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Best Wireless Earbuds for 2022: Our Top Picks for Every Budget, Ranked

[cnet.com]2 weeks ago

While the majority of the wireless earbuds on this list came out last year and continue to be top options, several new excellent wireless earbuds have arrived in 2022, including the true-wireless noise-canceling Sony LinkBuds S, Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3 and JBL's Live Pro 2 and Live Free 2 along with compelling new budget wireless earbuds picks like the Earfun Air Pro SV, which also feature noise-canceling for less than $60. We also just added the great-sounding Beyerdynamic Free Byrd wireless buds to the list. 

Apple's next-gen AirPods Pro -- perhaps called the AirPods Pro 2 -- may be released later this year. But the AirPods now have plenty of competition, including from Apple's own Beats brand, and there are a plethora of great non-Apple wireless earbuds, many geared toward both Apple and Android users.

Most wireless earbuds are equipped with ear tips, while others, such as Apple's AirPods 3 and Sony's new LinkBuds, have an open design without tips (these are best for those who don't like to have ear tips jammed in their ears but they do allow some sound in from the outside world). Yes, top models can be pricey, but you can get surprisingly good wireless earbuds for less than $100 -- or even less. We regularly update this list as new top true-wireless earbuds hit the market.

David Carnoy/CNET

No earbuds are perfect, of course, and not everybody will love the fit of the Sony WF-1000XM4 buds or be able to afford their high price. But if you're looking for great-sounding earbuds with active noise cancellation, solid voice-calling capabilities and good battery life, these buds check all the boxes.

Water-resistant: Yes (IPX4 rating -- splash-proof).

Read our Sony WF-1000XM4 review.

David Carnoy/CNET

The Earfun Air Pro SV have a few things going for them. First, they sound shockingly good for a set of earbuds in this price range. They feature big, open sound with well-defined bass and good clarity. They're also lightweight and comfortable to wear, their noise-canceling is effective and they have a fairly natural-sounding transparency mode that allows ambient sound in if you want to hear the outside world around you for safety reasons.

Earfun is highlighting how you can see the buds' squared-off stems through the case -- there's a little window -- but aside from the stems, the buds themselves have a similar shape and design to the AirPods Pro. While the case offers wireless charging, the buds are missing a sensor that pauses your music when you take them out of your ears (you can use a single bud if you want) and resumes playback when you put them back in. They're IPX5 splash-proof, and battery life is rated at 6 hours with noise-canceling turned on. There's also a low-latency gaming mode and touch controls that work reasonably well, and you can upgrade the buds' firmware and tweak sound settings in a companion app for iOS and Android.

Earfun talks about them having "six professional mics for a stunning call experience" -- and they work decently enough for calls -- but I was slightly disappointed with the noise reduction while using them in the streets of New York City. Aside from that small gripe, they're a very good value, particularly now that Earfun is offering them for $54 when you input the code SUMMER40 (40% off) at checkout on its site.

Water-resistant: Yes (IPX5 rating -- splash-proof).

Read our Earfun Air Pro SV first take.

David Carnoy/CNET

Hot on the heels of the third-generation AirPods, Apple has another new set of earbuds, this time from its subsidiary audio company, Beats. Technically, the new Beats Fit Pro ($200) aren't AirPods, but they're built on the same tech platform as the AirPods Pro. Unlike Beats' earlier and less expensive Studio Buds, the Beats Fit Pro include Apple's H1 chip and have most of the AirPods Pro's features, including active noise canceling, spatial audio and Adaptive EQ. I'd venture to call them the sports AirPods you've always wanted. And for some people, they might just be better than the AirPods Pro. 

Water-resistant: Yes (IPX4 rating -- splash-proof).

Read our Beats Fit Pro review.

David Carnoy/CNET

The Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3 earbuds have excellent sound, improved noise canceling and voice-calling performance as well a smaller, more refined design with stabilizing fins (so the earbuds stay in your ears more securely). They're among the best new true-wireless earbuds for 2022. They're also one of the best true-wireless earbuds overall, giving the Sony WF-1000XM4 a run for the money.

