There are many things to consider when buying wireless earbuds. In this popular market, it can be difficult differentiating between good wireless earbuds and bad ones.
The best wireless earbuds (in 2021) are packed full of advanced technology. In this expert guide, we’ve ranked our favourites to assist you with your purchase in this sometimes overbearing market.
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The Best Wireless Earbuds in NZ 2021 (…that we’ve tested)
1Sony WF-1000XM4 Truly Wireless Headphones
8-hour battery life | Brilliant audio quality | Industry leading ANC | Sony Connect app
The WF-1000XM4 Truly Wireless Headphones have set a new standard for earbuds. Sony has delivered significant improvements over the WF-1000XM3’s focusing on audio quality, ANC, and battery life and these improvements have paid off. The WF-1000XM4s aren’t better than their predecessors, they’re better than everything else on the market. The audio quality is fantastic. Bass comes through clearly, it’s easy to hear every sound in the mix and you can effectively customise the sound to your preference using the Sony Connect app.
Previously Bose held the top spot for active noise cancellation however the WF-1000XM4s now hold the crown. The ANC in these earbuds is so good, it’s more comparable to over-ear headphones. These earbuds have all the features you’d want in a pair of earbuds, they’re comfortable and the touch controls work well, and you can use them for a long time. They have a battery life of 8 hours with ANC on, which blows the rest of the competition out of the water.
You can check our review of the Sony WF-1000XM4 here: Sony WF-1000XM4 Truly Wireless Headphones review: The new industry standard!
2Bose QuietComfort Earbuds
Customisable ANC | 6-hour battery life| IPX4 rating | Strong Audio
The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds produce industry-leading sound for a fantastic price. They are slightly cheaper than the Apple Airpods Pro and, in our opinion, deliver slightly better audio quality. The sound is well balanced, allowing for deep and powerful bass that doesn’t distort the other tones. Bose’s Active EQ provides automatic adjustments of the bass and treble, depending on what volume you are listening to. This ensures that the music sounds great no matter the volume.
The QuietComfort Earbuds have great noise cancellation capabilities. Using a 1-10 slider you can select how much noise you want to cancel, and the results are the best we’ve seen. At the maximum level, the outside noise is cancelled out by a significant amount. They also have a Self Voice feature that allows you to hear your voice when wearing the QuietComfort. It’s an excellent feature for people who are on the phone a lot and like to listen to themselves when talking.
Checkout our review of the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds here: Bose QuietComfort Earbuds review: The best in-ear headphones of 2020!
3Apple AirPods Pro
ANC | 4.5-hours battery life | IPX4 rating | Apple only spatial audio
Apple’s AirPods Pro are the most popular wireless earbuds on the market. They have a premium, sleek look and are comfortable to wear for long periods.
They produce great sound. The bass isn’t quite on the same level as Bose’s QuietComfort Earbuds; however, the overall sound is still superb.
Apple’s Spatial Audio makes sounds feel like they come from distinct directions based on the users’ head movements. It’s done well and adds a significant level of immersion when watching movies or videos. This spatial audio is only available when the AirPods are paired with an Apple device running iOS 14 or iPadOS 14 or later.
The AirPods have outward-facing microphones that take in outside noise and automatically adjust for active noise cancellation. This doesn’t allow for personal customisation of ANC; however, the result is so effective that you won’t feel you need to.
Click here to read our full Apple AirPods Pro review.
ANC | 6-hour battery life | No IP rating | Great Price
Sony’s WF-1000XM3 earbuds are a fantastic set of wireless earbuds at an excellent price. These headphones produce a fantastic sound, have some of the best active noise cancellation, and are significantly more affordable than their competitors. With this in mind, these are the best value earbuds on the market right now.
The Sony WF-1000XM3s have intuitive touch controls, a wide array of customisation within the excellent Sony Connect App and great audio quality that is well balanced.
The active noise cancellation is impressive. It cancels out close sounds and had one of the best performances when we put it through our stress tests.
They do not have an IP rating meaning they will not be suitable for running or exercising, which is something to consider when buying your earbuds.
5Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro
ANC | 5-hour battery life| IPX7 rating | Samsung only spatial audio
The Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro are the best earbuds for Samsung users. They provide a good sound, but their small soundstage makes the audio feel less vibrant than the AirPods Pro and the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds.
Samsung’s 360 Audio allows for immersive and realistic sound coming from all directions, and it’s great. You will need the latest Samsung device, the Galaxy S21, to use this feature, but it’s worth it.
The Buds Pro have an IPX7 rating, meaning they are as waterproof as your phone. When using a Samsung device, the Bluetooth will use Samsung’s proprietary Scalable codec, which supports hi-res audio streaming and reduces Bluetooth dropouts.
The active noise cancellation is good with the Buds Pro, but it doesn’t quite reach the high standards set by the Apple AirPods and the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds. When compared to those, it feels more like noise reduction as opposed to noise cancellation.
The Buds Pro have a unique circular design that is functional and easy to use but isn’t as comfortable as the AirPods and QuietComforts when being used for long periods.
You can see our in-depth review of the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro here: Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro review
6Oppo Enco X
ANC | 5-hour battery life | IP54 rating
The Oppo Enco X earbuds are the most comfortable earbuds we tested. Their stem design is elegant and incredibly light, weighing only 4.8g. However, they don’t provide the most secure fit and may pose an issue when exercising with them.
Teaming up with the Danish audio brand Dynaudio, the sound the Oppo Enco X’s produce is excellent. Using their dual-driver design, the sound is well balanced with low-frequency tones coming from the bud’s back and high-frequency tones coming from the front.
While the active noise cancellation isn’t quite as good as its competitors, it works well and is effective.
