A graphic featuring the second-generation Apple AirPods, true wireless earphones that failed to earn CR's recommendation.

When Consumer Reports first tested true wireless earphones back in 2016, we weren't impressed. Connections cut out, controls were finicky, and the sound was nothing special. For a while, reliable earphones without a cord or a cable connecting the earpieces were little more than a tantalizing promise.

Things are different now. Today, the best true wireless earphones are among the highest scoring models in our ratings. 

You'll notice a conspicuous absence from our list of top performers: Apple AirPods. Apple took true wireless headphones into the mainstream, but the first few iterations didn't rate well enough in our tests to earn CR's recommendation.

The latest model, the AirPods Pro, do get a CR recommendation, with better sound and the addition of noise-cancellation. But other models still sound better—and rank higher.

Below you’ll find our lab's top picks for true wireless headphones. Before you rush out to buy a pair, though, there are a couple of factors to consider.

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First, these earphones tend to have relatively limited battery life. To make up for that, they typically come in a carrying case with a built-in battery that doubles as a portable charger. That way, you can power your earphones on the go when you’re not using them. Most of these cases will give your earphones at least one full charge, and many can top your earphones off multiple times.

Secondly, it can be tricky to get a comfortable fit with true wireless earphones. Some models can feel heavy, and some pairs may work better than others for you, depending on the size of your ears.

With those caveats in mind, here are CR's picks for the best true wireless earphones, sorted from least to most expensive.

JLab Audio JBuds Air

For the price, the JLab Audio JBuds Air earphones deliver impressive sound quality, beating some competitors that cost more than three times as much.

The JBuds Air have an advertised 3.5-hour battery life and come with a carrying case that will recharge the earphones for an additional two cycles. Other features include support for various digital assistants, three switchable EQ modes to change the tonal balance of the sound, and, according to JLab, water resistance. (We don’t test that feature.)

Users with small ears may have trouble getting a secure fit with this pair, a problem with most true wireless earphones.

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JLab Audio JBuds Air

Price: $50

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Samsung Galaxy Buds

Buying true wireless headphones used to be a choice between mediocre sound and a price in the hundreds of dollars, but with the Samsung Galaxy Buds you don’t have to compromise. Their superb audio quality isn’t just the best on this list; it ranks among the best headphones in our ratings, true wireless or otherwise.

They come in an unobtrusive charging case that rivals the portability of AirPods, and like Apple’s offering, the case itself can be charged wirelessly if you own a compatible charging pad. The case will hold only enough power to charge the earphones a little over one time between its own charges, but the earphones have an advertised 6-hour battery life, which is better than average for true wireless models.  

They have integrated touch controls for calls, volume, and playback, and according to Samsung, they’re water-resistant. Our testers note that the Galaxy Buds shouldn’t pose problems with comfort or fit for most users.

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Samsung Galaxy Buds

Price: $110

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Jabra Elite Active 65t

The Jabra Elite Active 65t has high-quality audio and comes with a few convenient features, such as the ability to use the earphones with just the right-hand earpiece, and a quick-charge function that will boost your battery for an extra 1.5 hours after only 15 minutes, according to Jabra.

The advertised battery life falls in the midrange for true wireless models at up to 5 hours of operating time. The carrying case will provide an additional two charges.

The 65t includes music playback, volume, and call controls, and compatibility with smart assistants. A free app adds functions such as a graphic equalizer and a step counter, and the earphones are advertised as water-resistant.

Our testers found that users with smaller ears might feel that the earphones are too large and could have trouble getting a secure fit.

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Jabra Elite Active 65t

Price: $100

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Sony WF-1000XM3

The WF-1000XM3 is the latest in Sony's popular line of noise-cancelling headphones. It's one of the best performing models yet, with outstanding sound quality and top-of-the-line active noise reduction to match.

These feature-rich earphones have variable noise cancellation, which you can adjust to let in more or less sound; a “monitor” mode actively pipes in audio from your surroundings. Those settings can be activated using integrated touch controls, which also operate playback and skipping tracks.

According to Sony, the XM3 has a 6-hour battery life. It can be recharged up to three times on the go with the earphones’ portable charging case, and includes a quick charge feature. A free app adds additional functionality. However, some users may feel the XM3 doesn’t fit securely, particularly those with larger ears.

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Sony WF-1000XM3

Price: $240

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Bose SoundSport Free Wireless

Bose’s entry into the true wireless category isn’t a noise-cancelling model, like the company’s better-known headphones. Instead, this model makes its mark with comfort.

The SoundSport Free Wireless uses a hybrid ear-insert/earphone design, meaning the earpieces seal the ear canals but don’t extend into the ear as far as typical insert models, and they’re supported by ear-bowl fittings. All of that makes them an appealing option if you find other in-ear earphones to be uncomfortable.

The SoundSport Free Wireless delivers above-average audio, though it's not quite as good as the other models on this list. rated for 5 hours of battery life. The carrying case will recharge the batteries an additional two times, and Bose says the headphones are water-resistant.

This Bose model has integrated volume, music player, and calling controls, and the free Bose Connect app can be used for setting up the earphones and to help find the last location where the earpieces were connected if you misplace them.

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Bose SoundSport Free Wireless

Price: $200

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How to Choose Headphones

With so many types of headphones, how do you know which pair is right for you? On the "Consumer 101" TV show, Consumer Reports expert Elias Arias explains everything you need to know.