The best true wireless earbuds of 2021 boast some of the most advanced audio technology around today, and they’re just as good as almost any pair of wired earbuds on the market. Some of the earbuds in this list could possibly even rival our selection of the best over-ear headphones – and given these are all cable-free, that’s really saying something.
In case you need a refresher, here’s what true wireless earbuds are all about: sometimes referred to as TWS earbuds (True Wireless Stereo) they have no cable at all to connect to your phone or any other device. And, unlike regular wireless earbuds, there’s no cable to connect each bud to the other either.
This makes true wireless earbuds extremely convenient, as well as flexible for a whole range of environments and uses. But there’s one big downside: you need to be extra careful not to lose one.
Truly wireless earbuds used to be a risky bet until fairly recently, due to limitations with Bluetooth and wireless music streaming, but advancements in the technology means you needn’t fear un-pairable buds or terrible sound. In the guide below we’ve selected the best pairs of true wireless buds to help you choose the right pair for your budget and your needs.
The best true wireless earbuds of 2021 in the list below are all high-end – and most have a price tag to match, though there’s a growing market of budget wireless earbuds that prove you don’t have to break the bank in the quest for excellent audio.
Black Friday and Cyber Monday are coming up very soon, too, with lots of early Black Friday wireless earbuds deals already available to sift through. And if you’re after a pair of Apple true wireless earbuds, make sure you bookmark our guide to the best AirPods Black Friday deals.
Each pair in this guide comes with a whole bunch of impressive features built-in, including active noise cancellation, hands-free voice control, and support for Hi-Res Audio codecs. However, if you’re just after stellar sound quality, we recommend you check out models like the Bowers & Wilkins PI7, Grado GT220 and the Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus, which are there to cater to your inner audiophile.
You may be wondering whether you should buy the Apple AirPods 2, which are among the most popular true wireless earbuds on the planet. While we wouldn’t dismiss them outright, there are far better options out there, including the noise-cancelling AirPods Pro and Apple’s latest buds, the AirPods 3. Before you buy a pair of old-school ‘Pods, check out our selection of the best AirPods alternatives you can buy in 2021.
The best true wireless earbuds
Sony is largely responsible for the rude health of the active noise-cancelling earbuds market, and with the WF-1000XM4, the company has combined performance, ergonomics, and build quality more effectively than ever before.
Compared to their predecessors, the Sony WF-1000XM3, the new wireless earbuds offer enough quality-of-life features to make them worth upgrading to, even if they are more expensive.
While other true wireless earbuds surpass the Sony WF-1000XM4 in particular areas – noise cancellation, for example – no other model comes close to offering such excellent quality across the board. That’s why the Sony WF-1000XM4 are hands-down the best true wireless earbuds you can buy today.
Read more: Sony WF-1000XM4 review
For nearly two years, the Sony WF-1000XM3 were best true wireless earbuds you could buy – until they were usurped by the WF-1000XM4.
However, the Sony WF-1000XM3 are still worth considering, not least because you can usually find them discounted to around $170 / £150 / AU$200.
The Sony WF-1000XM3 still manage to offer a level of noise-cancellation that’s exceedingly good for a pair of earbuds, fist-pumping musicality, a sleek design, and a decent battery life.
Read more: Sony WF-1000XM3 review
The NuraTrue are perhaps the most personalized wireless earbuds you can buy today – and they’re among the best-sounding, too.
They’re the first true wireless earbuds from Australian audio brand Nura, following in the footsteps of its NuraLoop earphones – which, incidentally, are our pick for the best wireless earbuds of 2021.
The NuraTrue are another success for the company, offering unbeaten levels of customization that allow the earbuds to be tuned to your ears exactly. The accompanying app even analyzes how well the buds fit into your ears.
The end result is outstanding audio performance that reveals superb levels of detail in your music, and a wide soundstage that enables every instrument to sing.
And in case you think these earbuds are made with only audio in mind, they in fact come with plenty of features that will appeal to anyone who wants a cheaper alternative to popular models such as the AirPods Pro and the Sony WF-1000XM4. These features include decent noise cancellation, an IPX4 water-resistance rating, fast charging, and support for hi-res audio too.
