The best-sounding earbuds for 2020 The best-sounding earbuds for 2020
We’ve rounded up the top-performing inexpensive true wireless earbuds that sound pretty decent, and we’ve also got a list of the best cheap true wireless earbuds. But... The best-sounding earbuds for 2020

We’ve rounded up the top-performing inexpensive true wireless earbuds that sound pretty decent, and we’ve also got a list of the best cheap true wireless earbuds. But if you want to find the absolute best-sounding wireless headphones, the truth is that you’ll need to prepare to spend more — a lot more, in some cases.

The best wireless headphones also tend to be on the bigger side because size does seem to matter when it comes to the sound quality of a pair of true wireless earbuds. And that’s where the one big caveat to all this comes into play: To achieve optimal performance, the best true wireless earbuds need to feel comfortable and fit right in your ear — and you have to get a tight seal. If you can’t get a snug fit with a pair of in ear headphones, you’ll think you got ripped off and be sadly disappointed, which is why I suggest buying a pair from a store with a decent return policy, such as Amazon

We wanted to make sure you knew about your options beyond those ubiquitous Apple AirPods. Below is a list of the best sounding wireless earbuds, with a breakdown of features, including performance, noise cancellation, battery life, audio quality and how comfortable the headphones are. I’ll update this list as I test any new pair of headphones (the Anker Soundcore Liberty Pro 2 and Master & Dynamic MW07 Plus have been added as part of the latest update). And if you’re looking for on-ear headphones, you’re going to want to look at this list. This list was originally published earlier this year. Updated as we review new products.

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The second-generation Momentum True Wireless 2 aren’t cheap at $300, but they’re better all around than the originals, with a slightly smaller, more comfortable design, active noise canceling that rivals that of the AirPod Pro, improved battery life (up to seven hours versus the original’s four) and better noise reduction during calls. And, if you don’t like them in black, a white version is slated to follow later this year. Most importantly, though, the Momentum True Wireless 2 have the same stellar sound — for true wireless earbuds, anyway — offering clearly superior sound quality to the AirPods Pro. That makes them arguably the best true wireless earbuds on the market today and earns them a CNET Editors’ Choice Award.

These use Bluetooth 5.1 with support for the AAC and aptX codecs (for devices that have aptX, like Samsung’s Galaxy smartphones).  

Water-resistantYes (IPX4 rating — splashproof).

Read our Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 review.

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Sony hasn’t been much of a player in the true wireless (Apple AirPods-style) headphone arena, but its new WF-1000XM3 in-ear headphones may change that. While this pair of wireless noise-canceling headphones isn’t cheap, at $228 it’s one of the best sounding wireless earbuds at this price, matching and perhaps even exceeding the sound quality and performance of pricier competitors from SennheiserBeatsMaster & Dynamic and Bang & Olufsen. The WF-1000XM3 true wireless earbuds also have a feature that those models don’t have: active noise cancellation to reduce ambient noise.

The only drawback is that they aren’t rated as being sweat- or water-resistant. That said, I’ve used a pair for light workouts at the gym without a problem. Also, they don’t perform as well for making calls as the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 and Apple AirPods Pro.

The Sony WF-1000XM3 active noise-canceling headphones use Bluetooth 5.0 with support for AAC but not aptX.

Water-resistant: No (lacks IPX certification).

Read our Sony WF-1000XM3 review.

Read more: Best noise-canceling headphones of 2020

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The Libratone Track Air Plus has been out for several months in Europe, but only recently went on sale in the US (it lists for $200 but it’s currently selling on Amazon for $190 with a discount coupon for $10 off). It doesn’t sound quite as open to the ear as the AirPods Pro, but the audio quality is a bit clearer and they have well-defined bass (you can choose between neutral, bass boost and treble settings in the companion app). The noise cancelling is also decent — maybe not quite on par with the AirPods Pro noise cancelling, but close. I liked the fit of these — the in-earbud stayed in my ear well (I was able to run with them) and the case is only a little bigger than the AirPods Pro’s case.

The Track Air Plus works well as a headset for making calls and a firmware upgrade did improve headset performance. That said, the noise reduction isn’t quite as good as on the AirPods Pro. People said they could hear me clearly and loudly, but the pair of wireless earphones didn’t muffle background noise quite as well as a pair of the AirPods Pro. 

These use Bluetooth 5.0 and have support for AAC and aptX. 

Water-resistantYes (IPX4 rating — sweat-resistant and splashproof).

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Samsung’s Galaxy Buds Plus look essentially the same as the original Galaxy Buds, but their battery life is rated at 11 hours for music playback (up from six hours of battery life), and they pack dual drivers for better sound and an additional microphone in each bud to help with external noise reduction while making calls.

I was impressed with the sound from this pair of earbuds. It’s detailed and smooth, with deep, well-defined bass. The sound is richer and more spacious than that of the original Galaxy Buds. Well-respected Austrian audio company AKG, which Samsung acquired when it bought Harman, is behind the audio. While the original Buds were also “tuned” by AKG, these are a nice upgrade over the originals — and right there with what you get with the Jabra Elite 75t, if not even a touch better. They use Bluetooth 5.0 and support for AAC (there’s now an app for iOS users) and Samsung’s scalable codec, which is similar to aptX but is proprietary to Samsung Galaxy smartphones. 

Water-resistantYes (IPX4 rating — splash-proof).

Read our Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus review.