Water-resistant: Yes (IPX4 rating -- splash-proof).

Read our Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3 review.

David Carnoy/CNET

Unlike the "open" LinkBuds, the LinkBuds S are traditional noise-isolating earbuds with tips you jam in your ears. They're more compact and lighter than Sony's flagship WF-1000M4 and also feature Sony's V1 processor. While their sound and noise canceling don't quite measure up to the WF-1000XM4's, they're close and cost less. They're the Sony buds for people who can deal with larger buds like WF-1000XM4 but want 80 to 85% of those buds' features and performance for $80 less.

Water-resistant: Yes (IPX4 rating -- splash-proof).

Read our Sony LinkBuds S review.

David Carnoy/CNET

Over the years, JBL has put out some decent true-wireless earbuds, but nothing that really got me too excited. That's finally changed with the arrival of the Samsung-owned brand's new Live Pro 2 and Live Free 2 buds. Both sets of buds -- the Live Pro 2 have stems while the Live Free 2 have a pill-shaped design -- offer a comfortable fit along with strong noise canceling, very good sound quality and voice-calling performance, plus a robust set of features, including multipoint Bluetooth pairing, an IPX5 splash-proof rating and wireless charging.

The Live Pro 2 and Live Free 2 are equipped with the same 11mm drivers, six microphones, oval tubes and oval silicon tips. Aside from the design, the biggest difference between the two buds is battery life; the stemless Live Free 2 is rated for up to seven hours, while the Live Pro 2 is rated for 10 hours. The Live Pro 2 is available in four color options.

Water-resistant: Yes (IPX5 rating -- splash-proof).

Read our JBL Live Pro 2 first take.

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Beyerdynamic may be late to the game, but it's finally introduced its first true-wireless earbuds, which feature active noise canceling, up to 11 hours of battery life (with noise canceling off) and impressive sound quality.

Beyerdynamic is known for its over-ear wired studio headphones, including the newish DT 700 Pro X ($259). The Free Byrd earbuds, which support the AAC and AptX Adaptive audio codecs, exhibit many of that model's sonic traits, including clean, accurate sound and an airy open quality (wide soundstage).

If you can get the proper fit and a tight seal, these are excellent-sounding earbuds that are right at the top of their price class in terms of sound quality. The Free Byrd buds are closer to the middle of the road in other areas, particularly their noise-canceling performance. But Beyerdynamic has said it made sound quality its highest priority and that definitely shows. Read our Beyerdynamic Free Byrd review.

David Carnoy/CNET

Bang & Olufsen's Beoplay EX buds are the company's best true-wireless earbuds yet. They feature a comfortable, secure fit (except perhaps for those with really smaller ears), top-notch build quality, great sound, good noise canceling and improved voice-calling performance over B&O's EQ buds, with three microphones in each earbud they help with reducing background noise while picking up your voice. While they're out of most people's price range, they're arguably the best earbuds out there with stems and offer superior sound to the AirPods Pro with better clarity, deeper more powerful bass and richer, more accurate sound. 

Battery life is rated at 6 hours at moderate volume levels with noise canceling on and there's an extra 14 hours of juice in the brushed aluminum charging case (wireless charging is supported). The buds have an IP57 water-resistance rating, which makes them waterproof and dust-resistant. They feature Bluetooth 5.2 and multipoint Bluetooth pairing so you can connect to two devices at the same time, such as a computer and smartphone. You can use a single bud independently and the earbuds have ear-detection sensors so your music pauses when you remove them from your ears. 

The buds support AptX Adaptive for devices like Android smartphones that support Bluetooth streaming with the AptX HD audio codec (AAC is also supported). They're available in the gold tone pictured as well as a graphite color.

Water-resistant: Yes (IP57 rating -- dust-resistant and fully waterproof.)

