Looking for the best true wireless earbuds? Welcome to TechRadar's guide to the best cord-cutting buds you can buy in 2020.
If you haven't noticed, headphone cables are no longer in fashion. That's because wireless audio sounds better than ever, compression formats for Bluetooth 5.0 are more reliable, and flagship smartphones are shipping without headphone jacks.
True wireless means there aren't any cables between the two earbuds at all, so there's no wire or neck band to contend with. Nothing to get tangled in your pocket or caught on your zipper, nothing to whack around your neck in the middle of that run, and also nothing to keep your singular earbuds together.
The original Apple AirPods were the first model to truly bring true wireless to the mainstream, but there are far better options out there in terms of audio quality, battery life, design, and crucially, price – and that includes the new AirPods Pro, which have made it onto this list. So, before you buy a pair of old-school 'Pods, check out our list of the best AirPod-alternatives you can buy in 2020.
Considering it's still rare to get noise-cancellation in wired earbuds at all, the fact that Sony has managed to pack it into a pair that are not only wireless, but true wireless is very impressive indeed.
The Sony WF-1000XM3 manage to offer a level of noise-cancellation that's very good for a pair of earbuds – it won't offer the same isolation as a pair of over-ear cans, but its a worthy trade off for that sleeker form.
Sony has really knocked the ball out of the park with the WF-1000XM3. Not only are these hands down the best-looking true wireless earbuds on the market, but they also combine serious noise-canceling tech with fist-pumping musicality. If you don’t want the inconvenience of carrying full-size cans around, they’re a persuasive alternative.
Battery life is above average, and that compact charging case is pretty slick too. Constantly improving, a recent update has brought volume control to the buds themselves, as well as support for Amazon Alexa. We reckon the true wireless jungle has found a new king.
Read more: Sony WF-1000XM3 review
Cambridge Audio is known for its high-end audio equipment, but until now, hasn’t ventured into the world of true wireless earbuds. Enter the Cambridge Audio Melomania 1s: with an outstanding 45 hours of battery life, they combine the brand’s award-winning engineering with the convenience of truly wireless listening.
For a pair of true wireless earbuds, the sound quality offered by the Cambridge Audio Melomania 1s is sensational. In fact, it rivals that of some of the best over-ear headphones.
They may not have the noise cancelation technology offered by the Sony WF-1000XM3 Wireless Earbuds, but they are $100 / £100 cheaper – and they have a superior battery life.
They certainly outperform the Apple AirPods (2019), in all respects apart from the lack of wireless charging case. This is a small price to pay for that exceptional audio quality, though, and we think they represent much better value for money, too.
Read more: Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 review
You may not have heard of up-and-coming audio brand Lypertek yet, but expect to hear a lot from it soon – its Lypertek Tevi true wireless earbuds are among the best we’ve tried, especially given their low price tag ($130 / £99 / AU$185).
With USB-C charging, a well-balanced sound, lengthy battery life, and waterproofing, they tick every box you could ask for, from what are basically a pair of budget buds.
The Lypertek Tevi, surprisingly, might just blow you away, punching well above their weight and rivaling buds from some of the biggest audio brands on the planet.
Consider us pleasantly surprised.
Read more: Lypertek Tevi true wireless earbuds review
They're not cheap, but the T5 hold their own against the very best true wireless headphones – in fact, we'd argue that they're among the best models on the market right now. That's because they offer stellar sound, high build quality, long-lasting battery life, and one of the coolest cases we've ever seen.
Featuring the signature Klipsch sound, these buds sound warm, clear, and never harsh. Acoustic music is lush and detailed, with that clarity extending to the highs as well, allowing the headphones to sing in the higher registers without ever being sibilant.
Battery life is rated at eight hours per charge with the case providing an additional 24 hours – these are true wireless earbuds that can last you an entire flight from New York to San Francisco (or wherever you're next trip takes you).
Read more: Klipsch T5 True Wireless review
Although the TrueConnect are RHAs first true wireless earbuds, they stand among the best AirPod-alternatives on the market today. The combination of sound quality, battery life, and wireless reliability means these are a pair of buds you can rely on everyday.
