Is the daily act of untangling your headphones cord like some kind of impossible puzzle? It’s the curse of owning wired headphones — so infuriating that someone once did a scientific study into why it happens. Yes, really.
Perhaps that’s why — along with ever-evolving technology — the top audio brands have largely ditched the classic headphone jack and moved towards almost exclusively wireless listening. Unsurprisingly, wireless earbuds have risen in popularity and become a must-have bit of tech for busy and active lifestyles.
What are wireless earbuds?
Just like a pair of standard wired buds, these little guys fit snugly inside your ear’s concha — that’s the shell-shaped cavity right next to the entrance of your ear canal. But instead of sending digital audio signals through a cord, they transmit them via a wireless connection.
What is true wireless?
True wireless is a term you’ll come across a lot when researching and shopping for earbuds.
Technically, earbuds fall into several categories. For instance, “wireless” earbuds connect to each other via a cord, while “true wireless” have no cord whatsoever — they are completely independent of each other and your device. True wireless headphones can use different types of wireless technology to transmit the sound into your ears. The most common form is Bluetooth.
With brands and listeners favouring true wireless, we’ve followed suit — all the earbuds in this roundup are true wireless.
Are earbuds better than headphones?
If portability and a lower price point appeals to you, you’ll probably prefer wireless earbuds over the on-ear counterpart (wireless headphones). And luckily for you, Apple is no longer the only major brand cranking them out. From Bose to Beats, almost every audio brand has got a couple of wireless earbud offerings on the market nowadays.
Headphones are generally considered the go-to option for serious audiophiles. But there are earbuds geared towards high-quality sound that can match up to over-ear headphones at the same price point. Wireless sound quality can be affected by factors such as distance and obstructions between your headphones and device, and the codec software that your headphones support.
What are Bluetooth codecs?
Codecs are algorithms that encode and decode digital audio signals. Look out for earbuds with low latency (this is the time it takes for the sound to hit your ears) and support for Qaulcomm’s aptX codecs. These are the best, most up-to-date codecs — particularly for streaming video content and keeping the image and audio in sync. This is important if you’re a Netflix nerd or have a passion for Prime.
What is noise cancellation?
Noise cancellation is another important feature in tech-savvy headphones. There are two kinds of noise cancellation — passive and active noise cancelling. Passive noise cancellation is achieved by the design of the headphones, which may physically block out noise. Active noise cancellation (usually called ANC) uses a system of small microphones which pick up external sounds and create anti-noise sound waves to cancel them out.
Earbuds tend to offer some level of passive noise cancellation because of their in-ear design. But some also have specific ANC modes — or even transparency modes that allow select ambient sounds to seep in. A transparency mode is especially useful when listening out for announcements at the station or talking to colleagues — all without having to stop playing your music.
What are the best wireless earbuds?
All of these options can make for a tricky decision when it comes to finding the right pair of wireless earbuds in terms of fit, style, and intended use. That’s why we’ve done the research to bring you the following list of the best wireless earbuds featuring the latest Bluetooth technology.
These are the best wireless earbuds in 2021.