It’s been nearly seven years since Apple first announced their wireless Airpods earbuds to some fanfare, but also plenty of derision and scepticism. But as the years have passed, the pinky-finger sized Bluetooth earbuds in a box have become very much the standard for on-the-go listening.
With their compact sizes, simple connectivity and not needing to untangle a mess of cords when pulled out of a pocket, they are rapidly growing in popularity each year, with Statista figures estimating that 572.3 million pairs were sold worldwide in 2022 (up from 299.6 million in 2021). And with that, there are now countless quality options available for those looking for in-ear, wireless earphones. From sub-£100 budget options to high-end audiophile buds, there’s something for everyone and every budget.
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But which ones are the best for fans of electronic music? What buds best project the warm, wobbly basslines, and which ones deliver crispy-clear, shuffling hi-hats? Does the noise cancelling make you feel like you’re shaking your hips in a club? Mixmag rounded up the best commonly available earbuds for dance music lovers.
Released in Autumn last year, Apple’s upgrade to its high-end earbuds model is often the standard to beat for competitors – particularly given its ubiquity in the market. With a fantastic six-hour battery life (30 hours including the case), seamless connectivity for those using iPhones, Macbooks and other Apple products, the AirPods Pro 2 is the convenient choice for those already integrated into the company’s ecosystem. With best-in-class noise cancellation and surround sound spatial audio technology, coupled with warm, bass-heavy sound it’s a great immersive choice for electronic music, although purely sound quality-wise it’s not quite at the top level of some competitors.
In a similar vein to the AirPods integration with Apple products, the Samsung Galaxy Buds2’s optimisation with Samsung devices makes them an attractive proposition for those with devices from the South Korean tech giant – although they are still compatible with other Android devices and iOS. They feature good sound and active noise cancelling, although lack sub-bass with its frequency range limited below 80hz, so if you’re an old-skool dubstep head you might want to look elsewhere. The bass is still warm and full though, and can be boosted via the Galaxy Wearable app, where the sound can be adjusted via a three-band EQ. They also feature touch buttons on the earphones, allowing you to easily skip through and reload tunes.
A newer company on the earbuds scene, Nothing have made waves in the market with their easily accessible prices and distinctive transparent design. Coming in at the lower end of the price spectrum, the sound is excellent – with a warm lower end, and although the highs feel a tad forward it compares favourably with other more expensive competitors. The Ear (2) also features an impressive 5000Hz range of active noise cancelling and a transparency mode if you want to hear a bit more of your surroundings. Battery life is a bit short however at four hours (22.5 with the case) – but still good enough for most SoundCloud mixes.
Having long been one of the world’s most distinctive headphones brands, Beats by Dr. Dre was acquired by Apple back in 2014. But their latest earbuds, the Beats Studio Buds+ are no AirPods clone. The sound is loud, crisp and clear, with a monitor-esque flat response. That won’t be for everyone, but for those who are after earphones that are closer to studio quality than soundsystem, these are certainly a good choice. They also support spatial audio when playing music mixed in Dolby Atmos, as well as having six hours of battery life with active noise cancelling (36 hours with the case) – among the upper end of those we reviewed.
Released in the latter half of 2022, the QuietComfort Earbuds II are the flagship premium model from Bose. The sound is among the best for wireless earbuds – fantastically balanced, with the midrange sounding as clear and full as the highs, and basslines sounding warm and phat. They also feature some of the best active noise cancelling available – when you put them in, they make a chime noise that smartly calculates the shape of your ear and adapting the noise cancellation and sound to personally fit you.
The manufacturers of your favourite DJ’s favourite headphones, Sennheiser offers a good spread of options for Bluetooth earbuds. Our favourites, the budget option CX True Wireless are currently available for just £69.99, and although not perfect they sound far too good for their own right at the price point. The highs are a bit tinny, and they don’t feature active noise cancellation, but the bass is weighty and warm – if lacking a bit of clarity. But with solid build quality and good sound, they are an excellent choice for people not looking to splash too much of their cash.
Over the past few decades, Shure has made its name as one of the most reliable music tech brands for audio quality – and the latest iteration of its AONIC 215 earbuds is no different. With the battery and wireless connectivity residing in the ear hooks, they provide a snug and comfortable fit – particularly suitable for those who love to listen to tunes while working out, although it does mean that they are bigger than most others. While they do not feature active noise cancelling, there are several different sizes and shapes of ear tips, which almost guarantees a snug fit to block out external sounds. They aren’t the loudest though, focusing instead on clarity. The bass feels full and balanced, with a focus on the midrange and the details in tracks come through beautifully.
On the very top end of the price scale (current RRP £849) the Shure SE846 is very much a specialist product. First released as wired earphones in 2014, the latest edition can be paired with the AONIC ear hooks to switch them to being fully wireless. The sound is fantastic, with details and subtleties in tracks coming through vividly, and with its tiny subwoofer, the sub-bass growls warmly. An audiophile’s dream – if the price isn’t a sticking point.
Isaac Muk is a freelance writer, follow him on Twitter
Written by: Tim Hopkins