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.
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Audio-Technica has announced two new sets of true wireless earbuds: the Audio-Technica ATH-CK3TW and the Audio-Technica ATH-CKS5TW. The CK3TW offers six hours of battery life per charge, with an additional 24 hours of juice in the case, and is expected to be priced at $100. The CKS5TW promises 15 hours of battery life per full charge, with an additional 30 hours in the charging case, and features aptX, SBC, and AAC compatibility; that pair costs $170.
The Elite 75t uses a four-microphone array similar to that of the Elite 65t, but with upgraded wind-noise-reduction capabilities. When using the 75t in a quiet room, I sounded very clear to other people during calls and videoconferences. To test the wind noise reduction, I stood in front of a window air conditioner, put the fan on high, and called Brent Butterworth. Brent reported that he initially heard the sound of air hitting the mic, but when I spoke, the noise dramatically dropped in volume. In contrast to the experiences we’ve had with other headphones that employ this kind of technology, which can compress the sound of your voice, Brent said my tone sounded a lot fuller and richer through the 75t than through other earbuds he’d heard.
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.
You don’t need to worry about being caught in the rain, either, because these earbuds are IP55 rated, which means they can take dust, rain, and some light sweat without breaking. You can tote the Elite 75t to the gym if you are doing a mild workout; however, if you sweat heavily, you may want to consider our workout headphones pick, Jabra’s Elite Active 65t, which has an IP56 rating. Although Jabra backs the Elite 75t with a two-year warranty against water and dust damage, this wireless earbud model isn’t covered for intense sweating. The Active edition is more sweat and dust resistant, but those earbuds are a little bigger and have a shorter battery life per charge. If you want to read more about our picks for working out and running, check out our guides to the best workout headphones and the best running headphones.
For other people, Android fans say, it’s just as important not to rock anything that could even be confused with an AirPod. The safest non-Apple neutral look is the most common design: a black, roundish bud that doesn’t have any major protrusions. Amazon Echo Buds, Jabra Elite 75t, the black Samsung Galaxy Buds, and a number of budget options all have that same generic look. (Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos owns The Post, but we review all technology with the same critical eye.)
Although the Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 pair sounded good and came with a neat optional silicone carry sleeve for the charging case, we had difficulty getting the tips to seal, and the control buttons clicked loudly in our ears when we pressed them. The Melomania 1 also produced a noticeable latency delay that made watching videos on a device less enjoyable.
Unlike many true wireless earbuds we tested, the Elite 75t earpieces felt snug and secure, even when we jogged, jumped around, or shook our heads. They’re small and lightweight, and they won’t dangle, stick out, or fall out every time you move too quickly. With three pairs of ear tips to choose from, all of our panelists were able to find a combination that worked for them, even the folks with the largest and the smallest ears, who regularly struggle to find earbuds that stay in place. The Elite 75t earbuds are far less conspicuous than the majority of competing true wireless designs, which may be appealing for people who don’t want to draw attention to their earbuds.
Active noise cancellation uses outward-facing microphones to pick up and analyze noise, which then gets canceled out by circuitry that generates an inverse wave in the headphones. It was previously an expensive, cumbersome technology that couldn't be found on wireless headphones, but that changed a few years ago with advances in battery life and circuit miniaturization. You'll pay a premium for headphones with active noise cancellation, but it's a handy feature if you just want to tune out everything around you besides your music. For more, check out the best noise-cancelling headphones.
Surprisingly, many of these wire-free models can be used at the gym and even get wet, despite the fact that each earpiece has an exposed charging contact on the inside. Check the IP rating of these; some workout-friendly earphones are only IPX4-rated, so they can stand up to sweat but might be hard to wash. Others are IPX7-rated, which means they can survive getting rinsed and dunked.
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.
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.
Master & Dynamic MW07 Go: This pair offers a lot of positives. The earbuds are very comfortable and stable in the ears, and we like the separate volume and track controls, although the volume buttons are a tad small for those with larger fingers. The 10-hour battery life and 30-meter Bluetooth range are impressive for this category. The small fabric-wrapped case and the earbuds themselves feel well made. However, although the sound was rather good in our tests, the bass was boosted in a way that could veil male vocals on bass-heavy songs. And we wished the Go had a transparency mode so we didn’t need to take these earbuds out to have a conversation. But if those aren’t dealbreakers for you and you aren’t turned off by the $200 price, they’re solid earbuds.
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.
The Elite 75t set uses Bluetooth 5.0, so you shouldn’t encounter the frequent dropped calls or stuttering music issues that have plagued many older true wireless earbuds. In our tests, I could walk three walls away from my phone and not experience skips or drops. I even left my phone on the second floor and jogged down a flight of stairs and about 20 feet away to check the mail, and the Elite 75t didn’t drop my call. Of course, pipes, large metal beams, and other factors can affect your experience, but we were very happy with the stability of the connection inside, outside, and even in interference-prone areas like the gym and subway.
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.
All of that is in addition to the two-year warranty against manufacturing defects, plus water, sweat, and dust damage. With its IP55 rating (for more, see our video on water resistance ratings), the Sesh can take rain, sweat, and the dust kicked up from a desert-canyon hike. For occasional gym sessions, the Sesh will work just fine, especially if the earbuds fit your ears securely. That said, we worry that especially high-impact workouts will slowly cause the Sesh earbuds to begin to wiggle loose from your ear, and the sealed design isn’t ideal for outdoor running safety. For regular workout earbuds, we prefer one of our gym headphones or running headphones picks.
For calls, the Jabra Elite 75t packs four different microphones for noise cancelation to make your voice crystal clear to whoever’s on the other end. Using them for workouts? Jabra throws in three extra pairs of silicone tips to help you secure a perfect fit. And with an IP55 rating, you can let a little rain or sweat hit them without worrying about electrical failures, making them an excellent choice for runners and gym rats alike.