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Best wireless earbuds 2021

best wireless earbuds 2021
(Image credit: Regan Coule/Laptop Magazine)

The best wireless earbuds afford you many of the same perks that an elite pair of wired or wireless headphones would, maybe even more. They free you of cables, letting you consume music on the go without being physically tethered to your portable devices: smartphones, tablets, and laptops. Even better, they pack lots of performance – great sound, call quality, and special features – into a compact design.

As the category continues to grow in popularity, so does the demand for wireless earbuds, especially with modern smartphones slowly doing away with the headphone jack. Le sigh. Nonetheless, this hasn’t stopped tech staples like Sony, Samsung, and even Apple from releasing stellar cordless buds. We’re also seeing other popular electronics brands such as Jabra and Anker jump on the wireless earbuds’ bandwagon, releasing superior products that hold their own against the top dogs.

In compiling a list of the best wireless earbuds, we take many variables into account, from battery life to connectivity to design to sound. Other notable hallmarks such as mobile app support, setup, and special features are factored into the equation as well.

After testing the market’s top offerings, we’ve ranked the best wireless earbuds based on budget, performance, and style. Scroll down to see which ones best suit your listening needs.

What are the best wireless earbuds?

The Apple AirPods Pro currently stand as the best wireless earbuds due to their enhanced fit, seamless iOS/MacOS functionality, and surprisingly good active noise cancellation. We’ve found these cordless danglers to be the ideal companion for all Apple devices. They also work with Android and Windows devices via Bluetooth, though the setup process can be a bit arduous. 

Coming in a close second is the recently launched Bose QuietComfort Earbuds, for its unbeatable noise cancellation and great sound. As mentioned in our review, Bose “managed to gather all of the winning qualities of its flagship headphones, shrink them down and put them in a pair of truly wireless earbuds.” The design and control scheme are also major improvements from what was delivered on the company’s last truly wireless model, the SoundSport Free.

Those on the hunt for Android- and Galaxy-friendly wireless earbuds may want to look at the all-new Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro. They have some great audio features like Gaming Mode and 360 Audio, which produces theatrical-like sound, similar to the AirPods Pro’s spatial audio mode. Not to mention they work well across all OS platforms. The Jabra Elite Active 75t is another amazing option with dynamic sound, solid battery life, and lots of personalized features that enhance functionality.

The Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 blends excellent sound and powerful noise cancellation into a clean, minimalist design, while the Anker Soundcore Liberty Air Pro 2 is a relatively affordable option with superb sound and acceptable  ANC. 

Whether you’re a business traveler who requires complete silence in flight or just an avid music lover who wants amazing sound in a tinier form, there’s a model on our list of best wireless earbuds tailored to your ears.

The best wireless earbuds you can buy today

best wireless earbuds: AirPods Pro

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1. Apple AirPods Pro

The best wireless earbuds overall

Size: 1.2 x 0.9 x 0.9 inches | Weight: 0.19 ounces (per bud) | Battery life (Rated): 4.5 hours, 24 hours (with charging case) | Bluetooth range: 800 feet | Special features: Active noise cancellation, "Hey Siri" voice activation, spatial audio

Effective active noise cancelation
Adaptive EQ
Clean, balanced sound
Superb call quality
Lower battery life than the AirPods 2
No companion app

Apple made almost every change necessary to make the AirPods Pro the best wireless earbuds that money can buy. Fans wanted active noise cancellation and got just that, which is superbly effective, thanks to Apple’s multi-mic system that uses two mics on each bud to analyze ambient sound and cancels it out before reaching the soundstage. The technology is intuitive and blocks out about 85% of street noise. 

The included ear tips also make a world of difference in fit and sound. They create a comfy, tight seal around the canal that ensures the Pods don’t slip out when rushing to catch the bus. Gym rats and gamers who sweat profusely no longer have to worry about damaging their buds either, as Apple made the AirPods Pro water and sweat resistant. It’s this personalized fit, along with Apple’s all-new Adaptive EQ, that also makes music sound fuller. Not to mention Apple has introduced an all-new spatial audio feature in iOS 14 that helps create a 3D soundscape for listeners.

