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Best true wireless earbuds 2021: small, powerful and ready to rock

Best true wireless earbuds 2021
(Image credit: Apple)

It seems as though everyone is clamoring for a pair of the best true wireless earbuds right now, making them hotter than wearing Gene Simmons’s codpiece in Death Valley. The original Apple AirPods kick-started our insatiable appetite for true wireless earbuds, and then the Sony WF-1000XM3 came along and we were all done for; full-blown addicts to wireless headphones.

As a result, most of us will be up to speed on the huge benefits wireless cans provide, even the budget wireless headphones you can buy for a small price. True wireless earbuds take those benefits to another level. How? Because they are easy to pocket, effortless to wear, and there’s already a huge choice for most budgets, as you’ll see from our line-up of the best true wireless earbuds below. 

These range from feature-packed flagship earbuds to work out-friendly, sweat-proof in-ear headphones. But which headphones should you shortlist from this traffic jam of tiny drivers? Let’s take a closer look at some of the things you should keep in mind when choosing the best true wireless earbuds for you…

Best true wireless earbuds: The Louder Choice

If you’re after the ultimate overall combination of sonic performance, features, comfort and value, our best true wireless earbuds trophy goes to the Sony WF-1000XM3. These clever earbuds really rock, and their noise-cancellation is remarkable for the form factor. If you have ears, these won’t disappoint you.

Naturally, die-hard Apple enthusiasts won’t agree, and we definitely don’t want any punch-ups here. So if you want to stay loyal to iOS, the only sensible choice is the brilliant Apple AirPods Pro, which represent a significant upgrade on the original AirPods.

When the budget gets a little tighter, things become a lot more competitive. Amazon’s step into true wireless earbud territory, the Amazon Echo Buds, squeezes in a crazy amount of tech for the price. And if you’re after true wireless earbuds that’ll suit both your morning run and office commute, Beats Powerbeats Pro are the way to go. 

Best true wireless earbuds: a woman uses the Sony WF-1000XM3 true wireless earbuds to listen to a video playing on her smartphone

(Image credit: Sony)

Best true wireless earbuds: are they worth it?

Let’s be clear about one thing: true wireless earbuds don’t offer the ultimate in Hi-Fi quality. No, we’re not being party poopers by saying that. And while we’re at it, they’re generally not the best option for noise cancellation either. So if those two criteria are super-important to you, you’ll be better off investing in higher fidelity music headphones or proper, high-performing noise-cancelling headphones

The major appeal of true wireless earbuds boils down to their sheer unbeatable versatility. An irresistible fusion of fidelity and function, the best true wireless earbuds still sound great, and when it comes to using them in a sports or gym scenario, there’s simply nothing better.

When you don’t want to carry full-size over-ear headphones around, true wireless earbuds are also the answer to your prayers – and the good news is they continue to get better in terms of audio quality, connectivity and battery life. 

Bluetooth is more stable (version 5.0 typically offers a rock steady connection), they pair quicker with your phone (or other device), and lasting comfort is now more than just an afterthought. Our pick of the best true wireless earbuds represents the ultimate in sound, fit, and, er, the least stupid-looking earbuds you can buy right now. Because hey, no-one wants to walk around looking like Shrek…

In a hurry and want to scan our recommendations for the best true wireless earbuds in the world right now? Here you go!

  • 1. Sony WF-1000XM3
  • 2. Apple AirPods Pro
  • 3. Cambridge Audio Melomania 1
  • 4. Beats Powerbeats Pro
  • 5. Amazon Echo Buds
  • 6. Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless
  • 7. RHA TrueConnect
  • 8. Bose SoundSport Free

Let’s take a look at these beautiful 'buds in more detail… 

The best true wireless earbuds to buy now

Best true wireless earbuds: Sony WF-1000XM3

(Image credit: Sony)

1. Sony WF-1000XM3 True Wireless Earbuds

The best true wireless earbuds on the planet right now

Price: £220 | Features: Bluetooth, Active Noise Cancelling, NFC | Battery life: 6 hours

Outstanding audio quality
Adept noise-cancelling
Decent battery life
Can be tiring to wear for long periods

When it comes to noise-cancellation tech, Sony has it mastered. Its WH-1000 series are legendary for it, and now much of that tech has found its way into these true wireless earbuds, courtesy of Sony’s own HD Noise Cancelling QN1e processor.

The Sony WF-1000XM3 sport similar on-body controls to their over-ear siblings, including a Quick Attention mode for when you need to listen in on something pronto. Battery life is also good at around six hours.

