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19 best wireless earbuds, tried and tested for quality sound and noise cancellation

Cut ties with fiddly wires, thanks to these best wireless earbuds from Apple, Sony, Bose and more

David Phelan
Monday 22 January 2024 15:29 GMT
<p>We tested for sound quality, comfort, battery life, value, and how easy they were to set up and use</p>

We tested for sound quality, comfort, battery life, value, and how easy they were to set up and use

Our Top Picks

There was a time when using headphones meant having to be permanently tethered to your phone, constantly untangling cables as you go. But ever since smartphone manufacturers started ditching the headphone jack on their handsets, headphones and earphones have gone wireless.

Now, they’re more portable than ever, and in-ear headphones offer the highest level of portability, fitting comfortably inside your pocket. True wireless earbuds, as they’re called when they don’t have any wires at all, are lightweight and often offer great comfort.

Some fit so snugly into your ears that they keep the outside world out by a process of noise isolation. Others build on this with electronic help, called active noise cancellation (ANC).

Yet more have extra features, such as built-in voice assistants that can answer your questions, send messages and turn up the volume.

You’re most likely to use wireless earbuds with your phone, laptop or tablet, and some earbuds are smart enough to switch seamlessly between devices, as you need them to.

How we tested

We’ve tested the best wireless earbuds for sound quality (above all), comfort, battery life, ease of setup and simplicity of use. We’ve also rated each model according to extra features and, of course, value for money.

The best wireless earbuds for 2024 are:

  • Best wireless earbuds overall – Sony WF-1000XM5 wireless earbuds: £259, Amazon.co.uk
  • Best noise-cancelling wireless earbuds – Apple AirPods Pro 2nd gen wireless earbuds: £239, Amazon.co.uk
  • Best luxury wireless earbuds – Bowers & Wilkins Pi7 wireless earbuds: £349.99, Amazon.co.uk
  • Best wireless earbuds for running – Beats Powerbeats Pro wireless earbuds: £199, Amazon.co.uk
  • Best wireless earbuds for sound quality – Bose QuietComfort 2 wireless earbuds: £209.99, Amazon.co.uk

Sony WF-1000XM5 wireless earbuds

wf-1000xm5.jpg
  • Best: Wireless earbuds overall
  • Battery life, earbuds: 8 hours, 12 hours (ANC off)
  • Battery life, charging case: Up to 24 hours
  • Noise cancellation: Yes
  • Closed or open design: Closed
  • Earbud weight: 5.9g
  • Wireless-chargeable case: Yes

Sony’s in-ears are astonishingly good, beating all newcomers for sound quality. The latest buds somehow manage to outdo the already splendid WF-1000XM4 (which are now discontinued). The new headphones are 25 per cent smaller and 20 per cent lighter than their predecessors, though the driver is quite a bit bigger, which helps with audio quality.

In terms of looks, the new design is as slick and premium as before. A bone conductor sensor knows when you are talking, and can pause the audio as a result – which is great unless you’re singing along to your music, in which case you need to turn this feature, called Speak to Talk, off. Meanwhile new touch controls mean it’s easy to change volume, noise cancellation and more with simple gestures and touches.

What really stands out, though, is the sound quality, with a level of deft clarity and forensic detail that makes every part of the music soar, from vocals to mid-range and bass. However, there are other earbuds here with more bass, if that’s your thing. The audio sounds even better with noise-cancelling off, but Sony’s ANC is exceptional, so you’ll probably want to keep it on most of the time.

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Apple AirPods Pro 2nd gen wireless earbuds

Apple AirPods pro 2nd gen.jpg
  • Best: Noise-cancelling wireless earbuds
  • Battery life, earbuds: 6 hours with noise-cancellation turned on
  • Battery life, charging case: 30 hours
  • Noise cancellation: Yes
  • Closed or open design: Closed
  • Earbud weight: 5.4g
  • Wireless chargeable case: Yes

The new in-ears from Apple take a successful design and leave it almost intact, but add considerable internal improvements...

