Surprisingly, many of these wire-free models can be used at the gym and even get wet, despite the fact that each earpiece has an exposed charging contact on the inside. Check the IP rating of these; some workout-friendly earphones are only IPX4-rated, so they can stand up to sweat but might be hard to wash. Others are IPX7-rated, which means they can survive getting rinsed and dunked.
If you have $250 to spend and like the Apple H1 chip’s initial pairing process, we recommend the Powerbeats Pro pair, which offers great sound, better controls, longer battery life, and a more stable fit for transitioning to the gym. But if you really want noise cancellation, the AirPods Pro set is the better Apple-friendly choice. Ultimately, we still prefer the Jabra Elite 75t’s ability to connect to two devices (such as a laptop and phone) simultaneously, as well as its stable fit and lower price tag. In the end, we don’t dislike the AirPods Pro; we just like using other earbuds a little better.
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.
On the downside, their default sound lacks a little bass. Since their companion app is only available on Android, iOS users who are fans of bass may be a bit disappointed. They also don’t have onboard storage like the Samsung Gear IconX Truly Wireless, which are harder to find, and are only rated IPX2 for minimal water resistance. That said, the Galaxy Buds feel better-built and have far superior battery life. If they suit your needs, they’re fairly versatile truly wireless headphones that are worth considering.
If the Jabra Elite 75t is sold out or you own multiple Apple devices and want the easiest pairing experience, the Beats Powerbeats Pro set is a great choice. These true wireless earbuds use the same H1 chip as Apple’s AirPods, so you get the same fast, easy pairing and “Hey Siri” voice activation. Overall, the Powerbeats Pro earbuds are superior to the AirPods, adding full track and volume controls, water and sweat resistance, and a longer battery life of nine hours for listening (or six hours of calls). The buds stayed securely in our ears and sounded quite good, with only slightly boosted bass. However, the charging case is larger than we’d like (see the photo comparison below), the ear tips can make a crinkling noise when you adjust them in your ears, and at the original price of $250, the Powerbeats Pro is not cheap.
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.
Earphones can connect to your smartphone through a 3.5mm cable or wirelessly over Bluetooth, depending on the model. Wired earphones are generally less expensive, and you don't need to worry about keeping them charged. Bluetooth earphones are more convenient because you don't have to physically connect them to your smartphone, but they need battery power to work. For the most part, you won't find a 3.5mm port and removable cable on Bluetooth earphones; when they're out of power, they're out of commission until you charge them again.