You’d be forgiven for thinking Bluetooth earphones – what we commonly refer to as wireless earbuds – aren’t as good as wired ones. That’s because, back in the day, Bluetooth wasn’t a great way to listen to your favorite music. Basically wireless earbuds sounded worse, had connection issues and became known for having short battery lives.
Luckily, times have changed. Thanks to improvements in wireless transmission standards, such as aptX and innovations in battery technology, Bluetooth earbuds are quickly becoming the most popular way to listen to music, and many of the best earbuds feature wireless connectivity.
There’s never been a better time to buy wireless earphones too; with Amazon Prime Day coming up on July 15, we’re expecting to see many of the buds on this list being given heavy discounts during the 48-hour sales event. We’ll be reporting on all the best Prime Day 2019 deals, so make sure you stick with TechRadar on July 15-16 if you’re thinking of buying Bluetooth headphones in the near future.
When it comes to wireless earphones the big question is: which brands have emerged as the best when it comes to big Bluetooth improvements and the future of audio innovation?
Audio companies like Jaybird, Plantronics, Nuforce, RHA and Jabra all are great options, as they’ve all committed a great deal deal of times and money to improving audio quality without sacrificing battery life – and there are some good options from Sony, Apple and Google too.
Wireless vs True Wireless: What’s the difference?
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.
True Wireless earbuds 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. If you’re looking to go full wireless, we also have a round-up of the best true wireless headphones.
Read on for our top wireless Bluetooth earbuds picks.
1. Optoma NuForce BE Sport4
Practically flawless wireless earbuds
Acoustic design: closed | Weight: 15 gram | Frequency response: 20 Hz – 20 kHz | Drivers: 6 mm | Driver type: dynamic | Sensitivity: 92 dB +/-3 dB at 1 kHz | Impedance: 32 Ohm | Battery life: 10 hours | wireless range: 10 m (33ft) | NFC: No
Not suited to one-ear listening
The NuForce BE Sport4 wireless earbuds are that rare find: earbuds that are good for basically all situations, whether you’re looking to take them out on a run or just wear them around town. They’re ideal for exercise, although any urbanite will also find their lightweight functionality and impressive sound isolation highly appealing. If you want proof that wireless headphones can now compete with the best of them, look no further.
Read the full review: Optoma NuForce BE Sport4
2. RHA MA390 Wireless
Great sound quality and wireless functionality at an unbeatable price
Acoustic design: closed | Weight: 39 grams | Frequency response: N/A | Drivers: N/A | Driver type: N/A | Sensitivity: N/A | Impedance: N/A | Battery life: 12 hours | wireless range: 50 m (150ft) | NFC: No
Excellent build quality
Not ideal for exercise
While they’re not the kind of earbuds you’d want to bring with you to the gym, the RHA MA390 Wireless are the perfect companion for anyone looking for a home listening pair of wireless earbuds. The headphones are built extremely well, have a fun sound signature, and come at an affordable price.
Its main rival, the OnePlus Bullets Wireless, are also excellent, however we give the nod to the RHA MA390 for its more dynamic sound and better build quality.
Read the full review: RHA MA390 Wireless
3. OnePlus Bullets Wireless
Amazing wireless earphones for the price
Acoustic design: closed | Weight: 13 gram | Frequency response: 20 Hz – 20 kHz | Drivers: 6 mm | Driver type: dynamic | Sensitivity: 96 dB +/-3 dB at 1 kHz | Impedance: 16 Ohms | Battery life: 8 hours | wireless range: N/A | NFC: No
Magnetic on/off switch
Wonderfully balanced sound
Strong wireless connection
Terrible carrying case
OnePlus is most known for its “flagship killer” phones like the OnePlus 6, but the company also makes headphones – the best example of which are the company’s excellent Bullets Wireless that offer an incredible value in the neck-bud headphone category. They probably shouldn’t be your first choice in workout ‘buds, or your first choice for better-sounding audio, but if you need cheap wireless earbuds, these are the ones to buy.
Read the full review: OnePlus Bullets Wireless
4. Jaybird Tarah Pro
Well-crafted wireless earbuds for endurance athletes
Acoustic design: closed | Weight: 18 grams | Frequency response: 20 Hz – 20 kHz | Drivers: 6 mm | Driver type: dynamic | Sensitivity: 95 dB +/-3 dB at 1 kHz | Impedance: 16 Ohms | Battery life: 8 hours | wireless range: N/A | NFC: No
Excellent adaptable sound
Durable and compact design
Proprietary charging dock
The Jaybird Tarah Pro headphones are wireless sport headphones for the endurance runners, athletes and fitness nuts out there. With a neck cable to keep the earbuds together, they aren’t quite ‘true wireless’, but will be practical for those concerned about dropping and losing a costly earbud in the heat of a race or training session.
As the first in Jaybird’s new ‘Pro’ range of earbuds and aimed at offering higher quality audio and materials, the Tarah Pro will suit anyone not willing to sacrifice audio quality in harsher outdoor conditions or indoor workouts and who don’t mind spending a bit more to get a premium product.
