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Lead image

Best true wireless earbuds for 2022

Apple AirPods vs. a few of our favourite alternatives

In this article: I pick the best true wireless earbuds and AirPod alternatives...

  1. Best for iPhone — Apple AirPods
  2. Best all-around — Sony WF-1000XM4
  3. Best for noise cancellation — Bose QuietComfort Earbuds
  4. Best-sounding — Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2
  5. Best budget pick — Sennheiser CX True Wireless
  6. Best for running or workouts — Jaybird Vista 2
  7. Coolest case design — Klipsch T5 II True Wireless
  8. Best workout headphones for small ears — JBL Under Armour True Wireless Streak

... plus, some advice on finding the right 100% wire-free headphones for you.

It's funny how quickly something can go from a novel concept to second nature. Take True Wireless Earbuds — now our hottest headphone category.

These earbuds play music wirelessly via Bluetooth®, and there is no connecting cord around your head or neck. And I can see why they are so popular. It's become routine for me to pop them in and listen to music or podcasts while I'm making coffee in the morning, working, or doing anything in between.

Jeff wearing earbuds

True wireless earbuds like the Sony WF-1000XM4 have become a convenient part of my daily routine.

But just a few years ago, I received some early samples and thought, "cool idea, but they're just not reliable enough." These days, true wireless earbuds are the height of convenience. For the most part — and certainly for the earbuds on this list — you can expect quick Bluetooth pairing, a solid wireless connection, and a healthy battery life.

Best for iPhone — Apple AirPods

Other companies released wire-free headphones before Apple, but they were the first to really nail it with the AirPods. In October 2021, they released the 3rd generation of this trailblazing product.

Apple AirPods Pro

After testing the Apple Airpods, along with many other true wireless earbuds, we can see why these unobtrusive, ultra-light headphones are so popular.

All versions of the AirPods work especially well with an iPhone, thanks to Apple's cutting-edge H1 chip. This special wireless technology ensures they pair up quickly and stay connected. And they make some of the clearest-sounding phone calls I've ever heard with wireless headphones.

Best AirPod alternatives

While the AirPods do a lot right, they aren’t the only game in town. There might be a better option for you, depending on your listening habits, your tasks, or your smartphone.

Here are my favorite AirPod alternatives. I based these selections on my hands-on experience and feedback from Crutchfield customers:

Sony WF-1000XM4

Best all around — Sony WF-1000XM4

The Sony WF-1000XM4 noise-canceling earbuds have been a megahit since the day they launched. They’re our best-selling true wireless earbuds right now and they earn high marks from our customers. It’s because they excel at everything they do — and they do a lot.

These sweat-proof earbuds fit securely and deliver a large, layered sound with plenty of punch and detail. They also offer breezy touch controls and incredible noise cancellation that can adapt to your surroundings.

My killer feature? I’m a big fan of the single-ear operation option. Of course, I wouldn’t use that for listening to music — they would revoke my Crutchfield audio-aficionado card. But it’s nice to just quickly pop in an earbud and fire up a podcast while I do chores.

Bose QuietComfort® Earbuds True wireless noise-cancelling in-ear headphones

Best for noise cancellation — Bose QuietComfort Earbuds

Before the Bose QC earbuds, I've always had to set proper expectations — I even qualified the AirPods Pro noise cancellation as "very good for earbuds." No more.

Between these earbuds and the Sony WF-1000XM4, we now have in-ears that can rival the noise cancellation in over-ear headphones. The noise cancellation in both is so good that it’s practically a toss-up. But in terms of absolute “quiet,” I’ll give the nod to Bose.

Here's an example of why: To test noise-canceling earbuds, I'll often listen to podcasts while mowing the grass. So I popped the Bose QC earbuds in, started the mower, and tapped the right earbud twice to activate the strongest level of noise cancellation.

After some brief "WHOOSHing" noises, the loud engine drone was reduced to a few faint high-frequency grinding sounds. And I hadn't even hit play on the podcast! When I did, I found I could make out conversations, even at very low levels — less than 25% on my phone's volume slider.

Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2

Best sounding — Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2

To my ears, the Momentum TW 2 earbuds are the absolute best-sounding truly wireless headphones available.

It makes sense. Their driver design and sonic signature are both informed by Sennheiser's flagship IE 800 S in-ear headphones, some of the most revered wired in-ears on the planet.

While you shouldn't expect quite that level of sound quality, the Momentum True Wireless earbuds do deliver smooth highs, articulate mids, and satisfying bass. They also have a large, "outside-the-head" soundstage with precise imaging.

Sennheiser CX True Wireless headphones

Best budget pick — Sennheiser CX True Wireless

With the CX True Wireless, Sennheiser adds value by taking some features away. What do I mean by that? These earbuds are tuned to the same sound signature as the top-shelf Momentums — and even use a similar driver design. If you can live without noise cancellation and some of the extra design touches, these earbuds are a great way to get excellent sound quality and true wireless convenience for less.

They have a stripped-down design, for sure, but they’re still sweat-proof. And they still have lot of great features. You get touch controls and a free mobile app to tweak the sound to your tastes.

