Best wireless headphones for iPhone

Macworld

Wireless headphones are essentially the standard now, with Bluetooth being convenient and the sound quality difference to wired not being that noticeable to typical people (we realize audiophiles ‘know’).

The market is huge, but here are the best wireless earbuds we’ve tested for iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch and Macs. If you do want a wired connection some of these do offer it in addition to Bluetooth, but we also have a round-up of the best wired headphones and a comparison of over-ear headphones read our comparison of AirPods Max vs other over-ear headphones.

Best headphones and earbuds for iPhone

1. Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3

Pros

Great sound quality

Compact design, with a comfortable fit

Good battery life

Effective noise-cancellation

Cons

Lozenge design may not suit everyone

 Complicated app




Best Prices Today:



₹36,079 at Amazon

Sennheiser’s earbuds always sound great, but they do tend to be a little on the chunky side, which sometimes makes it difficult to get a good fit. However, its latest Momentum True Wireless 3 (TW3) earbuds have a more compact and comfortable design than their predecessors, while still providing excellent sound quality and noise-cancellation features for a competitive $279.95/£229.99.

It’s good to see that not all companies copy the design of Apple’s AirPods, and the TW3 earbuds have a distinctive lozenge shape that allows you to twist the earpieces inside your ear to get a good fit. Some people may not like this, but I definitely found that the earpieces fit more firmly than the AirPods, and there are three sets of ear-tips provided in different sizes as well. The earpieces are rated IPX4 for water resistance, so they’ll be able to cope with some rain when you’re out jogging, and we also like the fabric cover on the sturdy little charging case.

Sound quality is excellent, with the TW3 supporting both Apple’s AAC codec and aptX Adaptive for Android devices. The TW3 boasts a frequency response of 5Hz – 21KHz, and that low-end 5Hz works a treat on Billie Eilish’s You Should See Me In A Crown, where the juddering bass pulse sounds really deep and threatening. The TW3 is a little louder than many of its rivals too, so it’ll be a good choice if you want some loud music for your workout sessions. It’s not all bass overload, though, and the TW3 shows a really delicate touch on Arvo Pärt’s Spiegel Im Spiegel, as the slow, wistful violin melody lingers lightly in the air.

Pärt’s delicate melody also provides a good test of the TW3’s noise-cancellation features, which do an impressive job at blocking out background noise so that I can wallow in the track’s melancholy mood on a rainy summer afternoon. And, to top it all off, the TW3 provides good battery life too, lasting for seven hours on a single charge – or 6.5 hours when using noise-cancellation – while the charging case lets you fully recharge three more times when you’re on a long journey.

2. Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds

Pros

Excellent sound quality

Impressive noise-cancellation

Useful app

Cons

Expensive

Wireless case costs extra

Spatial audio could be improved




Best Prices Today:



₹25,900 at Amazon

They’re not the cheapest earbuds around, but Bose’s QuietComfort range has long been a market leader thanks to its combination of high-quality sound and impressively effective noise cancellation. The recently released QC Ultra continues that trend, but introduces an improved design as well as a new immersive mode for spatial audio.

The design of the Ultra is a little sleeker and more streamlined than previous models, with a smart metallic finish that is available in black or Smoke White. Bose has also modified the way that its rubber stability bands fit into each earpiece, helping them to sit inside your ear more securely. You get three sets of stability bands, and three sets of rubber eartips in different sizes, so the combination of the different bands and eartips should allow most people to get a good fit. The Bose app also includes a Seal Test option that can check the way that the earbuds are fitted and provide tips on getting a good fit.

Sound quality is as good as ever, with the Ultra catching the sharp, shimmering sound of the cymbal crash that kicks off Blondie’s Rapture. The bass guitar riff bounces along like a playful puppy, and there’s a bright jangling sound to the lead rhythm guitar, but the Ultra has a keen ear and also picks out the quiet chugging guitar riff that hides further back in the mix. The immersive audio isn’t entirely convincing, but it does add a little extra reverb and spacey ambiance to more atmospheric tracks such as Cut by Low.

And, of course, Bose’s noise cancelation is still ahead of the pack. It stamps down on the deep rumble of aircraft engine noise so effectively that I have to check the settings on my office iMac to make sure the audio file is still playing. The higher frequencies in our airport noise test are more challenging for most headphones, but the Ultra works well here too, leaving only a slight murmur of sound lingering way off in the background. Battery life is around six hours when using noise-cancellation, but spatial audio reduces that to just four hours. The charging case does provide three additional charges, though, and our only real complaint is that the standard USB-C case doesn’t provide wireless charging as well, so you’ll have to pay $49/£49.95 extra for the optional wireless case.

3. Apple AirPods Pro 2nd-generation

Pros

Fantastic audio quality

Excellent noise canceling

Best-in-class transparency mode

New charging case features

Better battery life

Cons

You can still buy better-sounding wireless earbuds

No LE Audio, lossless, or hi-res audio

Controls on the stems is still a bad idea



There are a few minor external changes for the second-generation Apple AirPods Pro, but most of the changes are on the inside.

The 2022 model comes with four sets of eartips adding extra small (XS) to the mix – the original AirPods Pro only came with three tips. We found the extra small tips more comfortable, your experience may differ.

The charging case now comes with a small metal lanyard loop – although Apple doesn’t actually sell a lanyard. There are speaker holes a the base of the case that can make a sound if you lose the AirPods while they are in their case.

The original AirPods Pro lacked an easy way to control volume, so the fact that the second-gen model adds the ability to detect up and down swipes on the little flat area of the stem is useful. A swipe up or down changes the volume.

As for what’s inside, the H2 chip in the 2022 AirPods Pro enables Adaptive Transparency, which is an enhancement of the Transparency mode on the original model. As a result of this mode you can choose to hear things that you might need be able to hear in your vicinity, but you won’t be deafened by them. In our tests the AirPods Pro 2 blocked more outside sound than the originals.

We were impressed by how much better the new second-generation AirPods Pro sound compared to the first generation. Clarity and sharpness is improved and bass response is vastly improved. The bridge of the Beastie Boys’ “Intergalactic” at 2:30 was just way too much for the old AirPods Pro to handle, but the new model had no trouble keeping up.

The battery life is longer than it was for the original AirPods Pro and you can now use your Apple Watch charger in addition to charging via Lightning and other wireless charging methods.

As with the iPhone 14-series and the 2022 Apple Watches, Bluetooth 5.3 is supported, however, it doesn’t appear that it’s being used for anything in particular right now. Perhaps a software update will bring new features in the future.

Like the originals the AirPods Pro 2 offer Spatial Audio with head tracking, Conversation Boost to amplify speech in the direction you’re facing, one-tap pairing, audio sharing with another pair of AirPods (or Beats), quick switching to other Apple devices your Apple ID is logged into, and hands-free Siri.

Read our full

Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) review

4. Beats Studio Buds+

Pros

Fun transparent design (other colors are available)

Improved ANC and sound quality

Good battery life

Priced well

Cons

Don’t sound as good as AirPods Pro

Missing a few Apple ecosystem features

No wireless charging



We felt that the original Beats Studio Buds outclassed AirPods Pro in several ways but lacked some Apple-specific features. 2023’s new Beats Studio Buds + improve on the originals.

The Beats Studio Buds + beats Apple in terms of color choices with its retro frosted transparent plastic for both the buds and case. They are available in black and ivory too.

The charging case is a bit larger than that of AirPods or AirPods Pro. There’s a USB-C charge port, but no wireless charging.

The buds are average in size and fit and come with four sizes of eartips, so it’s easy to get a good seal, although in our testing we did lose the seal a couple of times while working out at the gym.

There are actual physical buttons on the side of each earbud, which we found to be easier to use than Apple’s “squeeze the stem” AirPods control system.

Beats says that these earbuds offer 1.6x better noise canceling and 2x better transparency than their predecessors. They still don’t match the AirPods Pro, but they are priced closer to the standard AirPods, which don’t even offer those features. The transparency feature isn’t adaptive.

These second-gen earbuds offer improved ventilation and bigger batteries than the predecessors (battery life is rated at six hours with ANC, or nine without). Sound quality is also better than that of the previous generation thanks to new microphones and transducers. They sound better than 3rd-gen AirPods, but the 2nd-gen AirPods Pro deliver an overall superior audio experience all around.

