2020 Gift Guide: 9 Delightful True Wireless Earbuds

By on November 1, 2020

2020 Gift Guide

As the true wireless stereo (TWS) headphones market grows, manufacturers are meeting the consumer demand for improved fit (smaller size), longer battery life and technically demanding features like active noise cancellation (ANC).

For years, over-ear headphones have dominated the ANC space, but now this technology is being crammed into tiny wireless earbuds with increasingly impressive results (see the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds below).

ANC earbuds are normally larger due to the technology, but the Sennheiser True Momentum 2 noise-cancelling buds are actually smaller than the previous generation which didn’t have ANC.

The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live and the Google Pixel Buds 2 sport svelte form factors that benefit comfort but hurt noise isolation.

For the longest battery life, the new Samsung Galaxy Buds+ get an astounding 11 hours on a single charge and are not any larger than the previous gen model which only had 6 hours.

Apple still controls the market, but we don’t expect to see the next iteration of AirPods until spring 2021 at the earliest. Last year’s AirPods Pro, AirPods 2 and Apple Beats Powerbeats Pro are still so good (and wildly popular) they made the list again for the second year in a row.

Watch for price drops and deals on Ben’s in the coming weeks (set deal alerts here)!

Active Noise Cancelling

1. Bose QuietComfort Earbuds

Street price$279.

Release year: 2020.

Battery life: 6 hours (with ANC); plus 18 extra hours with case (3 add’l full charge).

Size and weight (each):  1.54” x 1.02” x 1.06” (0.30 oz.)

Charging case: Wireless (3.5” x 2” x 1.25”, 2.7 oz).

Colors: Black or white.

Pros: In terms of noise cancellation, this Bose edges out its closet competitor, the Sony WF-1000XM3. Superb sound quality. Has IPX4 water resistant rating, better than the Sony, with none. Has Google Assistant and Siri support.

Cons: A good $100 more than the Sony and $80 more than the AirPods Pro. To hold all that premium noise cancelling technology, they’re a bit on the chunky side. And the case is huge by TWS case standards. No multipoint (only pairs with one device at a time).

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2. Apple AirPods Pro

Street price$199.

Release year: 2019.

Battery life: 4 to 5 hours (5+ without noise cancellation); plus 19 extra hours with case (3 add’l full charges).

Size and weight (each):  1.22” x 0.86” x 0.94” (0.19 oz.)

Charging case: Wireless (1.78″ x 2.39″ x 0.85″, 1.61 oz).

Color: White.

Pros: One year later and you can find these for at least $50 less ($249 street in 2019). Best sound of all AirPods… now with active noise canceling. Water-resistant (IPX4, splash-proof). Interchangeable silicone tips with Ear Tip Fit Test to find best seal. Siri voice assistance.

Cons: Battery life is not that great. Still only one color choice.

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3. Sony WF-1000XM3 Wireless Noise-Cancelling Headphones

Street price$170.

Release year: 2019.

Battery life: 5 to 6 hours (up to 8 without noise cancellation); plus 18 extra hours with case (3 add’l full charges).

Size and weight (each):  1.3” x 1.1” x 0.7” (0.30 oz.)

Charging case: USB-C (3.1″ x 2.1″ x 1.1″, 2.8 oz).

Colors: Black or silver.

Pros: $60 price drop from last year. Still one of the two best active noise-canceling true wireless earbuds on market (the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds being the other). Built-in Google Assistant. Excellent sound quality and design. Interchangeable tips.

Cons: No water-resistance rating. Big case.

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4. Samsung Galaxy Buds Live

Street price$140.

Release year: 2020.

Battery life: 5 to 6 hours (8+ without noise cancellation); plus 15 extra hours with case (2.5 to 3 add’l full charges).

Size and weight (each):  1.07” x 0.6” x 0.58” (0.20 oz.)

Charging case: Wireless (1.97” x 1.97 x 1.09”, 1.49 oz).

Colors: Black, bronze, red or white.

Pros: Innovative bean shape (aka the “Galaxy Beans”). Smaller size. More affordable pricing for ANC buds. Features Bixby voice assistant (a pro for Galaxy phone owners at least).

Cons: Due to the open-air fit, the noise cancelling is just not at the same level as other ANC buds on this list.