The small earbuds fit the ear well and stay put securely and there are now four sizes of silicone ear tips to ensure decent sound isolation. In fact, it uses the camera on the iPhone to work out what you can hear best from the way your ear looks and can adjust the audio accordingly. Plus, when you pair them with an iPhone, a near-instantaneous process, the phone can play a sound that tells it if it’s a good fit. A faster chip in the earbuds has also helped improve the sound quality.

While the noise-cancelling was already among the very best in any in-ear headphones, it’s noticeably better here. Apple claims it can quell twice as much noise now, and in practice it works brilliantly. The charging case also now comes with Find My capabilities, that is, you can use your iPhone to find it when you misplace it and the case can even make a noise to help you locate it.

Read the full AirPods pro 2nd gen review

  1. £249 from Apple.com
Prices may vary
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Bowers & Wilkins Pi7 wireless earbuds

Bowers & Wilkins Pi7 indybest.jpeg
  • Best: Luxury wireless earbuds
  • Battery life, earbuds: 4 hours
  • Battery life, charging case: 16 hours
  • Noise cancellation: Yes
  • Earbud weight: 8g
  • Wireless-chargeable case: Yes

The elegant Pi7 earbuds look spectacular, with gold details and a striking, premium finish. There are three different sizes of ear tips supplied and the buds are comfortable in the ear as you twist them into position. Though the battery life isn’t huge at just four hours, there are another four full charges in the case and a quick charge of 10 minutes is enough for two hours of playback. There’s also a cool extra feature with these earbuds: the case works as a device to retransmit audio. You plug one of the supplied cables into your music source – your laptop, say – and the other into the case, and the audio plays wirelessly from the case to the earbuds. The audio quality is really terrific, with deft clarity and solid power. At this price, we should hope so.

Read the full Bowers & Wilkins PI7 true wireless earbuds review

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Beats Studio Buds+ wireless earbuds

beats studio buds plus.jpg
  • Best: Wireless earbuds for bass
  • Battery life, earbuds: 6 hours, 9 hours (ANC off)
  • Battery life, charging case: Up to 36 hours
  • Noise cancellation: Yes
  • Closed or open design: Closed
  • Earbud weight: 5g
  • Wireless chargeable case: No

Beats is Apple’s headphones brand that isn’t AirPods. It’s known for a bass-heavy sound and while the latest buds are more subtle than some earlier Beats cans, there’s still plenty of bass here. Unlike AirPods, Beats Studio Buds+ are designed to have more advanced features that are compatible for both iPhone and Android users, rather than favouring Apple products. These include quick pairing and auto-switching between devices.

The first thing that stands out here is the design. Although it’s not worlds away from earlier Beats in-ears, it adds a head-turning transparent version which is splendid. Other colours are available, including ivory as well as black/gold, plus two just-released colours, cosmic silver and cosmic pink. The design updates include new acoustic vents to reduce pressure on the ears so they can be worn more comfortably for longer. The resulting sound is big and emphatic, rather than gentle or neutral. But overall, they certainly pack a punch. A 5-minute charge gives an hour of playback, too.

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Bose QuietComfort 2 wireless earbuds

bose quietcomfort 2 .jpg
  • Best: Wireless earbuds for sound quality
  • Battery life, earbuds: 6 hours
  • Battery life, charging case: 18 hours
  • Noise cancellation: Yes
  • Closed or open design: Closed
  • Earbud weight: 6.2g
  • Wireless-chargeable case: Yes

Bose’s latest in-ears are pricier than most, but they also sound better than almost every competitive pair of headphones we’ve tested. The noise-cancelling here is astonishing, with the loudest of background sounds silenced effortlessly. The earbuds fit well, thanks to three sizes of ear tip and stability bands, which ensure an effective fit. A tone sounds each time you put them in your ear, as the earbuds calibrate the audio for your ears. As a result, the audio quality here is exceptional across the board, with strong, detailed sound that’s rich and faithful. They are comfortable for extended wearing and easy to use. Expensive, perhaps, but absolutely worth it.

