Wireless earbuds are the new norm. Unless you’re investing in super hi-fi wired headphones (or super cheap wired earbuds), then Bluetooth earbuds are going to be your go-to. And that’s why we’ve spent the past year testing the best wireless earbuds at every price point.
It seems like it wasn’t that long ago when Apple removed the 3.5mm audio jack from the iPhone, ushering in a new, cordless era for audio and igniting the battle for the best wireless earbuds. As such, wireless and noise-canceling earbuds are everywhere, with all kinds of brands offering their own unique approach to let you enjoy your music, podcasts, audiobooks, and so on without having to get tangled up. As Bluetooth technology improves, more and more of these earbuds are increasing their feature set, too, providing all kinds of ways to enjoy your favorite sounds without interruption.
With such ubiquity in the marketplace, however, it’s hard to determine which earbuds are worthwhile, which is why SPY has rigorously tested a handful of offerings from brands like JBL, Sony, Apple, and others to determine the best of the best.
After testing dozens of the internet’s best wireless earbuds, we’re ready to break down the top options of 2022. Additionally, we recently tested and reviewed the best hook earbuds and the most comfortable earbuds, so be sure to check out those guides as well. There’s some overlap between these categories, but for this review, we’re including only the most elite products we’ve tested.
Standardized Sound Test for the Best Wireless Earbuds
To find the best wireless earbuds of 2022, we examined a handful of the year’s newest releases from the best brands in the space and ran them through, not only a series of performance tests but also against a rubric of various criteria. On the performance side, we tested a modern release in the form of Tame Impala’s “Currents,” famed composer Michael Giacchino’s film score for “The Batman,” and a podcast (in this instance, The Ringer’s “The Big Picture” film podcast). The idea was to have a recent release that featured a variety of different soundscapes, an expansive orchestral-based album, and then just people talking.
Of course, we did more than listen to these tracks when testing the wireless earbuds reviewed below. To learn more about our full testing process, keep scrolling.
The Best Wireless Earbuds at a Glance
1. JBL Live Free 2 Wireless Earbuds
Why They’re the Best: They don’t offer the best possible sound, but they are the best possible earbuds for the money.
Why We Chose It: With its excellent price tag, good (but not great) sound and ANC, slightly above average battery life, IPX5 water resistance and fast charging, the JBL Live 2 punches well above its weight.
Full Review: JBL Live Free 2 Earbuds, Reviewed
- Best Features: Multipoint connectivity, active-noise cancelation, transparency mode
- Price: $150.00
- Best For: Anyone that wants high-quality earbuds for under $100; if you have a higher budget for better sound, then we recommend the Sony XM4 Wireless Earbuds or Apple AirPods Pro 2.
The JBL Live Free 2 earned a CES Innovation honoree award earlier in 2022 in the headphones and personal audio space for a good reason. Historically known as a speaker brand, the Live Free 2 is a splashy product that features plenty of top-tier functionality for a price that’s well below the competition. With their active noise-cancelation, Qi fast charging, multipoint connection, and more, the $150 standard price tag practically makes these a steal, as there are other options here well over that threshold that don’t come close to the features of the Live Free 2. These are the best wireless earbuds for those who don’t want to compromise on features at a lower cost.
Listening to “Currents” on the JBL Live Free 2 provided a well-rounded sound that provides some depth to Tame Impala’s soundscapes, packing a punch on more drum-heavy songs. Listening to “The Batman” score felt almost like we were back in the theater, where the thumping roar of the orchestra translated particularly well. “The Big Picture” sounded even and balanced, picking up the tenor and tone of the conversation well. The ANC works extremely well, performing just as well as offerings from other top brands. The battery is slightly above average, but the fast charging really works, allowing for a few hours back off a 10-minute charge.
The one drawback on the earbuds is the giant logo on either side of the earbuds themselves, as well as the bean-shaped design that this reviewer personally doesn’t love. That might not be an issue for you, but it’s not a favorite thing to look at when pulling them out of a case. However, there is something to not having them look like a lot of the stick-based designs that are overwhelmingly popular.