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5. Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2

Street price$250.

Release year: 2020.

Battery life: 7 hours; plus 21 extra hours with case (3 add’l full charges).

Size and weight (each): (0.21 oz.)

Charging case: USB-C (3.1” x 1.7” x 1.4”, 2.04 oz).

Colors: Black or white.

Pros: Best-in-class sound. Premium appearance (more Apple than Apple). IPX4 water-resistant rating. The active noise cancelling is good feature (pro), but not as good as the Bose or Sony (con).

Cons: Expensive. Case does not have wireless charging (not good).

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Standard

5. Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus

Street price$120.

Release year: 2020.

Battery life: 11 hours; plus 11 extra hours with case (1 add’l full charge).

Size and weight (each):  0.89” x 0.69” x 0.76” (0.22 oz.)

Charging case: Wireless (2.8″ x 1.5” x 1.0″, 1.4 oz).

Colors: Black, white, blue, red, pink and deep blue.

Pros: Fantastic battery life. Best for Android ecosystem (especially Samsung), with game-changing, one-touch Spotify playback. Sweat resistant (IPX2 rating). More colors to choose from. Multipoint pairing.

Cons: Mic sound not great with noisy backgrounds. Heavier than last year’s model (due to increased battery size).

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6. Apple AirPods (2nd Generation)

Street prices$129 (standard) and $160 (wireless charging case).

Release year: 2019.

Battery life: 4 to 5 hours; plus 19 extra hours with case (3 add’l full charges).

Size and weight (each):  1.6” x 0.7” x 0.7” (0.14 oz.)

Charging case: Lightning (1.4″ x 2.1″ x 0.8″, 1.3 oz.) or wireless (1.7″ x 2.1″ x 0.8″, 1.4 oz).

Color: White.

Pros: Price drop from last year. Lightweight, universal fit form factor sits outside the ear canal which might be more comfortable for users who don’t like in-ear tips. Compact case. Siri voice assistance.

Cons: No sweat- or water-resistance. No noise cancelling. Still only one color choice.

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7. Google Pixel Buds 2

Street prices$179.

Release year: 2020.

Battery life: 5 hours; plus 24 extra hours with case (4.5 to 5 add’l full charges).

Size and weight (each):  0.81” x 0.77” x 0.72” (0.19 oz.)

Charging case: Wireless (2.48” x 1.85” x 0.98”, 1.97 oz).

Color: White.

Pros: Google Assistant voice controls (including Google Translate). Comfortable—spatial vents offset “plugged ear” effect from sealed fit (similar to Airpods Pro).

Cons: Known to have dropout issues outdoors. No multipoint (only pairs with one device at a time). Not really suited for iPhone users (i.e. Google Assistant is only available on Android).

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Sport

8. Apple Beats Powerbeats Pro

Street price$200.

Release year: 2019.

Battery life: Up to 9 hours; plus extra 14 hours with case (1-2 add’l full charges).

Size and weight (each):  0.81” x 0.77” x 0.72” (0.19 oz.)

Charging case: Lightning (3.04″, 3.8 oz).

Colors: Black, ivory, moss and navy. 2020 colors: red, yellow, pink and blue.

Pros: $50 price drop from last year. 4 new (brighter) colors this year. Great battery life. Water-resistant (IPX4, splash-proof). Good sound. On-ear volume controls. Eartips with 4 size options.

Cons: Ginormous case. May be uncomfortable fit for some. No active noise cancellation.

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Budget

9. Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2

Street price$99.

Release year: 2019.

Battery life: 7 hours; plus extra 28 hours with case (4 add’l full charges).

Size and weight (each): (0.17 oz.)

Charging case: Wireless (2.2” x 1.96” x 0.98”, 1.52 oz).

Colors: Black or white (matte).

Pros: Low price (we’ve seen them as low as $80). Known for high quality microphone sound. IPX5 water-resistant rating. Comfortable fit.

Cons: No multipoint pairing. No auto-pause feature (requires manual double tap).

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About Joe Warner

I'm the senior editor of The CheckOut. I am an aficionado of shiny gadgets and classic Hollywood movies and can also tell you the names of the late '80s Swedish Davis Cup team members.

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