Wireless audio has come a long way in recent years, and the best true wireless earbuds now rival their over-ear headphone counterparts thanks in no small part to the incredible advancements in compact audio and transmission technology.
For clarity's sake, true wireless earbuds (sometimes referred to as TWS, or True Wireless Stereo) are defined by their true lack of any cabling – this means there's no cable running from the buds to your phone, nor between the left and right units themselves.
Once Bluetooth headphones and the stability of their connections became advanced enough for true wireless audio to emerge as a category, it quickly grew in popularity for its incredibly compact and convenient form factor.
Whether it's for exercise, commuting or just your everyday pair of buds, true wireless options (along with their charging cases) take up significantly less room in your bag than over-ear options and, when worn, don't carry the risk of tangling you up in any cabling.
While the market was scarce at first, and some early products suffered audio quality and connection stability issues, this is no longer the case. The amount of options available can be overwhelming, whether it's Sony's WF-1000X series, Apple's iconic AirPods, or the intelligently adaptive NuraTrue.
With this in mind, it can be tricky to know which true wireless earbuds are right for you, but thankfully our extensive reviews allow us to compare these buds directly and present you with the best options for every need and budget.
Some buds come with noise-cancellation, others sweat-resistance and extra in-ear security, while other still focus exclusively on providing the best audio quality possible. In this guide we've weighed up each of these products strengths to bring you the cream of the crop.
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The best true wireless earbuds
Sony is largely responsible for the rude health of the active noise-cancelling earbuds market, and with the WF-1000XM4, the company has combined performance, ergonomics, and build quality more effectively than ever before.
Compared to their predecessors, the Sony WF-1000XM3, the new wireless earbuds offer enough quality-of-life features to make them worth upgrading to, even if they are more expensive.
While other true wireless earbuds surpass the Sony WF-1000XM4 in particular areas – noise cancellation, for example – no other model comes close to offering such excellent quality across the board. That’s why the Sony WF-1000XM4 are hands-down the best true wireless earbuds you can buy today.
Read more: Sony WF-1000XM4 review
For nearly two years, the Sony WF-1000XM3 were best true wireless earbuds you could buy – until they were usurped by the WF-1000XM4.
However, the Sony WF-1000XM3 are still worth considering, not least because you can usually find them discounted to around AU$200 since their successor launched.
The Sony WF-1000XM3 still manage to offer a level of noise-cancellation that's exceedingly good for a pair of earbuds, fist-pumping musicality, a sleek design, and a decent battery life.
Read more: Sony WF-1000XM3 review
They’re the first true wireless earbuds from Melbourne audio brand Nura, following in the footsteps of its NuraLoop earphones, but thankfully ditching the cable completely this time.
The NuraTrue are another success for the company, offering unbeaten levels of personalisation that allow the earbuds to be tuned to your ears exactly. The accompanying app even analyses how well the buds fit into your ears.
The end result is outstanding audio performance that reveals superb levels of detail in your music, and a wide soundstage that enables every instrument to sing.
And in case you think these earbuds are made with only audio in mind, they in fact come with plenty of features that will appeal to anyone who wants a cheaper alternative to popular models such as the AirPods Pro and the Sony WF-1000XM4. These features include decent noise cancellation, an IPX4 water-resistance rating, fast charging, and support for hi-res audio too.
Read more: NuraTrue review
The Sennheiser CX True Wireless are the latest wireless earbuds from the German audio giant. Picking up where the CX 400BT before them left off, they’re cheaper than their predecessors, despite including a host of upgraded features that comprises a longer battery life and better connectivity.
Audio quality is exactly what you’d expect from Sennheiser, with a wide soundstage, clear mids, detailed trebles, and powerful bass frequencies. Nevertheless, we were still surprised by how good these earbuds sound for the price.
The controls and accompanying app are very easy to use, and Bluetooth 5.2 connectivity ensures a stable connection with your device. Hi-res audio support is included, too, for those who want to eke out every last bit of detail from their music.
Our only real bugbear is the CX True Wireless’ design, which we found far too bulky for our ears. We’re hesitant to judge Sennheiser too harshly for this, since most users will probably be able to use them without issue.
