Best iPhone earbuds

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Ever since the removal of the headphone jack, finding the best iPhone earbuds has been a little tricky. Either you have to deal with a dongle and not be able to charge your phone, or you have to go wireless. Apple obviously wants you to do the latter, and with that in mind, we figured we’d help you out a bit when it comes to choosing which pair is right for you. If you want the best iPhone earbuds then don’t overthink it, most people should just get the AirPods Pro.

Editor’s note: this list was updated on January 13, 2020, to include information about DSPs and add the Mobvoi TicPods 2 Pro to the notable mentions section.

Apple’s new AirPods Pro are the best iPhone earbuds

With the release of the AirPods Pro, picking the best earbuds for iPhone users suddenly became a no-brainer. While there are other great options you can choose from later in this list, the seamless integration of the AirPods Pro with any iOS device gives them an obvious edge over the competition. Like all other Apple headphones that come with the H1 chip such as the original AirPods or the Beats Solo Pro, pairing to these is as easy as hitting “Connect” on the card that pops up on your device. What sets the AirPods Pro apart from the pack is that these now have silicone ear tips to help you get a better fit and keep them from falling out. They also have some other nifty features like decent active noise cancelling and a transparency mode which uses the microphones to help you hear what’s going on around you, both of which are facilitated by the baked-in DSP.

The charging case is also more or less the same, except now the lid flips open along the wider side. For some reason, it still charges via lightning even though the cable that it comes with is USB-C to Lightning. So close Apple, so close. Still, you can always throw them on any Qi-compatible wireless charger to juice them up which is nice. You can expect about 4.5 hours of battery life with active noise cancelling turned on, and in our full review, we actually managed to squeeze out just over five hours. The long stem is much shorter now, and it’s actually functional now: you can squeeze it or long-press it to control playback and toggle active noise cancelling. The original AirPods weren’t our favorite, but they were convenient which is why everyone uses them. The company managed to maintain the convenience aspect while adding practical features that actually put them in competition with some of the other true wireless earbuds that we typically consider to be the best.

But what about the microphones? True wireless earbuds tend to suffer in this department; however, the Apple engineers managed to insert a voice accelerometer that works in tandem with the beamforming microphones. Essentially this works to filter out ambient noise, making your voice clearer.

Related: Apple AirPods Pro vs. Sony WF-1000XM3

Taking into account the ease of use, versatility, and reliable connectivity, Apple’s new AirPods Pro are unsurprisingly the best iPhone earbuds on the market. Say what you will about the one-trillion-dollar company, it knows how to produce products that play nicely with each other. And if you already own a handful of Apple products, the AirPods are the next logical purchase for seamless integration into your daily routine.

Related: Best true wireless earbuds

What you should know about the best Apple earbuds

There are a few things to pay attention to when picking out the best iPhone earbuds. None of it is rocket science, but minimal attention to detail gets you a long way with your iOS audio headset.

AAC: The codec that matters

Although there are plenty of Bluetooth codecs supported by a variety of devices, the only one that you need to care about with regards to the best iPhone earbuds is the AAC codec. Apple doesn’t support aptX or LDAC, so AAC is your only option. And while AAC isn’t CD quality it performs best with Apple devices.

Best iPhone earbuds: a chart showing the AAC Bluetooth codec's performance on the Huawei P20 Pro, Samsung Galaxy Note 8, LG V30, and Apple iPhone 7.

AAC performs differently depending on what device is being used. It may be high-frequency sound, but these drop-outs will be audible to younger ears.

Seeing as Apple is Apple and loves proprietary hardware and software, the AAC codec is the only one that’s compatible with the company’s products. If you’re looking at headphones that support aptX, aptX HD, or LDAC, that’s all well and good but won’t be of much help in your quest to find the best iPhone earbuds.