Sarah Tew/CNET

While they've been out a while and the AirPods Pro 2 should be coming sometime in 2022, the Apple AirPods Pro remain a great pair of true wireless earphones. That's largely due to their winning design and fit, good sound, effective noise canceling and spatial audio, a virtual-sound mode for watching movies and TV shows (only works with iPhones and iPads running iOS 14 or higher and the 2021 Apple TV 4K). They're also excellent for making voice calls and have a top-notch transparency mode.

Yes, they're expensive at $250 from the Apple Store, but they tend to sell for $200 or less. The updated version adds MagSafe compatibility, so these stick to magnetic wireless chargers.

Water-resistant: Yes (IPX4 rating -- splash-proof).

Earfun

The Earfun Air Pro 2 not only features solid active noise cancellation but their sound is also impressive for their relatively modest price, with overall well-balanced sound, decent clarity and solid bass performance. Some of Earfun's buds have had a bit too much treble push -- sometimes referred to as "presence boost" -- but these mostly manage to avoid that. They do sound better than the original Air Pro.

The earbuds have some extra features, like an ear-detection sensor (your music pauses when you take the buds out of your ears) and a case that has USB-C and wireless charging, that you don't often find at this price. Equipped with Bluetooth 5.2, they're splash-proof with an IPX5 rating and offer up to seven hours of battery life on a single charge at moderate volume levels, though you'll probably get closer to six hours with noise canceling on.

There's also a transparency mode that lets ambient sound in. It actually sounds pretty natural and is closer than I thought it would to the AirPods Pro's excellent transparency mode. Alas, there's no companion app that allows you to tweak the sound or upgrade the firmware.

Earfun talks up the Air Pro 2's voice calling capabilities -- the buds have three microphones in each earbud -- and I thought call performance was good but these didn't reduce background noise as much the new Soundpeats T3, which are also good for the money ($40). However, while the Soundpeats T3 are better for calls, the Earfun Air Pro 2's noise-canceling and transparency modes are superior and the Soundpeats don't have the ear-detection sensor. Also, the Earfun Air Pro 2 buds sound better, with richer, more dynamic sound.

Water-resistant: Yes (IPX5 rating -- withstands sustained spray).

David Carnoy/CNET

Like the Live Pro 2, JBL's new Live Free 2 buds are surprisingly good. With 11mm drivers, six microphones, oval tubes and oval silicon tips, they combine a comfortable fit along with strong noise canceling, very good sound quality and voice-calling performance. Features include multipoint Bluetooth pairing and wireless charging, and they're rated for up to seven hours.

The Live Free 2s fit securely in my ears and are smaller and superior to Samsung's Galaxy Buds Pro, particularly in terms of comfort. The buds are available in three color options. 

Water-resistant: Yes (IPX5 rating -- splash-proof).

Read our JBL Live Free 2 first take.

Jabra

Coming in at 16% smaller than the Elite 75t, the Elite 7 Pros are Jabra's top-of-the-line earbuds in its new range and include the company's new MultiSensor Voice technology with a bone-conduction sensor, four microphones and intelligent algorithms to deliver new "ground-breaking call quality," Jabra says. The voice calling performance doesn't quite live up to the hype, but Jabra has updated the buds' firmware, adding multipoint Bluetooth pairing and slightly improving sound quality, noise canceling and headset performance. It took a while but they're now excellent all-around buds.

These have adjustable active noise cancellation, Jabra's HearThrough transparency mode and Bluetooth 5.2. They offer up to nine hours' play time at moderate volume levels with noise canceling on, and nearly three additional charges in the charging case -- total battery life is rated at 35 hours. The charging case has wireless charging capabilities.

The earbuds' IP57 rating means they can be submerged in up to 1 meter of water. For those who like to use only a single bud, you can also use either bud independently in a mono mode.

Water-resistant: Yes (IP57 rating -- dust-resistant and fully waterproof).

Drew Evans/CNET

Available in four color options, the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 hew more closely to the newer Galaxy Buds Pro and Galaxy Buds Live, both of which have eye-catching glossy curved designs and the same compact charging case as this new model. In fact, it's the Buds 2's design and fit -- they're 15% smaller and 20% lighter than the Buds Plus -- that make them a potentially more likable alternative to the slightly better-sounding Buds Pro.