Read the full review: Jaybird Tarah Pro
5. Beats X
Good-sounding wireless earbuds that can charge in five minutes
Acoustic design: closed | Weight: N/A | Frequency response: N/A | Drivers: N/A | Driver type: N/A | Sensitivity: N/A | Impedance: N/A | Battery life: 8 hours | wireless range: N/A | NFC: No
Balanced sound signature
Quick Charge feature
Lacking in clarity
Beats haven’t always gotten the best rap when it comes to audio performance, but the Beats X is trying to set the record straight. The Beats X hence make up for their slightly bassy, confined sound with a rock solid connection and a pairing process that, on iOS devices at least, is as painless as it’s possible to be. If you’re shopping for a no-fuss pair of earbuds that charge in 5 minutes, work well with iOS and don’t mind spending a little extra money on them, the Beats X are for you.
Read the full review: Beats X
6. Bose QuietControl 30
In-ear noise-cancelling as good as any from over-ear cans
Acoustic design: closed | Weight: 28 grams | Frequency response: N/A | Drivers: N/A | Driver type: N/A | Sensitivity: N/A | Impedance: N/A | Battery life: 10 hours | wireless range: 10m (33ft) | NFC: No
Stellar noise cancellation
Very, very expensive
Sound isn’t great for its price
Life is full of compromises, and it’s no different with the Bose QuietControl 30. On the positive side you get a level of noise cancellation that comes close to what’s offered by the brand’s over-ear headphones, but the concession here is on sound fidelity, which just isn’t on the same level as that of other in-ear or over-ear headphones we’ve tested.
There’s also that neckband which adds an unfortunate level of bulk to what should otherwise be a slimline pair of headphones.
Read the full review: Bose QuietControl 30
Or, cut the cord with these true wireless models
1. RHA TrueConnect
In terms of sound quality, these are the best true wireless earbuds
Acoustic design: closed | Weight: 13 grams | Frequency response: 20Hz – 20kHz | Drivers: 6mm | Driver type: Dynamic | Sensitivity: N/A | Impedance: N/A | Battery life: 25 hours (with case) | wireless range: 10m (33ft) | NFC: N/A
Balanced, detailed sound
Excellent build quality
No app to tailor sound
Although the TrueConnect is RHAs first true wireless headphone, the company showed they did their research and development by making it one of the best true wireless headphones on the market today. The combination of sound quality, battery life, and wireless reliability means these are a pair of headphones you can rely on everyday.
The Jabra Elite 65t set the standard for what true wireless headphones 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 has more features with its useful ambient noise mode to help with situational awareness and an app that lets you tailor sound.
The RHA doesn’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) RHA TrueConnect should be at the very top of your list.
Read the full review: RHA TrueConnect
2. Jabra Elite 65t
The Jabra Elite 65t are a very close second-place
Acoustic design: closed | Weight: N/A | Frequency response: N/A | Drivers: N/A | Driver type: Dynamic | Sensitivity: N/A | Impedance: N/A | Battery life: 25 hours (with case) | wireless range: 8m (24ft) | NFC: N/A
Excellent battery life
Balanced sound quality
Limited eartip selection
Limited water resistance
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 want an alternative for the RHA TrueConnect, go for the Elite 65t.
Read the full review: Jabra Elite 65t
3. Beats PowerBeats Pro
Impressive-fitting workout ‘buds from Beats
Acoustic design: closed | Weight: N/A | Frequency response: 20Hz – 20kHz | Drivers: N/A | Driver type: N/A | Sensitivity: N/A | Impedance: N/A | Battery life: 25 hours (with case) | wireless range: N/A | NFC: N/A
Easy pairing with iOS
Case is fairly bulky
Limited noise isolation
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 – 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 the full review: Beats PowerBeats Pro
4. Optoma NuForce BE Free5
Great entry-level truly wireless earbuds with a couple of issues
Acoustic design: closed | Weight: N/A | Frequency response: 20Hz – 20kHz | Drivers: 6mm | Driver type: N/A | Sensitivity: N/A | Impedance: N/A | Battery life: 13 hours (with case) | wireless range: 10m (33ft) | NFC: Yes
Good sound and isolation
The NuForce BE Free5 wireless earbuds show just how accessible truly wireless headphones are today. For around $100 (about £75, AU$134) they feature a more polished design than the more expensive BE Free8, and even sound better to boot. However, we found the left earbud would drop out briefly more than we’d like, and we hope NuForce can address this issue.
The connection dropouts combined with the frustrating controls keep it from claiming the top spot on our list, but the BE Free5 offer undeniable value in the truly wireless headphone market.
Read the full review: Optoma NuForce BE Free5
5. Apple AirPods (2019)
The iconic buds get an upgrade
Acoustic design: closed | Weight: 4 grams (38 grams with case) | Frequency response: N/A | Drivers: N/a | Driver type: Dynamic | Sensitivity: N/A | Impedance: N/A | Battery life: 20 hours (with case) | wireless range: 10m (33ft) | NFC: N/A
Wireless charging case costs extra
Audio hasn’t improved
The second generation Apple AirPods, the AirPods (2019), aren’t quite the AirPods 2 we were hoping for – 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. 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 big difference is that 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 – and they aren’t exactly cheap.
Read our full review: Apple AirPods (2019)