Students appreciate the convenience offered by wireless headphones. Research your essay or fill out your study guide without being confined to your computer chair, or listen to some tunes and relax in your bed after a busy day of class. Call friends and family members back home without dealing with excess cords, or catch up on local happenings by listening to online news.
The strongest selling point of these earbuds is perhaps the ratio of quality to price. They boast 90-percent noise-canceling ability — a notable achievement given the numbers posted by other wired headphones on the market. Even if they don’t block out all ambient sound, the noise level is still low enough that it’s not distracting while keeping you aware of your surroundings. The audio quality is crystal clear, well-balanced and offers nice bass. As for design, the earpieces feel almost weightless in your ears — even after hours of use. This particular Audio-Technica model uses AAA batteries, which some might see as an inconvenience. However, considering the battery lasts for an incredible 60 hours of playtime, it’s not a huge issue in our book.
Here at Sound Guys our main goal is to help you, the reader, find the product that’s right for you. There’s a lot that gets discussed in our reviews and best lists, and if you’re new to audio it can seem a little daunting at first. In this guide we’ll be going over some of the things you should know before you buy a pair of headphones and what you should look for when it comes to picking the pair that’s right for you.
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.
1More Stylish True Wireless: This pair is a solid choice for those who have smaller ear canals or who have difficulty keeping earbuds in place. The multiple wing and tip options combined with a lightweight chassis make the Stylish True Wireless more comfortable to wear long-term than similarly priced competitors. At six and a half hours, the battery life is solid, too. After this pair’s release, 1More added the ability to control volume with the buttons, but you’ll need to update the firmware to take advantage. In our tests, the sound leaned toward being bass-heavy and blurry on male vocals; if not for that, we may have named this pair as a pick.
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.
There is a marked difference between our Editors' Choices in the true wireless category, and a typical tether-together wireless pair. You can get a good wireless (but not true wireless) set of earphones for $40. You can expect to spend at least twice as much for true wireless. The base price for most true wireless options thus far has been around $100, with the very best options costing as much as $200 or even $300, and some very strong budget contenders coming in around $50. This is not a cheap category, but it's gone past the early adopter premium if you know where to look. To get the most out of your purchase, check out 6 Ways You're Using Your Headphones Wrong.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best in-ear headphones and earbuds to buy for most people in each price range. We factor in the price (cheaper headphones win over pricier ones if the difference isn't worth it), feedback from our visitors, and availability (no headphones that are difficult to find or almost out of stock everywhere).
We found the Aukey EP-B33 earbuds comfortable to wear. Though they have three sound profiles to choose from, the options range from a bit too bass-heavy (which leads to dull-sounding male vocals) to a bit too much of a spike in the highs (so vocals have a sibilant, lispy quality). None of the options are terrible, however. These earbuds are a solid choice, especially if you can find them for $60 or less. They just aren’t quite as fantastic to use as our picks.
Anker uses graphene drivers here, which it says deliver a purer sound. You miss out on active noise cancelation, so they’re not ideal for noisy plane rides and such, but there’s a dual microphone array in each earpiece for improved call clarity. Intuitive touch controls allow you to answer calls, pause and skip tracks, and summon your favorite virtual assistant. The battery inside can go for up to five hours, and you’ll add up to 15 hours more thanks to their charging case.
Jabra Elite 65t: Our former top pick, the Elite 65t is still a fantastic choice, with solid audio quality, full volume and track controls, a five-hour battery life per charge (with 10 additional hours when you include the case), and very clear phone calls. However, the new Elite 75t ups the ante with longer battery life per charge, a smaller form, simpler controls, better microphone wind-noise cancellation, and a slightly smaller charge case. If those moderate feature upgrades aren’t worth the additional cash to you, the 65t is still highly recommendable, especially if the price is under $120.
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 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.
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.
The House of Marley Liberate Air earbuds are unique-looking and made with some sustainable parts, which we appreciate. But the earbud shape and smallish tips may not fit folks with larger ears. When we did get them to fit, the sound quality was decent, with balanced low and mid frequencies but somewhat sibilant and sizzling highs. Overall, we didn’t dislike this pair, but we loved other options more.
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.