Like the Buds Pro, the Buds 2 are equipped with active noise canceling. That means all the latest Galaxy Buds models now feature some form of active noise canceling, though it's slight with the Buds Live, which have an open design sans ear tips. While the Buds 2 look more like shrunken versions of the Buds Pro, I found them more akin to the Buds Live in that they barely stick out of your ears and are fairly discreet. Because they sit more flush with your ears -- and have that curved design -- they also pick up less wind noise. 

Water-resistant: Yes (IPX2 rating -- sweat-resistant).

Read our Galaxy Buds 2 review.

David Carnoy/CNET

Take one look at the new design of the third-gen AirPods ($179), and the first thing you'll probably think is: "Those look like the AirPods Pro without ear tips." You wouldn't be wrong. While they're more fraternal than identical twins, the AirPods 3 are shaped like the AirPods Pro, with the same shorter stems and same pinch controls as those of the Pro. Aside from the design change, which should fit most ears better than the AirPods 2nd Generation (though not very small ears), the biggest change is to the sound quality: It's much improved. Also, battery life is better, and the AirPods 3 are officially water-resistant.

Water-resistant: Yes (IPX4 rating -- splash-proof).

Read our AirPods 3rd Generation review.

David Carnoy/CNET

The LinkBuds are, in a sense, Sony's answer to Apple's standard AirPods. While they don't sound as good as Sony's flagship WF-1000XM4 noise-isolating earbuds, they offer a discreet, innovative design and a more secure fit than the AirPods, as well as good sound and very good voice-calling performance.

Like the third-gen AirPods, their open design allows you to hear the outside world -- that's what the ring is all about. That makes them a good choice for folks who want to hear what's going around them for safety reasons or just don't like having ear tips jammed in their ears. They also have a few distinguishing extra features, including Speak to Chat and Wide Area Tap. Instead of tapping on a bud, you can tap on your face, just in front of your ear, to control playback.

They're IPX4 splash-proof and thanks to their fins -- Sony calls them Arc Supporters -- they lock in your ears securely and work well for running and other sporting activities.

Water-resistant: Yes (IPX4 rating -- splash-proof).

Read our Sony LinkBuds review.

David Carnoy/CNET

In many ways, Bose's QuietComfort Earbuds are excellent true wireless earbuds, particularly when it comes to their great sound and noise canceling, which is some of the best out there right now in a set of earbuds. Performance-wise, they clearly have a leg up on Apple's best-selling AirPods Pro. However, the AirPods Pro's smaller design, somewhat more comfortable fit and superior voice-calling capabilities make it hard to declare the Bose the straight-up champ. Ultimately, it depends on what your priorities are.

Water-resistant: Yes (IPX4 rating -- splash-proof).

Read our Bose QuietComfort Earbuds review.

David Carnoy/CNET

Bang & Olufsen's earlier Beoplay E8 earbuds were good but underwhelming for their high price. The new Beoplay EQ are also rather expensive, but at least they're among the very best true wireless earbuds available right now, with top-notch sound and adaptive noise canceling, along with a natural-sounding transparency mode. They have three microphones on each bud and are decent for voice calling though not exceptionally good. 

Needless to say, the premium design elements are here -- the aluminum-shelled case opens and closes with precise smoothness, and the buds themselves have their own aluminum accent on the outer surface where the touch controls live.

The buds are fairly large and do stick out of your ears like premium buds from Sony and Sennheiser. They fit me comfortably and securely and are suitable for sporting activities, with an IP54 splash-proof rating. Battery life is rated at around 6.5 hours at moderate volume levels, and you get an extra two charges from the case, which has USB-C and wireless charging.

The sound is big and dynamic with deep, well-defined bass and a wide soundstage. The mids sound natural, and the treble has nice sparkle to it. They're a pleasure to listen to and among the best-sounding true wireless earbuds. I didn't experience any listening fatigue over longer listening sessions. AptX is available for devices that support the AptX audio codec; these have AptX Adaptive and use Bluetooth 5.2. 

