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19 best wireless earbuds, reviewed by The Independent’s tech critic

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There was a time when using headphones meant having to be permanently tethered to your phone, constantly untangling cables as you go. But ever since smartphone manufacturers started ditching the headphone jack on their handsets, headphones and earphones have gone wireless.

Now, they’re more portable than ever, and in-ear headphones offer the highest level of portability, fitting comfortably inside your pocket. True wireless earbuds, as they’re called when they don’t have any wires at all, are lightweight and often offer great comfort.

Some fit so snugly into your ears that they keep the outside world out by a process of noise isolation. Others build on this with electronic help, called active noise cancellation (ANC).

Yet more have extra features, such as built-in voice assistants that can answer your questions, send messages and turn up the volume.

You’re most likely to use wireless earbuds with your phone, laptop or tablet, and some earbuds are smart enough to switch seamlessly between devices, as you need them to.

How we tested the best wireless earbuds

A selection of the best wireless earbuds we tested for this review
A selection of the best wireless earbuds we tested for this review (David Phelan)

From the second we took each pair of earbuds out of its box, we tested comprehensively. How easy were the buds to set up, did they pair easily with an iPhone, or better with an Android handset? Did they need you to download an app and if so, was that app the best way to control the volume, track selection or other features, or are there physical controls? If there were, we checked how easy it was to swipe, slide or double-press these to get what you want.

There was comfort to be considered: we looked at the fit, to see if they’d dislodge easily if you were listening while running, or fit so tightly that they’d start your lugholes aching before long. And then we started looking at the sound quality, noise-cancelling, if included and audio on phone calls.

After that, there was the most important consideration of all: how do the earbuds make the music sound? Is it weighed down with bass, or lyrical enough to hear mid-tones and high notes clearly? We listened to different kinds of music to check where the earbuds excelled. And we noted how long the battery lasted. After all, it’s fine to have earbuds that are so light you hardly know they’re there, but not so good if that means you have to recharge them every hour or two.

The best wireless earbuds for 2024 are:

  • Best wireless earbuds overall – Sony WF-1000XM5 wireless earbuds: £259, Amazon.co.uk
  • Best budget wireless earbuds – Panasonic RZ-S500W wireless earbuds: £59.99, Amazon.co.uk
  • Best noise-cancelling wireless earbuds – Apple AirPods Pro 2nd gen wireless earbuds: £229, Amazon.co.uk
  • Best wireless earbuds for running – Beats Powerbeats Pro wireless earbuds: £269, Amazon.co.uk
  • Best wireless earbuds for sound quality – Bose QuietComfort 2 wireless earbuds: £199.95, Amazon.co.uk
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