The Jabra Elite 65t set the standard for what true wireless earbuds should be and, regardless of what RHA has done here with the TrueConnect, they’re still great headphones. Compared to the RHA TrueConnect, the Jabra have more features with its useful ambient noise mode to help with situational awareness and an app that lets you tailor sound.
The RHA don't have either of those features but we didn’t miss them, thanks to better sound quality and wireless reliability. The RHA also feels more like a premium product than the all-plastic Jabra.
All said, if you’re shopping for a pair of true wireless headphones, the $170 / £150 (about AU$265) the RHA TrueConnect should be at the very top of your list.
Read more RHA TrueConnect review
If you want a pair of high quality truly wireless earbuds that aren’t the Apple AirPods, then the Jabra Elite 65t should be at the top of your list.
After spending over a month with them, we came away impressed with the well-rounded package that Jabra managed to create: The earbuds offer a subtle, mature look and a reliable wireless connection, which isn’t always the case with truly wireless earbuds. Plus, they sound great compared to the competition.
If you only have the budget for one of these, go for the Elite 65t.
Read the full review: Jabra Elite 65t review
Apple has launched its new true wireless earbuds, bringing active noise cancellation, a (finally) much better fit, and an improved design, in a bid to lure more iPhone users into the true wireless fold.
However, at $249 / £249 / AU$399, they’re pretty pricey too, and as such can’t be called the very best wireless headphones out there.
That said, if you’re an iPhone user looking for some well-fitting earbuds with strong sound quality, you could do a lot worse than the new AirPods - the redesign means they’re far less likely to fall out, and the additional microphones provide strong noise-canceling (particularly when commuting), as well as a useful Transparency mode, which really does let the outside world in.
The sound quality of the AirPods Pro has certainly improved since the previous iteration – there’s a notable emphasis on vocals and bass, meaning these earbuds are better for pop fans than those that enjoy a more natural presentation that lends itself to classical music or more orchestral sounds.
Read more: Apple AirPods Pro review
The new PowerBeats Pro true wireless Beats headphones aren't exactly the earbuds analysts have been predicting, sure, but they are something special – they’re supremely comfortable, sound decent and seem to never, ever fall out.
That said, they are going through – in our opinion – Apple’s best true wireless earbuds to date thanks to small additions like the pressure-reducing micro-laser barometric venting hole, their longer battery life and their superior sound quality. If we had to choose between wearing these and the AirPods around the house or office, these are what we’d wear.
Read more: Beats PowerBeats Pro review
Sennheiser enters the race with its Momentum True Wireless earbuds. An extension of its reputable Momentum range, these cordless buds offer Sennheiser's trademark high-fidelity audio in a gorgeously sleek package.
You only get four hours of charge in the earbuds, but the carry case will be able to charge them two times over on top of that, giving you 12 hours in total when on the go.
The main thing holding these back is the price: at £259 / $299 (about AU$400) they're almost double the cost of the Apple AirPods. You do get a range of touch-based controls to stop you reaching for your phone every time you want to skip or pause a track, but the act of prodding things in your ear could be more comfortable – while the volume control is oddly imprecise.
Overall though, Sennheiser's first true wireless earbuds combine style and sound like few others.
Read more: Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless review
Let’s get one thing out of the way – the B&O Beoplay E8 are some of the best-looking and most expensive wireless earphones you can buy at $350 / £300 (around AU$570).
Audio quality is undeniably excellent, and you can tweak the sound to your liking using the accompanying Beoplay app on Android and iOS.
Even without tinkering around with ToneTouch, the E8 2.0s sounds crisp and clear, with punchy bass frequencies. So, the Bang & Olufsen E8 2.0 truly wireless earphones look great and sound great, although the touch-sensitive buttons are a little too sensitive at times, and there's no active noise cancelation.
However, it's hard to not find these earphones appealing, and if you want your true wireless earbuds to look as good as they sound, they could be the perfect model for you.
