Testing conducted by Apple in February 2019 using preproduction AirPods (2nd generation), Charging Case, and Wireless Charging Case units and software paired with iPhone Xs 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%. Testing consisted of full AirPods battery discharge while playing audio until the first AirPod stopped playback. The drained AirPods were charged to 100 percent, then audio playback was resumed until the first AirPod stopped playback. This cycle was repeated until both the AirPods and charging case were fully discharged. Battery life depends on device settings, environment, usage, and many other factors.
The mic quality was quite good when we took phone calls in a quiet room, and it worked well for video chats. Beats has programmed in a sensor that dims the mics when you are not speaking to help reduce external noise, though outside they can still pick up noises around you when you are speaking. There is only very mild latency, so you won’t notice a massive delay between sound and video on your phone, laptop, or tablet.
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.
B&O had a lot of good ideas for the Beoplay E8, but the execution on all of them was off. The touch controls and transparency mode didn’t work well for us, and none of the EQ settings made the sound quality fantastic. At best, we got metallic, sibilant highs and a shallow soundstage that didn’t come close to what we expect from a $300 set of headphones. The Motion version costs $350 and has the same sound but adds water resistance and stabilizer wings.
Sennheiser accomplishes this with a mix of great sonic engineering and crystal-clear wireless transmission, including Bluetooth 5.0 and aptX for high-quality sound transference. The one issue we have with the Momentum (apart from the price) is the battery life of just four hours per charge. That falls below most of our favorites on this list, and the charging case only tacks on an extra eight hours — far below what you’ll get from Apple’s AirPods and some other top choices.
When we were running our tests, we noticed that, if we had no audio playing for a long while but kept the Elite 75t in transparency mode, the sound being piped in from the world around us would occasionally flutter off and on rapidly when our connected devices played a notification tone. The phenomenon lasted only a second or so and didn’t occur when music was playing or when we were on a call; as such, we weren’t overly troubled by it. However, since it wasn’t a problem we experienced with the Elite 65t, we think it shouldn’t be happening at all. We reached out to Jabra, and we will update here if the company offers a firmware revision that addresses the issue.
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.
Sony’s noise cancelation technology remains bar-setting thanks to the QN1e processor. Paired with Sony’s DSEE HX audio engine, little can compete with the sound quality coming out of the WF-1000XM3. You’ll get well-balanced sound out of the box, and there’s an adjustable EQ if Sony’s modest sound signature doesn’t vibe with you. The WF-1000XM3 are also intuitive. Using touch controls, for instance, you can disengage noise cancelation in either of the buds by holding your finger against it. Managing your calls, tracks, and digital assistants happens with just a few taps and swipes. Removal detection is also present, so your tracks will pause if one of the earbuds falls out.