While they started out as somewhat of a gimmick, Bluetooth earbuds have become all-but ubiquitous for everyday use. To begin with, the audio quality was almost always poor, but thanks to increasing development in Bluetooth standards as well as codecs like aptX, wireless earphones are some of the best available.
Regardless of whether you're interested in the increased range of motion you can achieve by cutting the cable or are turning to Bluetooth audio because your phone has ditched its 3.5mm audio jack, you're in luck! All the best consumer brands – Jaybird, Plantronics, Apple, Jabra and more – are lending their weight to the cause so we can keep listening to top-notch audio, cable-free.
While the neckband-style wireless earphones have had their popularity cemented, the likes of the Apple AirPods and other truly wireless Bluetooth earbuds have changed the game once more. Don't worry, we'll explain the differences shortly.
It can be tricky to choose a pair with so much variety out there, but thankfully TechRadar has been painstakingly reviewing these earbuds over the years and have a solid idea of what's worth the dosh. On this page, we'll take you through the best wireless, Bluetooth earphones on the market right now so you can find exactly what you want.
Can't decide which type of headphones to buy? Check out our guide video:
Wireless earbuds vs true wireless earbuds
Before we dive too deep down the rabbit hole, we should cover the whole true wireless vs wireless discussion happening in the audio world right now.
Wireless headphones – the earbuds you see in front of you now – have existed for some time now, basically since Bluetooth as a standard was invented.
For years they went largely unrecognized by the audio community because Bluetooth, despite being ultra-convenient, didn't do the best job transmitting music at a high enough resolution. That changed with the advent of aptX – a codec that allowed for higher bitstreams at lower latency.
While aptX was changing the game for the whole of the audio community, audio manufacturers were working on an entirely new form factor: True Wireless.
True Wireless Headphones 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.
This round-up primarily focuses on the former, but, if you're looking to go full wireless, we also have a round-up of the best true wireless headphones to help you live that cord-free lifestyle.
What are the best wireless earbuds?
While Jaybird has consistently offered some of the best bang-for-your-buck Bluetooth 'buds, the sport-centric company's first foray into 'Pro' territory proves that they're not just for the conscious.
Improving on almost everything that made its predecessors great, the Jaybird Tarah Pro offers excellent sound (tweakable via the simple Jaybird app), great comfort and fitting options, and all the conveniences you'd come to expect in the ultimate pair of wireless in-ears, such as a 14-hour battery life, magnetic driver housings, and a rugged design.
Read our full review: Jaybird Tarah Pro
Sony’s excellent WH-1000XM3 are the gold standard when it comes to active noise cancelling headphones but the WI-1000X is Sony's compact, in-ear alternative to the prize cans.
These wireless noise-cancelling earbuds offer some of the best sounding wireless audio we’ve heard in a robust form factor that can survive the abuse of a daily commute or visits to the gym. The headline feature of the WI-1000X headphones is its excellent sound quality thanks to aptX HD support and, despite some average battery life, these in-ears do so much right that it more than makes up for it.
Read the full review: Sony WI-1000X
While we've put the Pro version in at first place, the budget alternative offers an equally compelling package for a different reason.
Weighing it at around half the price of the Tarah Pro, these trimmed-down buds offer much the same core experience (excellent and customisable sound with a rugged, sports-centric design) as their more expensive brethren. You will be losing a considerable amount of battery life (down to 6 hours) and some of the niftier features, but if you're conscious then the discount will more than make up for it.
Read the full review: Jaybird Tarah
There will always be those who are ready to complain about the sound performance of Beats headphones, but the inclusion of Apple's proprietary W1 chip has been a boon for the strength of their wireless connectivity.
Functionally that makes these wireless earbuds a joy to use (with Apple products, at least), just don't expect the most detailed or broad soundstage. If you’re shopping for a no-fuss pair of earbuds that charge in 5 minutes and don’t mind spending a little extra money on them, the Beats X are for you.
Read the full review: Beats X
Life is full of compromises, and it's no different with the Bose QuietControl 30s. On the positive side you get a level of noise cancellation that comes close to what's offered by the brand's over-ear headphones, but the concession here is on sound fidelity, which just isn’t on the same level as that of other in-ear or over-ear headphones we’ve tested.
There's also that neckband which adds an unfortunate level of bulk to what should otherwise be a slimline pair of headphones.
Read the full review: Bose QuietControl 30
The best True Wireless Earbuds
Sony's fabulous WH-1000XM3 noise-cancelling headphones have gotten a true wireless counterpart, and they're every bit as solid as their over-ear siblings.
With state-of-the-art noise-cancelling, a crystal clear yet warm audio signal, and an impressive 24-hour battery life (when using the ANC and recharging with the case), these earbuds are worth every dollar spent on them. They also avoid the foibles of many other non-Apple true wireless buds by establishing a connection between each bud and your device individually, thus dodging the sometimes flaky signals that result from a single primary bud having to connect to both your device and a secondary bud.
Read the full review: Sony WF-1000XM3
For those rocking an iPhone, the simplicity of pairing with the AirPods was a joy, but now you can have that same ease-of-use but with true wireless earbuds made to be pumped at the gym.
With one of the most secure fits to date, the PowerBeats Pro are sure to stay in your ear when you're sweating it up, and the IPX4 resistance makes sure that sweat won't break your buds. The sound is typically punchy, as is the style of Beats, and very suitable for modern electronic, hip hop and similar genres. In most ways, these are in improvement on the AirPods, and even feature the same smart H1 chip that helps with pairing and allows for on-board Siri communication.
Read the full review: Beats PowerBeats Pro
Although these have been surpassed by the Sony WF-1000XM3 and PowerBeats Pro, the Jabra Elite 65t still offer a great true wireless solution and are more affordable to boot.
After spending over a month with them, we came away impressed with the well-rounded package that Jabra managed to create: The earbuds offer a subtle, mature look and a reliable wireless connection, which isn’t always the case with truly wireless earbuds. Plus, they sound great compared to much of the competition.
Read the full review: Jabra Elite 65t
The second generation Apple AirPods, the AirPods (2019), aren't quite the AirPods 2 we were hoping for, but they still boast some cool features.
They still sport 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. 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, which 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 optimised for using with iPhones and are somewhat pricey.
Read our full review: Apple Airpods (2019)
If you're deep into fitness and the tracking thereof, the Jabra Elite Sport are currently the ultimate true wireless earphones for you. There’s a heart rate sensor on the right earpiece, letting it monitor your exertion level as you exercise.
A Jabra companion app lets you track your exercise, and you can kick off a workout by pressing a button on one earpiece, and the heart rate tracker is more reliable than most wrist-worn models… as long as you fit the Elite Sport buds properly.
The Jabra Elite Sport don't perch in your ears, they fill them rather like a custom molded earphone. As a result, sound isolation is excellent and the fit is very secure.
To sweeten the deal, Jabra recently updated the Elite Sport to boost stamina to a better-than-average four-and-a-half hours per charge – more than enough to get you through your weekly workouts – before hanging up the towel.
Read the full review: Jabra Elite Sport