Best true wireless earbuds for 2022
Apple AirPods vs. a few of our favorite alternatives
In this article: I pick the best true wireless earbuds and AirPod alternatives...
- Best for iPhone — Apple AirPods
- Best all-around — Sony WF-1000XM4
- Best for noise cancellation — Bose QuietComfort Earbuds
- Best-sounding — Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2
- Best budget pick — Sennheiser CX True Wireless
- Best for running or workouts — Jaybird Vista 2
... plus, some advice on finding the right 100% wire-free headphones for you.
It's funny how quickly something can go from a novel concept to second nature. Take True Wireless Earbuds — now our hottest headphone category.
These earbuds play music wirelessly via Bluetooth®, and there is no connecting cord around your head or neck. And I can see why they are so popular. It's become routine for me to pop them in and listen to music or podcasts while I'm making coffee in the morning, working, or doing anything in between.
True wireless earbuds like the Sony WF-1000XM4 have become a convenient part of my daily routine.
But just a few years ago, I received some early samples and thought, "cool idea, but they're just not reliable enough." These days, true wireless earbuds are the height of convenience. For the most part — and certainly for the earbuds on this list — you can expect quick Bluetooth pairing, a solid wireless connection, and a healthy battery life.
Other companies released wire-free headphones before Apple, but they were the first to really nail it with the AirPods. In October 2021, they released the 3rd generation of this trailblazing product.
After testing the Apple Airpods, along with many other true wireless earbuds, we can see why these unobtrusive, ultra-light headphones are so popular.
All versions of the AirPods work especially well with an iPhone, thanks to Apple's cutting-edge H1 chip. This special wireless technology ensures they pair up quickly and stay connected. And they make some of the clearest-sounding phone calls I've ever heard with wireless headphones.
Best AirPod alternatives
While the AirPods do a lot right, they aren’t the only game in town. There might be a better option for you, depending on your listening habits, your tasks, or your smartphone.
Here are my favorite AirPod alternatives. I based these selections on my hands-on experience and feedback from Crutchfield customers:
Best all around — Sony WF-1000XM4
The Sony WF-1000XM4 noise-canceling earbuds have been a megahit since the day they launched. They’re our best-selling true wireless earbuds right now and they earn high marks from our customers. It’s because they excel at everything they do — and they do a lot.
These sweat-proof earbuds fit securely and deliver a large, layered sound with plenty of punch and detail. They also offer breezy touch controls and incredible noise cancellation that can adapt to your surroundings.
My killer feature? I’m a big fan of the single-ear operation option. Of course, I wouldn’t use that for listening to music — they would revoke my Crutchfield audio-aficionado card. But it’s nice to just quickly pop in an earbud and fire up a podcast while I do chores.
Best for noise cancellation — Bose QuietComfort Earbuds
Before the Bose QC earbuds, I've always had to set proper expectations — I even qualified the AirPods Pro noise cancellation as "very good for earbuds." No more.
Between these earbuds and the Sony WF-1000XM4, we now have in-ears that can rival the noise cancellation in over-ear headphones. The noise cancellation in both is so good that it’s practically a toss-up. But in terms of absolute “quiet,” I’ll give the nod to Bose.
Here's an example of why: To test noise-canceling earbuds, I'll often listen to podcasts while mowing the grass. So I popped the Bose QC earbuds in, started the mower, and tapped the right earbud twice to activate the strongest level of noise cancellation.
After some brief "WHOOSHing" noises, the loud engine drone was reduced to a few faint high-frequency grinding sounds. And I hadn't even hit play on the podcast! When I did, I found I could make out conversations, even at very low levels — less than 25% on my phone's volume slider.
Best sounding — Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2
To my ears, the Momentum TW 2 earbuds are the absolute best-sounding truly wireless headphones available.
It makes sense. Their driver design and sonic signature are both informed by Sennheiser's flagship IE 800 S in-ear headphones, some of the most revered wired in-ears on the planet.
While you shouldn't expect quite that level of sound quality, the Momentum True Wireless earbuds do deliver smooth highs, articulate mids, and satisfying bass. They also have a large, "outside-the-head" soundstage with precise imaging.
Best budget pick — Sennheiser CX True Wireless
With the CX True Wireless, Sennheiser adds value by taking some features away. What do I mean by that? These earbuds are tuned to the same sound signature as the top-shelf Momentums — and even use a similar driver design. If you can live without noise cancellation and some of the extra design touches, these earbuds are a great way to get excellent sound quality and true wireless convenience for less.
