The best wireless earbuds and headphones for your Samsung phone

25 Sep, 2020 John Mendoza No Comments


Owners of one of Samsung’s new Galaxy S20 smartphones or its earlier Galaxy Note 10 models will notice that Samsung left off the 3.5mm headphone jack. While you can use a USB-C-to-3.5mm headphone adapter, most people will want to go wireless.

Popular Apple-centric models such as Apple AirPods and Beats Powerbeats Pro work just fine with Galaxy phones, but everyone already knows all about those accessories. So here we’re highlighting models that are more platform-agnostic or even have an Android tilt — making them perfect Bluetooth headphones for your Galaxy device.

Say what you will about the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live’s bean-shaped design, but they might just be the most innovative new true wireless earbuds of the year. Like the standard AirPods, they have an open design — you don’t jam an ear tip into your ear — and they’re quite comfortable to wear and fit my ears more securely than the AirPods. That said, they won’t fit everybody’s ears equally well. These wireless buds are discreet and basically sit flush with your ear without a little white pipe extending out from them.

They deliver good sound and work well as a headset for making calls, with good background noise reduction so callers can hear you clearly even when you’re in noisier environments. While they feature active noise canceling, it’s mild compared to the noise canceling in earbuds that have a noise-isolating design. In other words, buy them for their design and sound, not their noise-canceling features.

Water-resistantYes (IPX2 rating — sweat-resistant and protects against light splashes).

Read our Samsung Galaxy Buds Live review.

Angela Lang/CNET

Samsung’s Buds Plus look essentially the same as the original Galaxy Buds, but their battery life is rated at 11 hours for music playback (up from six) and they pack dual drivers for better sound and an additional microphone in each bud to help with external noise reduction while making calls.

I was impressed with the sound. It’s detailed and smooth, with deep, well-defined bass. The sound is richer and more spacious than that of the original Galaxy Buds. Well-respected Austrian audio company AKG, which Samsung acquired when it bought Harman, is behind the audio. While the original Buds were also “tuned” by AKG, these are a nice upgrade over the originals — and right there with what you get with the Jabra Elite 75t, if not even a touch better. They use Bluetooth 5.0 and support AAC (there’s now an app for iOS users) and Samsung’s scalable codec, which is similar to aptX but is proprietary to Samsung Galaxy phones.

Thanks to their noise-isolating design, these do sound a little better than the Galaxy Buds Live. But there are advantages to both designs, so take that into account when you’re trying to decide between them. I personally tend to use the Buds Live more than the Buds Plus (yes, I have both).   

Water-resistantYes (IPX4 rating — splash-proof).

Read our Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus review.

David Carnoy/CNET

The Mpow X3 wireless earbuds sound shockingly good for their low price of $52 (an $8 instant discount coupon from Amazon is currently available), with good clarity and powerful bass, and they even have active noise cancellation that’s fairly effective.

Mpow seems to be regularly tweaking its earphones, and the X3 earbuds were briefly taken off Amazon, before returning with an update. “The new version upgraded the volume control and optimized its active noise-canceling function and call effect,” the company told me. “It also added the supersoft ear caps, which [are] more comfortable to wear for a long time.”

They did fit me comfortably and securely, and I got a tight seal from one of the sets of XL ear tips. They’re fully waterproof (IPX7) and get up to seven hours of battery life at moderate volume levels with USB-C charging. (The charging case looks like a fat version of the standard AirPods case.) Call quality is good — they have a sidetone feature that lets you hear your voice in the earbuds — but I’ve used other earbuds with better noise reduction during calls. I noticed a touch of audio lag when I streamed a YouTube video but no problems when streaming iTunes movies.

The touch controls take some getting used to — they’re a little wonky — and it didn’t help that the instructions in the box seemed to be for the old X3 model. (I found the current instructions online, which helped me figure things out.) Aside from a few minor downsides, Mpow’s X3 earbuds are a great value. 

Water-resistantYes (IPX7 rating — fully waterproof).

David Carnoy/CNET

Google’s Pixel Buds 2 are worthy contenders in the premium true wireless earbuds arena, particularly for Android phones. Featuring hands-free Google Assistant (for Android), these truly wireless earbuds offer a comfortable, secure fit and very good sound quality for true wireless. Additionally, they’re good for making calls and their touch controls work quite well. 

At five hours, their battery life isn’t as good as some new models that are hitting the market, but it’s on par with the AirPods Pro’s battery life and the well-designed wireless charging case gives you an additional 19 hours (there is a quick-charge feature). The Pixel Buds 2 are available in four color options — white, black, mint and orange.