We care about battery life, but only so much

Upon polling Android Authority readers, we found that a majority of you listen to your music between one and two hours a day. That’s significant, especially when accounting for the listed true wireless models. In order to test battery life, we use objective measures and subject the earbuds to an infinite loop of pink noise set at an output of 75dB(SPL). That way, we can consistently test each product, allowing for greater testing reliability and minimal variance.

Model Battery life 75dB (hours) Best iPhone supported Bluetooth codec Price
Apple Airpods 3.45 AAC $150
Bose Soundsport Free 4.58 SBC $200
Sony WF-SP700N 2.58 SBC $179
BeatsX 5.45 AAC $99
Jaybird X4 7.5 SBC $129
V-Moda Crossfade 2 10.62 AAC $350
Sennheiser HD1 Wireless In-Ear 11.3 AAC $128
RHA MA390 Wireless 6.367 AAC $69
Optoma NuForce Be Live5 6.63 AAC $99

Listening should be fun

We here at SoundGuys can type until our fingers go numb about the importance of a neutral frequency response, but that isn’t what’s most pleasing to everyone. Yes, if you’re looking to hear the audio as the audio engineer intended, you should use studio headphones, because those products will have the closest thing to a Platonic, flat response. But most of us want our headphones to be fun and reproduce an “energetic” sound, not necessarily an analytical one.

When writing deciding on the best Apple earbuds, the importance of slightly emphasized low-end and treble was taken into account as the former denotes “liveliness,” while the latter facilitates a perceived increase in clarity, to get a better picture of this, read up on the equal loudness contour.

This isn’t to say, however, that headphones with flat frequency responses aren’t fun. For many, this type of audio reproduction is preferred, even outside the studio. But if you were to conduct your own man-on-the-street style questionnaire—more likely than not—you’d find that passersby prefer an exaggerated response.

The Beats Powerbeats Pro has the best battery life of any iPhone earbuds

If you like the idea of seamless integration with your iPhone but want a more secure fit when you’re exercising, then you should look into the Apple Beats Powerbeats Pro. These sport an earhook design and actual nozzles that insert into the ear canal, which improves sound quality and stability.

See also:

Best wireless Beats headphones

Battery life comes in at an insane 10 hours 48 minutes before the earbuds need to be recharged, and even that’s a snappy process: five minutes of charging yields 1.5 hours of playback. Just like AirPods Pro, combined battery life clocks in at more than 24 hours of listening.

AAC support and H1 chip integration ensure lag-free audio streaming. The updated chip also allows for hands-free access to Siri just like the new AirPods. They’re IPX4 rated and come in a handful of colors (black, ivory, navy, and moss) to match your style.

The Powerbeats Pro are loaded with sensors to streamline operation. Removing the ‘buds from your ears automatically pauses playback, and accelerometers detect when you’re speaking to guide the microphone when you’re in a loud environment. There’s also a button and volume rocker on each earbud, too.

Hush your surroundings with the Sony WF-1000XM3

If the idea of true wireless sounds enticing, the Sony WF-1000XM3 may be the best iPhone earbuds for you. These high-end ‘buds bring noise canceling technology to the true wireless stage. For many, it’s a pity that they don’t offer aptX support; however, this feature is currently irrelevant to iPhone users. All that matters is AAC support, which these have. Plus, while the Airpods Pro is also sporting some pretty good active noise cancelling, Sony is still better at it.

Sony, the company that delivered the WH-1000XM3 noise cancelling headphones, impressed us yet again with these earbuds. As depicted by the chart below, the attenuation is remarkable as most ANC headphones struggle with filtering out sub-100Hz frequencies. By successfully reducing low-end ambient noise, the WF-1000XM3’s bass reproduction seems a bit more emphasized than it really is. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as most of us prefer increased bass and treble anyway.

One of the company-touted perks of the Sony WF-1000XM3 is the ability to switch between three sound modes: noise canceling, ambient sound mode, and off. Safe to say, the manual switching process is frustrating at best. But as we smartphone users have come to expect, “there’s an app for that,” allowing you to alternate modes with a few taps. Generally speaking, unlike others true wireless apps, operating the Sony | Headphones Connect app provides functional and easy-to-operate features. What I used most was toggling between sound quality modes. Sony allows you to prioritize sound quality at the expense of connectivity, or connectivity at the expense of sound quality. Nifty stuff.

