Wireless earbuds are often essential to our day-to-day lives. We wear them for work, working out, streaming music, and looking at social media feeds. In the US, Apple AirPods have become the most popular choice (they’re even one of the most purchased tech products on our site). However, they’re not the only option out there.
That’s why we tried over a dozen wireless earbuds from the biggest brands on the market: to find the best earbuds for every kind of lifestyle.
SKIP AHEAD How we picked the best wireless earbuds | The best wireless earbuds in 2023 | How to shop for wireless earbuds
Our top picks
- Best for iPhone: Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Generation)
- Best overall: Sony Linkbuds S
- Best budget: Jabra Elite 3
How we picked the best wireless earbuds
We tried out dozens of new and top-rated wireless earbuds and considered each product based on the following characteristics:
- Comfort: We selected earbuds that were comfortable to wear for multiple hours.
- Usability: We highlighted earbuds that were versatile — good for the office, the gym, the commute, and at home.
- Battery life: We picked earbuds that last through the day and charge quickly.
- Price: We believe all of our picks are a good value for what they offer.
To get varied perspectives, multiple members of the Select team tried each earbud.
The best wireless earbuds of May 2023
After trying out dozens of different earbuds, our top picks largely came from best selling brands like Apple, Sony, and Jabra.
Best for iPhone: Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Generation)
Pros: Extremely versatile, great for nearly any task
Cons: Not for Android users, pricey
The Select team loves Apple’s latest AirPods Pro. Multiple team members picked them as their favorite earbuds, and continue to use them everyday, in and out of the office. Our team noted that they are very versatile — we found them comfortable for commuting, work, the gym, outdoor exercise, sleeping, just about everything.
In our experience, Apple’s AirPods Pro are some of the best sounding and best noise canceling earbuds on the market. Office chatter and plane noise vanish with noise canceling turned on. New features like swipe for volume control, a lanyard loop on the case, and multiple ear tips in the box are really just a bonus.
Noise cancellation: Yes | Transparency: Yes | Battery life: Rated up to 6 hours (ANC on) | Wireless Charging: Yes | Water resistance: IPX4 | Bluetooth Multipoint: No | Works best with: iOS, macOS | Ear tips: Silicone (XS, S, M, L included)
Best overall: Sony Linkbuds S
Pros: Jack of all trades, great Sony app
Cons: Nondescript design
The Sony Linkbuds S were another Select favorite. While they weren't the best at any one task, they were above average at everything we threw at them: voice calls, noise canceling, fitness, you name it. One area the Linkbuds S had the competition beat was size: these are small, lightweight earbuds you can easily forget you’re wearing.
While they launched at $200 MSRP, we have seen them priced at $150 often, a great price for the features offered.
Noise cancellation: Yes | Transparency: Yes | Battery life: Rated up to 6 hours (ANC on) | Wireless Charging: No | Water resistance: IPX4 | Bluetooth Multipoint: Yes | Works best with: Android, iOS | Ear tips: Silicone (XS, S, M, L included)
Best budget: Jabra Elite 3
Pros: Good value, very water resistant
Cons: No automated noise cancellation
For less than $100, you can get a great, if basic, pair of wireless earbuds in the Jabra Elite 3. While they don’t have automated noise canceling, we found that they get all the basics right: a comfortable fit, easy on-ear controls, good sound quality, great battery life and iOS and Android compatibility.
Noise cancellation: No | Transparency: Yes | Battery life: Rated up to 7 hours | Wireless Charging: No | Water resistance: IP55 | Bluetooth Multipoint: No | Works best with: Android, iOS | Ear tips: Silicone (S, M, L)
Best splurge: Sony WF-1000XM4
Pros: Excellent sound quality and noise canceling.
Cons: Large, heavy design
The Sony WF-1000XM4 may have a terrible name, but they are some of the best sounding earbuds we tried. Music and media sounded rich and more detailed when compared to the competition. These earbuds are larger than most, which can be a bit uncomfortable for fitness activity, but that size does lead to a long eight hour battery life.
Noise cancellation: Yes | Transparency: Yes | Battery life: Rated up to 8 hours (ANC on) | Wireless Charging: Yes | Water resistance: IPX4 | Bluetooth Multipoint: Yes | Works best with: Android or iOS via app | Ear tips: Foam (S, M, L)
Best for fitness: Beats Fit Pro
Pros: Great fit, easy button controls
Cons: Case could be improved
The Beats Fit Pro have been my go-to fitness earbuds for years, and remained favorites after comparing them to other fitness-oriented options. The wing-tip design creates a secure fit that never faltered during runs, bike rides, or gym activity. Unlike full ear-hook earbuds, the Beats Fit Pro case is small enough to fit comfortably in most pockets.
Noise cancellation: Yes | Transparency: Yes | Battery life: Rated up to 6 hours (ANC on) | Wireless Charging: No | Water resistance: IPX4 | Bluetooth Multipoint: No | Works best with: Android, iOS | Ear tips: Silicone (S, M, L)
Cheap everyday earbuds: Skullcandy Dimes 2
Pros: Very affordable
Cons: Some quality control issues
Consumer Reports senior tech editor Allen St. John recommends the Skullcandy Dimes 2 as “a flat-out bargain.” They cost under $30, far less than the other picks in our list. You do get what you paid for — they don’t sound as good and don’t have as many features as our other recommendations. But, for a budget option, they have John’s recommendation, “especially for someone who tends to lose things,” he said.
Noise cancellation: No | Transparency: No | Battery life: Rated up to 3.5 hours | Wireless Charging: No | Water resistance: IPX4 | Bluetooth Multipoint: No | Works best with: Android, iOS | Ear tips: Silicone (S, M, L)
How to shop for wireless earbuds
There are hundreds of wireless earbuds on the market. Despite many looking the same, they can vary wildly in features and price. Below are a few factors to keep in mind when shopping for a new pair.
Operating System (iOS and Android)
Not all wireless earbuds play nice with both iOS and Android devices. If you use Apple AirPods on an Android device, for example, most of their features will be difficult or impossible to use. Earbuds that work well on both platforms tend to have useful standalone apps that can help control noise cancellation, audio equalization and more.
Automated noise canceling and transparency
Noise canceling and transparency modes are both incredibly useful features that add versatility to wireless earbuds. Noise canceling blocks outside sound, while transparency mode lets sound in so you can better hear the noise around you, a useful safety feature for activities like outdoor running. Both features tend to drive up a price-tag, however. If you do not need either feature, consider a more affordable pair of earbuds that forgo one or both.
Water and dust resistance
Water and dust resistance is denoted by an earbuds IP (ingress protection) rating. IP ratings are denoted with two numbers, for example, IP55. The first digit represents intrusion protection against dust and debris. The second digit denotes moisture protection.
If you want to wear your earbuds in wet and rainy conditions, get a pair with a higher IP rating, they are less likely to malfunction in such conditions. We recommend a moisture protection rating of at least four.
Meet our experts
At Select, we work with experts who have specialized knowledge and authority based on relevant training and/or experience. We also take steps to ensure that all expert advice and recommendations are made independently and with no undisclosed financial conflicts of interest.
- Allen St. John is the senior tech editor at Consumer Reports.
Why trust Select?
Harry Rabinowitz is a reporter at Select, and has covered consumer tech for over three years. For this piece, he tried over a dozen top-rated wireless earbuds. He spoke with other tech journalists like Allen St. John to understand an outside perspective. He also spoke with other members of the Select team about their experience with the same earbuds from Apple, Sony, Jabra and more.
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