1. Expert reviews

Top 43 Best In-ear headphones of 2021

Elina Blom

Updated September 7, 2021

Looking for really convenient headphones for your phone? If so, in-ear headphones are a practical choice that stay in place well, providing both natural sound isolation and good bass. We've tested a large number of in-ear headsets, both with and without wires, and we name Creative’s Outlier Gold as our best in test.

Top 43 Best In-ear headphones of 2021

1. Creative Outlier Gold – BEST CHOICE IN-EAR HEADPHONE 2021

True wireless headphones with impressive sound and battery life

Price class: Medium Driver size: 5.6 mm Noise cancellation: Passive Frequency response: 20-20,000 Hz

Creative Outlier Gold

Creative’s true wireless Outlier Gold headphones are impressive in many ways, but what really makes them stand out is the incredible 14-hour battery life. That’s not merely good – it’s by far the best on the market.

This type of exceptional claim isn't usually very reliable, but these headphones really do live up to the stated lifetime, including when we use them at fairly high volume.

This type of battery capacity is, of course, invaluable if you’re the kind of person who sometimes forgets to charge their electronics overnight or if you’re on a long flight and don’t have access to USB charging. And having to stand around waiting before you can go for a run just because your headphones aren’t charged isn’t particular fun either – but you won’t have to do that with this device.

Fit nicely into your ears

Another thing that strikes you when you unpack them for the first time is how big the Outlier Gold headphones are compared to many other products in this segment. They aren’t grotesquely large, but they’re certainly substantial. But this turns out to be an excellent size, because it means they fit securely even into ears that normally can’t tolerate in-ear headphones.

And they’re also unusually easy to insert correctly. Once in place, they're really stable, and they're also easy to operate with a simple control in the form of a pressure-sensitive plate inside an LED ring. The latter also makes the Outlier Gold headphones look great.

Once they’re in, they don’t look big either – they simply look attractive.

Good sound too

We had a lot of initial problems getting the Bluetooth pairing to work with the iPad and Huawei Mate 20 Pro that we tested the headphones with. After switching them on and off many times, the devices finally appeared and then everything went smoothly, but this is something that Creative need to improve.

Once we got the headphones going, they offered surprisingly good sound. The bass in particular is impressive, and unlike many other products in this segment, it doesn't require the headphones to be positioned exactly right down to the millimetre to get the best sound. This may be related to the fact that, as we said earlier, the headphones are actually difficult to insert incorrectly.

When it comes to the lower parts of the mid-range, there is a tendency to a bit too much resonance, but nothing serious. At the top end of the frequency spectrum there’s plenty of sparkle and the definition is clear without sounding artificial. Someone's definitely done a really good job here.

Noise cancellation is impressive too – amongst the best in the class. We suspect that this efficiency is strongly linked to the physical size of the headphones, because you can’t really put them in wrong.

The fact that the price is so low compared to many competitors’ products means these are a serious challenger to all the other true wireless headphones on the market.

Excellent soundvery good noise cancellationextremely good battery life
Rather fiddly pairingmay not be suitable for people with smaller ears

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2. Jabra Elite Sport – BEST SPORTS HEADPHONES

Excellent headphones for real fitness fanatics

Type: Sports headphones Water-resistant: Yes (IP67: up to 1 m for 30 min) Connection: Wireless (Bluetooth 4.1) Battery life: 4.5 h Weight: 41 g Miscellaneous: Real-time coaching, heart rate monitor, three-axis accelerometer for rep calculation, app (Android, iOS), headset function, case with built-in powerbank

Jabra Elite Sport

Jabra Elite Sport are wireless headphones with a range of smart and effective functions such as pulse measurement and a rep counter. For example, the headphones counted the correct number of push-ups even when we tried to fool them

The “personal trainer” app works to push, motivate and inform you.

Sound-wise, the Elite Sport headphones perform very well for a pair of in-ear devices, with heavy bass and excellent depth in the sound. The mid-range gets submerged slightly by the bass, but the treble is still clear.

The headphones’ noise cancellation suppresses ambient sound so effectively you have to be careful when running outdoors. It should be possible to deactivate noise reduction by tapping twice on the headphones, but in practice this doesn’t really work. The discreet buttons could have been a bit bigger and with less built-in resistance too. As it stands, it’s difficult to press the buttons without disturbing the device in your ear, particularly while you’re running.

Expensive headphones but you get an awful lot for your money

The Elite Sport headphones are a premium product, and this is particularly noticeable in the accessories. They come with a small case for storage and charging. This includes built-in LED lighting and a powerbank charging station that lasts for two full charges – which is rather stingy given the competition.

They also include several different sizes of ear plugs, both in silicone and contoured foam. There are also several different pulse meter wings. Despite its compact size, the manual is clear, with large images and text instructions. A voice provides simple instructions on how to pair them with your mobile phone. The concept is user-friendly throughout.

The ear plugs are no more uncomfortable than average, but after 1.5 hours they start to hurt a little. The headphones work fine for running, but they do still fall out once or twice, particularly during exercises such as push-ups.

Jabra Elite Sport headphones have a fairly hefty price tag, but you do get a lot of quality and functionality for your money. It's clear that the manufacturer has thought about every aspect, and the weaknesses of these headphones are both few and minor. If you register them, you also get a three-year guarantee.

Good build qualitygreat soundlots of accessories
Very small & stiff buttonsrather short battery life

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3. Apple Airpods Pro – BEST PREMIUM IN-EAR HEADPHONES

Expensive but fantastic headphones

Type: Wireless in-ear headphones Water-resistant: Yes Connection: Wireless (Bluetooth 5) Battery life (headphones): 4.5 hours Battery life (case): 24 h Weight: 5.4 g (headphones), 45.6 g (case)

Apple AirPods Pro

Apple Airpods Pro are the eagerly anticipated in-ear model of the company's popular Airpods. But Apple weren’t just content with creating a new headphone shape. They've also significantly improved the sound and added really intelligent noise cancellation.

Incredibly comfortable

Apple themselves boast that the covers on the headphones “breathe”. This may sound irrelevant, but it actually makes them comfortable to wear for longer periods – something that’s otherwise a weakness of in-ear models.

They are also moisture resistant, so you can work out while you’re wearing them. The disadvantage is that they quickly slide out when you get a bit sweaty, so sports headphones are still a better choice.

If you connect Airpods Pro to an iPhone or iPad, you can change certain settings, including doing a fit test and setting which earbud should act as the microphone when you’re talking. However there are relatively few settings in general, and you also lose all the setting options if you connect the headphones to an Android phone or a PC.

The noise cancellation is really good. It reduces most ambient sound without feeling over the top like some active noise cancellation headphones can. A long press on the headphone button switches off noise cancellation and at the same time helps to let in the sound more than conventional in-ear headphones do.

Automatically good sound

Airpods haven’t previously been known for producing good sound, but Apple have changed that. We’re actually surprised at the amount of detail in all registers.

While there are true wireless headphones in this price range with faster and more lively sound, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the quality here overall. Apple have included an automatic equaliser to adapt the sound to what’s being played, and this seems to do a very good job.

Calls too are relatively good. True wireless headphones aren’t exactly known for their call quality, but probably because the microphone is on a little rod shaped thing on the Airpods Pro (just like its predecessors), it usually sounds OK to the person on the other end of the line. And that’s more than you can say about the majority of headphones in this class.

Apple Airpods are more expensive than other true wireless headphones with active noise cancellation. At the same time, they offer great fit, a really convenient format, intelligent noise cancellation and sound that's almost equal to the class winner. This makes the Airpods Pro our best premium choice for in-ear headphones.

Good soundextremely easy to useintelligent noise cancellation
Don’t stay in place when you sweatfew settings

4. Jaybird Vista

Sweat-resistant headphones with a stable connection

Type: True wireless headphones Water-resistant: Yes (IPX7) Connection: Wireless (Bluetooth) Battery life: 6+10 hours (headphones+case) Weight: 6 g

Jaybird Vista

There’s always a worry with wireless headphones – particularly true wireless ones – that the connection with the phone will be poor and will make your music stutter. But after a long period testing Jaybird Vista headphones, we’re happy to say that we’ve completely forgotten about that particular irritation.

Stay in place

Vista headphones are stored in a very convenient charging case, which comes with an attachment strap to emphasise its sporty aspect. Charging takes place via USB-C – rather slowly over a two-hour period – and gives you six hours of playtime on the headphones and another ten from the case, which is really good.

In addition to uninterrupted music, fit is the most important thing here. Sweat and general jiggling are always a challenge to in-ear headphones, and we’ve repeatedly been impressed by how well these Jaybird Vista headphones stay in place in all conditions. They don’t even budge during tough workouts or a total downpour.

Lacking a bit of detail, but still really good sound

The classic disadvantage of true wireless headphones is that call quality suffers, and unfortunately that’s true here too. They work, but the sound is always a bit distant and muddy for the person you’re talking to.

But there’s nothing wrong with the sound quality when you’re listening to music. Compared to the best headphones, we lose a good bit of detail in the sound, but they definitely don’t sound bad.

As is often the case with sport headphones, the bass is turned up somewhat as standard – but you can set this in the app. You can also choose what the buttons on headphones do (one per device). The lack of buttons means you have to set the volume on your phone, but you can control simple operations via the headphones.

Jaybird Vista headphones sound good enough when you listen to music, have one of the most stable connections yet on a pair of true wireless headphones and perhaps the best fit we’ve experienced on sports headphones. An ideal combination if you listen to a lot of music while you exercise but don’t handle too many phone calls.

Great fit even during exerciserelatively long battery lifeuninterrupted connectionpowerful bass that can be adjustedcan be washed after your workout
Poor call soundlacks some detail in the sound

5. Jabra Elite 85T

Intermittently very impressive true wireless headphones

Type: Wireless in-ear headphones with ANC Water resistant: Yes (IPX4) Connection: Wireless (Bluetooth 5.1) Battery life: 5.5 hrs (25 hrs in total with battery case) Weight: 7 g (earbud), 45.1 g (charging case) Miscellaneous: Active Noise Cancellation (ANC)

Jabra Elite 85T

The Jabra Elite 85T are the latest true wireless model from Danish manufacturer Jabra. The price tag indicates premium headphones, and they have many details that definitely justify the price. Despite the relatively high weight, we really do have a hard time remembering a pair of in-ear headphones, true wireless or not, that were more comfortable to wear for such long periods.

Incredibly comfortable

Nobody could ever accuse Jabra of being design masters, and the 85T doesn’t stand out in any way. This is in more than one way, of course, because they sit fairly discreetly in the ear and are generally quite minimalist, but at the same time with a design you unfortunately forget immediately.

And that’s about where the negative stuff comes to an end. We don’t really know what Jabra have done here, other than casting a couple of thousand pairs of ears to tinker with the fit, but we’re positively surprised at how comfortable they are to wear for a long time. The stated battery life of 5.5 hours is accurate and OK, though not class-leading, and we wore them for an entire charge without experiencing any significant pressure or discomfort in the ear canal.

Speaking of batteries, you also get a decent amount of charges from the battery case, which can also be charged wirelessly if desired.

Spacious sound

Another reason we have them in for a full battery charge is that they sound really good. The soundstage may not be as lively and fast as with Sony’s equivalents, but we get a much better feeling of space in the sound here. On a positive note, they work really well during conversations too, picking up your voice unexpectedly well. In slightly more noisy situations outdoors, they can’t really cope, but for the most part we are pleasantly surprised.

Via Jabra’s app, you can set the equaliser and also what the buttons on each earbud should do, as well as switch between Google or Alexa as voice assistants. The active noise cancellation also does a good job and there are no difficulties in turning on listening-through mode either. Jabra boast of 11 levels between full listen-through and full noise cancellation. This isn’t something you’ll have use of in practice, but there are setting options if you so wish.

The Jabra Elite 85T are pretty expensive headphones but actually feel worth every penny. The combination of them being so incredibly comfortable to wear and delivering really good sound makes them an amazingly good product.

