The JLab Audio Epic Air.

When true wireless earphones debuted in 2016, we weren’t impressed. The sound would occasionally drop out, they had noise problems such as constant hissing, and in some cases the audio was out of sync between the right and left ears.

But the technology has improved for these earphones, which don’t have wires connecting the two earpieces. Today the best true wireless models are among the top wireless portable headphones in CR’s tests.

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“Generally, we don’t see those problems anymore,” says Maria Rerecich, director of electronics testing at Consumer Reports. “Manufacturers are implementing the technology a lot more effectively, and some truly wireless headphones score very well.”

The earphones recommended below got high marks for sound, and four of them are marketed as water-resistant, making them great options for your next workout. (CR doesn’t test this feature.)

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 sound good enough to land in our Excellent range—and that’s the case with 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 home/studio-style option from our list of great wireless headphones, or check out 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 have a pretty limited battery life compared with bigger 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 Epic Air

This model sounds so good it would be worth considering even if you didn't care about going truly wireless. The JLab Audio Epic Air, $150, puts out great sound, and it’s one of the highest-rated wireless portable headphones in our ratings.

This is the only model on the 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 headphones may be too big for smaller ear bowls.

According to JLab, this model is water-resistant. It’s rated for 7 hours of battery life—longer than any of the other models on 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.

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JLab Audio Epic Air stereo headphone

Price: $130.00

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Jabra Elite Active 65t

The Jabra Elite Active 65t has top-notch audio, and, like the JLab Epic Air, it scores among the best of the wireless portable headphones in our ratings. At $190, it costs a bit more than the JLab. But it comes with some novel features that may justify the higher price, like the ability to use the earphones with just the right ear piece, and a quick charge function which, according to Jabra, will boost your battery for an extra 1.5 hours after just 15 minutes.

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

Other features include music player, volume, and call controls, and voice control operability with smart assistants on compatible devices. A free app adds additional functions, like a graphic equalizer and a step counter, and the earphones are advertised as water-resistant.

Our testers found that the 65t works well for people with medium- and larger-sized ear bowls. But 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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Monoprice True Wireless Earphones IPX4

Monoprice is well-known for budget versions of popular electronics, and this model is no exception. True wireless headphones used to be a choice between suboptimal performance or a price above $100. But that's all changed with the Monoprice True Wireless Earphones IPX4, which delivers high-quality sound for just $50.

Monoprice hasn't cut any significant corners to meet the bargain price. The IPX4's battery life is fairly typical for true wireless models at 2 to 4.5 hours of operating time, and the carrying case is rated for four extra charging cycles. The earphones have call and playback controls but no option for integrated volume adjustment. They're water-resistant as well, according to Monoprice.

Like most earphones on this list, people with small ear bowls may have problems finding a secure fit.

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Sony WF-1000X

Sony brings noise cancellation to true wireless earphones with the WF-1000X, $200, which got high scores for that feature and sound quality.

These are variable noise-canceling headphones that automatically adjust the level of noise-canceling to let in ambient sound from your surroundings in certain situations, such as walking down a street. You can also change the level of noise canceling with a touch or adjust these sound settings as well as the bass level with the free Sony Headphones Connect app.

The noise-canceling functionality comes with two trade-offs. This model isn't water-resistant, and while it does have call connect controls, you’ll have to reach for your connected device to skip tracks or adjust the volume; there are no integrated controls for these functions.

According to Sony, the WF-1000X is good for 3 hours of audio playback or up to 8 hours of just noise cancellation, and the carrying case will recharge the batteries an additional two times.

Unlike the other headphones on this list, the Sony WF-1000X is less-suited for users with large ears, who may have a hard time getting a secure fit. CR testers say these are fairly comfortable for in-ear headphones.

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Sony WF-1000X noise-canceling headphone

Price: $200.00

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Samsung Gear IconX 2018

A lot of athletes find true wireless earphones attractive, and this model from Samsung tries to sweeten the deal with some extra features.

The Samsung Gear IconX 2018, $190, has a built-in fitness tracker that measures calories, distance, duration, and speed and can provide coaching during a run. It also has a built-in 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 be happy with 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 they cautioned that tapping, which is required to activate some functions, might be uncomfortable for some users.

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, and the the ear-bowl supports make the fit very stable even with vigorous head movement.

According to Samsung, the earphones have a 5-hour battery life; 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 in 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, $200, 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 claims 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 if it’s ever misplaced.

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Bose SoundSport Free Wireless stereo headphone

Price: $200.00

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