The Truly Wireless Earbuds You Should Buy Instead Of AirPods

If you'd told me in 2007 that people would be walking around listening to music with wireless, popcorn-sized earbuds, I would have called you crazy. It is now 2017, and these futuristic little gadgets are a reality. But which ones are the best?

Pretty much every major tech company has now released its version of completely wireless earbuds. Apple sells its AirPods for $229. Sony has the WF-1000Xs at $349. Bose is offering its SoundSport Free for $US250 (Australian pricing hasn't been confirmed yet). These are the best three we've tested to date. You can also buy wireless earbuds from Beoplay, Jaybird, and Google, but you might be disappointed, as they each have their own problems. The Beoplay E8s are weirdly bulky, and the Jaybird Runs have connectivity issues. The Google Pixel Buds have a wire tying them together, among other problems.

But back to the good ones. The truly wireless earbuds from Apple, Sony, and Bose all offer impressive sound quality for such tiny buds. There are some caveats, like the AirPods' inability to block outside noise and the minimal noise-cancelling feature on the Sony earbuds. Nevertheless, you can expect the same top-notch audio fidelity on all three sets to rival those on any high quality wired earbuds.

The comparable sound quality is why we focused on fit and connectivity in comparing the three sets of buds. Those that stay in our ears and connect seamlessly are the best.

Which fit the best?

We've been testing truly wireless earbuds for a couple years, and almost all of them suffer from the same problem: they don't stay in your ears. This is a big problem, too, since an earbud falling out of your ear can lead to an earbud being lost forever. One Gizmodo writer experienced this very horror when a bud dropped from his ear down a storm drain. He never saw it again.

Photo: Eleanor Fye

Luckily, the newest generation of wireless earbuds fit better. For this battle, we squeezed each bud into our ears and then performed some vigorous activities like jumping jacks and head-banging. The Apple AirPods performed the worst. Since each bud simply rests on your ear, any amount of shaking sent them flying. The Sony WF-1000X fared slightly better thanks to a tighter seal in the ear canal, but still jostled loose after a few head shakes. The Bose SoundSport Free? Well, we couldn't get them to fall out no matter how hard we tried.

Winner: Bose SoundSport Free

Which stay connected?

All three of the truly wireless earbuds are tiny. It's incredible that engineers figured out a way to squeeze the guts of a wireless earbud - including drivers, a battery, and an antenna - into something that's just slightly larger than a macadamia nut. That said, it wasn't a surprise when we found that some of the earbuds would struggle with connectivity from time-to-time.

Photo: Eleanor Fye

To test out how well each set stayed paired to a phone, we walked down a busy Manhattan street and simply counted the number of times they cut out. This is a tough test for the earbuds, since New York City has notoriously busy airwaves and, thus, lots of interference. Nevertheless, all three performed well. The Sony buds cut out twice on a five-block-long stretch. The Bose cut out just once. And the AirPods stayed connected the whole time.

Winner: Apple AirPods

Which should you buy?

Go for the Bose, if you can afford it. They're the most expensive truly wireless earbuds we tested, but you're paying for tremendous quality. In addition to the great fit and connectivity, the SoundSport Free earbuds are also water resistant which makes then great for exercise.

Apple fans could also consider the AirPods very seriously. Their connectivity is basically flawless, and the buds themselves looks sleek in that iconic, Apple sort of way. You'll also enjoy how small the charging case is compared to the other buds. For $229, you'll even save a few bucks over the Bose or Sony buds.

Photo: Eleanor Fye

Here's the thing. You're actually getting a lot more for the extra $ you'd spend on getting the Bose SoundSport Free earbuds instead of the AirPods. Not only do they stay in your ears, the Bose buds are better at isolating noise and work really well during exercise, since they're water resistant. The AirPods, however cheaper, fit so loosely that they feel like a liability, and they're not water resistant. And since it will cost you $70 to replace a single lost AirPod, you're one accident away from spending the same amount as you would on the Bose earbuds upfront.

So even though the AirPods performed slightly better in the connectivity test, there are plenty of practical reasons why you should go with Bose.

Winner: Bose SoundSport Free


    I have used the Apple AirPods for a some time now, and they have never fallen out. Not too sure how the analysis for this test was done.

      Probably through reading reviews by people determined to trash the AirPods.

      They don’t fall out, mine never have.

      Kinda like that guy on YouTube who tried to trash Face ID because of how “difficult” it was for him to use, over exaggerating every step of the process while he was at it, of course.

    And since it will cost you $70 to replace a single lost AirPod, you're one accident away from spending the same amount as you would on the Bose earbuds upfront.

    What an absolutely terrible argument.

      Because of course Bose send out a new one completely free of charge?

      How so? They're more prone to falling out, therefore you need to take into account the higher risk. If you have issues with earphones falling out already, it sounds like this would be a legitimate cost you would incur.

        If you have issues with earbuds falling out, why would you be stupid enough to keep buying this type of product? That is completely on the purchaser, not the company that designs and sells the product.

          For the same reason everyone else wants them? It is on the purchaser, which is why it's important to understand these details before you purchase, which is what this review includes.

        I think it's pretty silly to compare a cost assuming that everyone will lose a single airpod, but not lose a single other wireless bud. It's ridiculous. And losing an earbud isn't necessarily related to LOSING an earbud. If an earbud falls out, most people would realise and pick it up? If you're the type of person that loses an airpod, you're gonna lose a Bose bud.

    For the price of these things, I would expect 100% connectivity, at all times. If they can't maintain that, they need to bin them and go back to the drawing board.

    Yeah im still not getting into the whole wireless earbud fad. I dont want to spend several hundred dollars on something that can be easily lost. Plus earbuds are bad for your ears.

    Ill stick to my over ear headphones.

    What about the Samsung Gear IconX (2018)?

    Just got some and they have been rock solid in both fit and connection. They don't look ridiculous like the sawn-off toothbrush or the massive Bose.

    No mention of the Samsung ones. There also seems to be an issue with Apple Airpods where if you lose one you might as well throw the other one away. You don't seem to able to use just one of them.

    Hi I have had every type of Bluetooth device you could think of, and have been thouroly disappointed in every one of them. Until I purchased the Apple Air Pods ... I find them owesome to say the the least, I admit the don't stay in all the time in very difficult positions, but if you do lose or misplace them you can find them with find my phone app. Can't Exspress how satisfied I am with Apples IPods.

Join the discussion!