Owning a pair of the best true wireless earbuds will literally change your life - they'll quickly become a trusted companion that go just about everywhere with you whether that's on a quick stroll, on your commute to work each day or on board a long-haul flight.
The reason the best true wireless earbuds are the hottest audio products around isn't just because they sound great, it's because they're truly effortless. There are no cables to untangle, nothing to get caught on your clothes, and no adapters to worry about if your phone doesn't have a headphone socket. These are essential features for most people, including those headed back to school, college or university.
In this guide, we've rounded up the best true wireless headphones from many big name brands, that not only excel in audio quality and comfort, but fit any number of specifications and budget requirements. It's also worth noting that this list covers so much more than that, for example, some of the best true wireless headphones are also some of the best noise-cancelling headphones. That means that the best running headphones you can buy are probably going to be true wireless, provided you choose ones with a perfect fit.
Although Apple's AirPods and noise-cancelling AirPods Pro are the most recognisable true wireless earbuds today, they're not necessarily the best – as you'll see from our list, which features picks from Sony, Bose, Philips and more.
Best wireless earbuds 2023: The top 3
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The best true wireless earbuds for most people are the Sony WF-1000XM4, which offer phenomenal active noise cancellation, rich sound quality, strong mics for calls, and bunch of other clever and smart features.
The best true wireless earbuds for sound quality are the Bowers & Wilkins PI7, which cost a lot of money, but you can hear every penny. They're a massive step up over cheaper models.
The best affordable true wireless earbuds are the Cambridge Audio Melomania 1+, which offers truly hi-fi sound quality, plus big battery life, for a great price.
When it comes to the overall true wireless headphones package, the Sony WF-1000XM4 is the choice for us. This latest version of its high-end buds have slimmed down in size and weight considerably, but improved on battery life, boosted audio quality, and polished their noise cancellation even further. That's quite the upgrade.
The price is premium, but so is the sound. Our full Sony WF-1000XM4 review calls them "a poised, balanced and entirely believable listen" and praised the very fine balance. Bass is impactful but controlled; the mid-range is full but defined; the high-end is crisp but not hard. It's an energetic and warm presentation, which is what Sony tends to generally go for.
The noise cancellation is right up there with the best of in-ear buds, and though it isn't quite the best on the market, when you factor in everything else these do well, they're the best mix of audio quality and cancellation together.
Other commendations include excellent call quality compared to most earbuds, and useful fast pairing on Android, as well as lots of customisable options in the app. The battery life is solid overall, though is bested by other new models, such as the Cambridge Audio Melomania 1+.
If you're willing to spend big on a pair of the best true wireless earbuds then you want them to be able to do it all and do it all well. The Philips Fidelio T1 can do exactly that - they're not just good, or great, they're excellent and they have an impressive array of features.
First things first, the sound quality is incredible. It's powerful and crisp with an extraordinary level of detail, you won't find many pairs of TWS headphones that do it better. In the Philips Headphones app, you can choose between one of four preset sound modes as well, although there's no manual equaliser.
If you want to block the world out and focus on your music then these will let you do that too because the noise-cancelling is incredibly effective. You won't be able to hear the rumble of the train or the office chatter. When you switch on the Awareness mode, you can choose how much noise you want to let in, or you can decide to just let voices through.
Other features include a battery life of up to 48 hours with the case, a wear sensor that pauses the music when you take them out and multi-device connectivity. You can read more about them in the Philips Fidelio T1 review.
Though these aren't 'cheap' as such, they're still a pretty incredible price for true wireless buds of this quality. Putting it as basically as I can, the Melomania from UK hi-fi dons Cambridge Audio offers high-end sound for a lower-mid-range price.
You might think these bullet-like in-ear true wireless headphones look like they're either uncomfortable or prone to falling out, but actually, neither of those assumptions is true. Admittedly they are somewhat more uncomfortable and prone to falling out than pricier rivals, but they're generally no problem at all. It is easy to get the left and right buds mixed up, but that's no big deal.
