. There's so much life and vibrance to the clean, natural tones, I didn't find one track that sounded less than stellar.
The effective yet subtle processing and a hard, noticeable but not overpowering bass response are the strong points, while an overly bright vocal and high-end tone can get tiring when listening on the iPhone at high volumes. However, for the most part, the B&O E8 Motion headphones are seriously good all-rounders.
Pros: Beautiful case and earbud design, wireless charging, vibrant and natural sound quality
Cons: Expensive, case gets easily marked
Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.2
Battery: Four hours use time, 12 hours from the case, for a total of 16 hours
Charging: Two hours recharge time using USB Type-C or Qi wireless charging
Durability: Splash and water resistance
App: Yes, iOS and Android
The best earbuds for Samsung fans
The Samsung Galaxy Buds are good-looking and very comfortable to wear, with decent sound quality, and plenty of Samsung-only features.
Samsung's Galaxy Buds are excellent pick-up-and-go true wireless headphones. The small plastic case is easily transported and won't break easily, while the Buds are very easy to wear for extended periods, plus once you're on the move, they have good sound and simple controls. What's not to like?
Pairing is performed simply, and without the buds leaving the case. Open the top, and they automatically enter pairing mode - this is much better than the often used touch-and-hold systems employed by others I tested here. Once in my ears, the Galaxy Buds were supremely comfortable and I had no trouble selecting a good ear-tip. Noise isolation is excellent, and they did not become uncomfortable even after wearing them for several hours.
The 5.6-gram Galaxy Buds are very pretty to look at and do not have the same level of bulk as most others tested here. They fit in my ears perfectly and don't stick out at an angle. Because they're white, they are far less obvious than others; but different brighter colors are available if you want a bit of flair.
Samsung says the battery inside the Buds will last for six hours on a single charge, and the case has enough charge inside for a single extra session, which is disappointing compared to others.
Samsung does not provide its app for iOS, so functionality is lower when paired with an iPhone, but they still pair and play music. Tap either Bud to pause, double tap to advance to the next track, and a long press of either Bud summons Siri. There's no way to wirelessly control the volume, customize the touch controls, or access the Galaxy Buds' ambient sound mode or equalizer. For this, you need the Galaxy Wearable app, which is made for Android only. These are definitely made to be used with a Samsung or Android phone.
The AKG-tuned audio is well-balanced with plenty of volume, but it's not very subtle and doesn't have much finesse. Bass is not overpowering and at high volumes, often fluffy and imprecise. The sound stage is perfectly set without being too wide, and the stereo separation is pronounced. Nogizaka46's "Synchronicity" is great evidence of this, with the vocals being perfectly centered in the expansive orchestra.
The Galaxy Buds are an excellent all-rounder. While they don't have the highest level of detail and sound quality out there, the sound is still great for casual listening, and they are well suited for the gym or a noisy commute. Just don't expect to relax at home for a listening session where the emphasis is on immersive detail when the often raucous nature will soon become tiring.
Pros: Comfortable, good sound and noise isolation, inexpensive
Cons: Some features only work with Samsung devices, short battery life
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0
Battery: Six hours on a single charge, one further charge in the case
Charging: Two hours using USB Type-C, can also be charged using reverse charging on a Samsung Galaxy S10 smartphone.
App: Yes, Android only
The best earbuds for Apple fans
Apple's AirPods have a clever design that makes them very comfortable, and the pleasant sound quality will surprise many.
The AirPods stand apart here due to the way they fit in your ears. They don't have silicone or Comply foam tips, and instead the hard, smooth plastic nestles in your ear very comfortably, while the stems anchor the bud in place.
Until you try them for yourself, it's hard to imagine not only how comfortable and lightweight the 4-gram AirPods are, but also how secure they are too. The downside is the outside world is always with you, as the headphones offer very little noise isolation, making AirPods less than ideal for noisy commutes or a plane journey.
Does this mean the sound isn't good? No, AirPods, when listened to in an environment that's not too loud, are excellent. The bass response will surprise first-time listeners too, with the tiny drivers returning a hefty bass thump. When not ruined by outside sound, the soundstage is wide but vocals are focused and clear. There's detail and precision to the sound that's surprising, given their design; but it's not overflowing with either.
Connection is easy with an iPhone - it does everything for you when you open the case - and is equally as simple with an Android phone. Stability isn't a problem either, and the Bluetooth range is long.
I get five hours from a charged pair of AirPods, and the case - which has a Lightning connector on the bottom to recharge - will top them up for an additional 24 hours. The solid sound, the comfort, and the lengthy battery time make the AirPods very easy to live with. Even the case is compact and sensibly shaped that it fits in your pocket without bulging out in an obscene manner.
The stems on each AirPod are touch sensitive, and the action can be customized on your iPhone. I like the option to double tap on the right to pause and play, and double tap on the left to advance a track. It's simple and works well. Volume has to be altered using Siri (if Siri is selected as an option for touch commands) or on your phone. Pair AirPods with an Android phone and this does not operate. Instead, double tap on the right AirPod to pause and play. Sadly, the auto-pause function when you remove a bud doesn't work on Android either.
Then there is the style. It splits opinion, but the AirPods have become so common, we're all used to seeing the little white stems poking out of someone's ears. This familiarity has lessened the dorky look, and there are many who consider them a stylish and desirable accessory. While that's all going to be down to personal choice, just know that when you do see them in someone's ears, understand they're there because they feel and sound very natural.