Very high sound qualityincredibly comfortable to wear even for a long periodmany functions
Rather anonymous designslightly short battery life in the headphones themselves

6. Sony WF-1000XM3

Great headphones but sensitive to the wind

Type: Wireless in-ear headphones Water-resistant: Yes Connection: Wireless (Bluetooth 4.2) Battery life: 6 h Weight: 15.7g

Sony WF-1000XM3

Sony's WF-1000XM3 headphones may have a complicated name and a rather bulky charging case, but they’re the best true wireless headphones we’ve tested up to now.

Large and attractive but sensitive to the wind

But let’s start with the negative things. Both the charging case and headphones are on the large side. The headphones in particular are relatively large compared to many others. And this is also where we find the biggest disadvantage with these headphones. Because you barely have to walk briskly before you start hearing the wind across the headphones. Often it stays at a level you can ignore, but it’s still audible.

And this is a real shame, because the active noise cancellation in these headphones is really good.

You can set the level of noise cancellation in the app, together with a lot of other functions.

We should also praise the battery solution. It isn’t unusual for a charging case to run out of charge relatively quickly because it’s topping up the headphones the entire time. In the case of the WF-1000XM3, that aspect seems to have been resolved and we rarely face a situation where the headphones aren’t charged after not being used for a while.

Lively sound

However, the most important thing for headphones is how they perform in terms of sound, and Sony’s in-ear headphones are currently the best on the market. For example, we get no comments at all on the sound quality from the person on the other end of phone calls. The headphones pick up some background noise, but sound great in both directions during calls. This also means that communicating with the voice assistant works really well.

But that’s nothing compared to the music sound, however. Sony have been able to capture a huge amount of detail and a great deal of punch in the bass register that we can't remember hearing many times before with in-ear headphones. In combination with lots of detail in the mid and treble registers, this makes it a pleasure to listen to music on WF-1000XM3 headphones.

Another positive is that we experience no delay at all in the sound, which means you can watch films with them on. The intermittently stuttering connection that many true wireless headphones have doesn’t seem to be present at all.

We’d have liked to have seen water resistance and the possibility of changing the volume directly on headphones. But given how incredibly good the sound and noise cancellation are, we can forgive that.

Sony WF-1000XM3 headphones are quite simply the best true wireless headphones you can buy today.

Phenomenal soundgreat call soundgood noise cancellation
Picks up a lot of wind noise

7. Sudio Tolv

Good value headphones for everyday use

Type: True wireless headphones Water-resistant: No, but sweat-resistant Connection: Wireless (Bluetooth 5.0 v2) Battery life: 7 hrs + 30 hrs (headphones + case) Weight: 8 g + 40 g (headphones + case) Range: 15 metres

Sudio TOLV

Swedish brand Sudio’s Tolv headphones have an attractive exterior with lots of functions, all at a relatively low cost for true wireless. You get very good sound quality, a long range and a decent battery life. Those are three of the most important parameters when you’re looking for headphones.

Tolv’s shell is made of plastic with a slightly rubberised surface, so they feel nice in your hand. They’re easy to grip and they also look good when you’re wearing them. There are six different colours to choose from, which is a real bonus if you care about appearances.

The sound you get from Tolv is really good. The focus feels as if it was on the mid-range, where voices and instruments have a very clean and clear sound. The base is fine too, but it never overwhelms the mid-range, as it tends to do with some competitors.

Tolv’s headphones are equipped with two microphones, one in each ear, which makes voice pick up clear and crisp. With this setup, you do get a lot of background noise, which means it’s kind of obvious to the other party what’s happening around you, wherever you are.

Sudio-Tolv-1

In terms of fit? Our first impression was that Sudio Tolv are a bit clumsy. It was difficult to find a good position or a good fit in the ear. So we did a bit of research. And once you know how they should sit in your ear, they actually fit really well and feel quite stable. You also get three different sizes of silicone covers so that you can adapt the headphones to your ears. However, these headphones never really feel comfortable in your ear, and that is clearly Tolv's Achilles heel.

Sudio state that Tolv has seven hours of battery life, and as long as you play at normal volume, this seems to be more or less right. If you turn up the volume, that uses about half an hour of battery life. At the same time, the convenient case offers up to 35 hours of charging capacity, which is really good considering the price of these headphones.

Sudio-Tolv-2

Sudio Tolv are ideal for the everyday commuter, and thanks to the battery life they do well on the go when the battery becomes more important. They are also suitable for lighter training and although not water resistant they can withstand sweat and so on. But they’re no good for exercise where you’re rushing around too much or making faces from effort, because they tend to jump out of your ears. Above all these are really good value headphones for everyday use. But it’s a good idea to try them out first to make sure they fit your ears.

Good battery lifeexcellent build qualityclear mid-range & good balance in the sound
Unbalanced positioning in the eara bit uncomfortable

8. Oneplus Bullets Wireless 2

Battery-reinforced neckband with good sound

Type: Wireless in-ear headphones Water-resistant: No Connection: Wireless (Bluetooth 5.0) Battery life: 14 h Miscellaneous: Support for Google Assistant, quick button for switching between devices

OnePlus Bullets Wireless 2

The Oneplus Bullets Wireless 2 is a really good example of how Oneplus don’t only make affordable high-performance phones. Their second generation of wireless headphones includes a range of useful functions for a very reasonable price.

Fast charging and fast changing

Just like their predecessor, the Bullets Wireless 2 take the form of what’s known as neckbuds. This means that you have a slightly thicker neckband over your neck and a wire up to each headphone.

The neckband contains the charging contact, USB-C, battery and connection button. Controls on one cable allow you to control the music and phone calls.

One major advantage is the really long battery life of 14 hours, which agrees quite well with our measurements. But the headphones also feature a quick charge function, where a ten minute charge will give you ten hours of play time.

The connection button is a nice solution too. Using this you can quickly switch between two paired devices, such as your phone and computer. During our tests we didn’t experience any connection problems either, regardless of paired device.

Unfortunately there’s a very powerful LED on the neckband. You don’t notice this in the daylight, but in dark rooms the flashing is very obvious.

Neutral sound and good sound suppression

When it comes to the sound, Oneplus have upgraded both the drivers and the technology behind them. This gives you really good sound across the board, whatever the musical genre. The mid-range isn’t as detailed as with the very best headphones, but you get an overall neutral sound without any part standing out.

The speech quality is really good, which is relatively rare for this type of product. It also gets a bonus for Google Assistant support.

The buds themselves sit really well in your ears and significantly reduce ambient noise, without being equipped with active noise cancellation. The fit means they stay put during workouts. There’s no official water resistance, however, although we didn’t run into any problems here.

Not everyone likes the neckband solution for headphones. But if that doesn’t bother you, Oneplus Bullets Wireless 2 are a great choice for both music and calls.

Good music soundtop quality call soundclever switch button
Not water-resistantdisturbing LED

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9. Sony EX650AP

Beautifully designed headphones with a detailed, natural sound and a high feeling of presence

Price class: Medium Connector type: 3.55 mm Cable length: 120 cm Driver size: 12 mm Headset: Yes Acoustic construction: Closed Frequency response: 5-28,000 Hz

Sony MDR-EX650AP

Sony EX650AP headphones are impressive both in terms of sound and build quality. To minimise resonance and sound distortion, the housing is made of brass – in other words the same material used in instruments such as trumpets and French horns. The brass also gives the headphones a characteristic golden colour.

The soundstage is detailed and well balanced with great presence. Overall, the headphones have a linear frequency response and give an open, natural sound. The bass is punchy and energetic, but if we were being picky we’d have liked a bit more warmth in the lower mid-range.

The twisted design of the headphones mean they fit perfectly in your ears, even while you’re out running. The cable is tangle-free and the sound quality of the microphone is excellent. We really are very impressed, and these are a must-buy for all music lovers.

Detailed natural sound with high feeling of presencehigh build quality
No volume control

10. Urbanears Active Stadion

Tough headphones for fitness fans looking for great design

Type: Sports headset Water-resistant: Yes (stated as sweat-resistant) Connection: Wireless (Bluetooth 4.0) Microphone: Built-in Max SPL: 115 dB Battery life: 7 h

Urbanears Stadion

Urbanears Active Stadion headphones take the form of a wireless in-ear headset with a clever design that means it stays in place without you having to insert the buds into your ears. It’s designed so that a frame behind the ear connects to a smaller, soft frame on the front. The headset is very comfortable to wear. Above all you never need to worry that it’s going to fall out – it never even moved during our toughest trail running sessions, such as OCR.

The corkscrew neckband also means that it fits everyone, regardless of how large or small your head is. However, it can be a bit fiddly to get into place before you’ve got used to it.

Nor are the minimalist controls entirely obvious. They employ a time-based system with a single button for control. A two-second-long press on Play starts the headset, but if you want to pair it with a new unit you first have to turn it off and then hold the button in for five seconds. An LED lamp indicates the status. It’s easy when you know how, but in terms of user-friendliness it could definitely be improved.

Keeps you aware of your surroundings if you're exercising outdoors

The sound quality is what you'd expect from a headset of this category. The sound is clear with good reproduction of the higher register, but unfortunately it’s lacking bass and depth. The clear sound is great for conversations – so if somebody rings during your exercise session, it’s no problem to hear what they’re saying.

However, the Stadion headset takes in a lot of ambient noise too. If you’re working out in noisy gyms, this can be irritating, but it’s more useful for anybody who'd rather exercise outdoors and who needs to keep track of their surroundings. In other words, it’s a plus in safety terms.

The Stadion also coped with the water tests we exposed it to. Everything from sweaty running sessions in the rain to taking a turn (by mistake) in the washing machine. Given how comfortably and easily it sits in the ears and the perfectly acceptable soundstage, together with the advantages named above, our conclusion is that this is a very good headset, particularly if you often exercise outdoors.

Comfortable designwater-resistantfits firmly in your ears
Less good in noisy environments

11. Sudio Five

Great sound for a good price

Type: Wireless in-ear headphones Water-resistant: Yes (IPX5) Connection: Wireless (Bluetooth 5) Battery life (headphones): 6 hrs Battery life (case): 12 h Weight: 5.4 g (headphones), 45.6 g (case)

Sudio FEM

Sudio Fem headphones are satisfying in some respects, but disappointing in others. They excel when it comes to sound, and really do sound better than their price tag suggests. These headphones have a very clean treble, a good bass and a well-defined mid-range. They work just as well for classical music as they do for RnB. In terms of price, and the fact that they are also true wireless with a charging bank in the case, the sound is phenomenal.

At the same time, these headphones also have one disadvantage that’s difficult to ignore. They start to hurt your ears after wearing them for about 20 minutes. It’s not that they fit badly – quite the opposite. For a model without wings, they actually fit very well. But they’re just so hard, so rigid, that you can’t help noticing them. And after an hour or so, you’ll definitely want to take them out.

Fast charging

Sudio Fem are easy to start using. Simply charge the case via the USB-C cable, remove the headphones, insert them into your ears and open the Bluetooth settings on the device you want to pair them with. The touch controls are a bit sluggish at responding, and don’t always register or sometimes double-register commands if you’re not careful. This is an area where there’s room for improvement for Sudio.

The case is one of the better ones we’ve tested. Partly because of its size and choice of materials, partly because of the functions. In terms of size, it fits easily into a trouser pocket. In fact the round and fairly flat shape means it can be hidden away almost anywhere. The magnet in the lid keeps the case firmly closed. There is also a cord so that you can hang the case up when required. The slightly rubberised surface means that you get a good grip on it and that it’s nice and stable in your hand. On the inside are four informative diodes that show how much battery is left.

The battery life you get out of Sudio Five is around 5-6 hours depending on how high you have the volume, and with the rechargeable case you get almost 2 full charges on top of that which makes the total battery life around 17-18 hours – fine for the price but not exactly outstanding.

