Throughout 2021, we’ve reviewed a collection of the latest true wireless earbuds. Including a wide range of brands, form-factors, and price points, we’ve settled on five of our favorite alternatives to first-party offerings from Apple, Google, and Samsung. Including Anker’s new Soundcore Liberty 3 Pro and the Marshall Motif ANC, amongst others, you’ll find all of the best earbuds of 2021 outlined below.
Hands-on with the best earbuds of 2021
The true wireless earbud market has continued to become more competitive over the past few years, and 2021 has pushed that narrative to the extreme. We’ve seen more and more brands get in on the true wireless action for the first time like Marshall and Klipsch to the most recent additions from the likes of Anker, Jaybird, and more.
All told, we’ve reviewed 15 different pairs of true wireless earbuds this year including everything from daily drivers and audiophile-grade offerings to ultra-affordable and high-end models. Whether you’re looking for a more cost-effective solution compared to in-house offerings from Apple, Google, and Samsung, or just want a more platform-agnostic solution, 9to5Toys’ best earbuds of 2021 are outlined below.
Best all-around – Anker Soundcore Liberty 3 Pro
Standing at the top of all 15 earbuds we’ve reviewed, Anker’s latest offerings claim the throne of our favorite release from 2021. Having launched earlier this fall, the recent Soundcore Liberty 3 Pro at $170 come decked out with just about every feature you can want from a pair of modern earbuds.
Starting with the design, Anker’s latest arrive in one of four colorways which already stands out from much of the competition and the usual white or black designs that dominate the industry. Features follow suit to ensure they sound as good as they look, with respectable audio fidelity that can be custom-tuned in the companion app.
Plus, there’s pretty notable active noise cancellation that manages to deliver a worthwhile experience even compared to the likes of Apple. And as the cherry on top, you’ll find up to 32 hours of playback with the charging case. Our hands-on review takes a deeper dive into why these are the best all-around options for most people when it comes to serving as your daily driver.
Best sounding – Marshall Motif ANC
Earlier this year, Marshall stepped into the true wireless earbuds game for the first time with its Mode II. While we were big fans of what the brand had to show for its first attempt, the real standout of the year came from Marshall supplementing the lineup with its Motif earbuds. Marking its first ANC-enabled offerings, there’s all of the presumed signature design cues and some other highlights that weren’t as expected.
As my favorite releases of the year, the Marshall Motif ANC deliver the best EQ mix right out of the box. The audio balance really shows just how much the folks at Marshall can flex their nearly six decades of experience, resulting in a pair of earbuds that are just a joy to listen to. Not to mention, I love the vinyl-wrapped charging case and compact earbud designs.
Our full hands-on review takes a deeper dive at what to expect from the Motif ANC at the $200 price point, and how these earbuds compare to the more entry-level Marshall offerings that launched earlier in the year, too.
Best bang for your buck – Skullcandy Dime
As far as affordable offerings go, there’s really no beating the value offered by the recent Skullcandy Dime earbuds. Having launched earlier this year with an astoundingly low $26 price tag, these true wireless buds offer about as good of a value as can be. Sure there are some compromises from such an entry-level price tag, but anyone considering these as a secondary pair or just a low-cost solution for getting in the true wireless game can surely overlook the shortcomings.
In our hands-on review, we found the Skullcandy Dime to be excellent options for a dedicated pair of workout earbuds specifically, though the feature set does lend itself towards everyday listening thanks to 12-hour battery life and a compact charging case.
Best for working out – Jaybird Vista 2
When it comes to actually full-featured fitness earbuds though, the Jaybird Vista 2 steal the spotlight in the category. With a more unique in-ear design that pairs a fabric build with some silicone wing tips to stay in your ear, there’s notable IP68 waterproofing and an impact-resistant build for keeping up with everything from runs in the rain to more intense workouts at the gym.
Just because you’re opting for more of an emphasis on fitness doesn’t mean you’ll be skimping out on all the usual comforts from other modern earbuds. There’s notable active noise cancellation for a distraction-free listening experience, as well as 24 hours of total playback thanks to the Qi-enabled charging case.
While not perfect, our hands-on review offers the full scoop on why these earbuds are worth considering at the $200 price tag if our brief recap wasn’t enough to sway you. And if you’re looking for some additional recommendations for exercise-specific offerings, go head on over to our roundup from Connect the Watts.
Best for gaming – EPOS GTW 270 Hybrid
The last entry into our best earbuds of 2021 feature takes a look at yet another specialized use case. Mobile gaming has become even more popular throughout 2021 with iPhone and Android titles taking center stage, not to mention the Nintendo Switch updating to support Bluetooth audio output. So if you’re hoping to bring home a pair of earbuds that are specially suited to serenade your next gaming session, look no further than the EPOS GTW 270 Hybrid.
Using either Bluetooth 5.1 or a low-latency USB-C dongle, the EPOS GTW 270 Hybrid arrive with an in-ear design. We found that the audio frequency was able to hit some low notes while still delivering crisp and clear mids or highs. In our review, we specifically highlight how solid the directional audio cues are in games like Call of Duty Warzone, though the $200 price tag isn’t going make these the right fit for everyone.
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