Sony WF-1000XM3 noise cancelling isolation chart.

The Sony WF-1000XM3 noise canceling is highly effective at attenuating low-frequency background noise.

Something to be aware of, though, is the battery life. While a shade under 5 hours will take care of you for your commute, you’ll need to recharge if you tend to listen all day long. Ultimately, each product has its positives and negatives, but if you’re looking for the best iPhone earbuds with active noise canceling, these are it.

The best iPhone earbuds for sound quality are the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless

Like the others listed, Sennheiser’s debut true wireless earbuds support AAC for optimal iOS media playback. If you do happen to have an Android device, too, the earbuds also support both aptX and aptX-LL. The latter of which is ideal for gaming as there’s zero perceptible lag, allowing you to react in time accordingly.

High-quality codecs aside, Sennheiser knows how to appropriately tune audio products and the 2.5-7kHz dip in frequency response is intentional as this range creates unwanted resonances perceived by the human ear which are only amplified when a proper seal is formed. Unfortunately, isolation isn’t the best and Sennheiser doesn’t include memory foam ear tips, but if you want to improve isolation properties make sure to invest in third-party ear tips.

Battery life performance is middle of the road and allows for 3.75 hours of constant playback. While this isn’t supremely impressive the included carrying case grants 11 total hours of playback before requiring a recharge via USB-C. If you want an attractive pair of earbuds that look as good as they sound, the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless is a reliable pick.

Related: Best noise cancelling earbuds

If you want something that resembles the AirPods, grab the JLab JBuds Air Executive

JLab’s Executive true wireless earbuds make luxury affordable. Its synthetic leather carrying case looks great. Plus, it has an inlaid USB charging cable attached directly to the case, meaning you can top the case and earbuds up at any time. It also quick-charges the earbuds. Pop them into the case for 15 minutes and you can enjoy music for up to an hour. Standalone battery life clocks in at 4.5 hours.

Unlike the original AirPods, the JBuds Air Executive fit and isolate well while still supporting the AAC codec. The angled nozzles and proprietary silicone collars which wrap around the housing keep the ‘buds in place at all times. This is great for exercise and improves audio quality. That said, the nozzles have a wide diameter and pained my ear canals after an hour of wear.

Touch controls are easy to operate and more advanced than most: you can adjust volume, access a voice assistant, toggle Be Aware mode, and more. These are also IP55 dust- and water-resistant. They can withstand pretty much anything except for a splish, splash in the bath. If you want something with better battery life and connection strength for about the same price, look iinto the JLab JBuds Air Icon.

Test data

Model Battery life 75dB (hours) Best iPhone supported Bluetooth codec Price
Apple Airpods 3.45 AAC $150
Bose Soundsport Free 4.58 SBC $200
Sony WF-SP700N 2.58 SBC $179
BeatsX 5.45 AAC $99
Jaybird X4 7.5 SBC $129
V-Moda Crossfade 2 10.62 AAC $350
Sennheiser HD1 Wireless In-Ear 11.3 AAC $128
RHA MA390 Wireless 6.367 AAC $69
Optoma NuForce Be Live5 6.63 AAC $99

Similar to algebraic proofs, we have to show our work. As it applies to earbuds and headphones alike, seal matters. A poor fit, and thus a poor seal, will noticeably degrade audio quality. One of the first things to go? Bass. Since the only awarded noise canceling best iPhone earbuds are the Sony WF-SP700N, they’re the only pick here that use small microphones to cancel out noise. The others filter out ambient noise passively, relying strictly on a proper fit.

How we tested the best iPhone earbuds

We made sure to subject each candidate and pick to our battery of objective testing which includes isolation, frequency response, and battery life. We respect that listening is a subjective experience, while also acknowledging that sound can be measured and discussed objectively at the same time.