Read more: Sennheiser CX True Wireless review
The sound quality, battery life, and design of the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 are truly brilliant – and they're a really good alternative to the Sony WF-1000XM3, particularly if you prefer a more flashy design when it comes to the best true wireless earbuds for you.
We did find that those with smaller ears sometimes find them a little uncomfortable, however, and their high price just stops them from taking the top spot of this round up.
Otherwise? Sennheiser has pretty much knocked it out of the park with these earbuds, offering great noise cancellation alongside smart looks and stunning sound.
Read more: Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 review
It’s Bose’s second attempt at a set of true wireless headphones, and the QuietComfort Earbuds are leaps and bounds better than the older SoundSport Free. Not only is the design a lot better, but the noise cancellation is also exemplary. Sound quality is also really very good – albeit a touch less bassy as compared to Sony – with superb clarity. They’re incredibly comfortable and well balanced too, despite their bulky form factor.
Read more: Bose QuietComfort Earbuds review
Apple's noise-cancelling true wireless earbuds, the AirPods Pro, deliver a much better fit and an improved design compared to the original AirPods.
However, at AU$399, they’re pretty pricey too, and as such can’t be called the very best true wireless earbuds in terms of value for money – but they may be the best true wireless earbuds for Apple fans.
These snug-fitting earbuds offer a great sound, and the additional microphones provide strong noise-cancelling (particularly when commuting), as well as a useful Transparency mode, which really does let the outside world in.
Apparently, there's a new AirPods model set to join the original buds and the newer Pros. The AirPods Pro Lite are rumored to be a new, cheaper variant of the company's popular true wireless earbuds, and they could be released this year.
Read more: Apple AirPods Pro review
The Beats Studio Buds are rock-solid true wireless earbuds with active noise cancellation and support for Apple’s Spatial Audio with Dolby Atmos format. They sound great, with a lively sound quality that elevates the highs and lows of your music, and feel supremely comfortable to wear for long periods of time.
They're not without some drawbacks, though. Chief among them is their lackluster call quality and lack of an H1 Wireless Chip. Battery life with either ANC or Transparency mode turned on is a little short at only five hours (15 hours with the case), and their noise cancellation isn’t exactly class-leading, either.
Saying that, they're cheaper than the AirPods Pro and their predecessors, the Powerbeats Pro, making them a more budget-friendly option if you want to buy a pair of Beats earbuds.
Read more: Beats Studio Buds review
The Sony LinkBuds are the strangest true wireless earbuds we’ve ever tested. They’re the world’s first open-ring in-ear headphones, a design that leaves your ear canals totally free to hear your environment while you enjoy music, listen to podcasts, or take phone calls. They're designed to be a great option for listening on-the-move to stay aware of your surroundings, or in a shared office space.
These are also Sony’s smallest earbuds to date, and they're much daintier than the Sony WF-1000XM4. Their ingenious controls mean you don’t have to fumble with the miniature housings to adjust music playback. Instead, you can tap your face to skip tracks, change the volume, and take calls.
The audio quality is exceptional, delivering a remarkably wide soundstage that gives every instrument in your favorite songs the room they need to shine. Detail, clarity, and rhythmic accuracy are also excellent.
The open fit does come with some drawbacks, though; we'd have liked more bass, and their open design means background noise can be intrusive. But Sony already makes lots of really good noise cancelling options; these are designed for a different kind of listener.
Read the full review: Sony LinkBuds Review
While they don’t quite cut it like their predecessors the Jabra Elite Active 75t buds do owing to a slightly bulkier design, the Elite 85t deliver impressive performance thanks to some great audio quality, effective noise cancellation and decent battery life.
Audio has been vastly improved thanks to a new pair of 12mm in-built speakers, which are twice the size of those on the 75t buds and offer a wider and more well-balanced soundstage. This, alongside even deeper bass, adds more depth to your favorite tunes.
Read the full review: Jabra Elite 85t review
[Update: The Jabra Elite 75t now have active noise cancellation thanks to a firmware update – which could make them a potential rival for the AirPods Pro, and a cheaper noise-cancelling alternative to the Elite 85t.]
The PowerBeats Pro true wireless Beats headphones are something special – they’re supremely comfortable, sound decent and seem to never, ever fall out.