Read more: NuraTrue review
Cambridge Audio may be best known for its high-end audio equipment, but the past couple of years has seen the British company branch out into the world of true wireless earbuds.
Its first offering, the Melomania 1, are among the best wireless earbuds you can buy, thanks to their stellar sound quality, However, the new Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus are a worthy upgrade, putting many other earbuds in the shade for audio performance, battery life, and ease-of-use.
While the design of the Melomania 1 Plus hasn’t deviated too far from its predecessors, there’s a clear step up in terms of audio performance, with levels of detail and clarity that could rival some of the best over-ear headphones.
A helpful app, easy controls, and excellent connectivity just makes us love them even more. The only downside is that there’s no active noise cancellation. However, when these earbuds sound this good, we doubt you’ll miss it much.
Read more: Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus review
[Update: The Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus have been given a permanent price cut.
They cost $139.95 / £119.95 at launch, but the audiophile-friendly earbuds have now been reduced to $99.95 / £99.95 – a fixed discount of $40 / £20.]
The Sennheiser CX True Wireless are the latest wireless earbuds from the German audio giant. Picking up where the CX 400BT before them left off, they’re cheaper than their predecessors, despite including a host of upgraded features that comprises a longer battery life and better connectivity.
Audio quality is exactly what you’d expect from Sennheiser, with a wide soundstage, clear mids, detailed trebles, and powerful bass frequencies. Nevertheless, we were still surprised by how good these earbuds sound for the price.
The controls and accompanying app are very easy to use, and Bluetooth 5.2 connectivity ensures a stable connection with your device. Hi-res audio support is included, too, for those who want to eke out every last bit of detail from their music.
Our only real bugbear is the CX True Wireless’ design, which we found far too bulky for our ears. We’re hesitant to judge Sennheiser too harshly for this, since most users will probably be able to use them without issue.
Read more: Sennheiser CX True Wireless review
When we first reviewed the original Lypertek PurePlay Z3 true wireless earbuds (then known as the Lypertek Tevi), we were blown away. The Lypertek PurePlay Z3 2.0 true wireless earbuds are their successors. They’re very similar to the originals, with a few key improvements, and yet still come in at the same affordable price point the originals did – $99 / £99.
This gets you everything we loved about the original PurePlay Z3 (detailed balanced sound, a whopping 80 hours total battery life from its petite USB-C charging case, and a comfortably fitting bud with physical buttons), and adds wireless charging, a powerful new LDX Audio mode, improved app functionality and a hear through ambient mode.
Our own issue is that app connectivity is patchy at best, and the ambient hear through mode is pretty much useless in comparison to the competition from the likes of Sony’s noise cancelling WF-1000XM4.
Yet, with the price still so low, and nothing to detract from the quality standard the originals set out, with a few notable improvements, they remain must-have earbuds, more than a match for headphones two or three times the price.
Read more: Lypertek PurePlay Z3 2.0 review
On paper, the GT220 seem to have their work cut out. $259 / £250 / AU$365 for small, humdrum-looking true wireless in-ears with no active noise-cancelling and no control app.
But, by performing with absolute confidence and assurance, they stand head and shoulders above the majority of true wireless earbuds on the market today. They extract every shred of information from digital files of your favorite music and deliver it with such authority, and in such a complete and coherent manner, that it sounds fresh even if you’ve heard it a thousand times before.
Read more: Grado GT220 review
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-1000XM4, particularly if you prefer a more flashy design when it comes to the best true wireless earbuds for you.
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 earbuds, offering great noise cancellation alongside smart looks and stunning sound.
Read more: Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 review
The fact that the Bowers & Wilkins PI7, with their sky-high price-tag, a control app that’s more style than substance, an incomplete suite of touch controls, and humdrum active noise-cancelling and battery life, must sound incredible to come this close to a five-star review.
That’s because they offer a truly enjoyable listening experience, and with a charging case that doubles as an audio retransmitter, they’re a genuinely unique pair of wireless earbuds.
Read more: Bowers & Wilkins PI7 review
It’s Bose’s second attempt at a set of true wireless headphones, and the QuietComfort Earbuds are leaps and bounds better than the older SoundSport Free. Not only is the design a lot better, but the noise cancellation is also exemplary. Sound quality is also really very good – albeit a touch less bassy as compared to Sony – with superb clarity. They’re incredibly comfortable and well balanced too, despite their bulky form factor.