Jaybird Vista 2

Best for running or workouts — Jaybird Vista 2

Jaybird beat a formidable opponent to claim the top spot here: themselves. The original Jaybird Vistas have been our go-to workout earbuds, based on feedback from the hardcore athletes and runners on the Crutchfield staff. The Vista 2 earbuds keep everything we loved about the original — namely fit, security, and hard-hitting bass — and add much more.

Most notably, they have noise-canceling circuitry to knock out loud distractions in the gym. And they are also incredibly durable. Like, “meeting military dust- and water-proof standards” durable. The Vista 2 earbuds don’t just handle sweat — they can be submerged in saltwater and withstand rain up to 40 mph!

Crutchfield's Jay in office with headphones

Jay is Crutchfield's director of internet marketing and an avid long-distance runner. He's a big fan of Jaybird’s secure, stable fit — it keeps the sound consistent and bass powerful.

And of course, Jaybird made their name with earbuds designed to stay put while your move. My co-worker Jay does about 30 miles a week on the treadmill, and he says he’s tried just about every type of sports headphones. He says Jaybird stays in place better than any of them.

Klipsch T5 II True Wireless In-ear Bluetooth® headphones

Coolest case design — Klipsch T5 II True Wireless

I'll admit — Klipsch's T5-series headphones will always hold a special place in my heart. And a lot has to do with that Zippo®-styled charging case. I visited Klipsch's Indianapolis headquarters right before they released the first-generation T5 earbuds, and saw early design sketches and models from their industrial design team.

With the different models in this latest generation, Klipsch has taken some sweet design swings at their unique case. There’s the waterproof case of the Klipsch T5 II True Wireless Sport that has a moisture-removing material inside to wick away sweat. And the carbon-fiber lined case of the Klipsch T5 II True Wireless ANC (McLaren Edition) that sports the iconic McClaren “papaya” racing stripe.

But I still get the biggest kick out of that “standard” Zippo case look of the T5 II earbuds.

Klipsch also addressed one of the few issues our customers had with the original series — audio would drop out from time to time. Outward-facing antennas surround each of the T5 II earbuds, ensuring a stronger wireless connection and extending the range.

UA Streak Earbuds

Best workout headphones for smaller ears — JBL Under Armour True Wireless Streak

My wife tells me she loves the idea of true wireless earbuds for workouts and listening on the go. But she has a major beef with many of the models she’s tried — they are too bulky for her ears.

The ultra-compact JBL UA Streak sports headphones are purpose-built for people with smaller ears. The ear tips come in three small sizes, designed to fit into more narrow ear canals. They also include optional ear fins to further secure the fit for running or exercise.

It's kind of exciting that we’re now in the era of true wireless earbuds where forward-thinking companies like JBL are designing models that solve specific problems like this. And JBL always does a great job of sound-tuning for sports earbuds. Through years of industry-leading headphone research, they’ve developed an in-house sound profile that's been proven to satisfy most listeners.

True wireless earbuds buying tips

There are a few things to consider, look out for, and keep in mind when shopping for true wireless earbuds.

Audio dropouts still happen — but not as frequently

I mentioned in my intro that true wireless earbuds are more reliable than ever. Still, the #1 reason our customers return these type of headphones? The audio signal can drop out during use.

One ear or the other may lose sound. Sometimes it is only for a second or two. Sometimes you may have to re-pair the earbuds. I've always looked at it as a small tax to pay for going 100% wire-free. And luckily it's happening a lot less.

I think the biggest breakthrough here is the new wireless chips with Bluetooth 5.0 and above. For the most part, if you see Bluetooth 5.0 or 5.1 listed in the product bullets, you can expect a stronger wireless connection to the phone, which ultimately means fewer audio dropouts.

Check the charging case specs

Most truly wireless earbuds include a special case that charges via a USB or AC adapter. These charging cases can bank hours of power so you can refuel your earbuds. Just snap your earbuds into the case to recharge them.

The compact case takes up little room in your gym bag or carry-on luggage. Plus, there's no cable to get all tangled up. You pull your earbuds out, ready to pop in and go.

We list the battery life in our "Product Highlights" bullets on each product page. Most of the headphones shown here have a quick charge feature: just a few minutes inside the charging case will give you enough power to listen for an hour or more.

Sony WF-XB700 True wireless headphones with EXTRA BASST in their charging case

The charging case for Sony's WF-XB700 earbuds can bank up to nine more hours of powers. And 10 minutes inside the case gives you 60 minutes of wireless music and noise canceling.

Compare the apps

Many headphones these days have an accompanying app for your phone or mobile device. But I don't consider all of them necessary. For true wireless earbuds, I definitely recommend downloading the app, if one is offered.

Some apps can help with the wireless pairing process, which can be tricky since you need to connect two separate earbuds. Some let you adjust the EQ settings and customize the sound to your preference or use. For example, I like to bump up the bass a bit when I'm running — I need all the extra motivation I can get.