They have a stripped-down design, for sure, but they’re still sweat-proof. And they still have lot of great features. You get touch controls and a free mobile app to tweak the sound to your tastes.
Best for running or workouts — Jaybird Vista 2
Jaybird beat a formidable opponent to claim the top spot here: themselves. The original Jaybird Vistas have been our go-to workout earbuds, based on feedback from the hardcore athletes and runners on the Crutchfield staff. The Vista 2 earbuds keep everything we loved about the original — namely fit, security, and hard-hitting bass — and add much more.
Most notably, they have noise-canceling circuitry to knock out loud distractions in the gym. And they are also incredibly durable. Like, “meeting military dust- and water-proof standards” durable. The Vista 2 earbuds don’t just handle sweat — they can be submerged in saltwater and withstand rain up to 40 mph!
Jay is Crutchfield's director of internet marketing and an avid long-distance runner. He's a big fan of Jaybird’s secure, stable fit — it keeps the sound consistent and bass powerful.
And of course, Jaybird made their name with earbuds designed to stay put while your move. My co-worker Jay does about 30 miles a week on the treadmill, and he says he’s tried just about every type of sports headphones. He says Jaybird stays in place better than any of them.
True wireless earbuds buying tips
There are a few things to consider, look out for, and keep in mind when shopping for true wireless earbuds.
Audio dropouts still happen — but not as frequently
I mentioned in my intro that true wireless earbuds are more reliable than ever. Still, the #1 reason our customers return these type of headphones? The audio signal can drop out during use.
One ear or the other may lose sound. Sometimes it is only for a second or two. Sometimes you may have to re-pair the earbuds. I've always looked at it as a small tax to pay for going 100% wire-free. And luckily it's happening a lot less.
I think the biggest breakthrough here is the new wireless chips with Bluetooth 5.0 and above. For the most part, if you see Bluetooth 5.0 or 5.1 listed in the product bullets, you can expect a stronger wireless connection to the phone, which ultimately means fewer audio dropouts.
Check the charging case specs
Most truly wireless earbuds include a special case that charges via a USB or AC adapter. These charging cases can bank hours of power so you can refuel your earbuds. Just snap your earbuds into the case to recharge them.
The compact case takes up little room in your gym bag or carry-on luggage. Plus, there's no cable to get all tangled up. You pull your earbuds out, ready to pop in and go.
We list the battery life in our "Product Highlights" bullets on each product page. Most of the headphones shown here have a quick charge feature: just a few minutes inside the charging case will give you enough power to listen for an hour or more.
The charging case for Sony's WF-XB700 earbuds can bank up to nine more hours of powers. And 10 minutes inside the case gives you 60 minutes of wireless music and noise canceling.
Compare the apps
Many headphones these days have an accompanying app for your phone or mobile device. But I don't consider all of them necessary. For true wireless earbuds, I definitely recommend downloading the app, if one is offered.
Some apps can help with the wireless pairing process, which can be tricky since you need to connect two separate earbuds. Some let you adjust the EQ settings and customize the sound to your preference or use. For example, I like to bump up the bass a bit when I'm running — I need all the extra motivation I can get.
And some even have a feature to help you find a lost earbud. Using your phone's GPS, the app will will track your misplaced earbud to the last location it was connected.
I found that the sound customization in Jaybird's free MySound app is particularly strong.
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Popular questions customers ask
Over half of the true wireless earbuds we carry support single-earbud operation. Most of those models offer music and call controls with just one earbud in.
Many of the true wireless headphones we carry offer some form of protection against water. Some models are IPX4 rated and can survive light splashes of water and sweat. Other models are IPX5 or even IP67 for extra protection.
The earbuds themselves normally have anywhere from 6 to 10 hours of playback time before they need to be recharged. The charging case that comes with the earbuds banks anywhere from 14 to 30 hours of power.
Earbuds offer good passive noise cancelation on their own, but some models have built-in active noise cancelation circuitry to make your world even quieter. The level of noise cancelation can be adjusted either on the earbuds themselves, through an app, or a combination of both.
Some true wireless headphones have voice assistant support built in. You can access Google Assistant or Alexa by using the controls built into one of the earbuds.