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CNET's top tech of 2021: Best true wireless headphones

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Published in Science & Technology News

When it comes to the best headphones, it's hard to narrow things down to the best of the best, especially since there's an endless array of great options available, and it's impossible to review every single model on the planet. But we'll try anyway. We tend to focus on wireless headphones, and true wireless in particular -- yes, Apple's AirPods have been insanely popular over the past several years -- and those models are what we're looking at this week.

But this list of best headphones also includes on-ear models, over-ear headphones, and even some more affordable headphones as "budget" standouts for those who don't want to drop a ton of cash to get optimal comfort and great sound. We'll look at those next week, but for now, these are our current favorites for the "best true wireless headphones" designation.

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Best-sounding true wireless noise canceling

Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2

CNET TAKE: The second-gen Momentum True Wireless 2 (https://www.cnet.com/reviews/sennheiser-momentum-true-wireless-2-review/#ftag=CAD187281f) aren't cheap at $250, but this wireless earbud option is better all around than the original, with a slightly smaller, more comfortable design, active noise canceling that rivals that of the AirPod Pro, improved battery life (up to 7 hours versus the original's 4) and better noise reduction during calls. And, if you don't like these Sennheiser Momentum Wireless headphones in black, a white version is available as well. Most importantly, though, the Momentum True Wireless 2 have the same stellar sound -- for true wireless earbuds, anyway -- offering clearly superior sound quality to the AirPods Pro. That makes this wireless headphone arguably the best true wireless earbuds on the market today and earns them a CNET Editors' Choice Award.

These use Bluetooth 5.1 with support for the AAC and AptX codecs (for devices that have AptX, such as Samsung's Galaxy smartphones).

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Best headphones for true wireless noise canceling

 

Apple AirPods Pro

CNET TAKE: Even if they don't sound as magical as you'd hope a $249 model would, the Apple AirPods Pro (https://www.cnet.com/reviews/apple-airpods-pro-review/#ftag=CAD187281f) still manages to be a great example of a true wireless in-ear headphone with noise cancellation. That's largely due to their winning design and fit, improved bass performance and effective noise canceling. They're an excellent choice when you want to make a call or listen to music during your workout. Yeah, they're expensive at $250, but the good news is you'll use them so much you'll probably wear the battery down -- it does degrade over time and isn't replaceable -- and have to buy a new pair in 18 to 24 months if you don't lose them first.

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Excellent all-around true wireless

Jabra Elite 75t

CNET TAKE: At first glance, the Jabra Elite 75t (https://www.cnet.com/reviews/jabra-elite-75t-review/#ftag=CAD187281f), which was originally supposed to cost $200 but now sells for $130 or so, seemed more like an evolutionary upgrade from the Elite 65t. But the updates turned out to be a little more substantial than we first thought. The Elite 75t's smaller size (the pair of earbuds and case are 20% smaller than the Elite 65t's), its boosted battery life and USB-C charging are significant upgrades. And then there are the smaller changes, like the new charging case design with magnets inside it that make it easier to open and close and to keep the buds inside. While the Elite 75t isn't quite as comfortable to wear as the AirPods Pro and doesn't have active noise canceling, it does sound better for listening to your music, with clearer overall sound and better bass definition, so long as you get a tight seal.

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The following CNET staff contributed to this story: Executive Editor David Carnoy and Copy Editor Jim Hoffman. For more reviews of personal technology products, please visit www.cnet.com.

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