Wires may be good for audio quality and low latency, but they’re also really good at getting tangled, snagging on doorknobs, and making our headphones a big hassle to use on the go. Bluetooth is shaking up the headphone market, and Bluetooth earbuds are some of the hottest products you can get right now.
Bluetooth earbuds offer an audio solution that works with a huge range of devices, from the best smartphones to computers and laptops, while also being incredibly easy to bring everywhere. You’ll find some that still use a tether, often coming in at a lower price while offering an impressive battery life. Meanwhile, truly wireless earbuds like Apple’s AirPods offer the most compact style, ditch wires entirely, and tend to rely on their cases to augment the battery life available from the earbuds themselves.
All the different Bluetooth earbud designs offer plenty to think about when you’re shopping, but you should also be aware that not all Bluetooth is the same. Some devices will support different codecs, which can improve the quality of the audio sent over a Bluetooth connection. For improved audio, keep an eye out for apX, aptX HD, AAC, and LDAC in the specs, or look for aptX LL to get a lower latency connection that can improve your experience with video and gaming content.
With the key features in mind, take a look at our top recommendations. Some will be better partners in the gym and during workouts while others will hold up better for phone calls or listening to podcasts on a walk. We’ve picked out winners in a bunch of different categories, so you can find one that best fits your needs.
TL;DR – These are the Best Bluetooth Earbuds:
1. Optoma NuForce Be Live5
Best Bluetooth Earbuds
For work, for play, or for your commute, the Optoma NuForce Be Live5 offers a solid pair of earbuds to listen to your tunes or catch up on your favorite podcasts. The NuForce Be Live5 earbuds deliver a light-weight accessory at less than half an ounce, but they’ve got enough battery power to last through the workday.
Inside the NuForce Be Live5 you’ll find a pair of 8mm dynamic drivers that’ll play your tunes at a higher quality than cheaper earbuds. That’s thanks to the codec support for both aptX and AAC. So, whether you have an iPhone or an Android phone, you can benefit from a codec that steps up the audio quality. Since earbuds are designed to go with you all over the place, they also need to be able to handle whatever you might run into. So, the NuForce Be Live5 earbuds feature water resistance to help them hold up against rain and sweat.
2. Beats Flex
Best Budget Bluetooth Earbuds
Beats and budget may not normally go in the same sentence, but the Beats Flex are actually shockingly affordable for the brand at $50. You’re getting a lot for the price with these buds, too. They include Apple’s W1 tip for easy pairing with Apple devices, and Apple users get a bonus feature in the form of Audio Sharing, which lets you share what you’re listening to with someone else wearing Beats headphones or AirPods.
The Beats Flex offer a 12-hour battery life, so you can get through a long day with plenty of music. And, if you ever forget to charge and let the battery get low, a quick 10-minute charge over USB-C can get the Beats Flex to run for an extra 1.5 hours. The earbuds include playback and call controls on the cable running between them, and the two buds can magnetically clasp together to keep them secure on your neck and automatically pause your music.
3. Anker SoundCore Life U2
Best Ultra-Cheap Bluetooth Earbuds
If your budget is tight, Anker’s gear is usually a safe bet. The Anker Soundcore Life U2 wireless neckband earbuds come in at just $40, but they’ll give you the wireless audio you crave. With Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity, you can get a strong link between the earbuds and your phone or tablet.
Anker lets you make the most of that strong connection, as you can run the SoundCore Life U2 earbuds for 24 hours on a single charge. If you need a top-up, just five minutes of charging can get you an extra two hours of playtime. And, since these are earbuds you can have on you all day, it helps that they have an IPX7 water resistance rating, so they’ll stay safe even if you get caught in the rain.
4. Creative Outlier Air V2
Best Truly Wireless Earbuds
One of the major perks of using Bluetooth is that you can avoid wires that get tangled up in your pocket, so if you want to make the most of that wireless technology, a truly wireless set of earbuds may be your best bet. And, for great performance and value, the Creative Outlier Air 2 are where it’s at.
These truly wireless earbuds offer up a strong connection thanks to Bluetooth 5.0, so you should enjoy easy pairing with your devices. Whether you’re on Android or iOS, you can enjoy improved audio quality over typical Bluetooth connections thanks to support for both the aptX codec and the AAC codec. These earbuds will let you listen for the long-haul as well, as they offer a 12-hour battery life from the earbuds alone and the charging case can add an extra 22 hours of listening time. That means they’ll be good for almost an entire workweek without you needing to remember to charge them.