Are they better than the Sony WF-1000XM4, which cost $120 less? The answer to that will depend partially on just how well they fit your ears and just how good a seal you get from the included ear tips. I personally ended up getting the best fit using Sennheiser's large tips, which work best for my ears. They're a great set of earbuds if you can afford them. Just buy them from a retailer that has a good return policy in case you're not completely satisfied.

Water-resistant: Yes (IP54 rating -- splash-proof). 

David Carnoy/CNET

After a few years of development, Bowers & Wilkins released a couple of sets of true wireless earbuds in 2021: the PI7 ($399) and PI5 ($249). Both are excellent and feature active noise canceling along with a transparency mode. The flagship PI7 has a different driver design and sounds slightly more detailed and refined with a little more bass energy. They both sound excellent, but if you're looking for the absolute best sounding set of earbuds, the PI7 are arguably just that, besting the Sony WF-1000XM4 by a small margin. (They also sound a tad better than the excellent Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3 and Master & Dynamic MW08.)

While the PI7's noise canceling is quite decent, the Sony's noise canceling is superior. I also thought the Sony did better with voice calling (it has better noise reduction so people can hear you better in a noisier environments) and it has better battery life.

The PI7's case does transform into a Bluetooth transceiver, so you can plug it into your laptop for AptX streaming or an in-flight entertainment system. That's a nice bonus feature (the PI5 doesn't have it), but the Sony is the overall better value. However, if sound quality is your priority, the PI7 is worth considering if you can afford them. Hopefully they come down in price over time.

The PI5 buds also sound excellent and are a touch lighter than the PI7. At $250, the PI5 competes directly with the $280 Sony 1000XM4. As with all in-ear headphones, you have to try them to see how they fit your ears. Bowers & Wilkins' buds may fit your ears better than Sony's and vice versa. 

Water-resistant: Yes (IP54 rating -- splash-proof).

Read our Bowers & Wilkins PI7 first take.

David Carnoy/CNET

The Beats Studio Buds look a lot like the rumored stemless AirPods some people have been waiting for. Geared toward both iOS and Android users, they are missing a few key features on the Apple side of things (there's no H1 or W1 chip), but they're small, lightweight buds that are comfortable to wear and offer really good sound. While their noise canceling isn't as good as the AirPods Pro's they do have a transparency mode and they're decent for making calls.

Ultimately, their fit and sound quality are their strongest selling points -- and they are about $50 cheaper than the AirPods Pro and step-up Beats Fit Pro, which do have the H1 chip and support Apple's spatial audio virtual surround feature (for Apple user only).

Water-resistant: Yes (IPX4 rating -- splash-proof).

Read our Beats Studio Buds review.

David Carnoy/CNET

Anker makes several earbuds that cost less than $100. But its Soundcore Liberty Pro is its "high-end" model that features premium sound, as well as support for Sony's LDAC audio codec with compatible devices (mostly Android phones).

Available in four color options, the third-gen Liberty 3 Pro have updated dual drivers and are about 30% smaller than their predecessor. They fit my ears significantly better than the Liberty 2 Pro buds, which I didn't love as much as some people. This new version is improved and a good value compared to other so-called premium buds. 

The Liberty 3 Pros deliver a solid noise-canceling experience (they also have three different transparency modes) and feature Anker's HearID ANC that "analyzes your ears and level of in-ear pressure to create a tailored profile that optimizes noise reduction and reduces external sound to suit your ears."

The earbuds also perform well -- though not exceptionally -- as a headset for making calls. They're IPX4 splash-proof and deliver up to 6 hours of battery life with noise canceling on and up to 8 hours with it off. The case charges wirelessly, and I liked how the tips of the buds are illuminated by a pair of LEDs on the inside of the case when the buds are charging.

Unlike with the Liberty Air 2 Pro, I had no problem getting a tight seal with the included ear tips, and I found the sound to be on par with other premium earbuds that cost more. They have big, open sound with lots of energy in the bass and good detail. While they have a list price of $170, they're sporadically on sale for $20 less. If you're not quite willing to step up to the Sony WF-1000XM4 or other high-end models, the Liberty 3 Pros are worth considering.

