The trade-off is that most wire-free earphones have inferior battery life compared with tethered models, forcing you to pop them in their charging case fairly often. Their small size also means on-earphone controls are generally limited, and their price is usually significantly more than similar tethered wireless earphones. Our reviews go into greater detail about these benefits and limitations, and highlight how certain models are starting to overcome these growing pains.
Music fans will be happy to know that the Elite 75t’s sound quality is pretty great. In our tests, out of the box it offered extra bass intensity and a bump in the upper-frequency range that emphasized some consonant sounds. However, you can adjust the EQ in the Jabra app, and your settings are saved in the earbuds: Once you find your personalized sound, the Elite 75t stores it, so you don’t need to play your music through the app to get the extra bass or boosted vocals you prefer. We were impressed with the 75t’s depth-of-field representation, which added a three-dimensional quality in our tests. The vast majority of tested true wireless earbuds had a more compressed or two-dimensional quality to their sound.
Some people say that products that produce sound above or below those frequencies are pointless, but that’s not necessarily the case. Sure, you won’t be able to hear those extreme frequencies unless you’re a bat, but when products have a slightly wider frequency response, l5Hz – 25,000Hz for example, it gives the sounds at the two extreme ends a little more room to breathe. In other words, what you can hear will sound a little better. That said, most people can’t even hear the difference if they’re looking for it, so it’s not the most important aspect of headphones to the average consumer.
As you may have guessed, open-back headphones are the opposite. They do not have their drivers enclosed in the ear cups. Instead they leave the driver exposed, so outside noise can pass freely into the earcup. Naturally this isn’t the ideal scenario if you commute or in typically noisy areas. The benefit of open-back headphones come when you use them at home or in a studio setting. Because they allow sound to enter the ear cups from the surroundings, the music has a much better soundstage. Of course, this also means that if you wear them out in public you’ll hear what’s going on around you fairly easily.
The best earbuds we’ve reviewed so far are the Jaybird Tarah Pro. Having sports-oriented earbuds doesn't mean you have to sacrifice on sound quality - at least that's what Jaybird is trying to prove. Not only are they one of the best earbuds for working out, with their IPX7 rating and secure fit, they're also one the best sounding pairs. They have a deep bass with clear mids, but the treble can be a bit sibilant and the bass slightly boomy. If this sound doesn't suit you, Jaybird provides an incredible EQ within their excellent companion app.
We like that, once paired with your device, the Sesh earbuds will automatically power on when you remove them from the case, and they will connect to the most recently used device. Pop them back into the case, and they power off and begin to charge. As with our more expensive picks, you don’t have to give much thought to power and connection issues, which we can’t say for a lot of budget competitors.
Wireless models are common and typically use Bluetooth, which has a range of up to 30 feet or so, to connect to smartphones; laptops; portable media players, such as iPods; and even some TVs. Over the past few years, some companies have released “true wireless” models, which don’t have a cable or headband that connects the earpieces. True wireless earphones are especially portable, but they often have a fairly short battery life.
Most of us are tethered to our devices for at least part of the day, listening to music on the go or watching videos on a tablet, laptop, or phone. Our headphones have become more than merely an accessory—they are practically an extension of ourselves. The right pair will let you listen to music at a crowded coffee shop or enjoy a late-night movie without disturbing your sleeping partner.
Traditionally, Beats headphones are known for their bass-heavy sound quality, which can range from “a bit much” to “completely overwhelming.” However, Beats has comparatively reined in the lows on the Powerbeats Pro, and this pair sounded pretty darn great in our tests. Are they completely neutral and authentic? No, but we found the extra bass boost pleasant, and it didn’t blur or reverberate. Higher frequencies such as consonants and cymbals were clear and didn’t pierce in our tests, though audio purists could accuse them of lacking some sparkle or detail. The effect was similar to that of a solid set of speakers with the subwoofer bumped up a smidgen. If that’s something you like, you’ll love these wireless earbuds. Overall, we think the sound quality is as good as the Jabra set’s; it’s really a matter of preference. The Jabra earbuds give you the ability to adjust the EQ, whereas with this Beats pair, what you hear out of the box is what you get.
