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Featuring excellent sound, improved noise canceling and voice-calling performance as well a smaller, more refined design that includes stabilizing fins (so the earbuds stay in your ears more securely), the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3 are 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.
While the Beats Fit Pro ($200) technically aren't AirPods, they're built on the same tech platform as the AirPods Pro (yes, Apple owns Beats). 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.
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 silicone 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).
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.
The QuietComfort 45 has virtually the same design as its predecessor, the QuietComfort QC35 II, which many people considered one of the most comfortable over-ear headphones -- if not the most comfortable. It has the same drivers, according to Bose, and the buttons are in the same place. However, there are small but notable changes. First off, these thankfully have USB-C instead of Micro-USB.
Secondly, the microphone configuration is different. Not only have the mics been shifted on the headphones, but there's now an extra external microphone for voice pickup, which means the QC45 has a total of six microphones, four of which are beamforming and used for voice. By contrast, the QC35 II has a total of four, two of which are used for voice. (The Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700 also have six microphones total.)
These headphones are excellent for making calls. They're similar to the Bose Headphones 700 in that regard. They also include top-notch noise canceling and multipoint Bluetooth pairing, so you can connect them with a PC and your phone simultaneously. Read our full review of the QuietComfort 45.
Released in mid-2020, the Jabra Elite 45h wireless headset was essentially billed as the best wireless headphones to fit on the ear for those on a budget. While there's nothing terribly fancy about it is one of the best on-ear headphone values right now, with good sound quality, a sturdy design and comfortable fit (for on-ear headphones, anyway). Additionally, it performs well as a headset for making calls and includes a sidetone feature that allows you to hear your voice in the headphones so you don't talk too loudly. Battery life is also good. It's available in multiple colors.
Sony has released its new WH-1000XM5 but the WH-1000XM4 remains on sale. While I prefer the WH-1000XM5 -- it's a little more comfortable, has improved noise canceling, more refined sound and significantly better voice-calling performance -- the WH-1000XM4 is still a great headphone and some people may prefer its slightly more energetic sound and how it folds up into a smaller case than that of the WH-1000M5. It also costs less and we should see some nice discounts on it going forward.
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.
Samsung-owned JBL has a couple of new sets of earbuds, the Live Pro 2 and Live Free 2 that are surprisingly good. Both are equipped with the same 11mm drivers, six microphones, oval tubes and oval silicon tips. And they also combine a comfortable fit along with strong noise canceling, very good sound quality and voice-calling performance, plus a robust feature set, including multipoint Bluetooth pairing, an IPX5 splash-proof rating and wireless charging.
Aside from the design -- The Live Pro 2 has stems while the Live Free 2 is pill-shaped -- the biggest difference between the two buds is battery life. The stemless Live Free 2 are rated for up to seven hours, while the Live Pro 2 are rated for 10 hours.
The Live Free 2 fit securely in my ears and are smaller and superior to Samsung's Galaxy Buds Pro, particularly in terms of comfort level. The buds are available in three color options.
As far as sound, comfort level and build quality, you'd be hard-pressed to do better than Anker's SoundCore Life Q30 for the money. It doesn't quite have the clarity or bass definition as some of the top premium models, but it's less than a third of the price and gets you about 75% of the way there in terms of sound (it's well balanced overall with punchy bass and there's an app that allows you to tweak the sound). Noise canceling is good for the price, though not up to the level of the Sony WH-1000XM4 or Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700. Battery life is rated at an impressive 40 hours with USB-C charging.
The only area where the Q30 falls a little short is for voice calls. It picks up your voice fine in quieter environments but it just doesn't reduce background noise all that well.
Compared to the $50 Q20, the Q30 does offer improved sound (it's not a huge difference, but it definitely is a notch up) and a more premium design.
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 as some buds do.
Apple recently released its new Beats Studio Buds. I liked them, but they're $150, and not everybody wants to spend $150 on a pair of headphones. If you're in that camp, the Beats Flex may be your best budget option when it comes to Apple earbuds, though they're "wired-wireless" headphones. They list for $50 but are now down to $39 on Amazon.
The good news is they sound better than both the original BeatsX (which launched with a list price of $150) and standard AirPods. They also work well for making calls and have better battery life than their predecessors. The bad news? Their design is passe in a world now dominated by true wireless earbuds. However, some people like having a cord between the buds so they can leave them dangling around their neck when not in use. And anybody who's lost an AirPod can attest to that one big design advantage of a neckband-style wireless headphone.
Master & Dynamic's earlier MW07 and MW07 Plus delivered top-notch sound for true wireless, but they were a little lacking in the features department and weren't so great for making calls. The new-for-2021 MW08 offers some significant improvements, including the addition of solid noise canceling and call quality, that make it one of the top models for 2021.
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 colors 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.
Bang & Olufsen's Beoplay HX is the successor to the company's H9 series headphones (that X is a Roman numeral 10). Its high price point makes it a direct competitor with Apple's AirPods Max, a heavier headphone at 384.8 grams versus 285 grams for the HX. I don't know if the HX is more comfortable than the AirPods Max, but I found the two models pretty equal in the comfort department over longer listening sessions, and these do feature the usual swanky B&O lambskin-covered memory foam ear pads.
The HX has custom 40mm drivers, Bluetooth 5.1 and support for Qualcomm's aptX Adaptive (that includes aptX HD) for high-resolution wireless streaming when you combine an AptX-enabled Android device with certain music streaming services like Qobuz.
Their sound measures up well to the AirPods Max's sound, with deep, well-defined bass, natural-sounding mids (where vocals live) and inviting detail in the treble (the sound is overall well-balanced). If you want to push the treble or bass, you can tweak the EQ in the Bang & Olufsen app for iOS and Android and give the headphones a warmer or brighter profile.
While these are expensive, they offer more accurate sound than the Sony WH-1000XM4. Their noise canceling is also very good and voice-calling capabilities are also quite solid. Additionally, they offer multipoint Bluetooth pairing so you can connect them with a smartphone and PC simultaneously (they're Microsoft Swift Pair enabled for Windows machines) so you can easily switch between the two (the Sony WH-1000XM4 also has this feature). Battery life is rated at up to 35 hours with noise canceling on and 40 hours with it off. Those are excellent numbers.
Earlier Bang & Olufsen's models included a soft case (a pouch really), but the HX comes with a hard case. As I said, it's expensive, but the small improvements over earlier flagship Bang & Olufsen noise-canceling headphones help make the HX's case as a worthy alternative to the AirPods Max.