Some Beats products use Apple’s own headphone chips, but the Beats Studio Buds + do not. Because they lack Apple’s H1 or H2 chip, they miss out on many of the features of Apple’s ecosystem. Hands-free “Hey Siri” is there, as is instant pairing with your iPhone and support for the Find My app. But you don’t get instant switching between Apple devices, support for spatial audio with video, personalized spatial audio, Conversation Boost, or the in-ear detection that pauses playback if you take an earbud out. Instead, these buds support some Android features including Google Fast Pair, Audio Switch, and Find My Device. Surprising from a company owned by Apple.

I enjoyed the design and usability of these Beats earbuds, and I’d take them over the AirPods any day, but I still find the latest AirPods Pro easier to recommend.

Read our full

Beats Studio Buds+ review

5. B&W Pi7 S2

Pros

Excellent sound quality

 Supports AAC and aptX Adaptive

 Charging case supports wired audio

Cons

Expensive

Modest battery life

Noise cancelation could be better




Best Prices Today:



₹61,450 at Amazon

Bowers & Wilkins’ Pi5 was previously on our list of best earbuds, and the new Pi7 S2 is even better, boasting improved sound quality and noise-cancellation and an innovative smart charging case that does more than just top-up the battery.

Available in black, white or dark blue, the Pi7 S2 earbuds are a little more compact than their predecessors, providing a more comfortable fit, along with three sets of ear-tips in different sizes. They’re sturdy too, with an IP54 rating for water and dust resistance, so they’ll be a good option for exercise as well as traveling.

The earbuds support both Apple’s AAC and the aptX Adaptive codec for Bluetooth audio, so they’ll work with a variety of computers and mobile devices. However, B&W has come up with an ingenious smart charging case that makes the Pi7 S2 even more versatile. The charging case has a USB-C port for charging – and also supports Qi wireless charging too – but the USB-C port can also accept a wired audio input as well. There are USB-C and 3.5mm audio cables included, so you can connect the charging case to a wired music system, such as the music system in a gym, or the in-flight entertainment system on a plane, and the case can then act as a Bluetooth transmitter that streams the audio to the earbuds. This is a great idea, as it combines the convenience of Bluetooth wireless audio with the ability to connect to wired audio systems when you need to.

The noise-cancellation features also work well when you’re in noisy environments such as a gym or on a plane – although they’re not quite as effective as the latest AirPods Pro. However, the Pi7 S2 wins hands-down when it comes to sound quality, with a wonderfully clear and balanced sound that works well for a variety of different musical styles. The bouncing bass on Bad Guy by Billie Eilish combines a relaxed, infectious rhythm with a firm, taut bass beat, but it copes equally well with the delicate violins and soprano vocal on Max Richter’s The Waves. The only real disappointment – especially at this price – is that the battery life is a modest five hours on a single charge. Fortunately, the charging case lets you recharge the earbuds three more times, so it should still be able to cope with some long plane flights when it needs to.

6. Creative Zen Air Pro

Pros

Great price

Supports AAC

Respectable noise-cancellation

Wireless charging case

Cons

Lightweight plastic design

Noise-cancellation can’t match the best



Active noise-cancellation (ANC) is a standard feature with many modern earbuds and headphones, but it’s still an expensive feature that adds quite a lot to the overall price. For instance, Apple’s AirPods start at $129/£129, but you have pay $249/£229 to get ANC from the AirPods Pro, so we were impressed when Creative launched its new Zen Air Pro earbuds, which offer ANC for a very competitive $69.99/£59.99. And, unlike many more expensive models, the Air Pro even manages to include a wireless charging case as well.

As you might guess from the name, the Air Pro bears more than a passing resemblance to Apple’s AirPods Pro, with rubber eartips and a small stalk that hangs down from your ears. Admittedly, the plastic earpieces and charging case don’t feel quite as sturdy as their Apple rivals, but the earpieces are rated IPX5 for water resistance, so they can cope with life outdoors when they need to. Battery life is also quite respectable, lasting for nine hours on a single charge, although using ANC does reduce that to six hours. The charging case brings the total battery life to 33 hours, or 22 hours with ANC.

We were pleased to find that the Air Pro supports Apple’s AAC codec for Bluetooth audio (although the low cost means that there’s no aptX for Android users). It does a good job of handling the grinding, fuzz-drenched guitars on Supermassive Black Hole by Muse, but also shows a light touch on the fast percussion that skips through the chorus. It’s not fazed when I jump ahead a couple of tracks on the Black Holes album for the gentle Soldier’s Poem, catching the smooth, warm tone and all the details in Muse’s Queen-esque harmonies as they intone – “there’s no justice in the world…”

The noise-cancellation feature also proves surprisingly effective for such a low-cost set of earbuds. It’s not quite as effective as some of its more expensive rivals, but the Air Pro still does a good job of reducing the low rumble of an aircraft engine during our listening tests. It does let in some of the more varied sounds in our test of airport background noise, but that’s also the case with many other headphones and earbuds, and the Air Pro’s noise-cancellation features represent excellent value at this price.

7. Logitech Zone True Wireless

Pros

Connects via Bluetooth or USB wireless adaptor

Weather-resistant design, and two carrying cases

Certified for use with Zoom, Teams, Google Meet

Active noise cancellation with ambient mode

Cons

Expensive

Large earbuds may not suit everyone



Logitech’s Zone True Wireless earbuds are even more expensive than Apple’s AirPods Pro, but they’re absolutely loaded with useful features, and there’s a particular emphasis on remote working as well as simply listening to music.

Available in black or pink, the Zone earbuds make a great impression straight out of the box, as they arrive in a sturdy charging case that includes a little lanyard to help keep them safe. The earbuds are also rated IP68 for resistance to water and dust, so they’ll be ideal for running in the park or working out at the gym, and the outer section of the earbuds is covered with a mesh fabric to reduce wind noise during voice calls. Logitech even includes an additional padded carrying case, with room to hold the charging case and cables, so you can keep the entire kit safe when you’re traveling.

I often have trouble getting earbuds to stay in place, and I was initially a little worried about the rather chunky design of the Zone earbuds, but they did fit more firmly than I expected and Logitech provides three sets of ear-tips in different sizes to help get a comfortable fit. The size of the earbuds also means that each earbud is able to house a 12mm driver, as well as three microphones to help with active noise-cancellation (ANC).

Even the Logi Tune app impresses with its extensive range of features – starting with the fact that it’s available for Mac and Windows as well as iOS and Android, so you can use it to set up the earbuds when you’re preparing for a video call at work. The noise-cancellation features include an ambient mode that lets you hear some of the background noise around you if required. You can pair the earbuds with two devices at the same time and then quickly switch between devices as required, and there’s a five-band equalizer for fine-tuning the sound quality. The Zone is also certified for use with Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Google Meet for video calls.

But, of course, none of those features would matter if the Zone didn’t deliver on sound quality. You’ve actually got two options here, as the Zone can be used as a conventional set of Bluetooth earbuds with your mobile devices, but also includes a USB wireless transmitter that can be used with Macs and PCs to provide greater range and reliability than Bluetooth. The sound quality is very good in both modes, and the Zone does well to dig right down to the gravelly rumble of Leonard Cohen’s voice on You Want It Darker. There’s a taut, rhythmic sound to the song’s slinky bass guitar too, but it still keeps an eye on lighter details, such as the crisp tap on the snares.

Battery life is good too, providing 10 hours when listening to music with noise-cancellation turned off, or six hours when using noise-cancellation. The battery life is a bit lower for talk-time on video and voice calls, but still lasts for six hours without noise cancellation or five hours with noise cancellation, which should be more than enough for most work-related calls. The charging case also lets you fully charge the earbuds two more times, and there’s a QuickCharge feature that gives you one hour of battery life after just five minutes of charging time. There’s a USB-C connector on the case for charging, but it also supports Qi wireless charging too. Alternatively, if you’re a die-hard lover of wired headphones, then Logitech is planning to release a wired version of the Zone soon as well.

8. Sony WF-1000XM5

Pros

The best-sounding earbuds ever

Incredible noise canceling

Clever smart features

Hi-Res support

Cons

Fiddly on-bud volume controls

Occasionally come loose

Some connection issues




Best Prices Today:



₹23,990 at Amazon

Sony’s XM5 have better design, fit, battery life, and sound than their predecessor (the WF-1000XM4, which you can find below).

We were glad to find a fourth ‘SS’ size of extra small eartips, and every size is polyurethane foam rather than silicone, which creates an airtight seal in the ear.

The buds are a glossy plastic, but the touch-sensitive outer part is matt, as is the compact charging case. The buds are IPX4 splashproof (the case isn’t).

That touch area allows for taps or holds to do things such as pause or play audio, toggle noise canceling, or change volume. Unfortunately, you can’t swipe to change volume, instead tapping four times on left for down and four on right for up – which isn’t the most intuitive.

