The best true wireless earbuds of 2021 have some of the most advanced audio technology we’ve ever seen, and they sound just as good as nearly any pair of wired earphones on the market. Some of the earbuds on this list may even compete with our picks for the best over-ear headphones – and given that they’re all cable-free, that’s saying a lot.
In case you’ve forgotten what genuine wireless earbuds are, here’s a refresher: They have no cable to connect to your phone or any other device and are sometimes referred to as TWS earphones (True Wireless Stereo). In addition, unlike traditional wireless earphones, there is no cord connecting each bud to the other.
This makes true wireless earphones highly convenient and adaptable to a wide range of locations and applications. However, there is one significant disadvantage: you must exercise extreme caution not to lose one.
Until recently, truly wireless earbuds were a hazardous choice due to Bluetooth and wireless music streaming constraints, but advances in technology mean you don’t have to worry about un-pairable buds or bad sound. In the list below, we’ve selected the best pairs of genuine wireless buds to help you find the ideal pair for your budget and demands.
The best true wireless earbuds of 2021 in the list below are all high-end – and most come with a price tag to match, however, there’s a growing industry of budget wireless earbuds that indicate you don’t have to break the bank in the pursuit of superb music.
Every pair in our list includes a slew of amazing features, such as active noise cancellation, hands-free voice control, and support for Hi-Res Audio codecs. If you’re just looking for great sound, we recommend models like the Bowers & Wilkins PI7, Grado GT220, and Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus, which cater to your inner audiophile.
You may be considering purchasing the Apple AirPods 2, which are among the most popular truly wireless earbuds on the market. While we wouldn’t discard them completely, there are considerably better options available, such as the noise-canceling AirPods Pro and Apple’s latest buds, the AirPods 3. Before you buy a set of old-school ‘Pods, have a look at our list of the best AirPods alternatives available in 2021.
1. Sony WF-1000XM4 Wireless Earbuds
Sony is largely responsible for the market’s poor health, and with the WF-1000XM4, the business has integrated performance, ergonomics, and build quality more effectively than ever before.
When compared to their predecessors, the Sony WF-1000XM3, the new wireless earbuds provide enough quality-of-life features to warrant an upgrade, even though they are more expensive.
The WF-1000XM4 are more comfortable than their predecessors due to their more compact form, and their accompanying control software makes it simple to change their EQ settings for a tailored experience.
The audio quality is among the best you’ll get from a pair of wireless in-ear headphones, and DSEE Extreme upscaling means standard-definition digital audio files can be approximated to produce high-resolution sound.
While other true wireless earbuds outperform the Sony WF-1000XM4 in some areas – noise cancellation, for example – no other model comes close to providing such consistently high quality. As a result, the Sony WF-1000XM4 are the best true wireless earbuds available today.
The Sony WF-1000XM3 was the best true wireless earbuds you could purchase for over two years – until they were surpassed by the WF-1000XM4. However, the Sony WF-1000XM3 is still worth considering, not least because it is normally available for roughly $170 / £150 / AU$200.
The Sony WF-1000XM3 manages to provide exceptional noise cancellation for a pair of earbuds, as well as fist-pumping musicality, a stylish design, and respectable battery life. Their discreet design will appeal to anyone who isn’t sold on the Apple AirPods’ appearance, and they’re pleasant to use for extended periods of time.
With Google Assistant and Alexa support, you can manage the buds with your voice alone, though the on-ear controls are simple to use.
The NuraTrue are possibly the most individualized wireless earbuds available today – and they’re also among the best-sounding.
They’re the first truly wireless earbuds from Australian audio manufacturer Nura, and they follow in the footsteps of the NuraLoop earphones, which are also our pick for the best wireless earbuds of 2021.
The NuraTrue are yet another success for the firm, providing unrivaled degrees of personalization that allow the earbuds to be precisely tuned to your ears. The app even assesses how well the buds fit into your ears.
The end result is an exceptional audio performance that displays remarkable levels of detail in your music, as well as a broad soundstage that allows every instrument to sing.
If you think these earbuds are solely for audio, think again. They have a slew of capabilities that will appeal to anyone looking for a less expensive alternative to popular models like the AirPods Pro and the Sony WF-1000XM4.These include good noise cancellation, an IPX4 water-resistance rating, rapid charging, and compatibility for high-resolution audio.
Cambridge Audio is best renowned for its high-end audio equipment, but in recent years, the British business has expanded into the area of genuine wireless earbuds.
