Universal Mentors Association

Best Open Wireless Earbuds for 2023


$30 at Amazon

The 1More ComfoBuds 2 offer improved performance

1More ComfoBuds 2

Good for kids and those with small ears

$30 at Amazon

The Soundpeats RunFree Lite are designed for runners and cost less than $30

Soundpeats RunFree Lite

Best value open-ear neckband-style headphones

Most earbuds you see on the market these days are equipped with silicone ear tips for a more snug fit, but that can cause fatigue and discomfort for some listeners. If you’re looking for a less invasive alternative, then you’ll want to try a pair of “open” earbuds, which you can rest in the curves of your ear rather than jamming inside it. Apple’s third-gen AirPods are the most popular option out there at the moment, but we’ve rounded up our top picks of all the best open earbuds on the market right now below. 

Open earbuds also have a safety benefit. Because they don’t seal off your ear canal, they let ambient sound in so you can hear what’s going on around you. That can be an important feature for some people, including runners and bikers who want to hear cars approaching. However, the downside to their openness is that if you’re in a noisy environment, the ambient sound will make it harder to hear what you’re listening to. Also, open earbuds have a harder time producing strong bass, which affects sound quality. 

Here’s a look at the top open-style buds. I’ll update this list as I test more worthy candidates. 

Read more: The 19 Best True Wireless Earbuds for 2023


Screenshot by David Carnoy/CNET

What makes these Soundpeats Air3 Deluxe HS buds special is that they sound surprisingly good for open earbuds — they’re pretty close to what you get from Apple’s AirPods 3 for sound. On top of that, they support Sony’s LDAC audio codec for devices that offer it. Not too many cheap open earbuds have good sound but these Soundpeats have good bass response and clarity. They’re also good for making calls and have a low-latency gaming mode. Battery life is rated at 5 hours at moderate volume levels, and these are IPX4 splash-proof.

And be sure to activate the instant 15% off coupon to save a few bucks at checkout.

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AirPods 3rd Generation

David Carnoy/CNET

Battery Life Rated up to 6 hoursNoise Canceling NoMultipoint NoHeadphone Type Wireless earbudsWater-Resistant Yes (IPX4 — splash-proof)

Take one look at the new design of the third-gen AirPods ($179), and the first thing you’ll probably think is: “Those look like the AirPods Pro without ear tips.” You wouldn’t be wrong. While they’re more fraternal than identical twins, the third-gen AirPods are shaped like the AirPods Pro, with the same shorter stems and same pinch controls as those of the Pro. Aside from the design change, which should fit most ears better than the second-gen AirPods (though not very small ears), the biggest change is to the sound quality: It’s much improved. Also, battery life is better, and the AirPods 3 are officially water-resistant and support Apple’s spatial audio virtual surround feature (for Apple users only).

Read our Apple AirPods 3 review.

The Sony Linkbuds in their charging case

David Carnoy/CNET

Battery Life 5.5 hoursNoise Canceling NoMultipoint NoHeadphone Type Wireless earbudsWater-Resistant Yes (IPX4 — splash-proof)

The LinkBuds are, in a sense, Sony’s answer to Apple’s standard AirPods. While they don’t sound as good as Sony’s flagship WF-1000XM4 noise-isolating earbuds, they offer a discreet, innovative design and a more secure fit than the AirPods, as well as good sound and very good voice-calling performance.

Like the third-gen AirPods, their open design allows you to hear the outside world — that’s what the ring is all about. That makes them a good choice for folks who want to hear what’s going around them for safety reasons or just don’t like having ear tips jammed in their ears. They also have a few distinguishing extra features, including Speak to Chat and Wide Area Tap. Instead of tapping on a bud, you can tap on your face, just in front of your ear, to control playback.

They’re IPX4 splash-proof and thanks to their fins — Sony calls them Arc Supporters — they lock in your ears securely and work well for running and other sporting activities.

Read our Sony LinkBuds review.