Where the Melomania buds excel, particularly given their price, is in how they sound. With support for AAC, apt-X and SBC and drivers made of miracle substance graphene, the Melomania 1+ are uniformly excellent with all types of music.
Their battery life is also right up there with the very best at nine hours (up to 45 including the case battery), with a complete recharge possible in just 30 minutes. Your colour choices? 'Stone' (light grey) and 'black' (very dark grey, I'd call it). You can't go wrong, as our full Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus review reveals, as does the fact that they won Best Value Headphones at the T3 Awards 2021.
Best true wireless earbuds 2023: The best of the rest
Despite Bose's position at the very beginning of the noise-cancelling timeline – this was the first set of ANC earbuds the company has put out – these earbuds' noise cancelling is brilliant, and more than good enough to make up for the lacking battery life (at 6 hours on a charge or 18 with the included case).
As we said in our Bose QuietComfort Earbuds review: "as a combination of sound quality, comfort and particularly noise-cancellation, these earbuds take some beating. They do protrude more than many true wireless 'buds but they fit well and sound great." All of which makes them T3 Awards winners – hence the high position in this buying guide.
AirPods Pro on the feature noise cancellation and a whole raft of audio-enhancing features to give a much more immersive musical experience than regular AirPods. The noise cancelling is really effective, but there's also a Transparency mode, so you can talk to people without removing the buds, but you may prefer to ignore other people and just enjoy the music instead – I know I do.
As with Beats, some critics tend to be a bit sniffy about the sound quality of Apple products but AirPods Pro are definitely up there when it comes to making sweet, sweet music. As indeed they should be at their less-than-giveaway price. You do get a wireless charging case as standard, though.
Contrary to what some people think, all AirPods work perfectly well with Android phones and other equipment. But you get lots of extra features when you use them with iOS, including fast-pairing, auto-switching between your Apple devices, 3D Spatial Audio support (which is very cool), and Find My support for locating them when they seem lost.
In a world of thousands of true wireless earbuds, the Bowers & Wilkins PI7 are some of the very best. They have exceptional sound without compromise. Everything about the audio quality is exactly what you want from a pair of headphones you'll love to wear day in, day out. You'll hear music exactly as it was meant to be heard. Phenomenal. So phenomenal that they won Best Headphones and Best True Wireless Headphones at the T3 Awards 2021.
You won't just be blown away by the sound quality from the Bowers & Wilkins PI7 earbuds – they have plenty of extra features that make them well-worth their rather expensive price tag. With a USB-C-to-USB-C cable and a 3.5mm-to-USB-C cable in the box, you can use either of these to plug the PI7's case into a computer or analogue audio source, effectively as a wireless adapter. The case will then send sound to the headphones over aptX LL (so: CD-quality audio). A unique feature that will be incredibly handy.
However, while they will fit most really comfortably and securely, this is the first time I've seen a pair of in-ear earbuds that someone literally couldn't use due to their small ear size/shape. Despite that, the Bowers & Wilkins PI7 are a true wireless masterpiece. If you have the money to spend on them, and big enough ears, you can't really get much better.
Beats Studio Buds are a great choice because they're just such good all-rounders for a really affordable price. They're pretty much the only device that offers fast-pairing and 'Find My Device' features with both iPhone and Android. They feature active noise cancellation, yet are much less bulky than most other noise-cancellers. And they sound really good – powerful and fun.
They're a comfortable design too, with a clever wedge shape on the outside that makes them really easy to grab with your fingers – better for getting a good fit, and helps you not to drop them. They come in white, black or a funky red colour, too.
They tend to be beaten by competition in any one area – sound, battery life, features – but no other earbuds manage to do so much so well at this price, and in such a discreet and cool design.
