The best from Apple, Bose, Samsung, Sony, Beats, Google, and more
It’s hard to buy a bad pair of wireless earbuds these days, and with huge sales expected for Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2022, this is a good time to splurge on the pair you’ve been eyeing. The market has come a long way since the early era of true wireless earbuds when we had to deal with mediocre sound quality and unreliable performance, all for the sake of ditching cables. Things are much different now. After several product generations of learned lessons, companies like Sony, Apple, Samsung, and others are releasing their most impressive earbuds to date.
You can get phenomenal noise cancellation and sound quality in the premium tier of earbuds if you’re willing to spend big. But those aren’t always the most important criteria for everyone: maybe you’re looking for the perfect fitness earbuds or for a set that works just as well for Zoom calls as for playing your favorite playlists and podcasts. Tech companies are increasingly making their earbuds work best with their own products through exclusive features and functionality, so that’s another thing to consider as you shop around.
In terms of overall excellence, the best wireless earbuds you can get are Sony’s WF-1000XM4. They’ve got an unbeatable combo of top-notch active noise cancellation, wonderfully detailed audio, and long-lasting battery life. And we’re seeing some knockout discounts on them ahead of Black Friday. But we’ve also got a number of other picks based on other factors that you might rank higher — and many of them are also being marked down significantly for the holiday season.
The best wireless earbuds in 2022
Best overall wireless earbuds
Though they come at a hefty price, the best overall wireless earbuds you can buy are Sony’s WF-1000XM4. They offer superb, warm, detailed sound quality and excellent active noise cancellation. The ANC doesn’t quite measure up to Bose’s newer QC Earbuds II, but it’s still plenty powerful. And their impressive battery life can stretch to eight hours of continuous listening with noise cancellation turned on, enough to outlast all of Sony’s top competition.
The WF-1000XM4s have a premium, matte black (or light gray) design with stylish rose gold accents. Most earbuds come with standard silicone ear tips, but Sony includes foam-style tips that expand in your ears to create an excellent seal that, together with the noise cancellation, do an impressive job at hushing the outside world. Not everyone finds Sony’s ear tips the most comfortable — they’re on the larger size — so be sure to try them for yourself if possible.
On Android phones, the 1000XM4s support Sony’s LDAC codec for higher-quality music playback. But even when used on other platforms, they’re up there with the very best audio-focused premium earbuds like Sennheiser’s Momentum True Wireless 2 — with much better noise cancellation.
And just recently, Sony announced it would address the one main downside of the 1000XM4s: their lack of multipoint. Support for that is coming soon, so you’ll be able to pair them with two Bluetooth devices simultaneously. With their best-in-class mix of features (including bonuses like 360 Reality Audio support), improved voice call performance, and impressive battery endurance, you can’t do much better.
Best earbuds under $100
Sometimes all you need are the fundamentals, and that’s where Jabra’s Elite 3 earbuds manage to rise above the crowded field of sub-$100 competition. Their sound puts some emphasis on the bass but still manages to come through nicely balanced overall with very good clarity for this price range.
The earbuds last for up to seven hours of continuous playback, and the compact case holds three additional charges. Their large physical buttons are easy to use, and the earbuds are rated IP55 for dust and water resistance.
The Elite 3s lack the multipoint feature that Jabra has long been known for — that’s the main sacrifice you make for the price — but in an improvement from past models, either earbud can be used standalone in mono mode. And they’re extremely comfortable to wear for long stretches. You don’t get features like active noise cancellation or wireless charging (though Jabra does include a so-so transparency mode), but the Elite 3s perform reliably with a strong Bluetooth signal. They’re a terrific value for the money.
Best noise-canceling earbuds
Bose’s QuietComfort Earbuds II are the most powerful noise-canceling earbuds on the market. Of all our top picks, these do the best job at offering peace and quiet from the cacophony of daily life and putting you in a private bubble with your music playlists or favorite podcasts.
The QC Earbuds II are considerably smaller than Bose’s original QuietComfort Earbuds, and the same can be said of the included charging case — though it unfortunately lacks wireless charging. Audio quality is rich and dynamic, delivering more bass thump than, say, Apple’s AirPods Pro. And by switching to a two-piece ear tip / stabilizer fitting process, Bose’s latest flagship buds should fit a wider range of ears more comfortably.