The former king of true wireless noise-canceling earbuds, the Sony WF-1000XM3, finally met their match in Apple’s AirPods Pro, but they remain tops among this growing sector. A longtime juggernaut of audio supremacy, Sony’s mastery took another leap with these buds, which offer noise cancelation in a sleek package. They aren’t as nimble as the AirPods Pro, but the added bulk in the WF-1000XM3’s chassis makes room for a slightly bigger battery, which allows Sony to advertise six-hour uptime.
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.
As for design, these earbuds feature a lightweight aluminum construction that is designed to fit comfortably in your ear canals. The cord itself is four feet long and has both a microphone and a three-button remote for controlling your music. Better yet, 1MORE claims to have collaborated with music industry veteran and sound engineer Luca Bignardi to get the sound just right.
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 active noise cancellation is decent, but it’s not adjustable at all and may cause “eardrum suck” for some people (you can read more about this phenomenon in our best noise-cancelling headphones guide). Because of the vented earbud design, the Pro earbuds don’t provide much noise isolation without the ANC activated, but they still produce some mild occlusion effect. With battery life of four and a half hours, they won’t last a cross-country flight or a full workday without a charging break. The Pro earbuds are water resistant, but the design is far less secure for high-impact activities than that of the Powerbeats Pro and less durable than that of the IP55-rated Jabra Elite 75t. While we like that Apple did away with the tap-based controls, the squeeze controls are fiddly (we often play/paused when we wanted to skip tracks) and still lack volume controls (which both the Jabra Elite 75t and Powerbeats Pro have).
As for Bluetooth pairing, you won't find an easier pairing process than with the AirPods or the Powerbeats Pro (if you have an iOS device), which essentially do all the work for you the second you turn them on thanks to Apple's H1 (or older W1) headphone chip. Other pairs are still relatively simple to connect in your phone's Bluetooth settings menu.
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.
Our panel evaluated each pair’s sound quality, ease of use, fit, and comfort and then ranked their top three picks. I then took those favorites and tested the microphones over phone calls in both quiet and noisy areas via a voice-recorder app. I checked the Bluetooth signal reliability by wandering a good distance away from my phone, putting it in a pocket or bag, walking outside, and going several rooms away. And, of course, we tested battery life to make sure that the actual use time lined up with each manufacturer’s claim. Once we had a sense of how each set of headphones performed, we took price and extra features into account and then chose our final winners.
These are typically lighter than over-ear models, and they press on the ears instead of the sides of your head. Some users find them to be more comfortable than over-ear models and less likely to make their ears hot during long listening sessions. On-ear headphones, like over-the-ear, also come in open-back and closed-back varieties, but regardless, they often let in more outside sound because they typically don’t form as tight of a seal with the ear. Some can fold for storage and come with carrying pouches.
The tech-speak description for this type of headphone is "circumaural," which includes any headphones with earcups that fully enclose your ears. Because of their size and their acoustic isolation, full-size headphones are often considered to be better-suited to home use rather than as a portable option, but the recent popularity of full-size, noise-canceling Beats headphones are challenging the rule.
If you don’t like the cumbersome design of over-ear headphones and prefer headphones with a smaller footprint, earbuds and in-ears can be a good choice. But if you don’t like having a wire going to your phone and prefer the freedom of wireless technology (or maybe your phone doesn’t even have an audio jack), wireless earbuds and in-ears are even better.
Earphones (or earbuds, or in-ear headphones) offer a slightly different sound profile compared with conventional headphones. Generally, you'll get better sound from a full set of "cans" around your head than from buds in your ears, but in-ear sound quality has improved a great deal. More importantly, in-ear headphones are much more likely to be water resistant, and much better suited for use when working out. Get a good sweat going, and you'll turn your headphone earpads into a nasty mess. For our top picks, check out the best earphones and the best headphones for running.
Although their control scheme provides all the essential functions, the buttons are very stiff, which makes them difficult to use. They’re also rather bulky: the earbuds themselves protrude quite a bit of out the ears and their charging case doesn't fit in your pockets as nicely as that Anker SoundCore Liberty Air Truly Wireless. That said, they're the best Bluetooth earbuds for sound and are a very good choice for those who want something durable without compromising on sound quality.