Some wireless earbuds are equipped with ear tips, while others like the standard AirPods (now on their third generation), have an open design without tips. Those are best for people who don’t like to have ear tips jammed in their ears and want to allow some sound in from the outside world. For the most part, only “noise-isolating” earbuds with silicone or foam ear tips offer active noise canceling — or noise cancelling (with a double l), as Bose and Google spell it — a feature that was once a rarity but has now become standard. You can get good sound quality from either style, but the best-sounding true-wireless earbuds tend to be noise-isolating buds.
1. Sony WF-1000XM5
When Sony’s WF-1000XM4 earbuds came out in 2021, we gave them a CNET Editors’ Choice Award. And though they’re excellent, we had some quibbles — they’re on the large side and aren’t a good match for certain ears. Clearly, Sony took those gripes to heart when it set out to design its next-generation WF-1000XM5 flagship noise-canceling earbuds. Not only are the XM5s smaller, but they also offer improved performance pretty much across the board, with better noise canceling, sound and voice calling. Are the XM5s perfect? Not quite. And at $300 — $20 more than their predecessor — they’re costly, too. But overall they’re really impressive, easily among the very top earbuds on the market.
2. Apple AirPods Pro 2
The new AirPods Pro (2nd generation) are powered by Apple’s new H2 chip, which delivers more processing power while being more energy efficient, according to Apple. The new chip, combined with new low-distortion drivers, allows for improved sound that offers better clarity and depth. The noise canceling is also improved — Apple says the new AirPods have “double” the noise canceling of the original AirPods Pro. Additionally, the new AirPods add an extra hour of battery life, up from five to six hours with noise canceling on. Plus, a speaker in the case that emits a sound that helps locate your buds via Find My should they decide to hide from you.
Note that while Apple has discontinued the original AirPods Pro, they’ll remain on sale at discounted prices until supplies are exhausted. However, most people should get this newer model if they can afford it.
3. Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2
Bose’s second-generation QuietComfort Earbuds 2 are not only about 30% smaller than their predecessors, but their case is about 40% smaller and truly pocketable. They feature best-in-class noise canceling and improved sound, thanks to Bose’s new CustomTune sound calibration system that customizes the sound for your ears. Voice-calling performance is also significantly better than that of the original QuietComfort Earbuds.
The other big change is to the ear tips. Bose has ditched its one-piece StayEar wing tips for a two-piece Fit Kit system that features separate ear tips and “stability bands” in three size options, giving you more flexibility to get a secure fit and tight seal.
The buds initially ship in the triple black color with the sandstone color to follow later in the ye review.