Read more: Bose QuietComfort Earbuds review
The Klipsch T5 hold their own against the very best true wireless earbuds – in fact, we’d argue that they’re among the best models on the market right now. That’s because they offer stellar sound, high build quality, long-lasting battery life, and one of the coolest cases we’ve ever seen.
Featuring the signature Klipsch sound, these buds sound warm, clear, and never harsh. Acoustic music is lush and detailed, with that clarity extending to the highs as well, allowing the headphones to sing in the higher registers without ever being sibilant.
Battery life is rated at eight hours per charge with the case providing an additional 24 hours – not bad at all.
Read more: Klipsch T5 True Wireless review
[Update: The Klipsch T5 II True Wireless offer the same excellent build quality as their predecessors, alongside a great bass response that’s ideal for electronic and pop music. However, sibilance in the trebles and the lack of noise cancellation means they can’t beat the likes of the Apple AirPods Pro and the Sony WF-1000XM3, and haven’t quite made it onto this list.]
Apple’s noise-cancelling true wireless earbuds, the AirPods Pro, deliver a much better fit and an improved design compared to the original AirPods.
However, at $249 / £249 / AU$399, they’re pretty pricey too, and as such can’t be called the very best true wireless earbuds in terms of value for money – but they may be the best true wireless earbuds for Apple fans.
These snug-fitting earbuds offer a great sound, 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.
Apparently, there’s a new AirPods model set 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
The Beats Studio Buds are rock-solid true wireless earbuds with active noise cancellation and support for Apple’s Spatial Audio with Dolby Atmos format. They sound great, with a lively sound quality that elevates the highs and lows of your music, and feel supremely comfortable to wear for long periods of time.
They’re not without some drawbacks, though. Chief among them is their lackluster call quality and lack of an H1 Wireless Chip. Battery life with either ANC or Transparency mode turned on is a little short at only five hours (15 hours with the case), and their noise cancellation isn’t exactly class-leading, either.
Saying that, they’re cheaper than the AirPods Pro and their predecessors, the Powerbeats Pro, making them a more budget-friendly option if you want to buy a pair of Beats earbuds.
Read more: Beats Studio Buds review
The Apple AirPods (3rd generation) represent a big step up from their predecessors in terms of audio performance, connectivity, and design.
Features like Spatial Audio support and Adaptive EQ set these buds apart from the competition, while a new, more subtle design brings force capacitive sensors to the true wireless earbuds.
The AirPods 3 are unsurprisingly optimized for use within the wider Apple ecosystem, so Android users miss out on a lot of the extra features that set them apart from other true wireless earbuds on the market, and the lack of noise cancellation means they aren’t the most high-spec earbuds at this price.
Read more: Apple AirPods (3rd generation) review
While they don’t quite cut it like their predecessors the Jabra Elite Active 75t buds do owing to a slightly bulkier design, the Elite 85t deliver impressive performance thanks to some great audio quality, effective noise cancellation and decent battery life.
Audio has been vastly improved thanks to a new pair of 12mm in-built speakers, which are twice the size of those on the 75t buds and offer a wider and more well-balanced soundstage. This, alongside even deeper bass, adds more depth to your favorite tunes.
Read the full review: Jabra Elite 85t review
[Update: The Jabra Elite 75t now have active noise cancellation thanks to a firmware update – which could make them a potential rival for the AirPods Pro, and a cheaper noise-cancelling alternative to the Elite 85t.]
The PowerBeats Pro true wireless Beats headphones 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 they’re 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, office, or gym, these are what we’d wear.
A new model may be on the cards, too – the Powerbeats Pro 2 are the rumored follow-up to these Beats true wireless earbuds.
Read more: Beats PowerBeats Pro review
In terms of features, the Surface Earbuds cover off most – but not all – of what we’ve come to expect from a premium pair of true wireless in-ears: they have app-based adjustable EQs, aptX Bluetooth connectivity, and responsive touch controls. Plus they play impeccably nicely with virtually the entirety of Microsoft’s hardware and software ranges. They don’t have active noise-cancellation, though, and the way they fit means they let ambient sound leak in.
