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The 5 best earbuds in 2021

It's about time we say goodbye to cords: these are the top-performing true wireless earbuds on the market

Isabela Alzuguir
| Updated on
The 5 best earbuds in 2021© 2021 GaudiLab / Shutterstock

Just a few years back, neckbud-style earbuds – those with a cord or band behind the neck – were all the rage. Partisans praised the freedom to exercise while listening to music, podcasts, and audiobooks without cord tangling or pressure over their heads. Granted, I'd take the clumsiness of something dangling behind my neck over fully wired headphones anytime. I'm all for love and diversity, but when it comes to cords, I'm a hater.

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That's why neckbud-style earbuds seem half-baked to me: they're not truly cordless. Sure, they come in handy for those prone to losing things, but I didn't feel genuinely untangled until I got my first pair of (truly) wireless earbuds, which I swear by. And that's despite having a history of "misplacing" my belongings.

It's hard not to feel uneasy at the thought of losing earbuds until you give them a shot. True wireless buds typically come with ear tips in different sizes, so you can find a secure fit and make the most of your sound experience. Some models have additional, round-the-ear wingtips for more vigorous workouts, and a few brands have addressed these concerns by offering replacement buds at a discount.

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What's all the hype about?

The wire-free concept is enough to convince me, but that's not all there is to true wireless earbuds.

Design

With each new release, premium earbuds seem to be decreasing in size, but growing in style. As you'll see when we present our picks for best wireless earbuds, different colors and finishes are often available, and some buds almost look like jewelry.

Charging and battery life

Nowadays, true wireless earbuds come with a travel case that takes care of charging even if you're on the go. So long as you keep the case charged, you won't run into battery trouble. Most premium products, and many mid-range and budget options have a fast charging feature, which can give you an hour (or more) of playtime in 15 minutes.

As with design, the average battery life for wireless earbuds is steadily improving. Our list includes models with up to 11 hours of playtime per charge (not including the extra charging case power).

Fancy features

Don't let their size fool you: these tiny gadgets can pack a punch. Our favorite wireless buds boast a long list of features. Sweat- and water resistance, multi-microphone call technology with noise reduction, hear-through modes, wind noise protection, and smart assistant compatibility are but a few examples. One of them even pledges to personalize the sound for each user, based on hearing tests.

* features vary by model.

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How our top picks made the cut

We've considered the highest-performing products according to the Versus ranking, as well as our users' favorite true wireless earbuds and the following features:

  • Sweat resistance
  • Dust- and water resistance
  • Active noise cancellation (ANC)

Check out our selection below and as always, keep your needs in mind when choosing your next (maybe first!) earbuds.

  • Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2
    1

    1. Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2

    3,622 points

    Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2

    Fingertip touch control and fine listening details make the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 earbuds a delight for any listener. The built-in listening technology allows users to indulge in category-specific sound and Transparent Hearing. Plus, Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity ensures that your calls will be crystal clear while you enjoy the unrivaled stereo sound and active noise cancellation.

    Voted CNET's Editor's Choice pick for wireless earbuds in 2021, the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 earbuds are a significant upgrade from the previous Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless model. Fully-customizable touch controls, 28-hour battery life, and bespoke 7mm dynamic drivers are just a few of the premium features that you'll enjoy when listening the Sennheiser way.

    Built-in equalizers and cutting-edge technology pave the way for deep, juicy bass, natural mid-tones, and crystal-clear trebles whether you're listening to classical or modern rock. And, they feature some of the most popular features for this category of tech, including active noise cancellation, sweat-resistance, and water resistance.

  • Jabra Elite Active 75t
    2

    2. Jabra Elite Active 75t

    3,035 points

    Jabra Elite Active 75t

    Another exceptional product in Jabra's true-wireless line, the Elite Active 75t are tiny, sweatproof earbuds with excellent fit. Available in navy, copper black, and titanium black versions, these sports earbuds have a special grip coating and a pressure relief vent. Unlike Google's Pixel Earbuds 2 (see below), the Jabra Elite Active 75t buds block ambient sound and don't compromise bass.

    The 7.5-hour battery life can be extended to 28 hours via charging case. Unfortunately, there's no wireless charging, although a wireless-charging variant is in the works. Moreover, the HearThrough feature allows for surrounding sounds to be heard (safer for those running or walking around the city), and the most popular smart assistants can be activated via an earbud button.

    Our favorite feature is MySound, which we wish was available for all of Jabra's true-wireless series. On the premise that each of us hears things differently, MySound optimizes sounds to the user's profile after a hearing test. This can be activated via the Jabra Sound+ App, which includes customizable call and music EQ.

  • Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus
    3

    3. Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus

    2,775 points

    Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus

    After the industry-wide boom of branded mobile lenses, Samsung is advertising branded earbud speakers. The Galaxy Buds Plus feature a two-way dynamic speaker with the signature of audio specialists AKG, acquired by Samsung a few years back. With a tweeter for high notes and a woofer for punchy bass (that, yet, doesn't match up to Jabra's Elite Active 75t), these earbuds offer a solid sound experience.

    Available in Cosmic Black, Cloud Blue, white, and red versions, the Galaxy Buds Plus have a subtle design and pack an impressive 11 hours of battery life on a single charge. This can be extended to 15 years of talk-only time, or stretched by another 11 with the charging case. According to the manufacturer, it only takes three minutes of charge for the earbuds to be juiced up for another hour. Additionally, the buds can be charged wirelessly.

    The Galaxy Buds Plus offer a snug fit, but be aware that there's no vent system. Although this typically makes for better passive noise cancellation, some may find the seal too tight. Furthermore, the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus don't have an active noise cancellation feature, pairing two devices simultaneously isn't possible, and its sweat resistance rating isn't as high as of its competitors.

    Back to the positive side, the Galaxy Buds Plus offer superior call quality and can bring in external sounds with the Ambient Aware mode. The charging case has an LED indicator for each earbud, a feature that's not yet so common, but that's appreciated by users. Finally, besides the basic play–pause–skip, call answering, and activating voice assistance, the touch controls can be personalized for specific actions, such as accessing Spotify.

  • Apple AirPods Pro
    4

    4. Apple AirPods Pro

    2,177 points

    Apple AirPods Pro

    As it tends to be with all things Apple, the AirPods Pro are a polarizing product. While you may not understand why someone would choose earbuds with plastic stems, others wouldn't consider stepping out of the brand's ecosystem. Whichever group you're in, we can still objectively acknowledge the pros and cons.

    As in Apple's previous earbuds, the AirPods Pro are equipped with wireless charging. The construction, however, is much better than the former model's. The AirPods Pro have an in-ear design, which makes them less likely to fall off someone's ear. Although this is already the case for most earbuds, the AirPods Pro bring a rare feature to the table: active noise cancellation. Not only is it something that you can't find in most earbuds on the market, but users have rated the AirPods Pro's ANC as highly effective. Another impressive trick is Adaptive EQ, which tailors sounds to the user's ear shape.

    Like most premium buds, Apple's AirPods Pro tackle the "clogging" effect with vents – this means you won't feel the earbuds are stuck in your body. Despite the strategic apertures, the bass performance is still powerful, provided that you've found the right fit. The product's companion app can help you find the right tip.

    You can control the AirPods Pro by squeezing the stems. There's no button, you'll hear "click" sounds. As with regular touch controls, different squeeze patterns make for various commands. As expected, the earbuds have hands-free Siri integration, which is optimal for those using other Apple products. Although you can pair your earbuds with Android phones, you won't have access to everything the AirPods Pro can offer – such as sharing audio with someone else. Finally, at 4.5 hours, battery life disappoints, even though you can extend that to up to 24 hours of use with the charging case.

  • Coumi ANC-860
    5

    5. Coumi ANC-860

    3,200 points

    Coumi ANC-860

    For the incredibly accessible price point, the Coumi ANC-860 earbuds offer everything you could possibly want out of portable, totally wireless earbuds. From active noise cancellation, water-resistance, and a charge time of just an hour and a half, there's nothing lacking from these budget-friendly top-tier earbuds.

    Although noise cancellation features alone would be sufficient enough for most users, Coumi takes it to the next level with an ambient mode that allows you to still engage with the exterior world around you if you're out in public but want to keep the earbuds in. And speaking of being out and about in public, you'll never have to worry about needing to recharge as these earbuds come with a 5.5-hour battery life with noise cancellation turned on that extends up to 7.5 hours if you turn it off, and a whopping 40 hours if you're able to recharge the earbuds in their case.

    Bluetooth 5.0 allows you to roam further from your device while listening and helps reduce power consumption, which is always a good thing. Plus, users report that the shallow fit of the earbuds themselves makes them extremely comfortable to wear for long periods of time.

dust- and water-resistancesweat resistanceBluetooth aptXactive noise cancellation (ANC)Battery life
Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 27h
Jabra Elite Active 75t7.5h
Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus11h
Apple AirPods Pro5h
Coumi ANC-8607.5h
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