The JLab Audio Epic Air true wireless earphones.

True wireless earphones—which don't have cables connecting the two earpieces—used to be reserved for those willing to spend hundreds on cutting-edge tech. But at CES 2019 in Las Vegas, audio companies, including Audio-Technica, JBL, and Klipsch, promised to roll out lots of new models in 2019, securing true wireless earphones' position in the mainstream. 

Performance was spotty for most of the early true wireless headphones, but the technology has improved, and right now 10 models are recommended in CR's ratings. The best true wireless models are among the top wireless headphones in our tests.

There are a few factors to consider before you pick up a pair of your own true wireless earphones.

For one thing, none of these earphones produce the highest quality sound—and that’s the case with almost all portable Bluetooth headphones in our tests, true wireless or otherwise. These models can sound very good, but if you want the highest-quality audio, consider a wired model.

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Also, it can be tricky to get a comfortable fit with true wireless earphones, and some models feel heavy.

Call and playback controls may come with some compromises as well. Some true wireless earphones are missing certain controls altogether, and when they are included they typically operate through touch or tap controls, which can be finicky.

And keep in mind that many of these products tend to have a pretty limited battery life compared with traditional Bluetooth headphones.

You may notice that the Apple AirPods aren’t included below. The AirPods are the best-selling true wireless headphones on the market, but they don’t make our recommended list. Their sound isn’t noticeably better than what you get from the wired EarPods that come free with the iPhone. For $160, you can do better.

Consumer Reports’ audio experts have tested more than a dozen models of true wireless earphones, measuring them on factors ranging from audio to comfort. As with all products we test, we buy every piece of audio equipment at retail, just like any consumer.

JLab Audio JBuds Air

The JLab Audio JBuds Air earphones deliver impressive sound quality, beating some competitors that cost more than twice as much.

The JBuds Air have an advertised 3.5-hour battery life and come with a charging/carrying case that will recharge the earphones for an additional two cycles. Additional 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, as is often the case with true wireless earphones.

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JLab Audio JBuds Air stereo headphone

Price: $50.00

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JLab Audio Epic Air

Another highly rated, but more expensive, model from JLab Audio is the Epic Air. Its sound quality falls in the same range as the JBuds Air listed above, but its longer battery life may make it more appealing to some consumers.

It’s rated for 7 hours of battery life—longer than any of the other models in this list—and the Epic Air’s charging/carrying case is rated to provide four additional charges when you're on the go. The Epic Air also has integrated touch volume, music player function, and call controls. According to JLab, this model is water-resistant, as well.

This is the only model on this list that uses ear hooks, which wrap around your ears to keep the earphones secure. Our testers say they work well for people with medium or large ears. But if you have small ears, the ear hooks might not fit right, and the body of the earphones may be too big for smaller ear bowls.

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JLab Audio Epic Air stereo headphone

Price: $130.00

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Sony WF-SP700N

Sony brings noise cancellation to true wireless earphones with the WF-SP700N, which do well in our tests for that feature and for sound quality.

The WF-SP700N earphones have controls to turn noise canceling on or off (or to amplify ambient sound from your environment), as well as toggles for calls and music playback. However, there’s no integrated option for volume adjustment. The earphones are marketed as water-resistant.

This model has an advertised 3-hour battery life. The carrying/charging will recharge the earphones twice, and a quick-charging function will give you a power boost when you're on the go.

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Sony WF-SP700N noise-canceling headphone

Price: $150.00

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Jabra Elite Active 65t

The Jabra Elite Active 65t has top-notch audio, but it costs a bit more than some alternatives. It comes with a few novel features that may justify the higher price, though, like the ability to use the earphones with just the right ear piece, and a quick charge function that will boost your battery for an extra 1.5 hours after just 15 minutes, according to Jabra.

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

Other features include 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 may have trouble getting a secure fit.

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Jabra Elite Active 65t stereo headphone

Price: $190.00

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Samsung Gear IconX 2018

The Samsung Gear IconX 2018 has an integrated fitness tracker and can provide coaching during a run. It also has a built-digital music player, which is a nice feature if you want to exercise without your phone. Unlike some other models, however, the Gear IconX isn’t water-resistant.

The IconX works well as a regular old pair of earphones, too. Even critical listeners will probably appreciate the sound quality, and the model has controls for calls, playback, and volume. You can also use the earphone to activate Google Assistant and Bixby, Samsung’s digital assistant, when it’s paired with compatible devices.

Our testers noticed that it’s easy to accidentally activate the touch controls, however. And if you have small ear bowls, the IconX may feel a bit too large, according to CR testers. But for most users, these earphones should stay in place with no problem.

According to Samsung, the earphones have a 5-hour battery life, but the case will give you only one extra change.

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Samsung Gear IconX 2018 stereo headphone

Price: $180.00

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Bose SoundSport Free Wireless

Bose’s entry into the true wireless category isn’t a noise-canceling model, like some of 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 are supported by ear-bowl fittings.

All that makes them an appealing option if you typically find in-ear earphones uncomfortable.

The SoundSport Free Wireless delivers above-average audio, and it’s rated for 5 hours of battery life. The charging/carrying case will recharge the batteries an additional two times. Bose says the headphones are water-resistant.

This Bose model has an 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 an earpiece was connected in case it’s ever misplaced.

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Bose SoundSport Free Wireless stereo headphone

Price: $200.00

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