The WF-1000XM5 produce incredibly full, clear, detailed and balanced sound. They deliver exceptionally good audio range. ‘Speed of Plight’ by Loyle Carner is well rounded with humming bass and the crackle of vinyl record at the beginning crystal clear. I’d never noticed the light reverb on the drums on Violent Femmes’s ‘Blister in the Sun’ before I listened on the WF-1000XM5.

The XM5 play audio using the common SDC or AAC codecs, but you’ll get the best sound quality if you are using an Android phone – iPhones do not support Sony’s LDAC Hi-Res codec, which is why these don’t rank higher in our chart. The XM5 are so good that I still enjoyed the audio quality when using an iPhone with bog standard bitrate Spotify streams.

Sony says the XM5 have 20% better noise cancellation chops than predecessors, the XM4. They are very good indeed. The XM5 have three mics on each bud, up from two, to better help capture ambient noise. These mics also grant improved call quality. Wind reduction is also decent.

You can connect two devices (iOS, Android, Windows, or Mac) at once, but you still need to manually connect each device if you are cycling between more than two. Unfortunately they aren’t clever enough to switch from iPhone to iPad if you start using that, even if they are already a paired device.

The XM5 have great battery life and fulfilled Sony’s promise of eight hours on a full charge. The case can provide another 24 hours of total listening time. Those times are with ANC on, turn it off and the battery will last even longer. A three-minute charge gives an hour playback. Henry Burrell.

Read our full

Sony WF-1000XM5 review

9. Apple AirPods 3rd-generation

Pros

Shorter stems

Water- and sweat-resistant

Greatly improved sound quality

Longer battery life

Cons

Fit is highly dependent on your personal ear shape

A bit pricey



It seems that the third-generation version of the AirPods has struggled a bit since its launch in 2021, as many people still seem happy to opt for the less expensive second-gen model, which is still on sale for $129/£119.

Admittedly, the AirPods (3rd Generation) are a full $50/£50 more expensive, at $179/£169, but Apple’s argument is that the entirely new design of the third-gen model, and additional features such as wireless charging and improved battery life are worth the extra cost. You can immediately spot the differences between the two models, with the newer AirPods having a shorter stalk, and a more compact earpiece that is slightly angled in order to fit more securely inside your ear. However, they still don’t use silicon eartips that would provide a firmer fit – that’s only an option with the even more expensive AirPods Pro – and I personally found it quite easy to dislodge the AirPods from my ears.

The sound quality is very good, though, thanks to a new custom-designed driver inside the earpieces. This produces a more balanced sound than its predecessor, producing a sinister bass rumble on Billie Eilish’s You Should See Me In A Crown. This model also provides spatial audio and head-tracking for watching films and video too, along with a wireless charging case. Battery life is better too, lasting for six hours on a single charge, or 30 hours in total with the charging case. It’s a shame, though, that the AirPods (3rd Generation) don’t also provide active noise-cancellation (ANC), so if you need that feature then you’ll have to pay even more for the AirPods Pro, at $249/£239, or opt for one of the cheaper rival earbuds that we also review here.

Read our full

Apple AirPods 3 review

10. Soundcore AeroFit Pro

Pros

Open-ear design for sport

Large drivers, with strong bass

Firm fit, with detachable neckband

Supports AAC, LDAC codecs

Cons

Hooked earpieces may not suit everyone

No noise cancellation

Sound quality requires a good fit



Most earbuds include several sets of rubber eartips that are designed to fit firmly inside your ear canal, in order to provide good sound quality and block out background noise (and also to stop them falling out every five minutes). But, just recently, we’ve seen the introduction of a new type of ‘open ear’ earbuds, which tend to sit quite loosely in the outer ear instead (rather like Apple’s basic AirPods, whereas the AirPods Pro opt for a ‘closed’ design that does use rubber eartips).

These open-ear earbuds tend to be designed with sport in mind, so that you can hear what’s going on around you while you’re jogging through the park, or working out in a crowded gym. That’s very much the case with the AeroFit Pro earbuds from Soundcore (which is a division of Anker, well-known for its docks and other accessories). Priced at $169.99/£149.99, and available in a variety of colours, the AeroFit Pro also has the hooked design that is common with many sports earbuds, and wraps around the back of the ear to hold them in place. And, just to be extra safe, the AeroFit Pro also includes a detachable neckband as well. I didn’t really need the neckband, though, as the hooks on the earpieces held them in place pretty well. However, I did find that the earpieces sat quite high in my ears, which felt a little odd, so it might be worth trying the AeroFit Pro in a store or a showroom to see how they fit you before buying.

These open-ear designs can sometimes sacrifice a little sound quality in order to ensure that you remain aware of your surroundings, but Soundcore has made a good effort to provide the best possible sound quality. The AeroFit Pro houses 16.2mm drivers, which are far larger than most rival earbuds in this price range. It doesn’t quite provide the ‘thumping bass’ that Soundcore boasts about, but the electronic bass on Bad Guy by Billie Eilish did have a taut, firm beat to it. The bass didn’t overpower the sound either, with the AeroFit Pro lending a sharp snap to the finger-clicking on the chorus, and catching the breathy tone in Billie’s vocal. And, without noise-cancellation features to drain the battery you’ll get around 14 hours on a single charge, while the charging case lets you recharge three more times. Our only minor complaint is that the case doesn’t support Qi for wireless charging as well.

11. Beats Flex

Pros

Good sound quality

Low price

Hard to lose

Cons

No charging case

Not rated for water resistance



Buying Beats headphones used to mean splashing the cash but that’s no longer the case and the Beats Flex are the cheapest ones yet at just $49.99/£49.99.

These are colorful – unless you get the black ones – neckbuds that keep things simple for those unable to drop hundreds on a pair of headphones. Apart from black, they are available in Yuzu Yellow, Smoke Grey and Flame Blue.

While wireless earbuds are the booming part of the market, neckbuds shouldn’t be underestimated. The design means that you won’t lose an earbud if it falls out and you can simply leave them having around your neck when they’re not in use.

Like many others, the two earbuds contain magnets so they snap together when you’re not using them. The band is made from a sturdy material called Nitinol and a control module on the left-hand side provides volume and playback controls, as well as a mic for voice calls.

At just 18.6g total, the Beats Flex are good if you do plan to go running or similar. Note that they don’t offer any official IP waterproof rating, although the rubber-like build should keep out splashes.

As you would expect, pairing them with Apple products is a breeze and you can also use the Audio Sharing option to stream your music to a friend who has a compatible set of AirPods or Beats headphones.

With 12 hours of battery life, they last longer than wireless earbuds and a ‘fast fuel’ feature means you can get 1.5 hours of playback from a 10-minute charge over USB-C.

The low price doesn’t mean bad sound either and “The deep bass on Bad Guy by Billie Eilish has a firm, rhythmic pulse that drives the song forward. There’s a nice crisp sound to the finger-snaps that punctuate the song, and the Flex really captures the shrug-of-the-shoulders tone as Billy pronounces “duh…” halfway through. There’s plenty of detail, too, as the Flex picks up all the multi-layered harmonies on Queen’s Somebody To Love.

The Flex can even handle more delicate classical sounds, capturing the sad, mournful tone of the cello and violin as they slowly weave through the air on Max Richter’s On The Nature Of Daylight.”

Read our full

Beats Flex review

12. JLab Mini

Pros

Lightweight, compact design

Great price

Sturdy design (IP55)

Cons

No AAC or aptX

Modest battery life

No noise-cancellation (for music)



I always have trouble getting wireless earbuds to actually stay in my ears for more than a couple of minutes at a time, but JLabs’ Mini earbuds are designed for smaller ears – and they fit me like a charm. That’s not the only attraction of the compact design, though, as the charging case that comes with them is so small that it has a keyring attached to it so that you can slip it into your pocket with your keys. Each earpiece weighs a modest 3.14g – compared to 4g for Apple’s 2nd Gen AirPods – while the charging case is just 18.5g.

Despite the low price, the JLab Mini earbuds are still quite sturdily built, with an IP55 rating for water and dust resistance, so they’re well suited for use outdoors or when you’re exercising. JLab also includes three sets of ear-tips in different sizes as well. The low cost does involve some compromises, of course – most notably the lack of noise-cancellation features. JLab does refer to its noise-canceling microphones, but these are mainly designed to reduce background noise that might affect your voice when you’re making a phone call. Battery life is fairly modest too, at around 5.5 hours, although the little charging case lets you recharge the earbuds three more times if you need to. The case also lacks Qi support for wireless charging, although that’s an acceptable compromise at this price.