Best earbuds for working out
The long-reigning champ of fitness earbuds, the Powerbeats Pro, have finally been defeated. And fittingly, they’ve been outdone by Beats’ latest earbuds. The Beats Fit Pro trade the ear hooks of the Powerbeats for a new wing tip design that keeps them securely locked in your ears during even the most vigorous workouts. As a result, these earbuds have a much smaller form factor — and their carrying case is mercifully far more manageable. The way these earbuds magnetically latch into the case also means you don’t have to worry about one or both buds failing to charge in the case, which was a common annoyance with the Powerbeats Pro.
Unlike the Powerbeats Pro, the Fit Pros include active noise cancellation. And they’re on par with the AirPods Pro in that department, so you’ll be able to exercise without distraction. When you do want to stay alert to your surroundings, the transparency mode is also as natural-sounding and clear as on the AirPod Pros.
The earbuds are rated IPX4 for water resistance. While that’s not as robust as some other fitness-focused buds, it should be sufficient to survive sweat and outdoor runs in various conditions. The Fit Pros have easy-to-use physical button controls, and although they lack the dedicated volume rocker of the Powerbeats Pro, you’ve got the option to remap a long-press of each earbud to adjust volume instead of toggling noise cancellation.
If you’re an iPhone owner, the Fit Pros offer Apple-only features like dynamic head tracking for spatial audio, auto device switching, Find My integration, and more. For Android users, Beats has an app that will let you adjust settings and see the battery status of the earbuds and case, among other functions.
Best earbuds for iPhone owners
For those invested in Apple’s ecosystem, the second-generation AirPods Pro combine an appealing mix of top-notch noise cancellation and refined sound compared to the original pair. As always, they also include numerous features — spatial audio, audio sharing, automatic syncing across iCloud devices, etc. — that make them an ideal companion to the company’s other devices. They’re also the only AirPods that come with different sizes of ear tips for a customizable fit — now including an extra small option.
The AirPods Pro have a compact case that supports wireless charging. Setting them up is as simple as holding the open case near your iPhone. The earbuds are lightweight and fit snugly in most ears. Their force sensor pinch controls are easy to get down, and with the second-gen model, Apple added swipe-based volume controls. The AirPods Pro have traditionally ranked among the best wireless earbuds when it comes to voice call quality, and the second-gen earbuds don’t disappoint. Their ANC is improved over the original model and now right up there with Sony, and transparency mode has gained the ability to quickly damper sudden, loud noises that might happen around you.
Where the AirPods stand out is with their Apple-only features like head tracking for spatial audio, automatic device switching, extensive Find My support, and so on. The charging case now features a built-in speaker and a U1 chip for pinpoint location tracking. The second-gen AirPods Pro have better sound and noise canceling capabilities than the originals and retain their deep integration with Apple’s hardware ecosystem.
Best earbuds for Samsung Galaxy phone owners
Samsung’s Galaxy Buds 2 Pro sound terrific, and that’s before you take advantage of the optional 24-bit audio support. Compared to the first Pros, these have a smaller, lighter design that doesn’t protrude from your ears, and the audio quality is second only to the Sennheisers among our favorite earbud picks.
Like the AirPods Pro with Apple devices, the Buds 2 Pro offer Samsung-only tricks like head tracking for spatial audio, auto device switching between Samsung devices, and so on. The compact charging case supports wireless charging, and the Buds 2 Pro have a worry-free IPX7 rating against water and sweat, making them even more durable than the AirPods.
Best earbuds for Google Pixel phone owners
Google finally nailed wireless earbuds with the Pixel Buds Pro. Thanks to their impressive noise cancellation, good sound quality, and comfortable fit, they greatly improve upon the flawed second-generation Pixel Buds. Most important of all, they don’t exhibit any of the connectivity issues and audio dropouts that plagued Google’s earlier buds.
Instead, the Pixel Buds Pro deliver a consistently great listening experience with lengthy battery life to go along with it. They also include multipoint Bluetooth support, so you can pair Google’s flagship earbuds with two devices at the same time. It’s a hugely convenient feature that Apple, Bose, Samsung, and Sony have yet to bring to their respective earbuds.
