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The best earbuds you can buy right now

Looking for the best earbuds? ZDNET's top picks have active noise cancellation and voice assistant capabilities, and most importantly, they don't fall out of your ears.
Written by Allison Murray, Staff Writer on

Earbuds have come a long way since the days of tangled wires. Now, most have advanced to wireless earbuds that you connect to your device via Bluetooth to listen to your favorite music or podcasts. 

The market is filled with different choices for earbuds, with features like active noise cancellation, wireless or quick charging, and intuitive touch interfaces. Brands like Bose, Sony, Apple, and JBL make up the space, so it can be hard to choose which earbuds are right for you. 

That's why we've rounded up the best earbuds—from true wireless bone conduction—so you can make your pick. 

Must read: 

Pros & Cons
pros
  • Intuitive touch interface
  • Excellent noise-cancellation
  • Comfortable and secure fit
cons
  • Large carrying case
  • Call quality not as great as music quality
More Details

Tech specs: Battery life: 6 hours | Noise canceling: Yes | Voice assistant: Yes | Waterproof rating: IPX4

Bose's Acoustic Noise Cancelling technology provides true quiet and true wireless within these earbuds. Using hidden microphones in the earbuds, they monitor external sound and emit an anti-sound wave to cancel out any noise other than whatever you're listening to.

When you want to tune back into your surroundings, an Aware Mode feature allows you to hear your music and surroundings at a lower level simultaneously. So if you wish to block the sounds of city construction or get into the zone for work, these Bose earbuds are excellent true wireless options.

Pros & Cons
pros
  • Secure fit
  • Excellent waterproof rating
  • Good battery life and charging
cons
  • Limited app functionality
  • Noise isolation isn't that great
More Details

Tech specs: Battery life: 6 hours | Noise canceling: No | Voice assistant: Yes | Waterproof rating: IPX4

Despite the latest technology, some users may still prefer a wired fit. Although called wireless, these Bose SoundSport earbuds are not entirely wireless because they are still connected by a wire that wraps around your neck to keep the fit secure while you are wearing them. The earbuds' StayHear+ Sport tips are built to stay in your ears, so you can work out in these without worrying about them falling out—plus, they are sweatproof.

The rechargeable lithium-ion battery provides up to six hours of listening on a full battery in just two hours of charging. In addition, you can easily control the volume, skip tracks, and take calls by tapping the built-in remote.

Pros & Cons
pros
  • Affordable
  • Lightweight design
  • Never need to worry about battery
cons
  • !No advanced features like voice assistant or ANC
  • Sound quality is decent, but not as crisp as other options
More Details

Tech specs: Battery life: N/A | Noise canceling: No—but has sound isolation | Voice assistant: No | Waterproof rating: N/A

If you're looking to go entirely "old-school" and forgo Bluetooth altogether for wired earbuds, these earbuds from Sennheiser are great midrange options. A 3.9-inch cable includes a built-in microphone and remote so you can play or pause music and take a call without using your phone. While these earbuds don't have active noise cancellation, they have sound isolation thanks to their in-ear design.

These also come with four ear adapter sizes (XS, S, M, and L) and a handy travel pouch. And, since they are wired, you never have to worry about charging them.

Pros & Cons
pros
  • Adaptive transparency mode
  • Personalizable spatial audio settings
  • Four sizes
cons
  • Not the greatest for non-iPhone users
  • Expensive
More Details

Tech specs: Battery life: 6 hours | Noise canceling: Yes | Voice assistant: Siri | Waterproof rating: IPX4

The newest Apple AirPods Pro that debuted this year are a welcome upgrade from the previous generation's features. Thanks to Apple's new and improved H2 chip, these AirPods have better performance via high-band connectivity and a low distortion audio driver with a custom amplifier. The technologies combine to ensure clearer audio across various sound frequencies, making them the best-sounding AirPods to date. 

