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.

When it comes to headphones, getting the most ​value means getting the most features at the lowest cost. The TaoTronics headphones are clearly the winner, as they have active-noise canceling and a premium aluminum alloy construction that you’d normally associate with headphones that cost four times as much. The active-noise canceling can reduce background and ambient sounds by up to 30dB, but it only lasts up to 15 hours before the battery pack needs to be recharged. As for comfort, the headphones come with three pairs of earbuds and three pairs of ear hooks to help you find the right fit on your ears. If you need to make calls, these headphones work for that as well, thanks to the included a microphone. Keep in mind that because these headphones are less expensive, they may not have the same sound quality and noise-canceling prowess as higher-end models.


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.

Impedance: Generally speaking, the lower the headphones' electrical impedance (aka resistance), the easier it is to get higher volume. But here again, the low impedance is no guarantee of high volume capability; other factors can still limit loudness potential. Since many MP3 players have feeble power output -- the iPod is a notable exception -- smart shoppers should check the loudness before purchasing any pair of headphones. To be sure, listen with your player.
Our testers loved that these earbuds were both stylish and comfortable. According to one reviewer, “They fit perfectly. I can barely feel them, which is really good for long-term use.” Unfortunately, this pair may not be the perfect pick for your workout needs, with one of our testers noting that he heard some static when he moved around too much. Stick to the streets and the office and these earbuds should work well for you.
When it comes to headphones, getting the most ​value means getting the most features at the lowest cost. The TaoTronics headphones are clearly the winner, as they have active-noise canceling and a premium aluminum alloy construction that you’d normally associate with headphones that cost four times as much. The active-noise canceling can reduce background and ambient sounds by up to 30dB, but it only lasts up to 15 hours before the battery pack needs to be recharged. As for comfort, the headphones come with three pairs of earbuds and three pairs of ear hooks to help you find the right fit on your ears. If you need to make calls, these headphones work for that as well, thanks to the included a microphone. Keep in mind that because these headphones are less expensive, they may not have the same sound quality and noise-canceling prowess as higher-end models.
Will Greenwald has been covering consumer technology for a decade, and has served on the editorial staffs of CNET.com, Sound & Vision, and Maximum PC. His work and analysis has been seen in GamePro, Tested.com, Geek.com, and several other publications. He currently covers consumer electronics in the PC Labs as the in-house home entertainment expert... See Full Bio
Impedance: Generally speaking, the lower the headphones' electrical impedance (aka resistance), the easier it is to get higher volume. But here again, the low impedance is no guarantee of high volume capability; other factors can still limit loudness potential. Since many MP3 players have feeble power output -- the iPod is a notable exception -- smart shoppers should check the loudness before purchasing any pair of headphones. To be sure, listen with your player.

I'm not sure they sound quite as good as the Sony WF-1000XM3, but they certainly sound like premium true wireless earphones, with rich sound that includes powerful bass performance and lots of detail. Some people may have some quibbles over the fit -- I had to supply my own XL tips to get a tight seal and found the Anker's Soundcore Liberty Air 2 a little more comfortable -- but the Soundcore Liberty 2 Pro are a good value. They also work very well for making calls (they do a good job reducing background sound).  


Although we were able to find a sound profile that made us happy by adjusting the Elite 75t via the Jabra Sound+ app, we wished that the bass and treble had been a little more reined in right out of the box. Before we made our tweaks, we had found the bass to be a bit loud and the highs a touch icy. It’s not a huge deal, but it would’ve been nice to have a sound we loved without the need to make any adjustments.
With that in mind, we've included a range of styles and prices here. You're bound to find something that fits well, sounds great, and—above all—doesn't tie you up in knots. Once you've found the perfect pair, check out our five easy tips to extend the life of your headphones and six ways you're using your headphones wrong. And if you want to share your tunes with others, look no further than our favorite wireless speakers.
Built-in microphone/control module. If you’re not fond of pulling your phone out of your pocket, some headphones have control modules and mics on the wire or built into the headphones that let you do a number of things. You can answer phone calls, access Siri or Google Now, and control your music. Always check what the controls are and see if they match your preferences.
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.
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.
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.
There’s a high-quality braided cable connecting the buds, which have been designed to pivot so you can wear them both over or under your ears depending on your preference. That, paired with the three different silicone tip sizes, will ensure that you have a comfortable and tailored fit on these earbuds. The sound quality seems to be pretty good, though you won’t get the same premium response as you would from Bose or Shure. But you can use the accompanying Jaybird app to make EQ adjustments and otherwise adjust your music for optimal listening. As a pair of compact buds with high-end functions like quick-charging and waterproofing, these are all-around great wireless headphones to wear just about anywhere.
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.
Unfortunately, there have been reports that the neckband build quality isn’t the best, as the rubber casing starts peeling off after a few months of usage. The Bose Connect app also doesn’t offer many customization options and doesn’t provide an EQ, unlike the highly customizable Sony WI-1000X Wireless. Nevertheless, these are versatile, comfortable earbuds that are likely to please, especially for commute and travel.
The Bluetooth connection is solid; I got two walls away from my iPhone with no skipping or stuttering. Of course, pipes and metal beams can still cause issues because of the physics involved with Bluetooth, but with line-of-sight, the Sesh shouldn’t have signal dropout for at least 50 to 60 feet. It produces a very mild latency when you’re watching video, but not so much that dialogue looks dubbed.
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.
Fit is important for any pair of workout headphones and the wireless Jaybird X4 is super customizable for maximum comfort. The earbuds come with different-sized silicone and foam tips and fins along with a “Speed Cinch” that lets you tighten or loosen the cable hanging around your neck. You also have the option of draping the cable either under or over your ear, depending on your preference.
Speaking of the controls, the two earbuds have identical physical buttons: one volume button and one large multifunction button that handles play, pause, track toggling, call answering, and digital-assistant activation. Both buttons are easy to find by feel and comfortable to press. This stands in contrast to the experience with many other true wireless earbuds, which have buttons that click loudly or shove the earbud painfully into your ear canal when you depress them. Either Powerbeats Pro earbud will function alone if you prefer to use a single earbud like a traditional headset for calls or to better hear your surroundings.
The Cleer Ally Plus true wireless earbuds are said to have 10 hours of battery life between charges, plus 20 more hours of charge in the case. When we had a chance to look at the Ally Plus pair at the CES 2019 trade show, we didn’t find the size to be massive or obtrusive. The earbuds will be IPX4-rated, and they’ll cost $200 when they’re officially released in December 2019.
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 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.
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.
Earbuds rest in the bowl of the ear, outside the ear canal, though a portion might extend into the canal itself. Earbuds are fairly common because they often come with smartphones and portable audio players. Insert-style models are inserted into the ear canal, often forming a seal that can help keep out more extraneous noise. Most come with additional earpieces (canal tips) of varying sizes to ensure a secure fit.
Earphones might not be as eye-catching as headphones, but they can be much more convenient. Besides their size and weight, earphones are often more resilient than headphones when dealing with moisture. This is important if you want to listen to music at the gym. Earpads can get soaked and worn with a solid sweat, and they aren't built to withstand the regular, constant friction that comes with working out. Earphones can be built to be water- and sweat-resistant, and hold up much better to activity.
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