Jabra engineers audio products almost exclusively, so it should come as no surprise that its Elite 75t earbuds rank among the best in wireless. There are lots of reasons to like the Jabra Elite 75t. They don’t sound the absolute best, but you may come to love Jabra’s punchy sound signature that bumps the bass just enough for a dance break. And there’s more, including 7.5 hours of battery life, a remarkable figure at their moderate size. The charging case can get you another 28 hours, with 15 minutes of USB-C charging being all you need for an hour’s worth of listening.
Sports headphones are among the most popular types of headphones and the best ones are now wireless. Sweat-resistant or even totally waterproof, they can be used at the gym or for running or biking. Some are have an open or semi-open design to let some sound in for safety reasons (so you can hear traffic noise). However, other models have a sealed, noise-isolating design.
Yes, the Powerbeats Pro's jumbo charging case with its built-in battery is a notable drawback. But incorporating all the features that make Apple's AirPods great while delivering richer sound and better battery life in a design that won't fall out of your ear is a winning proposition. Just make sure you buy them somewhere that has a good return policy in case you're in the small minority that has ears that aren't quite a match for them.
Additionally, the 75t offers dual-device Bluetooth connection, which means you can be connected to your phone and laptop simultaneously. So if you are listening to music streamed from your laptop and you want to answer a call, you don’t need to manually switch the Bluetooth connection from the laptop to the phone as you do with many other earbuds like the AirPods or the Powerbeats Pro. You can just answer the call, and the Jabra set will automatically swap the audio. And if you take the earbuds out of your ears, your music automatically pauses.
If you spend a lot of time commuting each day and want headphones to block out background noise, get the Jabra Elite Active 65t. They aren't as comfortable as the Samsung Galaxy Buds Truly Wireless, but they have much better passive sound isolation and better controls. They have a good amount of bass that isn't too overbearing, and their sound can be customized in Jabra's Sound+ app to better suit your tastes. The app also allows you to toggle Jabra's HearThrough feature, which mixes ambient sound into your music so you can hear what's going on around you, which is helpful when you're running outside and want to stay aware of your surroundings. Unfortunately, the earbuds are a little bulkier than other truly wireless headphones, which means those with smaller ear canals may find them uncomfortable and have a tough time finding a good fit, even with the different sized included tips.
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.
Apple’s original AirPods debuted to middling reviews and hilarious memes. The golf tee earbuds seemed silly in the face of more effective designs from competing brands. Yet despite their average sound quality, the AirPods and AirPods 2 have become badges of honor among Apple faithful. Enter the AirPods Pro, which improve on the original concept with a bevy of functionality and quality-of-life improvements. The biggest change that Apple touts is active noise cancelation, and rightfully so. This feature drowns out all outside noise if you’re looking for a break from the world. This is no doubt helped along by the new interchangeable silicon tips. Alongside added passive noise cancelation, the ear tips give you plenty of options for finding the perfect fit.
The biggest advantage that the Powerbeats Pro has over the competition is its ability to connect quickly to Apple gear. (Beats is owned by Apple, in case you didn’t know.) Since these earbuds are equipped with the same H1 chip as the Apple AirPods, they pair with Apple devices nearly instantly. Simply open the case next to your iPhone, and an icon asking if you’d like to connect appears on the phone screen. Tap, and you’re good to go. If you are signed in to your iCloud account, the Powerbeats Pro also automatically appears in all of the Bluetooth menus on your various Apple devices, so you need to pair to only one device. You can also use these earbuds with non-Apple devices, but in that case you need to pair them to each device individually. Switching from one device to another is a process similar to that of other Bluetooth earbuds or headphones.
