Though the PowerBeats Pro share many of the same features with Apple’s AirPods, they’re different where it counts: Sound quality — especially low-end bass — is far better on the PowerBeats Pro, which benefit from having a sound-isolating design. The PowerBeats Pros aren’t perfect; we experienced some frustrating connection problems even though the earbuds use Apple’s new H1 wireless chip, which should be better, not worse than its W1 predecessor.
The Aukey Key Series T10 has several small flaws that add up to a dismissal. The case is really big, and getting the buds in and out is tricky. In our tests, this pair had a spike in the highs, so “s” sounds were piercing, and every word with that sound in it stuck out terribly and uncomfortably. And the T10 doesn’t have the ability to power off without the case, so if you leave the case somewhere, you have to let the earbuds sit idle for five minutes to power off.
Wireless earbuds are for people who want to listen wirelessly and who want their money to go toward convenience, sound, comfort, and call quality rather than other features such as heavy sweat resistance or the best noise cancellation. Whether you’re sitting at your desk, in a plane or train, or in the back of an automobile, any of these wireless earbud picks should offer a reliable way to transmit great-sounding music to your ears and a clear-sounding voice to your phone-call recipients. On- or over-ear Bluetooth headphones are also capable of hitting these points, but they can get in the way of glasses and are quite bulky compared with earbuds.
The Sesh earbuds aren’t the smallest true wireless earbuds we’ve tested, but they are minimal and lightweight enough that they won’t hang heavily in your ears—and they aren’t visually obtrusive, either. Skullcandy includes three sizes of silicone tips, and all of our panelists were able to get a secure fit. Both earbuds feature a single large button that takes up the entire surface of the earbud chassis, so it’s very easy to find by feel. The Sesh’s controls are sensitive enough to pressure that they don’t require you to jam the earbud into your ear canal to change tracks or adjust the volume. They also click softly, so there isn’t a loud, annoying “kuh-click” sound that hurts your ears. The Sesh’s controls handle all the basics: calls, tracks, volume, digital assistant, play, and pause.
Finally, we think that you should spend under $250 for a set of true wireless headphones with these features and around $100 for wireless headphones where the two earbuds are connected by a wire or collar (although we allow a price closer to $150 for extra features such as active noise cancelling). That’s enough money to obtain high build quality as well as good sound from a company with a decent track record and reliable customer support.
On the downside, like most budget headphones, they don’t have any power-saving features, so you’ll need to remember to turn them off when not in use or else their battery will continue to drain. They also don’t have a companion app, so your EQ options are more limited. Though their ear-hook design ensures a stable fit, they don’t have the most sweat-proof design, so athletes may want to consider the similar yet more sweat-resistant Anker SoundCore Spirit X Wireless. Overall, they're the best Bluetooth earbuds we've tested in the budget category.
If you have $250 to spend and like the Apple H1 chip’s initial pairing process, we recommend the Powerbeats Pro pair, which offers great sound, better controls, longer battery life, and a more stable fit for transitioning to the gym. But if you really want noise cancellation, the AirPods Pro set is the better Apple-friendly choice. Ultimately, we still prefer the Jabra Elite 75t’s ability to connect to two devices (such as a laptop and phone) simultaneously, as well as its stable fit and lower price tag. In the end, we don’t dislike the AirPods Pro; we just like using other earbuds a little better.
With that in mind, we've included a range of styles and prices here. You're bound to find something that fits well, sounds great, and—above all—doesn't tie you up in knots. Once you've found the perfect pair, check out our five easy tips to extend the life of your headphones and six ways you're using your headphones wrong. And if you want to share your tunes with others, look no further than our favorite wireless speakers.
There is a marked difference between our Editors' Choices in the true wireless category, and a typical tether-together wireless pair. You can get a good wireless (but not true wireless) set of earphones for $40. You can expect to spend at least twice as much for true wireless. The base price for most true wireless options thus far has been around $100, with the very best options costing as much as $200 or even $300, and some very strong budget contenders coming in around $50. This is not a cheap category, but it's gone past the early adopter premium if you know where to look. To get the most out of your purchase, check out 6 Ways You're Using Your Headphones Wrong.
When you take your AirPods out of the case, they're on and ready to use. When you put them in your ears, your AirPods automatically play the audio from your device. If you take an AirPod out, audio pauses. Take them both out and audio stops. If you're listening with one AirPod and you take it out, the AirPod pauses. If you put it back in your ear within 15 seconds, play resumes automatically.
Unfortunately, there have been reports that the neckband build quality isn’t the best, as the rubber casing starts peeling off after a few months of usage. The Bose Connect app also doesn’t offer many customization options and doesn’t provide an EQ, unlike the highly customizable Sony WI-1000X Wireless. Nevertheless, these are versatile, comfortable earbuds that are likely to please, especially for commute and travel.
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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.