Water-resistant: Yes (IPX4 rating -- splash-proof).

David Carnoy/CNET

In 2020, Sennheiser released the CX 400BT True Wireless, a more affordable alternative to its excellent Momentum True Wireless 2 earbuds. I liked the CX400BT but thought the $200 list price was high and felt there was some room for discounts based on their build quality. Sure enough, their price quickly dropped to $150, then sporadically hit $100 on Amazon, and bottomed out at $80 for Prime Day 2021. Now we get the new Sennheiser CX, which have essentially the same design as their predecessors but offer some small improvements, along with a lower $130 price tag. They sound very good for their price, but do stick out of your ears a little more than some buds. 

The buds are equipped with Bluetooth 5.2 and presumably an upgraded chipset. Battery life is up to nine hours at moderate volume levels (the slightly bulky charging case stores an additional three charges) versus seven hours for the previous model. The CX also adds an extra microphone on each bud, which does improve the voice-calling experience and makes it easier for callers to hear you speak, even in noisy environments. To be clear, however, these are not active noise-canceling earbuds, they simply offer noise reduction for calls. 

Water-resistant: Yes (IPX4 rating -- splash-proof).

Read our Sennheiser CX first take.

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Master & Dynamic's earlier MW07 and MW07 Plus delivered top-notch sound for truly wireless, but they were a little lacking in the features department and weren't so great for making calls. The 2021 MW08 offers some significant improvements, including the addition of solid noise canceling and call quality, that make it one of the top models on this list. Alas, they're expensive at $299.

Battery life has improved a bit (up to around 12 hours of battery life at 50% volume versus 10 hours for the MW07 Plus), and the earbuds are equipped with Bluetooth 5.2, active noise cancellation with three microphones on each earbud (noise reduction during calls isn't up to the level of the AirPods Pro, but overall call quality has improved). The noise-canceling on the MW07 Plus was pretty weak; the MW08's is much more effective.

You can opt for two levels of noise cancellation in the new M&D Connect app for iOS and Android, as well as two levels of transparency that let you hear the outside world to varying degrees. The app currently has no way to tweak the sound profile (I'm OK with that because the sound profile is just fine for my tastes). Each earbud has a physical button to control playback, not touch controls.

These buds may not fit everyone's ear equally well, but they certainly have a distinct look, as well as excellent sound and a great listening experience if you can get a tight seal (I was able to get a secure fit with the largest tip). They deliver more of an audiophile sound profile, with smooth, well-balanced sound and well-defined bass. This model has new 11mm drivers, which add a bit of punch to the bass and a touch better clarity. The MW08 works well with all genres of music.

Available in a variety of color options for $300, like their predecessors, the MW08 includes a swanky stainless-steel charging case (it charges via USB-C) that's compact but carries more weight than your typical buds case. I prefer the matte finishes of the cases that come with the black and blue versions, and you also get a secondary pouch for safekeeping (yes, the charging case can get scratched up if you leave it in a bag).

These truly wireless earbuds now support both the AptX and AAC audio codecs and have an extended range of more than 20 meters, according to Master & Dynamic.

Water-resistant: Yes (IPX5 rating -- withstands sustained spray).

Say what you will about the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live's bean-shaped design, but it's certainly innovative. Like the standard AirPods, these are open earbuds -- you don't jam an ear tip into your ear -- and they're quite comfortable to wear and fit my ears more securely than the AirPods. That said, they won't fit everybody's ears equally well. These wireless buds are discreet and basically sit flush with your ear without a little white pipe extending out from them.

They deliver good sound and work well as a headset for making calls, with good background noise reduction so callers can hear you clearly even when you're in noisier environments. While they feature active noise canceling, it's very mild compared to the noise canceling in earbuds that have a noise isolation design. In other words, buy them for their design and sound, not their noise-canceling features.