This true wireless earbud option uses Bluetooth 5.0 with support for the AAC codec but not aptX. 

Water-resistantYes (IPX4 rating — splashproof).

Read our Google Pixel Buds 2 (2020) review.


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Sony’s earlier WH-1000XM3 model was great. But if it had a weakness, that was its voice-calling capabilities, particularly in noisier environments. The new WH-1000XM4 has improved in that area and also adds multipoint Bluetooth pairing so you can connect to two devices — such as your phone and PC — at the same time. That means that if a call comes in while you’re using the headphones with your computer the audio will switch to your phone when you answer the call.

The Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 probably still have a slight edge for voice calls, but the 1000XM4 headphones are arguably a tad more comfortable and also have some other slight improvements to noise cancellation and sound that make this model a great all-around choice. 

Water-resistantNo (lacks IPX certification)   

Read our Sony WH-1000XM4 review.

Read moreBest cheap true wireless earphones

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The Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, the long-awaited successor to Bose’s QuietComfort 35 II model, may not be a quantum leap forward, but these headphones offer slightly better sound and noise cancellation along with top-notch headset performance for voice calls. They’re a strong all-around audio performer with up to 20 hours of battery life and a more durable design than their predecessor (some find the QuietComfort 35 II headphones slightly more comfortable).

At launch, they cost $400, but they’ve recently come down in price a bit, and we expect to see them on sale during the holiday buying season, which would give them pricing parity with the new Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones, their closest competitor.

Water-resistantNo (lacks IPX certification)   

Read our Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 review.

David Carnoy/CNET

The second-generation Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 aren’t cheap. However, this true wireless earphone option is better all around than the original, with a slightly smaller, more comfortable earbud design, great audio quality, active noise canceling that rivals that of the AirPod Pro, improved battery life (up to seven hours versus the original’s four) and better noise reduction during calls. If you don’t like these active noise cancellation earbuds in black, a white version of the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless earbuds is slated to follow later this year. Most importantly, though, the Momentum True Wireless 2 have the same great sound — for true wireless earbuds, anyway — offering clearly superior sound quality to the AirPods Pro. That makes them arguably the best true wireless earbuds on the market today and earns them a CNET Editors’ Choice Award.

These Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless earbuds use Bluetooth 5.1 with support for the AAC and AptX codecs (for devices that have AptX like Samsung’s Galaxy smartphones). 

Water-resistantYes (IPX4 rating — splashproof).

Read our Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 review.

At first glance, the Elite 75t, which were originally supposed to cost $200 but now sell for $180 (and sometimes less), seem more like an evolutionary upgrade from the highly rated Elite 65t. But the updates turn out to be a little more substantial than I first thought, especially now that you can add noise canceling via a firmware upgrade.

The Elite 75t’s smaller size (the buds and case are 20% smaller than the Elite 65t’s), their boosted battery life and USB-C charging are significant upgrades. Then there are the smaller changes, like the new charging case design with magnets inside that make it easier to open and close and to keep the buds inside. While the Elite 75t aren’t quite as comfortable to wear as the AirPods Pro, they do sound better, with clearer overall sound and better bass audio quality definition, so long as you get a tight seal.

The slightly more rugged Elite Active 75t is also available for about $20 more, but with the new Elite 85t arriving we should see some sales on the Elite 75t. which has been out on the market a while. 

Water-resistantYes (IP55 rating — can withstand heavy sprays of water).

Read our Jabra Elite 75t review.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Jaybird got off to a bumpy start in the world of true wireless — that’s “AirPods-style headphones” — when it released its Jaybird Run workout headphones back in October 2017. That model, updated to the wireless in-ear Jaybird Run XT last year, was well designed but had some small performance issues that held the wireless earbuds back from being great. But its wireless successor, the Jaybird Vista (cue the Windows Vista jokes), includes design, battery life and performance improvements that make it the device I’d hoped the Jaybird Run would be.

At $180, the Jaybird Vista with its bigger battery is a little more expensive than it should be, but it was one of the better true wireless headphones to hit the market in the past year. These AirPods alternatives will especially appeal to those looking for a more discreet set of totally wireless workout headphones that offer full waterproofing. A companion Android app allows you to tweak the sound.

Water-resistantIPX7 (fully waterproof)

Read our Jaybird Vista review.

More headphone picks: 

Originally published earlier this year.



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