Total harmonic distortion: True, headphones with lower actual total harmonic distortion (THD) will sound better than those with higher THD. But the quoted THD numbers -- "less than 1 percent" -- aren't helpful in predicting sound quality. Listen to recordings of simply recorded acoustic guitar to assess the distortion of one set of headphones versus another. Some will sound appreciably cleaner than others.
The biggest advantage that the Powerbeats Pro has over the competition is its ability to connect quickly to Apple gear. (Beats is owned by Apple, in case you didn’t know.) Since these earbuds are equipped with the same H1 chip as the Apple AirPods, they pair with Apple devices nearly instantly. Simply open the case next to your iPhone, and an icon asking if you’d like to connect appears on the phone screen. Tap, and you’re good to go. If you are signed in to your iCloud account, the Powerbeats Pro also automatically appears in all of the Bluetooth menus on your various Apple devices, so you need to pair to only one device. You can also use these earbuds with non-Apple devices, but in that case you need to pair them to each device individually. Switching from one device to another is a process similar to that of other Bluetooth earbuds or headphones.
Stereo headphones have been around since before the first Sony Walkman, and that's roughly how long we've put up with tangled wires while listening to music on the go. That's long enough, if you ask us. Fortunately, this is where wireless headphones come in. They're convenient for any situation where you don't want to deal with dangling cables—especially at the gym. And now that many phone makers are ditching the headphone jack, wireless headphones are a good way to ensure compatibility with just about any new device.
At $300 (£279, AU$499), Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless are more expensive than Apple AirPods, Jabra's Elite 65t true wireless earbuds and the Elite Active 65t and Bose SoundSport Free wireless earbuds. But they sound superior to those models, with better bass and cleaner, more detailed audio. They also feature quality performance for making phone calls, with solid noise cancellation, and offer a generally comfortable fit, though they're bigger than the Jabras and stick out of your ear a little more. Their only significant downside is that they gradually lose their charge in the charging case and can end up completely dead after four days or so if you don't recharge the case.
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.
Master & Dynamic fit a 10mm beryllium driver inside each of the earbuds to deliver audio that could rival 50mm over-ears. Active noise cancelation keeps the unwanted noise out, but there’s an ambient listening mode if you need it. And on the call side, voices are clear thanks to two microphone arrays that help eliminate background noise. By far the biggest reason for owning them, however, is the ten-hour battery life, which is well beyond the average mark. The stainless steel carrying case only adds an extra 12 hours, but who cares when you have that much in the tank?
Some people say that products that produce sound above or below those frequencies are pointless, but that’s not necessarily the case. Sure, you won’t be able to hear those extreme frequencies unless you’re a bat, but when products have a slightly wider frequency response, l5Hz – 25,000Hz for example, it gives the sounds at the two extreme ends a little more room to breathe. In other words, what you can hear will sound a little better. That said, most people can’t even hear the difference if they’re looking for it, so it’s not the most important aspect of headphones to the average consumer.
If you are worried about replacing the batteries in your headphones, you'll be relieved to learn that many devices come with rechargeable batteries. Many devices remain fully charged long enough for you to finish a full shift of work, making it easy to finish all of your job-related duties without stopping to recharge your headgear. Not all wireless headphones come with a charging device, but we sell compatible models separately for many popular brands.
Jabra claims the Elite 75t has a battery life of seven and a half hours per charge, which should get you through most of a workday. I personally got even more when I listened at a moderate volume and made only a few phone calls under 10 minutes each. Of course, your volume level and call duration could mildly impact your results. The charging case is petite enough to fit in a jeans coin pocket yet capable of providing an additional 20 hours of battery life. Even better, the earbud batteries have an initial rapid charge that gives you one hour of use after 15 minutes docked in the case. The case itself charges via USB-C.
True wireless earbuds have become increasingly popular because of how light and unobtrusive they feel. As such, many manufacturers are now focusing their attention on releasing new earbuds in this style, which is why all of our best earbuds are true wireless. However, if you prefer a connected-earbud style, we recommend some traditional Bluetooth earbuds in the Other wireless earbuds we like section.
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.
Wireless earbuds are for people who want to listen wirelessly and who want their money to go toward convenience, sound, comfort, and call quality rather than other features such as heavy sweat resistance or the best noise cancellation. Whether you’re sitting at your desk, in a plane or train, or in the back of an automobile, any of these wireless earbud picks should offer a reliable way to transmit great-sounding music to your ears and a clear-sounding voice to your phone-call recipients. On- or over-ear Bluetooth headphones are also capable of hitting these points, but they can get in the way of glasses and are quite bulky compared with earbuds.
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.
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.
From cheap earbuds to the top of the line, in-ear headphones offer a lot of options for all situations, whether you want to use them at the gym, at the office, or during your commutes. Earbuds are ultra-portable and very convenient thanks to their small size and weight. While earbuds rest at the edge of the canal, in-ear headphones have special tips that are inserted into the ear canal.