Best wireless earbuds you can buy this Black Friday

(Pocket-lint) - Truly wireless earphones have become much more popular over the past few years - and for good reason. While completely wire-free earphones existed before the Apple AirPods[1] first launched in 2017, there's no denying the major impact they've had, bringing momentum to the big breakthrough in wireless audio tech. Since then, countless other companies - including the best audio brands around - have entered the market. It's only right, then, that we've tested out all the big-name options in order to let you know which are the best wire-free earphones available to buy right now.

If you've previously been wary of going wire-free, this list may change your mind. If not, you can always check out our guide to the top wired earbuds[2], instead. 


Which are the best wireless earbuds? Currently, our favourite pick to recommend is the Sony WF-1000XM4[3].

However, we also suggest looking at the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds[4], Beats Powerbeats Pro[5], Klipsch T5 II ANC[6] and Apple AirPods Pro[7].


Our Top Pick: Wireless Earbuds

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Sony WF-1000XM4

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For

  • Amazing sound
  • Superb ANC
  • Great case

Against

  • Expensive
  • Slightly divisive looks

Sony's first pair of noise-cancelling wire-frees were received with a somewhat mixed response, but the newest generation is super. Where these are set apart from their rivals is in ANC.  Add the over-ear quality ANC to a device with great sound, long battery life and a comfortable fit, and what you have is a winning combination.

The look and design of the earbuds might divide opinion, but then that's true of pretty much any true wireless earphones.

Wireless earbuds we also recommend

Wireless earbuds are a very personal bit of tech, which is why our top overall recommendation won't be the right pick for every type of listener. Here are four other exemplary true wireless earbuds that you could consider.

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Bose QuietComfort Earbuds

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For

  • Great ANC
  • Excellent sound

Against

  • Middling controls
  • Quite chunky 'buds

Bose makes its debut on this list with an absolutely superb pair of earbuds that blew us away on review. They pack in superb noise cancelling, as well as brilliant comfort in the wearing, just as the name suggests. 

Music sounds simply brilliant through the Earbuds, and while the controls aren't quite so intuitive or helpful as some others, they're still right up there with the best sets available. 

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Beats Powerbeats Pro

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For

  • Great for workouts
  • Really secure fit
  • Great sound

Against

  • Less amazing for Android

When you combine comfortable design with great sound, long battery life and Apple H1 convenience you get an all-around fantastic pair of earphones. And that's exactly what the Powerbeats Pro is.  The more gentle curves and angles in the sculpted plastic casing make a pair of earphones that's super light and supremely comfortable to wear for long periods.

It also happens to have the battery life to match, with up to 9 hours of playback outside of the case.  That's not all either, with it being Apple-owned, Beats gets access to Apple technology, and that means you get the same H1 chip that lives inside the second and third-generation AirPods. That means simple pairing with iOS devices, and instant pairing with any device using the same iCloud account. 

Then there's sound, which really is quite impressive given the Powerbeats price point. Lots of bass, but plenty of detail in the highs and mids. The only downside is a lack of decent noise cancelling.

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Klipsch T5 II ANC

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For

  • Great looks
  • Impeccable sound
  • Solid ANC

Against

  • A price hike on the standard version

We really, really liked Klipsch's standard T5 II earbuds, but the newest version adds ANC for a blockbuster of a package, even if that also pushes the price up a fair bit.

You get a superb sound that's balanced and delicate but can also push things into brilliant, and loud territory depending on your genre. It's got true range, and a great wirelessly charging case that's satisfying to open and shut. Build quality is excellent, and connectivity is rock solid to make for a really impressive effect overall.

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AirPods Pro

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For

  • Great ANC
  • Superb iOS integration
  • Excellent sound

Against

  • Less good on Android

Apple's most premium earbuds are some of the very best out there, particularly if you use iOS.

They've got world-class active noise cancelling for that all-important isolation, and the sound quality is seriously impressive. Couple that with a really comfortable design and you've got earbuds that are a joy to wear. Instant pairing with Apple devices and easy swapping between them is a cut above other earbuds if you're invested in the ecosystem, and the overall experience is one of sheer convenience alongside premium touches.

Other products we considered

We appreciate that the wireless earbuds listed above may not be to everyone's taste and budget, but we also only want to provide insight and recommend the very top options to consider. 

In order to provide some context to our decision making and testing, as well as give you more suggestions to explore, below are the devices that haven't quite made it into our top picks.

How to choose some true wireless earbuds

Scroll back five years or so and wireless earbuds were a fresh new look for the market, but now there are almost countless options to choose from. Here are some key questions that could help you narrow your options down.

What sort of design do you like?

While Apple's AirPods initially dominated the look and feel of almost all earbuds, there's now a real sense of diversity in the market, with earbuds coming in all shapes and sizes. You would be well advised to figure out what sort of look you prefer - whether it's buds with stems, those without, in-ear options or ones that don't have buds at all.

This will help you to narrow down your options drastically, and highlight a few that fit into your favoured style.

Do you want to work out with them?

While most top-end earbuds are now expected to launch with sweat resistance at minimum, some still don't manage to. You should definitely think about whether you plan to do any exercise in your earbuds, or if you're at risk of needing to use them in the rain. After all, nothing could be more annoying than your earbuds dying because they can't withstand the elements.

Of course, if you're only going to use them at home or in public transport, you should be fine regardless.

How key is active noise cancelling?

Active noise cancellation (ANC) is a brilliant bit of technology that filters out background noise around you using microphones onboard the earbuds to determine what to cancel out. When it works well, it's a game-changer that can make it was easier to concentrate on your audio on, for example, trains or planes. That said, it's also a feature that generally tends to push up the price of the device it's in (although this is becoming less of an issue over time).

So, while we think it's a brilliant addition, you could save a chunk of cash by disregarding it.

What's your budget?

Speaking of cash, it's another huge variable in your search for the right earbuds. There are now earbuds out there at practically every price you could think to name, although we still think around GBP100/£100 is a safe place to start to have more confidence in what you're buying. If you're happy spending GBP300/£300, you'll be able to pick up a really superb piece of tech, but if your budget is different the most important thing is to make sure you know what it is!

More about this story

Every product in this list has been tested in real-life situations, just as you would use it in your day-to-day life.

We've been using wireless earbuds since they were just prototypes, and have been judging them against each other ever since they first properly hit the market. That means comparing their sound performance right down to the finest details. Also important for us is connectivity and integration with smartphone software, as well as the design touches that make some earbuds just stand out from the crowd.

Increasingly, waterproofing and ANC are becoming expectations for high-end 'buds, while battery life and price are also key variables. In all of our buyer's guides, we tend to skip over the spec comparisons and marketing spiel; we just want to provide an easy to understand review that gives you an idea of what it's going to be like to use. Our verdicts are concise, but this is in the interest of brevity - rest assured all the things on this list have been fully tested.

In all our guides, there are also plenty of models we consider that don't make the cut. Writing by Cam Bunton. Editing by Conor Allison.

Originally published on 1 April 2019.

References

  1. ^ Apple AirPods (www.pocket-lint.com)
  2. ^ top wired earbuds (www.pocket-lint.com)
  3. ^ Sony WF-1000XM4 (little.getsquirrel.co)
  4. ^ Bose QuietComfort Earbuds (little.getsquirrel.co)
  5. ^ Beats Powerbeats Pro (little.getsquirrel.co)
  6. ^ Klipsch T5 II ANC (little.getsquirrel.co)
  7. ^ Apple AirPods Pro (little.getsquirrel.co)