- Good sound and strong ANC
- Fast charging works, well, fast
- Strong features like multipoint
- Don’t love the branding
2. Ultimate Ear Fits Wireless Earbuds
Why We Chose It: The UE Fits process really works and isn’t just a gimmick, while also having great sound.
Full Review: UE Fits Really Are the Most Comfortable Buds
- Best Features: Customizable fit thanks to the custom molding
- Price: $200
- Best For: Those who want a super comfortable fit without compromising on performance
Sometimes, gimmick products are too good to be true, but that’s certainly not the case with the Ultimate Ears Fits wireless earbuds, which are undoubtedly not a gimmick and just, frankly, one of the best wireless earbuds we’ve ever used. Upon receiving the earbuds, users will go through a 60-second molding process in which the silicone tips of the earbuds mold themselves to your individual ear canal. It doesn’t hurt (in our experience, it actually felt kind of nice), and the result is a truly customized set of earbuds for you.
That comfort makes a huge difference in the overall performance of the earbuds, allowing you to wear the earbuds for hours on end without your ears hurting while also providing an incredible passive noise seal. As mentioned in the original review of the Fits, we took the train from DC to NYC while listening to “The Batman” score and, at one point, realized we hadn’t heard much of the train noise. Upon removing the earbud, the sound flowed back in, and we noticed just how effective that seal was at blocking noise. While it’s a slight disappointment not to have ANC on these earbuds, that passive cancelation is so good that you may not miss it. “The Batman” score still sounds appropriately epic in scale, while “Currents” flowed and hummed as Kevin Parker intended, full of vibrant life. “The Big Picture” sounded appropriately well-suited, offering some nice depth to the hosts’ voices.
While some of us might like the pill-like design of the earbuds, they might not be for everyone, and the IPX3 rating may not be enough for those who sweat heavily when they work out but otherwise, these earbuds more than earn their place off the strength of that comfortable fit alone.
- Truly custom fit
- Incredible passive noise cancelation
- Strong sound
- No ANC
- IPX3 rating might not be enough for some
3. Sony WF-1000XM4 Noise-Cancelling Earbuds
Why We Chose It: Sony’s famous XM4 earbuds have been the best noise-canceling earbuds for two years in a row, and they offer truly stellar sound.
Full Review: Testing Sony’s XM4 Noise-Canceling Earbuds
- Features: ANC, big sound, good battery life
- Price: $279.99
- Best For: Those who don’t want to hear anything other than their great-sounding music
Sony’s WF-1000XM4 might be a mouthful to say but we can plainly declare them as the best wireless earbuds for sound quality and ANC on the market. While it’ll definitely cost a pretty penny to get them (even though they tend to go on sale around the holidays), we think it’s well worth it for those who are invested in these premium features.
In our experience, the Sony WF-1000XM4’s ANC rivals that of the brand’s over-the-ear headphones, which continue to be the gold standard in ANC. To find this level of noise-cancelation in a set of earbuds is really impressive. Sounds on the earbuds are, well, fantastic-sounding. No matter what we were listening to, the XM4s offered an elevated listening experience with a balanced yet bass-forward sound with richly layered tones. In particular, “The Batman” score soared to life as if we were back in the theater watching it.
Where the XM4s stumble are in their lack of multipoint and a so-so set of microphones. Some of us don’t use earbuds when having phone conversations, but we realize that might not be the case for other users. Additionally, some users have complained about comfort and fit if they have smaller ears, so take that into consideration as well.
- Bar none the best ANC earbuds
- Great sound
- Often on sale
- Lack of multipoint
- Those with smaller ears may have issues
- Will likely be replaced by new model soon
4. OnePlus Buds Pro Wireless Earbuds
Why We Chose It: The OnePlus Buds Pro are the best wireless earbuds with ANC of this caliber for just a screaming good price.
