We’ve been seeing some impressive innovation and growth in the true wireless earphones segment, including some big-ticket launches from brands in the premium segment such as Apple and Samsung. This has helped to refresh the space a bit, which has been much needed given the typically long product life cycles in the true wireless earphones segment. As a result, there are new launches across categories and platforms, including some long-awaited successors to former favourites.
Active noise cancellation continues to be a key feature that buyers look for when choosing true wireless earphones across price segments including the affordable space, but new innovation in the form of advanced codec support and features built for certain devices and platforms continue to be a big trend in the segment. We’ve refreshed our top picks across price categories for true wireless earphones, with new products from Apple, Samsung, and Oppo, among others. Here are our top picks.
How do true wireless earphones work?
Up until the advent of true wireless technology, wireless headphones and earphones have had some kind of connector between the left and right channels, be it a wire or a headband. With true wireless earphones, even this short cable is gone, and each earbud features its own battery, DAC, amplifier and Bluetooth chip. The earbuds individually connect to the source device, or a dominant earbud that is connected to the source then also connects with the second earbud to provide the digital signal.
This way, each earphone is able to work independently, yet the two function together to ensure that the listener gets stereo sound output from the source device. The obvious advantage of this arrangement is the convenience of a completely wire-free listening experience, which improves comfort and ease of use. This is a boon in many usage scenarios, including while working out, in crowded places, on your commute, or when you want to use your earphones while lying down.
True wireless earphones often also include built-in microphones, which makes it possible to use them as hands-free devices with your smartphone. Provided the microphones are good enough to pick up sound over a slightly longer distance, this makes true wireless earphones the most discreet and effective way to have call conversations on the move. And while the additional components may make the earbuds a bit heavier than typical earphones, many new options have compact, light-weight designs that are comfortable and don’t rely on winged tips or ear hooks to stay in place in your ears.
Best true wireless earphones: Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Gen)
The much-awaited successor to the original Apple AirPods Pro, the second-generation variant sees some big improvements in the user experience. Although the design and styling of the earpieces is largely unchanged, the charging case gets new smart functionality, the controls see some improvements, and active noise cancellation and sound quality are significantly better.
All of this does, of course, work best if you are already in the Apple ecosystem, since you need an iOS device to be able to access and use some of the features. If you do have an iPhone, you’ll be able to track the earpieces and charging case using the Find My service, charge the case wirelessly (even an Apple Watch charger now works), and use Spatial Audio. You can access detailed controls and settings for the earphones through iOS as well.
On Android, the earphones can be paired normally using Bluetooth, but many of the additional features aren’t accessible, making this a sensible pick only if you have an iPhone to use them with. However, the sonic signature is fun across various genres, and the active noise cancellation on offer is among the best you can find on true wireless earphones right now. Although expensive, there isn’t a better pair of true wireless earphones than the AirPods Pro (2nd Gen), on the whole.
Best true wireless earphones for Android: Sony WF-1000XM4
The Sony WF-1000XM4 is a flagship true wireless headset in every sense, and has one key factor that sets it apart from other similar products – LDAC Bluetooth codec support. This makes it particularly well suited to use with Android smartphones, and the sound quality on offer is indeed among the best that you can get with this form factor. Good ANC, a functional app, and other useful features make this a capable true wireless headset.
Although the fit feels a bit precarious because of the size of the earpieces, and control customisation options are limited, the Sony WF-1000XM4 is among our top picks because of its support for LDAC, which works stably and without any connection issues. The sound is detailed and entertaining, making this perhaps the best pair of true wireless earphones you can buy right now – if you have an Android smartphone.
Buy: Sony WF-1000XM4
Best for sound quality: Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro
Arguably the best-sounding true wireless earphones you can buy right now, the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro benefits from advanced Bluetooth codec support, good drivers and tuning, and very good active noise cancellation. The sound is detailed, well-tuned, and enjoyable on the whole, particularly with popular music genres.
