The first version of Apple's AirPods was released back in 2016, and after some initial head-scratching caused by their odd stick-in-your ear design, they got some pretty good reviews. They've actually become a real hipster fashion accessory in recent months, prompting Apple to update them at the start of 2019. And, as always, there have been a number of similar cable-free wireless headphones released in recent months that also attempt to get in on the act.
The advantages of a cable-free design are obvious - especially for sport and exercise, as they allow you to go running or to work out at a gym without having to worry about snagging the cables all the time.
Mind you, as owners of the AirPods have discovered, the little earbuds are fine when you're just casually walking around, but might not be stable enough to stay in place once you start to pick up the pace a bit. So if you want some cable-free earbuds that you can wear for exercising then you'll definitely lean towards brands such as Jabra and Motorola, whose earbuds are water-resistant for outdoor use, and include small rubber 'fins' to help keep them in place.
In addition to providing pretty good sound quality, the AirPods are also packed with high-tech features, such as Apple's W1 chip, which can tell when you take the earbuds out, and even let you use Siri voice commands. So Apple's rivals have come up with some smart features of their own, such as Jaybird's 'find my buds' feature, while several provide the ability to adjust the sound levels so that urban joggers can still hear the noise of traffic around them.
And while Apple is often criticised for its high prices, many of the rival earbuds that we've seen so far are actually more expensive than the AirPods - which just proves that Apple can offer good value for money when it wants to.
Best Bluetooth wireless earbuds 2019
1. RHA TrueConnect
The RHA TrueConnect are quite possibly the best wireless earbuds we've tested.
Although they don't have active noise cancelling like some rivals, the comfortable and efficient seal provides excellent noise isolation instead. This helps to lower the keep the price down.
Add in a whopping 25 hours of battery life via the charging case, IPX5 splash resistance and superb audio quality and this is the pair to beat.
Read our full RHA TrueConnect review
2. Apple AirPods (2019)
The second-gen AirPods are more of an iterative upgrade than a total reimagining of the product.
Alongside the suite of smart features unique to Apple's offering, improved connection speed, talk time and Hey Siri support are welcome improvements on a product that was already industry-leading in many aspects. But while AirPods easily provide the best all-around experience of any wireless earbuds on the market, there's no improvement in the audio department, and other earbuds on the market provide better audio quality.
If you're looking for a smart, simple listening experience, the AirPods are the ones to go for. But if you're looking for the best audio quality possible, you may want to consider another option.
Read our full Apple AirPods 2 review
3. Bang & Olufsen BeoPlay E8 2.0
They're not cheap, but B&O's E8 earbuds - recently updated to version 2.0 just like Apple's AirPods - are some of the best wire-free earbuds currently available.
They work hard to justify that price tag too. The 4-hour battery life is a little limited, so the new charging case now allows you to recharge the earbuds three times over - for a total of 16 hours when you're out and about. The case has also switched to a USB-C port for charging, and offers wireless charging as well... whereas you have to pay extra for the wireless charging case for the AirPods.
It's the same B&O sound quality, though, with attractive clarity and detail, and stronger bass than many rival earbuds. But the feature that most stands out with the E8 is the spacious, open sound that these little earbuds manage to produce, allowing you to lean back on a train or plane and just relax as the music washes over you.
4. Jabra Elite Sport
Jabra is well-known for its sporty headphones and accessories and, as the name suggests, the Elite Sport is one of its top-of-the-range sets of earbuds. They're absolutely packed to the gills with high-tech features - which is just as well, given that price tag of more than £200.
Like many of their fitness-oriented rivals, the Elite Sport earbuds use a small rubber fin that fits inside your ear to keep them in place during exercise. However, we were pleased to see that Jabra actually include fins in three different sizes in order to provide a secure and comfortable fit. On top of that, you also get 'eargels' in three different sizes, and extra foam tips for the earpieces as well, so Jabra is really making sure the earbuds feel nice and comfy when you're going through your paces.
They're sweat-resistant too, and water-proof to a depth of one metre, so they'll survive a bit of splashing around on the beach (although you probably shouldn't wear them when you go swimming). There's even a sensor inside the earpieces that can monitor your heart-rate during exercise, and relay the data to the Jabra app on your iPhone.
And, thankfully, Jabra hasn't ignored the sound quality either. The Elite Sport have an attractive, warm tone that works well with most types of music, and the bass is also pretty firm for such a compact set of earphones too. The only minor let-down is the modest three-hour battery life, although the charging case that comes with the earbuds lets you charge them up twice for an additional six hours of music and calls when you're travelling.