One advantage is the speed at which you can fast charge Sudio Fem. Ten minutes of charging gives about an hour of battery life, which is incredibly fast and ideal for stress filled days where you forgot to charge the battery.

Sudio Fem are great for anyone looking for a pair of affordable true wireless headphones. But you should test them first to see how they feel, as they can be a bit hard on your ears. If you like the fit, these are a really good buy – you get good sound and lots of functions at a fairly low price.

Extremely good soundfast chargingconvenient & informative case
Feel hard on the earsinconsistent touch control

12. Philips TAT8505

Impressive sound with natural mid-range for audiophiles

Type: True Wireless headphones with active noise cancellation Water resistant: Yes, sweat-resistant IPX4 Battery life: 6 hours (measured) + 18 hours from the case Miscellaneous: Double microphones, awareness mode adapts to prevailing conditions

Philips TAT8505BK

**Philips TAT8505 ** are a pair of stylish true wireless headphones from the 8000 series. The headphones come with no less than five different rubber plugs to ensure a good fit, and we had no problem getting them to fit well during our tests, which included a really bumpy run of 7 kms on snow and ice.

The headphones offered really good noise cancellation, which may not be class-leading, but which still does a reasonable job. Philips use proprietary technology for this purpose, and we feel that it’s amongst the top 10... but not the top 3.

Philips-TAT8505-true-wireless

Sound quality in detail

Overall the sound is very good. You don’t really get the full bass that more expensive true wireless headphones offer, but for anyone seeking uplifting sound on their Sunday walk, the bass reproduction is more than good enough. It should also be noted that many audiophiles prefer a slightly more restrained bass, as it can easily overwhelm the other frequencies.

The mid-range is straight and provides an experience reminiscent of studio monitors (i.e. the type of speakers used when mixing sound in a studio). It gives very believable sound reproduction, but it also tends to mean that the mid-range isn’t necessarily pleasant, especially at high volume. But if you haven't got the sound turned up to 11 it works OK.

The treble is excellent. It’s well balanced, with good definition even when you have noise cancellation activated. All in all, these are a pair of headphones that sound incredibly good, regardless of whether you listen to Metallica or Adele.

Philips have also succeeded well with call quality. Even when you're in the middle of a busy street during rush hour, it’s still possible to have a conversation without the recipient being disturbed by the sounds around you.

The promised battery life also matches very well with the actual battery life.

Bluetooth pairing, on the other hand, is less good. During our tests we had repeated problems with getting these headphones to appear on the list of devices, whether we used an iPhone 11 Pro, an iPad Pro or a Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra. We also found one of the headphones was prone to disconnecting, reconnecting, disconnecting and so on, which reduced the user experience quite substantially.

The fact that Philips doesn’t have a more prominent position in this segment suddenly seems like a mystery, and given how good this product actually sounds, apart from the Bluetooth issues, we can only give it our warmest recommendations. The TAT8505 isn't the best in class when it comes to sound quality, but it’s definitely amongst the top 15-20.

Impressive sound qualitycomfortable fitgood noise cancellation
Bluetooth pairing fiddlycould have had higher IP rating

13. Huawei Freebuds Pro

Lots of functions but some limitations

Type: Wireless in-ear headphones Water resistant: No Connection: Wireless (Bluetooth 5.2) Battery life: 7 h, 30 h with charging case Weight: 12.2 g (headphones), 60 g (charging case) Miscellaneous: Active noise cancellation (ANC), wireless charging

Huawei FreeBuds Pro

Want a pair of Airpods Pro but own an Android phone? Then it might be worth taking a look at Huawei Freebuds Pro. In practice, these are a bit of a mixed bag in terms of what's really good and what's missing.

Only for Android

If you own a Huawei phone, you’re connected and running almost before you unpack the headphones. Which is great. And if you run Android on a different brand phone, you can download the AI Life app from Huawei to make the connection nice and smooth. Via that app, you can choose all your settings and even analyse how well the headphones fit for the best possible sound insulation. But if you’re using an iPhone, you’ll have to use a normal Bluetooth connection and live without those additional settings.

Freebuds Pro offer a pretty good battery life by themselves but you get a lot of extra charges via the heftyish case. You can also charge the case wirelessly if you want.

Good but lacking depth

Freebuds Pro offer both a standard in-ear design (which, by itself, insulates sound quite well) and really good active noise cancellation. This can easily be set to let through sound from your surroundings if you want. Sadly, the headphones aren't waterproof in any way. On the plus side, the connection to your phone is really stable

When it comes to controlling the headphones, this involves touch and pinch sensors on the shafts of the headphones. These fiddly manoeuvres take a while to get used to, but still work quite well.

Call sound is taken from previous generations of Freebuds and is actually really good. Sound for music provides a good balance throughout the register regardless of volume, but did lack some depth for us to be completely happy.

In many ways, Huawei Freebuds Pro are a good choice for true wireless headphones where noise cancellation and call sound really stand out.

Good call soundgood noise cancellationcomfortable
Sound lacks depthno moisture protection

14. Sennheiser CX 400 BT

Sound better than they look

Type: Wireless in-ear headphones Connection: Wireless (Bluetooth) Battery life: 7.5 h (measured), 13 h with charging case Weight: 12 g

Sennheiser CX 400BT True Wireless

The Sennheiser CX 400 BT are a pair of true wireless headphones in the medium price class, which is a rather unusual placement for this premium brand.

The sound is very good. You get a clear, rich and well-balanced sound with good bass and a lot of details in the upper register. Arguably the mid-range disappears a bit at a higher volume, but this is still better sound than you'd expect from the £200 price tag the headphones cost at the time of writing.

Not particularly comfortable

By contrast, the CX 400 BT aren't the most comfortable in-ear headphones we’ve ever tested. They’re not uncomfortable either – just not as good as you’d like given the price class. On one hand, you have to push them in quite hard to keep them in your ears. They also stick out a fair bit and it’s easy to knock them during a workout so they fall out. But they do stay in your ears quite well under normal conditions. So you’ll have no problem getting them to stay in place during a train journey or at your desk in the office.

They do lack any form of noise cancellation, and it would have been nice if the music paused when you take them out of your ears.

On the plus side, in the app you can set what you want the touch controls on the headphones to do and you also have access to the equaliser to fine-tune the sound to your personal preferences.

The build quality feels a bit plasticky. Both the case and the headphones themselves are hard plastic, and even if the sound is good, they don’t really feel quite as expensive as they actually are.

Plenty of time to listen to music

One advantage of the CX400 BT is the long battery life. We clocked it at just over 7.5 hours, and you have two more charges in the case. Two charges is perhaps on the low side in terms of the competition in the same price class, but on the other hand most of those competitors don’t offer the same battery life.

Sennheiser CX 400 BT do a very good job when it comes to delivering the highest quality sound, which is a good bit better than the price suggests. But at the same time they also leave something to be desired in terms of build quality and fit. Of course sound is the most important thing in a pair of headphones, and on this point they certainly live up to their price tag.

Great sound qualitylong battery life
Not very comfortable in the ear over a long periodno noise cancellation

15. Jabra Elite 75t

Good headphones in a rather boring case

Type: Wireless in-ear headphones Water-resistant: Yes (IP57) Connection: Wireless (Bluetooth 5.0) Battery life: 7.5 h Weight: 11 g Miscellaneous: App with equaliser, passive noise cancellation, fast charging: 15 min gives 1 h playing time

Jabra Elite 75t TWS

Jabra Elite 75t are a pair of discreetly designed true wireless headphones. They fit in your ears reasonably well, but since they have no wings and aren’t rubberised, stability in your ear is never 100% – especially if you’re going to wear them while you’re exercising.

You get extra silicone plugs in the box and after tinkering with these we get an OK fit.

Sound is the big selling point of these headphones. It’s extremely well balanced, with a deep bass and a detailed upper and mid-range. The sound always feels vivid and rich. And if you like lots of sound, you can also expect a high maximum volume.

The noise cancellation is perfectly OK. It’s far from noise elimination but enough to make you feel the sound is enveloping you and ambient noise isn’t disturbing.

And the fact that they can cope with both sweat and being worn in the shower is useful too.

Personalise the experience

Jabra have made sure you get an app that works with the headphones. This means you can get software updates, which is useful. The app also allows you to personalise the sound to a certain extent, and you can decide which functions the physical buttons should have.

The case that comes with the headphones also doubles as a powerbank, and provides enough power for about 4 full charges, which feels a bit stingy given the price. The case is all in plastic and only has an LED for information about battery status, which adds to the budget feel. On the positive side, however, it’s really compact and light – just like the headphones themselves.

But the battery life on the headphones is really good. When we turn up the volume, we almost reach 7 hours, so the promised 7.5 is within reach at lower volumes.

There’s no doubt that the Jabra Elite 75t is a good pair of headphones. The price doesn’t really match up with the quality of the accessories, and the fit isn’t entirely stable if you’re going to wear them while you’re exercising. But they're suitable for anyone looking for a pair of in-ear headphones with long battery life, great sound quality and a discreet design, particularly if you aren’t price sensitive.

Very good sound qualityhigh maximum volumevery discreet designyou can swim with them in
No wingscase is plasticky & has relatively few charges

16. PaMu Slide

The backpacker’s choice

Type: True wireless Water-resistant: Yes (IPX6) Connection: Wireless (Bluetooth 5) Battery life (headphones): 10 hours Battery life (case): 60 h Miscellaneous: Type-C quick charging

Padmate Pamu Slide

PaMu Slide true wireless headphones have a very impressive battery life and reasonable build quality.

As with all true wireless headphones, they include a case that doubles as a powerbank. The charging case is quite large if you compare it to the competition, but you can also use it to wirelessly charge your phone.

Long operating time

The highlight of a pair of PaMu Slides is the ten hours of play time they offer. If you’re playing at high volume, you can reduce that number by an hour or two, but at normal volume this figure is quite accurate.

You also have up to six charges in the case, which is ideal for taking a camping trip or travelling for long periods of time and not always having a charger available – in other words, you have access to a full 60 hours of battery life.

If you need to charge your headphones quickly, it takes about five minutes to get upto an hour's play time – which is very good.

On the negative side, the build quality isn’t great. The headphones are quite plasticky and don’t feel very solid. This is reinforced by the fact that our test headphones stop working after just a few months of use.

Pamu Slide

But the sound is satisfactory. The bass is deep and clear, giving nice weight and good separation, particularly when you’re indoors. The treble feels well balanced, but at higher volumes it can be a bit sharp. There's no single point that’s above our expectations, but taken as a whole you get very good sound and at this price it’s hard to complain.

Outdoors, however, they let in the wind on blustery days, which can be a problem. Of course, if you turn up the volume you can drown this out.

The headphones fit well, but during some types of exercise you get the feeling they’re about to fall out. But for light exercise they’re very good. We also tried them during motorbike trips. They’re really easy to wear under your helmet, stay nicely in place and don't hurt even during longer trips.

The competitive price of a pair of PaMu Slides and their amazing battery life make them great value. If you travel a lot and have a limited budget, these are the headphones for you – but handle them carefully.

Long battery lifefast charginggood sound
Sensitive to high windsnot so good for tough exerciselow build quality

17. Sennheiser CX Sport

Stay in place

Type: Wireless in-ear headphones Water-resistant: Yes Connection: Wireless (Bluetooth 4.2) Battery life: 6 h Weight: 15.7g Miscellaneous: aptX and aptX low latency

Sennheiser CX Sport

Sennheiser CX Sport headphones feel like they were designed by someone who really didn’t want to design sports headphones. But at the same time they’re a perfect example of how appearances can be deceptive.

Awful design and short battery life

If it hadn't been for the Sennheiser logo, we would easily have thought their CX Sports were a pair of sports headphones from any low budget brand. The combination of dark grey plastic with neon yellow buttons and ‘lumps’ on both headphone cables means they feel totally ‘unSennheiser’ and makes them look really cheap. Just really plasticky.