Read more: B&O Beoplay E8 2.0 Wireless Earphones review
It feels as though Samsung has finally got it right with the Galaxy Buds, and they represent serious competition for the Apple AirPods (2019) in terms of design, sound, and ease of use.
We loved the pearlescent effect on the buds outer housing and the sleek design of the case, and we found they felt comfortable and secure.
The sound quality offered by these true wireless buds is also very good indeed, with deep bass, and a wide open soundstage; although, audiophiles may want to look elsewhere for a more natural sound treatment, as the Galaxy Buds do sound very warm.
The downside here is that other features that are available on the app like ambient noise and the equalizer presets are useful to have, but didn’t always work as effectively as we hoped. These features are also pretty much out of bounds for iOS users, as you can only download the app on devices running Android 5.0 or later.
Read more: Samsung Galaxy Buds review
With a promising battery life and well-managed bass enhancement over Audio-Technica’s usual neutral sound, the Audio-Technica ATH-CKS5TW true wireless earbuds have a lot going for them.
They've one of the most complete and well-rounded sound profiles we've seen from true-wireless earbuds, and that's despite the claimed bass enhancement. It's a very enjoyable sound that they make.
However, they are let down a bit by their fit – mileage will vary of course depending on your preferred bud style and the size of your ears, but all will find the fiddly case fit will annoy over time. Still, the quality audio here may be a worthy trade-off.
Read more: Audio-Technica ATH-CKS5TW review
What about the Apple AirPods?
It's been a big year for the Apple AirPods; in March last year, the true wireless earbuds were given an upgrade to give us the AirPods (2019), and most recently, Apple announced the Apple AirPods Pro.
The second generation Apple AirPods, the AirPods (2019), aren't a huge improvement on their predecessors, but they still sport some cool features, that may make them worth buying if you're an iPhone user in particular.
They still feature the iconic design of the original AirPods (a good or bad thing depending on your point of view), and sound quality hasn't changed at all – it's lively, but not on par with the best true wireless earbuds in this guide. The bulk of the upgrade comes from the new H1 headphone chip, which improves connectivity and battery life, and allows for a new ‘Hey Siri’ voice activation feature.
The AirPods (2019) also come with an optional wireless charging case means you can use a Qi-compatible charging mat to power the case, rather than sticking a cable into the Lightning charging port in the bottom of the case.
Like their predecessors, they are super easy to pair, but they are very much optimized for using with iPhones. The best true wireless earbuds give you more flexibility when it comes to your device of choice, and can offer superior sound quality – as well as sleeker designs.
There’s also no getting away from the fact that these are an expensive pair of headphones, and for that kind of money we think that you can find better products elsewhere – especially if you're looking to pair with anything other than an iPhone.
Read more Apple AirPods (2019) review
True wireless vs wireless: what's the difference?
Wireless headphones are traditional over-ear or on-ear headphones without the wire – the two earcups are connected by a headband. To learn more, head to our round up of the best wireless headphones.
Wireless earbuds – the focus of this guide – have existed for a while now, basically since Bluetooth was invented. Though battery-powered and not physically connected to your phone, they have a cord connecting both buds – and sometimes a band around the neck too. Check out the best wireless earbuds for more.
True wireless earbuds - the focus of this guide – have no cord whatsoever. While wireless allows us to wear headphones a few feet away from our music players, true wireless cuts the cord between the earbuds, giving us true freedom.
Best true wireless earbuds at a glance
- Sony WF-1000XM3 True Wireless Earbuds
- Cambridge Audio Melomania 1
- Lypertek Tevi
- Klipsch T5 True Wireless
- RHA TrueConnect True Wireless Eabuds
- Jabra Elite 65t
- Apple AirPods Pro
- Beats Powerbeats Pro
- Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless
- B&O Beoplay E8 2.0 Wireless Earphones
- Samsung Galaxy Buds
- Audio-Technica ATH-CKS5TW
- Not ready to cut the cord after all? Don't miss our guides to the best earbuds and best wireless earbuds
Source: TechRadar - All the latest technology news
By: Nick Pino,Henry St Leger