Classic Bluetooth neckbuds, with the buds joined by a cable running behind the neck, are so last year. The best true wireless earbuds have no cables at all. They sound as good as full-size headphones, but with none of the drawbacks.
Audiophile TW earbuds now rival full-size headphones for listening pleasure, with support for high-definition music formats, and many even include active noise cancellation tech. Using Bluetooth 5 means much more reliable connections and battery life that's well over 20 hours .
Here is our list of the top TW buds we've tested in the last 12 months, including all the competitors to the Apple Airpods Pro, but check back often because we update our list regularly.
Finding these pickings a bit too rich for your wallet? Browse our list of the best budget true wireless buds instead.
Best true wireless earbuds
- Sony WF-1000XM3 True Wireless
- Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2.0
- Jabra Elite 75t
- Apple AirPods Pro
- 1MORE Colorbuds
- Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus
- Beats PowerBeats Pro
- B&O Beoplay E8 2.0
- Sennheiser CX 400BT True Wireless
- 1MORE Stylish True Wireless
- Edifier X3
Considering it's still rare to get noise-cancellation in wired earbuds at all, the fact that Sony has managed to pack it into a pair that are not only wireless, but true wireless is very impressive indeed.
While models like the AirPods Pro have tried to replicate this, Sony is still top of the true wireless table.
That's because the Sony WF-1000XM3 manage to offer a level of noise-cancellation that's exceedingly good for a pair of earbuds – they won't offer the same isolation as a pair of over-ear headphones, but it's a worthy trade off for that sleeker form.
Sony has really knocked the ball out of the park with the WF-1000XM3. Not only are these hands down the best-looking true wireless earbuds on the market, but they also combine serious noise-cancelling tech with fist-pumping musicality. If you don’t want the inconvenience of carrying full-size cans around, they’re a persuasive alternative.
Battery life is above average, and that compact charging case is pretty slick too. Constantly improving, a recent update has brought volume control to the buds themselves, as well as support for Amazon Alexa. We reckon the true wireless jungle has found a new king.
These earbuds might be getting even better in the near future, too; on March 5, the earbuds briefly appeared on the Qualcomm website, suggesting that the Sony WF-1000XM3 could be about to get aptX HD support – and therefore, support for Hi-Res Audio.
Read more: Sony WF-1000XM3 review
[Update: We've tested the latest Sony earbuds; the Sony WF-SP800N are a sweat-resistant pair of true wireless earbuds that have both active noise cancellation and support for Sony's spatial audio format, 360 Reality Audio. Could one pair of earbuds please both workout enthusiasts and audiophiles? It certainly looks that way.]
The sound quality, battery life, and design of the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 are truly brilliant – and they're a really good alternative to the Sony WF-1000XM3, particularly if you prefer a more flashy design to adorn your ears.
We did find that those with smaller ears sometimes find them a little uncomfortable, however, and their high price just stops them from taking the top spot of this round up.
Otherwise? Sennheiser has pretty much knocked it out of the park with these buds, offering great noise cancellation alongside smart looks and stunning sound.
Read more: Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 review
The Jabra Elite 75t improve upon their predecessors, the Jabra Elite 65t, in just about every way – except for tonal balance.
The headphones and charging case are much smaller, battery life makes an immense jump, catching up to the competition, and the customization features we enjoyed in the 65t remain.
While they don't have the best sound quality and they lacks active noise cancellation, neither stops the Jabre Elite 75t from being a solid pair of true wireless earbuds to use, especially if you make frequent calls with your headphones on.
Read the full review: Jabra Elite 75t review
Apple has launched its new true wireless earbuds, bringing active noise cancellation, a (finally) much better fit, and an improved design, in a bid to lure more iPhone users into the true wireless fold.
However, at $249 / £249 / AU$399, they’re pretty pricey too, and as such can’t be called the very best wireless headphones out there.
That said, if you’re an iPhone user looking for some well-fitting earbuds with strong sound quality, you could do a lot worse than the new AirPods - the redesign means they’re far less likely to fall out, 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.
The sound quality of the AirPods Pro has certainly improved since the previous iteration – there’s a notable emphasis on vocals and bass, meaning these earbuds are better for pop fans than those that enjoy a more natural presentation that lends itself to classical music or more orchestral sounds.
Apparently, there's a new AirPods model on the horizon to join the original buds and the newer Pros. The AirPods Pro Lite are rumored to be a new, cheaper variant of the company's popular true wireless earbuds, and they could be released this year.
Read more: Apple AirPods Pro review
1MORE always delivers excellent bang for buck: great sound and features for your money. The Colorbuds are a big step up on the original Stylish true wireless from last year. The fit is even more comfortable and secure than before, the buds weigh even less (a quite negligible 4g each) and the charge cradle is possibly the best size and shape we've ever used.
But the standout feature is the balanced armature drivers used in the Colorbuds which we think deliver a delightfully balanced and accurate sound that is still toe-tappingly exciting to listen to. True to their name they're now also available in a range of cool metallic shades.
Read more: 1MORE Colorbuds
Samsung's two previous true wireless offerings, the Icon X and the Galaxy Buds, fell short of expectations. While the sound was decent they suffered from connectivity issues and poor voice quality on calls. These upgraded buds are similar only in appearance, but has much better tech throughout.
They do look almost identical to the predecessor: a mid-sized bud with a snug fit thanks to the little wing which tucks into the folds of the ear. We found them extremely comfortable and secure. The audio setup is much improved, courtesy of Samsung subsidiary and audio specialist AKG. It's a dual driver design, does provide superior frequency separation and a good overall sound, but these could still use more bass.