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Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3 earbuds

sennheiser momentum true wireless 3.jpg
  • Best: Wireless earbuds for battery life
  • Battery life, earbuds: 7 hours
  • Battery life, charging case: 28 hours
  • Noise cancellation: Yes
  • Closed or open design: Closed
  • Earbud weight: 5.8g
  • Wireless-chargeable case: Yes

Sennheiser’s audio knowledge is strongly implemented in the company’s third-generation in-ear buds, resulting in outstanding audio, with rich clarity for excellent vocals and mid tones, though the bass can dominate a little. Noise cancellation is decent, though not the best out there, but works to subdue background noise well enough. The touch controls on the earbuds – a source of shame on many true-wireless headphones – are great here: straightforward, intuitive and effective. And unlike its predecessor, the new earbuds have a case that supports wireless charging.

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Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro wireless earbuds

Samsung galaxy buds 2 pro.jpg
  • Best: Wireless earbuds for Samsung users
  • Battery life, earbuds: 5 hours
  • Battery life, charging case: 18 hours
  • Noise cancellation: Yes
  • Closed or open design: Closed
  • Earbud weight: 5.5g
  • Wireless-chargeable case: Yes

Samsung’s in-ears have a neat design that fits in the ear, without the stalk or overhang found in many buds. Like AirPods Pro, there’s a useful ear tip fit test so you can be sure you’re getting a snug fit that seals in the music. The Buds 2 pro are lightweight and fit the ear comfortably. Samsung owns audio company AKG, which has tuned these earbuds immaculately, so the sound quality is tremendous.

Active noise-cancelling is also strong, though no match for the Bose QC Earbuds II (£239.95, Bose.co.uk) or AirPods Pro second generation (£249, Apple.com). It’s worth noting that just as AirPods work best with the iPhone and iPad, you get the most out of these buds with Samsung Galaxy phones or tablets, though they do also work with Apple and Android devices. These Galaxy-only features include 24-bit audio.

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Sony WF-C700N wireless earbuds

 WF-C700N.jpg
  • Best: budget earbuds for audio quality
  • Battery life, earbuds: 7.5 hours
  • Battery life, charging case: 7.5 hours
  • Noise cancellation : Yes
  • Closed or open design: Closed
  • Earbud weight: 4.6g
  • Wireless chargeable case: No

Sony’s earbuds can be expensive but are often great – see the overall best buy above. But its latest release is a budget option, so you might expect less stellar results. In fact, the WF-C700N are so good you might wonder if it’s worth spending more. After all, these earbuds include active noise cancelling, which is still rare at this price point.

The earbuds are small and light, and come in a charging case which snaps the buds magnetically back in place when you’re done listening. There’s no wireless charging for this case, mind. Also missing are advanced audio codecs for higher-quality sound. Still, these buds sound excellent, with plenty of power matched with subtlety and detail. The noise-cancelling is good, though not as good as the pricier models here.

  1. £79 from Amazon.co.uk
Prices may vary
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Google Pixel Buds Pro wireless earbuds

Google Pixel buds pro.jpg
  • Best: Noise-cancellation for Android
  • Battery life, earbuds: Up to 11 hours
  • Battery life, charging case : 31 hours
  • Noise cancellation: Yes
  • Closed or open design: Closed
  • Earbud weight: 6.24g
  • Wireless chargeable case: Yes

Like Apple’s AirPods Pro, which cost £70 more, the Pixel buds pro have plenty of features, from a wireless charging case to active noise cancelling. There are three sizes of silicone tip and a eartip seal test which plays music to help you ensure you have the right one in place. Fitting is important and these can be fiddly until you learn the knack: rotate after you’ve put it in your ear until there’s a snug seal.

There’s no stalk on the buds pro – they sit entirely in your ear. Controls, then, are down to a tap, tap-and-hold or swiping forwards or backwards. This last one controls volume. All are quickly intuitive and work well. Audio quality is good, with plenty of bass but a balanced sound. Noise-cancelling is tremendous, though not quite matching the AirPods Pro (£249, Apple.com) or Sony WF-1000XM4 (£199, Johnlewis.com).

Choose from four colours: charcoal, which is dark grey, coral (pink), fog (pale blue) and lemongrass, a tasty citrus yellow-green. Though the case is an off-white, whichever you plump for.