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Anker is known more for its value headphones, but it’s trying to step into more premium territory with its Soundcore Liberty 2 Pro earbuds, which carry a list price of $150. From a design standpoint, they share some similarities with Sony’s WF-1000XM3, although the Liberty 2 Pro ‘buds don’t have active noise cancellation. Anker says this pair of wireless earbuds have large 11mm drivers combined with Knowles Balanced Armature, with up to 8 hours of battery life on a single charge (32 total hours of total battery life with the case) and noise-canceling microphones to help reduce ambient sound so callers can hear you better. They charge via USB-C and also support wireless charging.

I’m not sure these earphones sound quite as good as the Sony WF-1000XM3, but they certainly sound like premium true wireless earphones, with rich sound that includes powerful bass performance and lots of detail. Some people may have some quibbles over the fit — I had to supply my own XL tips to get a tight seal in my ear and found the Liberty Air 2 model a little more comfortable — but the Soundcore Liberty 2 Pro earbuds are a good value. 

They use Bluetooth 5.0 with support for AAC and aptX.

Water-resistant: Yes (IPX4, splash-proof).

Read more: Best wireless headphones for making calls in 2020

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Yes, the Powerbeats Pro’s jumbo charging case with its built-in battery is a notable drawback. But incorporating all the features that make Apple AirPods great while delivering richer sound and better battery life in a design that won’t fall out of your ear ultimately is a winning proposition. Just make sure to buy these bluetooth headphones somewhere with a good return policy in case you’re in the small minority that doesn’t find them comfortable to wear.

They use Bluetooth 5.0 with support for AAC but not aptX.

Water-resistant: Yes (IPX4 rating — splash-proof).

Read our Beats Powerbeats Pro review.

Read more: Best headphones of 2020

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At first glance, the Elite 75t earbuds, which were originally supposed to cost $200 but now sell for $180 (£170, AU$299), seem like a minor upgrade from the highly rated Elite 65t. But the updates turn out to be a little more substantial than I first thought. The smaller size (the buds and case are 20% smaller than the Eilite 65t’s), boosted battery life and USB-C charging are significant upgrades. And then there are the smaller changes, like the new charging case design with magnets inside that make it easier to open and close the charging case and to keep the ‘buds from falling out. While the Elite 75t earbuds aren’t quite as comfortable to wear as the AirPods Pro and don’t have active noise cancellation, their sound is better, with clearer overall sound and better bass definition.

While the Elite 75t model uses the same drivers as the Elite 65t, the Elite 75t’s sound is a slight step up. Thanks to the smaller design, these should fit more ears better and allow more people to get a tight seal — crucial to maximizing sound quality. These use Bluetooth 5.0 and have support for AAC, but not aptX. 

Water-resistantYes (IP55 rating — can withstand heavy sprays of water).

Read our Jabra Elite 75t review.

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The Master & Dynamic MW07 Plus is the second generation of the company’s MW07. The update features greatly increased battery life (10 hours of battery life versus 3.5 hours of battery life), Bluetooth 5.0 and active noise cancellation with two microphones on each earbud. The ‘buds may not fit everyone’s ear equally well, but they certainly have a distinct look, as well as very good sound and a great listening experience if you can get a tight seal. They deliver more of an audiophile sound profile, with smooth, well-balanced sound and well-defined bass. 

Available in four color options for $300, these true wireless earbuds include a swanky chrome charging case that comes with a secondary pouch for safekeeping (yes, the charging case can get scratched up if you leave it in a bag). The charging case, with its built-in chargeable battery, gives you an additional three charges (it charges via USB-C). These have support aptX (but not AAC) and have an extended range of more than 20 meters, according to Master & Dynamic.

Water-resistant: Yes (IPX5 rating — withstands sustained spray).

Read more: Best over-ear headphones

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The Jaybird Vista earbuds are an excellent sports model that fit securely in your ear. They’re arguably slightly more comfortable than the JBL Reflect Flow, but the Flow, which retail for $150, arguably sound better. They’re very similar to the JBL UA True Wireless Flash but have a more compact case and cost about $20 less.

Water-resistantYes (IPX7 rating — fully waterproof).

Read more: AirPods vs. Powerbeats Pro: The best wireless earphones are…

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I don’t really know how stylish the 1More Stylish True Wireless earbuds are (yes, that’s their name), but they do sound good. With a list price of $100, they’re the least expensive of any of the models on this list. 1More made a name for itself with its wired earbuds, the Triple Drivers, which sound great and were a good value when wired headphones were still a thing. The same clear, balanced sound found in the Triple Drivers is present in 1More’s first true wireless earbuds; they don’t sound as good as the Triple Drivers, but they sound very good for true wireless.

These have more of an audiophile sound profile, with more “accurate” sound, so bass lovers may be a little disappointed, but I liked them. Of course, it helped that I was able to get a tight seal with one of the included ear tips. However, the stabilizer fin did nothing for me — I just jammed the tip into my ear to get a secure fit. 

Their battery life is rated at up 6.5 hours (expect closer to 5 hours of battery life if you’re listening to your music at higher volumes), with an extra 17 hours or so of battery life available from the charging case. With a quick-charge of only 15 minutes, you’ll get 3 hours of battery life for listening to your favorite programs and music. These use Bluetooth 5.0 with support for AAC and aptX.

Water-resistant: No (lacks IPX certification).

Read our 1More Stylish True Wireless review.

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