Forget tangled wires getting caught in your glasses/earrings/ face mask, when it comes to earbuds, it’s all about the wireless variety.
Apple’s AirPods have changed the game when it comes to in-ear listening, but these are the earbuds you should be investing in this year.
We’ve rated some of the best by battery life, noise-cancellation and audio quality so you can choose the pair that’s right for you.
So if you want to join the wireless revolution, here are the one’s to pick.
Best for functionality: Devialet Gemini
Devialet’s impressive debut at truly wireless in-ears lacks the design flair of its pricey speakers but the unusual sliding charging case is a nice touch.
The basic but responsive touch controls also trigger noise-cancellation modes and voice assistant. Sadly, you’ve got to whip out your phone to adjust the volume.
With a strong audio heritage, it’s no wonder the sound is superb. The buds are not as detailed as some but at least audio junkies can tweak the EQ settings in the app. They have six hours’ battery life, while the compact case holds 30 more.
Best for battery life: Master & Dynamic MW08
The follow-up to the stylish MW07 adds a lick of internal paint, bringing
a new app, improved active noise-cancellation and a boost in battery life.
While the design has a feeling of familiarity, especially with its tried-and-trusted physical controls, the ceramic and steel overcoat and lack of stabilising wings suggest otherwise.
Sound quality is wonderfully detailed and balanced but the active noise-cancellation isn’t the most effective against outside racket and won’t silence your cacophonous commute.
Adjusting the fit can result in accidental button presses and there’s no in-app equaliser settings. But it has decent ambient modes and enough stamina to last 12 hours on a single charge and up to 42 hours after making contact with the case.
Best for sound control: Kef Mu3
Kef has gone for a physical button on each bud but with lots of commands to remember, you might not nail those button presses first time, although they do feel far more reliable and responsive than touch-sensitive controls.
There’s no play/pause functionality when removed or an app to play with the EQ but there is active noise-cancelling and texture and detail by the bucketload, while a five-minute blast from the case gets you an hour of playtime if you’re running on empty.
Otherwise, battery life comes in at nine hours, alongside an extra 15 from the case.
Best for noise-cancelling: Bose QuietComfort Earbuds
Bose’s bean-shaped buds are ideal for getting your sweat on with their secure StayHear Max tips.
With lots of clarity, crisp highs and punchy bass, the earbuds deliver effective and customisable active noise-cancellation that’ll drown out the rumblings on your daily commute.
If you want the outside world to seep in, or to talk without inadvertently shouting, the buds pause playback and cut the noise-cancelling in the other ear when one is removed.
Battery life isn’t class-leading, offering six hours and an extra two charges from the case, but a 15-minute wired or wire-free charge buys you a couple more hours if you’re caught short.
Best for budget: Google Pixel Buds A-Series
Rocking the touch-sensitive disc-shape design and stabiliser wings, with the subtle G branding, Google’s buds favour Android users with fancy features.
The assistant can be triggered by the words ‘Hey Google’, and can read messages and send replies. Its real-time translation is handy, even if it is a bit hit and miss.
Sound is clear, balanced and ideal for most genres, but bass addicts will want to shop elsewhere.
Gesture-controlled volume adjustment has disappointingly been ditched and the vented design and lack of noise isolation means unwanted ambient sound creeps in.
But a case made from recycled plastic confirms Google’s commitment to sustainability and also happens to pump 24 hours of playback into the buds, after they’ve lasted five hours on a single charge.
Want to know more? Check out our full review of the Pixel Buds A-Series here.
Best for all-round use: Sennheiser CX Plus
As the name suggests, you’re looking at the beefed-up version of Sennhesier’s CX True Wireless. The big difference here, though, is excellent active noise-cancellation to block outside racket, while a transparent hearing mode lets outdoor noise in, which is useful for finding out if your train’s been cancelled or for having a chat.
The superb sound quality shines through unscathed, whether it’s a throbbing bass line or the detailed richness of vocals.
Expect customisable touch controls for call/audio control and voice assistant access, and auto pause/play when removed.
Fire up the app and you can tweak the onboard EQ to your taste, while the bass boost brings extra low-end oomph. Battery-wise, you’ll squeeze 24 hours of back-to-back Britney out of them.
Best for customisation: Nura NuraTrue
The clever thing about these comfy and touch-sensitive audible discs is they offer unrivalled levels of customisation so can be tuned to suit your ears.
With the help of an app that runs you through a series of tests, you’ll create your hearing profile and customise the touch controls. It even analyses how well the buds fit.
The result is immersive audio performance that shines a spotlight on the detail in your music, alongside a wide soundstage that enables every instrument and vocal to stand out.
Throw in decent noise-cancelling, a social mode to leak in ambient sound, fast charging, support for high-res audio and six hours’ sound-silencing playback, with a further 18 after a pit stop in the case, and you are looking at an excellent true wireless contender.
Best for audio quality: Bowers & Wilkins P17
These beautifully finished buds with metallic touch-sensitive discs do an excellent job of controlling playback, summoning your digital assistant and switching noise-cancelling modes.
While sound is undeniably exceptional whatever you’re listening to and doesn’t skimp on detail, it fails to successfully eliminate a great deal of extraneous low-level noise.
You’ll also have to pull out your phone to adjust the volume or politely ask your digital assistant to do it. But there’s support for 24-bit sound and higher resolution audio.
All this plus a case that doubles as an audio retransmitter to stream audio to the earbuds when connected to an external audio source – like a laptop or in-flight entertainment – gives the P17 a unique edge.
Fully juiced, expect four hours, and a further 20 from the case, while a ten-minute stint gets two hours out of them.
This article contains affiliate links. We may earn a small commission on purchases made through one of these links but this never influences our experts’ opinions. Products are tested and reviewed independently of commercial initiatives.
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