Whether you’re an avid gymmer or just narked off at smartphone manufacturers for removing headphone jack ports, you may well be in the market for wireless in-ear headphones.
While they pack less of a punch than their on- and over-ear counterparts, the relative ease and simplicity, and the performance improvements of wireless devices has come on leaps and bounds in recent years.
Easier pairing, better batteries and quicker charging has made them a viable option for anyone looking for small, portable audio peripherals to carry with them on a day-to-day basis. So, we went to town on looking for the best.
Taking into account sound quality, relative ease of use, fit, comfort, battery life and overall aesthetic – not to mention whether or not they are truly wireless – here are the best on the market.
Sennheiser Momentum Free: £159, Amazon
Sennheiser makes some of the best audio products in the business and the Momentum Free pair is no different. As an offshoot from the amazing Momentum range, the Free headphones are also painless to set up – it took about 20 seconds from getting them in our hands to having them paired to our phone. The audio quality is peerless – while not as heavily bassy as some other in-ear wireless headphones, the overall clarity is really good, just like you’d expect from Sennheiser. They’re also very light, comfortable, and we had no issues getting them to fit out of the box. They’ve around six hours of battery life and come with a sturdy carry case for travelling, but which, as a heads up, doesn’t charge the headset itself.
Sony WF-1000X: £197.69, Amazon
Like a few others on this list, Sony’s WF-1000X is another truly wireless headset, with just two detached earbuds. That comes with a sacrifice: battery life, which averages around three hours. Sony’s devices are good elsewhere, though – a carry case that doubles up as a charger, noise cancelling and Ambient Sound modes that provide multiple set-ups depending on your surroundings and genuinely work really well. There’s also impressive dynamic range and decent bass at the low end. We also found them more immediately comfortable than the E8s, and their button gestures are pretty intuitive, with one bud controlling power, pairing and noise cancellation and the other controlling play/pause. Just don’t expect to go all day without needing to charge.
B&O E8: £249, Amazon
As ever with anything Bang and Olufsen, design is front and centre with the E8 earphones. This is hands down the sexiest looking pair of wireless in-ears we’ve seen to date, with a fantastic build quality and some intuitive touch gestures to pause, play, skip tracks and even control voice activation. Overall the E8s continue the brand’s excellent reputation on the design front. The sound quality is also great, with a well-rounded sound, and around four hours of battery life. That’s not loads compared to the competition and considering the very high price, but the charging case is super easy to use when you’re on the go. Our only real issue to date has been the fit, which while eventually decent, took a while for us to get used to because, depending on the size of your ears, you might find the relatively heavy buds occasionally hang out of your ears. Once you do get them fitting right, the true wireless nature of the set becomes a real advantage.
Pixel Buds: £159, Google Store
The sound and battery life of the Pixel Buds are both great. The pair also follows the Pixel line’s trend of looking good, both in and out of the charging carry case. However, that case is a little fiddly to have to deal with when you’re out and about. For Pixel and Pixel 2 owners, the live translation features are impressive, taking the translation features of Google Assistant. Say someone speaks French to you, your microphone can pick this up and in your ears you’ll hear a translation into English. In practice it works well, although stumbles a little bit when complicated phrases get thrown out at speed, but we’re fairly certain the use cases of this feature will be relatively minimal at the moment, anyway. Overall it’s a good first shot from Google – decent fit, decent battery life, but iOS users will be left by the wayside.
Beats by Dr. Dre Powerbeats3: £123.99, Amazon
You might already have your mind made up about Beats, but there’s no denying this pair is a fantastic update on the Powerbeats range. Not only do they sound great – the bass is impressively rich for in-ear headphones, but might be a little overpowering for some – but the hooks that clip over your ears make for one of the best fits of the devices we’ve tested. This is particularly good for gym users, meaning they’re very unlikely to fall off your head even during the most intense workouts. As ever, the issue with Beats remains the price – you pay for the name, but there’s little to complain about with this latest iteration. The battery life is another huge benefit, with up to 12 hours before needing to charge. That’s pretty damn impressive.
Apple AirPods: £159, John Lewis
Apple’s previous with headphones isn’t the best, but the standout features of the AirPods make them well worth a look if you’re buying an iOS device. Not only is the battery life great – averaging at around five hours – but the long, protruding part of the headphone, which divided people on its looks, are where the battery is housed. The sound quality is by far the best to date from Apple. No longer are they weak and tinny, without the mid to low-end clarity needed for punchier sounds. These don’t quite rival Beats, Sennheiser or Sony, but they come much closer and the relatively light nature of each AirPod makes for a great all-round fit.
Bose SoundSport Free: £179.95, John Lewis
This is a fitness-focused pair of headphones from Bose – the totally wireless earbuds are water- and sweat-resistant, which means they won’t get damaged during any particularly strenuous workouts. The Bluetooth connection is very strong, and doesn’t suffer from the connection blips that blight many products. The sound is excellent, both powerful and subtle, as you’d expect from Bose. However, the noise isolation here isn’t as effective as some rivals, due to the open design, and therefore these headphones struggle in especially noisy environments – so it depends on where you plan on using them mostly. The battery life is only five hours, but the supplied carry case will provide two full extra charges.
Sennheiser CX 6.00BT: Amazon, £84.99
The Sennheiser CX 6.00BT pair is a little less excellent in the sound department than its Momentum cousins, but it still delivers decent all-round clarity. It’s just occasionally that becomes a bit too bright on the top end – great for some music and not so much for other genres. They’re well designed, light and fit excellently well, with a number of different ear buds supplied, making it easy to find one to your fitting. Around six hours of battery life is also excellent, and the in-line controls have a no-nonsense simplicity that doesn’t force you to muck around with any voice or touch gestures.
Jabra Elite Sport: £174.67, Amazon
If you’re after fitness-focused, fully wireless pair that doesn’t compromise on sound, a great option is this from Jabra – an updated version of the Elite Sport model, now boasting much greater battery life (up to 13.5 hours). The accompanying Jabra Sport Life app is very useful during set-up, and then opens a whole world of added functionality. There’s a built in heart-rate monitor in the headphones, which you can check through the app – and while you’re there, you can track your running routes, plan workout routines and much more. The fit, customisable with three different ear hook and buds, is easy and secure, with added waterproofing. And the sound, when fitted correctly, is awesome, powering you through the fitness session with detailed, strong sound.
Onkyo W800BT: £229.99, Amazon
Much like the pricy Bose and Sennheiser models on this list, this Onkyo pair is about as close as you can get to over-ear headphone sound quality without actually buying a pair of over-ears . The sound (when correctly positioned) is wide and full, offering great versatility during our listening test. What sets these apart from the aforementioned Bose and Sennheiser pairs, these are entirely wireless, connecting automatically to one another. The fit is comfortable and secure, and the clips that slip underneath the upper ridge of your ear are uncomfortable, which can be a problem with similar designs. The carry case also acts as a charger, with five separate charges giving a total of 15 hours’ play time.
The Verdict: Wireless in-ear headphones
For an all-round mix of great sound, decent battery life, good fit and aesthetics we really recommend the Sennheiser Momentum Free pair.
Have we missed any brands? Do you agree with our expert’s choices? Drop us a line with any feedback or questions on firstname.lastname@example.org
IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.