Apple’s AirPods and AirPods Pro have received some excellent reviews, but there are plenty of similar cable-free wireless headphones out there if you don’t want to join the AirPod party. Well we have the best wireless earbuds for iPhone, iPad and Mac users right here.
The advantages of a cable-free design are obvious – especially for sport and exercise, as they allow you to go running or to work out at a gym without having to worry about snagging the cables all the time. Not to mention the fact that iPhones no longer have a physical 3.5mm headphone jack.
Mind you, as owners of the vanilla AirPods have discovered, the little earbuds are fine when you’re just casually walking around, but might not be stable enough to stay in place once you start to pick up the pace a bit – the AirPods Pro have flexible eartips to ensure a snugger fit.
So if you want some cable-free earbuds that you can wear for exercising then you’ll definitely lean towards brands such as Jabra and JBL, whose earbuds are water-resistant for outdoor use, and include small rubber ‘fins’ to help keep them in place.
In addition to providing pretty good sound quality, the AirPods are also packed with high-tech features, such as Apple’s H1 chip, which can tell when you take the earbuds out, and even let you use Siri voice commands. Rivals come with a variety of other features that might be tempting.
And while Apple is often criticised for its high prices, many of the rival earbuds that we’ve seen so far are actually more expensive than the AirPods, and some are even more expensive than the AirPods Pro – which just proves that Apple can offer good value for money when it wants to. The models we’ve tested here cover a wide range of budgets.
We also have a round-up of general wireless headphones if earbuds might not be the best choice for you.
Best Bluetooth wireless earbuds 2020
1. Apple AirPods Pro
AirPods Pro are everything you like about AirPods, but better. They’re more comfortable. They stay put in your ears better. They sound better, and have pretty good active noise cancelling with an excellent transparency mode.
The only thing Apple didn’t improve is battery life, which is still just okay. You get around five hours without noise cancelling, and four and a half with it. The case holds 24 hours’ worth of charge time and can recharge the earbuds pretty quickly.
Just like regular AirPods, the AirPods Pro are easier to set up than any other wireless headphones, and have a super small case that’s delightful to use. They maintain a rock-solid connection, pause automatically when you take them out of your ears, and turn off automatically when you put them in their case.
The AirPods Pro are not the best-sounding earbuds. They don’t offer the best noise cancelling. They don’t have the longest battery life. Yet they are hands-down the best wireless earbuds an iPhone user can get.
Read our full AirPods Pro review
2. Cambridge Audio Melomania 1
AirPods Pro will be too expensive for some people and that’s understandable. After all, your iPhone or other Apple product won’t have been cheap.
If so, it’s very hard to beat the value for money available via the Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 earbuds. They are available for under £100 from many retailers so you could buy two pairs and still have change compared to the Pros.
These compact, bullet-shape earbuds are very lightweight and offer a comfortable and secure fit. The case has older micro-USB but is also very small and despite the size, these headphones can go for a total of 45 hours.
Buttons on the earbuds allow you a wide range of control including volume (once you learn the different button presses), there are microphones for calls and the sound quality is excellent.
Unless noise cancelling is a must, these are a bit of a no-brainer.
Read our Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 review on Tech Advisor.
3. RHA TrueConnect 2
They might not have noise cancelling but that’s about the only downside when testing the RHA TrueConnect 2. The Scottish firm has taken already excellent wireless earbuds and made them better.
Not only are they better, but they are also cheaper than previously so now come in at just £129.95 (US$149.95), making them very affordable compared to some. A rare thing in the tech world.
There’s now support for the AAC codec which is great news for iPhone users resulting in better sound quality. Punchier bass is a welcome upgrade and if you want long lasting earbuds then the TrueConnect 2 can last a total of 44 hours – a huge boost on the original 25 hours.
Build quality is excellent too and the earbuds offer IP55 waterproofing as well as touch controls.>
If you’re looking for an excellent pair of all-rounder wireless earbuds then you probably just found them.
Read our full RHA TrueConnect 2 review on Tech Advisor.
4. Creative Outlier Air
Creative’s Outlier Airs aren’t the cheapest set of earbuds we’ve come across, but they’re still very competitively priced, coming in at less than £80/$80. And the sound quality and features they offer represent great value for money.
The earbuds look a little on the chunky side when you first take them out of the box, but most of the earpiece will be hidden inside your ears and the outside panel of each earpiece also acts as a control button for playing music or taking calls.
The size of the earbuds also means they can house a decent battery which lasts for 10 hours – twice that of Apple’s AirPods. The carrying case is also relatively large, but still small enough to fit into a trouser pocket, and can fully charge the Outliers two more times, providing a total of 30 hours.
The earpieces are rated IPX5 for water and sweat-resistance, so they’re a good option for working out at the gym or simply wandering around in the rain.
Sound quality is very good, thanks to the light but sturdy graphene drivers, with AptX and AAC codecs supported for Bluetooth streaming. It’s a nice, spacious sound with plenty of detail, and – for me at least – just the right amount of bass on tracks such as Billy Eilish’s Bad Guy.
