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The 10 Best True Wireless Bluetooth Earbuds of 2020

There's no need to compromise on style, sound, or comfort with the audio tech this year has to offer.
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This is my second year rounding up true wireless earbuds. I first took on this ranking because I was compelled to, perhaps even obsessed with, finding a pair of buds that’d actually fit inside my weird-shaped ears. (Nothing seems to stay put inside these flappers.) But as I searched—and searched, and searched—I found that, though the industry already had some reliable mainstays, like the Apple AirPods (which didn’t receive an update this year), or the Beats Powerbeats Pro (which only got some fancy new colors in 2020), the market was still pretty unrefined. For almost every great headset I tested in 2019, I noticed a potential deal-breaker: The best-sounding premium buds were often the most uncomfortable, while the cheapest headsets always lacked the functionality of the over-priced pairs.

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In 2020, I’m happy to report that the technology has really powered forward. The competition is no longer crushed by Apple and Beats (which, if you weren’t aware, is owned by Apple). Inexpensive headsets maintain a solid wireless connection, and many of them actually come packed with some very competitive active noise cancellation (ANC). And, hell, a lot of the buds I tried even fit my ears!

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This year, I found some heavy-bass earbuds from Sony, a versatile offering from Google that’s hard to criticize, and even a headset that’s designed for gaming. You’ll see two pairs of active earbuds and two pairs of budget-friendly earbuds. From my perspective, all earbuds should be able to withstand a morning jog, and no piece of tech that’s smaller than a matchbox should cost more than $100 of your hard-earned cash. Apparently, that’s not feasible yet, but I tried to keep your wallet in mind as much as I could here anyway. Hopefully, this makes your earbud search a little easier. Happy listening.

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ALL-AROUND BEST

Google Pixel Buds 2 Earbuds

Google has been gunning for Apple for years now, but until the Pixel Buds 2, I hadn't seen a single product from the search-engine-company-turned-global-empire that stacked up to the Big A. Just as the Apple AirPods Pro seem to maximize the iPhone’s capabilities, the Pixel Buds are bona fide AirPod killers designed for Android folks. Unlike both models of AirPods, this update on the Pixel Buds features wingtips, with a “spatial vent” that keeps them secure in any scenario. I’m not a huge fan of touchpads, but the swipe controls are intuitive and responsive enough that I don’t miss having something to click at all. The real highlight here is the onboard Google Assistant, which casts a long shadow on ol’ Siri. The “Hey Google” functions on these buds are super capable, packing some Blade Runner-esque features, like language translations that come through in real time. Of course, a lot of this functionality is only available to the Android device owners among us. Will the Pixel Buds 2 finally turn me over to the Dark Side? Maybe. walmart.com

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ANC: No

Battery: 5 hours, 24 hours with charging case

FUNKIEST DESIGN

Samsung Galaxy Buds Live Earbuds

These earbuds, which really should be called ear beans, look like something that might grow in a pod on trees. They’re lumpy and curvaceous, and when you first look at them, you think, “There’s no way these things are going to go inside my ears.” But Samsung designed a headset that sits in your ear in a truly unique way. The beans don’t tunnel into your ear canal like most of the other offerings on this list; they rest on the surface of it, securely, somehow. That means that, while other earbuds tend to vacuum-seal your brain, the Galaxy Buds Live let you actually hear yourself talk. This makes them extraordinary for people who enjoy chatting on the phone via their wireless earbuds, or who like their podcasts accompanied by the sounds of crunching leaves under their feet. But the funky design means the Galaxy Buds Live aren’t the greatest contender for noise-cancelling, if that’s your thing. I’d highly recommend these lil’ beans for owners of Samsung Galaxy phones. The phone hooks them up with a lot of nifty upgrades, like the ability to charge on the go by resting the case right on the device. I used them with my iPhone and liked them just fine, though. amazon.com

