Entry-level ($150 and below)
Priced at just under $100, the Aukey EP-N5 offers the best value for money. It has decent audio quality, ANC and good battery life.
The earbuds look a tad like Apple's AirPods Pro, but with longer stems. And they are black. The build is quite plasticky and lacks the premium feel of the AirPods Pro.
Audio delivery is decent, but tends to be heavy on the bass side. The mids can be lost in the super-punchy bass, with the treble sounding grainy.
The ANC performance is not bad, though - it filters out my loud air-conditioning.
Battery life is rated at seven hours with ANC off and 41/2 hours with it on.
If you are on a tight budget and like heavy bass, you cannot go wrong with the EP-N5.
HUAWEI FREEBUDS 3I
It might look like Apple's AirPods, with the white exterior (also available in black) and long stems, but the Huawei FreeBuds 3i offers much more bang for the buck.
For instance, it features ANC - not found in the AirPods. And the silicone ear tips are comfortable and help secure the earbuds in your ears.
While audio quality is decent, with clear mids and highs, there is a lack of richness, and the bass lacks punch. But the ANC is quite impressive. It is able to cut out most noise, giving most pricier competitors a run for their money.
Battery life is pretty average at three hours of playback with ANC on.
XIAOMI MI TRUE WIRELESS EARBUDS BASIC S
This is the cheapest model here. And Xiaomi's Mi True Wireless Earbuds Basic S is truly, well, basic.
The elliptical-shaped earbuds have a single big button. There is no protruding stem or bulbous body. The buds fit nicely and comfortably in the ears, as long as you find silicone ear tips of the right size.
The soundscape is very bass-heavy - great for rock music fans or gamers who love thumps. But this drowns out the mids and highs.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment is the pairing process. It takes several tries before the earbuds pair with the phone.
Battery life is average at four hours on a full charge. And its charging case still uses the slower micro-USB port instead of USB-C.
Mid-range ($151 to $299)
OPPO ENCO W51
These earphones can customise functions and update firmware direct from the Bluetooth settings of a paired Oppo phone. They also work like a charm with both Android and iOS phones.
The earbuds are comfortable and stay secure even when you run.
In terms of audio quality, the Enco W51 produces clean mids, but the highs are a tad grainy. The bass is not overly punchy, but delivers enough thump. Most users should find the audio quality better than average.
The ANC is pretty impressive for its price – probably only a notch and a half below that of the premium models. It can cut out the constant groan of my air-conditioner and the ringing doorbell.
Battery life is average, though – four hours with ANC on, with a full charge.
SAMSUNG GALAXY BUDS LIVE
If looks are a priority, then you should love these, especially the bronze version. The shiny touchsensitive outer side of the earbuds – which looks rose gold from certain angles – will turn heads.
The Buds Live, which look like kidney beans and are also available in black and white, come with a colour-matching charging case that resembles a wedding ring box.
They do not come with ear tips, but the earbuds lock nicely into my ears.
You use the Galaxy Wearable (Android) or Galaxy Buds (iOS) app to configure the Buds Live, like selecting the equaliser (EQ) preset.
The Dynamic EQ preset is recommended, as it produces punchy bass with clear vocals and a relaxed treble. If you prefer a more balanced soundscape, go for the Normal EQ preset.
On the downside, due to the earphones’ relatively open design, the ANC is not as effective as that of the premium models.
But battery life – six hours with ANC on – is great.
KLIPSCH T5 II TRUE WIRELESS
Klipsch’s T5 II gets a slight makeover, better Bluetooth antenna and a lower price than its predecessor’s $349.
The charging case still looks like a Zippo lighter and the earbuds are still in Klipsch’s familiar oval shape. But they now have a shorter stem as well as a smaller Klipsch logo that also functions as a clickable control button. The earbuds’ smaller size makes them more comfortable than their predecessor.
The original T5 has superb audio quality and the T5 II is no different. Bass is punchy with crisp mids and clear highs, even when the volume is cranked to maximum. I can easily discern instruments.
While it does not come with ANC, the T5 II’s closed design offers great sealing against ambient noise or passive noise cancellation. In fact, it offers a transparency mode that lets you listen to more ambient noise.
But the best part about the T5 II is its long battery life – eight hours on a full charge. You can practically wear it for one working day.
Premium ($300 and above)
APPLE AIRPODS PRO
If you are an iPhone user, it is almost a no-brainer to get the Air- Pods Pro. Not only does it look sleek, but it also pairs easily with the iPhone.
Once the first pairing is done, the AirPods Pro will automatically pair with all your other Apple devices that are logged into the same iCloud account.
Sound quality is great – bass is punchy, with detailed mids and clear highs. I can hear each instrument distinctly, regardless of the music genre.
The active noise cancellation (ANC) works well. On the train, it blocks out most ambient noise, except for the announcements.
The only downer is the average battery life – around 41/2 hours with ANC on. This pales in comparison with the other two premium models here.
It may have been released more than a year ago, but the WF-1000XM3 is still one of the best – if not the best – TWH in the market. It delivers great audio quality, with punchy bass, detailed mids and crisp highs.
It still has the best ANC in its segment. It filters out most of the ambient noise in my home – from the loud air-conditioning to the din from the home-improvement works upstairs.
Battery life is impressive – up to six hours with ANC on and up to eight with it off. The WF-1000XM3 is not for the fashion-conscious, though – the buds protrude quite significantly from the ears.
SENNHEISER MOMENTUM TRUE WIRELESS 2
It may be the most expensive TWH here, but the Momentum True Wireless 2 (TW2) will not disappoint.
Design-wise, it is a cross between the sleek AirPods Pro and the bulbous WF-1000XM3. The TW2 earbuds are really light and can be worn comfortably for hours.
More importantly, the soundscape is amazing, with detailed, smooth and clean audio delivery.
The bass is punchy but not overbearing, while the mids and highs are rich and well-controlled.
The TW2 has the best audio quality among the premium TWH here, while the ANC capability is only slightly less effective than that of the WF-1000XM3. Still, it is able to filter out noise from my neighbour’s knocking and hacking.
Battery life – up to seven hours with ANC on, with a full charge – is superb.