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

The Apple AirPods received a long-anticipated update last April. In addition to an optional case that supports wireless charging, the second-generation AirPods come with a new company-designed H1 chip that Apple says will deliver better call quality, improved battery life, faster Bluetooth pairing, and the ability to use the voice-activated digital assistant Siri hands-free.

But in Consumer Reports’ labs, our testers find that the AirPods fall short in the area that counts most: sound quality. Like their predecessors, the new AirPods don’t score high enough to earn a CR recommendation. In fact, the sound is almost identical to the wired earbuds that come free with iPhones.

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

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First, these products also tend to have more limited battery life than traditional Bluetooth headphones. However, they typically come with a carrying case with a built-in battery, so the case doubles as a portable charger. That way, you can power your earphones on the go when you’re not using them. In general, these cases can hold enough power to give your earphones at least one full charge, and many can top your earphones off multiple times.

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

And 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, depending on the size of your ears.

With those caveats in mind, here are the best true wireless earphones, recommended by our testers, 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

True wireless headphones used to give you 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: $130

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JLab Audio Epic Air

Another highly rated model from JLab Audio is the Epic Air. These earphones are more expensive than the JBuds Air above. The sound quality falls in the same range, but the longer battery life may make it more appealing to some people.

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

This is the only pair 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.

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JLab Audio Epic Air

Price: $150

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Jabra Elite Active 65t

The Jabra Elite Active 65t costs a bit more than some alternatives. However, it has high-quality audio and comes with a few novel features that may justify the higher price, 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.

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 could have trouble getting a secure fit.

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Jabra Elite Active 65t

Price: $190

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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, though the audio performance isn’t quite as high as it is for the other models listed here.

The WF-SP700N earphones have controls to turn noise cancellation on or off (or to amplify ambient sound from your environment), as well as toggles for calls and music playback. But 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 case 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

Price: $180

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Bose SoundSport Free Wireless

Bose’s entry into the true wireless category isn’t a noise-canceling 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, and it’s 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: $130

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Inside CR's Anechoic Chamber

On the “Consumer 101” TV show, host Jack Rico and a high school marching band put Consumer Reports’ anechoic chamber to the test to find out what it sounds like when you remove all echoes from music.