Sound quality is also pretty good, despite the fact that the low-cost earbuds only support the basic SBC codec for Bluetooth audio, without Apple’s AAC or the aptX codec used by Android devices. The little earbuds delve deep into the sonic mash-up of Sturgill Simpson’s Sing Along, pulling out the ticking percussion with a sharp, foot-tapping rhythm. The track’s fizzing EDM keyboards sound great too, although the grinding, fuzzy guitars don’t have quite the clarity you might expect from more expensive earbuds. But, to be fair, you’re not going to get hi-fi sound quality at this price, and the JLab Mini is a good option for anyone who just wants an affordable set of earbuds that they can slip in their pocket when they’re heading outdoors (especially if they have small ears).

13. Technics EAH-AZ60M2

Pros

3-way multipoint connections

ANC & Hi-Res support

Good battery life

Seven sets of ear tips

Cons

Slightly uncomfortable fit

More premium AZ80 are much better



Taken on their own merits, the Technics EAH-AZ60M2 are a solid pair of true wireless earbuds, and a good option to consider. The offer excellent audio quality, good noise-cancellation, and a decent set of smart features which make these worthy rivals to AirPods.

Available in blue (pictured), black, or white, these are simply designed but attractive. The compact shape doesn’t stick out of your ears much. The case is a bit large, although light, and the lid and hinge feel a touch flimsy.

An impressive selection of seven silicone eartips in various sizes is included, meaning you’re all but guaranteed to find a comfortable fit for your ears that block outside noise.

They sound great, with a rich, open soundscape with impressive range. Bass is solid. You can use the accompanying Audio Connect app to tweak the earbuds’ EQ settings. buds also support Hi-Res audio using the LDAC codec, but this doesn’t work on iPhones at all, unfortunately.

The active noise cancellation (ANC) is good, but it couldn’t stand up to the rigors of the London Underground or other especially noisy environments. There’s also an ambient mode so you can listen to your surroundings. The AZ60M2 are capable of connecting to up to three devices simultaneously.

There’s also an IPX4 rating, meaning the buds (though not case) can withstand rain, sweat, and other splashes of liquid.

Read our full

Technics EAH-AZ60M2 review

14. Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II

Pros

Excellent sound quality

Excellent noise canceling

Aware mode

Cons

Doesn’t support Hi-Res audio

No wireless charging

Can only attach to one device at a time




Best Prices Today:



₹19,990 at Amazon

If you have the budget for them, and it’s awesome sound and class-leading noise cancellation that you are looking for, the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2 are a great choice.

Bass was well represented, and all instruments were audible in the tracks we listened to. This is where spending more on earbuds pays off as they have drivers that can properly separate different tracks.

Active noise cancellation worked so well that we won’t hear any outside noise – so luckily there’s Aware Mode: tap and hold either earbud to allow ambient sound in. That works in conjunction with ActiveSense, which detects louder sounds and reduces them, so you won’t be deafened by an ambulance passing in the street.

You control play/pause with a tap. To skip forward and backtrack with two or three. Volume is controlled by sliding up and down.

However, there are a few things that let the QuietComfort Earbuds 2 down. They aren’t all that comfortable if you have small ears. There are three sizes of wingtip and ear tip in the box so you can get the best possible fit though, so it might be ok for you.

Another big disadvantage is that you can only be connected to one Bluetooth source at a time, unlike AirPods.

They do not support high-resolution audio codecs such as LDAC or FLAC, and there is no spatial audio support either. But they do support SBC and AAC to cover all modern consumer Bluetooth devices.

Read our full

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II review

15. Denon AH-C830NCW

Pros

Good sound quality

Competitive price

Effective noise-cancellation

Three full charges from carrying case

Cons

No wireless charging

No app

Modest battery life



It’s pretty obvious that Denon’s AH-C830NCW earbuds have been inspired by Apple’s AirPods, complete with the little ‘stem’ that sticks down from your ear when you’re wearing them. However, the AH-C830NCW is a much more affordable option, as it offers features and sound quality that rival the more expensive AirPods Pro for a very competitive price of just $159/£139.

Despite the low price, the little earbuds feel quite solidly built, and they’re rated IPX4 for water resistance so they’ll be able to survive a spot of rain when you’re jogging around the local park. Denon also includes three sets of ear-tips in different sizes to help you get a good fit.

The earbuds support the same AAC codec as the AirPods for Bluetooth audio, and the sound quality is very good for such an affordable set of earbuds. There’s a clear, delicate tone to the electronic chimes and soprano vocals on Max Richter’s The Waves, and the earbuds balance the complex arrangement very well as the strings and horns of Richter’s orchestra weave around each other and build to a tremendous crescendo. They can handle some more upbeat workout music too, with a nice gritty guitar sound and ticking percussion on Sing Along by Sturgill Simpson.

The noise-cancellation features work well too. The earbuds do a good job of blocking both the deep rumble of an aircraft engine and the more varied background sounds found in a typical airport setting. The low price does involve some compromises, though. There’s no app for the AH-C830NCW so we found ourselves having to pour over the manual in order to memorize the various finger-tapping combinations needed to adjust noise cancellation and other settings. The charging case doesn’t support wireless charging either, so it can only be charged via its USB-C port. Battery life is fairly modest at around five hours when using noise-cancellation, but you can charge the earbuds three more times using the charging case for a total of 20 hours with noise-cancellation.

How to choose earbud headphones

There are a few factors to consider before you hit that buy button.

Type

Earbuds, or in-ear headphones, typically fall into three main categories:

Earbuds – the type of headphones included with every iPhone and iPod and sit loosely in your outer ears. Although earbuds don’t produce outstanding sound, they’re compact and relatively inexpensive. Apple’s stock ‘buds are actually decent as earbuds go; you’re not going to get a huge upgrade in sound quality by simply replacing them with a different model. Still, there are a few alternatives out there that provide modest improvements if you’re looking for a new set. Recommendations:

In-Ear-Canal Headphones: These headphones, also known as canalphones, use silicone or foam eartips that fit snugly—and fairly deep—in your ear canals. Like earplugs, they block most external noise, so they’re great for travel and noisy environments. They’re also capable of producing stunning audio quality. On the other hand, some people find canalphones to be uncomfortable, and the best ones come with an equally stunning price tag. If you decide to spend the big bucks on a set of high-end canalphones, we enthusiastically recommend going all-in and getting custom eartips—tips custom-made for your particular ears. The process requires an audiologist visit to get impressions taken of your ears, but the benefits include substantially better comfort. (On some models, you may gain better noise isolation and better sound quality, as well.) A step above custom eartips are custom in-ear monitors, which place the actual headphone circuitry in larger, custom-made earpieces.

Canalbuds: Canalbuds, which occupy a middle ground between earbuds and in-ear-canal models, have become quite popular. Compared to canalphones, canalbuds generally use smaller eartips that sit just inside the ends of your ear canals instead of deep inside them. Good canalbuds easily best earbuds in terms of audio performance and noise isolation, but fall short of good canalphones in those areas. On the other hand, canalbuds tend to be more comfortable than true canalphones because they don’t sit so deep and don’t fit so tightly; they’re also usually less expensive. (See our in-ear-canal-headphone primer, linked above, for more information on canalbuds.)

Battery life

This is crucial as many in-ear headphones have tiny batteries that help to keep the weight down but may only last for a few hours. That might be fine if you just want to listen to some music while you’re working out, but won’t be much use on a long journey by train or plane.

However, some in-ear headphones, such as Apple’s AirPods, also include a charging case that can top up the battery, so that’s something you should check on before buying any in-ear headphones.

Noise canceling

Some headphones are specifically designed for people who travel a lot or use headphones in noisy conditions and provide active noise-canceling (ANC) option that helps to block out background noise on trains and planes – although this can add quite a lot to the overall price of the headphones.

Note this isn’t to be confused with passive noise isolation (or often referred to as canceling), which is just the way physically having headphones in/on blocks sound – like putting earplugs or ear defenders on.

Sound quality

We’d always recommend trying out any new headphones in a store or showroom whenever possible, but that’s not always practical with so many new headphones competing for your attention.

Compatibility

All the headphones here will work excellently with the latest iPhone models. It’s typical for them to support Apple’s preferred AAC codec, although some will have others too like aptX which is handy if you want to also use them with other devices like Android phones.

It’s also worth noting that all Bluetooth headphones mentioned in this article are compatible with the Apple Watch – perfect when going for a run.

