The best earbuds 2024: wireless and wired buds for all budgets

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REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
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REASONS TO BUY
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The best earbuds are essential for easy-to-fling-in-a-pocket music on the go. Motivational soundtrack to get you through a 10k? Classical music on a long-haul flight? Motivational podcast for the commute? Earbuds are a top shout – and the best earbuds can immerse you in a cocoon of sound, blocking out the rest of the world.

These days, you don't need to sacrifice battery life, extra perks or sound performance to get that tiny form factor either. We’ve tested literally hundreds of pairs and we still rate the slightly older Sony WF-1000XM4 wireless earbuds as our overall top pick – although actually, the Sennheiser EAH-AZ80 equal them across the board (and even offer triple device multipoint connectivity). The newer Sony WF-1000XM5 buds have since been released, but for us, XM4 are still the best all-rounders if you want to go Sony. Stock has been a little low of late, but Sony has assured us they're still very much a current model in 2024 – so if you find a pair, know that you're still getting the best of Sony.

Want to prioritise active noise cancellation? Our best noise-cancelling earbuds guide is well worth a look. Don’t like the intrusive nature of earbuds? Read our best wired headphones or best wireless headphones guides instead. Of course, check out our budget wireless earbuds guide if you like the design and portability, you’re just looking for cheaper options. 

Senior audio staff writer Becky Scarrott, in a field
Becky Scarrott

Becky is a senior TechRadar writer (which she has been assured refers to expertise rather than age) focusing on all things audio. Before joining the team in early 2022, she spent three years at What Hi-Fi? reviewing everything from wallet-friendly wireless earbuds to huge high-end sound systems.

The quick list

Want to cut straight to the best earbuds around? We like it – you're busy and your time is precious. You'll find a roundup of our top choices here. You can also jump to a more in-depth review for each product, along with our price comparison tool, so you can discover the best deals.

The best earbuds of 2024

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Below you'll find full write-ups for each of the best earbuds in our list. We've tested each one extensively, so you can be sure that our recommendations can be trusted.

The best earbuds overall

The sony wf-1000xm4 true wireless earbuds in black pictured in their charging case on grass

(Image credit: TechRadar)
The best earbuds for most people

Specifications

Acoustic design: Closed
Weight: 7.3g
Frequency response: 20-40,000Hz
Drivers: 6mm
Battery life : 8 hours (earbuds) 16 hours (charging case)

Reasons to buy

+
Rapid, full-bodied and eloquent sound
+
Truly useful features
+
Impressive call quality

Reasons to avoid

-
Unremarkable battery life
-
No aptX support
BUY THEM IF

✅ You need the best all-round true wireless earbuds:
The WF-1000XM4 can be beaten for sound quality, noise-cancelling and comfort – but only by a combination of rivals.

You know a great control app when you use one:
The Sony Headphone app is a tour de force of stability, functionality and general usefulness.

DON'T BUY THEM IF

Noise-cancelling is more important than sound quality: The WF-1000XM4s cancel noise well. But other true wireless buds (Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2) do it better.

You think aptX is the pinnacle of wireless sound quality: Sony doesn’t agree. LDAC is a good alternative and is supported by most newer Android phones (sorry, iPhone).

The Sony WF-1000XM4 earbuds are our top pick overall, despite a June 2021 release date – hey, they're just that good. They may lack aptX support, but they make up for it with a whole host of features, including active noise cancellation (with polyurethane ear tips to improve passive noise reduction), a ‘speak to chat’ feature that pauses your music when you make a noise, great call quality and excellent in-app features.

In our review, we note, “There’s vigor and enthusiasm to their presentation, but it’s tempered by unarguable control.” 

The size of the XM4s has also been reduced over the previous XM3-suffixed model, with the charging case coming in at a full 40% smaller, or 41g. Positioning the buds may take a little while by today's standards (we found them fiddly initially), but once we got used to them, we found them secure and easy to wear – and the sound quality is emphatically worth it. 

They’re not the cheapest buds around even now (despite their age, you'll struggle to find much of a discount), but because Sony got it right here by combining performance, ergonomics and build quality so effectively, we still think they’re excellent value. A quick note on availability: this has varied of late, but Sony has confirmed to us in January 2024 that the WF-1000XM4 are still very much in its current lineup of noise-cancelling earbuds, so don't worry that they're being phased out any time soon. 

Now, a note on the newer Sony WF-1000XM5 earbuds, which are smaller and very good sonically, but not in this list. Why? The ANC and connectivity suffered in the latest iteration. That's why we still rate the WF-1000XM4 as the best all-rounders. 

Read our full Sony WF-1000XM4 review

The best budget earbuds

JLab Go Air Pop on green grassy background

(Image credit: TechRadar)
The best budget earbuds

Specifications

Acoustic design: Closed
Weight: 3.7g per earpiece
Frequency response: 20HZ-20kHZ
Drivers: 6mm drivers
Battery life (on-board): 32 in total (8 hours from buds)

Reasons to buy

+
Light design with small, comfortable earpieces
+
Reliable on-ear controls
+
Sounds better than anything else at this price

Reasons to avoid

-
Not the last word in sonic brilliance generally
-
Odd fitted charging cable
BUY THEM IF

✅ Your budget maxes out at $20 / £20 / AU$50 and you want true wireless: The JLab Go Air Pop are an incredibly affordable set of buds that boast features and sound no other solution to date has managed at this level.

You prioritize a long battery life: 32 hours of playtime, for $20. Let that sink in, while remembering the AirPods Pro will only give you a maximum of 24 hours of listening time

DON'T BUY THEM IF

You want full app support: They do amazing things without a companion app (on-ear volume control, EQ, etc.) but if you want a visual cue of their battery life, no dice. 