Full Review: We Put the OnePlus Buds Pro Earbuds to the Test
- Best Features: ANC, Qi charging, passive noise mode
- Cost: $149.99
- Best For: Value (by ANC standards) ANC earbuds that are good for most users but best for OnePlus phone havers
Let’s get this out of the way: the OnePlus Buds Pro really come alive if you use them with a OnePlus phone, allowing access to many otherwise gated features like low-latency mode, Dolby Atmos, and LHDC. While it’s disappointing to have premium functionality tied to one device, there’s still plenty to get excited about if you don’t have an OnePlus device.
The OnePlus Buds Pro feature a strong ANC. In fact, I’d say they’re just a notch below Sony’s WF-1000XM4 and the Beyerdynamic Free BYRD as some of the best ANC earbuds on the market, but the strength of these earbuds is considerably lower cost than both of those other options. Additionally, the battery life on the BudsPro measures around seven hours of use, which should get you through the work day with ease.
The 11mm drivers in the earbuds are base forward, which worked really well for my testing of “Currents” and “The Batman,” where the soundstages feature lots of opportunity for the BudsPro to shine. The nice thing is that the base is never overwhelming and otherwise enhances the experience of these songs. They sound clear and balanced, with just a bass seasoning over top, if you’d like to think about it in terms of food.
The real advantage of the OnePlus BudsPro is that intersection sweet spot of price versus features. Even with some of them paywalled, there’s still a lot to live.
- Great sound
- Excellent balance of quality and value
- Paywalled features
- Microphones could be higher quality
5. Beyerdynamic Free BYRD Wireless Earbuds
Why We Chose It: A truly impressive set of ANC earbuds with plenty of customizable ear tips and strong battery life.
Full Review: Beyerdynamic Free BYRD Wireless Earbuds
- Best Features: Strong ANC and battery life
- Price: $249.00
- Best For: Those seeking the best wireless earbuds with the best ANC above all else
Beyerdynamic is a relative newcomer in the earbuds space, but the German company made quite the splash with the introduction of the Free BYRD with excellent noise cancelation that rivals that of Sony’s prime ANC earbuds while managing to have clean, crisp, and great-sounding audio.
The earbuds themselves are super comfortable, thanks to a wide variety of different ear tips provided in the packaging. While not as custom as the UE Fits, Beyerdynamic provides a pretty impressive selection for you to try so that you find the best fit for your ears. On the performance side, the earbuds are a little bass-forward but not to the extent of losing the overall clarity of the songs. On Tame Impala’s “Let It Happen,” we could feel the drums but didn’t lose the crisp nature of the synths. On “The Batman” soundtrack, the brass section roared to life while the “Big Picture” hosts sounded distinctly firm.
The Beyerdynamic Free BYRD earbuds are a little sensitive on their touch controls, but once you get used to them, it’s pretty easy to navigate through tracks, activate a voice assistant, or even turn off the ANC.
Not having multipoint connectivity in a set of earbuds this expensive is kind of a let down. But where the Free BYRD really impresses is in its battery life, which amounted to 11 hours with the ANC active, making it easily the best-performing battery of the earbuds on this list. While these earbuds are on the pricey side, these features make them well worth considering and make us eager to see what the brand has in store for the future.
- Strong ANC
- Lots of customization
- Great sound
- Touchy controls
- No multipoint connectivity
6. Apple AirPods Pro 2 Wireless Earbuds
Why We Chose It: Apple’s new Airpods Pro earbuds don’t disappoint, and they’re still the best wireless earbuds for iPhone users, full stop.
Full Review: Are Apple’s New Earbuds Worth the Upgrade?
- Best Features: Easy to connect, ANC, improved case design
- Price: $249.00
- Best For: Apple users who want quality without much fuss; Apple’s ease of use is unmatched, and the AirPods Pro 2 improves on an already impressive design
Apple’s MO is iteration, iteration, iteration. That’s to say, small changes that make a big impact. The newest version of the AirPods Pro does just this, with its second iteration improving on just about everything that’s come before. Notable standouts include a revamped case that chimes, making it much easier to figure out exactly where in a space you’ve placed it. Pairing remains a breeze; opening the case immediately kicks into pairing mode, where it will connect with all your other Apple devices.