Getting my device to connect to the Oppo Enco X earbuds was difficult, and there isn’t any app support for iOS devices. Apple phone users will not be able to customise the touch controls or sound with the Enco Xs.
See our review of the Oppo Enco X earbuds here: Oppo Enco X review
7Beats Powerbeats Pro
9-hour battery life | IPX4 rating | Earhooks great for exercise
The Beats Powerbeats Pro are ideal for exercising. Their ear hooks and adjustable ear tips ensure that the headphones stay secure when exercising.
They produce a great sound that is vibrant and bold and have long battery life at 9 hours. Their IPX4 rating means they are sweat-resistant and can handle a light rain shower.
While they lack premium features like active noise cancellation and EQ capabilities, the Powerbeats Pro provides a high-quality sound. They are sleek and comfortable and are ideal for those who are looking for earbuds primarily for exercising.
The Best Wireless Earbuds in NZ 2021 (that we haven’t tested… yet)
Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2
ANC | 4-hour battery life | IPX4 rating | Expensive
The Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 earbuds are ideal for audiophiles and those looking for the very best sound. They are some of the most expensive earbuds on the market, but there is a reason for that.
The audio that the Momentum 2s produce is the best in the wireless earbuds market. The 7mm dynamic driver inside these earbuds is industry-leading, and these headphones provide a fantastic sound.
The active noise cancellation is excellent with the Momentum 2s with noise being reduced significantly.
They are compatible with hi-res audio, adding to their audio capabilities.
They are comfortable and have an IPX4 rating, meaning they are sweat resistant. However, they are the most expensive earbuds on this list, and that can be a turn-off.
How to choose the best wireless earbuds in NZ
How much should I spend?
As is the case with most technology, the more you spend, the better its quality. This is the same for wireless earbuds. The more expensive headphones, ranging between NZ$300-$400, will have more features like active noise cancellation and touch controls – and will provide a much better sound than cheaper headphones.
How do I know if they will fit?
The truth is, you don’t; however, manufacturers specifically design their earbuds to almost guarantee that their wireless earbuds will fit your ear. Many brands include interchangeable silicone tips that come in varying sizes allowing you to customise your fit.
Bluetooth connectivity is important
Wireless earbuds, obviously rely on Bluetooth connectivity to function. Bluetooth is always improving, and each update makes connections more stable, increases wireless range and allows for faster data transfer speeds (how fast your music can get to your earbud).
Only the most recent earbuds will be compatible with the latest Bluetooth versions; however, that’s not to say older headphones won’t work well. Some of the best wireless earbuds aren’t compatible with the latest Bluetooth version, 5.2 and are still excellent earbuds.
Can you make phone calls with wireless earbuds?
Yes, you can. All of the products on this list allow you to make and take phone calls via Bluetooth. They have inbuilt mics that aren’t always brilliant at blocking out ambient noise and won’t be as good as talking on the phone, but they do have this capacity.
The quality of the microphones varies between devices, so if you are making calls all day, this will be a factor to consider
What’s an IP rating?
The IP rating of wireless earbuds correlates to their ability to protect against intrusion from dust and water (this includes sweat.) If you are using wireless earbuds for exercising, you will want a pair of Bluetooth headphones that can protect from fluids that will ruin them.
Do audio codecs matter?
Audio codecs decode and encode audio. That isn’t very clear, but basically what you need to know is codecs determine how Bluetooth transmits information to your headphones.
Nearly all devices allow for the universally accepted SBC codec; however, some codecs allow higher-quality audio files. These can be specific to devices; for example, Apple products favour the high-quality AAC codec, and Samsung’s Scalable codec is only available on Samsung devices.
It is essential to know that your output device must also support the same codec for it to be used. iPhones don’t support Samsung’s Scalable codec so you won’t get the best sound out of Samsung earbuds when paired with an iPhone.
It would be wise to consider your current device when looking for the best wireless earbuds for you.
How much battery life should I look for?
As with anything portable, battery life is essential when deciding what wireless earbuds are right for you. The majority of the best wireless earbuds have similar battery lives between 6-10 hours.
It is also essential to consider the size of the battery life that the charging case holds and how quickly they can charge the headphones. A good average for charging cases is anywhere between 15-24 hours.
Do I need active noise cancellation?
The majority of the best wireless earbuds are now coming with active noise cancellation. This reduces the impact of external sound on your audio. Not all of the best wireless earbuds feature active noise cancellation technology; however, it is something to consider for the most immersive listening experience.
Do touch controls matter?
All of the best wireless earbuds have touch controls. These are an important factor to consider because they allow you to control your music without getting your phone out whenever you want to change a song or turn up the volume.
The number of touch controls and variation in their commands does change between headphones, and this is something you will need to consider when selecting wireless earbuds that are right for you.
The best wireless earbuds usually come with voice assistant support; however, not all voice assistants are available on all devices. The Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro, for example, have Bixby and Google Assistant built-in, but they aren’t compatible with Siri.
If you use voice assistants a lot, it is preferential to have all your devices connected to the same assistant, and this is something to consider when selecting the right wireless earbuds for you.
Will I be able to customise the headphones?
All of the best wireless earbuds come with companion apps. These vary greatly, some allow you to EQ your music, and some allow you to change the function of individual touch controls.
It is important to consider what device you will be using the wireless earbuds with, as the compatibility is better if the devices are matched. Apple AirPods will be more customisable on an iPhone than a Samsung Galaxy S21 for example.
Note: We have tried and tested most of these headphones; however, we have not been able to review some of them yet. For these recommendations, we have used information from trusted sources to provide you with a large range of options, ensuring you make the right decision for you.