Water-resistant: Yes (IPX2 rating -- sweat-resistant and protects against light splashes).

Read our Samsung Galaxy Buds Live review.

David Carnoy/CNET

I was a fan of Earfun's earlier Free Pro earbuds, which offer good sound and have little sport fins that help keep them in your ears securely. Now Earfun has released the Earfun Pro 2 buds with aluminum alloy caps, improved noise canceling and a couple of extra microphones that help boost voice-calling performance.

The Free Pro 2 deliver good sound for their modest price, with decent clarity and deep but well-defined bass. They produce relatively big, open sound. They don't have such extra features as an ear-detection sensor so your music automatically pauses when you take one or both buds out of your ears or an app that allows you to update their firmware. But they're lightweight, should fit most ears well and have decent noise canceling along with a transparency mode (it's not as good as the AirPods Pro's transparency mode, which is hard to beat).

I found the voice-calling performance good but not great. They did an acceptable job reducing background noise and picking up my voice in noisy environments but they aren't necessarily top-notch in this department. Battery life is rated at up to six hours, they're IPX5 splash-proof, and their elongated case (it charges wirelessly) is compact and lightweight. It's better designed than the Free Pro's case. 

Water-resistant: Yes (IPX5 rating -- can withstand heavy sprays of water)

David Carnoy/CNET

Google's Pixel Buds A-Series are kind of unusual, in that they're new but not exactly an upgrade. They look and sound very similar to last year's Pixel Buds 2, which debuted at $179 but are now selling for less. However, instead of adding new features -- like active noise canceling -- they've actually lost a few. Why? They only cost $100: The "A" stands for affordability. That new lower price is the real story here and what makes these a bonafide true-wireless value, particularly for Android users.

Water-resistant: Yes (IPX4 rating -- splash-proof).

Read our Google Pixel Buds A-Series review.

David Carnoy/CNET

The Jaybird Vista 2 sports buds feature a similar design to the original Vista buds but have a couple of key upgrades: active noise canceling and a transparency mode called SurroundSense, which allows you to hear the outside world, an important safety feature for runners and bikers (as well as skiers). 

The updated earbuds essentially have the same design as the originals. However, Jaybird has added some sound-dampening fabric to the outside of the buds, which is supposed to help cut down on wind noise (it helps a little but don't expect it to have a huge impact). There's also an ear-detection sensor, so your music automatically pauses when you take the buds out of your ears.

The Vista 2 buds have an IP68 water-resistance rating, which means they're both dust-proof and fully waterproof. Jaybird says they're also sweat-, crush- and drop-proof. And the compact case is now splash-proof and dust-resistant, with an IP54 rating.

They sound quite good once you tweak the EQ settings to your liking, but their sound quality isn't quite up to the level of some other premium earbuds. Their noise-canceling, transparency mode and voice-calling are decent though unspectacular (the Beats Fit Pro perform better in all departments). But if you're buying these, you're buying them for the secure fit and durability.

The original Vista buds are still available and sometimes get discounted to $99.

Water-resistant: Yes (IP68 rating -- fully waterproof).

Wireless vs. true wireless: Are they different?

Before earbuds like the AirPods came along, wireless earbuds had a cord between the buds. They were wireless because they offered wireless Bluetooth streaming and didn't have a headphone cable that plugged into your device. Some companies still make those types of wireless earbuds -- the Beats Flex is one example -- and some people like having a cord that allows the buds to dangle from your neck when not in use.

True wireless earbuds have no cord between them. They are entirely cord-free and link wirelessly to create a stereo pair. They are sometimes referred to by their acronym TWS (true-wireless stereo). 

Are wireless earbuds really worth it?

In recent months there has been a bunch of articles about how Gen Z is making the "humble" wired headphone cool again, particularly Apple EarPods (you know, the headphones that used to be included in the box when bought an iPhone but no longer are). That's fine -- and we have nothing against wired headphones -- but a cord can be a nuisance. When you're working out or running, going totally wireless feels liberating. Also, most new phones these days don't have a headphone jack so you need to go wireless unless you get a Lightning or USB-C headphone or use an adapter for a standard headphone with a 3.5mm plug.