But once you hold them in your hand, it becomes clear that this is a much more solid construction than it initially appears – even though they look plasticky, they’re actually really well-built.

At the same time, the lumps on the cable feel unnecessarily large, particularly given that the stated battery life is only six hours. A theoretical battery life that agrees with the reality, but you’d still have to classify it as short.

But that really is it for the negative stuff.

Stick like glue and sound fantastic

Because appearances really are deceptive here. Once they're charged, paired with your mobile and you’re out on a run, this is a totally different pair of headphones. The in-ear design of headphones is combined with a pair of plastic wings to fit better in all conditions, and this really works. However sweaty our testers become, they stay put without any problems. The lumps on the cable also help to balance the headphones, so one side doesn’t get all the weight.

Because the microphone is placed in one of these lumps on the cable, together with the buttons for controlling the music, the call sound is really good. For the person on the other end of the line to hear you well, it's almost always better to place the microphone close to your mouth, which means calls never pose a problem here.

And despite the price tag, the music sound is far in excess of our expectations. The sound is fast and alert throughout the entire register without showing any particular weaknesses. In-ear headphones are often bass heavy and miss out on the mid-range, but here everything sounds really uniform and good.

Sennheiser CX Sport headphones may look like a budget brand, but in terms of function and sound in all conditions they're amongst the best sport headphones we’ve tested.

Really good fitgood sound for both music & calls
Look cheapshort battery life

18. Jabra Elite Active 65t

Really good sound quality, reasonable fit

Type: Sports headphones Water-resistant: Yes/No? (IPXX: up to 1 m for 30 min) Connection: Wireless (Bluetooth 5) Battery life: 5 h Weight: 41 g Miscellaneous: App (Android, iOS), headset function, case with built-in battery

Jabra Elite Active 65t

Jabra’s Elite Active 65t are a pair of stylish and compact sports headphones that, despite the fact they're completely wireless, stay in place in the ears relatively securely. A slightly larger wing on each earbud would have made the fit still better. But they still work well enough that you can go out running without losing them. At the same time, you can hardly tell you have them in your ears because they don’t pinch anywhere.

The sound quality is excellent. The Elite Active 65t has a really clear, well-balanced and enveloping sound. The bass is sufficient. There isn’t a lot of punch in it, but it works harmoniously with the other registers.

The headphones are incredibly simple to connect thanks to voice instructions.

Jabra have also developed an app for their headphones. This means you can see the exact battery percentage, and can even change between different sound settings. For example, there’s one called “Commute”, where the surrounding noise is shut out more than on the running setting. But it doesn’t make much difference. Elite Active 65ts do block some sound, but you can still hear noises very clearly from around you.

Easy to charge on the go

Jabra Elite Active 65t headphones come with a small case that doubles as a powerbank for charging them. The majority of cases of this type are quite large, but with this model you can even keep it in your pocket if you’re wearing tight exercise clothes.

The powerbank functionality means you can quickly recharge the headphones if the battery starts to run out. The battery life is about 4.5 hours. There's an LED that shines green when you have plenty of battery left, but it would have been useful to have a number of LEDs that went out as the battery ran down.

The case doesn’t feel particularly good quality. Even though we appreciate the compact design, we’d have preferred to see more design details and perhaps a better method for opening it. As it stands, it works, but it doesn’t really match the premium feel of the headphones.

Compared with Jabra’s Elite Sport headphones, Elite Active 65ts don’t really reach the same level. They’re a bit more modest in appearance and aren’t quite as good when it comes to exercise functions. But for those who don’t mind spending the extra few quid – perhaps someone who’s a bit less sporty and primarily wants good sound quality – they’re still a really good choice.

Great fitvery good sounduseful powerbank case
Earbuds could have had bigger wingscase doesn’t feel premium

19. Bose Soundsport Free

Freedom in a little box

Type: Sports headphones Water-resistant: Yes (IPX4) Connection: Wireless (Bluetooth 4.1) Battery life: 5 h Weight: 18 g Miscellaneous: Case with built-in powerbank, app (Android, iOS), headset function

Bose SoundSport Free

The design of Bose Soundsport Free wireless headphones mean they fit really well into your ears. The fit is very important on wireless sports headphones and this design, with a wing that you screw into the outer ear, means they fit lots of people. They sit there surprisingly well and stay in place even during off-road runs.

The sound quality is great. Every register comes out well, and the balance of sound ensures you get a very good level of detail. The sound is rich and the bass is sufficient to create pressure in a more intensive workout playlist.

Sometimes we only get sound in one headphone and not in the other, including during phone calls and sometimes with button sound from the phone. This can be irritating.

Another annoyance is the charging cable, which is unfortunately very short. It doesn’t come with a mains adapter – instead you have to charge it via something like a computer. This feels a bit stingy given that these are premium headphones.

One practical function is that you can find your headphones if you lose them by searching for them in an app. This doesn’t work if they're completely turned off, but you can see where they were last connected to your phone.

Rather stiff buttons but great sound quality

Bose Soundsport Free headphones come with a case that also acts as a charging station in powerbank for an extra charge. This is great. The case and its double functionality adds to the premium feel.

As does the design of the headphones. They primarily consist of smooth hard plastic, but because they have rubberised details on the earpieces and on the buttons, they feel stable both in terms of fit and when you’re changing tracks.

Unfortunately, the buttons are very stiff. This isn’t ideal for a sports or wireless context, as it’s hard to change track or pause without having to stop your workout. The buttons are quite difficult to feel with your fingers. It would have been nice for them to be more distinctive so you can find them more easily with headphones in your ears.

Bose Soundsport Free headphones have a built-in microphone so you don’t have to pick up your phone if it rings. This works well even though it picks up a fair bit of ambient noise.

Overall these are pair of really good sport headphones if you’re looking for high quality sound and you have ready-made playlists where you don’t need to keep changing tracks.

Case doubles as a powerbankvery good sound qualityfind lost headphones function
Poor buttonsshort charging cableone headphone sometimes loses sound

20. Creative EP-630

Good value headphones with good ambient noise suppression and vivid sound

Price class: Budget Connector type: 3.55 mm Cable length: 120 cm Driver size: 9 mm Headset: n/a Acoustic construction: Closed Frequency response: 16-23,000 Hz Impedance: 106 dB/mW

Creative EP-630

These in ear headphones have been amongst market best-sellers for several years, and now we understand why. Creative EP-630 headphones are incredibly good value for money as they deliver big, vivid sound in a very compact format. The bass is controlled without taking the upper hand and the headphones are exceptionally easily driven.

They effectively block out noise from your surroundings and are comfortable in the ear – in fact they sit inside the ear canal like an earplug. Excellent if you travel a lot by bus or train. The cable tends to ‘stick’ on your clothes, which can create mechanical sound. But the cable also stays soft and flexible even at temperatures several degrees below zero.

Cheapgood suppression of ambient noiseeasily driven
Slightly lack of nuance between registers

21. Earin A-3

Stylish Swedish-made headphones

Price class: Premium Noise cancellation: Passive Frequency range: 20-20,000 Hz

Earin A-3 are the third model of open headphones from the Swedish company Earin. The forerunners of these headphones came about from a crowdfunding project, and Earin have been at the forefront of the development of true wireless headphones with this series.

The minimalist A-3 are the third generation of these headphones. The stylish, compact exterior of these headphones means they’re barely noticeable when you’re wearing them. They also have a lot of modern technology built into them. For example, you don’t have to think about which earbud should go in which ear, because they adapt themselves.

The case that comes with these headphones has magnets inside to hold the earbuds and lid in place when you’re not using them. The included app shows you how much battery is left in each earbud. The case can be charged via USB C, or wirelessly.

Performance in different areas

Of course, sound quality is one of the most important parameters when you buy headphones. And these headphones generally provide really good sound quality when they sit properly in your ear. But they aren’t the right product to buy if you want really heavy bass pressure. They are, however, excellent for anyone who prefers a more airy sound profile. If we were going to be fussy, we’d say the treble is a bit sharp at a higher volume. But that small point aside, they provide very good sound quality.

Call quality is also phenomenal. These headphones are among the better true wireless headphones we’ve tested when it comes to hands-free functionality. The people we’re talking to can hear us really well even when we’re in a noisy place, and we hear them at least as well.

The claimed battery life of five hours matches quite well with what you get in practice. And that’s fine given that you get five more charges with the case. Unfortunately, there’s no support for fast charging – which is a bit of a shame considering how most of the technology in the headphones is so up to the minute.

What does lowers our score, however, is above all the fit. Fit very much depends on the shape of your ears. We tested these headphones on three different people with different ear size and shape, and two of these three felt these headphones fell out far too easily. The third experienced the same thing during rapid movement. This makes us think that these headphones, even though they’re sweat-resistant, aren’t suitable as exercise headphones. They are mainly suitable for sitting in the office or at home, where you aren’t moving very much.

The problem probably comes from the fact that these are open headphones that aren’t pressed into the ear canal – and the fact that they’re made of a smooth material. This means there isn’t enough friction if the ear isn’t well adapted to the headphones in terms of size. A silicon cover (which you have to buy separately) solves the problem and Earin states that this will come as standard in the future. We think is a wise decision because the shape of the ear also affects the sensor in the headphones – i.e. they turn off if they lose contact (although you can turn this function off in the app).

That being said, there’s a lot to like about the Earin A-3. But there’s also still some work to be done. If you choose to buy these because you like open headphones with a more airy sound profile, be sure to buy the silicone cover too. That way you should have hours of music and high-quality calls to look forward to.

Good sound qualityamazingly good call qualityvery compact design
The fit is hugely influenced by your ear shape & sizeno fast charging

22. Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro

Great for Galaxy owners – decent for the rest of us

Type: True Wireless headphones with active noise cancellation Water resistant: Yes (IPX7) Connection: Bluetooth 5.0 Battery life: 5 hrs Weight: 45 g Miscellaneous: Handsfree Bixby, seamless switching between Galaxy devices, spatial sound

Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro

Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro is Samsung's latest addition to the Korean electronics giant's arsenal of True Wireless headphones. To put it in simple terms, you can think of Galaxy Buds Pro as Samsung's equivalent to Apple's AirPods Pro. A little more luxurious, a little better, with active noise cancellation, and above all with lots of customised functionality. Always assuming you have a Galaxy phone, of course.

Interesting design

The sound is very good, although it doesn’t impress enough that the Galaxy Buds Pro are a threat to the real monsters in this segment from Sony or Sennheiser, for example. But they offer very fine definition and a well-balanced representation of the different parts of the frequency spectrum. There’s no tinniness or distortion, not even at high volume. They also provide really nice, lively bass reproduction. But what you get in terms of balance, you have to pay for with deficient dynamics. This is one area where there’s a significant difference if you have a Galaxy phone, because then these headphones use Samsung's Scalable codec, which provides a better sound experience than SBC or AAC, which is what you have to settle for on another phone.

in-ear-samsung-galaxy-buds-pro

The design is interesting. There’is no "stalk" of the kind that’s usually found on many high-end products in the segment. These are just two ordinary plugs that you push into your ears, and although they have a nice glossy black finish (they are also available in silver and purple) and rounded shape, they do stick out from your ears in a way that looks a bit weird. However, they do fit really well in the ears, and come with a number of adapters to optimise that fit.

Decent noise cancellation

How good is Samsung's noise cancellation? It’s fine, but far from the best in class. If you compare with Samsung's other noise cancelling alternative, Galaxy Buds Live, the difference is huge. They don’t really keep anything more than loud conversation at bay. So there are clearly better alternatives for anyone who doesn’t have a Galaxy phone.

What Galaxy owners can look forward to are, among other things, seamless switching between Samsung devices, a connection to Samsung's Smartthings app (which can be very useful if you misplace your headphones), and other functions that make it possible to choose the device depending on the situation. For example, you can choose to have the headphones connected to your tablet as long as you’re listening to music, but automatically switch to the phone when you call someone or receive a call.

