If you want to make a statement, Microsoft’s Surface ear buds look like large white discs that are just one black dot away from being a googly eye. Google’s new Pixel Buds also have a strong Mentos vibe, but they refreshingly come in some fun colors. Both will be available next spring. For instant gratification, the Sony WF-1000XM3 buds look like retro versions of futuristic pills, available in beige or black. Samsung’s Galaxy Buds all have a fun subtle shimmer, as well as a bold yellow option that says, “I’m not afraid of a pop of color.”
The headphones are designed for go-anywhere, do-anything performance, with built-in earfins and IPX2 sweatproofing that allow them to be a companion during rainy runs and sweaty workouts alike. We found the design to also be extremely comfortable, even for extended periods. The charging case is one of the smaller ones we’ve seen — not quite as compact as the AirPods charging case, but very close. The only disappointment is that it only carries a little more than one recharge’s worth of juice, which means there may be times when these earbuds can’t quite make through a full day without needing either a plug or a wireless charging mat (or phone).
As for sound quality, in our tests the Sesh outperformed the vast majority of true wireless earbuds in its price range. The bass was more intense and, especially with hip-hop, could sound a bit louder in the mix than you might expect, but it didn’t blur or muffle male voices like a lot of the competition did. The higher frequencies were a little rolled-off, so “s” sounds were a bit softer and had an airier “sh” quality rather than a sharp “s” quality. But overall, for a pair that typically costs $60, the Sesh sounded fantastic.
The Powerbeats Pro earbuds are sweat and water resistant, so they can go from work to the gym, as well as handle a little rain. However, they aren’t IP-certified, so we’d still say that anyone who sweats profusely or who does outdoor sports frequently should stick with our workout pick, which has an IP56 rating and a two-year warranty against water and sweat damage. The Powerbeats Pro comes with a one-year warranty, but Beats isn’t specific about sweat-damage coverage, so we’d exercise caution (pun intended).
Master & Dynamic MW07 Go: This pair offers a lot of positives. The earbuds are very comfortable and stable in the ears, and we like the separate volume and track controls, although the volume buttons are a tad small for those with larger fingers. The 10-hour battery life and 30-meter Bluetooth range are impressive for this category. The small fabric-wrapped case and the earbuds themselves feel well made. However, although the sound was rather good in our tests, the bass was boosted in a way that could veil male vocals on bass-heavy songs. And we wished the Go had a transparency mode so we didn’t need to take these earbuds out to have a conversation. But if those aren’t dealbreakers for you and you aren’t turned off by the $200 price, they’re solid earbuds.
Testing conducted by Apple in October 2019 using preproduction AirPods Pro with Wireless Charging Case and software paired with iPhone 11 Pro Max units and prerelease software. The playlist consisted of 358 unique audio tracks purchased from the iTunes Store (256-Kbps AAC encoding). Volume was set to 50% and Active Noise Cancellation was enabled. With Active Noise Cancellation and Transparency turned off, listening time was up to 5 hours. Testing consisted of full AirPods Pro battery discharge while playing audio until the first AirPod Pro stopped playback. Battery life depends on device settings, environment, usage, and many other factors.
All of that is in addition to the two-year warranty against manufacturing defects, plus water, sweat, and dust damage. With its IP55 rating (for more, see our video on water resistance ratings), the Sesh can take rain, sweat, and the dust kicked up from a desert-canyon hike. For occasional gym sessions, the Sesh will work just fine, especially if the earbuds fit your ears securely. That said, we worry that especially high-impact workouts will slowly cause the Sesh earbuds to begin to wiggle loose from your ear, and the sealed design isn’t ideal for outdoor running safety. For regular workout earbuds, we prefer one of our gym headphones or running headphones picks.
For other people, Android fans say, it’s just as important not to rock anything that could even be confused with an AirPod. The safest non-Apple neutral look is the most common design: a black, roundish bud that doesn’t have any major protrusions. Amazon Echo Buds, Jabra Elite 75t, the black Samsung Galaxy Buds, and a number of budget options all have that same generic look. (Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos owns The Post, but we review all technology with the same critical eye.)
Bose is promising five hours of listening time on a single charge, which is just above the 4.5-hour threshold we feel is the minimum for a pleasant experience. You’ll get another 10 hours from the case, which isn’t great against today’s competition, but you can squeeze another 45 minutes of usage out of a 15-minute charge, and at least it only takes two hours for a full top-up. The Bose Soundsport Free have other neat features to justify its high-end cost, like NFC pairing with your iPhone or Android smartphone, IPX4 water resistance, interchangeable ear tips, and a tracking feature for finding lost buds.