You want top quality sound and have the budget: If sound quality is top of your list and you can spend a little more, do that. This isn't audiophile territory.

The JLab Go Air Pop buds prove it’s possible to purchase a fantastic set of true wireless earbuds on a tight budget. They boast reliable Bluetooth connectivity and top battery life (eight hours from the earbuds and a whopping 32 hours from the buds and the case combined) plus on-device volume controls that work better than rivals more than double the price, and a triple tap to pick from three different EQ profiles.

Any meaningful sound comparison between these cheap in-ears and class-leading products at ten times the price really isn't fair, is it? But these JLab buds easily beat everything else in their price range for sound, features, build quality and reliability. Vocals are relatively well handled through the upper mids, the bass is sensibly refined, and the soundstage is surprisingly expansive.  

Design-wise, they’re lightweight at just 3.7g per earbud and incredibly small with three different types of eartips, which means they should suit almost everyone and we certainly found them incredibly comfortable to wear during our testing. 

Again, no they don’t beat flagship propositions from the likes of Sony, Apple, or Sennheiser. But they do punch well above their weight. The JLab Go Air Pop sound far better than you'd expect for their nominal ticket price tag and pack in some excellent features that make them fantastic value for money.

Read our full JLab Go Air Pop review

The best premium earbuds

Technics EAH-AZ80 on white background

(Image credit: Future)
The best premium earbuds for sound and features

Specifications

Weight: 7g
Frequency response: 40-20,000Hz
Drivers: 10mm
Battery life: (Up to) 7h (earbuds); (up to) 25h (charging case)

Reasons to buy

+
Poised, revealing sound
+
Triple-point connectivity
+
Outstanding comms and comfort

Reasons to avoid

-
Noise-cancelling and battery life are fine rather than exceptional
-
Could conceivably sound more animated
BUY THEM IF

✅ You prefer a neutral, lifelike sound
There’s nothing artificial about the way the Technics EAH-AZ80 sound; they offer convincingly realistic and coherent listening in all circumstances.

You want to switch between devices
Triple-point connectivity is a world-first in a product like this, and it’s brilliantly convenient for those of us who surround themselves with sources of audio.

DON'T BUY THEM IF

You intend to wear your earbuds all day: Even at its best, the battery life available here is nothing special – long-haul flights are a non-starter.

You have a lot of external noise to block out: While it’s true to say there are less capable noise-cancelling earbuds, it’s equally true that there are more capable alternatives. 

The Technics EAH-AZ80 buds sound fantastic and they’re packed with features. A standout is triple-point connectivity, which we found to be stable and useful, as well as Bluetooth 5.3 with LDAC compatibility. And, thanks to ‘Just My Voice’ technology, these buds are far less prone to wind-noise interference than rivals. Their only minor shortcomings are battery life at only 7 hours from the buds and 25 from the case, and the ANC (which could be a tad more impressive). 

The sound they make is also accomplished – it's both swift and accurate, as well as balanced and detailed. In our review, we wrote: “The whole frequency range is really nicely balanced and coherent from top to bottom and very even-handed from the (deep, nicely textured) bass to the (clean, politely attacking) treble.” We also found the midrange to be both informative and eloquent, with high detail levels and a smooth, seamless, agile journey from ceiling to floor and back. 

In terms of design, there’s a resoundingly premium feel here and each bud feels more comfortable, stable and light (7g per earbud) than some rivals. What’s more, the accompanying charging case is an equally svelte 50g. Build quality hasn’t been compromised in order to keep the weight down either – the EAH-AZ80 feels like a product that will outlast its rivals. There are seven different earbud sizes to choose from too, which means you’re likely to get that perfect fit. 

The price of the Technics EAH-AZ80 is that of a premium product, for sure – but thankfully, so is the specification. Overall this is a pair of buds that delivers excellent sound quality, a fantastic fit and that industry-first triple device multipoint connectivity.

Read our full Technics EAH-AZ80 review

The best earbuds for Apple

AirPods Pro 2 in use

(Image credit: TechRadar)
The best earbuds for Apple

Specifications

Acoustic design: Closed
Weight: 5.3g
Frequency response: Not listed
Drivers: Custom Apple design
Battery life : 6 hours (earbuds) 30 hours (charging case)

Reasons to buy

+
Fantastic active noise cancellation
+
Very strong audio quality
+
Great features when used with iPhone

Reasons to avoid

-
Average battery life
-
No lossless support
BUY THEM IF

✅ You want great sound: These sound brilliant and shut out the real world so well – if you want to treat yourself, then you'll really appreciate it.

You've got all manner of Apple things: If you've got an iPad, Apple TV, Apple Watch or similar, then you'll really get the benefit from the seamless switching.

DON'T BUY THEM IF

You're looking to save money: With so many brilliant budget earbuds out there, these are perhaps an unnecessary expense. But they are a perfect 'big present'.

You don't have an iPhone: If you're in the Android world, you won't get as much benefit from these headphones (although it's not as bad as previously).

The Apple AirPods Pro 2 are excellent earbuds that we think are the best option for Apple lovers. One of the top features here is ANC, which is significantly improved over the original Pro buds, blocking out almost all external noises. Transparency mode is now also more useful because it’s adaptive. In terms of battery, you get six hours with ANC on and 30 hours with the case too, which is now IPX4 water resistant – withstanding light showers and sweating – and has a speaker, handy if you lose them as you can activate a 'Find My' request.

Audio performance is also upgraded over the original Pros, with new drivers and amplifiers. During our testing, we rated the sound on offer from the Pro 2 as excellent – there’s rich audio across genres and a wide and expansive soundstage. 

Design changes are subtle between the Pro and Pro 2 models. You’ll find a typical Apple-esque look here, with slightly protruding stems, clean lines and a bright white finish. D