The promised battery life is five hours per charge, and during our tests that seemed to be pretty accurate, even when we used them in on a cold Stockholm day during a long winter walk. You also get another 13 hours out of the included and nicely compact case. This puts them on a par with other manufacturers’ products.

Finally, we want to give these headphones another plus point because they have an IPX7 rating, which means that they can be dropped into water and stay there for 30 minutes before they'll start to leak. This also means that they’re very easy to clean, as you can simply wash them under a tap.

Do we recommend these headphones? Yes, if you have a Galaxy phone. Otherwise, there are significantly better products available for the same money elsewhere.

Lots of functions for Galaxy usersIPX7 rating
The sound doesn’t match the competition in the same price classlook a bit weird in your ears

23. HyperX Cloud Buds

Cheap neckbuds with clear sound

Type: Wireless in-ear headphones Water resistant: No Connection: Wireless (Bluetooth 5) Battery life (headphones): approx. 8-9 hrs Weight: 27.5 g Guarantee: 24 months

HyperX Cloud Buds

HyperX is a manufacturer best known for gaming products, but with their Cloud Earbuds they’re taking a step outside the gaming world in an attempt to broaden their target group.

HyperX-Cloud

These in-ear headphones are of the neckbud type. This means that the headphones form a neck strap offering headphones, battery and function buttons all in one. At full length the strap is about 80-90 cm long which is relatively long for a pair of neckbuds, but it does mean you can fit them around your neck even if you're wearing a thick jacket or hoodie.

Cloud Buds are charged via USB-C, which means you can use your mobile charger, so charging is relatively efficient.

HyperX-Cloud

The plugs that come with the headphones are made of silicone. They fit well in the ears thanks to the back having a flap that holds the headphones in place in the ear, even while you move around. Sadly that silicone is a bit rigid, which means it doesn’t really shape itself to the ear and so external noise can enter the ear and spoil your sound experience. You never really get the feeling that the headphones fit snugly.

For the price class, the sound quality is fine. It’s clear and crisp, the bass is deep and fine but doesn’t take over, and the balance is maintained even during tracks with very deep bass. However, ambient noise can have a negative effect on the sound experience.

Clouds Bud's microphone offers good sound capture. Your voice will be clear and distinct, but the mike also has a tendency to pick up unwanted background noise. Your voice won’t be overwhelmed, but it can be difficult for the other party during long calls in noisy environments.

Clear and distinct soundstable in the ears
Sensitive microphoneinflexible silicone plugs

24. B&O E8 Sport

Good sound but not amazing performance

Price class: Premium Driver size: 5.7 mm (diameter) Noise cancellation: Passive IP class: IP57 Battery life: 7 hours (30 hours with the case)

Bang & Olufsen BeoPlay E8 Sport

B&O E8 Sport true wireless headphones are made by Danish company Bang & Olufsen. As we all know, sound is their area of expertise. And this, together with the price of these headphones, makes us expect top quality.

The manufacturer has invested in very well-balanced bass reproduction with both tension and depth when required. Which is excellent, as long you aren’t an utter basshead.

But they aren’t so impressive across the rest of the frequency range. Certainly, the sound in the lower mid-range is vinyl-like – warm and well-defined – but when you start to move up to the middle of the mid-range, the reproduction becomes rather angular – something we aren’t used to when a product bears the B&O logo.

The same applies to the treble, where the precision leaves a lot to be desired. “S” and “T” sounds in songs are a little tinny. Even hi-hats from drum machines like the classic Roland TR 808 hiss noticeably. We’re not saying the sound is bad, exactly. But given the price it’s a bit surprising.

A classic brand like B&O should be able to challenge other explicitly top-end hi-fi brands, but they simply don’t succeed with these headphones. The sound’s good, but far from the best.

BO-E8-Sport

Fiddly Bluetooth

Of course, fit is particularly important when a product has the “Sport” suffix. But the E8 Sport headphones dont impress in this area either. They’re either so firmly inserted they're painful or you have to position them so they feel like they’re about to fall out – which they actually do on a few occasions when we test them out on a run.

Nor should it take three hours to get pairing via Bluetooth to work, but that’s exactly what happens when we start the test. There are also plenty of reviews online from users who’ve had the same problem with Bang & Olufsen’s E8 series, so we don’t think we just happened to get a bad set of headphones. Anyway, we get it to work in the end.

The interface is quite easy to use. The associated app also offers a quick review of how to operate the headphones. No oddities there. They work fine when receiving calls and accessing transparency mode, where the ambient noise is mixed with the music or call sound.

Beoplay E8 Sport headphones have a number of impressive specifications. As well as support for Bluetooth 5.1, AAC and AptX, they're also IP57 classified. That means you can go running in the rain without them complaining.

They’re also a pair of really rather attractive in-ear headphones. The charging case too is attractive, compact and easy to use, with an LED indicator on the outside to show battery charge status. If the sound and fit had been a touch better, they’d have got a much better score. But for this price, they simply aren’t worth top marks.

Well balanced bassIP57 classifiedattractive
Poor mid-range & treblefiddly fitreluctant pairing

25. Aftershokz Aeropex

Sound from bone vibrations

Type: Wireless bone conducting headphones Water-resistant: Yes (IP67) Connection: Wireless (Bluetooth) Battery life: 8 hours Weight: 26 g

Aftershokz Aeropex

Aftershokz Aeropex are a relatively unique headset. The entire company is based on making headphones and headsets that don't send audio directly into your ear. Instead, two ‘cushions’ are placed just in front of the ear and these deliver sound through vibrations in the skull – a technique known as bone conducting.

This sounds weird, but it actually works. The idea of the technology is to keep your ear canals free to hear what's happening around you, but to allow you to listen to music at the same time.

Special technology for special occasions

Being able to let in ambient noise while you listen to music is clever in some cases, but of course totally useless in others. So Aeropex products are as much about you belonging to the right target group as what they actually do.

If you want to listen to music in the gym or shut out a noisy office environment, these aren’t the headphones for you. But if you go running or cycling in an area with a lot of traffic and want to hear the world around you, they’re perfect. A nurse who tried out the headphones for us also felt the design was perfect for being able to listen to podcasts while still hearing relevant sounds at work.

But how do they work?

And are they any good? In fact, we’re positively surprised by the sound quality delivered by the Aeropex. We're definitely not talking about audiophile quality here, but it actually sounds pretty good and even across the entire register. The sound in the Aeropex headphones is significantly better than in previous models (we tested one of their models when they first came out on the market and they sounded awful for anything but phone calls).

At higher volumes, the vibration on your skull is a little disturbing, but most of the time it isn’t noticeable. With the sound turned up, people around us can hear the it too, but it’s easily drowned out by normal ambient noise.

But what about hearing? If someone’s speaking from directly in front of you, the Aeropex actually cover the majority of the conversation. But from the back or from the side, we hear the conversation as well as the music.

We should mention that there’s also a microphone built in so you can use the Aeropex as a headset. But this bit isn’t very good compared to the sound as a whole, and the person on the other end of the line often struggles to hear us.

Also, the Aeropex only comes in one size. Because the whole technology is based on the vibration pads pressing a little on your skull, this can cause problems on smaller heads. The relatively large neck strap also becomes a bit of an obstacle in these cases.

Aftershokz Aeropex aren’t a pair of headphones for everyone, or even for all occasions. But if you want headphones for this relatively narrow area of application, they’re actually pretty good. A slightly better microphone and a longer battery life wouldn’t have hurt, however.

Surprisingly good soundperfect for hearing your surroundingssimple controls
Expensive and pointless if you aren’t the target grouprather poor call qualitysize can’t be altered

26. Adidas RPD-01

Brand headphones with lots of control

Price class: Medium IP class: IPX4 Stated battery life: 12 h Measured battery life: 9 h

Adidas RPD-01

Adidas RPD-01 is the somewhat anonymous name for the latest Adidas neckbud-type in-ear headphones. In other words, there’s a cable or band between the headphones that you place over your neck. The band has the buttons for volume control, pause/play and other functions you’d expect on a pair of in-ear headphones. You have access to pretty much all functions on the headphones, so you can leave your mobile phone in your pocket.

The buttons are easy to recognise with your fingers, because they have a marking on the top. The build quality is good, but they let in a fair amount of external noise. Then again, that isn’t unique to these headphones as it’s a problem with many neckbud models.

The headphones each have wings which mean they stay in your ears well. They aren’t particularly comfortable, however, and you can feel them in your ears. They come with several different silicone caps so you can get a good fit.

One disadvantage with the silicone wing is that it isn’t particularly rigid, so it comes loose easily if you're the kind of person who regularly removes/replaces their headphones during a training session.

What’s the sound like?

The sound quality on RPD-01s is good. The sound is balanced and the bass is quite rich. But overall, the sound is rather flat. If you play your music loud, the treble overwhelms the mid-range. At normal volume you can expect a balanced soundstage that comes through nicely. The battery life of around nine hours is also reasonable.

But the headphones don’t block out noise from the surrounding world very well. If you’re running with them outdoors and it’s windy, or if your gym plays loud music, ambient sound comes through quite clearly. You have to really turn the volume up to drown out your surroundings.

The IP classification is rather low – they can cope with splashes of liquid, including sweat. We'd expected more, given that these are sports headphones. You want to be able to wash them thoroughly.

They charge via USB-C, and this doesn’t take long. And the fact that they use USB-C is a major plus point because lots of mobile phones, computers and other gadgets use it too. So it’s nice to be able to share cables.

Adidas RPD-01s are ideal for anyone looking for a pair of brand headphones with a neckband. They aren’t impressive in any particular way, but they don’t disappoint either.

Good sound on normal/low volumequite fast charging
Lets through a good bit of ambient noiserather low IP classificationa bit shrill at high volume

27. Huawei Freebuds 3

Headphones that really want it all

Type: Wireless open fit headphones Water-resistant: Yes (IPX4) Connection: Wireless (Bluetooth 5.1) Battery life: 4 h, 16 h with charger case Weight: 4.5 g (headphone) 47 g (charging case) Miscellaneous: Active noise cancellation (ANC), wireless charging

Huawei FreeBuds 3

Huawei Freebuds 3 headphones are a perfect demonstration of how much can be squeezed into a pair of true wireless headphones. The charging case supports wireless charging and the headphones feature active noise cancellation, noise cancelling microphones, the latest Bluetooth version for amazingly short delays and surprisingly good sound. At the same time, they’re not free of teething problems.

Simple connection, no settings

“Scan this code to easily download the app” it says on the headphones. That takes us to the download page for Huawei's smart app, which when we tested it only has settings for their routers... A problem you can get round by manually finding the right app, but still.

Without the app you’re stuck with the settings built into the headphones, so to speak. Even with the app you have relatively few settings that you can change, including the volume, which you have to use your phone for.

They pair painlessly with the phone, however, and we experience very little disruption while listening, which often causes problems with true wireless headphones.

Good sound and noise reduction

The headphones are the same kind of thing as Apple’s Airpods – in other words they sit in the entrance to the ear canal without being inserted as far as traditional in-ear headphones. This makes fit critical, because some people simply don’t have the right shaped ears for them to fit well.

At the same time they also let in a fair amount of sound. And paradoxically these headphones have active noise cancellation. You get a certain amount of noise reduction with this, but the design means that it can never be as quiet as with real over-ear or in-ear headphones. Noise cancellation is also present for the microphones, and here it works really well. Call sound is actually amongst the best we’ve tested for this type of headphone.

The sound quality when you listen to music or on your end of a call is also really good (a level above the previously mentioned Airpods, in fact). The fit impairs the sound to an extent, but Freebuds 3s still deliver an amazing amount of bass and really good clarity throughout the entire register.

Both in terms of design and format, Huawei’s Freebuds 3 are clearly intended to compete with Apple’s Airpods. The design means you don’t get the best fit or sound quality, but if you’re a fan of this type of headphone, or quite simply dislike in-ear headphones, this is actually the better option of the two.