Read our full Apple AirPods Pro review.

best wireless earbuds: Bose QuietComfort Earbuds

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Laptop Magazine)

2. Bose QuietComfort Earbuds

The best noise-cancelling wireless earbuds

Size: 1.54 x 1.02 x 1.06 inches | Weight: 0.3 ounces (per bud) | Battery life (Rated): 6 hours, 12 hours (with charging case) | Bluetooth range: 30 feet (10 meters) | Special features: Adjustable ANC, hybrid ambient listening, Self Voice mode

Unbeatable ANC and call quality
Solid audio performance
Responsive touch controls
Bluetooth 5.1
Bulky, heavy case

Bose did the unexpected, which was take the excellent active noise cancellation of the Bose 700 and carry it over onto the all-new QuietComfort Earbuds. Nothing short of an engineering feat, this model blocks out a vast amount of ambient sound and does so with half the mics of its over-the-ear brethren. This same mic array is what allows for fantastic call quality and digital assistant use across all platforms as well. Even more impressive is how the buds manage to blend both ANC and Transparency modes, allowing you to hear ambient sounds more clearly for improved awareness. Bose’s Active EQ technology and proprietary drivers also give these buds a sound curve similar to the 700, resulting in warm, relatively balanced audio.

Our one gripe about the QuietComfort Earbuds is battery life, which could be longer. The massive charging case doesn’t hold as much portable power either in comparison to other models, plus it’s huge and cumbersome to carry around.

Read our full Bose QuietComfort Earbuds review.

best wireless earbuds: Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro

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3. Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro

The best Samsung wireless earbuds

Size: 0.8 x 0.7 x 0.8 inches | Weight: 0.22 ounces | Battery life (Rated): 5 hours with ANC on (18 hours with charging case), 8 hours with ANC off (28 hours with charging case) | Bluetooth range: 35 feet (10 meters) | Special features: 360 Audio, Gaming mode, wireless charging

Robust feature set
Good audio quality
Improved ANC
Conventional and discrete design
Disappointing battery life

Second time is a charm for Samsung, as its newest noise-cancelling earbuds improve on what the bean-shaped Galaxy Buds Live delivered. This includes an enhanced and more traditional design for optimized fit, smarter controls, stronger ANC, and one of the best transparency modes out there. Audio is where these buds truly put in work, pumping out deep bass and clear mids. Granted, Galaxy device owners get the best listening experience, thanks to Samsung’s proprietary Scalable Codec, the minimal loss in quality doesn’t affect audio performance too much on other Android devices and iPhones.

Samsung also gives the Galaxy Buds Pro their own set of special features, though the most popular ones (e.g., Auto Switch, Gaming Mode) are reserved for current Galaxy smartphones, while 360 Audio is only available on the upcoming Galaxy S21 models. However, poor battery life is the more concerning issue on these buds; a full charge realistically gets you 4.5 hours of use with ANC on.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro review.

best wireless earbuds: Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2

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4. Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2

ANC and Sennheiser sound for a premium

Size: 3.02 x 1.72 x 1.3 inches | Weight: 0.2 ounces (per bud) | Battery life (Rated): 7 hours, 28 hours (with charging case) | Bluetooth range: 800 feet (243 meters) | Special features: Active noise cancellation, ambient listening mode, customizable EQ

Superb audio performance
Clean, minimalist design
Longer battery life than its predecessor
Strong active noise cancellation
More expensive than the AirPods Pro
Uncomfortable for smaller ears

Basically, Sennheiser repackaged its popular wireless earbuds with a bigger battery and active noise cancellation, and the end product is undeniable. The Momentum True Wireless 2’s ANC performance is up there with the AirPods Pro, using a single mic on each bud to minimize ambient sound at high levels; loud TVs and noisy neighbors will go unnoticed. Playtime has been increased from 4 to 7 hours, with the gorgeous slate gray fabric charging case housing an extra 3 charges. These buds also retain the beautiful sound of the original, delivering sumptuous audio with precise detail, which can also be personalized via Sennheiser Smart Control app, though the default profile is great as is.

Those with small ears and pockets will find the Momentum True Wireless 2 less enticing, as the buds don’t provide the best comfort or fit for tiny ear holes, while the upscale price tag ($300) makes them one of the more expensive options in the category.