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ANC: Yes

Battery: 8 hours, 29 with charging case

BEST SOUND

Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 Earbuds

I know there are audiophiles who are dying for a pair of earbuds that satisfy their thirst for sharp, crispy sound. While I don’t think you’re really going to get the premium quality of audio in wireless earbuds that you would from a tried-and-true pair of studio cans, Sennheiser rarely fails to deliver on sound. These guys are a bit chunky for my taste, but for most ears, I’m sure they fit just fine—though they certainly wouldn’t be my first choice for a workout. They’re approaching $300, which is a pretty staggering price point. But, again, if you’re an audiophile, you know that good waveforms come at a price. And, hoo-boy, if you’re looking for some truly sound-obliterating noise cancellation, the Momentum True Wireless 2 should be your first choice. amazon.com

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ANC: Yes

Battery: 7 hours, 28 with charging case

BIGGEST BASS

Sony WF-XB700 Extra Bass Earbuds

I wanted to get a headset with some beefy bass on this list, because, when you’re bopping along on your nightly bike ride, it’s not the treble that’s making your head bounce. And, dear reader, you deserve thunderous bass in your life. Sony’s got some extremely competitive audio quality in its earbuds—the WF-SP800N headset (also from this year) is worth mentioning here, if only for the kickass noise cancelling. But, at $78, these bass-enhanced earbuds are hard not to love. They’re a little heavier in the ear than I’d like, but the onboard buttons make them way easier to control than a lot of the buds on this list with touchpads. And if there’s anyone who knows how to keep a stable Bluetooth connection, it’s Sony. But you’re not buying these earbuds for versatility, really. You’re buying them for the bass. And they do not fail to deliver. amazon.com

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ANC: No

Battery: 8 hours, 18 with charging case

BEST FOR GAMING

Edifier GM6 Earbuds

A true wireless headset, just for gamers. Welcome to the 2020s. For centuries, gamers have been deprived of the sort of simple joys that are all too commonplace for gym rats. There are approximately 200,000 true wireless headsets made just for workout bros. Why not a pair or two for those of us who live to game? Edifier actually has a few solid choices for gamers. There’s the Edifier TWS NB2 that also came out this year, which is not explicitly designed for gaming but is marketed as such due to the headset’s super low-latency. This means that there’s a very, very teeny delay between the source of the audio and the sound that comes out of the earbuds. And there are these GM6 earbuds, which are explicitly made for the gaming population. They have noise reduction on both mics—which helps to block out the crinkles of your Doritos while you jam on Xbox Live—70ms latency, and playback time that can last as long as seven hours on a single charge, with an extra 14 from the charging case. That might even be long enough to get your first Victory Royale on Fortnite. Not a bad deal at all, for $78. amazon.com

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ANC: Yes

Battery: 7 hours, 14 with charging case

A KILLER DEAL

Raycon The Everyday E25 Earbuds

The first thing I loved about earbuds from Raycon—the company that’s owned by singer and former reality TV star Ray J—is the sound they make when you put them on. A lot of earbuds power up with an English woman announcing, in a robotic voice, "Power. On." These earbuds sound like the old Sega Genesis console when they activate. "Ray-Connnnn!" I’m surprised that this headset costs only $80. The buds are perfectly sized, with enough weight to keep from bouncing around in your ear, they have a fantastic clicky button that’s a cinch to operate (why don’t more earbuds have clicky buttons?), and the carrying case, unlike that of most headsets on the market, is actually snug enough to sit in your pocket. I imagine these are the sort of earbuds that, despite what they may want, most consumers actually need. They do everything a headset needs to do, and they cost less than $100. That’s less than half of Apple’s AirPods Pro, by the way. rayconglobal.com

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ANC: No

Battery: 6 hours, 24 with charging case

ANOTHER KILLER DEAL

Earfun Free Earbuds

With earbuds on this list as expensive as $300, you might find it hard to believe that a $45 pair is actually worth buying. I’ve tried a few offerings from EarFun, a budget-friendly brand that was recognized at the Consumer Electronics Show this year for its innovative design and engineering. I can see why it acknowledged EarFun: For a price point this low, these buds should not be anywhere near as reliable as they are. The touchpads are kind of finicky, and the little gum drops aren’t quite as weighty as you want them to be, but I used them for about three weeks straight and eventually forgot how inexpensive they are. They’re waterproof, carry a six-hour charge out of the case, and rarely drop a connection. EarFun also offers the $60 EarFun Air headset, which has noise cancelling and sloped stems like the Apple AirPods, and on October 13, it's unveiling Hybrid ANC earbuds, a more premium offering that will be priced in the $80 range. I wouldn’t go for EarFun if you’re looking for premium quality, though. At your Secret Santa this holiday, give the gift of cheap. No one will ever know. amazon.com