Importantly, they sound sensationally good for the teeny form factor, with powerful 6mm drivers offering pronounced clarity and slam. Trust us, your music will love these ’buds.

The WF1000-XM3 come in a smart-looking rechargeable travel case, which tops up battery life on the earbuds when they’re not in use, so you shouldn’t ever be caught short on power. In fact, the rechargeable case holds an additional 18 hours of power – surely that’s enough to get you through a Best of Rush playlist? 

Read our full Sony WF-1000XM3 review

Best true wireless earbuds: Cambridge Audio Melomania 1

(Image credit: Cambridge Audio)

2. Cambridge Audio Melomania 1

Stunning true wireless earbuds with a mega Hi-Fi heritage

Price: £150 | Features: Bluetooth, Google Assistant, Apple Siri | Battery life: 9 hours

Excellent battery life
Big value for money
Don't mind if you sweat all over 'em
No noise cancellation 

One of the UK’s best regarded Hi-Fi makers has now turned its hand to making true wireless earbuds, and has immediately staked a claim in the ‘best value’ camp. Available in both Black and Stone finishes, the bullet-shaped Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 earbuds run for the best part of nine hours when fully charged, which is impressive. 

The compact rechargeable carry case extends that playtime by another 36 hours or so, making these the best true wireless earbuds for those of you who need ’buds that just go and go. 

Each Bluetooth (v.5.0) earpiece boasts a 5.8mm driver, and there’s also support for Google Assistant and Apple Siri voice control. While the form factor isn’t exactly sports ready, Cambridge Audio’s Melomania 1 are dust- water- and sweat-resistant, thanks to an IPX5 rating. 

Best true wireless earbuds: Bose SoundSport Free

(Image credit: Bose)

3. Bose SoundSport Free

These Bose true wireless earbuds love a good gym session

Price: £180 | Features: Bluetooth, on-body control, Find My Buds feature | Battery life: 5 hours

Decent bass performance
They stay put once in
No noise cancelling

When it comes to practicality, the SoundSport Free are probably the Bose’s best true wireless earbuds that you can buy right now. As the moniker indicates, they’re designed for gym-bunnies, thanks to those little StayHear wing tips, and general commuters. Naturally, they are both water- and sweat-resistant.

There’s no noise-cancelling here, but you do get some sweet hands-on control. The right earpiece features buttons at the top for playback and volume control. Alternatively, you can use these earbuds with the Bose Connect app. There’s also a handy ‘Find My Buds’ mode, should you lose them around the house or in your bag.

Battery life is down on rival top-flight true wireless earbuds, at around five hours, but the accompanying rechargeable carry case will juice them for another ten hours. Colour choices comprise glossy Triple Black, Midnight Blue or brilliant Bright Orange.

Best true wireless earbuds: Apple AirPods Pro

(Image credit: Apple)

4. Apple AirPods Pro True Wireless Earbuds

The best true wireless earbuds for Apple devotees, natch

Price: £249 | Features: Bluetooth, Force Sensor control, noise-cancelling | Battery life: 5 hours

Quality noise-cancelling
A natural partner for the iPhone
Very easy to pair and use
Better options for Android users

Apple’s original AirPods may have changed the game when it comes to personal audio, but they were quickly outgunned by the competition. The Apple AirPods Pro, on the other hand, goes a long way to redressing the balance.

Everything gets an upgrade here, from sound quality to comfort, and you get a dose of high quality noise-cancellation tech too, courtesy of dual microphones on each earbud. Apple says the AirPods Pro dynamically analyses extraneous noise 200 times per second, which is pretty intense.  

A newly designed silicon tip makes them a good deal more comfortable than their cheaper stablemates too, making them a good choice for longer listening sessions. These true wireless earbuds are also sweat- and water-resistant.

Each Airpod stem has a sensor that can be used for playback control, Siri and calls, and when it comes to battery life, the AirPods Pro occupies the middle ground, with around five hours playtime and 19 more hours via the rechargeable carry case.

For many iOS users, AirPods will be the default choice. Our advice is to give the cheaper AirPods a miss and invest in these beauties instead. If you’re in the market for AirPods, check out our best Apple AirPods deals round-up, which tracks the juiciest offers online every day. Yeah we know, we look after you well.