As far as noise-cancellation goes, these Airpods have two times more noise cancellation than the previous version. An upgraded adaptive transparency mode also automatically lowers the volume of harmful noises above the 85dB threshold. Plus, you can personalize your spatial audio settings to create your ideal sound experience (using iOS 16). 

Read the review: AirPods Pro 2 offer two big upgrades but connectivity chaos hasn't been tamed

Pros & Cons
pros
  • Comfortable and secure fit
  • Quick charge support
  • Amazing battery life
cons
  • Limited to IP55 sweat resistance
More Details

Tech specs: Battery life: 10 hours | Noise canceling: Yes (microphones) | Voice assistant: N/A | Waterproof rating: IP55

Don't want to cram something in your ear? These open-ear earbuds by Shokz fit over your ear and play the sound against your cheekbone. Two bass enhancers allow you to experience every note, beat, and chorus of your favorite song, resulting in premium sound quality. They have an impressive battery life of up to 10 hours, but if you need a quick, last-minute charge, charging them for five minutes provides up to 1.5 hours of listening.

Perfect for runners, these earbuds stay put thanks to the brand's signature open-ear design. And while this allows you to remain alert to your surroundings, the trade-off is that you still hear ambient sounds around you.

Read the review: Shokz OpenRun Pro review: Outstanding bone conduction headset for safe training

What are the best earbuds?

The best earbuds really depend on what you are looking for. You can trust brands like Sony, Bose, Apple, Sennheiser, and others to make great quality earbuds. 

Earbuds

Price

Battery Life

ANC

Bose QuietComfort 

$199

6 hours

Yes

Bose SoundSport

$129

6 hours 

No

Sennheiser CX 300S     

$34

Always on

No, but sound isolation

AirPods Pro (2nd Gen)

$249

6 hours

Yes

Shokz OpenRun Pro

$178

10 hours

Yes (microphones)

Which earbuds are right for you?

While all of these earbuds are excellent picks, it ultimately depends on what type of from factor is most comfortable for your ears, if noise cancellation is important to you, battery life, and how much you're willing to spend.

Choose these earbuds...

If you want...

Bose QuietComfort 

True wireless earbuds with great noise-cancellation

Bose SoundSport

Wireless earbuds that still have a cable for a secure fit 

Sennheiser CX 300S     

Wired headphones that you plug into a 3.5mm headphone jack

AirPods Pro (2nd Gen)

Noise-canceling earbuds with adaptive transparency mode 

Shokz OpenRun Pro

Bone conduction earbuds with excellent battery life

How did we choose these earbuds?

We chose these earbuds by conducting extensive research as well as our own experiences using these devices ourselves to listen to music and podcasts. We compared ratings and reviews from customers (both good and bad), standout features, brands, and different price points to help you find the best earbuds for your budget and needs. 

Are earbuds bad for your hearing?

Over-the-ear headphones are a better option than earbuds for your health since you're not physically sticking anything in your ear. However, if you prefer the portability and convenience of earbuds, you can still use them—just be smart about it.

If you're looking for tips for preventing hearing loss caused by headphones, some include keeping the volume lower (and opting for ANC headphones to cancel out exterior noise rather than turning up the volume), using quality headphones, and taking breaks while working with headphones in so you can give your eardrums a breather. 

And, you can always opt for open-backed headphones like the Shokz OpenRun Pro

Are AirPods worth it?

It really depends—if you're a die-hard Apple fan, the AirPods Pro (2nd Generation) are the brand's top-of-the-line earbuds that stack up against many competitors. You can expect ANC, customized spatial audio, and an active transparency mode. Plus, they are lightweight and reliable.

In fact, Apple dominated the U.S. headphone market in 2021, and beat out other brands like Samsung, JBL, and Bose for the most popular headphone brand.

However, if you're open to looking at other brands, Bose and Sony make excellent earbuds, some of which are on this list. Especially if you plan to use your earbuds mainly for working out, there are other worthy earbud options than AirPods.

Are there alternative earbuds worth considering?

Here are a few other options to look into:

 

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