UPDATE 06/02/2020 – For those who don’t want to be burdened with headphones, ‘truly wireless’, or ‘True-Wireless’ headphones now represent the best quality/size ratio. But all are not equal, which is why CNET has concocted a selection of the best products on the market.
Article updated on 06/02/2020 – Following our very conclusive test of the Jabra Elite 75t, these logically replace their 65t predecessors in our ranking. Please note that for those who would like some advice on how to choose the right True Wireless earphones, you can go to the end of the article where you will find a lot of useful information in the dedicated section.
1. Apple AirPods Pro the best headphones on the market, all criteria combined
This “Pro” version of the AirPods has been extensively redesigned, and for the best, because we believe it is the best headphones on the market. On the menu, a sweat-proof in-ear design (notice to sportsmen) offering excellent comfort by avoiding the intrusive side of this format, a high-flying sound reproduction, much richer especially in bass, but also a very efficient active noise reduction and a wireless connection as reliable as ever. More compact than the Sony WF-1000XM3, they offer slightly lower audio quality slightly less convenient controls and average Battery Life However, they are easier to charge thanks to their inductive charging housing, which compensates for the absence of a USB-C port. Although they are very expensive, AirPods Pro will appeal to those who don’t support in-ear devices well, and to both iOS and Android users.
Sony hits hard with its WF-1000XM3. Indeed, the Japanese simply signs the best true-wireless of the year. These earphones have it all: a stylish design offering good comfort, a reliable Bluetooth 5.0 connection, low latency, refined audio quality with powerful but controlled bass, an above-average 6-hour battery life, fast USB-C charging and, most importantly, impressive active noise reduction We don’t have much to reproach them, their main defects are the lack of sweat resistance (to be avoided for sport therefore), the lack of volume control via the earphones and their high price. However, if you have the necessary budget, don’t hesitate, the WF-1000XM3 are now our reference in true-wireless headphones
3. Jabra Elite Active 75T, the best True Wireless for sport
Jabra is further refining its True Wireless headphone recipe, delivering 75t headphones that are 22% more compact, lighter and more comfortable without sacrificing the fit, audio quality or reliability of wireless connectivity that were the hallmarks of the brand’s previous headphones. In addition, this new model is splash-proof (IP55 certification), which means you no longer need the Active version to use it for sports, and the battery life now increases to 7.5 hours in the earphones plus 20.5 hours in the case, which is very sufficient. We only regret the absence of active noise reduction or wireless charging in the AirPods style, but the Jabra Elite 75t remains a worthy heir to the excellent 65t. So you can go without risk, they are clearly worth the extra 30€ or so compared to the previous model.
Known primarily for its portable batteries and accessories, Anker also manufactures headphones. While the manufacturer’s first True Wireless models only half convinced us, the very attractive price-performance ratio of Soundcore Liberty Air clearly changes the game. For a very reasonable price, these earphones offer you a quite decent sound, at least as good as that of the Apple AirPods, an IPX5 waterproofness for sportsmen, a reliable Bluetooth 5.0 connection with an acceptable level of latency, and a satisfactory autonomy of almost 5 hours plus 3 full charges thanks to the carrying case. On the other hand, the quality of the hands-free calls is not at the level of the best models and one will regret the absence of USB-C on the box. That being said, these headphones will be perfect for those who want to experience the freedom of true wireless without breaking the bank.
Although they can’t compete with the best models on the market on the sound side (difficult to get powerful bass with traditionally shaped earphones), the AirPods 2019 offer quite good audio quality, but above all, these earphones have an extremely reliable wireless connection, with a very satisfactory level of latency. Their optional inductive charger is also very practical and Bluetooth pairing is very simple, even with Android or Windows, contrary to what you might think. On the other hand, tactile controls are limited and not always effective, and their lack of isolation can be a hindrance in noisy environments. But their biggest flaw, in our opinion, is their high price. However, if you can’t stand in-ear headphones, the 2019 AirPods are truly the best alternative for you.
For many, the future is wireless audio. While the first headsets and earphones of this kind degraded sound quite a bit and suffered from regular interference, advances in the Bluetooth protocol now make it possible to achieve highly satisfactory levels of quality and reliability. LDAC or AptX HD codecs even allow you to get a Hi-Res audio stream now. After having lost their jack cable, a source of congestion but also of more or less premature death of the devices (it’s often he who dies first), the earphones finally lose their last wire, the one that connects the two earpieces.
Indeed, many brands offer the so-called“true wireless”(or“truly wireless”) earphones nowadays. These have the advantage of offering a very good quality/size ratio and greater freedom of movement, so they are an alternative to good old-fashioned headphones and traditional earphones. In addition, they are always equipped with a storage AND charging box which, if handled properly, ensures that you never run out of battery power. Nevertheless, there are certain details to know about this type of device, and the very many models on the market are far from all of them.
For what purpose?
True-Wireless wireless headphones offer greater freedom of movement than traditional earphones or headphones, they are very versatile and therefore very interesting. In the office, at the gym or on public transport, they adapt to any type of environment. However, sports headphones have some special features, including being sweatproof.
What audio signature?
Just like headphones, a pair of headphones has its own sound with its own audio signature, its own colour. For example, one model may emphasize bass or treble much more than another, while some headphones deliver a more balanced sound. The style of music you listen to will condition your purchase. Prefer powerful basses for Hip-Hop or Electro for example, and more balanced signatures for classical music
Which format to choose?
The most common earphones are in-ear headphones. In other words, they enter the ear canal. If you are not used to using this type of earphones, we advise you to try the model you are interested in before buying it, if possible, to check that it suits your morphology. If the earphones are too big for your ears, they will hurt you and won’t fit properly. If they are too small, the same goes for the fit in the ears, but in addition you will lose the low frequencies of the sound and be less well insulated. Furthermore, some do not support this type of earphones, so if this is your case, we advise you to choose a model with a different format.
What are the essential commands?
Another point, the controls. At the very least, True-Wireless headphones should allow you to play/pause music, and change the volume, or the song you are listening to. But the best ones allow all three at once! Some also offer other functions, such as settings or activation of a voice assistant. Finally, you should also be aware that because of their size (the microphone is further away from the mouth), these headphones generally perform less well in a hands-free kit and the controls may be less convenient than with conventional headphones with a remote control on the cable.
What type of wireless connection?
Before the arrival of Bluetooth 5.0, the connection with Bluetooth 4.xx confronted us with either a lack of stability or a high latency. This is why other manufacturers have used NFMI for the connection between the two earphones, which gives a more stable connection and low latency. However, this system prevents you from sharing your music with a friend. But the arrival of Bluetooth 5.0 and the first headsets that really took advantage of it (some have only Bluetooth 5.0 in their name) really changed the game, offering the advantages of Bluetooth and NFMI without their respective drawbacks.
How much autonomy can be expected?
True-Wireless earphones always come with a storage AND charging case that, if handled properly, ensures that you never run out of battery power. Nowadays, you can expect your headphones to last at least 4 hours and to integrate 2 or more charges in their case. There’s less, there’s more, but for us it’s the minimum.
Why you can trust us
CNET France has been online for nearly 15 years and is a reference site for high-tech leisure activities. Our recommendations are based on a large number of independent tests and comparisons, technical observations and in-depth knowledge of the market. Our tests and expertise focus on product usage and value for money to help you make the right choice.