Read the full Apple AirPods Pro review

Best true wireless earbuds: Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless

(Image credit: Sennheiser)

5. Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless

While these high-spec earbuds impress, the battery life is lacking

Price: £280 | Features: Bluetooth, Transparent Hearing, noise-cancelling | Battery life: 4 hours

Decent noise-cancelling
Transparent Hearing mode
Limited battery life
Can feel a tad uncomfy

Sennheiser’s debut True Wireless headphones are unashamedly aimed at the upper-end of market, but they’re something of a mixed bag. While impressive noise cancellers and decent performers, battery life is an obvious Achilles heel. Fully charged they struggle to offer more than four hours playtime. The charging case provides an additional 12 hours.

Control comes via the Sennheiser Smart Control app or via touch-sensitive rings on the exterior of the earbuds. The left ring doubles as a playback control, while the right handles volume duties. A single tap activates either Google Assistant or Siri, while a double tap triggers the Transparent Hearing mode, which lets in ambient sounds.

Comfort isn’t a strong point either. You’ll always know they’re in situ, and we doubt you'd be able to hack them on a long coach ride to the Milton Keynes stadium.

Best true wireless earbuds: RHA Connect

(Image credit: RHA)

6. RHA TrueConnect True Wireless Earbuds

AirPod-inspired mid-rangers to liven up daily commute

Price: £150 | Features: Bluetooth, PX5 rated | Battery life: 5 hours

In-ear comfort
Decent battery life
No noise cancellation
Less than intuitive user controls

These true wireless earbuds offer a wide range of touch control, including track playback and volume adjustment, as well as digital assistant interaction, but you might struggle to remember which swipe does what. 

Ear comfort is good, thanks to a choice of either foam or silicone earbuds. There’s no noise cancelling here, but a good fit brings its own peaceful reward. These smart-looking mid-rangers are also water- and sweat-resistant, and use low latency Bluetooth 5. 

Battery life is a respectable five hours, with the rechargeable aluminium carry case providing an extra 20 hours. RHA is so confident these earbuds are built to last, that its international warranty covers each pair of TrueConnect True Wireless Earbuds for defects for three years.

Best true wireless earbuds: Amazon Echo Buds

(Image credit: Amazon)

7. Amazon Echo Buds

Best true wireless earbuds with NC for a rock-bottom price

Price: £120 | Features: Bluetooth, Amazon Alexa integration | Battery life: 5 hours

Bose noise-cancelling prowess
Unbeatable value
Basic build and looks

Not content with changing the way we listen to music at home, Amazon wants a slice of the Bluetooth true wireless earbuds pie too: enter the Echo Buds. To be fair, its earcups look fairly basic, but there’s some surprisingly good tech inside. Chiefly, Amazon has partnered with Bose for the noise reduction technology, which is quite a coup. 

A Passthrough mode allows some ambient noise in, so you don’t miss anything important when out and about. There’s also EQ to tweak the audio performance. Optional rubber wings help keep the earbuds in place, but we’re not convinced they’re actually that effective.

Each earpiece sports a touch sensitive control pad, and functionality can be assigned from the Alexa Voice Control app. You can also adjust an equaliser if you want to tune the sound, tweak the level of Passthrough, mute the mics and personalise the touch-sensitive controls.

Battery life is decent, with five hours playtime, and the case holds enough juice for an additional 15 hours charge. The Echo Buds are also IPX4 rated, making them rain-resistant. Don’t be put off by the cheapo looks, as that Bose Active Noise Reduction tech makes these one of the best true wireless earbud offerings at a bargain price.

Best true wireless earbuds: Beats Powerbeats Pro

(Image credit: Beats by Dre)

8. Beats by Dre Beats Powerbeats Pro

When it comes to sports earbuds, you won’t find a better fit

Price: £220 | Features: Bluetooth, adjustable ear hooks | Battery life: 8-9 hours

Rock out while working out
Supremely comfy fit
Cracking battery life
Look larger than the others

These true wireless Beats may snub noise-cancelling, but they’re big on style, with looping, flexible ear hooks that keep them in place during hell-for-leather gym sessions. Available in Black, Moss, Navy and Ivory, the Beats Powerbeats Pro could well be our favourite true wireless earbuds for sports.

Sonically they’re a fun listen too, with a tuneful mid-range, as long as you don’t drive them too hard. Battery life is right up there, with playback running to the best part of eight hours, plus a further 16 via the rechargeable carry case.

The Beats symbol itself is the button you use to play and pause music, to skip forward and back a track, and to answer voice calls. A single tap pauses, a double tap jumps forward, a triple jumps back. Hold the third tap and you’ll FF/RWD.

Bluetooth 5.0 ensures stable wireless connectivity, and they’re also IPX4 rated, which means they won’t be phased by sweat or light rain.

Read our full Beats Powerbeats Pro review

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