Apple Inc, Computer Accessories, Headphones, Home Audio, iPhone

​Macworld Macworld

Wireless headphones are essentially the standard now, with Bluetooth being convenient and the sound quality difference to wired not being that noticeable to typical people (we realize audiophiles ‘know’).

The market is huge, but here are the best wireless earbuds we’ve tested for iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch and Macs. If you do want a wired connection some of these do offer it in addition to Bluetooth, but we also have a round-up of the best wired headphones and a comparison of over-ear headphones read our comparison of AirPods Max vs other over-ear headphones.

Best headphones and earbuds for iPhone

1. Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3

Pros

Great sound quality

Compact design, with a comfortable fit

Good battery life

Effective noise-cancellation

Cons

Lozenge design may not suit everyone

 Complicated app

Best Prices Today:

₹36,079 at Amazon

Sennheiser’s earbuds always sound great, but they do tend to be a little on the chunky side, which sometimes makes it difficult to get a good fit. However, its latest Momentum True Wireless 3 (TW3) earbuds have a more compact and comfortable design than their predecessors, while still providing excellent sound quality and noise-cancellation features for a competitive $279.95/£229.99.

It’s good to see that not all companies copy the design of Apple’s AirPods, and the TW3 earbuds have a distinctive lozenge shape that allows you to twist the earpieces inside your ear to get a good fit. Some people may not like this, but I definitely found that the earpieces fit more firmly than the AirPods, and there are three sets of ear-tips provided in different sizes as well. The earpieces are rated IPX4 for water resistance, so they’ll be able to cope with some rain when you’re out jogging, and we also like the fabric cover on the sturdy little charging case.

Sound quality is excellent, with the TW3 supporting both Apple’s AAC codec and aptX Adaptive for Android devices. The TW3 boasts a frequency response of 5Hz – 21KHz, and that low-end 5Hz works a treat on Billie Eilish’s You Should See Me In A Crown, where the juddering bass pulse sounds really deep and threatening. The TW3 is a little louder than many of its rivals too, so it’ll be a good choice if you want some loud music for your workout sessions. It’s not all bass overload, though, and the TW3 shows a really delicate touch on Arvo Pärt’s Spiegel Im Spiegel, as the slow, wistful violin melody lingers lightly in the air.

Pärt’s delicate melody also provides a good test of the TW3’s noise-cancellation features, which do an impressive job at blocking out background noise so that I can wallow in the track’s melancholy mood on a rainy summer afternoon. And, to top it all off, the TW3 provides good battery life too, lasting for seven hours on a single charge – or 6.5 hours when using noise-cancellation – while the charging case lets you fully recharge three more times when you’re on a long journey.

2. Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds

Pros

Excellent sound quality

Impressive noise-cancellation

Useful app

Cons

Expensive

Wireless case costs extra

Spatial audio could be improved

Best Prices Today:

₹25,900 at Amazon

They’re not the cheapest earbuds around, but Bose’s QuietComfort range has long been a market leader thanks to its combination of high-quality sound and impressively effective noise cancellation. The recently released QC Ultra continues that trend, but introduces an improved design as well as a new immersive mode for spatial audio.

The design of the Ultra is a little sleeker and more streamlined than previous models, with a smart metallic finish that is available in black or Smoke White. Bose has also modified the way that its rubber stability bands fit into each earpiece, helping them to sit inside your ear more securely. You get three sets of stability bands, and three sets of rubber eartips in different sizes, so the combination of the different bands and eartips should allow most people to get a good fit. The Bose app also includes a Seal Test option that can check the way that the earbuds are fitted and provide tips on getting a good fit.

Sound quality is as good as ever, with the Ultra catching the sharp, shimmering sound of the cymbal crash that kicks off Blondie’s Rapture. The bass guitar riff bounces along like a playful puppy, and there’s a bright jangling sound to the lead rhythm guitar, but the Ultra has a keen ear and also picks out the quiet chugging guitar riff that hides further back in the mix. The immersive audio isn’t entirely convincing, but it does add a little extra reverb and spacey ambiance to more atmospheric tracks such as Cut by Low.

And, of course, Bose’s noise cancelation is still ahead of the pack. It stamps down on the deep rumble of aircraft engine noise so effectively that I have to check the settings on my office iMac to make sure the audio file is still playing. The higher frequencies in our airport noise test are more challenging for most headphones, but the Ultra works well here too, leaving only a slight murmur of sound lingering way off in the background. Battery life is around six hours when using noise-cancellation, but spatial audio reduces that to just four hours. The charging case does provide three additional charges, though, and our only real complaint is that the standard USB-C case doesn’t provide wireless charging as well, so you’ll have to pay $49/£49.95 extra for the optional wireless case.

3. Apple AirPods Pro 2nd-generation

Pros

Fantastic audio quality

Excellent noise canceling

Best-in-class transparency mode

New charging case features

Better battery life

Cons

You can still buy better-sounding wireless earbuds

No LE Audio, lossless, or hi-res audio

Controls on the stems is still a bad idea

There are a few minor external changes for the second-generation Apple AirPods Pro, but most of the changes are on the inside.

The 2022 model comes with four sets of eartips adding extra small (XS) to the mix – the original AirPods Pro only came with three tips. We found the extra small tips more comfortable, your experience may differ.

The charging case now comes with a small metal lanyard loop – although Apple doesn’t actually sell a lanyard. There are speaker holes a the base of the case that can make a sound if you lose the AirPods while they are in their case.

The original AirPods Pro lacked an easy way to control volume, so the fact that the second-gen model adds the ability to detect up and down swipes on the little flat area of the stem is useful. A swipe up or down changes the volume.

As for what’s inside, the H2 chip in the 2022 AirPods Pro enables Adaptive Transparency, which is an enhancement of the Transparency mode on the original model. As a result of this mode you can choose to hear things that you might need be able to hear in your vicinity, but you won’t be deafened by them. In our tests the AirPods Pro 2 blocked more outside sound than the originals.

We were impressed by how much better the new second-generation AirPods Pro sound compared to the first generation. Clarity and sharpness is improved and bass response is vastly improved. The bridge of the Beastie Boys’ “Intergalactic” at 2:30 was just way too much for the old AirPods Pro to handle, but the new model had no trouble keeping up.

The battery life is longer than it was for the original AirPods Pro and you can now use your Apple Watch charger in addition to charging via Lightning and other wireless charging methods.

As with the iPhone 14-series and the 2022 Apple Watches, Bluetooth 5.3 is supported, however, it doesn’t appear that it’s being used for anything in particular right now. Perhaps a software update will bring new features in the future.

Like the originals the AirPods Pro 2 offer Spatial Audio with head tracking, Conversation Boost to amplify speech in the direction you’re facing, one-tap pairing, audio sharing with another pair of AirPods (or Beats), quick switching to other Apple devices your Apple ID is logged into, and hands-free Siri.

Read our full

Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) review

4. Beats Studio Buds+

Pros

Fun transparent design (other colors are available)

Improved ANC and sound quality

Good battery life

Priced well

Cons

Don’t sound as good as AirPods Pro

Missing a few Apple ecosystem features

No wireless charging

We felt that the original Beats Studio Buds outclassed AirPods Pro in several ways but lacked some Apple-specific features. 2023’s new Beats Studio Buds + improve on the originals.

The Beats Studio Buds + beats Apple in terms of color choices with its retro frosted transparent plastic for both the buds and case. They are available in black and ivory too.

The charging case is a bit larger than that of AirPods or AirPods Pro. There’s a USB-C charge port, but no wireless charging.

The buds are average in size and fit and come with four sizes of eartips, so it’s easy to get a good seal, although in our testing we did lose the seal a couple of times while working out at the gym.

There are actual physical buttons on the side of each earbud, which we found to be easier to use than Apple’s “squeeze the stem” AirPods control system.

Beats says that these earbuds offer 1.6x better noise canceling and 2x better transparency than their predecessors. They still don’t match the AirPods Pro, but they are priced closer to the standard AirPods, which don’t even offer those features. The transparency feature isn’t adaptive.

These second-gen earbuds offer improved ventilation and bigger batteries than the predecessors (battery life is rated at six hours with ANC, or nine without). Sound quality is also better than that of the previous generation thanks to new microphones and transducers. They sound better than 3rd-gen AirPods, but the 2nd-gen AirPods Pro deliver an overall superior audio experience all around.