They might not be the best true wireless earbuds in Apple's audio arsenal now that the AirPods Pro are here, but they are Apple’s most premium play into the world of running headphones, and they're the buds we'd recommend to most workout enthusiasts.
That's thanks to features like the pressure-reducing micro-laser barometric venting hole, their long battery life and good sound quality. If we had to choose between wearing these and the original AirPods around the house, office, or gym, these are what we’d wear.
A new model may be on the cards, too – the Powerbeats Pro 2 are the rumored follow-up to these Beats true wireless earbuds.
Read more: Beats PowerBeats Pro review
In terms of features, the Surface Earbuds cover off most - but not all - of what we’ve come to expect from a premium pair of true wireless in-ears: they have app-based adjustable EQs, aptX Bluetooth connectivity, and responsive touch controls. Plus they play impeccably nicely with virtually the entirety of Microsoft’s hardware and software ranges. They don’t have active noise-cancellation, though, and the way they fit means they let ambient sound leak in.
Sound is served up by relatively large full-range drivers. Of course, ‘relatively large’ could, in another life, be the Surface Earbuds’ official model name: a 25mm diameter is big by in-ear standards, 7.2g is heavy by in-ear standards and their charging case isn't exactly slim, either.
Despite these big numbers, though, the Surface Earbuds prove comfortable and secure in situ, for hours on end. The ‘twist-to-fit’ arrangement keeps them nicely steady, even during mild exercise.
Overall, the Surface Earbuds are a very welcome addition to the ever-increasing list of worthwhile true wireless in-ears, and while their distinctive looks won’t be for everyone, they deliver in the only two areas that count: functionality and sound quality.
Read more: Microsoft Surface Earbuds review
Having established its credentials as a high-end true wireless earbud front-runner with two generations of its Momentum True Wireless, Sennheiser’s now turned its attention to the less rarefied area where Apple, Microsoft, Sony and all the rest duke it out. At AU$299 (albeit often reduced to closer to AU$200), the CX400BT are pitched right into the thick of the action.
Happily, the CX400BT are specified to compete. They have aptX Bluetooth connectivity, with SBC and AAC codecs catered for too; they have app-based EQ adjustment; they have responsive touch-controls (which can be customised in the app); and they can be operated using Google Assistant or Siri.
Read more: Sennheiser CX 400BT review
The goal here remains the same; to offer workout-friendly buds that promise a secure fit, deliver strong audio quality, and give you plenty in the way of battery life too.
They Vista 2 come with the addition of active noise cancellation, which has bumped up the price compared to their predecessors - but that combined with improved audio, a longer battery life, and a more rugged design makes them a worthy upgrade.
Compared to the original Vista, the Vista 2 have also been changed from an IPX7 water resistant rating to IP68. That means they can technically be submerged in water up to 1.5 meters deep for 30 minutes. That’s a higher rating than other sporty buds like the Jabra Elite Active 75t and Sony’s WF-SP800N buds.
Jaybird does offer an EQ and presets to get a more tailored sound profile, along with the ability to create personal EQ settings, letting you toggle sliders to adjust elements like bass, bass range, and low midrange. It pays off to spend some time playing around with the EQ options to get a more rewarding sound profile that suits your ears.
While the active noise cancellation isn’t as good as other models, the combination of fit, low profile design, sound quality, and solid battery life still make the Vista 2 some of the best truly wireless earbuds for working out as well as listening at home or in the office.
Read more: Jaybird Vista 2 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 sport one of the most complete and well-rounded sound profiles we've seen from true wireless earbuds, although they are let down a little 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
All about the AirPods
What about the Apple AirPods 2?
In March 2019, Apple upgraded its popular true wireless earbuds, the Apple AirPods.
Unlike the AirPods 3, 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 came from the H1 headphone chip, which improves connectivity and battery life, and allows for a ‘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 – and a new auto-switching feature makes it easier to swap between iOS devices. However, 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.
They're not the best AirPods, either – the AirPods Pro are far more accomplished in nearly every way, and we'd recommend the AirPods 3 if you don't care about active noise cancellation.
Read more Apple AirPods (2019) review
True wireless explained
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 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.