Connectivity and voice issues seem to have been largely resolved and, together with the much improved sound and new iPhone compatibility, they earned a place on our list.
Read more: Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus
The new PowerBeats Pro true wireless Beats headphones aren't exactly the earbuds analysts have been predicting, sure, but they are something special – they’re supremely comfortable, sound decent and seem to never, ever fall out.
They might not be the best true wireless earbuds in Apple's audio arsenal now that the AirPods Pro are here, but they are Apple’s most premium play into the world of running headphones, and are the buds we'd recommend to most workout enthusiasts.
That's thanks to features like the pressure-reducing micro-laser barometric venting hole, their long battery life and good sound quality. If we had to choose between wearing these and the original AirPods around the house or office, these are what we’d wear.
Read more: Beats PowerBeats Pro review
Let’s get one thing out of the way – the B&O Beoplay E8 are some of the best-looking and most expensive wireless earphones you can buy at $350 / £300 (around AU$570).
Audio quality is undeniably excellent, and you can tweak the sound to your liking using the accompanying Beoplay app on Android and iOS.
Even without tinkering around with ToneTouch, the E8 2.0s sounds crisp and clear, with punchy bass frequencies. So, the Bang & Olufsen E8 2.0 truly wireless earphones look great and sound great, although the touch-sensitive buttons are a little too sensitive at times, and there's no active noise cancellation.
However, it's hard to not find these earphones appealing, and if you want your true wireless earbuds to look as good as they sound, they could be the perfect model for you.
Read more: B&O Beoplay E8 2.0 Wireless Earphones review
Having established its credentials as a high-end true wireless earbud front-runner with two generations of its Momentum True Wireless, Sennheiser’s now turned its attention to the less rarefied area where Apple, Microsoft, Sony and all the rest duke it out. At £169 / $199 / AU$299, the CX400BT are pitched right into the thick of the action.
Happily, the CX400BT are specified to compete. They have aptX Bluetooth connectivity, with SBC and AAC codecs catered for too; they have app-based EQ adjustment; they have responsive touch-controls (which can be customized in the app); and they can be operated using Google Assistant or Siri.
Read more: Sennheiser CX 400BT review
The 1MORE brand has already notched a couple of spots on our headphone lists, and this great-sounding budget-priced offering scores them another top spot.
Made entirely pf plastic they don't feel quite as classy as other products on this list, but that makes them much lighter and, together with their add-on silicon wings, much less likely to fly out as you whip your head around in the traffic, or in the kitchen. They use the aptX protocol to preserve your music quality over Bluetooth. And the audio performance punches well above its price, with decent soundstage and enough bass.
They're the best-priced true wireless buds we've tested that are still worth buying, so they crept on to our list.
The 1MO brand has already notched a couple of spots on our headphone lists, and this great-sounding budget-priced offering scores them another top spot.
Our pick of the cut-price TW buds the Edifier X3 faced loads of competition, including from some much bigger audio brands. But the X3 saw of all challengers with a marvellous all-round sound performance. For buds costing just R1000 they proved exceptionally sure footed across complex music in all genres and delivered a serious toe tapping experience throughout.
The soundstage won't match the expansive style of the audiophile brands' top models but the X3 delivered a surprisingly confident and balanced sound, slightly weighted for the mid-range, acoustic instruments and vocals, yet somehow still exciting to listen to for pop, hard rock and bass heavy dance music.
For budget buds we were delighted with the support for both SBC and aptX HD formats, and battery life was better than average. Unfortunately, the thin plastic carry case does little to enhance their image.
The second generation Apple AirPods, the AirPods (2019), aren't a huge improvement on their predecessors, but they still sport some cool features, that may make them worth buying if you're an iPhone user in particular.
They still feature the iconic design of the original AirPods (a good or bad thing depending on your point of view), and sound quality hasn't changed at all – it's lively, but not on par with the best true wireless earbuds in this guide. The bulk of the upgrade comes from the new H1 headphone chip, which improves connectivity and battery life, and allows for a new ‘Hey Siri’ voice activation feature.
The AirPods (2019) also come with an optional wireless charging case means you can use a Qi-compatible charging mat to power the case, rather than sticking a cable into the Lightning charging port at the bottom of the case.
Like their predecessors, they are super easy to pair, but they are very much optimised for using with iPhones. The best true wireless earbuds give you more flexibility when it comes to your device of choice, and can offer superior sound quality – as well as sleeker designs.
There’s also no getting away from the fact that these are an expensive pair of headphones, and for that kind of money we think you can find better products elsewhere – especially if you're looking to pair with anything other than an iPhone.
Read more Apple AirPods (2019) review
True wireless vs wireless: what's the difference?
Wireless headphones are traditional over-ear or on-ear headphones without the wire – the two earcups are connected by a headband. To learn more, head to our round up of the best wireless headphones.
Wireless earbuds – the focus of this guide – have existed for a while now, basically since Bluetooth was invented. Though battery-powered and not physically connected to your phone, they have a cord connecting both buds – and sometimes a band around the neck too. Check out the best wireless earbuds for more.
True wireless earbuds - the focus of this guide – have no cord whatsoever. While wireless allows us to wear headphones a few feet away from our music players, true wireless cuts the cord between the earbuds, giving us true freedom.
Wireless headphones vs true wireless earbuds: which design is best for you?