5. Bose Sport Open Earbuds
Best Earbuds For Running
Music is a blast while your running, helping you tune out the strain your body is putting up with. But, if you’re out running around your neighborhood, you can’t just tune out everything going on around you. The Bose Sport Open Earbuds are designed to ensure you don’t miss a beat – not your music’s beats nor your surroundings’. It does that by actually positioning its 16mm speaker drivers (larger than your typical Bluetooth earbuds) outside of your ear canal. The sound is directed into your ears for clear, punchy sound, but they don’t obstruct your ears.
This means you can hear everything that’s going on around you as though you weren’t wearing earbuds at all. So, even if you’re jamming out to your favorite tunes, your ears are open to hear a bicyclist ringing their bell as they come up behind you or a driver tapping their horn as they pull out of an alley.
6. Plantronics BackBeat FIT 2100
Another Great Bluetooth Earbud Option for Runners
If your head is on the larger side and the Urbanears don’t work for you, the BackBeat FIT is an excellent alternative. The sound quality is very good, even a bit better than the Urbanears because with the Plantronics there isn’t a heavy emphasis on the bass. They’re also sweatproof and waterproof in case you take them into the shower.
7. Phiaton BT 100 NC
Bluetooth Headset with Affordable Bells and Whistles
The value you get from the Phiaton BT 100 NC is a bit surprising. They sound great, without too much emphasis on any one frequency band. The fit is comfortable, and with the controls on the neckband, the earbuds are light and small.
Plus, they offer decent noise-canceling, so it’s hard to complain. The one drawback is the earbuds don’t have a retraction mechanism to pull them back into the neckband when not in use, although you can fit them in manually.
8. Sennheiser Momentum In-Ear Wireless
Best Bluetooth Earbuds for Bass
For some richer sound, you can get Bluetooth earbuds from Sennheiser. The Sennheiser Momentum In-Ear Wireless earbuds deliver an extended frequency response range from 15Hz to 22kHz, giving you a bit more range in both the treble and bass ends of the spectrum. Since these earbuds support aptX and AAC codecs, you’ll also get to enjoy higher-fidelity audio to really let the notes stand out even in complex tunes.
The Sennheiser Momentum In-Ear Wireless earbuds have a 10-hour battery life and offer a number of convenient features. With NFC, setup is as simple as bringing the headset close to your phone or tablet. You can pair it with two separate devices as well, like your phone and laptop, without needing to re-pair when you switch devices. The headset also supports fast charging and comes with a carrying case.
What to Look for In Bluetooth Earbuds
So which set of Bluetooth earbuds are the best? You should know that when shopping for a pair of Bluetooth earbuds there are two things to keep in mind:
First, the Bluetooth signal doesn’t carry well through objects. That could be walls or people, and interruptions from these objects could lead to the signal being dropped.
If that’s happening to you, move your source closer to your earbuds (for instance, moving your phone from a back pocket to a front pocket). Second is battery life. Eight to twelve hours is generally on the high end. If you’ll be using them constantly throughout the day there’s a chance they’ll need to recharge nightly.
If you plan to workout with your Bluetooth earbuds be sure to get something that is at least water-resistant. This is measured with the IPX rating system (there is one for both water and dust, but on headphones, it just refers to water).
You’ll want to find something at least IPX-4 (protection from water splashes for at least 5 minutes), and higher if you sweat more than the average person. Above IPX-6 is waterproof territory. IPX-7 means the earbuds can be safely submerged in up to three feet of water for up to 30 minutes. If you need to take them underwater make sure the charging port can be sealed shut.
Another workout issue that unfortunately needs to be kept in mind is safety. The workout headphones listed here are unsealed, which means they allow you to hear your surroundings if the volume isn’t turned up too high. If you’re running across streets or in areas where there are obstacles the importance of this feature cannot be overstated.
Finally, in all audio signals, there is inherent latency. Even more so in the wireless transmission of Bluetooth as opposed to speaker wire. To combat this, you should look for a headset using a more advanced codec, such as aptX or AAC, which can have an advantage over the standard SBC codec in latency and audio quality. For dramatically lower latency, you’ll want to keep an eye out for aptX Low Latency or LHDC. Also make sure the device you’re playing audio from supports the same codec, otherwise you won’t see the benefits. If you’re specifically looking for a competitive gaming edge, we recommend sticking with a corded option.
If you’re looking for the best Bluetooth speakers, we’ve got you covered there, too.
Mark Knapp is a regular contributor to IGN and an irregular Tweeter on Twitter @Techn0Mark
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