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.
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.
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.
The Phiaton BT 150 NC offers a lot to like, including retractable earbuds, easy-to-use swipe controls, and a lightweight, comfortable neckband. The sound quality was better than that of most earbuds in this range. Plus, this set offers decent ANC and the ability to work with a cord. But the neckband felt flimsy to us and doesn’t fold up, which can be a hindrance when you’re traveling.
The best sounding wireless earbuds that we’ve tested so far are the Bose SoundSport Free. These sports-oriented truly wireless headphones feel very well-built and have a comfortable earbud fit. They have outstanding audio reproduction and sound slightly more spacious than most wireless earbuds thanks to their semi-open design. They provide nearly 5 hours of continuous playback, which is pretty good for truly wireless headphones, and they have a convenient auto-off timer to help save power when not in use.
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.
With no cable coming between you and your favorite tracks, Sennheiser’s top-notch wireless headphones will be sure to satisfy everyone, even the most demanding audio connoisseurs. While lossless digital RF-transmission is perfect for high-end home stereo use, Bluetooth®-equipped models work great with mobile devices. Reliable and easy to handle, Sennheiser’s wireless headphones really unleash the joy of sound.
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.
Brent Butterworth really liked the EarFun Free pair’s sound and fit. And the rest of us do too. For the price, the audio quality is pretty fantastic, with clear highs and slightly boosted lows that don’t blur the mids, giving a nice sense of space to music. The fit is comfortable, as well. The control buttons are quiet, but when you press them, they can cause the earbuds to push into your ear in a mildly uncomfortable way. The real problem is that we tested five pairs, and three had technical issues. EarFun representatives said that the first samples we received may have been left over from its Kickstarter campaign, but this was enough of a concern for us to hold off on making these earbuds a budget pick.
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Although there’s no noise cancelation, Samsung includes an Ambient Aware mode to let sound in when appropriate, and you can use Quick Ambient with touch controls to enable or disable the feature whenever you want. As for battery life, expect to get about six hours per charge out of these. The included battery case — which itself interfaces with a wireless charging pad if you have one — adds enough juice for double the listening time. If you’re planning on using the Galaxy Buds for workouts, note that they only have an IPX2 rating, meaning there’s only water protection against light splashes and sweat, and nothing for dust.
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.
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.
Amazon Echo Buds: These earbuds will appeal to folks who primarily rely on the Amazon ecosystem. When they’re connected to your phone, the Echo Buds’ always-listening Alexa function makes them an Echo device you can wear. But unlike other Alexa-enabled devices we’ve tested in the past, the Echo Buds avoid duplicating voice requests when you’re near other Echo devices. They’re also solid earbuds: Their size is small and they’re comfortable to wear, the sound quality is good, the controls are easy to use, and the price is reasonable. You can use each bud independently, and music pauses automatically when you remove one or both earbuds. They get a respectable five hours of battery life when fully charged, and the case provides an additional 15 hours of playback. The downsides are that you must leave the Alexa app open on your phone for Alexa to function, and the earbuds lack physical volume controls. The Bose noise reduction will diminish the low hum of an air conditioner or plane, but it isn’t as powerful as the noise cancellation you get with the Bose 700 headphones on the highest setting. (We’d say it’s about half as effective, which might be good news for those who are prone to “eardrum suck.”)
1More Dual-Driver BT ANC In-Ear Headphones: These earbuds have a traditional neckband-style design, and the active noise cancelling has two modes: one that’s more intense for use on planes and one that’s less so for commuting. A hear-through mode allows for easy conversation without your having to pull the earbuds from your ears. The flexible neckband coils up for easy storage in a pocket. Unlike many Bluetooth ANC earbuds, this 1More pair also works corded via an included cable (and the noise cancellation still works in corded mode), which makes it a great option for use with in-flight entertainment systems. In our tests, the tuning was a little unnaturally boosted in the treble and bass, but overall it sounded enjoyable. The seven-hour battery life is shorter than what you can get from other new true wireless designs, but a 10-minute charge gives you three hours of use, so you’ll be back in business quickly.
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.
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.
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.
Unfortunately, these earbuds come with a proprietary charging cradle that’s a bit restrictive, since it means you can’t just borrow a friend’s micro-USB cable if you leave yours at home. They also can’t connect to two devices simultaneously like the regular Jaybird Tarah Wireless can. That said, they’re still a solid upgrade on the regular model, especially in terms of battery life. They’re well-rounded wireless in-ears that are not only the best wireless earbuds for running that we’ve reviewed so far, but they're also versatile enough for more casual use.
The Monoprice True Wireless Plus Earphones (38542) are fine but a bit overpriced for what they give you. We found that the controls caused the earbuds to push into our ears a bit, which made the multi-click controls annoying to use. Male vocals got somewhat veiled by the bloated bass, and high frequencies had a shushing quality rather than crispness, but the effect was not the worst we’d heard. Overall, this pair isn’t bad, but we’d like to see it cost under $50.
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.”