True wireless earphones have become much more popular over the past couple of years. While completely wire-free earphones existed before the AirPods were launched in 2017, there’s no denying the impact Apple has had, bringing momentum to the big breakthrough in wireless audio tech.
Since then, countless other companies – including the best audio brands around – have entered the market and we’ve tested all the big-name options to bring you what we think are the best wire-free earphones available to buy.
If you’re not yet convinced you want to gamble on wire-free, this list may change your mind. If not, you can always check out our list of best in-ears instead.
Sony’s first pair of noise cancelling wire-frees were received with a somewhat mixed response, but the newest generation is super. Where these are set apart from their rivals is in ANC. You’ll struggle to find wire-free in-ears with great adaptive noise cancelling that adjusts to its surroundings, but in these, Sony has knocked it out of the park. They’re really impressive.
Add the over-ear quality ANC to a device with great sound, long battery life and a comfortable fit, and what you have is a winning combination. The look and design of the earbuds might divide opinion, but then that’s true of pretty much any true wireless earphones. What Sony has done here is taken the superb capabilities of its flagship headphones, and crammed it into a tiny pair of wireless earphones.
Perhaps the only limitation is that these really are just for music enjoyment. They’re not water or sweat resistant, and the design doesn’t lend itself to being used for workout sessions. Still, the price is comfortably below the big-name audio brands, at a similar price point to the Powerbeats Pro, and that makes them very easy to recommend.
Bose SoundSport Free
They may not be the most attractive earphones, but when it comes to performance, sound, battery life and fit, they’re unbeatable, especially if you want a pair that also stays securely in place during exercise.
They’re a bit bulky and protrude unusually from the ear, but with a design that’s not too embedded within the ear, these buds are comfortable enough to wear for hours on end and won’t fall out. Then there’s the battery life of five hours per charge (and two charges in the accompanying case), meaning they can last an impressive 15 hours total.
Add that to the fact that they sound fantastic, with well-balanced bass, mid and treble, and plenty of detail, and you have probably the most well-rounded, everyday pairs of true wireless earphones.
Apple AirPods 2
For iPhone users, the AirPods have been a smash hit. Despite the unusual looks, a combination of intelligent design choices and convenience make these very easy to recommend. In the first generation, the W1 chip (now replaced by the H1) ensured it paired really easily with your iPhone, while they also automatically paired with any other Apple device using the same iCloud account.
They’re easy to get out of the portable charging case, which in itself, is well designed and easy to carry around. Perhaps its only weakness is that the sound isn’t quite as dynamic or pleasing as the others on this list. But as we’ve found out so many times in consumer electronics, convenience often wins out against sheer quality.
You’ll be hard pushed to find someone who’s used AirPods and not loved them. What’s more, they can pair just like normal earphones with Android devices, if you want to use them cross-platform, it just loses some of that convenience that makes it so appealing.
Master & Dynamic MW07
If you’re all about looks, having something a little unique and soul-enriching sound, look no further than the Master & Dynamic MW07. We fell instantly in love with them on first look at the polished chromed case and stayed in love when we put them in our ears.
They’re super comfortable to wear, thanks to a unique in-ear fin design that grips securely without letting you know it’s there. You can barely feel them in your ears, and yet they don’t ever feel like they might fall out.
What’s more, in an age of very samey looking plastic earbuds, the patterned, attractive acrylic finish on the outside makes it stand out, and ensures you’re not walking around with the typical bland plastic poking out of your earholes.
Then there’s the sound. They’re truly fantastic to listen to. Lots of bass, dynamic detailed sound and great soundstage overall makes this the pair for those that just want to get lost in the music. They’re not cheap, and the three-hour battery between docking isn’t the best, but we loved every minuted with the MW07.
Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless
Sennheiser took some time to get into the wire-free game, but it was worth the wait. The company focussed on sensible styling and great, customisable sound with the Momentum True Wireless, and it paid off for the most part.
You get aptX and Bluetooth 5.0 for solid, reliable connectivity as well as an app that allows really intuitive control over your sound profile. There’s no complicated EQ fader in sight. What’s more, they fit well, stay secure and aren’t uncomfortable to wear. Plus, they’re splash resistant.
The pair comes in a portable, neat carrying case covered in a grey textured fabric that opens and snaps shut easily. Touch controls can be a tiny bit fiddly, and the three-hour battery life isn’t the best, but certainly good enough for daily use. They charge quickly too.
BeoPlay E8 2.0
B&O Play’s first wire-free earbuds were fantastic. It’s all about attractive, sensible style with great, customisable sound. We liked the app that comes with it, and the audio transparency feature can be useful at times too. For the second gen Beoplay E8’s, it was about building on a winning formula and making it even better.
B&O improved the battery life quite noticeably – although it still somewhat behind some of the more modern long-lasting earphones like the Powerbeats and the Sony pairs. What it does have, however, is a case that can be placed on a wireless charger for easy, convenient topping up, and a case with more battery inside it.
The pricing is just about in line with what other flagship wire-free in-ears cost, and we’re big fans of them.
Samsung Galaxy Buds
So you don’t want to spend nearly £300 to get a decent pair of wire-frees? That’s where Samsung’s latest attempt comes in. The biggest draw is undoubtedly the price. They’re cheaper than any of the other big-name offerings, and they do the job well.
If you have a Samsung device, you’ll get similar pairing convenience to the Apple AirPods, and you get a wireless charging case as standard (no extra charge for that).
Bragi Dash Pro
Bragi was one of the first companies to get in on the wire-free game, but it was never interested in just creating a pair of earphones for listening to music. It wanted to invent a new sub-category within the smart wearables market, offering more than just Bluetooth audio streaming.
Bragi’s Dash Pro is among the most powerful and feature-rich pairs around. It’s got all the sensors required to measure your heart rate, steps, and can even be used to track swimming pool lengths. As well as that, they have audio transparency (if you want it), touch controls and live translation from audio to text, within an app.
The problem with the Dash Pro is that it tries to do so much, that its battery life is a little weak compared to others in real everyday use. We got around two hours out of each full charge, and the fitness tracking wasn’t as accurate or as useful as a GPS smartwatch would be.
They sound good, are comfortable though and we’ve got to admire the ambition.