See our full Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 review.

best wireless earbuds: Anker Soundcore Liberty Air Pro 2

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5. Anker Soundcore Liberty Air Pro 2

The best ANC wireless earbuds value

Size: 1.5 x 0.9 x 0.9 inches | Weight: 0.4 ounces (per bud) | Battery life (Rated): 6 hours (with ANC on), 6.5 hours (with Transparency Mode on), 7 hours (all modes off), 26 hours (with charging case) | Bluetooth range: 35 feet (10 meters) | Special features: Active noise cancellation, customizable EQ, wireless charging

Strong audio performance
Adequate ANC and ambient listening modes
Stable battery life
Excellent connectivity
Finicky touch controls

Anker was destined to release noise-cancelling wireless earbuds at some point, but we didn’t see the company hitting a home run on their first at-bat. The Liberty Air Pro 2 is an amazing upgrade to what was already a solid-performing (and affordable) model, the Liberty Air 2. This time around, Anker fine-tuned its sound profile, employing PureNote Driver technology to achieve rich, punchy audio that lends itself well to many music genres. You still have access to a plethora of presets and a custom EQ via Soundcore app, along with some cool new features like the LÜM music service and Tip Fit Test for optimal fit. Four ANC modes are available as well, each one engineered to deal with ambient noise in different environments. Most importantly, these modes work well compared to the noise cancellation several other competitors offer in the same price class.

However, Anker does continue to struggle with one key area: controls. Not only are the touch panels on the Liberty Air Pro 2 limited to two-tap and hold gestures, but there is also latency with input and on-ear detection.

Read our full Anker Soundcore Liberty Air Pro 2 review.

best wireless earbuds: Klipsch T5 II

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6. Klipsch T5 II

Superior performance in a stylishly retro package

Size: 1.97 x 0.79 x 1.97 inches | Weight: 0.17 ounces (per bud) | Battery Life (Rated): 8 hours, 32 hours (with charging case) | Bluetooth Range: 33 feet (10 meters) | Special features: Ambient listening mode, customizable EQ, water resistance

The most attractive charging case in its class
Clear, detailed sound
Strong battery life
Extensive control scheme
Missing modern features

They say looks can only get you so far, but in the case of the Klipsch T5 II, it’s just one of many hallmarks that make these wireless earbuds an underrated gem. Klipsch’s audio is exceptional, giving you the perfect blend of bright and warm sound. You can tweak the soundstage via mobile app, though the default is perfect as is. A full charge gets you about 7.5 hours more or less, which is highly sufficient. Then there is the star of the show, the Zippo lighter-inspired charging case, a durable aluminum block that beautifully displays and stores the buds and holds an additional 24 hours of playtime.

While it’s easy to get caught up in the nostalgic beauty that is the T5 II, you’re quickly reminded of the model’s limited feature set, which could have benefited from more modern functionality. This includes active noise cancellation, wireless charging, and, yes, a Find My Buds mode.

Read our full Klipsch T5 II review.

best wireless earbuds: Beats Powerbeats Pro

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7. Beats Powerbeats Pro

The best wireless workout earbuds

Size: 1.1 x 1 x 0.9 inches | Weight: 0.7 ounces | Battery Life (Rated): 9 hours; 24 hours (with charging case) | Bluetooth range: 33 feet (10 meters) | Special features: Automatic switching, Fast Fuel charging, sweat resistance

Lengthy battery life
Well-balanced sound
Comfortable, stable fit for running
Bulky charging case
Wind resistance on calls isn't great

The Powerbeats Pro combines water- and sweat resistance and a low-profile design with signature Apple-y integration, making them a no-brainer for workout enthusiasts who want to cut the cord. Even though Beats headphones tend to be bass-heavy, the Powerbeats Pro features very well-balanced sound. Pairing the earbuds and using the controls are almost frictionless experiences. They also have longer battery life than the AirPods Pro at up to 9 hours of listening time. Best of all, they carry over many of the cool software perks that come with iOS 14, including auto switching, audio sharing, and “Hey Siri” hands-free support.

While the earbuds themselves are excellent workout companions, the charging case, which provides an additional 24 hours of use, is huge and heavy to carry around. Taking calls in drafty conditions is another issue the Powerbeats Pro presents, though you’ll enjoy some great-sounding conversations in quieter settings.

best wireless earbuds: House of Marley Champion

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8. House of Marley Champion

The best cheap wireless earbuds

Size: TBD | Weight: 0.17 ounces | Battery Life (Rated): 8 hours, 28 hours (with charging case) | Bluetooth range: 35 feet (10 meters) | Special features: Sustainable construction, quick charging, sweat and water resistance

Signature HoM eco-friendly design
Clear and punchy audio
Responsive controls
Short on features
Unreliable connectivity

We didn’t think a pair of $60 wireless earbuds would impress us as much as HoM’s latest release. The Champion does lack features (quick charging is the marquee one), but it draws you in with its great audio and sustainable design, which is made up of bamboo, natural fiber composites, and proprietary REGRIND silicone. Both the buds and charging case are solidly built and pretty stylish. Sound is clean and energetic with impactful bass that complements most music genres. It’s also surprising to see that the Champion generates 8 hours of playtime and the charging case holds 28 hours, which is more than the AirPods Pro gets you. There are no touch controls, but the physical buttons are responsive and execute commands as intended.