Read the full Google Pixel Buds Pro review

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Nothing Ear (2) wireless earbuds

nothing ear 2 .jpg
  • Best: Wireless earbuds for style
  • Battery life, earbuds: Up to 6.3 hours
  • Battery life, charging case: 36 hours
  • Noise cancellation: Yes
  • Closed or open design: Closed
  • Earbud weight: 4.5g
  • Wireless chargeable case: Yes

The new earbuds from Nothing look very similar to the earlier Nothing ear (1), but there are two big differences. First, the audio has been improved. Second, the cost is a lot more than the launch price of the earlier headphones. That’s because the Nothing ear (1) originally had a £99 price sticker, but that went up, and the new headphones match the increased price of £129. Even so, they still represent good value.

Nothing says it’s been able to put better components in the latest model. The design is very slightly changed, with a flatter lid to the case, for instance, but retaining the transparent earbud stalks and colour-coded dots to make it easy to tell them apart, both for the box and your ears. Noise-cancelling is better this time around and there is support for high-resolution audio codecs, so long as you are listening to music coming from a Nothing, Huawei or Oppo smartphone. There’s also a personalised audio setup, which is useful. The fit in the ear remains comfortable, even for long listening sessions.

Read our full review of the Nothing ear (2)

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Beats PowerBeats Pro wireless earbuds

Beats powerbeats pro indybest.jpeg
  • Best: Wireless earbuds for running
  • Battery life, earbuds: 9 hours
  • Battery life, charging case: 15 hours
  • Noise cancellation: No
  • Closed or open design: Closed
  • Earbud weight: 11.2g
  • Wireless-chargeable case: No

Beats powerbeats pro are highly unlikely to fall out of your ears, even when you’re running full pelt. That’s down to the over-ear hooks, which are secure and comfortable. Although there’s no noise cancellation, the audio here is excellent, partly down to the four different ear-tip sizes that help create a tight seal in the ear. The Beats logo is a button to control music playback or take calls. Beats is known for its proficiency with bass and that’s certainly the case here, though the earbuds are still capable of some subtlety and range. Beats, which is part of Apple, makes the powerbeats pro in six colours: glacier blue, navy, ivory, cloud pink, lava red and black.

Read the full Beats powerbeats pro review

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Apple AirPods 3rd gen wireless earbuds

airpods 3.jpg
  • Best: Wireless earbuds for iPhone
  • Battery life, earbuds: 6 hours
  • Battery life, charging case: 24 hours
  • Noise cancellation: No
  • Closed or open design: Open
  • Earbud weight: 4.3g
  • Wireless-chargeable case: Optional

Apple’s latest regular earbuds, without ‘pro’ in the title, are a huge step forward over the previous generation (which is still available, at a significantly lower price). But the third-gen model offers a lot more. There’s a complete redesign, with a shorter stem and a more bulbous earpiece, which fits more securely in the ear. Battery life is an hour better, at six hours compared with the second-generation’s five hours. Best of all, it includes the spatial audio also found on the pricier pro earbuds, with personalisation, so your individual ears get the best sound they can. There’s also a version with a wireless-chargeable case, for £10 extra.

Read our full AirPods review

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Google Pixel Buds A-Series wireless earbuds

Google pixel bus A-Series indybest.jpeg
  • Best: Wireless earbuds for Android
  • Battery life, earbuds: 5 hours
  • Battery life, charging case: 20 hours
  • Noise cancellation: No
  • Closed or open design: Closed
  • Earbud weight: 5g
  • Wireless-chargeable case: No

Google’s latest in-ears offer great value and strong sound that’s easy to listen to. Though there’s no active noise cancelling, the tight fit isolates the ears pretty well. That said, there is some venting that prevents the claustrophobic feeling some earbuds cause, so some outside noise seeps in. The fit is helped by small fins that hold the buds in place well. These headphones do work for Apple iPhone users but the set-up is most seamless when used with an Android phone, where integration with Google Assistant is flawless.

