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.
If you don’t quite have AirPods money, Anker’s Soundcore Liberty Air let you fake the funk for a fraction of the cost. Don’t be mistaken, though — these budget earbuds pack quite a punch. The bass-heavy Soundcore Liberty Air even take after the AirPods design a bit with a golf tee of their own. Whether that’s enough to fool the informed is a toss-up, but regardless, you’re getting decent sound and features for your money.
If you're worried about durability or want something a bit cheaper, go with the TIN Audio T2. They can sound a bit sharp or piercing compared to the 1More Triple Driver, but they're cheaper and feel better built with solid metal earbuds and a detachable cable. They do a decent job isolating ambient noise, and they leak almost no audio, meaning you can turn them up without bothering those around you. While the earbuds feel quite stable in the ear, unfortunately they aren't the most comfortable and may not be suitable for those with smaller ears.
Active noise cancellation uses outward-facing microphones to pick up and analyze noise, which then gets canceled out by circuitry that generates an inverse wave in the headphones. It was previously an expensive, cumbersome technology that couldn't be found on wireless headphones, but that changed a few years ago with advances in battery life and circuit miniaturization. You'll pay a premium for headphones with active noise cancellation, but it's a handy feature if you just want to tune out everything around you besides your music. For more, check out the best noise-cancelling headphones.
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.
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.
Your choice of headphones is as much about your lifestyle (and even personal brand) as it is about your wallet. Some people buy different types for different uses—one, say, for working out and another for relaxing. The lines, however, are blurring. You’ll now see people on the street or on the train wearing larger models that used to be reserved for home use, while others are attached to their earbuds 24/7, even while watching movies or TV.
Unlike many true wireless earbuds we tested, the Elite 75t earpieces felt snug and secure, even when we jogged, jumped around, or shook our heads. They’re small and lightweight, and they won’t dangle, stick out, or fall out every time you move too quickly. With three pairs of ear tips to choose from, all of our panelists were able to find a combination that worked for them, even the folks with the largest and the smallest ears, who regularly struggle to find earbuds that stay in place. The Elite 75t earbuds are far less conspicuous than the majority of competing true wireless designs, which may be appealing for people who don’t want to draw attention to their earbuds.
Picking the right type of headphones is a highly personal decision. Many listeners are comfortable wearing insert-style earphones that fit in the ear canal or earbuds that rest in the bowl of the ear, but others find them irritating. Some users prefer on-ear or over-ear headphones, while others balk at their size or complain that they interfere with eyeglasses or earrings. Depending on what you plan to use them for, you may also want to consider buying wireless and/or noise-canceling models. Use this guide to help you find the type that suits your specific needs.
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.
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.
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.
One of the biggest concerns I hear from folks wanting to try true wireless earbuds is the fear of losing one bud. It’s a valid point: Most of the time, when you lose one earbud, you’re forced to buy an entirely new pair or pay a hefty-enough replacement price that you may as well buy a new set. Skullcandy’s Fearless Use Promise addresses this concern by saying that, if you lose or break your earbuds or case, you can return what’s left, and the company will ship you a brand-new set for the price of the broken or missing part. For the Sesh, an earbud sets you back $15 and the case is $20. It’s not exactly free, but it does help to relieve the anxiety of possibly spending $60 several times a year if you’re prone to misplacing things.
The Jaybird X4 earbuds came highly recommended by our testers for athletic purposes. “Runners will love the build quality, bass response, and snug fit,” revealed one reviewer. Our testers also liked the accompanying app, which one of our reviewers said has “really intuitive EQ controls and presets, ‘find my earbuds’ functionality, and even how-to guides.” On the other hand, if you aren’t looking to exercise with these earbuds, our testers warned the tight fit can be uncomfortable. Also, its sound quality had both pros and cons, according to one reviewer: "There’s a satisfying fullness and richness to the sound," he said, "but a heavy-handed use of bass seems to swallow up a lot of the detail."
Over-the-ear models are great for listening at home but could be too large to be easily stowed while you’re traveling. Sometimes smaller, more portable models sacrifice some sound quality, but they are definitely handy, and in-ear headphones are great for listening on the go. If you’ll be doing a lot of flying or you want to block out some sound from your environment, consider buying headphones with active noise-reduction technology.
Brent Butterworth really liked the EarFun Free pair’s sound and fit. And the rest of us do too. For the price, the audio quality is pretty fantastic, with clear highs and slightly boosted lows that don’t blur the mids, giving a nice sense of space to music. The fit is comfortable, as well. The control buttons are quiet, but when you press them, they can cause the earbuds to push into your ear in a mildly uncomfortable way. The real problem is that we tested five pairs, and three had technical issues. EarFun representatives said that the first samples we received may have been left over from its Kickstarter campaign, but this was enough of a concern for us to hold off on making these earbuds a budget pick.
You'll notice that most of our top picks today are completely wireless! Once part of an expensive and questionable sub-category of products, today’s best wire-free buds have evolved to deliver great sound, a reliable device connection, and enough battery life to meet the demands of most users. Most importantly, they're also priced competitively, making them more attainable than ever before.
JBL’s Under Armour True Wireless Flash, a workout pair, is lightweight, and the wings keep the earbuds stable in your ears. The metal case is heavy and likely won’t fit in your pocket during a high-impact workout without banging around painfully. The “bionic hearing” (ambient awareness) mode is great for chats between sets but causes the music volume to dip so much that you can’t leave it on all the time for outdoor-running awareness. This pair also lacks volume control.
The Jabra Elite 75t earbuds are a pleasure to use, offering all the benefits of traditional Bluetooth earbuds with absolutely no cords. An upgrade to our previous top pick, the Elite 65t, these are among the smallest, lightest true wireless earbuds we’ve tested, but their fit should still be secure for a variety of ear shapes. The controls are simple and comfortable to use. Battery life is listed at seven and a half hours of listening time per charge, which is about enough for a full workday. The charging case is small enough to fit in the coin pocket of a pair of jeans and provides an additional 20 hours of battery life. The earbuds sound great with music, and the microphones are remarkably good at reducing moderate wind noise while keeping your voice clear to your callers. If you need to brave the elements, the 75t earbuds are dust and water resistant (with an IP55 rating). They’re compatible with Google Assistant, Alexa, and Siri, and if anything goes amiss, Jabra protects the pair with a two-year warranty.
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.