Earphones (or earbuds, or in-ear headphones) offer a slightly different sound profile compared with conventional headphones. Generally, you'll get better sound from a full set of "cans" around your head than from buds in your ears, but in-ear sound quality has improved a great deal. More importantly, in-ear headphones are much more likely to be water resistant, and much better suited for use when working out. Get a good sweat going, and you'll turn your headphone earpads into a nasty mess. For our top picks, check out the best earphones and the best headphones for running.
What hasn’t changed is the seamless pairing process and the strong, stable connection thanks to the inclusion of the H1 chip. However, despite the seamless integration of the Apple ecosystem, there isn’t an app to customize the sound, with only a few settings available through the Bluetooth settings menu. Battery life remains decent, averaging 5.3 hours of playback, with an additional 5 charges in the charging case.
The House of Marley Liberate Air earbuds are unique-looking and made with some sustainable parts, which we appreciate. But the earbud shape and smallish tips may not fit folks with larger ears. When we did get them to fit, the sound quality was decent, with balanced low and mid frequencies but somewhat sibilant and sizzling highs. Overall, we didn’t dislike this pair, but we loved other options more.
If it is important for you to have the AirPods’ easily recognizable white-stick design, either of the available models will work. (Apple has sold out of the AirPod Pro online until after the holidays, but some stores have them in stock.) The AirPod Pros look like little laser blasters or hair dryers outside the ear, but nothing revolutionary when worn. The AirPod aesthetic has a life of its own at this point. You can even buy an AirPod-esque “faux headphone ear piece” that doesn’t transmit music at all from online retailer Asos.
And you never have to reach for your device; intuitive controls let you switch seamlessly between two Bluetooth devices, change volume or tracks, and take/end calls. That means you can play music, receive texts, and get answers using just the headphones. With headphones engineered to deliver a better wireless experience, you can stay in the zone — whether you’re at the gym, the office, or anywhere in between.
We like that, once paired with your device, the Sesh earbuds will automatically power on when you remove them from the case, and they will connect to the most recently used device. Pop them back into the case, and they power off and begin to charge. As with our more expensive picks, you don’t have to give much thought to power and connection issues, which we can’t say for a lot of budget competitors.
One downside of the Powerbeats Pro is its large charging case, which is definitely not pocket-sized unless you’re partial to cargo pants. However, the Powerbeats Pro has a claimed nine-hour listening time and six-hour call time, so unlike with other true wireless earbuds, you may not need to keep the case with you all day long. In our wireless earbud review testing, at 50 percent volume level, our pair lasted well beyond the nine-hour mark, finally dying at two minutes shy of 12 hours. Of course, depending on your preferred volume level, your results may vary. Nine hours is pretty impressive compared with the results from most of the true wireless earbuds currently available, but with some of the newer Bluetooth chipsets slowly making their way to earbuds, we expect to see this longer battery life become more common in the near future.
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 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.
If you want truly wireless earbuds that are more suited to running or sports, get the Jaybird Vista Truly Wireless. They don't isolate background noise nearly as well as the Samsung Galaxy Buds Truly Wireless, but they have a better-built sportier design that's rated IPX7 for waterproofing. Their sound profile out-of-the-box is decent, but they're compatible with Jaybird's great MySound app for both iOS and Android which gives you access to an excellent parametric equalizer. Unfortunately, their microphone performance is poor and it'll be hard for the person on the other end of the line to hear you if you're in a busy environment due to its poor noise handling.