Looking for a combination of style and superb sound? That's exactly what the Bang & Olufsen Beoplay EX earbuds deliver. You can buy them in three sleek colourways: Anthracite Oxygen (blue and black), Black Anthracite and Gold Tone. In the Bang & Olufsen Beoplay EX review, we thought that the stem-style design and mirrored touchpad served them well because not only do they look elegant but they're very practical and comfortable too.
The only significant disappointment is the battery life which at a total of 20 hours is far below the highest on this list, but that's something we could get over given just how good these are in almost every other way. The sound, in particular, left us feeling pretty pleased with this high-end pair of true wireless earbuds.
The redesigned AirPods, now in their third generation, deliver almost everything the AirPods Pro do for less money. The key difference is the fit, which as before isn't for everyone: because AirPods sit in your outer ear rather than using rubber or silicone tips they don't seal your ear canals like the AirPods Pro do. That means slightly less impressive sound, and it also means there's no active noise cancellation.
If you're a paid-up member of the Apple ecosystem you'll be delighted by the user experience here, with instant and effortless pairing not just with your phone but with any other Apple kit that's signed in with your Apple ID including your Mac and even your Apple Watch. That means you can play things from different devices, your AirPods automatically switching between sources, and you can share audio with other AirPods and some Beats headphones too. It's really very clever.
Ultimately, though, it's all about the sound. And the third generation sounds better than ever. There's head-tracking Spatial Audio 3D sound for more immersive audio even from stereo sound sources, and these AirPods also have the Adaptive EQ tech from the AirPods Pro that adjusts the audio to fit the shape of your ears. They're more dynamic than the second generation, clearer and brighter with a decent level of low-end thump. In our Apple AirPods (3rd Generation) review we compared them to the Beats Studio Buds and found the AirPods to have the edge in sound quality.
I've been using these for a year or so now and they are still the true wireless buds I always go back to. Clearly Beats Powerbeats are marketed as running/workout buds but their audio quality is on par with any other true wireless headphones out there, with the exception of the much more uncomfortable Sony WF-1000XM3.
The fit is absolutely unshakeable, which is obviously great for running and working out, but it also means the Powerbeats are great for any occasion when you're on the move. Sound is sufficiently good that they're also excellent for use when you're on public transport or even for home listening although, like all these buds, you get some lag when listening to a YouTube clip, movie or TV show.
Because of their over-ear hooks the Beats Powerbeats Pro are quite large, and the battery case is almost comically so. Other than that, they're well nigh the perfect buds.
How to buy the best true wireless earbuds for you
True wireless buds are getting better all the time – this year's batch are leagues ahead of last year's, which were waaay better than the first wave. The only serious issues remaining with the best true wireless buds are that battery life is still fairly short. However, it's worth remembering that they all come with little cases that recharge your buds when not in use, without the need for a power socket – as long as you remember to periodically charge up the case itself, of course. So while 5-9 hours may seem like quite short battery life overall, it's surely enough for most purposes. Add the additional battery life from in-case recharging, and you're looking at well over 20 hours in most, er, cases.
The other remaining issue is that if a true wireless should fall out of your ear, you are way more likely to lose it than wired buds, or standard Bluetooth ones. Happily, this happens much less easily now, thanks to design refinements. The best true wireless buds, whether intended for exercise or not fit securely, despite usually being very discreet.
Sound quality generally remains of lower quality than comparably priced wired or standard Bluetooth headphones but again is vastly improved over earlier true wireless.
As well as being great for listening to music, true wireless headphones are also very handy for making and taking calls and, with compatible models, triggering Siri, Google or Alexa. You can usually use just one, like an old-school Bluetooth wireless headset. Due to the increased latency involved with linking the two buds together wirelessly I wouldn't say they're great for movies and TV, where lip-syncing is needed, but you can use them for that at a push.
True wireless earbuds have one massive advantage: they give you complete freedom from cables. Believe me, it's quite hard going back to wires after trying true wireless.