Bluetooth 5.0 can act up at times, forcing users to manually pair their buds again to recognized devices. You can use the Champion in stereo or mono mode, though connection issues often have the latter as the default, leaving you with one bud for use. You’ll have to power off the buds, then turn them on again to get both working at the same time. 

Read our full House of Marley Champion review.

Best wireless earbuds: JBL Reflect Mini NC

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9. JBL Reflect Mini NC

Workout buds with balanced audio and noise cancellation

Size: TBD | Weight: 0.4 ounces (per bud) | Battery life (Rated): 6 hours (with ANC on), 7 hours (with ANC off), 21 hours (with charging case) | Bluetooth range: 37 feet (10 meters) | Special features: Active noise cancellation, customizable EQ, multipoint technology

Energetic and well-balanced sound
Stable battery life
Effective noise cancellation
Unreliable controls
Not very comfortable

Noise cancellation does exist on some wireless sports earbuds – it just hasn’t been engineered well on most models. The Sony WF-SP800N was one exception, and now the JBL Reflect Mini NC is another. These damage-proof buds come with IPX7 sweat and waterproofing, along with a warm sound profile that kicks out emphatic lows to energize your workouts. Audio can also be personalized through the JBL Headphones app, which has a customizable EQ and three presets (Jazz, Vocal, Bass) to choose from. What you really want to know is how well ANC performs on these buds? Answer: Surprisingly well. The Reflect Mini NC will drown out everyday distractions like noisy commuters or the excruciating music playlist blasting at the gym. Smart Ambient is also available for runners to hear what’s happening around them when jogging outdoors.

The durable construction does affect comfort, as the hard-plastic material doesn’t feel pleasant on the concha after about an hour of use. JBL could have done a better job with the touch controls as well.

Read our full JBL Reflect Mini NC review.

best wireless earbuds: Razer Hammerhead True Wireless Pro

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10. Razer Hammerhead True Wireless Pro

Best wireless earbuds for gaming

Size: 2 x 1.1 x 1 inches | Weight: 0.2 ounces | Battery life (rated): 4 hours (with ANC on), 20 hours (with charging case | Bluetooth range: 30 feet (10 meters) | Special features: Active noise cancellation, Ear Fit Test, Low Latency Game Mode

Rich, clean sound
Decent ANC and an even better Transparency Mode
Companion app with special features
Touch controls need work
Low battery life

Avid mobile gamers searching for an AirPods Pro alternative to call their own may want to put their cash towards Razer’s latest flagship wireless earbuds. Sound quality has been enhanced on the Hammerhead True Wireless Pro, thanks to a new partnership with THX that feeds listeners rich, balanced sound across all media platforms (e.g., music, movies, podcasts, video games).  Gaming Mode returns and reduces audio latency when gaming on smartphones; sound effects and vocal synchronization are spot-on. ANC is also good enough to block out common distractions at home or when commuting to work.

Battery life can make these buds a tough sell for those who live on their smartphones, as 4 hours of a single charge is below standard, plus the charging case doesn’t hold as much playtime as other competitors. The touch controls aren’t very reliable either, in particular, single-tap gestures.

Read our full Razer Hammerhead True Wireless Pro review.

best wireless earbuds: Jabra Elite Active 75t and Jabra Elite Active 75t

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11. Jabra Elite Active 75t and Jabra Elite Active 75t

Premier wireless earbuds with future-proof functionality

Size: 0.8 x 0.7 x 0.6 inches | Weight: 0.19 ounces (per bud) | Battery life (Rated): 7.5 hours, 28 hours (with charging case) | Bluetooth range: 30 feet (10 meters) | Special feartures: Active noise cancellation and ambient listening modes, customizable EQ, Soundscapes mode

Energetic soundstage
Sleek, durable design
Active and passive noise cancellation
Lots of customization via companion app
So-so call quality

Jabra continues to showcase their ingenuity, developing new ways to enhance their older, yet still widely popular Elite 75t models. The company just put out a free over-the-air ANC update that gives both the Elite 75t and Elite Active 75t surprisingly effective noise neutralization. This addition alone makes what are already top-notch wireless earbuds even better. And if you’re unfamiliar with the series, then here is a quick breakdown of what makes the Elite 75t and Elite Active 75t awesome purchases.