Relatively good music soundreally good call soundconvenient charging case with wireless charging
Fit doesn’t suit everyonefiddly to find the appfit reduces sound quality & noise cancellation

28. Jabra Elite 65e

Suitable as a headset in a noisy environment

Type: In-ear with neckband Water-resistant: Yes (IP54) Connection: Wireless (Bluetooth 5.0) Battery life: 8 h Weight: 51.4 g Miscellaneous: Noise cancellation (ANC), app (Android, iOS), headset function

Jabra Elite 65e

Jabra’s Elite 65e are a pair of attractive in-ear headphones with clever wings for good fit. They also have noise cancellation so that if you’re exercising or working in noisy environments, you can shut out the noise and focus better.

The noise cancellation is good given the price, but it’s only noise reduction rather than elimination. So for example it's sufficient for a gym session where there’s background music you don’t want to hear.

Elite 65es fits nicely in the ear but there are a few points of irritation. The primary one of these is the neckband. Jabra have chosen to make this a largeish band which also has the buttons on it. When the neckband bounces off your neck, the noise tends to be transferred into the headphones, and this is primarily noticeable when you’re playing music at lower volume.

Another problem with the neckband is the cables running from it. These are stiff and touch your cheeks. Over time these can be annoying and they don’t look particularly attractive. But your mouth is close to the microphone, which makes these headphones quite good as a headset.

Really good as a headset

The call quality is excellent. If you’re going to use these more as a headset, for example while you’re travelling, you won’t be disappointed. Voices come through with crystal clarity, and the call sounds just as good if you’re on the other end. We even get positive comments for this without having asked for comments about the quality.

As mentioned above, the fit is good and they stay firmly in place even while our testers grimace through a strength training session or run for the bus. But there are models in the same price class that stay in the ear even more securely and comfortably.

When you take headphones out of your ears and allow them to hang around your neck, they’re drawn towards each other by magnets and click together. This means they hang safely even if you do more acrobatic movements.

It’s easy to find the right place on the neckband and access the buttons once you've got used to the positioning. The buttons are rather small and quite stiff. But at least they’re there, so you can quickly adjust your settings.

The sound quality is good. You get good treble and quite a lot of pressure in the headphones. However, the sound isn’t entirely well-balanced, as the bass tends to submerge the mid-range. But the quality is high given the price, and the fact that they have a bit more bass makes them suitable as sports headphones because many people choose bass-heavy music genres when they're working out. We think the bass could have had a bit more punch, though, seeing as the manufacturer has chosen to emphasise it.

The IP54 classification means the headphones can be used outdoors even in bad weather, which is obviously an advantage. The stated 8-hour battery life is also good and agrees with what we get from the headphones in reality.

Overall these are a pair of very reasonable headphones if you aren’t looking for true wireless and want something you can hang around your neck every now and then but without cables to get tangled. The fit and sound quality are good, although the latter is a little bass-heavy, and the price is reasonable.

Great headset qualitygood battery lifehigh water resistancemagnets draw headphones together
Neckband transfers mechanical soundstiff buttonscables close to your cheeks

29. Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless

Fantastic music, but poor for calls

Type: True wireless headphones Water-resistant: No Connection: Wireless (Bluetooth 5.0) Battery life: 4 hours (earbuds) 12 hours (case) Weight: 6.6 g (per earbud) 56.6 g (case) Miscellaneous: headset function, case with built in powerbank, allow ambient noise through

Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless

Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless headphones take their name from the enormously popular Momentum series of over-ear headphones. But these Momentum products are two tiny cable-free earbuds with a charging case.

The charging case is covered in fabric and gives a really luxurious impression – it’s also charged via USB-C, which feels more futureproof than the older micro-USB contact.

Sennheiser sound in mini format

The headphones are charged via the case, which also handles pairing with your phone. As well as this, you can download Sennheiser’s app to add more control.

The app allows you to set the sound to your taste and also to activate “transparent hearing”. This means the headphones use their microphones to allow you to hear the ambient noise while simultaneously listening to music. However, there’s no active noise cancellation to shut out your surroundings.

The connection with the phone is very stable and rarely causes music to stutter.

And the sound when listening to music or watching films is hard to beat. You don't get that bass drone that makes your teeth vibrate, but instead a really clean and neutral sound across the entire soundstage. At the same time, it’s incredibly detailed, and quite simply amongst the best this type of headphone can offer.

For calls, however, it’s a completely different matter. The headphones alternate between preventing the other person from hearing us at all, making the call sound like it’s taking place underwater and, in some cases, delivering really good call sound. Most often the sound is poor for the other person too, which means we really can’t rely on these headphones for calls.

Power hungry case

You control music and calls via touch controls on headphones, which actually work surprisingly well. These kind of controls often fail to register pressure or misinterpret your fingers, but that’s rarely the case here.

The stated battery life for the headphones agrees very well with reality. The charging case can charge the headphones up to three times, which is rather minimal given the competition.

The case is intended to make sure the headphones are always fully charged, so they constantly top up the charge when the headphones are stored. But there’s something wrong with the power management here, because after just a couple of days in unused condition both the headphones and case have run out of power. So you need to constantly remember to keep them charged when you can.

Sennheiser’s Momentum True Wireless headphones deliver really good music sound in small, convenient and nicely fitting earbuds. But we find them to be rather unreliable when it comes to keeping a charge, and very unreliable for calls.

Sit nicely in the earsfantastic music soundhigh-class case
Case discharges quicklyvery unreliable call quality

30. Sudio Nivå

Stylish Swedish headphones

Type: In-ear Water-resistant: No Connection: Wireless (Bluetooth 4.2) Battery life: 3.5 h Miscellaneous: Case with built-in power bank (4 full charges)

Sudio Nivå

Sudio's Nivå are a pair of minimalist wireless earphones in a stylish design. There's only one button on each earpiece, and they're positioned on slightly raised areas so that you can easily find them with your finger. The buttons are just stiff enough when you press them that you don't dislodge the earphones, but at the same time you won't press them by mistake when you're adjusting the earpiece in your ear. The buttons give a nice positive feel.

Because there are few buttons, they're also multifunctional. So for example you can access your mobile phone's voice assistant with a long press on the left earpiece button. Otherwise there are few functions.

The battery life of 3.5 hours feels extremely short. On the other hand, you get a full four charges from the case, which also doubles as a power bank. The case is a neat size but could have done with a button for switching on the battery indicator. As it stands, you have to insert the earphones to see the battery level. Nor do the earphones tell you how much battery’s left when you have them in your ears.

Intelligent power bank case

The case is made from hard plastic with built in magnets for each earpiece. As well as the case, the earphones include different sized ear tips. The fit is good as long as you take things calmly, but because they don't have wings they fall out quite easily, for example if you're out running.

Sudio Nivå headphones provide good sound quality. The sound is well balanced, if slightly on the muted side. Voices come through fine. The earphones are designed so that they each function separately even if they’re far apart. Unfortunately, they sometimes lose contact so you end up with sound in only one earphone. This is particularly irritating during a telephone conversation because you have to break off and restart everything for them to work again.

We measured the range between the earphones and telephone as just over the stated 10 metres.

These earphones are ideal if you're looking for a slightly smaller wireless earphone that gives an attractive but minimalist impression.

Minimalist designcase with powerbankgood sound quality
Sometimes loses contactshort battery lifepoor battery info

31. Sennheiser CX 300 II

Comfortable headphones that stay put in your ears even while you’re running

Price class: Budget Connector type: 3.55 mm Cable length: 120 cm Headset: Yes Driver size: n/a Acoustic construction: Closed Frequency response: 19-20,000 Hz Impedance: 16 Sensitivity: 113 dB/mW

Sennheiser CX 300-II

Sennheiser have been making headphones for 70 years and are a legend in the industry. Their CX 300 II headphones are extremely light, small and discreet. They sit nicely in your ears and include three different sizes of adapters.

The music sound provides good detail and a high feeling of proximity. We think the sound quality is a good bit above average in this price class. The mid-range is slightly indeterminate, however, while the bass tends to take the upper hand – but this will appeal to anyone who enjoys heavier music. The connector is angled and the cable asymmetric so you can run it behind your neck.

Comfortablestay in your ears even while you’re running
Bass rather dominant

32. Skullcandy Ink’d

Affordable headphones with a good microphone for hands-free to mobiles

Price class: Budget Cable length: 130 cm Driver size: 11 mm Connector type: 3.55 mm Headset: n/a Acoustic construction: Closed Frequency response: 20-20,000 Hz Impedance: 16

Skullcandy Ink'd

At first glance, Skullcandy Ink’d headphones give the impression of being inspired by brightly coloured sweets. So it’s rather surprising when the headphones deliver a dynamic soundstage with plenty of space. They lack a little weight in the lower mid-range, however, and the treble sometimes verges on the shrill. But you can’t argue with their value for money.

Cheap headphonesmicrophone for hands-free to mobiles
Lack weight in lower mid-rangeplasticky

33. JBL Reflect Mini NC

Sweat-resistant sports headphones with wings

Price range: Medium Driver size: 6.8 mm Dynamic noise cancellation: Active Frequency range: 20-20,000 Hz Miscellaneous: IPX7 certified, case, USB-C

JBL Reflect Mini TWS

JBL Reflect Mini NC are a pair of sports headphones with built-in noise cancellation. The difference was noticeable when we tested them with and without noise cancellation, even though the reduction is far from a complete elimination of external noise. In some gyms, noise cancellation is a welcome addition as it allows better focus on your own training.

Unfortunately, despite the built-in noise cancellation, these headphones allow in a lot of wind noise when you’re outside. So for outdoor use, they definitely work best on days when it’s more or less windless.

One thing we liked about these headphones is their high IP rating. IPX7 means that you can wash them in running water after a workout.

Touch to change song

It takes a while to figure out how to position the Reflect Mini NC headphones in your ear for maximum stability and sound quality. There’s one particular position where they stay put and sound their best – even if the wings on them do prevent them from falling out even if you don’t get them in quite right. Once you’ve found the right position and got used to how hard you need to screw them in, they really do stay put. Then you have no problems running with them, or doing strength training at the gym, or anything else.

Reflect Mini have a clean sound but they’re quite poor in terms of bass. JBL's headphones tend to be the opposite, i.e. very bass heavy, but this particular pair have an almost non-existent bass register.

JBL-Reflect-Mini-NC

There is an equaliser available via JBL’s own app, where you can configure the settings and adjust the sound a little to your own taste. This makes some difference, but not enough to give a wholehearted balance.

In the app you can also control the noise cancellation. If you exercise outside, you probably want to tone it down a bit because you may need to keep track of traffic and other things. This works very well.

Control of the Reflect Mini NC is done either via the app, or by touching the headphones themselves. Unfortunately, the touch solution is complicated. Even once you remember the commands, it’s easy to go wrong and you’ll quickly get frustrated with them. Nor can you fine tune the volume – you have to do that on your phone.

The manufacturer's specified battery life matches well with what you get in practice, so that with the included case you get about 20 hours of playing time, which is enough for most people.

These headphones are for the very active, where you want a pair of headphones that stay in your ears throughout a workout and which are also sweat and water resistant and have good battery life.

Nice fitgood noise cancellation
Poor bassfiddly controlsallow in sound from the wind

34. Jays F-Five

Entry level earbuds with some shortcomings

Price class: Budget Driver size: 40 mm Frequency range: 32 Hz – 18 kHz

Jays F-Five

If you’ve looked at the phenomenon of true wireless headphones from the outside and felt a certain degree of scepticism, it’s unfortunately quite an expensive step if you want to try out the concept in practice. A decent pair of true wireless earphones often cost around £200, and in several cases they cost even more than that. Jays F-Five, by contrast, are considerably more affordable in terms of price. But whether this product will attract more people to enter the true wireless world is another matter. To an extent, it depends who you are.