Yes, our trio of tests are fundamental, but they analyze what consumers care about the most as it applies to the best iPhone earbuds and wireless earbuds in general. Regarding battery life readouts, your mileage will likely vary as it depends how loudly you’re listening to your music. In order to combat this variance, we subject each unit to a constant 75dB(SPL) output. Additionally, in most cases, you can improve isolation by using third-party ear tips.

Notable mentions

A photo of the Mobvoi TicPods Free (orange) in the case.

The Mobvoi TicPods Free may look like Lava-colored AirPods, but they perform much better.

  • Apple AirPodsWhile they’re no longer the flagship model of AirPods, the original AirPod design seemed to work for plenty of people. They don’t have any of the cooler new features of the Pro, but they are cheaper.
  • Sony WH-1000XM2: If you need some of the best active noise canceling headphones available, look no further than the WH-1000x M2. If Chris likes them, it means something.
  • BeatsXIf you’re not too keen on spending hundreds of dollars on either the AirPods or Powerbeats Pro, then the BeatsX is still a great pair of earbuds for less than $100. If you have a bit more to spend, the Beats Solo Pro is a great pair of noise canceling on-ear headphones.
  • V-Moda Crossfade 2 Wireless Codex: Arguably some of the most durable headphones on the market, the Crossfade 2 Codex include both aptX and AAC support. Plus, you can customize nearly everything about these cans, even the screws.
  • Optoma NuForce Be Live5: If the BeatsX is appealing but you want ‘buds that are more durable (IPX5) and support both aptX and AAC Bluetooth codecs, the Be Live5 is a fashion-forward pick.
  • Sennheiser HD1 Wireless In-Ear: Sennheiser is a well-respected brand and for good reason. These earbuds impressively negotiate build and sound quality while simultaneously offering us consumers an affordable price.
  • RHA MA390 Wireless: This is one of the best values you can get. It includes aptX and AAC support, IPX4 certification, and features an iOS compatible mic and remote.
  • Bang & Olufsen Beoplay E8This pair of true wireless earbuds include AAC support and features a more traditional true wireless earbud design. Listeners can control when to hear surroundings via transparency functionality.
  • Bose SoundSport FreeIf you’re in the market for true wireless workout earbuds, these are a great bet. They have a solid standalone battery life and fit well despite their size.
  • Beyerdynamic Blue Byrd: This is a great alternative to the BeatsX, and the earbuds support both aptX and AAC. Additionally, if you frequently take business calls, the integrated mic is excellent.
  • Mobvoi TicPods FreeMobvoi’s debut true wireless earbuds feature a similar stem design as the AirPods with better sound quality, good battery life, and a nice carrying case.
  • Mobvoi TicPods 2 Pro: These are slightly more streamlined than the TicPods Free and feature TicHear technology, which bypasses the need for Apple’s H1 chip; if you want hands-free access to Siri, just say, “Hey Tico.” It’s a clever, roundabout way to enable access to your favorite voice assistant.

Why you should trust us

A photo of Chris sleeping in a bed, while using the Bose sleepbuds near an air conditioner.

While we don’t usually sleep on the job, we will if a product calls for it like the Bose Sleepbuds.

Working at SoundGuys serves as each of our day jobs; yes, it is a dream. We get paid to listen and test as many products as possible while constantly researching, which means that our opinions aren’t influenced by the companies manufacturing them. If we don’t like something, we say it. Simple as that.

Additionally, each of us has several years involved in the audio community, and after having kept up with the audio industry for years, we’re able to easily tell the gimmicks from the goldmines. If you have the time or desire, feel free to read our full ethics policy here.

Next: Best cheap true wireless earbuds

Disclosure: We may receive affiliate compensation in connection with your purchase of products via links on this page. Even though we may receive compensation, we always give our honest opinions, findings, beliefs, or experiences on each product. See our ethics policy for more details.

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