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.
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.
Overall, the Powerbeats Pro is a solid pair of wireless earbuds. The biggest concern is the cost. At the original sticker price of $250, this set is $50 more expensive than the Apple AirPods with the Qi charger, $90 more than the standard AirPods, and $70 more than the Jabra Elite 75t. Although we believe that the upgrade in performance the Powerbeats Pro offers over the AirPods (or AirPods Pro) makes it a far better choice for hardcore Apple (or, let’s face it, Beats) enthusiasts, for everyone else we can’t quite justify the price enough to make this set our overall top pick.
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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.
The Skullcandy Push doesn’t come with large ear tips and wouldn’t seal for half of our panel. If you can get a seal, the Push earbuds are comfortable and seem to stay put in the ear well enough. However, the single-button controls are based on a series of taps, so it can be easy to accidentally pause when you want to change volume, for example, or to power down when you want to call up your digital assistant.
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. With Active Noise Cancellation and Transparency turned off, listening time was up to 5 hours. Testing consisted of full AirPods Pro battery discharge while playing audio until the first AirPod Pro stopped playback. Battery life depends on device settings, environment, usage, and many other factors.
If you have your heart set on true wireless earbuds and don’t want to pay $100 or more, we recommend the Skullcandy Sesh pair. These earbuds have a fun, bass-forward sound, a comfortable fit, water resistance, and easy-to-use controls—all for a typical price around $60. We also love that the pair comes with a two-year warranty and Skullcandy’s Fearless Use Promise, which means if you lose or break one earbud, you pay to replace only that part, and the company will ship you a completely new pair. The three-hour battery life per charge isn’t amazing, but you can get three more full charges from the included case, which is small enough to fit in a pocket.
You'll notice that most of our top picks today are completely wireless! Once part of an expensive and questionable sub-category of products, today’s best wire-free buds have evolved to deliver great sound, a reliable device connection, and enough battery life to meet the demands of most users. Most importantly, they're also priced competitively, making them more attainable than ever before.
Plantronics BackBeat Go 410: This affordable pair reduces a decent amount of noise, sounds pretty good, and fits comfortably. The flexible collar that connects the two earbuds is lightweight and comfortable, and it folds up easily into an included pocket-sized bag. The rated eight-hour battery life with noise cancelling activated (10 with ANC off) isn’t as long as we’d like, but it will get you through a long flight or a full workday. Unlike the vast majority of Bluetooth earbuds, the BackBeat Go 410 also supports a wired connection to your device (the charging cable doubles as a wired ⅛-inch jack) so you can keep using these earbuds when the battery runs out. However, the active noise cancellation won’t work when you’re using them in wired mode.
The necessary solution that (nearly) all of these designs share in common is a charging case. Each case protects the earpieces when not in use, and charges them simultaneously. Most of the cases carry two extra full charges, so you can recharge your earphones on the go. It's not unlikely that this weak aspect of the true wireless realm will improve to the point that it will no longer be an issue.
Wireless headphones are ideal for hardworking employees who need to handle client calls while organizing files and preparing documents. Bluetooth headphones also work well for employees in the construction field and workers who spend the day in a warehouse. Hands-free headphones help make the workplace safer because there are no stray cords to catch on supplies or cause employees to trip and fall. We have wireless headphones for your office or factory available from many reputable companies, including Kinivo, Sennheiser, Sony, and Motorola.
On the downside, their default sound lacks a little bass. Since their companion app is only available on Android, iOS users who are fans of bass may be a bit disappointed. They also don’t have onboard storage like the Samsung Gear IconX Truly Wireless, which are harder to find, and are only rated IPX2 for minimal water resistance. That said, the Galaxy Buds feel better-built and have far superior battery life. If they suit your needs, they’re fairly versatile truly wireless headphones that are worth considering.
The Sesh does a lot of great things for the price, but battery life isn’t one of them. Three hours per full charge is on the lower end for true wireless earbuds, and about average for the sub-$75 price range. In our tests, at 70 percent volume, the Sesh just barely squeaked out the claimed three hours. Of course, taking calls, pausing your music, and using different volume levels will affect the performance, and the charge case means you can always get more juice without plugging into the wall. But in a perfect world, we’d like our earbuds to last a little longer.
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.
The Sennheiser Momentum battery life now seems laughable at just four hours, but seeing as they were rookies in a then-infantile market, it’s understandable. You also only get an extra eight hours from a case that’s bulky, but fashionable. That said, the earbuds themselves don’t stick out much, and they can handle a little sweat and rain if you’re wearing them out on a run.