You can get wireless headphones with a cord between the buds. Neckband-style earbuds are still a thing and some people like that style because you can let the cord dangle around your neck when you don't have the buds in your ears. However, true wireless earbuds ultimately offer more freedom and are stored in a compact charging case that's convenient to carry. And both the sound quality and reliability of their wireless connection have improved considerably over the last couple of years. 

As far as prices go, while you can certainly find plenty of premium wireless earbuds, there are also lots of decent affordable models, some of which cost less than $50.

Do all noise-canceling earbuds have ear tips?

For the most part, only noise-isolating buds that include different size silicone or foam ear tips offer active noise-canceling to help muffle the world around you. Open earbuds allow sound to leak into your ears from the outside, and some people -- those who don't like to have ear tips jammed into their ears -- find open buds more comfortable to wear.

How do I keep true-wireless earbuds from falling out of my ears?

With wireless earbuds, it's important that you get the right fit so they not only stay in your ears but so they sound and perform at their best (a tight seal is crucial for optimal sound and noise canceling if the earbuds have active noise canceling). If the buds come with silicone ear tips, you should use the bud that's a little bigger rather than too small for your ear. Also, in some cases, like with the AirPods Pro, you can buy third-party foam ear tips that grip the inside of your ear better and keep your buds from falling out. Note that sometimes people have one ear shaped differently than the other, so you might use a medium tip in one ear and a large tip in the other. 

AirPods have never fit all ears equally well, and a lot of people complain that they won't stay securely in their ears. You can buy third-party wingtips -- sometimes called sport fins -- that lock the buds in your ears. But you have to take them off every time you use your buds because they won't fit in the case. 

If you have trouble keeping earbuds in your ears, your best bet is to look for a model that includes wingtips. 

What is considered good battery life for true-wireless earbuds?

A battery life rating of 5 hours is considered adequate but many of the latest buds offer 6 hours or more of battery life with noise canceling on. Battery life increases if you don't use noise canceling. Some earbuds now deliver over 10 hours of battery life with noise canceling off.

How do I clean my wireless earbuds?

We have an article on how to clean your AirPods that also applies to other earbuds. But if you don't want to read that, the condensed version is this:

Wipe down both the buds themselves and ear tips with a slightly dampened soft, dry, lint-free cloth (like the kind you use to clean glasses or your phone's screen) and avoid using any soap or harsh cleaning liquids. A 70% isopropyl alcohol wipe or a Clorox disinfecting wipe is OK but avoid getting too much moisture in any ports or inside the buds themself. You can also use a toothpick for any little crevices or a Q-tip with a bit of alcohol on it. Avoid saturating the Q-tip with alcohol. Finally, wait a few minutes until any moisture evaporates before using the buds.

How we test true-wireless earbuds

We test true-wireless earbuds based on five key criteria, comparing similarly styled and priced models. These criteria include design, sound quality, features, voice-calling performance and value. 

Evaluating design, we assess not only how comfortable the earbuds fit (ergonomics) but their build quality and how well the controls are implemented. We also look at water- and dust-resistance ratings. 

We evaluate sound quality by listening to a set playlist of music tracks and comparing the earbuds to top competing products in their price range. Sonic traits such as bass definition, clarity, dynamic range and how natural the headphones sound are key factors in our assessment.

Some great-sounding earbuds aren't loaded with features, but we do take into account what extra features are on board. These include everything from noise-canceling and transparency modes (ambient sound mode) to special sound modes to ear-detection sensors that automatically pause your music when you take the headphones off your ears. 

When we test voice-calling performance, we make calls in the noisy streets of New York and evaluate how well the earbuds reduce background noise and how clearly callers can hear your voice.

We determine value after evaluating the strength of the earbuds against all these criteria and what the buds are able to deliver compared to other models in their price class.

More headphone recommendations

https://www.cnet.com/google-amp/news/best-wireless-earbuds/

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