Some Beats products use Apple’s own headphone chips, but the Beats Studio Buds + do not. Because they lack Apple’s H1 or H2 chip, they miss out on many of the features of Apple’s ecosystem. Hands-free “Hey Siri” is there, as is instant pairing with your iPhone and support for the Find My app. But you don’t get instant switching between Apple devices, support for spatial audio with video, personalized spatial audio, Conversation Boost, or the in-ear detection that pauses playback if you take an earbud out. Instead, these buds support some Android features including Google Fast Pair, Audio Switch, and Find My Device. Surprising from a company owned by Apple.

I enjoyed the design and usability of these Beats earbuds, and I’d take them over the AirPods any day, but I still find the latest AirPods Pro easier to recommend.

Read our full

Beats Studio Buds+ review

5. B&W Pi7 S2

Pros

Excellent sound quality

 Supports AAC and aptX Adaptive

 Charging case supports wired audio

Cons

Expensive

Modest battery life

Noise cancelation could be better

Best Prices Today:

₹61,450 at Amazon

Bowers & Wilkins’ Pi5 was previously on our list of best earbuds, and the new Pi7 S2 is even better, boasting improved sound quality and noise-cancellation and an innovative smart charging case that does more than just top-up the battery.

Available in black, white or dark blue, the Pi7 S2 earbuds are a little more compact than their predecessors, providing a more comfortable fit, along with three sets of ear-tips in different sizes. They’re sturdy too, with an IP54 rating for water and dust resistance, so they’ll be a good option for exercise as well as traveling.

The earbuds support both Apple’s AAC and the aptX Adaptive codec for Bluetooth audio, so they’ll work with a variety of computers and mobile devices. However, B&W has come up with an ingenious smart charging case that makes the Pi7 S2 even more versatile. The charging case has a USB-C port for charging – and also supports Qi wireless charging too – but the USB-C port can also accept a wired audio input as well. There are USB-C and 3.5mm audio cables included, so you can connect the charging case to a wired music system, such as the music system in a gym, or the in-flight entertainment system on a plane, and the case can then act as a Bluetooth transmitter that streams the audio to the earbuds. This is a great idea, as it combines the convenience of Bluetooth wireless audio with the ability to connect to wired audio systems when you need to.

The noise-cancellation features also work well when you’re in noisy environments such as a gym or on a plane – although they’re not quite as effective as the latest AirPods Pro. However, the Pi7 S2 wins hands-down when it comes to sound quality, with a wonderfully clear and balanced sound that works well for a variety of different musical styles. The bouncing bass on Bad Guy by Billie Eilish combines a relaxed, infectious rhythm with a firm, taut bass beat, but it copes equally well with the delicate violins and soprano vocal on Max Richter’s The Waves. The only real disappointment – especially at this price – is that the battery life is a modest five hours on a single charge. Fortunately, the charging case lets you recharge the earbuds three more times, so it should still be able to cope with some long plane flights when it needs to.

6. Creative Zen Air Pro

Pros

Great price

Supports AAC

Respectable noise-cancellation

Wireless charging case

Cons

Lightweight plastic design

Noise-cancellation can’t match the best

Active noise-cancellation (ANC) is a standard feature with many modern earbuds and headphones, but it’s still an expensive feature that adds quite a lot to the overall price. For instance, Apple’s AirPods start at $129/£129, but you have pay $249/£229 to get ANC from the AirPods Pro, so we were impressed when Creative launched its new Zen Air Pro earbuds, which offer ANC for a very competitive $69.99/£59.99. And, unlike many more expensive models, the Air Pro even manages to include a wireless charging case as well.

As you might guess from the name, the Air Pro bears more than a passing resemblance to Apple’s AirPods Pro, with rubber eartips and a small stalk that hangs down from your ears. Admittedly, the plastic earpieces and charging case don’t feel quite as sturdy as their Apple rivals, but the earpieces are rated IPX5 for water resistance, so they can cope with life outdoors when they need to. Battery life is also quite respectable, lasting for nine hours on a single charge, although using ANC does reduce that to six hours. The charging case brings the total battery life to 33 hours, or 22 hours with ANC.

We were pleased to find that the Air Pro supports Apple’s AAC codec for Bluetooth audio (although the low cost means that there’s no aptX for Android users). It does a good job of handling the grinding, fuzz-drenched guitars on Supermassive Black Hole by Muse, but also shows a light touch on the fast percussion that skips through the chorus. It’s not fazed when I jump ahead a couple of tracks on the Black Holes album for the gentle Soldier’s Poem, catching the smooth, warm tone and all the details in Muse’s Queen-esque harmonies as they intone – “there’s no justice in the world…”

The noise-cancellation feature also proves surprisingly effective for such a low-cost set of earbuds. It’s not quite as effective as some of its more expensive rivals, but the Air Pro still does a good job of reducing the low rumble of an aircraft engine during our listening tests. It does let in some of the more varied sounds in our test of airport background noise, but that’s also the case with many other headphones and earbuds, and the Air Pro’s noise-cancellation features represent excellent value at this price.

7. Logitech Zone True Wireless

Pros

Connects via Bluetooth or USB wireless adaptor

Weather-resistant design, and two carrying cases

Certified for use with Zoom, Teams, Google Meet

Active noise cancellation with ambient mode

Cons

Expensive

Large earbuds may not suit everyone

Logitech’s Zone True Wireless earbuds are even more expensive than Apple’s AirPods Pro, but they’re absolutely loaded with useful features, and there’s a particular emphasis on remote working as well as simply listening to music.

Available in black or pink, the Zone earbuds make a great impression straight out of the box, as they arrive in a sturdy charging case that includes a little lanyard to help keep them safe. The earbuds are also rated IP68 for resistance to water and dust, so they’ll be ideal for running in the park or working out at the gym, and the outer section of the earbuds is covered with a mesh fabric to reduce wind noise during voice calls. Logitech even includes an additional padded carrying case, with room to hold the charging case and cables, so you can keep the entire kit safe when you’re traveling.

I often have trouble getting earbuds to stay in place, and I was initially a little worried about the rather chunky design of the Zone earbuds, but they did fit more firmly than I expected and Logitech provides three sets of ear-tips in different sizes to help get a comfortable fit. The size of the earbuds also means that each earbud is able to house a 12mm driver, as well as three microphones to help with active noise-cancellation (ANC).

Even the Logi Tune app impresses with its extensive range of features – starting with the fact that it’s available for Mac and Windows as well as iOS and Android, so you can use it to set up the earbuds when you’re preparing for a video call at work. The noise-cancellation features include an ambient mode that lets you hear some of the background noise around you if required. You can pair the earbuds with two devices at the same time and then quickly switch between devices as required, and there’s a five-band equalizer for fine-tuning the sound quality. The Zone is also certified for use with Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Google Meet for video calls.

But, of course, none of those features would matter if the Zone didn’t deliver on sound quality. You’ve actually got two options here, as the Zone can be used as a conventional set of Bluetooth earbuds with your mobile devices, but also includes a USB wireless transmitter that can be used with Macs and PCs to provide greater range and reliability than Bluetooth. The sound quality is very good in both modes, and the Zone does well to dig right down to the gravelly rumble of Leonard Cohen’s voice on You Want It Darker. There’s a taut, rhythmic sound to the song’s slinky bass guitar too, but it still keeps an eye on lighter details, such as the crisp tap on the snares.

Battery life is good too, providing 10 hours when listening to music with noise-cancellation turned off, or six hours when using noise-cancellation. The battery life is a bit lower for talk-time on video and voice calls, but still lasts for six hours without noise cancellation or five hours with noise cancellation, which should be more than enough for most work-related calls. The charging case also lets you fully charge the earbuds two more times, and there’s a QuickCharge feature that gives you one hour of battery life after just five minutes of charging time. There’s a USB-C connector on the case for charging, but it also supports Qi wireless charging too. Alternatively, if you’re a die-hard lover of wired headphones, then Logitech is planning to release a wired version of the Zone soon as well.

8. Sony WF-1000XM5

Pros

The best-sounding earbuds ever

Incredible noise canceling

Clever smart features

Hi-Res support

Cons

Fiddly on-bud volume controls

Occasionally come loose

Some connection issues

Best Prices Today:

₹23,990 at Amazon

Sony’s XM5 have better design, fit, battery life, and sound than their predecessor (the WF-1000XM4, which you can find below).

We were glad to find a fourth ‘SS’ size of extra small eartips, and every size is polyurethane foam rather than silicone, which creates an airtight seal in the ear.

The buds are a glossy plastic, but the touch-sensitive outer part is matt, as is the compact charging case. The buds are IPX4 splashproof (the case isn’t).

That touch area allows for taps or holds to do things such as pause or play audio, toggle noise canceling, or change volume. Unfortunately, you can’t swipe to change volume, instead tapping four times on left for down and four on right for up – which isn’t the most intuitive.

