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.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best Bluetooth earbuds and in-ear headphones for most people to need according to their needs. 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 in the US).
Besides the rugged factor, earphones are also much better for staying on your head while you're in motion. A good set of headphones will feel comfortable when you're sitting or walking around, but when you start running or biking they can easily shake free of your ears. Fitness-oriented earphones often have stabilizing fins built in to them to ensure that they'll stay in place no matter what you do at the gym. For the best options, check out our list of The Best Headphones for Running.
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.
While they sound balanced enough to be suitable for most people, some will find they lack a bit of bass. If you have an Android phone, you can boost their bass a bit with an EQ preset in their companion app, but iOS users won’t have that option. You can also only access button mapping from the app, so if you have an iPhone you won’t be able to access volume controls either. That said, they still perform very well overall even if you don’t have an Android device, and are easy to recommend in general.
Unfortunately, they aren’t the most comfortable headphones we’ve tested since they fit quite deeply into the ear canal. They do isolate quite a bit of noise, though, especially considering they have no active noise cancelling features. They’re a good choice for commuters who appreciate the extra isolation and are versatile enough to be suitable for everyday casual use, too.
These headphones rest on top of your outer ears and run the gamut from inexpensive portables to high-end home models. While on-ear headphones can have closed designs that cover the ears, some prefer fully sealed circumaural models (see below) for their increased sound isolation and the fact that they won't leak sound to neighbors. Still, the earpad headphone is preferred in places like office environments, where users still benefit from hearing the outside world.
Plantronics BackBeat Go 410: This affordable pair reduces a decent amount of noise, sounds pretty good, and fits comfortably. The flexible collar that connects the two earbuds is lightweight and comfortable, and it folds up easily into an included pocket-sized bag. The rated eight-hour battery life with noise cancelling activated (10 with ANC off) isn’t as long as we’d like, but it will get you through a long flight or a full workday. Unlike the vast majority of Bluetooth earbuds, the BackBeat Go 410 also supports a wired connection to your device (the charging cable doubles as a wired ⅛-inch jack) so you can keep using these earbuds when the battery runs out. However, the active noise cancellation won’t work when you’re using them in wired mode.
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 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).
These headphones hush ambient noise by creating anti-noise that obviates the noise at your ear. They don't eliminate the outside world, but the better models significantly reduce the whoosh of airplanes' air-conditioning systems. Noise-canceling headphones come in all forms, from full-size to earbuds. Since you no longer have to crank up the volume to overcome background noise, this type of headphone lets you listen at lower levels, which leads to reduced ear fatigue. You'll also hear more low-level detail in your music.
Earbud-style headphones range from the disposable models you get on a plane to the ones that are included with your smartphone to high-performance buds that offer sonics rivaling full-size models. Their tiny earpieces rest on the outer ear or need to be inserted into the ear canal, and some models, particularly sport buds, include wings or fins for a more tailored, secure fit.
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 like extra bass, the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless has it, along with easy-to-use touch controls. But the earbud chassis is pretty big, so small or medium-size ears may feel overstuffed, and there’s no water resistance. In our tests, consonants sounded especially sibilant, piercing, and artificial, and the EQ on the app was clumsy and confusing to use.
If you want in-ears that have ANC but can also be customized with your smartphone, then get the Sony WI-1000X. They have a more traditional in-ear design, so they’re not as comfortable as the Bose QuietControl 30/QC30 Wireless, but they feel much more durable and are highly customizable thanks to their compatibility with the Sony | Headphones Connect app. Their neckband is very rigid, though, and they also don’t come with as nice a carrying case as the Bose, which is a bit disappointing considering they’re generally very similarly priced.
The most important thing to consider is how you’re going to be using the headphones. If you commute, you probably don’t want open back headphones. If you’re going to be mixing movie soundtracks in a studio, you might not want a pair $10 in-ears. The audio market is exploding and there are literally thousands upon thousands of products out there. Chances are, there’s more than a few that are going to suit your needs perfectly and now that you know what everything means, finding it shouldn’t be too difficult. Happy hunting!
Each type of headphone has their own distinct advantages. What is right for you might not be the best headphone for someone else so before get into the list we want to give you some points to consider before your next purchase. If you just want to see the list of the best wireless headphones feel free to skip the next couple of sections and go straight to our top 10.
If the noise of urban life is keeping you from enjoying your music, then you should consider headphones with better noise isolation, like the Jabra Elite Active 65t Truly Wireless. They're bulkier than the Samsung Galaxy Buds Truly Wireless and may not fit everyone, but their noise isolation is one of the best on the market. If you need to momentarily hear your surroundings, however, you can do so without having to pause your music by toggling their HearThrough feature, which resides within their companion app, along with sound profile presets and a graphic EQ. The IP56 rating for dust and water resistance makes them suitable for sports, but a full submersion is definitely not recommended.