Sound is served up by relatively large full-range drivers. Of course, ‘relatively large’ could, in another life, be the Surface Earbuds’ official model name: a 25mm diameter is big by in-ear standards, 7.2g is heavy by in-ear standards and their charging case isn’t exactly slim, either.
Despite these big numbers, though, the Surface Earbuds prove comfortable and secure in situ, for hours on end. The ‘twist-to-fit’ arrangement keeps them nicely steady, even during mild exercise.
Overall, the Surface Earbuds are a very welcome addition to the ever-increasing list of worthwhile true wireless in-ears, and while their distinctive looks won’t be for everyone, they deliver in the only two areas that count: functionality and sound quality.
Read more: Microsoft Surface Earbuds review
On their own merits, the Earfun Air Pro buds are accomplished, but against the competition at this price point they shine. Amid a sea of similarly priced efforts on Amazon, they stand out thanks to their superior design and excellent audio chops, and show a high level of competence in almost all other areas. If it weren’t for slightly fiddly gesture controls and – in our experience at least – a slightly uncomfortable fit, these would immediately earn our wholehearted recommendation.
As it stands, these wireless earbuds are an excellent choice for most, offering a blend of useful features and strong performance that should make them popular with commuters in particular.
Read more: Earfun Air Pro 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
While the active noise cancellation isn’t as good as other models, the combination of fit, low profile design, sound quality, and solid battery life still make the Vista 2 some of the best truly wireless earbuds for working out as well as listening at home or in the office.
Read more: Jaybird Vista 2 review
Let’s get one thing out of the way – the B&O Beoplay E8 are some of the best-looking and most expensive true 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. There’s no noise cancellation, though, which may expect from true wireless earbuds at this price.
If one of the main reasons you need a new pair of headphones is to work out or run, then you might want to consider the sport-friendly alternatives to the E8 2.0s, which are called the Bang & Olufsen Beoplay E8 Sport. They’re a pair of stylish buds that deliver bright sound and are designed to get sweaty with.
Read more: B&O Beoplay E8 2.0 Wireless Earphones review
With a promising battery life and well-managed bass enhancement over Audio-Technica’s usual neutral sound, the Audio-Technica ATH-CKS5TW true wireless earbuds have a lot going for them.
They sport one of the most complete and well-rounded sound profiles we’ve seen from true wireless earbuds, although they are let down a little by their fit.
Mileage will vary of course depending on your preferred bud style and the size of your ears, but all will find the fiddly case fit will annoy over time. Still, the quality audio here may be a worthy trade-off.
Read more: Audio-Technica ATH-CKS5TW review
Sony’s latest true wireless earbuds, the Sony WF-SP800N, are a triple-threat. They’re IP55-rated to be sweatproof and dustproof, but they’re also pretty good for commuters because they have active noise cancellation built in – which is rare for a workout pair of earbuds – and work well for demanding music lovers thanks to their support for Sony’s new spatial audio format, 360 Reality Audio.
They can be a little uncomfortable to wear for long periods of time, however, and the bass is bit muddy for our liking – still, these true wireless earbuds are well worth a look.
Read more: Sony WF-SP800N review
These true wireless buds from Samsung are a big step up from the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live, offering better sound and microphone quality with multipoint pairing and spatial audio support.
While there’s a new model on the scene – the Galaxy Buds 2 – the Buds Pro are still well worth buying.
It’s worth nothing that they don’t offer the same level of noise cancellation as over-ear headphones or the sound quality of some of the other high-end earbuds on this list, but for their price they offer just enough of both to be competitive and deserving of a place on our best wireless earbuds list.
Read more: Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro review
All about the AirPods
What about the Apple AirPods 2?
In March 2019, Apple upgraded its popular true wireless earbuds, the Apple AirPods.
Unlike the AirPods 3, 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 came from the H1 headphone chip, which improves connectivity and battery life, and allows for a ‘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 in the bottom of the case.
Like their predecessors, they are super easy to pair, but they are very much optimized for using with iPhones – and a new auto-switching feature makes it easier to swap between iOS devices. However, 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.
They’re not the best AirPods, either – the AirPods Pro are far more accomplished in nearly every way, and we’d recommend the AirPods 3 if you don’t care about active noise cancellation.
Read more Apple AirPods (2019) review
True wireless explained
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 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.