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ANC: No

Battery: 6 hours, 24 with charging case

A GREAT PAIR FOR ACTIVITY

Jabra Elite Active 75t Earbuds

Jabra’s got a lot of clout in the true wireless world, and it deserves it. I’ve found little wrong with any of the Jabra headsets I’ve tried, and this year's update on the popular 65t series definitely lives up to the expectations. The reason I’m listing the Active 75t headset is, and apologies if I sound like a broken record, I really do think it makes sense to prioritize an “active” fit when you’re looking for earbuds. Unless you sit at home on the couch all day long (hey, more power to ya), you’re going to want earbuds that stay in place through your entire range of motion. The Jabra buds, unlike a lot of headsets designed for exercise, don’t have wing tips or hooks that keep the earbuds secure—but because of their ergonomic design, they really don’t need them. They just work. This October, Jabra rolled out a firmware upgrade on the headset’s ANC capabilities, making the 75t line as reliable for noise cancellation as it already is for calls, sound quality, and fit. $200 is steep, yes, but not for the only buds you’re ever going to need to buy. amazon.com

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ANC: Yes

Battery: 7.5 hours, 28 with charging case

ANOTHER GREAT PAIR FOR ACTIVITY

JBL Under Armour FLASH X Earbuds

I’ve also enjoyed trying out JBL’s earbuds, because they tend to pack a ton of quality into a very competitive price. This new headset (which has a pricier variation that was “personally approved by Dwayne Johnson, the hardest worker in any room”), comes in at a sharp $170. Whereas a lot of other workout headsets are lightweight, the Flash X is a hefty package, with a textured surface that feels almost like a barbell. My favorite part is the charging case, which is rock solid and seems like it’s made of stone cold steel. It almost looks like an ammunition cartridge. You load it up with your earbuds, slide it shut, and it snaps into place with a satisfying click. I imagine if I spent a lot of time working out, I’d want a pair of earbuds like this—the ear tips are customizable, the batteries carry a 10-hour charge so you can take them right from your workday to the gym, and they skip touch controls for a no-fuss button. Who wants to swipe around a touchpad when they're covered in sweat? The buds also support Under Armour’s MapMyRun GPS tracker, if you’re into that sort of thing. amazon.com

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ANC: No

Battery: 10 hours, 40 with charging case

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BEST AIRPOD ALTERNATIVE

House of Marley Redemption ANC Earbuds

One consideration I haven’t yet addressed is, for a lot of people, a big one: style! It’s part of the reason why we wear these futuristic headsets at all. No one looks good with a pair of big, fat, earmuffs on their head. Apple’s AirPods seem to be the leading style of choice right now; next time you go out, count the number of white stems sticking from people’s ears to see for yourself. What House of Marley has here is a snazzy deviation to the bland, all-white aesthetic. To me, that’s the selling point with these $200 earbuds—though I’d be remiss to mention that the headset boasts sustainably sourced materials, which is a serious thing, because, you know, the world is burning and everything. These slick earbuds sport a wooden(!) fiber exterior. Paired with some tortoise-shell frames and a handknit scarf, they’ll make you look like the coolest kid in all of Brooklyn. Really, they’re fine as hell. And environmentally friendly, too! These Marley-brand buds don’t offer Apple-quality noise cancellation (the ANC hardly makes a difference) but you won’t have to sacrifice too much for style; this headset actually sounds pretty damn good. amazon.com

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ANC: Yes

Battery: 7 hours, 20 hours with charging case

This story originally appeared on Esquire.com. Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.

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