Design you’ll recognise

Let's start with what's really good, namely the design and the fit. These true wireless earbuds look much like Apple's AirPods, which means most people will find them attractive. They also sit very nicely in your ears and work really well even during more intense activities such as running. They’re comfortable and don't chafe anywhere, all of which further contributes to a good first impression.

Problems with Bluetooth are more the rule than the exception when it comes to all products with Bluetooth, and of course it’s often a matter of luck and circumstances as to whether you get a good experience. In any case, we don't have any hassle at all when it comes to either pairing with mobile devices or connecting when the headphones are removed from the case.

Undynamic sound

So far so good. But then we come to the sound. We have to be honest here: Most people will find the sound OK, but in a context where F-Five is competing with a lot of other brands, it’s just not good enough. Above all, the sound lacks bass and generally feels undynamic. If you’re an audiophile who values good sound, they simply don’t measure up. There’s also a lack of active noise cancellation, so if you’re going to use these headphones in environments where there’s a lot of noise, you’d do better to look elsewhere.

Likewise, if you use Netflix, Youtube or TV apps, you’ll quickly notice that there are problems with sound lag, which will disrupt your viewing experience considerably.

Battery life is OK, but no more than that. We did get the promised four hours without any problems, and its easy to top them up via the charging case, but if you’re going on a long trip, for example, you may run out of power.

All of this should be put into context against the low price, which is undoubtedly very competitive. And if you assess them only on the basis of cost, you might come to the conclusion that these earplugs are fine as long as you aren’t picky about the sound, don’t watch video to any appreciable extent and are content with a battery life of only four hours. But if you can afford a pair of more expensive true wireless headphones or make more demands in terms of sound quality, you should look at other alternatives.

Comfortablestylish
Undynamic soundvideo sound lag

35. Sudio Ett

Minimalist headphones with noise cancellation

Type: Wireless noise cancelling headphones Noise cancellation: Active Water resistant: No, but sweat-resistant IPX5 Connection: Wireless (Bluetooth 5.0 v2) Battery life: 6 hrs (4 with active noise cancellation), + 30 hrs (20 with active noise cancellation) (phones + case) Weight: 10 g + 40 g (headphones + case) Range: 15 metres

Sudio ETT

Sudio Ett are a pair of wireless noise cancelling headphones whose price tag puts them in direct competition with many of the top names. But are they worth it?

Sudio-Ett-In-Ear-1

As with most Sudio headphones, Ett's case is incredibly minimalist and has good build quality. The case is made of soft touch material, which gives it a real premium feeling. The case has four LED lights to show the current battery level, which is pretty useful.

Sudio-Ett-In-Ear-2

As part of the Sudio Ett package, you also get a bunch of different silicone covers, both flat and more rounded. This makes it much easier to find a pair that suits you. Despite all those choices, however, it never really feels like Sudio Ett fit into your ears perfectly. And the feeling that they don’t fit correctly never completely disappears even if you change the silicone cover. During smaller movements they remain in place, but during faster and more active movement they become unstable.

Sudio-Ett-In-Ear-3

Noise cancellation works well and you notice a big difference in many sounds, but sounds in certain spectra – such as voices and the like – aren’t really reduced by Sudio Ett.

As with many other Sudio products, the sound quality is very high. For the price class, there’s nothing to complain about when it comes to sound. However, sound does become a problem if you find yourself in a place with a lot of background noise, given that the fit of the headphones allows external noise to enter. In addition, the headphones only have to be sitting a little crooked in your ears for both the bass and the balance in the sound to disappear. These headphones are highly affected by position. But in quieter places, and when they are stable in your ears, they do well, and you get really clear and distinct sound.

There isn’t an app associated with them, and we feel there should be. An app would have offered the opportunity to program what the buttons on the headphones do and perhaps even offered an equaliser to adapt the sound to your personal preferences.

The battery life is OK. Without noise cancellation, the battery lasts almost six hours at normal volume, and with the noise cancellation on the figure is about four hours. If you charge the headphones in the case, you also get almost four full charges, which is decent.

These wireless noise cancelling headphones are best suited for slightly quieter environments where there isn’t much talking. With their slightly stiff fit, they aren’t much use when it comes to exercise and similar activities. We also think the price is a bit high in terms of what you get.

Good soundwell-built case
Rigid fitnot many functionsaffected by position

36. Jaybird Tarah Pro

Good sound with long battery life

Type: Wireless headphones Water resistant: Yes (IPX7) Connection: Wireless (Bluetooth) Stated battery life: 14 h Measured battery life: Approx. 12 h Miscellaneous: App with EQ

Jaybird Tarah Pro

Jaybird Tarah Pro are a pair of wireless headphones with a neck strap, which you can hang easily and freely around your neck between training sessions. They don’t get tangled, and a magnet holds them together so you can bend down or jump around without losing them.

The sound is well balanced, although it doesn’t quite have the width we’d expect from a pair of headphones in this price class. But none of the registers takes over, and there’s plenty of elasticity in the bass.

One disadvantage is that the headphones can generate a buzzing noise from the neckband – what's known as “microphonics”.

A bit short on technology

In terms of price, we’d also expected a little bit more in terms of technology. For example, we’d have liked to see some form of noise cancellation to be able to drown out muzak in the gym, but as things stand these headphones don’t eliminate much noise, which means you have to turn your volume right up instead. The microphone also leaves something to be desired during phone calls.

But on the plus side, you can wash these headphones after each training session, because they are IPX7-rated – something that’s especially useful given current health concerns.

Good battery life

The very best thing about the Tarah Pro is the battery life. For a pair of wireless headphones in this price class, they hold up to the competition very well. You get almost 12 hours of battery life. And they recharge in about two hours. Unfortunately, you can’t charge them with a normal charger.

The design means they fit well in the ear. They’re comfortable during a workout and easy to put on.

Unfortunately, Jaybird Tarah Pro headphones are very expensive and don’t offer many refinements for the price. But they’re still good workout headphones, they have a great fit and if you’re looking for a model with a neck strap, a long battery life and nicely balanced sound, these could be ideal.

Very good battery life & fast chargingcan be washedwell-balanced sound
Produces mechanical noise via the neck bandpicks up a lot of ambient soundrequires proprietary charger

37. Sony WI-1000XM2

Rather dull but with good noise cancellation

Type: Wireless in-ear headphones with neckband Water resistant: No Connection: Wireless (Bluetooth 5.0), stereo mini Battery life: 9 hours Weight: 58 g Miscellaneous: Active noise cancellation

Sony WI-1000XM2

Sony WI-1000XM2 headphones are for people who want good noise cancellation on in-ear headphones, but who don’t want true wireless headphones. But it’s difficult not to compare these with Sony's own top-class true wireless WF-1000XM3 headphones, which are about the same price.

Neckband with sterile design

In any case, this is a pair of in-ear headphones with a neckband – sometimes called neckbuds. The design makes them comfortable to carry with you when you’re not listening, but harder to squeeze into your bag or pocket. At the same time, the design feels almost sterile and not at all as showy as many of Sony's other headphones.

Headphones with headbands bring with them two major advantages: battery life and call quality. Unfortunately, this isn’t true of WI-1000XM2 headphones. Nine hours of playing time (13 without noise cancellation) simply feels far too short. However, you can connect the headphones with a cable – and they include a flight adapter, which is useful.

The call quality is generally reasonable. But the person on the other end of the line thinks the sound sounds very flat and impersonal. In noisier environments, they have difficulty separating what you're saying from the ambient noise, for example if you’re near a busy road.

Good noise cancellation

However, there’s no lack of functionality. Noise cancellation is in the same eminent class as Sony's true wireless headphones, and effectively blocks out the outside world. Via the app, you can set levels for noise cancellation as well as for a lot of other functions.

The sound should be as wonderful and as energetic as on Sony WF-1000XM3s, because they cost about the same. But while the sound is detailed and rich throughout the register, we do miss the exuberant energy that Sony's other top headphones deliver. Here it’s more linear and correct – but on the other hand that does go with the sterile design.

Sony WI-1000XM2 headphones don’t really do anything wrong, exactly. They sound great and they cut off the outside world effectively. But at the same time, Sony misses out on the major advantages of having headphones with a neckband, which makes the price tag feel far too high.

Really good noise cancellationuseful extra cablevery good sound
Relatively short battery lifepoor call sound

38. Adidas FWD-01

Good sports headphones in gigantic format

Type: Wireless in-ear headphones Water-resistant: Yes (IPX4) Connection: Wireless (Bluetooth 5.0) Battery life: 16 hours Weight: 25 g Miscellaneous: Function button

Adidas FWD-01

Adidas FWD-01 is the second model of sports headphones from Adidas, manufactured by Swedish company Zound Industries. While the Adidas RPT-01s were a pair of airy on-ear headphones, the FWD-01s are a pair of more classic in-ear headphones with a cable between the earbuds.

Reflectors and function button

The cable between the earbuds is covered in the same attractive greyish fabric with reflectors as the company’s larger headphones. Three buttons are located close to one headphone, allowing you to control volume and music, and there’s a function button near the other.

If you download the Adidas app, as well as setting the sound using an equaliser, you can decide what the function button does. The range of options isn’t exactly gigantic, so in practice you can activate a voice assistant using the button or have it switched off.

The headphone sound is good overall, with a little extra pressure in the bass as is often the case when it comes to sports headphones. At the same time they aren’t exactly going to win any prizes for detail in either the bass or mid-range, and this should really have been better given the price class.

Gigantic earbuds

One thing that distinguishes the FWD-01s is their size. They’re like a huge lump in each ear. They remind us of what early true wireless headphones used to look like, but given that these have a cable between the earbuds, the size is almost unacceptable.

At the same time they’re really light, which means the size doesn’t affect the fit too much even during training sessions. But if it’s pouring down or you’re really sweating a lot, the earbuds start to slide out of your ears, and the size definitely doesn’t counteract that. At the same time, the size means it’s easy to knock them during a workout, and you look totally weird on the running track wearing them under a hat.

While there’s nothing actually wrong with Adidas FWD-01 headphones, we’d expected a lot more when one of the world's biggest sports companies has its name on a pair of headphones. Instead this is a pair of reasonable enough headphones that seem to cost what they do simply because of the brand.

Reasonable call soundstay in place quite well during activityreasonable music sound
Rather pointless function buttonalmost comically large earbuds

39. Huawei Freebuds Lite

Good, but a poor start

Type: Wireless in-ear headphones Water-resistant: Yes Connection: Wireless (Bluetooth 4.2) Battery life: 3 h, 12 h with charger case Weight: 5.5 g (earbud) 45.5 g (charging case) Miscellaneous: aptX and aptX low latency

Huawei FreeBuds Lite

The Lite bit in the name of Huawei Freebuds Lite headphones seems a bit misleading in many ways, although justified in others. We’ll come to that in a moment.

Clear but poor sound

Let’s start with the call sound – the headphones have noise cancelling microphones that do their job. But there’s a problem. The person on the other end of the line often has no difficulty hearing what we’re saying, but at the same time our speech sounds very tinny and jangly. It isn’t exactly poor as such, but it’s not great.

When it comes to music, it’s clear that you get what you pay for. Because overall the sound is pretty good. At the same time you don’t exactly get lots of nuance or detail anywhere on the frequency range.

Nor are these headphones you’d want to wear while watching a film, because they create significant delay in the sound compared to what’s on the screen.

And the Freebuds Lite also have the problem common to this type of headphones where the sound stutters – in this case particularly when you’re walking around town. At the same time it’s not so bad that it makes them unusable.

Awkward form but good functions

The headphones themselves are heavily inspired by Apple’s Airpods, but with the obvious difference that there are in-ear tips on them. For some reason it takes a lot of practice and testing of adapters to get them inserted correctly, but once you’re used to it they stay in place very well.

The charging case is compact and convenient. At the same time, we’d have perhaps liked a bit more battery power in both headphones and charging case, but it’s OK all the same.

