The Sesh does a lot of great things for the price, but battery life isn’t one of them. Three hours per full charge is on the lower end for true wireless earbuds, and about average for the sub-$75 price range. In our tests, at 70 percent volume, the Sesh just barely squeaked out the claimed three hours. Of course, taking calls, pausing your music, and using different volume levels will affect the performance, and the charge case means you can always get more juice without plugging into the wall. But in a perfect world, we’d like our earbuds to last a little longer.
The Ylife ST-BE18 clearly sport that ultra-affordable look. They’re not at all ugly, though, and the build is simple and effective. You also shouldn’t have much of an issue finding a comfortable fit thanks to their light weight and interchangeable silicon tips. Past discounts drove the Ylife ST-BE18’s cost down as low as $35, which is an easy decision considering everything they have.
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.
While the JLab JBuds Air Executive isn’t as good as the Jabra Elite 75t or the Beats Powerbeats Pro, it is solid for the price. The microphones are quite clear for calls, the six-hour battery life between charges is good, and the diminutive charge case’s built-in USB cable is handy. However, we found that these earbuds didn’t feel as secure in our ears as our top picks, the sound was somewhat blurry in the lower ranges, the “hear through” option had a slight delay and a compressed sound that could be off-putting, and the touch controls were easy to trigger when we were adjusting the earbuds in our ears.
The Sennheiser Momentum battery life now seems laughable at just four hours, but seeing as they were rookies in a then-infantile market, it’s understandable. You also only get an extra eight hours from a case that’s bulky, but fashionable. That said, the earbuds themselves don’t stick out much, and they can handle a little sweat and rain if you’re wearing them out on a run.
We use the term “home/studio-style” to describe the typically larger headphones that look like earmuffs, with two ear cups connected by an adjustable headband. Many are corded, with 3- to 8-foot wires—so they can be connected to an audio source such as a receiver or TV. Some fold for storage and come with carrying pouches. There are also battery-powered, wireless models—which use Bluetooth or other technology to connect to a smartphone and other devices without the cord.
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.
The Master & Dynamic MW07 Plus is the second generation of the company's MW07. It features greatly increased battery life (10 versus 3.5 hours), Bluetooth 5.0 and active noise-cancellation with two microphones on each bud. It may not fit everyone's ear equally well, but they certainly have a distinct look, as well as very good sound and a great listening experience if you can get a tight seal. These in-ear headphones are known for more of an audiophile sound profile, with smooth, well-balanced sound and well-defined bass, and the MW07 Plus delivers that kind of sound.
First, let’s start with the basics and take a look at the major types of headphones. You’re probably already aware of these and if you’re not, keep reading. We’ll go through some of the pros and cons of each kind of headphone so you can understand which one would best suit you. It’s worth mentioning that there are always exceptions to the rules so these pros and cons apply to most, but not all of the products in any particular category.
Closed-back headphones are probably the ones that are most familiar. The drivers in closed back headphones are enclosed in the ear cup save for the part facing your ear. This way sound bounces around but has nowhere to go but into your ear. These types of headphones are good if you don’t want outside noise entering the ear cup, and also if you don’t want the person next to you hearing your music (which is called sound leakage). This makes it a great option for commuters or anyone using headphones in a public setting, like an office.
The Skullcandy Sesh finds the sweet spot between low price and solid performance. Most true wireless earbuds under $75 come saddled with a bunch of inconveniences—problems such as signal drop, interference, terrible sound quality, uncomfortable fit, wonky (or absent) controls, and shoddy craftsmanship, all of which tend to negate the feeling of freedom that completely wireless earbuds promise. But the Sesh won’t compromise your enjoyment, thanks to its simple controls, comfortable fit, reliable Bluetooth connection, decent sound, IP55 dust/sweat/water resistance, two-year warranty, and unique earbud-loss replacement program. The only major downside is the battery life: At three hours per charge for this set, you’ll definitely have to bring the charge case, which provides seven additional hours of battery life and is small enough to fit in most jeans pockets.
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.
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.
Be sure to assess the build quality of your prospective headphones. Some earbuds and portable devices are relatively fragile, for instance. If the headphones fold up for easy storage, are the hinges robust, or will they fall apart in a month or two? Don't forget to consider that the earpads and earbuds will get extensive wear and tear over the life of the headphones.
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.
Sealed models are ideal for private listening, where you don't want the sound to be heard by other people. Open headphones -- such as foam earpad models and many sports designs -- are acoustically transparent and allow outside sound to be heard by the headphone wearer, and a good deal of the headphones' sound will be audible to anyone near the listener.
For those who want to make sure that their earbuds don't fall out during exercise, the Jaybird Vista Truly Wireless are worth considering. They don't have the battery life of the Samsung Galaxy Buds Truly Wireless, but the 5.5 hours of playtime should be enough to get you through your workout, with the charging case providing an extra 2 charges should you run low. They come with a selection of tips and fins to help you get the most secure fit, so you can focus on your workout and forget you even have them on. As always, these earbuds are compatible with Jaybird's great companion app, which lets you tune the sound to your liking, from presets to a parametric EQ, to even sound profiles created by other users.