This is thanks to a rather impressive approach to the Bluetooth codec, with the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro supporting the new 24-bit SSC Hi Fi Codec. Battery life is good as well, and there is Qi wireless charging in addition to USB Type-C fast charging.
The only reason that this is not our top pick among true wireless earphones (or even for Android devices in general) is the fact that getting access to that top-notch sound quality requires a Samsung smartphone to be paired with the earphones. With everything else, the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro don’t have their full potential unlocked. Although the app works on all Android devices, it isn’t available for iOS yet.
Best true wireless earphones under Rs. 15,000: Oppo Enco X2
The Oppo Enco X2 is a bit more expensive that its predecessor, but remains a value-for-money proposition like no other in the true wireless earphones space. Priced at Rs. 10,999, this is a headset that challenges much more expensive competitors, and still comes out on top. With good ANC and excellent sound quality for the price, there really is no better mid-range option right now.
Much of this is down to the driver setup; the Oppo Enco X2 has a dual-driver setup, which is still fairly rare on true wireless earphones. There’s also LHDC and LDAC Bluetooth codec support, as well as good active noise cancellation, app support, and native customisation and settings on select devices including OnePlus and Oppo devices. Perhaps the only drawback on this headset is the average battery life, but the pros far outweigh the cons on the Oppo Enco X2.
Buy: Oppo Enco X2
Best affordable true wireless earphones: Oppo Enco Air 2 Pro
Affordable true wireless earphones often come with active noise cancellation, and the Oppo Enco Air 2 Pro is one of the best you can buy for less than Rs. 5,000 with this feature. Priced at Rs. 3,499, the Enco Air 2 Pro is impressive for many reasons, including its good design and fit, app support, decent ANC performance for the price, and clean and attacking sound.
This is an all-rounder in every sense, and is our top pick among affordable headsets. Although the battery life is average, and the sound is a bit shrill at very high volume levels, the Oppo Enco Air 2 Pro’s benefits outweigh the drawbacks. This is a value-for-money offering in every way, delivering performance which is far superior than the price suggests.
Buy: Oppo Enco Air 2 Pro
How we picked the best true wireless earphones
We’ve reviewed or used a wide range of true wireless headphones, including popular options from major electronics manufacturers, as well as options from traditional audio brands that have been in the business of making headphones and earphones for many years. We also took into account specifications, codec support and price to come up with our top recommendations.
True wireless earphones form a relatively new product segment, and we’ve had a chance to test most of the new options. Apart from the earphones themselves, we’ve also paid attention to the charging cases that come with these options. The cases usually offer additional battery backup, and also make for a convenient and safe way to carry your earphones when not in use. With all of these points in mind, we’ve selected our list of top recommendations, as well as other options to look out for as listed below.
Also consider these true wireless earphones
Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3: The Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3 is a bundle of premium-grade fun and is well worth considering, but feels a bit expensive when compared to competing options.
Google Pixel Buds Pro: Google’s answer to the AirPods Pro, the Google Pixel Buds Pro is a very good true wireless headset, but is held back by the lack of advanced Bluetooth codec support.
Sony LinkBuds S (WF-LS900N): One step below the flagship WF-1000XM4, the Sony LinkBuds S (WF-LS900N) is nearly as good, but at a price that is somewhat more affordable.
Realme Buds Air 3 Neo: Although far from exceptional, these entry-level true wireless earphones from Realme are decent value for money, and a good first step into the TWS form factor.
Jabra Elite 85t: Jabra’s latest true wireless headset is priced at Rs. 17,999, and is its most advanced one yet with great sound, good ANC, and all-round performance. It’s just a bit expensive, compared to the excellent Oppo Enco X.
OnePlus Buds Z2: Priced at Rs. 4,999 in India, the replacement to the OnePlus Buds Z features active noise cancellation and delivers a punchy, fun sound, making this a worthwhile pick for under Rs. 5,000 especially if you have a OnePlus smartphone.
Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro: Samsung’s flagship true wireless headset is an excellent option with advanced codec support and very good sound quality for around Rs. 10,000 – if you can get used to the tricky design and fit.