The WF-1000XM5 produce incredibly full, clear, detailed and balanced sound. They deliver exceptionally good audio range. ‘Speed of Plight’ by Loyle Carner is well rounded with humming bass and the crackle of vinyl record at the beginning crystal clear. I’d never noticed the light reverb on the drums on Violent Femmes’s ‘Blister in the Sun’ before I listened on the WF-1000XM5.

The XM5 play audio using the common SDC or AAC codecs, but you’ll get the best sound quality if you are using an Android phone – iPhones do not support Sony’s LDAC Hi-Res codec, which is why these don’t rank higher in our chart. The XM5 are so good that I still enjoyed the audio quality when using an iPhone with bog standard bitrate Spotify streams.

Sony says the XM5 have 20% better noise cancellation chops than predecessors, the XM4. They are very good indeed. The XM5 have three mics on each bud, up from two, to better help capture ambient noise. These mics also grant improved call quality. Wind reduction is also decent.

You can connect two devices (iOS, Android, Windows, or Mac) at once, but you still need to manually connect each device if you are cycling between more than two. Unfortunately they aren’t clever enough to switch from iPhone to iPad if you start using that, even if they are already a paired device.

The XM5 have great battery life and fulfilled Sony’s promise of eight hours on a full charge. The case can provide another 24 hours of total listening time. Those times are with ANC on, turn it off and the battery will last even longer. A three-minute charge gives an hour playback. Henry Burrell.

Read our full

Sony WF-1000XM5 review

9. Apple AirPods 3rd-generation

Pros

Shorter stems

Water- and sweat-resistant

Greatly improved sound quality

Longer battery life

Cons

Fit is highly dependent on your personal ear shape

A bit pricey

It seems that the third-generation version of the AirPods has struggled a bit since its launch in 2021, as many people still seem happy to opt for the less expensive second-gen model, which is still on sale for $129/£119.

Admittedly, the AirPods (3rd Generation) are a full $50/£50 more expensive, at $179/£169, but Apple’s argument is that the entirely new design of the third-gen model, and additional features such as wireless charging and improved battery life are worth the extra cost. You can immediately spot the differences between the two models, with the newer AirPods having a shorter stalk, and a more compact earpiece that is slightly angled in order to fit more securely inside your ear. However, they still don’t use silicon eartips that would provide a firmer fit – that’s only an option with the even more expensive AirPods Pro – and I personally found it quite easy to dislodge the AirPods from my ears.

The sound quality is very good, though, thanks to a new custom-designed driver inside the earpieces. This produces a more balanced sound than its predecessor, producing a sinister bass rumble on Billie Eilish’s You Should See Me In A Crown. This model also provides spatial audio and head-tracking for watching films and video too, along with a wireless charging case. Battery life is better too, lasting for six hours on a single charge, or 30 hours in total with the charging case. It’s a shame, though, that the AirPods (3rd Generation) don’t also provide active noise-cancellation (ANC), so if you need that feature then you’ll have to pay even more for the AirPods Pro, at $249/£239, or opt for one of the cheaper rival earbuds that we also review here.

Read our full

Apple AirPods 3 review

10. Soundcore AeroFit Pro

Pros

Open-ear design for sport

Large drivers, with strong bass

Firm fit, with detachable neckband

Supports AAC, LDAC codecs

Cons

Hooked earpieces may not suit everyone

No noise cancellation

Sound quality requires a good fit

Most earbuds include several sets of rubber eartips that are designed to fit firmly inside your ear canal, in order to provide good sound quality and block out background noise (and also to stop them falling out every five minutes). But, just recently, we’ve seen the introduction of a new type of ‘open ear’ earbuds, which tend to sit quite loosely in the outer ear instead (rather like Apple’s basic AirPods, whereas the AirPods Pro opt for a ‘closed’ design that does use rubber eartips).

These open-ear earbuds tend to be designed with sport in mind, so that you can hear what’s going on around you while you’re jogging through the park, or working out in a crowded gym. That’s very much the case with the AeroFit Pro earbuds from Soundcore (which is a division of Anker, well-known for its docks and other accessories). Priced at $169.99/£149.99, and available in a variety of colours, the AeroFit Pro also has the hooked design that is common with many sports earbuds, and wraps around the back of the ear to hold them in place. And, just to be extra safe, the AeroFit Pro also includes a detachable neckband as well. I didn’t really need the neckband, though, as the hooks on the earpieces held them in place pretty well. However, I did find that the earpieces sat quite high in my ears, which felt a little odd, so it might be worth trying the AeroFit Pro in a store or a showroom to see how they fit you before buying.

These open-ear designs can sometimes sacrifice a little sound quality in order to ensure that you remain aware of your surroundings, but Soundcore has made a good effort to provide the best possible sound quality. The AeroFit Pro houses 16.2mm drivers, which are far larger than most rival earbuds in this price range. It doesn’t quite provide the ‘thumping bass’ that Soundcore boasts about, but the electronic bass on Bad Guy by Billie Eilish did have a taut, firm beat to it. The bass didn’t overpower the sound either, with the AeroFit Pro lending a sharp snap to the finger-clicking on the chorus, and catching the breathy tone in Billie’s vocal. And, without noise-cancellation features to drain the battery you’ll get around 14 hours on a single charge, while the charging case lets you recharge three more times. Our only minor complaint is that the case doesn’t support Qi for wireless charging as well.

11. Beats Flex

Pros

Good sound quality

Low price

Hard to lose

Cons

No charging case

Not rated for water resistance

Buying Beats headphones used to mean splashing the cash but that’s no longer the case and the Beats Flex are the cheapest ones yet at just $49.99/£49.99.

These are colorful – unless you get the black ones – neckbuds that keep things simple for those unable to drop hundreds on a pair of headphones. Apart from black, they are available in Yuzu Yellow, Smoke Grey and Flame Blue.

While wireless earbuds are the booming part of the market, neckbuds shouldn’t be underestimated. The design means that you won’t lose an earbud if it falls out and you can simply leave them having around your neck when they’re not in use.

Like many others, the two earbuds contain magnets so they snap together when you’re not using them. The band is made from a sturdy material called Nitinol and a control module on the left-hand side provides volume and playback controls, as well as a mic for voice calls.

At just 18.6g total, the Beats Flex are good if you do plan to go running or similar. Note that they don’t offer any official IP waterproof rating, although the rubber-like build should keep out splashes.

As you would expect, pairing them with Apple products is a breeze and you can also use the Audio Sharing option to stream your music to a friend who has a compatible set of AirPods or Beats headphones.

With 12 hours of battery life, they last longer than wireless earbuds and a ‘fast fuel’ feature means you can get 1.5 hours of playback from a 10-minute charge over USB-C.

The low price doesn’t mean bad sound either and “The deep bass on Bad Guy by Billie Eilish has a firm, rhythmic pulse that drives the song forward. There’s a nice crisp sound to the finger-snaps that punctuate the song, and the Flex really captures the shrug-of-the-shoulders tone as Billy pronounces “duh…” halfway through. There’s plenty of detail, too, as the Flex picks up all the multi-layered harmonies on Queen’s Somebody To Love.

The Flex can even handle more delicate classical sounds, capturing the sad, mournful tone of the cello and violin as they slowly weave through the air on Max Richter’s On The Nature Of Daylight.”

Read our full

Beats Flex review

12. JLab Mini

Pros

Lightweight, compact design

Great price

Sturdy design (IP55)

Cons

No AAC or aptX

Modest battery life

No noise-cancellation (for music)

I always have trouble getting wireless earbuds to actually stay in my ears for more than a couple of minutes at a time, but JLabs’ Mini earbuds are designed for smaller ears – and they fit me like a charm. That’s not the only attraction of the compact design, though, as the charging case that comes with them is so small that it has a keyring attached to it so that you can slip it into your pocket with your keys. Each earpiece weighs a modest 3.14g – compared to 4g for Apple’s 2nd Gen AirPods – while the charging case is just 18.5g.

Despite the low price, the JLab Mini earbuds are still quite sturdily built, with an IP55 rating for water and dust resistance, so they’re well suited for use outdoors or when you’re exercising. JLab also includes three sets of ear-tips in different sizes as well. The low cost does involve some compromises, of course – most notably the lack of noise-cancellation features. JLab does refer to its noise-canceling microphones, but these are mainly designed to reduce background noise that might affect your voice when you’re making a phone call. Battery life is fairly modest too, at around 5.5 hours, although the little charging case lets you recharge the earbuds three more times if you need to. The case also lacks Qi support for wireless charging, although that’s an acceptable compromise at this price.