Read the full Google Pixel buds A-series review

  1. £84 from Amazon.co.uk
Prices may vary
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Grado GT 220 wireless earbuds

GradoGT220 true wireless in-ear headphones.jpg
  • Best: Wireless earbuds for working out
  • Battery life, earbuds: 6 hours
  • Battery life, charging case: 30 hours
  • Noise cancellation: No
  • Closed or open design: Closed
  • Earbud weight: 5g
  • Wireless-chargeable case: Yes

The simple twist-to-fit design of Grado’s first true-wireless in-ears means they are secure and ideal for working out. Controls are through a touch surface on each of the buds, which are versatile and easy to use. Grado is known for its open-backed headphones, but these are closed, perhaps because the need for sound isolation meant open wasn’t an option. Even without noise cancelling, though, the audio here is tremendous, with punchy sound that’s detailed and accurate. Though they lack the bass of some, there’s a lot to like here.

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Huawei FreeClip wireless earbuds

huawei freeclip .jpg
  • Best: Open-ear wireless earbuds
  • Battery life, earbuds: Up to 8 hours
  • Battery life, charging case: Up to 36 hours
  • Noise cancellation: No
  • Closed or open design: Open
  • Earbud weight: 5.6g
  • Wireless chargeable case: Yes

Open earbuds let you stay in contact with the outside world while still hearing your music clearly. Huawei’s FreeClip earbuds have a unique design that clips on to the ear, with the speaker in an Acoustic Ball that sits in your ear. It’s held in place by a flexible C-shaped clip and the whole thing is light but stays securely in the ear. Open earbuds can also lack bass but there’s a decent full-effect sound here. The design won’t appeal to everyone – they kind of look like you’re wearing earrings – but the two colours, black and purple look good. There are neat features: the buds are identical but you can put them in either ear and the software can figure out which bud went in which ear and adjust the audio accordingly.

  1. £179 from Huawei.com
Prices may vary
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Nothing Ear (Stick) wireless earbuds

nothing ear stick .jpg
  • Best: Wireless earbuds for comfort
  • Battery life, earbuds: 7 hours
  • Battery life, charging case: 29 hours
  • Noise cancellation: No
  • Closed or open design: Open
  • Earbud weight: 4.4g
  • Wireless-chargeable case: Yes

Nothing is a cute name for a tech company. It was created by Carl Pei, formerly a founder of OnePlus, and so far the brand has launched three products, a phone and two pairs of earbuds. The first pair was called Nothing ear (1) and offered great noise cancelling for a low price. When Nothing ear (stick) arrived, though, the previous buds went up in price, leaving (stick) as the most affordable.

There’s no noise-cancelling here, but the sound is still extremely good. The design is elegant and attractive – like Nothing’s other products – even down to the highly accessible case: twist the tube to get at the buds. They are comfortable in the ear, even for lengthy listening sessions. The controls on the earbuds are efficient, but you need to position them just right for easy usage.

  1. £69 from Amazon.co.uk
Prices may vary
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Panasonic RZ-S500W wireless earbuds

Panasonic RZ-S500W.jpg
  • Best: Wireless earbuds for budget noise cancellation
  • Battery life, earbuds: 6 hours 30 minutes
  • Battery life, charging case: 13 hours
  • Noise cancellation: Yes
  • Closed or open design: Closed
  • Earbud weight: 7g
  • Wireless-chargeable case: No

When Panasonic’s earbuds first launched they were strong value, and they’re now a lot cheaper. They offer noise cancelling at a keen price, and it’s very good, not least because much of the technology comes from the sister brand Technics, which is rather pricier. The design is elegant and simple, and because there are five different sizes of ear tips to choose from, you can be sure of the perfect fit. The audio quality is strong with a powerful, direct sound. There’s a good amount of bass but it’s not overpowering and you can adjust that in the smartphone app. Battery life is decent and call quality is strong, making these headphones a great all-around choice at a low price.

