If you aren't primarily looking for a set of wireless earphones for the gym, conventional headphones can offer a very good listening experience. You'll still have to choose between on-ear and over-ear models, however. On-ear headphones rest the earcups against your ears, but don't surround them. Over-ear headphones completely enclose your ears. Over-ear headphones block out the most outside noise and usually provide a more powerful, rich sound, but on-ear headphones are less bulky and distracting to wear when you're out and about. See the best headphones for more.
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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.
App-based customizations let control what the touch-sensitive surfaces on the earbuds do — changing volume or skipping tracks can both be assigned to the side you prefer. You can adjust equalization, find your headphones, and even pipe in sound from the outside world — which is especially useful during outdoor workouts or unfamiliar trips on public transit. Such an assortment of useful features makes Samsung’s Buds your everyday listening pal.
Master & Dynamic fit a 10mm beryllium driver inside each of the earbuds to deliver audio that could rival 50mm over-ears. Active noise cancelation keeps the unwanted noise out, but there’s an ambient listening mode if you need it. And on the call side, voices are clear thanks to two microphone arrays that help eliminate background noise. By far the biggest reason for owning them, however, is the ten-hour battery life, which is well beyond the average mark. The stainless steel carrying case only adds an extra 12 hours, but who cares when you have that much in the tank?
The best true wireless earbuds that we’ve tested so far are the Samsung Galaxy Buds. They’re more comfortable than most truly wireless headphones thanks to their low-profile design that fits securely without putting too much pressure on your ears. They come with a great hard charging case that easily fits in even the smallest pockets, and they feel well-built overall. They’re currently our best wireless earbuds for Android thanks to their compatibility with the Samsung Wearable app, great audio reproduction, and surprising 7.5-hour battery life.
The best cheap wireless earbuds that we’ve tested so far are the Anker SoundBuds Curve. They’re more comfortable than most in-ears we’ve tested, since their earbud tips don’t enter too deeply in the ear canal and they have an ear-hook design that ensures a stable fit. Their 13-hour battery life outperforms that of more expensive models, and they even come with a nice hard carrying case, which is a welcome addition at this price point. They’re also the best earbuds for bass that we’ve reviewed to date thanks to their exciting bass-rich sound.
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. Testing consisted of full AirPods Pro battery discharge while playing audio until the first AirPod Pro stopped playback. The drained AirPods Pro were charged to 100 percent, then audio playback was resumed until the first AirPod Pro stopped playback. This cycle was repeated until both the AirPods Pro and charging case were fully discharged. Battery life depends on device settings, environment, usage, and many other factors.
While the Bose QuietControl 30/QC30 Wireless have a good default sound, not being able to customize it may be a dealbreaker for some, especially if you have a varied musical taste; for those who want more customization, go for the Sony WF-1000XM3. Sony's mobile app is among the best on the market. The app allows you to pick a preset sound profile, manual tuning through the graphic EQ, apply room effects, and control the active noise cancelling feature, just to name a few. With a bulkier design and oddly large ear tips, it may be more challenging to achieve a good fit, making the Sony slightly less comfortable. Sony's ANC also tends to focus on the mid-range, great at blocking out speech, but may struggle when it comes to the low rumbles of bus engines.
You get an awesome 6.5 hours of listening time between trips to the included charging case, with three full charges in the case meaning that you’ll get up to 26 hours of playback before you need to hunt for the micro USB cable. Unfortunately, there’s no way to control volume levels — not an uncommon omission on some true wireless earbuds — and the built-in mics can’t be used to pass through external sounds, which is a handy feature especially when jogging through busy intersections. These are not deal-breakers by any means but are definitely worth keeping in mind.
Music fans will be happy to know that the Elite 75t’s sound quality is pretty great. In our tests, out of the box it offered extra bass intensity and a bump in the upper-frequency range that emphasized some consonant sounds. However, you can adjust the EQ in the Jabra app, and your settings are saved in the earbuds: Once you find your personalized sound, the Elite 75t stores it, so you don’t need to play your music through the app to get the extra bass or boosted vocals you prefer. We were impressed with the 75t’s depth-of-field representation, which added a three-dimensional quality in our tests. The vast majority of tested true wireless earbuds had a more compressed or two-dimensional quality to their sound.
Will Greenwald has been covering consumer technology for a decade, and has served on the editorial staffs of CNET.com, Sound & Vision, and Maximum PC. His work and analysis has been seen in GamePro, Tested.com, Geek.com, and several other publications. He currently covers consumer electronics in the PC Labs as the in-house home entertainment expert... See Full Bio
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If you're an iPhone user, it's worth considering a pair of headphones that use Apple's proprietary H1 (or older W1) chip. The chip makes Bluetooth pairing even easier—there's no need to open the Settings menu, as your phone automatically prompts you to connect whenever the headphones are nearby. The chip also makes for a more stable connection and increased wireless range.
We’ve tested just over 200 sets of Bluetooth earbuds to date, so we can’t list every competitor here in this earbud review—but we do keep notes. If you’re curious about a specific pair, feel free to reach out to our team with questions. Also, for gym headphones, be sure to check out our workout headphones guide, as we discuss a lot of sport-focused models there.
The RHA T20 Wireless comes with tiny little screw-on filters that allow you to change the sound. This was a neat idea for analog headphones, but with digital EQ available, it seems silly, especially when the filters are so easy to lose. All of the choices had some flaws in the sonic balance in our tests. And then there’s the build: The remote has a metal panel, so it is a little heavy and can tug on the cable. The earbuds are detachable, but when you pull them off, the connectors can stick and lead to the cable ripping loose.
The Elite 75t has a sealed, noise-isolating design that helps to block out distractions around you. But if you need to have a conversation or prefer to hear your surroundings, just single-tap the button on the left earbud—this activates “transparency mode,” which uses the mics to send external sounds through the wireless earbuds themselves. Using the free Jabra Sound+ app, you can set this action to either pause your music or continue to play it at a lower volume, which allows you to hear a mix of your music or call and the external noise. Additionally, the 75t protects your hearing, so if something very loud passes by, the transparency shuts off until the noise ceases rather than blaring feedback into your eardrums. (I found this out during a wind-noise test involving a hair dryer.)
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.