The second-generation Apple AirPods have become an increasingly common sight since they launched several weeks ago. But are they really the best truly wireless headphones around, and how do they compare with the Samsung Galaxy Buds, which promise extra fitness features and a longer battery life? We put them to the test.
We’ve put even more expensive pairs through our lab, too – the Bose SoundSport Free and Sony WF-SP900 – to see whether spending more will buy you a better headphones.
But we’ve also reviewed Skullcandy’s AirPods rival, the Push Truly Wireless, which cost less than half the price, to reveal if they’re the wiser choice for your wallet.
If you’re worried about losing an earbud, our lab have scrutinised some larger headphones as well. The Sony WI-C600N in-ear wireless headphones have a flexible neckband that keeps them securely in place, as well as noise cancelling, at a seemingly great price. And for bass lovers we see whether the Sony WH-XB700 on-ear headphones are in a class of their own.
Best headphones – head straight to the reviews of the best-scoring headphones on the market.
Truly wireless headphones on test
Apple AirPods (2019), £159 (with standard charging case)
Apple seem to have almost created a fashion-tech trend with the Apple AirPods, which hang from your ear. They are what are known as ‘truly wireless’ headphones – in-ear headphones with absolutely zero wires.
The latest model promises an hour of extra battery life between charges from the charging case, and also have Apple’s Siri voice assistant built in for using them hands-free. They’re also unusual in being earbud headphones – usually a design only found with budget headphones – rather than in-ear pairs that go further in your ears.
We find out whether the AirPods match the hype or are outclassed by rivals in our Apple AirPods review.
Samsung Galaxy Buds, £134
Apple rival Samsung has teamed up with audio specialists AKG to fine-tune its Galaxy Buds to deliver ‘clear, high-quality sound’.
Samsung aims for the Galaxy Buds to be the perfect pairing for Samsung Galaxy (or other Android) smartphones, and they’re also compatible with Samsung’s Bixby voice assistant for hands-free control.
They’re currently available in three colours: black, yellow and white. And there’s even a useful ambient sound mode, so you can quickly let in more sound from your surroundings to hear train announcements or when crossing the road.
Does Samsung succeed in one-upping Apple with exceptional sound quality? Our expert listening panel deliver their verdict in our Samsung Galaxy Buds review.
Sony WF-SP900, £249
The Sony WF-SP900 truly wireless headphones are one of the first pairs to not only be suitable for sport, but even for swimming. They’re IPX5/8 waterproof for both fresh and salt water, which allows you to dive down to a depth of two metres with the headphones on, and come with an optional cord you can use for extra peace of mind if using them out in the ocean.
The WF-SP900s come with four sizes of ear tips (including extra large), three sizes of arc supporters for a more secure fit and four sizes of swimming tips.
Are these top-of-the-range Sony headphones the ultimate truly wireless headphones? Find out in our Sony WF-SP900 review.
Skullcandy Push Truly Wireless, £80
At half the price of the Apple AirPods, the Skullcandy Push Truly Wireless headphones make you wonder whether you’re paying over the odds for big-brand names.
On paper, the Skullcandy Push Truly Wireless headphones match Apple and Samsung’s pairs with a claimed six-hour battery life between case charges, and support for both Siri and Google voice assistants. And the design is pretty stylish, too.
Are these a bargain or do they have something to hide? We put them through our rigorous lab tests to uncover the truth in our Skullcandy Push Truly Wireless review.
Wireless headphones on test
Bose SoundSport Free, £169
If anyone can topple Apple and Samsung’s latest headphones, it’s Bose. The Bose SoundSport Free are designed to take whatever you throw at them. They’re sweat and weather-resistant and come with StayHear+ sport ear tips for extra stability, making them as suitable for your commute as for exercise.
They’re designed to work just as great on Apple and Android devices, with support for both Siri and Google Assistant voice control. Bose claims the headphones last for a good five hours on their own, and that the charging case can provide an additional two full charges.
They also come with the accompanying Bose Connect app for your smartphone, which gives you access to a wide range of fine-tuning settings as well as a useful ‘find me’ feature should your misplace your headphones.
Does Bose trump Apple and Samsung to become the king of truly wireless headphones? Our experts give their verdict in our Bose SoundSport Free review.
Sony WI-C600N, £99
Truly wireless headphones can be a very expensive mistake if you’re prone to your earbuds falling out, and their battery life tends to be pretty poor, too – which is why they currently come with charging cases. And it seems they’re not for everyone.
The Sony WI-C600N in-ear wireless headphones have a neckband that keeps them secure so they can’t fall out and get lost, and it also means they have a longer 6.5-hour battery life, enough to last through a typical day’s listening.
The neckband also means the earpieces can be much smaller and lighter, which Sony claims makes them more comfortable for longer listening sessions and less likely to fall out.
What’s more, unlike almost all current truly wireless headphones, the Sony WI-C600N manages to pack in active noise cancelling, so you can save yourself from excess train or plane noise while travelling.
Sound like your cup of tea? Our expert panel see whether these are the secret to superior sound quality and comfort in our full Sony WI-C600N review.
Sony WH-XB700, £129
Do you love a powerful bassline? Part of Sony’s Extra Bass headphones range, Sony promises the WH-XB700 on-ear headphones will ‘lift every track with thundering rhythm’ and ‘outstanding’ clarity to vocals.
They also claim they last for an exceptional 30 hours between charges – putting all truly wireless headphones to shame. The headphones come with the option of using a detachable cable, so you can keep on listening even longer if you forget to charge them.
Are these the perfect headphones for bass lovers? Our discerning panel reveal the answer in our Sony WH-XB700 review.
Truly wireless headphones compared
Buyers of truly wireless headphones, such as the Apple AirPods and Samsung Galaxy Buds, should watch out. Our expert lab tests reveal that there’s loads of dross on the market, and we’ve made huge swathes of them Don’t Buys. And it’s not necessarily bargain-basement pairs either – we’ve found Don’t Buys costing more than £100 and even £200.
Want to all the truly wireless headphones we’ve tested to know which to avoid? See our full list of truly wireless headphone reviews.