The 1More ComfoBuds 2 offer improved performance


Battery Life Rated up to 4 hoursNoise Canceling Yes (ANC)Multipoint NoHeadphone Type Wireless earbudsWater-Resistant Yes (IPX5 — protection against low-pressure water streams)

1More has a slightly different take on the standard AirPods for those who have trouble keeping them in their ears. The ComfoBuds 2 have mini ear tips on them that help secure them in your ear. This second-gen version offers improved sound from the originals with better bass (it’s still not great sound, but it’s good for the money). As their name implies, they’re lightweight, comfortable to wear and work well for making calls. 

It’s worth noting that their charging case is remarkably narrow and compact. It looks like a tiny hot-dog bun. They’re IPX5 splashproof and also available in black.

You’re receiving price alerts for 1More ComfoBuds 2


Angela Lang/CNET

Battery Life Rated up to 5 hoursNoise Canceling NoMultipoint NoHeadphone Type Wireless earbudsWater-Resistant Yes (IPX4 — splash-proof)

The new AirPods (third gen) are a nice upgrade over the second-gen AirPods. That said, the AirPods 2, which came out in 2019, are now selling for around $100 and sometimes a little less. While they don’t sound as good as the AirPods 3 and have a longer stem, they fit some people’s ears better. Those with smaller ears may prefer these older AirPods due to their slightly smaller design. 

Read our Apple AirPods 2019 review.

Galaxy Buds Live

Juan Garzon/CNET

Battery Life Rated up to 8 hoursNoise Canceling Yes (ANC)Multipoint NoHeadphone Type Wireless earbudsWater-Resistant Yes (IPX2 — sweat-resistant and protection against light splashes)

Say what you will about the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live’s bean-shaped design, but it’s certainly innovative. Like the standard AirPods, they have an open design, so you don’t jam an ear tip into your ear. They’re comfortable to wear and fit my ears more securely than the AirPods. These wireless buds are discreet and basically sit flush with your ear, which reduces wind-noise while biking. I regularly use them for running and biking, and they’re great for sporting activities if they fit your ears well. But one warning: Some people won’t get a secure fit, so buy them from a retailer that has a good return policy.

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.

Read our Samsung Galaxy Buds Live review.

The Soundpeats RunFree Lite are designed for runners and cost less than $30

Screenshot by David Carnoy/CNET

Like some of the other open-ear neckband style options on this list, the Soundpeats RunFree Lite buds sit just outside your ears and fire sound into them from small speakers with 16mm drivers. The sound quality isn’t the greatest — it lacks some clarity — but it’s better than I expected given the price of these headphones (there’s a reasonable amount of bass), and they’re just fine for casual listening.

They’re nice and lightweight and fit my head securely and comfortably, but I could see how they might not fit folks with larger heads so well. Equipped with Bluetooth 5.3, they’re IPX4 splash-proof and are rated for up to 17 hours of battery life at moderate volume levels (expect to get less than that because you will likely play these at high volume levels, especially outdoors where you’ll encounter more ambient noise). They also work decently for making voice calls but don’t expect business-class performance. 

They’re already $10 off, and you can save an extra $3 when you activate the instant coupon on the product page. 

You’re receiving price alerts for Soundpeats RunFree Lite


David Carnoy/CNET

Cleer’s Epic Arc buds are similar to Bose’s Open Sport Earbuds (see below) but are actually a little more comfortable to wear thanks to their swiveling hinge. Like the Bose buds, they rest on the top of your ear just above the ear canal and fire sound into your ears. They’re open so they let ambient sound in (that’s a plus if you’re a runner or biker and want to hear traffic), but their 16.2 mm drivers provide ample bass and volume. They don’t sound quite as good as the Bose Open Sport Earbuds but they’re pretty close.

I liked the case, which is a little big but pretty thin. While it has an integrated USB charging cable (that’s nice), like the Bose Open Sport Earbuds case it doesn’t have a rechargeable battery so it’s basically a dock for charging the earbuds, which are also available in black. Battery life is rated at up to 7 hours and they’re IPX5 splash-proof.

Some of these types of ear-hook-style earbuds have physical control buttons but these have touch controls. I found they worked pretty well but not great. The buds do have a companion app that allows you to upgrade the firmware and tweak the sound profile.     

More earbud and headphone recommendations 


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