And some even have a feature to help you find a lost earbud. Using your phone's GPS, the app will will track your misplaced earbud to the last location it was connected.

Jaybird MySound app

I found that the sound customization in Jaybird's free MySound app is particularly strong.

Need more help? Contact us!

Have questions about how these truly wireless headphones compare? Contact us today.

Our expert Advisors know headphones inside and out. Your Advisor can send specific Crutchfield pages to your screen, saving you a lot of browsing time. You'll get a shopping cart loaded up with everything you need.

Free lifetime tech support is included with your Crutchfield purchase.

Last updated 10/26/2021
  • Robert from Macon, Ga

    Posted on 1/12/2022

    Never really liked the Sony. B&O EQ are the best sounding and the Technics EAG-AZ60 have blown me away. They are surprisingly my favorite all around earbuds (comfort and sound).

    Commenter image

    Jeff Miller from Crutchfield

    on 1/13/2022

    Thanks, Robert. I'll have to try those Technics! Haven't gotten my hands on them yet.
  • Matthew from Pocola

    Posted on 9/29/2021

    I have had the jbl 125 tws for about 2 years now i believe. The sound quality "clarity, volume, and bass notably" is amazing for the price. If i was to splurge more i have always loved bose sound quality, but don't sleep on JBL they are incredible for considerably less.

    Commenter image

    Jeff Miller from Crutchfield

    on 10/13/2021

    Agreed. JBL does an incredible job of delivering great sound for less. They tune all of their headphones to a target curve they've developed after years of in-depth research.
  • Hillarie from Harrisburg

    Posted on 10/23/2020

    All these sound like great options, but only if you can find them. Having a location feature for lost pods is really important to me, but I don't find this feature mentioned much in articles. Would love for you to add this to your discussion. Particularly whether they can be located while in charging case.

  • Jared from McKinney

    Posted on 3/17/2020

    Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 sound good to me.

  • Cait M from Toronto

    Posted on 2/12/2020

    How do the Samsung Galaxy Buds compare?

    Commenter image

    Jeff Miller from Crutchfield

    on 2/15/2020

    I honestly haven't tried those yet. I need to get on that. If anyone has experience with them, please share here.
  • Marc St-Jean from Sherbrooke

    Posted on 1/2/2020

    Just bought the new PI4 from B&W. Pricy but high quality. Confortable, cristal clear sound. Result, so disapointed that they don't have any EQ to adjust sound for your preferences. I'm Bass lover for rich sound. They are really lacking on Bass. What would you recommend as Neckband true wireless. My needs, High Bass, high volume, noise cancelling is a must. Water resistant or more. Why these spec. Usually using them walking on the beach. Thanks, Just love your site and you guys !!!

    Commenter image

    Jeff Miller from Crutchfield

    on 1/2/2020

    Thanks Marc... I agree that neckband earbuds work well for certain applications. When you're not using them, you can just wear them around your neck and keep moving! You might want to try the Sony WI-1000X noise-canceling headphones. They use a two-driver system that delivers well-rounded sound with particularly strong bass.

    You can also fine-tune the sound using the Sony Headphones app.
  • Angel from Buenos Aires

    Posted on 11/29/2019

    Hi! It was a great article. What do you know about cambridge audio melomania 1? I was reading some reviews last night and it seems like a really good pair. What do you say?

    Commenter image

    Jeff Miller from Crutchfield

    on 12/2/2019

    Hi Angel. Unfortunately I haven't heard those headphones yet...but I can say in general that Cambridge Audio makes great-sounding gear. Sorry I'm not much help on that particular set of earbuds.
  • Joel from San Francisco

    Posted on 10/16/2019

    I recently purchased the Jaybird run XT and found the sound disappointing. Yes, the fit is secure but the sound is not up to par even with the EQ app. At the end of the day it's all about the music and having great sounding equalization is a must.

  • The Dude

    Posted on 7/12/2019

    How do Sony's new WF-1000xm3 change this evaluation?

    Commenter image

    Jeff Miller from Crutchfield

    on 7/22/2019

    I actually just received a pair to evaluate! The specs are very promising. I've only briefly tried out the active noise cancellation at this point, but it works very well... Nice variety of ear tips, too.
  • Jigs Gaton from Kathmandu

    Posted on 4/2/2019

    Lost ONE Apple AirPod so picked up a pair of JBL Free X, and I think your reviews are right on regarding this kit. But here are the Cons, vs. AirPods: the audio sync from my iMac when watching YouTube is terrible... lots of lag ( a bit better in iOS). Also, the left pod occasionally cuts out, but not too bad. In addition, you can't switch easily from desktop to phone, you have to disconnect from the desktop first to "free up" the Free X. Pros: lighter and cheaper than the BOSE (but sound quality is not better, that's for sure). As you said, great for podcasts, but no App for EQ features. In short, I can't wait to get my replacement left AirPod from Apple... they look funky, fall out a lot but the chip inside makes all the difference.

    Commenter image

    Jeff Miller from Crutchfield

    on 4/3/2019

    Thanks for the thoughtful feedback! Always great to hear from someone who has lived with the products.