If you're an iPhone user, it's worth considering a pair of headphones that use Apple's proprietary H1 (or older W1) chip. The chip makes Bluetooth pairing even easier—there's no need to open the Settings menu, as your phone automatically prompts you to connect whenever the headphones are nearby. The chip also makes for a more stable connection and increased wireless range.
As for sound quality, in our tests the Sesh outperformed the vast majority of true wireless earbuds in its price range. The bass was more intense and, especially with hip-hop, could sound a bit louder in the mix than you might expect, but it didn’t blur or muffle male voices like a lot of the competition did. The higher frequencies were a little rolled-off, so “s” sounds were a bit softer and had an airier “sh” quality rather than a sharp “s” quality. But overall, for a pair that typically costs $60, the Sesh sounded fantastic.
Many times you’ll hear someone refer to a pair of headphones as having a “flat” or a “neutral” sound. Basically this means that the headphones are reproducing the signal they are receiving from the source device with as little deviation from it as possible. It may seem like this is something that you’d want all headphones to do, but there are reasons why most do not.
Preferences for the length of headphone cables vary for portable users, especially depending on where you prefer to wear your device: a backpack or a pants pocket necessitates a longer cable, while you'll opt for a short one when wearing a player on a neck lavalier or an armband. But a cable length at either extreme need not be a fatal flaw: extension cables can lengthen those that are too short, and cable wraps can tighten up ones that are too long.
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.
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’re choosing earbuds over full-sized headphones, you’re already probably going to make some concessions when it comes to sound quality. Most often, earbuds tend to be thin in range, forfeiting snappy mids and piercing highs in favor of an overly bassy, monotoned low-frequency response. That’s where dual drivers come in. With a pair of RHA T20i earbuds, you'll get double the power of a standard bud, and because each driver is typically tuned to a different part of the spectrum, you tend to get better performance altogether.
Jabra claims the Elite 75t has a battery life of seven and a half hours per charge, which should get you through most of a workday. I personally got even more when I listened at a moderate volume and made only a few phone calls under 10 minutes each. Of course, your volume level and call duration could mildly impact your results. The charging case is petite enough to fit in a jeans coin pocket yet capable of providing an additional 20 hours of battery life. Even better, the earbud batteries have an initial rapid charge that gives you one hour of use after 15 minutes docked in the case. The case itself charges via USB-C.
The Anker SoundCore Liberty Air Truly Wireless are the best wireless earbuds under $100 that we've tested so far. Although they don't have the same fit and finish, they're decently well-built and should be able to survive a few accidental drops. Just like the Apple AirPods Pro, there are touch controls situated on the stem, as well as a microphone.
Bose is promising five hours of listening time on a single charge, which is just above the 4.5-hour threshold we feel is the minimum for a pleasant experience. You’ll get another 10 hours from the case, which isn’t great against today’s competition, but you can squeeze another 45 minutes of usage out of a 15-minute charge, and at least it only takes two hours for a full top-up. The Bose Soundsport Free have other neat features to justify its high-end cost, like NFC pairing with your iPhone or Android smartphone, IPX4 water resistance, interchangeable ear tips, and a tracking feature for finding lost buds.
A volume control is useful, especially if you’re sitting far from the source, such as a TV. Some controls are on the headphone’s earpiece, and others are on the cord. Some cords have a button that lets you answer and disconnect phone calls without even touching the phone. Some headsets offer full capabilities only with specific cell phones, so be sure a given headphone will work with your phone model.
The best wireless earbuds under $100 that we’ve tested so far are the Anker SoundCore Liberty Air. They’re versatile truly wireless in-ear headphones that are very easy to carry around thanks to their ultra-compact design. They have outstanding audio reproduction and deliver a balanced, neutral sound that caters well to music of virtually all genres. Their battery only provides about 4 hours of continuous playback, but if you put them in their case, they charge when not in use, so you can get up to nearly 16 hours of total battery life throughout the day.