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Though Bluetooth technology has been around for more than three decades, it’s only in recent years that manufacturers seem to have cracked it when it comes to completely wireless headphones.
While many buyers default to Apple Airpods, due to brand recognition, they’re far from the best value you can get for your money. We tested the rest - here are our favourites.
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Connecting all of the earbuds featured here to an iPhone SE was quick and easy, and they are equally as compatible with other smartphone brands, tablets or computers with Bluetooth capabilities. Regardless of brand, each pair comes in its own neat, magnetised charging case, making it easy to grab and go and minimising the chances of you losing an earphone in transit.
Whether you want to listen to music cordless while exercising, are looking for a quieter commute, or need to block out ambient noise as you work, there’s a pair of in-ear buds waiting to convert you to wireless on this list.
Key specs - Battery life: Up to 13 hours; Ambient sound: Yes; Noise cancelling: Yes; Water resistant: Yes
Sony’s WF-SP800N earbuds are great all-rounders for runners, music lovers, or those who just want to get some peace in a noisy environment.
The mid-sized buds aren’t the most discreet or streamlined on the market, but they’re lightweight and comfortable. As well as the expected in-ear bud, the headphones have a soft silicone attachment which rests neatly in the curve of the ear and helps to keep the buds in place.
The ambient sound function ensures you’ll still be aware of your surroundings if exercising outside, but - on the flip side - the noise cancelling is so efficient that you’ll easily find yourself in a world of your own while working or studying. Once you’ve got the knack of the finger tap controls on the side of each earbud, you’ll be able to turn these settings on and off quickly, as well as skip songs.
The sound quality of the Sony WF-SP800Ns is exceptional, and you’ll notice it most in the bass. Best of all, there’s no sound leakage regardless of volume, so you can listen to all of your guilty pleasures as loud as you like.
The quality of phone calls is high, too, although if you’re outdoors on a windy day, there’s little you can do to stop the breeze wreaking havoc on your conversation.
Battery life on these headphones is impressive, and they connect and disconnect straight away when taken out of or placed back into their charging case. Though expensive, they do live up to their price tag.
Sennheiser CX 400BT
Key specs - Battery life: Up to 20 hours; Ambient sound: No; Noise cancelling: No; Water resistant: No
The clean design of these mid-priced headphones is the first indicator that they’re excellent value for money if you’re on a tighter budget. The Sennheiser CX 400BT earbuds have a distinct ‘curved cube’ shape that nestles into your ear once you’ve got them in place.
A product aimed at music fans rather than joggers, the 7mm dynamic drivers and built-in equalizer make for a crisp, rich and bassy sound.
Though there’s no noise cancelling function, the headphones still do an impressive job of cutting out background noise, and there’s only very minor sound leakage at high volumes.
Touch controls - for skipping tracks, adjusting the volume, or using your phone’s voice assistant - are easy to use after a little practice, and can be customised using Sennheiser’s Smart Control App.
Key specs - Battery life: Up to 19.5 hours; Ambient sound: Yes; Noise cancelling: Yes; Water resistant: Yes
Moderately priced with a wide range of functions, Panasonic’s RZ-S500W earbuds have an ambient sound feature for safe outdoor exercise, as well as noise cancelling for blocking out your surroundings. You can turn these on and off with a ‘long’ touch to the right headphone. The touch controls are extremely responsive and easy to use, which is a plus for compulsive song skippers.
An 8mm driver ensures high sound quality, and a total of six microphones (three in each earbud) means you’ll sound great on phone or video calls.
Soft and comfortable to wear, the RZ-S500Ws stay well anchored once in place, but they don’t feel as secure as other earbuds intended for sports use.
Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro
Key specs - Battery life: Up to 18 hours; Ambient sound: Yes; Noise cancelling: Yes; Water resistant: Yes
As the most expensive entry on this list, the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro certainly look the part - sleek, unobtrusive and smaller than most competitors.
The optional active noise cancelling feature , coupled with water resistance make these suitable for use while exercising, while an in-built two way speaker system ensures excellent sound quality. Pump the volume up as high as you like with no fear of sound leakage.
Touch controls on the earbuds are ultra responsive and can be tweaked to the user’s tastes using a corresponding Samsung app.
Shure Aonic 215
Key specs - Battery life: Up to 8 hours; Ambient sound: Yes; Noise cancelling: Yes; Water resistant: No
Designed to stay in place no matter what, Shure’s Aonic 215 headphones will appeal to runners and other sports fans, as well as those worried about dropping and losing a wireless bud.
The earphones hook over the ears and are operated with easy to master buttons, rather than touch controls.
Environment Mode allows you to stay aware of your surroundings, but can be switched off if you’d rather eliminate outside noise. The sound quality of the headphones is high, and notably bass-heavy.
While the charging case for these earbuds is larger than most, it’s easy to locate inside a full bag, which will be a selling point for some.
KitSound Funk 35
Key specs - Battery life: Up to 24 hours; Ambient sound: No; Noise cancelling: No; Water resistant: Yes
The budget-friendly KitSound Funk 35 earbuds are good quality for their price, and would be ideal for kids or teenagers more likely to misplace a headphone.
The earbuds have a stylish design and are lightweight. They are optimised for a high quality bass sound, are sweat resistant, and can be used for phone calls - a solid option that won’t break the bank.