Its debut product, the Melomania 1, gained a spot among the best wireless earbuds due to its excellent sound quality. The new Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus, on the other hand, are a worthwhile improvement, putting many other earbuds to shame in terms of audio performance, battery life, and ease-of-use.
While the Melomania 1 Plus’s look isn’t very different from its predecessors, there’s a noticeable improvement in audio performance, with levels of detail and clarity that rival some of the best over-ear headphones.
We enjoy them even more now that they have a handy app, simple controls, and superb connectivity. The only drawback is the lack of active noise cancellation. However, with these earbuds sounding this excellent, we doubt you’ll notice.
Furthermore, the Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus have received a permanent price reduction, making them incredibly good value for money. Originally priced at $139.95 / £119.95, the audiophile-friendly earphones have been dropped to $99.95 / £99.95 — a $40 / £20 fixed savings.
The Sennheiser CX True Wireless are the German audio giant’s latest wireless earphones. Picking off where the CX 400BT left off, they’re less expensive than their predecessors, despite including a slew of updated features like as a longer battery life and improved connection.
Sennheiser’s audio quality is precisely what you’d expect, with a wide soundstage, clear mids, accurate trebles, and powerful bass frequencies – and while audiophiles may prefer a less distinct low end, we were nonetheless impressed by how well these earbuds sound for the price. Hi-res audio support is also offered for those who wish to extract every single detail from their music.
The controls and accompanying app are simple to use, and Bluetooth 5.2 connectivity assures a consistent connection with your device. You can now tweak the touch controls via the Sennheiser Smart Control app, according to a recent firmware update, which is a useful feature that makes these buds feel a little more personal.
The CX True Wireless’ design, which we found far too large for our ears, is our only serious complaint. We’re hesitant to pass too harsh judgement on Sennheiser for this, because the majority of consumers will most likely be able to utilise them without trouble.
We were blown away when we initially evaluated the original Lypertek PurePlay Z3 truly wireless earphones (then known as the Lypertek Tevi). Their successors are the Lypertek PurePlay Z3 2.0 truly wireless earbuds. They’re extremely identical to the originals, with a few major upgrades, and yet they’re still available at the same low price range as the originals — $99 / £99.
This includes everything we liked about the original PurePlay Z3, such as rich, well-balanced music and a stunning 80-hour total battery life from its small USB-C charging case. Wireless charging, a powerful new LDX Audio mode, better app functionality, and a hear-through ambient mode are among the new features.
Our complaint is that app connectivity is sporadic at best, and the ambient hear-through mode is mostly ineffective in compared to competitors such as Sony’s noise-cancelling WF-1000XM4.
Nonetheless, with the price being so cheap and nothing to detract from the high standard established by the originals, they remain must-have earbuds, more than a match for headphones twice or three times the price.
On paper, the GT220 appears to have their job cut out for them. AU$259 / £250 / $259 $365 for little, uninteresting-looking genuine wireless in-ears with no active noise cancellation and no control app.
However, they stand head and shoulders above the majority of true wireless earbuds on the market today by performing with perfect confidence and assurance. They pull every nuance of information from digital files of your favourite music and deliver it with such authority, completeness, and coherence that it sounds new even if you’ve heard it a thousand times before.
Because there is no control app, there is no ability to tweak the EQ settings, but we didn’t mind because the GT220 sound great as is. Because of the huge surface area of the earbuds’ housings, the touch-sensitive controls are simple to use, allowing you to control music playback, adjust volume, and summon your device’s voice assistant, whether it’s Google Assistant or Siri.
A 36-hour overall battery life, while not as amazing as the Lypertek Pure Play Z3 2.0, ensures the GT220 has enough juice to get you through a week of commuting.
The Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2’s sound quality, battery life, and design are genuinely fantastic – and they’re a great alternative to the Sony WF-1000XM4, especially if you like a more flashy look when it comes to the best true wireless earbuds for you.
Sennheiser has hit the ball out of the park with these earbuds, which deliver superb noise reduction as well as stylish, sophisticated appearance and stunning sound. We appreciated the fabric-covered charging case, which feels well-made and durable enough to protect the earbuds – the case provides 21 hours of battery life, and the buds themselves supply seven hours.
The aptX codec supports high-resolution audio, and Bluetooth 5.1 connectivity makes the Momentum True Wireless 2 a breeze to pair with your devices. Those with smaller ears, as with the CX True Wireless, may find these earbuds bothersome, as the housings are rather hard and huge.
