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Jabra Elite 65t: Our former top pick, the Elite 65t is still a fantastic choice, with solid audio quality, full volume and track controls, a five-hour battery life per charge (with 10 additional hours when you include the case), and very clear phone calls. However, the new Elite 75t ups the ante with longer battery life per charge, a smaller form, simpler controls, better microphone wind-noise cancellation, and a slightly smaller charge case. If those moderate feature upgrades aren’t worth the additional cash to you, the 65t is still highly recommendable, especially if the price is under $120.
Students appreciate the convenience offered by wireless headphones. Research your essay or fill out your study guide without being confined to your computer chair, or listen to some tunes and relax in your bed after a busy day of class. Call friends and family members back home without dealing with excess cords, or catch up on local happenings by listening to online news.
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.
That’s where the Echo Buds excel. They combine a host of leading-edge technologies and features into a product that costs far less than many less-capable earbuds. We’d normally expect such an approach to deliver a series of second-rate results, but Amazon hasn’t cut any corners. The Echo Buds’ Active Noise Reduction system designed by Bose is highly effective at drowning out external sounds while the convenient pass-through mode lets you control how much sound gets in when you want it. The triple-mic array lets you talk to Alexa without needing to tap on an earbud. And the sound quality is so good, we think only audiophiles will be left wanting more.
If you’re more of a talker than a jammer, the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 5100 should make you (and your caller) happy. It has four noise-canceling microphones. That alone is nothing revolutionary for headsets, but the company claims its WindSmart technology automatically detects and filters wind. And while there’s no noise cancelation, the cone-shaped ear tips should do a decent job of blocking out moderate levels of noise, and there are multiple options for those in the box.
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.
The active noise cancellation is decent, but it’s not adjustable at all and may cause “eardrum suck” for some people (you can read more about this phenomenon in our best noise-cancelling headphones guide). Because of the vented earbud design, the Pro earbuds don’t provide much noise isolation without the ANC activated, but they still produce some mild occlusion effect. With battery life of four and a half hours, they won’t last a cross-country flight or a full workday without a charging break. The Pro earbuds are water resistant, but the design is far less secure for high-impact activities than that of the Powerbeats Pro and less durable than that of the IP55-rated Jabra Elite 75t. While we like that Apple did away with the tap-based controls, the squeeze controls are fiddly (we often play/paused when we wanted to skip tracks) and still lack volume controls (which both the Jabra Elite 75t and Powerbeats Pro have).
That’s why the AirPods Pro are so welcome: They address both of these concerns, and up the ante even further by adding active noise cancellation, an in-ear design that’s more snug and secure, and an intelligent EQ system that automatically adjusts to each users’ ears. We were frankly blown away by both the improvement in sound quality and the effectiveness of Apple’s noise-canceling tech.
Great sound quality and a secure, comfortable fit are of utmost importance for wireless headphones you’ll use throughout the day. We noted which earbuds got the worst reviews from the pros and passed on those that had consistently poor reviews. Our panelists generally prefer the comfort and convenience of true wireless designs over the feel of collar-style wireless earbuds, and that’s reflected in our main picks. But fit is even more crucial with true wireless designs: If a true wireless earbud falls out while you’re on the go, it’s just one wrong bounce away from being gone for good.
This is, understandably, a concern of many potential true wireless users. Allow us to allay your fears—we can say that after over a year of testing, you have to try pretty hard to lose one earpiece. First off, just about every pair we've tested offers an extremely secure in-ear fit without sacrificing comfort. Most of the earpieces are larger than typical in-ears, while still maintaining a lightweight feel, making the likelihood of losing one while exercising (or at any other time) fairly low.
This is a look at the top wireless headphones we've tested overall, regardless of price. As such, many of the options here fall in the $100 and up range. That doesn't mean you need to spend a lot of money to get headphones that deliver quality audio. If you're shopping on a budget, head over to best headphones under $50 for plenty of great options that won't break the bank.
If the Jabra Elite 75t is sold out or you own multiple Apple devices and want the easiest pairing experience, the Beats Powerbeats Pro set is a great choice. These true wireless earbuds use the same H1 chip as Apple’s AirPods, so you get the same fast, easy pairing and “Hey Siri” voice activation. Overall, the Powerbeats Pro earbuds are superior to the AirPods, adding full track and volume controls, water and sweat resistance, and a longer battery life of nine hours for listening (or six hours of calls). The buds stayed securely in our ears and sounded quite good, with only slightly boosted bass. However, the charging case is larger than we’d like (see the photo comparison below), the ear tips can make a crinkling noise when you adjust them in your ears, and at the original price of $250, the Powerbeats Pro is not cheap.
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.”
Additionally, the 75t offers dual-device Bluetooth connection, which means you can be connected to your phone and laptop simultaneously. So if you are listening to music streamed from your laptop and you want to answer a call, you don’t need to manually switch the Bluetooth connection from the laptop to the phone as you do with many other earbuds like the AirPods or the Powerbeats Pro. You can just answer the call, and the Jabra set will automatically swap the audio. And if you take the earbuds out of your ears, your music automatically pauses.
Our panel evaluated each pair’s sound quality, ease of use, fit, and comfort and then ranked their top three picks. I then took those favorites and tested the microphones over phone calls in both quiet and noisy areas via a voice-recorder app. I checked the Bluetooth signal reliability by wandering a good distance away from my phone, putting it in a pocket or bag, walking outside, and going several rooms away. And, of course, we tested battery life to make sure that the actual use time lined up with each manufacturer’s claim. Once we had a sense of how each set of headphones performed, we took price and extra features into account and then chose our final winners.
Newer models manage to strike a balance between operability and layout. Some use actual tactile buttons to control playback, call management, track navigation, and volume. Some others cleverly divide controls between the two earpieces with touch panels—tapping the left ear, for instance, will skip a track backward, while tapping the right will skip forward. Despite needing to do a little more thinking before you tap, eventually the division of controls between the two earpieces reveals itself to be intuitive. So on-ear control panels are getting more creative and user-friendly, but there's still a ways to go before they catch up with traditional wireless models.
Jabra claims the Elite 75t has a battery life of seven and a half hours per charge, which should get you through most of a workday. I personally got even more when I listened at a moderate volume and made only a few phone calls under 10 minutes each. Of course, your volume level and call duration could mildly impact your results. The charging case is petite enough to fit in a jeans coin pocket yet capable of providing an additional 20 hours of battery life. Even better, the earbud batteries have an initial rapid charge that gives you one hour of use after 15 minutes docked in the case. The case itself charges via USB-C.
An ambient hearing mode pipes sound in from your surroundings, a crucial feature for cyclists, pedestrians, or anyone who needs to keep their ears to the street. Early AirPods Pro reviews rank their noise cancelation’s efficacy highly, perhaps even better than Sony’s WF-1000XM3, which was long regarded as the top echelon in true wireless earbuds. In our own testing, we found that Apple also stepped up its game in overall audio quality. Our reviewer noticed a stronger bass response and crisper highs despite using the same H1 chip as the AirPods 2. We can’t wrap this up without giving Apple major props for adding water resistance, making the AirPods Pro viable for workouts and brief outings in the rain. Add five hours of battery life and another 24 hours through the included fast charging case, and the AirPods Pro stand out as the best pair of stringless earbuds money can buy.