Pixel phone owners get bonuses like easier settings (the Pixel Buds controls are built right into the native phone settings), and Google plans to bring support for head tracking spatial audio to the Pixel Buds Pro later this year. That immersive trick will only work on Pixel devices.
Best earbuds for sound quality
The third generation of Sennheiser’s Momentum True Wireless earbuds deliver tremendous, detailed sound quality that stands above nearly all competitors. They’re a joy to listen to, and even better, they’re now smaller and more comfortable than previous models — with a case that finally supports wireless charging. The active noise cancellation can’t compete with the likes of Apple, Sony, and Bose, but if you care more about lush, intricate sound, the MTW3s won’t disappoint in the slightest.
Unlike past iterations, these earbuds come with optional wing tips to help keep them securely locked in your ears. That could prove helpful for running or when hitting the gym. Sennheiser allows for plenty of EQ customization using its mobile app, and the Momentum True Wireless 3s support a range of Bluetooth codecs, including AAC, SBC, AptX, and AptX Adaptive.
Best earbuds for voice calls on iPhone
Apple’s third-generation AirPods have a new design with shorter stems than the original model. But even with their mics now being farther from your mouth, they still perform very well on calls — and there are bigger improvements to sound quality and fit / comfort that make upgrading to the so-called AirPods 3 worthwhile.
Apple has also added new features that were previously exclusive to the AirPods Pro, like head tracking spatial audio and deeper Find My integration for hunting down your misplaced buds. And the case is now optimized to work with Apple’s MagSafe wireless charging system. The AirPods still have a one-size-fits-most hard plastic form factor, so you’ll want to try them before buying to make sure they’re the right match for your ears. But if they are, these are Apple’s best regular AirPods yet by a wide margin.
10. Sony LinkBuds
Best earbuds for voice calls on Android
Sony’s unconventional-looking LinkBuds have a donut hole right in the middle of each earbud. This surprisingly comfortable design is meant to allow in outside noise and keep you aware of your surroundings at all times. But it also means that the LinkBuds won’t be for everyone — especially those people who prefer to drown out the world when listening to their music.
But more than their quirky fit, the LinkBuds’ greatest strength is stellar performance on voice calls. Sony reworked its voice isolation algorithms for these earbuds, and as a result, the LinkBuds are several rungs above the call quality of the flagship 1000XM4s and nearly all competitors minus AirPods. If you’re looking for something you can pop into your ears throughout the workday, the LinkBuds don’t disappoint.
Best earbuds for mobile gaming
The Hammerhead True Wireless earbuds have decent sound quality and active noise cancellation for their price. But likely, what’s equally as important to avid mobile gamers is their low latency gaming mode that cuts response time down to 60ms.
And then there’s the Chroma. Unlike the first-gen Hammerhead True Wireless, these ones have fully customizable RGB lights on each earbud. It’s an eye-catching effect, though it does eat into battery life a little. Razer’s mobile app for the earbuds allows for control remapping and extensive EQ adjustment. The Hammerhead True Wireless earbuds are average in metrics like battery life, and their transparency mode is merely passable, but if you’re big on Razer gear, now you can flash the brand while playing your favorite mobile games at the coffee shop.
12. Nothing Ear 1
Best earbuds for standout style
Though they can be buggier than we’d like, and their noise cancellation is run-of-the-mill, there’s no denying that the first earbuds from Nothing have a unique look. With their semi-translucent design and unique charging case, the Ear 1 earbuds will catch some attention when lined up with earbuds from more established brands. And at $99, you don’t have to break the bank for that added style — and maybe that price will make it easier to overlook the areas where Nothing came up short with its debut pair of earbuds.
13. UE Fits
Best earbuds for a perfect fit
They mold to the shape of your ears in 60 seconds. That’s really all that needs saying for you to know why the UE Fits surpass all other wireless earbuds at nailing the right fit. Short of visiting an audiologist and having custom IEMs made, you’re not going to do much better.
But the Fits are really only worth it if you often struggle with keeping other earbuds in your ears. If you’ve exhausted all options (including trying memory foam tips), then definitely give these a try. The molding sensation — the tips warm up in your ears as they adapt their shape — is certainly unlike anything you’ll get from other earbuds.
Photography by Chris Welch / The Verge