Read the full Panasonic RZ-S500W review

  1. £89 from Amazon.co.uk
Prices may vary
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Beats Studio Buds

Beats studio buds noise cancelling headphones
  • Best: Noise-cancelling headphones for Apple and Android compatibility
  • Battery life: 8 hours (24 hours with charging case)
  • Connections: Bluetooth
  • Colours: Black, white, Beats red, ocean blue, moon grey, sunset pink
  • Bluetooth codecs: SBC, AAC
  • Wireless charging: Wireless charging
  • Built-in mic: Yes
  • Transparency mode: Yes

Beats has done it again. From the classy case, to the easy setup on both Android and Apple, to the clear, insightful audio, the studio buds have earned their spot in our round-up. While the buds don’t have the Fit Pro wingtips, they still fit firmly and comfortably in the ear, passing the head shake test with flying colours. You could happily wear them for a day’s work without really feeling the effects.

At eight hours, the battery life leaves a little to be desired, but it’s pretty par for the course, and for sound quality from an earbud, these are up there with the best in the business. When you add their looks to the mix, the Beats studio buds are hard to resist. The brand has entered the audio big league.

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OnePlus Buds Pro wireless earbuds

Oneplus earbuds.png
  • Best: Wireless earbuds for Dolby Atmos
  • Battery life, earbuds: 7 hours
  • Battery life, charging case: 31 hours
  • Noise cancellation: Yes
  • Closed or open design: Closed
  • Earbud weight: 4.35g
  • Wireless-chargeable case: Yes

Just as AirPods work best with Apple devices, so these headphones from phone manufacturer OnePlus have extra features when connected to one of the company’s handsets. The noise cancelling is good, with three levels of sound reduction to choose from: max cancellation is especially effective. Audio overall is great, especially if you have the right content and the right OnePlus phone, where Dolby Atmos fidelity comes into play.

But the headline here is the battery life, which is remarkable. Not only do they play for up to 38 hours (without noise cancelling), they recharge quickly, with 10 minutes of cable-based charge offering almost 10 hours of playback.

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Wireless earbud FAQs

Is it worth buying wireless earbuds?

Yes. Wireless earbuds are a huge improvement over traditional wired earphones, eradicating cables and allowing for greater freedom of movement with no compromise in sound quality. Not only do fewer and fewer phones have a 3.5mm audio jack to plug earphones into, but better earbud designs and adjustable silicon tips allow for a secure fit to ensure your new earphones won’t fall out and go missing.

Should I buy wireless earbuds or headphones?

That depends on how you want to use them. For runners, earbuds have an advantage over headphones as they’re less bulky and won’t slide off your head as you start to sweat.

Some true wireless earbuds like the Beats powerbeats pro (£189, Johnlewis.com) have flexible winged hooks to secure them to your ears during intense workouts, but you could also consider sporty earbuds connected by a single wire that goes across the back of your neck. These allow you to remove your earbuds without having to pocket them or put them in their case.

What should I look for when buying wireless earbuds?

Battery life is an important factor to consider when buying wireless earbuds. The charging case might have a large battery capacity, but make sure the earbuds themselves can last a day.

If you commute or live in a busy part of town, you’ll want noise-cancelling earbuds. Some earbuds market themselves as noise-isolating, which simply means they form a tight seal in your ears to block some sound. The best noise-cancelling is active noise-cancelling, which uses the microphone on the earbuds to listen to external noise as it enters the ear and uses that information to actively disrupt the soundwaves and reduce noise.

What’s the difference between wireless and true wireless earbuds?

True wireless headphones do not have a cable or connector between the two earbuds at all, while wireless headphones are still connected in some way, for example, via an over-ear band or around the back of your neck, but don’t require access to a phone jack.

Do wireless earbuds have microphones to take calls on the go?

True wireless earbuds have a microphone in the casing, with most models containing one mic in each earbud. As for wireless headphones, they usually feature a mic in the connector band, so you can easily take calls on the go.

The verdict: Wireless earbuds

Sony’s WF-1000XM5s triumphed over all rivals with exceptional audio, stunning noise cancellation and great design. But there are other great earbuds here, especially Bose’s quietcomfort 2 wireless earbuds and Apple’s second-generation AirPods pro.

More headphone recommendations:

Combine the best wireless earphones with the best mobile phone deals

Ditch the fussy wires but keep the headband with the best wireless headphones, from Bose to JBL

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