We’d still recommend them for the majority of customers, especially now that the Momentum True Wireless 2 are a little older and frequently discounted.
The fact that the Bowers & Wilkins PI7, despite its exorbitant price tag, a control app that is more style than substance, an incomplete array of touch controls, and boring active noise-cancellation and battery life, must sound great to come this close to a five-star rating.
The PI7 has a totally engaging and believable sound, and aptX Adaptive support guarantees smooth synchronisation between audio and video, as well as support for hi-res audio files.
They’re also a truly one-of-a-kind pair of wireless earbuds, with a charging case that serves as an audio retransmitter. It’s a wonderful feature, offering WiFi connectivity to previously inaccessible sources such as an in-flight entertainment system or select gaming consoles.
The build quality of the PI7 is excellent, as one would expect from a $399 / £349 / AU$599 set of buds. They look and feel like a luxury product. However, they fall short when it comes to active noise cancellation, which is inferior to models like the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds or the Sony WF-1000XM4.
Their 20-hour battery life is also disappointing (only the Apple AirPods have a longer battery life), and the inability to modify the volume of your music using the on-ear controls is a major flaw.
The QuietComfort Earbuds are Bose’s second try at genuine wireless headphones, and they outperform the earlier SoundSport Free by leaps and bounds. Not only is the design superior, but the noise cancellation is outstanding; in fact, these are the best noise-cancelling earbuds available right now.
Bose has followed in the footsteps of its Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 by adding 10 levels of ANC to the QC ‘Buds. At its most extreme, you’re practically cut off from the rest of the world, cocooned in a cocoon of sound composed completely of your favourite songs.
The sound quality is likewise extremely nice – if a little less bassy than Sony – with excellent clarity. Despite their massive appearance, they’re remarkably comfy and well-balanced. The QuietComfort Earbuds come with a variety of eartips, each having a flexible fin that keeps the buds in place.
Unfortunately, the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds’ battery life isn’t as amazing as their other qualities. The buds themselves provide a reasonable six hours of playback, but the charging case only provides two more charges for a total battery life of 18 hours.That’s significantly less than the majority of the true wireless earbuds in this guide, so keep that in mind if you frequently forget to charge your buds.
If you enjoy Sony earphones but cannot afford the WF-1000XM4, the Sony WF-C500 are an excellent alternative.These earbuds are less expensive than many of the products in this roundup, costing $79 / £89 / AU$149.95, but Sony hasn’t made too many sacrifices to attain this lower price.
The sound is quick, detailed, and highly engaging, despite the fact that the soundstage is a touch small for our tastes. The bass is also a little recessed, so if audio performance is your main priority, you might want to pay a little more.
The WF-C500 is a delight to wear thanks to its light and comfortable design. In addition, despite their small size, the touch-sensitive housings are simple to use, letting you to modify music playback, take calls, and activate your device’s voice assistant.
Control is also available via Sony’s excellent ‘Headphones Connect’ app if you like. This is where you can change the EQ settings, configure your Bluetooth priorities, let the app analyse the shape of your ears (the WF-C500 are compatible with Sony’s ‘360 Reality Audio’ spatial audio technology), and turn on or off the Digital Sound Enhancement Engine.
The total battery life of 20 hours is a little underwhelming. However, 10 hours of listening time from the buds alone isn’t awful and will satisfy anyone who enjoys long listening sessions.
The AirPods Pro, Apple’s noise-cancelling true wireless earbuds, have a significantly superior fit and design than the original AirPods. They are, however, somewhat dear at $249 / £249 / AU$399, and hence cannot be termed the best true wireless earbuds in terms of value for money – but they may be the best true wireless earbuds for Apple aficionados.
These earbuds have a terrific sound, and the additional mics provide effective noise cancellation (especially when commuting), as well as a handy Transparency mode that truly lets the outside world in. The Apple AirPods Pro have recently improved as well. Since the iOS 15 update in September 2021, the earphones have received a plethora of additional updates.
These enhancements include Conversation Boost, which is aimed to let you hear face-to-face conversations more clearly when using them, as well as the option to announce notifications with Siri and connection with Apple’s Find My iPhone app, among many more.
According to reports, a new AirPods model is on the way to join the originals and the newer Pros. The AirPods Pro Lite are reported to be a new, less expensive version of the company’s successful true wireless earphones that could be released this year.