Read our full Creative Outlier Air review on Tech Advisor.
5. Sony WF-1000XM3
Not convinced by the AirPods Pro? Well, Sony has an excellent pair of wireless earbuds with top-notch active noise cancelling – and at a lower price of £219/US$229.
The main lure here is, of course, Sony’s excellent ANC system which can be switched between noise cancelling, Ambient Sound and off with the touch button on the left earbud.
It’s extremely effective and the ambient mode lets you hear what’s going on around you when needed. Music sounds great too, and sensors mean auto-pause when you take them out.
Battery life isn’t amazing but at 24 hours total is still very solid so you won’t find them running out very often. They also look great and a total of seven different ear tips will mean you can find a comfortable fit.
Hands-free Siri is supported and the Connect app gives you access to lots of settings and features which you can tweak.
Read our full Sony WF-1000XM3 review on Tech Advisor.
6. Bang & Olufsen BeoPlay E8 2.0
They’re not cheap, but B&O’s E8 earbuds are some of the best wire-free earbuds currently available.
They work hard to justify that price tag too. The 4-hour battery life is a little limited, so the new charging case now allows you to recharge the earbuds three times over – for a total of 16 hours when you’re out and about.
The case has also switched to a USB-C port for charging, and offers wireless charging as well… whereas you have to pay extra for the wireless charging case for the AirPods.
It’s the same B&O sound quality, though, with attractive clarity and detail, and stronger bass than many rival earbuds. But the feature that most stands out with the E8 is the spacious, open sound that these little earbuds manage to produce, allowing you to lean back on a train or plane and just relax as the music washes over you.
7. Apple AirPods (early 2019)
The second-gen AirPods are more of an iterative upgrade than a total reimagining of the product.
Alongside the suite of smart features unique to Apple’s offering, improved connection speed, talk time and Hey Siri support are welcome improvements on a product that was already industry-leading in many aspects.
But while AirPods easily provide the best all-around experience of any wireless earbuds on the market, there’s no improvement in the audio department, and other earbuds on the market provide better audio quality.
If you’re looking for the best audio quality possible, you may want to consider another option; and the upgrades – namely active noise cancelling – offered by the AirPods Pro more than justify the extra £50/$50. But these remain a smart, simple listening experience.
Read our full Apple AirPods 2 review
8. Jabra Elite Sport
Jabra is well-known for its sporty headphones and accessories and, as the name suggests, the Elite Sport is one of its top-of-the-range sets of earbuds.
Like many of their fitness-oriented rivals, the Elite Sport earbuds use a small rubber fin that fits inside your ear to keep them in place during exercise. However, we were pleased to see that Jabra actually include fins in three different sizes in order to provide a secure and comfortable fit.
They’re sweat-resistant too, and water-proof to a depth of one metre, so they’ll survive a bit of splashing around on the beach (although you probably shouldn’t wear them when you go swimming). There’s even a sensor inside the earpieces that can monitor your heart-rate during exercise, and relay the data to the Jabra app on your iPhone.
And, thankfully, Jabra hasn’t ignored the sound quality either. The Elite Sport have an attractive, warm tone that works well with most types of music, and the bass is also pretty firm for such a compact set of earphones too.
The let-down is the modest three-hour battery life and only two charges from the case.
Read our full Jabra Elite Sport review on Tech Advisor.
9. JBL UA True Wireless Flash
If you spend your weekends and evenings running around in Under Armour’s figure-hugging lycra then you can complete your workout wardrobe with the True Wireless Flash earbuds.
Jointly developed by JBL and Under Armour, the Flash earbuds are very much designed for sport. Along with three sizes of ear-tips for your inner ear, the earbuds also include three sizes of ‘winged tips’ that fit into the outer ear to keep them firmly in place while you’re running around and working up a sweat.
The earpieces themselves are ‘stormproof’ with IPX7 rating to resist water and sweat, and they come with a really sturdy – albeit rather chunky – aluminium charging case. Battery life is around 5 hours, but the case can charge them up four more times, for a total of 25 hours of workout tunes.
And the sound will help get you going too. It’s a clear, warm sound, and JBL has tuned the earpieces to give a stronger bass than most little earbuds, which will help to get you motivated when you hit the streets or the gym.
10. JLab JBuds Air
You’re not going to get hi-fi-quality sound for less than £50/$50, but if you just want some affordable earbuds that can bang out rock or dance tunes when you’re travelling or working out then the JBuds Air will work a treat.
The little earbuds feel reasonably sturdy, and they’re rated IP55, which means that they’re both water-resistant and protected against dust and dirt that might creep inside and gum up the works. Battery life is modest, at around 3-4 hours, but that’s fine for workout sessions or getting the train to work, and the little charging case gives you another 10 hours on top of that.
They aren’t, admittedly, the most subtle or precise headphones we’ve ever heard. They tend to beef up the bass quite a bit, so if you’re into delicate classical music or sensitive singer-songwriters strumming away on acoustic guitar then you might want to look elsewhere. But if you just want to groove along to some raucous rock or dance music then the JBuds will hit the spot at a good, affordable price.
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