On the performance side, the AirPods Pro 2 include spatial audio, which is mostly still a gimmick, but there’s a noticeable improvement in both the ANC and the overall audio quality. The ANC won’t match the Free BYRD or the Sony, but it’s a step above the OnePlus and an improvement on the past version of the AirPods Pro.
We found the strings of “The Batman’s” score to hum appropriately and the guitar and synths of “Currents” to feel vivid. “The Big Picture” had more of a neutral tone, well suited to speaking voices. The AirPods Pro 2 remain super comfortable in our ears and we’ve never had any issues with them falling out during a workout.
Battery life on the AirPods Pro 2 still needs improvement, as you’ll only get about six hours on a full charge with ANC active but the good news is the case recharges pretty quickly. The microphones are also improved, which is exceedingly helpful if you do plan to use them for phone calls.
The AirPods Pro 2 make a huge impact if you haven’t already gotten a pair of AirPods and have plenty of Apple devices. Audiophiles, however, may want to look elsewhere for better sound and stronger ANC.
- Great for Apple users
- Smart features like a chime case
- Feel comfortable
- Other earbuds do what the Pros do but better
How We Tested the Best Wireless Earbuds
As mentioned earlier, we felt it was important to standardize the sounds used to test the best wireless earbuds so we could have a better idea of how each product performed. Those sources were Tame Impala’s “Currents,” Michael Giacchino’s film score for “The Batman,” and The Ringer’s “The Big Picture” film podcast.
We scored each pair of wireless earbuds based on these categories:
- Feature Set: We determined that the best wireless earbuds had a more robust feature set than lesser products and ranked accordingly for those with more to offer.
- Noise Cancelation: Blocking out the extra sounds around the world is key when it comes to listening to your audio of choice. Each of our picks either has strong active or passive noise cancelation to help cut down on the noise you don’t want to hear so you can focus on what you do want to hear.
- Battery Life: There are few worse things than having your earbuds die when you need them the most. The majority of these picks offer anywhere from seven to nine hours of listening on a single charge and recharge quickly in their cases.
- Sound Quality: When testing the best wireless earbuds, sound quality was critical. Noise cancelation and fit do impact the overall sound quality, but the internal software and hardware are also crucial.
- Aesthetics: At the end of the day, the best wireless earbuds are an accessory and should look cool enough to complement your style. While all personal style is different, we scored high for products that had a sharp enough look to compliment any kind of style.
- Ease of Use: Whether for work, travel, watching your favorite show, or a workout, you’ll want your earbuds to feel cozy in your ear, connect quickly, and not be difficult to maneuver without seeing what you’re touching.
Why Trust SPY When Shopping For the Best Wireless Earbuds?
SPY is known for testing and reviewing high-quality products across all categories, including tech and audio, and sharing our honest results and feedback through personal experience. Each SPY product tester has particular expertise in a given field that allows them to truly understand any product before them and report accurately on it’s performance. We recently tested the best Bluetooth record players, the best Android smartwatches, and even some of the best home security cameras to keep your home secure.
To learn more about the SPY reviews process, you can read about our process here: How SPY Tests Products
About the Author: William Goodman
William Goodman is one of the most experienced product reviewers at SPY.com, and he’s been reviewing audio products, the latest menswear releases, and gaming gear for many years. Goodman is a Washington, D.C.-based e-commerce writer and reviewer. Previously for SPY.com, he’s reviewed the impressive Sony WF-1000XM4 Wireless Earbuds featured here, as well as new bespoke suits and video doorbells. His work can also be found at Robb Report, Complex, and GQ. He’s yet to meet a jacket or cardigan he didn’t love, and in his free time, he’s probably on Twitter (@goodmanw) or at the movies.