We’re talking powerful, customizable audio that can be tweaked in the Jabra Sound+ app, along with nearly double the battery life of its predecessor and a more compact, stylish design. If you’re looking for sporty wireless buds, then the Elite Active 75t is an ideal workout companion, thanks to IP57 waterproof protection. Even though the newer Elite 85t is the more powerful ANC solution, you can’t go wrong with either of these options.

best wireless earbuds: Sony WF-1000xM3

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12. Sony WF-1000xM3

Wireless earbuds with excellent ANC

Size: 5.6 x 4.7 x 2.5 inches | Weight: 0.3 ounces | Battery life (Rated): 6 hours (NC on), 8 hours (NC off) | Bluetooth range: 30 feet (10 meters) | Special features: Active noise cancellation, customizable EQ, NFC

Very effective ANC
Full, vibrant sound
Strong battery life across the board
Finicky touch controls
Call quality isn't great

Sony’s third attempt at a noise-canceling true wireless model is a success, backed by strong sonics and noteworthy ANC performance. The audio giant’s boomy soundstage has been fine-tuned to kick out cleaner, yet still impactful lows that play nicely with mids and highs. But it’s the WF-1000xM3’s sound-silencing technology that impresses most, as Sony’s dual-mic system hushes ambient noise far better than most sub-luxury headphones. Access to the Sony Headphones Connect app is amazing for personalization, letting you fine-tune the soundstage and tweak the ambient-listening settings to hear external sounds clearly. Strong battery life on a single charge also makes it one of the better AirPods Alternatives out there.

Just be mindful that the touch controls are not the greatest; the touch panels often misinterpret commands. Call quality is another area where the WF-1000xM3 could use improvement, as most calls sound muffled and cut out sporadically.

How to choose the best wireless earbuds for you

Battery life is most crucial when searching for the best wireless earbuds. Most models offer 4 to 8 hours on a single charge. Make sure the buds come bundled with a charging case too, so to keep them charged and stowed away during commutes. Charging cases can provide multiple charges and hold anywhere between 12 to 40+ hours of additional playtime.

Design is just as important. Ideally, you want a pair of buds that offer personalized fit and comfort, along with multiple ear tips to accommodate different ear shapes. Durability and water-resistant protection shouldn’t be overlooked either.

Next up is audio, which applies to all media formats (e.g. music, videos, games) and phone calls. Explore models with powerful drivers and customization settings that allow you to tweak sound profiles to your liking.

Let’s not forget wireless functionality. Many wireless earbuds come programmed with Bluetooth 5.0, which gives users faster connectivity, increased range (est. 120 meters max), longer battery life, and multipoint pairing to connect to two audio sources simultaneously. Digital assistant support (Siri, Google, and Alexa) falls under this section as well.

We’re seeing more wireless earbuds boast advanced features like an adaptive EQ and active noise cancellation. These are features well worth spending on extra on, if engineered properly, and will be more common as the category evolves.

How we test the best wireless earbuds

When testing for the best wireless earbuds, Laptop Magazine evaluates several factors: design, comfort, sound, and value just to name a few. Our reviewers also compare these models to similar products in the category in terms of features, fit, and pricing.

Wireless earbuds are worn over the course of a week for 2 to 3 hours at a time. During this period, we assess comfort, ease of use, and audio quality. We listen to several sample tracks across a number of music genres, including hip-hop, rock, jazz, and classical, while analyzing clarity, depth, and volume. Audiobooks, games, podcasts, and videos are also taken into consideration.

Our reviewers also test battery life, Bluetooth range, digital assistant support, ease of setup, and any app-enabled features compatible with laptops, desktops, and all portable devices like smartphones and tablets.

Furthermore, we test streaming music services that offer hi-res audio. To learn more about how these services can improve the sound quality on your laptops and mobile devices, here is an expert audio codec FAQ on everything you should know about FLAC files, MP3s and all other audio file codecs.

Once our testing is completed, every model is rated based on our five-point system (1 = worst, 5 = best). Any product that is truly exemplary is awarded an Editor’s Choice.