Sound quality is also pretty good, despite the fact that the low-cost earbuds only support the basic SBC codec for Bluetooth audio, without Apple’s AAC or the aptX codec used by Android devices. The little earbuds delve deep into the sonic mash-up of Sturgill Simpson’s Sing Along, pulling out the ticking percussion with a sharp, foot-tapping rhythm. The track’s fizzing EDM keyboards sound great too, although the grinding, fuzzy guitars don’t have quite the clarity you might expect from more expensive earbuds. But, to be fair, you’re not going to get hi-fi sound quality at this price, and the JLab Mini is a good option for anyone who just wants an affordable set of earbuds that they can slip in their pocket when they’re heading outdoors (especially if they have small ears).

13. Technics EAH-AZ60M2

Pros

3-way multipoint connections

ANC & Hi-Res support

Good battery life

Seven sets of ear tips

Cons

Slightly uncomfortable fit

More premium AZ80 are much better

Taken on their own merits, the Technics EAH-AZ60M2 are a solid pair of true wireless earbuds, and a good option to consider. The offer excellent audio quality, good noise-cancellation, and a decent set of smart features which make these worthy rivals to AirPods.

Available in blue (pictured), black, or white, these are simply designed but attractive. The compact shape doesn’t stick out of your ears much. The case is a bit large, although light, and the lid and hinge feel a touch flimsy.

An impressive selection of seven silicone eartips in various sizes is included, meaning you’re all but guaranteed to find a comfortable fit for your ears that block outside noise.

They sound great, with a rich, open soundscape with impressive range. Bass is solid. You can use the accompanying Audio Connect app to tweak the earbuds’ EQ settings. buds also support Hi-Res audio using the LDAC codec, but this doesn’t work on iPhones at all, unfortunately.

The active noise cancellation (ANC) is good, but it couldn’t stand up to the rigors of the London Underground or other especially noisy environments. There’s also an ambient mode so you can listen to your surroundings. The AZ60M2 are capable of connecting to up to three devices simultaneously.

There’s also an IPX4 rating, meaning the buds (though not case) can withstand rain, sweat, and other splashes of liquid.

Read our full

Technics EAH-AZ60M2 review

14. Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II

Pros

Excellent sound quality

Excellent noise canceling

Aware mode

Cons

Doesn’t support Hi-Res audio

No wireless charging

Can only attach to one device at a time

Best Prices Today:

₹19,990 at Amazon

If you have the budget for them, and it’s awesome sound and class-leading noise cancellation that you are looking for, the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2 are a great choice.

Bass was well represented, and all instruments were audible in the tracks we listened to. This is where spending more on earbuds pays off as they have drivers that can properly separate different tracks.

Active noise cancellation worked so well that we won’t hear any outside noise – so luckily there’s Aware Mode: tap and hold either earbud to allow ambient sound in. That works in conjunction with ActiveSense, which detects louder sounds and reduces them, so you won’t be deafened by an ambulance passing in the street.

You control play/pause with a tap. To skip forward and backtrack with two or three. Volume is controlled by sliding up and down.

However, there are a few things that let the QuietComfort Earbuds 2 down. They aren’t all that comfortable if you have small ears. There are three sizes of wingtip and ear tip in the box so you can get the best possible fit though, so it might be ok for you.

Another big disadvantage is that you can only be connected to one Bluetooth source at a time, unlike AirPods.

They do not support high-resolution audio codecs such as LDAC or FLAC, and there is no spatial audio support either. But they do support SBC and AAC to cover all modern consumer Bluetooth devices.

Read our full

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II review

15. Denon AH-C830NCW

Pros

Good sound quality

Competitive price

Effective noise-cancellation

Three full charges from carrying case

Cons

No wireless charging

No app

Modest battery life

It’s pretty obvious that Denon’s AH-C830NCW earbuds have been inspired by Apple’s AirPods, complete with the little ‘stem’ that sticks down from your ear when you’re wearing them. However, the AH-C830NCW is a much more affordable option, as it offers features and sound quality that rival the more expensive AirPods Pro for a very competitive price of just $159/£139.

Despite the low price, the little earbuds feel quite solidly built, and they’re rated IPX4 for water resistance so they’ll be able to survive a spot of rain when you’re jogging around the local park. Denon also includes three sets of ear-tips in different sizes to help you get a good fit.

The earbuds support the same AAC codec as the AirPods for Bluetooth audio, and the sound quality is very good for such an affordable set of earbuds. There’s a clear, delicate tone to the electronic chimes and soprano vocals on Max Richter’s The Waves, and the earbuds balance the complex arrangement very well as the strings and horns of Richter’s orchestra weave around each other and build to a tremendous crescendo. They can handle some more upbeat workout music too, with a nice gritty guitar sound and ticking percussion on Sing Along by Sturgill Simpson.

The noise-cancellation features work well too. The earbuds do a good job of blocking both the deep rumble of an aircraft engine and the more varied background sounds found in a typical airport setting. The low price does involve some compromises, though. There’s no app for the AH-C830NCW so we found ourselves having to pour over the manual in order to memorize the various finger-tapping combinations needed to adjust noise cancellation and other settings. The charging case doesn’t support wireless charging either, so it can only be charged via its USB-C port. Battery life is fairly modest at around five hours when using noise-cancellation, but you can charge the earbuds three more times using the charging case for a total of 20 hours with noise-cancellation.

How to choose earbud headphones

There are a few factors to consider before you hit that buy button.

Type

Earbuds, or in-ear headphones, typically fall into three main categories:

Earbuds – the type of headphones included with every iPhone and iPod and sit loosely in your outer ears. Although earbuds don’t produce outstanding sound, they’re compact and relatively inexpensive. Apple’s stock ‘buds are actually decent as earbuds go; you’re not going to get a huge upgrade in sound quality by simply replacing them with a different model. Still, there are a few alternatives out there that provide modest improvements if you’re looking for a new set. Recommendations:

In-Ear-Canal Headphones: These headphones, also known as canalphones, use silicone or foam eartips that fit snugly—and fairly deep—in your ear canals. Like earplugs, they block most external noise, so they’re great for travel and noisy environments. They’re also capable of producing stunning audio quality. On the other hand, some people find canalphones to be uncomfortable, and the best ones come with an equally stunning price tag. If you decide to spend the big bucks on a set of high-end canalphones, we enthusiastically recommend going all-in and getting custom eartips—tips custom-made for your particular ears. The process requires an audiologist visit to get impressions taken of your ears, but the benefits include substantially better comfort. (On some models, you may gain better noise isolation and better sound quality, as well.) A step above custom eartips are custom in-ear monitors, which place the actual headphone circuitry in larger, custom-made earpieces.

Canalbuds: Canalbuds, which occupy a middle ground between earbuds and in-ear-canal models, have become quite popular. Compared to canalphones, canalbuds generally use smaller eartips that sit just inside the ends of your ear canals instead of deep inside them. Good canalbuds easily best earbuds in terms of audio performance and noise isolation, but fall short of good canalphones in those areas. On the other hand, canalbuds tend to be more comfortable than true canalphones because they don’t sit so deep and don’t fit so tightly; they’re also usually less expensive. (See our in-ear-canal-headphone primer, linked above, for more information on canalbuds.)

Battery life

This is crucial as many in-ear headphones have tiny batteries that help to keep the weight down but may only last for a few hours. That might be fine if you just want to listen to some music while you’re working out, but won’t be much use on a long journey by train or plane.

However, some in-ear headphones, such as Apple’s AirPods, also include a charging case that can top up the battery, so that’s something you should check on before buying any in-ear headphones.

Noise canceling

Some headphones are specifically designed for people who travel a lot or use headphones in noisy conditions and provide active noise-canceling (ANC) option that helps to block out background noise on trains and planes – although this can add quite a lot to the overall price of the headphones.

Note this isn’t to be confused with passive noise isolation (or often referred to as canceling), which is just the way physically having headphones in/on blocks sound – like putting earplugs or ear defenders on.

Sound quality

We’d always recommend trying out any new headphones in a store or showroom whenever possible, but that’s not always practical with so many new headphones competing for your attention.

Compatibility

All the headphones here will work excellently with the latest iPhone models. It’s typical for them to support Apple’s preferred AAC codec, although some will have others too like aptX which is handy if you want to also use them with other devices like Android phones.

It’s also worth noting that all Bluetooth headphones mentioned in this article are compatible with the Apple Watch – perfect when going for a run.

Apple Inc, Computer Accessories, Headphones, Home Audio, iPhone 

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