Read our full Jabra Elite Sport review
5. Jabra Elite 65t
Sound quality is outstanding, as is the fit, battery life and connectivity. They are about as compact as in-ear wireless headphones can be without sacrificing bass response, too.
They lack active noise cancellation and the buttons are badly placed so you have to be careful not to push them too far into your ears, but other than that these are an excellent choice.
6. JBL UA True Wireless Flash
If you spend your weekends and evenings running around in Under Armour's figure-hugging lycra then you can complete your workout wardrobe with the new True Wireless Flash earbuds.
Jointly developed by JBL and Under Armour, the Flash earbuds are very much designed for sport. Along with three sizes of ear-tips for your inner ear, the earbuds also include three sizes of 'winged tips' that fit into the outer ear to keep them firmly in place while you're running around and working up a sweat.
The earpieces themselves are 'stormproof' with IPX7 rating to resist water and sweat, and they come with a really sturdy - albeit rather chunky - aluminium charging case. Battery life is around 5 hours, but the case can charge them up four more times, for a total of 25 hours of workout tunes.
And the sound will help get you going too. It's a clear, warm sound, and JBL has tuned the earpieces to give a stronger bass than most little earbuds, which will help to get you motivated when you hit the streets or the gym.
7. EOZ Air
The earbuds use standard Bluetooth for wireless audio, and this delivers a well-balanced sound with just enough bass to help get you going when you're exercising. They won't challenge any of their more expensive wire-free rivals, but they're perfectly respectable given their sub-£100/$110 price tag.
It's actually the collection of goodies that come with the earbuds that deliver the real value for money. You get five sets of ear-tips to ensure a good fit - three sizes of silicon tips, and two pairs of memory foam - and each earpiece has a hook that goes over the top of your ear to help keep them secure when you're on the move. And even though they can be worn completely 'wire-free' the earbuds also include a detachable 'vegan leather' cable that you can use to connect the earpieces and wrap them over your neck if you need to.
Throw in a charging case that provides up to 90 hours of playback time - at 6 hours per charge - and the EOZ Air looks like a real bargain.
8. Jaybird Run XT
Jaybird specialises in headphones that are specifically designed for sport, and the latest addition to its range of running headphones is the Run XT, priced at £159/$180.
Jaybird headphones always sound really good, and the Run XT maintains that tradition with an attractive sound, and a nice, punchy bass that sounds strong and firm rather than the exaggerated boom that you can get from some earbuds. They're good and loud too, and will help to get you motivated when you're working out, but also manage to avoid any harshness or distortion as you pump up the volume.
The earbuds are rated IPX7, which means they can be completely immersed in 1m of water without damage, so they'll certainly cope with some sweat in the gym or rain outdoors. Battery life is 4 hours at a time, with another 12 hours available from the charging case, and the Jaybird app has some handy features too, including EQ controls for fine-tuning your music, and a 'find my buds' option that can help you track them down if they get lost or stolen.
9. Alfawise V5 TWS
These low-priced earbuds look odd - the receivers stick out of your ears like alien antennae - but they're surprisingly decent performers and great value for money.
The little fins on each bud hold them snugly in the ear, resulting in solid insulation and audio quality: the latter isn't spectacular but offers moderate detail and volume, and more bass kick than the price tag would suggest. And we found it straightforward to pair them with an iPhone via the Bluetooth settings.
The charging pod (which has a capacity of 500mAh) is convenient to use and quite cute, but lacks the elegance and more importantly the slimline design of an AirPods case or similar. It's too large to fit in a trouser pocket and will need to go in a coat pocket or bag.
10. JLab JBuds Air
You're not going to get hi-fi-quality sound for less than £50/$50, but if you just want some affordable earbuds that can bang out rock or dance tunes when you're travelling or working out then the JBuds Air will work a treat.
The little earbuds feel reasonably sturdy, and they're rated IP55, which means that they're both water-resistant and protected against dust and dirt that might creep inside and gum up the works. Battery life is modest, at around 3-4 hours, but that's fine for workout sessions or getting the train to work, and the little charging case gives you another 10 hours on top of that.
They aren't, admittedly, the most subtle or precise headphones we've ever heard. They tend to beef up the bass quite a bit, so if you're into delicate classical music or sensitive singer-songwriters strumming away on acoustic guitar then you might want to look elsewhere. But if you just want to groove along to some raucous rock or dance music then the JBuds will hit the spot at a good, affordable price.