Listening to both the AirPods 1 and AirPods 2, there wasn't much to choose between them; but if you pay extra for the wireless charging case, it does increase the convenience again. That's the way I feel about the AirPods generally - a sound I like, an unbreakable connection, comfort for hours, easily transported, and a good battery. They offer convenience in a very small package at a reasonable price.
Pros: Lightweight and comfortable, inexpensive, pleasant sound quality
Cons: No noise isolation, you have to pay more for wireless charging, some features only work with Apple devices
Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.2
Battery: 15-minute recharge for 30 minutes use using Lightning cable or wireless charging with extra case
Charging: Five hours per charge, four charges from the case, for a total of 24 hours
Durability: No water resistance or IP rating
The best wireless earbuds for audiophiles
The Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless headphones have a beautiful, neutral sound so you hear exactly what the artist wanted you to hear.
Like Bang & Olufsen and Cambridge Audio, Sennheiser's name brings with it a high degree of expectation. If you're expecting Sennheiser's usual natural, flat response wearing the Momentum True Wireless headphones, then that's exactly what you get. There's no emphasis on bass here, just a consistent audio experience that's representative of the way the track was mixed. If that's what you demand, then these are for you.
However, while a flat response is desirable, it's a shame the True Momentums can lack life if the track you're listening to is not recorded or presented to perfection. Unlike some other natural-sounding headphones - Audio-Technica's M50xBT for example - they don't really have their own distinctive sound signature either, often essential to giving music the chance to really shine, in my opinion.
I can't deny the detail and precision the True Momentums have though. Listening to Nogizaka46's "Kikake" each member's vocals are easy to recognize, and aren't overpowered by the instruments. The flat response really makes the difference in tracks like this, where emotion is generated by the words and vocals. It's the same with Apink's "Alright," where every breath from the singers and every percussive sparkle in the background can be heard. They are similarly effective at handling complex dubstep tracks like Skrillex's Bangarang, although the bass thump is not as deep or strong as the Motion E8's or Melomania's. A lovely, wide soundstage completes the package.
Technically the Sennheiser True Momentums are the "best" sounding headphones here. The detail is astonishing, and the lack of tinkering with the sound means you hear what was recorded, not what the headphones want you to. However, the execution is very clinical. It's like being told, "this is how it's supposed to sound, and you will enjoy it." That's fine, but the emotion suffers sometimes, and the sound is often harsh and unforgiving. Not every track is mixed to perfection, and the Sennheisers will expose flaws in an almost military fashion.
The 13-gram earbuds are similar in size to the Galaxy Buds, but not quite as comfortable. I experienced fatigue in one ear after less than 30 minutes wearing them, and no amount of wiggling ever made them feel great in my ear, only acceptable. The earbuds have a four-hour battery life, but this was rarely achieved. The case is covered in a classy fabric but is the largest here, yet it only adds two charges to the earbuds. It also fails to retain its charge for long for some reason, and out of all these earbuds, they required charging the most often.
Touch panels provide control over the music - two taps on the left to go to the next song, and hold to turn the volume up, or hold the right bud to turn them down for example. A single tap activates Siri or Google Assistant. A transparency mode, like the E8 Motion's, is controlled in the Sennheiser app, and is highly controllable and natural-sounding, with the emphasis on the music.
Getting the Momentum True Wireless paired was laborious - you have to touch and hold both earbuds to enter pairing mode - as it didn't always work, and the connection wasn't always stable.
The True Momentums deliver a technically impressive listening experience and are best experienced at home or in a space where you can be absorbed by the clarity. The sound occasionally lacks emotion, they're uncomfortable after wearing for only a short time, and pairing is a pain.
Pros: Neutral sound signature, attractive case
Cons: Expensive, poor battery life, uncomfortable
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0
Battery: 1.5 hours recharge time using USB Type-C.
Charging: Four hours use time, case provides an extra 12 hours, for a total of 16 hours
Codecs: AptX, AptX Low Latency, AAC codecs
App: Yes, iOS and Android
What else we considered
Master & Dynamic MW07 ($179.99)
Buy these stylish in-ear true wireless headphones from audio experts Master & Dynamic and you're assured of fabulous sound. Strong bass response, a wide soundstage, and pitch-perfect tuning, the MW07 headphones are worth every cent of their asking price. They're comfortable too, and the option to customize the look of the acetate panel on the buds themselves makes them unique.
I decided not to include them here for several reasons. The first is they're getting a little old and the battery life can't compete with some of the other options, and the other reason is they're quite delicate - one earbud stopped working for me after a very short drop - and connection stability is unreliable. Despite this, the MW07 true wireless headphones remain one of my favorite sounding pairs.
Beats Powerbeats Pro ($249.99)
Newly released from Apple-owned Beats, the Powerbeats Pro are specifically aimed at those who want to work out while wearing them, a fact emphasized by the over-ear hook to keep the earbuds in place. Equipped with the same connection technology as the AirPods, these didn't quite fit with the remit here - true wireless headphones suitable for everyday wear.
They're decent value though, and the 24-hour total battery life is in keeping with other models. If you're a fan of Beats tuning, these are worth looking at; but only if you plan on exercising with them in on a consistent basis.
Sony WF-1000XM3 ($229.99)
Sony's latest WF-1000XM3 true wireless headphones didn't make the cut here for one simple reason, we haven't tested them yet. What makes them special is active noise canceling, an unusual feature more often seen on over-ear headphones. Sony excels at noise canceling, as proven with its confusingly-named WH-1000MX3 over-ear headphones, making the prospect of these very exciting. They use the QN1e noise-canceling processor, as seen in the over-ear Sonys, so we're confident these are going to be strong performers.
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