The headphones themselves tolerate moisture and work well in both rain and during sweaty exercise sessions. There’s also a sensor on them that pauses the music when you remove the headphones.

Unfortunately there’s no way to change the volume on the headphones, but you can control the music, voice assistant and calls. This aspect is controlled by touch-sensitive areas on the headphones, which work really well.

On the whole, Huawei Freebuds Lite aren’t bad true wireless headphones. But the problems you often find with this type of headphones are here too, although it should be possible to deal with these in later editions.

Convenient charging casefit well (with a bit of practice)
Rather dull music soundthe odd stutter in the connection

40. Apple Airpods (2nd generation)

Mini update with mixed message

Type: Wireless in-ear headphones (earbuds) Water-resistant: No Connection: Wireless (Bluetooth 4.2) Battery life (earbuds): 5 h Battery life (charging case): 24 h Weight: 8 g (headphones), 38 g (case)

Apple AirPods with Wireless Charging Case (2019)

Externally, it’s an LED on the case that tells you this is the second generation of Apple Airpods. And that also indicates the scale of the update you can expect here.

Two charging cases

The biggest update to the Airpods can actually be found in the charging case. Now you can buy two versions of Airpods – with or without wireless charging. If you have an old pair of Airpods you can also buy the case that supports wireless charging separately. It simply supports wireless charging. No more, no less.

And the updates to the actual Airpods are even less visible than wireless charging. You get an hour more of talk time (not music), slightly faster switching between the devices you’ve linked to them and a slightly shorter delay in the sound. Small details that you’ll barely notice unless you’re consciously looking for them.

This also means that the smart solutions from the first generation of Airpods are still present. Such as quick pairing with iPhones and iPads, Airplay support and the option of finding the headphones via Apple’s Find My app.

Clearer sound

Because you can buy the case with wireless charging for your older Airpods too, that obviously means the design is identical in the second generation of Airpods. This has both advantages and disadvantages in that they let through quite a lot of ambient noise.

It also means that they fit well in some ears and not at all in others. If you’re someone with “incompatible ears”, there isn’t actually much you can do about it. Other models have different adapters, hooks or tips to suit as many people as possible, but not Airpods.

One update that isn’t visible, but is definitely audible, is the sound. The design doesn’t exactly permit audiophile quality, but Apple have still made the sound much clearer than in the first generation of Airpods.

If you don’t like in-ear headphones that go into the ear canal, Airpods are one of relatively few alternatives available. They're stable in terms of function, the case holds a charge really well and they sound pretty good for both music and calls. At the same time there are lots of interesting alternatives in this price class from other brands if you’re looking for better sound.

Wireless charginggood call soundeasy to operate
Only OK soundfew settingsunforgiving fit

41. JBL Reflect Mini 2

Nice fit and good sound

Model: Sports headphones Water-resistant: Yes (IPX5, sweatproof) Connection: Wireless (Bluetooth 4.2) Battery life: 10 h Weight: Low Miscellaneous: Reflector cables

JBL Reflect Mini 2

JBL's Reflect Mini 2 are larger than average sports headphones that sit really well in the ears despite protruding quite a lot. They almost feel like earplugs. The slightly longer wings on them slip in easily when you rotate them into your ears. However, if you rotate them too far you risk creating a vacuum in the ear which easily picks up other sounds. Screwing them in too far can also mean that you block the sound physically and reduce it, so you have to be accurate when you insert them.

Once you've got them in place, vibration or movement isn’t likely to shift them. They also effectively exclude other sound.

Unclear user information

The first time you start up the Reflect Mini 2 headphones, they quickly pair with your phone. After that they remember the phone. When you switch them on, you get a battery level indication – unfortunately not in percent but only as low, medium or high. This means that you can’t really tell accurately when it’s going to be time to recharge them.

When you've had the “low” message once, there’s an hour or so of battery life left and you get no more warnings. We’d have liked a bit more detailed information. Otherwise, the battery life is fine. You’ll manage several workouts on one charge.

JBL Reflect Mini 2 headphones are connected by a short cable with a control on. The control has functions for off/on, volume control and changing track. The buttons are easy to recognise with your fingertips and changing the volume is simple. But it’s far too slow at changing tracks. If you want to go back a track, the button is so slow that you often only change to the start of the track you're already listening to because it's played so far into it. We’d also have liked voice control, which would have been a good solution for this.

Given the price, we think these headphones really don’t have enough functions.

But the sound quality is good. The bass is a bit quiet and muffled, but it doesn’t overwhelm the mid-range and still has a fair bit of punch. The treble is really nice. It feels like this is a good equaliser for workout music.

But the headphones aren’t very good as a headset, because the person on the other end of the line gets quite poor sound quality. They get plus points for the reflective cable, however, which is useful if you exercise outdoors but also if you easily lose things indoors.

Overall, Reflect Mini 2 headphones are reasonable sports headphones with good sound, a design that offers a tight seal around the ears and a relatively good battery life.

Good soundreasonable battery lifefit very well in the ear
Terrible microphonesluggish response in buttons

42. Samsung Galaxy Buds

Not worthy of Samsung

Type: True wireless headphones Water-resistant: No Connection: Wireless (Bluetooth 5.0) Battery life: 5 hours (earbuds) 24 hours (case) Weight: 5.6 g (per earbud) 39.6 g (case) Miscellaneous: headset function, case with built-in powerbank

Samsung Galaxy Buds

Samsung Galaxy Buds are the company’s latest true wireless headphones – in other words where each earbud is completely without wires. These are quite attractive, neat units in high gloss plastic that you charge via an equally elegant charging case. Music and telephone calls are controlled via touch controls on each earbud that actually work much better than this type of control usually does.

Good sound but dodgy connection

The headphones are ideally paired through Samsung’s app (even if you can pair them without this) and in theory you should only need to lift the lid of the case to activate connection. This works the first time you do it, but if the earbuds have already been paired once, you have a frustrating time with endless attempts before they want to connect again.

Once they're up and running and inserted in your ears, they fit really well. Even if they aren’t officially watertight, they seem to put up with quite a lot of sweat without giving up the ghost. They also stay firmly in place during an exercise session.

The sound when you listen to music is really good, with amazingly well defined registers given the size and price tag of these headphones. They also have a really prominent bass. One neat function is that you can set the sound to your own preferences via an app.

Poor sound

Unfortunately, during phone calls the headphones fall into the same category as many other true wireless units. The Galaxy Buds do a pretty good job for this type of headphone, but neither party to the conversation is particularly satisfied with the mumbling result we get during calls.

What’s worse is the actual connection. Sitting still in the office it works really well. Out on a walk, however, the music cuts out and stutters a couple of times a minute, which just isn’t good enough. When we connect them to a computer to watch a film there's a delay of one or two seconds, which makes them completely unusable.

Samsung claim that connection is at its best with their flagship phone in the S10 series. And that’s true, because it drops out and stutters much less (but still too much). However, with the handful of other telephones we tested, the result is significantly worse.

Samsung Galaxy Buds have a really good design and great sound when you listen to music. Unfortunately that promise is ruined by a really poor connection.

Good music soundgood fit
Poor call soundconnection stutters far too much

43. Jaybird X4

Sporty in-ear headphones

Type: Wireless headphones Water-resistant: Yes (IPX7) Connection: Wireless (Bluetooth) Stated battery life: 8+ Measured battery life: Approx. 6 h Miscellaneous: App with equaliser, fast charging where 10 minutes gives 1 hour’s battery life

Jaybird X4

Jaybird X4 headphones are a pair of wireless sports headphones with about six hours’ battery life. When you start your X4s, they clearly tell you how much battery life you have left in percent, which is very user-friendly as you then know whether or not it’s time to charge them after your training session.

You charge the X4s via the included cable, which has a special connector. It’s a real shame Jaybird didn’t choose to use USB-C or micro-USB instead, because then you could have used the same cable as for your mobile phone.

The headphones are wireless but have a cable connecting them together. One headphone has a plate with three buttons that you use to control the volume, change track and switch on/off the headphones. The buttons react immediately to commands and it isn’t difficult to control the music even while you’re running.

The wings on the headphones are a reasonable size and attach the headphones firmly to your ears. They also shut out quite a lot of ambient noise – not so you can’t tell what’s going on around you, but to a useful extent.

You can jump, run and do gym workouts while wearing them and they won’t budge. The only time they give our testers a problem is during really intense running, where the plate with the buttons on has a tendency to slowly vibrate/rotate that headphone out of the ear.

The sound quality is reasonable given the price class, but no more than that. The headphones have an OK bass, but the mid-range lacks detail and the treble is shrill. This means music can be rather piercing if you listen on high volume. Nor does the bass really keep up with the volume adjustments, so on medium to high volume the sound becomes muddy yet sharp at the same time. On low volume the balance is better.

One disadvantage in terms of sound is that the cable that connects the headphones absorbs sound and both transfers and amplifies it when it bounces off your neck. So you have to play the music at relatively high volume to drown this out.

You can set the sound in the app, and after a bit of fiddling we manage to achieve pretty good sound quality, even if the sound still isn’t entirely well-balanced.

How do they stand up to the competition?

There’s a difference of about £50 between X4 headphones and the same manufacturer’s true wireless Vista model, and this becomes evident above all in the sound quality. Vista headphones have top class sound, while the X4s leave a lot to be desired.

At the same time, you obviously have to compromise when you have a limited budget. So the question then is how the X4s perform against competitors in the same price class. In this price class there are many different in-ear headphones, and the competition is tough. And unfortunately the X4s have a problem standing up to the competition in terms of sound – but they do stand out quite positively when it comes to user-friendliness.

If you can get them for a good price, you have a pair of headphones with really good wings to make them fit and an attractive design.

Give clear battery life informationstable fitgood response in the buttons
Sharp treble & muddy mid-rangecable between headphones picks up mechanical noise“unique” charging cable

All about in-ear headphones

There are hundreds of headphone manufacturers. From Sennheiser and Koss, which were founded more than 60 years ago, to the modern brands such as WeSC and Skullcandy. Some of them stand out with eye-catching design, others for high quality sound and slightly higher prices – it all depends on the target group for the headphones.

Because these days you can actually get really good sound quality even from in-ear headphones. Our tests show that, despite the small format, these often produce well-balanced and powerful sound.

The sound chips in electronic products are improving all the time, and functions such as noise cancellation and amplification mean you can get exactly the soundstage that suits you, without noise from your surroundings.

Some manufacturers include useful small storage bags. This is helpful as you avoid tangles of cable in your pocket. Others equip their headphones with tangle-free cables, which are generally fabric covered cables that don’t tangle themselves up so easily. And a third group produce wireless headphones. This is a category that’s growing fast, because today’s run times are often several hours so you don’t have to charge them between each use. You often even get a case that doubles as a powerbank.

If you’re planning to use your in-ear headphones while you exercise, it’s best to choose a pair that are water-resistant. This means you don’t have to worry about sweat damaging the headphones, and you can also rinse them off after your workout so they stay clean.

Buying headphones

When you choose which in-ear headphones to buy, you should first consider what you’re going to use them for. Are you the type of person who wants really good sound quality? Do you live near a busy road and want to avoid traffic noise when you go out for a walk? Will you be using your headphones during your workouts? Do you want wireless headphones, or are wired ones OK?

When you know how you’ll use them and what you need from them, it’s time to start comparing models that suit your requirements. Sound quality is often at the top of the wish list, alongside other functions such as noise cancellation quality, headset functionality and perhaps even the option to measure how far you’ve run or walked (built-in step counter etc.).

It’s important to remember that headphone fit is a major factor in the sound quality and frequency response you’ll perceive. So you need to choose or adapt the size of the earphones to fit your ear canal rather than turning the music right up. This also brings out the different nuances of the music best while reducing the risk of hearing damage.

If you take your music listening seriously, you should invest in a pair of in-ear headphones with higher acoustic quality than the cheap, simple ones that come with your phone.

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