Bose’s QuietControl 30 offers excellent noise cancellation and is clearly built to last, but if noise reduction isn’t your top priority, you’ll likely be better served by other options. In our tests, the sound quality was good but a little dull. You can’t use a cord to listen, so if you fly a lot and use in-flight entertainment, you’re out of luck.
The lighter-inspired metal charge case of the Klipsch T5 is snazzy but heavy in a pocket. We found that the T5 sounded quite good, but the Klipsch signature oblong tips didn’t hold the earbuds securely enough in our panelists’ ears: After we yawned or spoke, the T5 earbuds started to slide out of our ears, and Brent (who has large ear canals) couldn’t get a seal at all.
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.
So they decided to build on the popularity and make them wireless and what you have is one amazing headphone. The build quality is excellent and they are one headphone you are sure can take a beating. The sound is punchy and controlled and the bass can hit really hard when it needs to making them an excellent choice for electronic, rap and pop genres.
This varies with headphones, but in general the larger over-ears are better at achieving this than smaller in-ears because the sound has a chance to bounce around your ear before reaching your eardrum. Earbuds pump sound directly into your ear, so there isn’t much room for sound to move around and create the illusion of space. This kind of leads into the next topic.
There’s no shortage of options in the realm of true wireless earbuds. Bose was one of the earliest participants in this growing category, and though superior products have since hit shelves, the Bose SoundSport Free are still worth a nod. You’re not getting QuietComfort II levels of audio fidelity here, but the SoundSport Free feature the warm bass response that the brand has become known for. They’re also big, but a positive byproduct of their size is that there’s more surface area to show off the four cool styles you can buy them in, including Blue, Black, Bright Orange, and Ultraviolet.
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.
Although these earbuds are fairly well-balanced and suitable for a variety of genres, the bass can sound a bit muddy and the treble lacks detail. Unfortunately, being wired earphones, there isn't a companion app for further customization or other features such as active noise cancellation. That being said, the passive isolation is passable and quite effective at blocking out speech and higher frequencies. If all you need is a simple wired pair without the hassles of wireless earphones, these are the best wired earbuds we’ve reviewed so far.
Yes, the Powerbeats Pro's jumbo charging case with its built-in battery is a notable drawback. But incorporating all the features that make Apple's AirPods great while delivering richer sound and better battery life in a design that won't fall out of your ear is a winning proposition. Just make sure you buy them somewhere that has a good return policy in case you're in the small minority that has ears that aren't quite a match for them.
Earphones (or earbuds, or in-ear headphones) offer a slightly different sound profile compared with conventional headphones. Generally, you'll get better sound from a full set of "cans" around your head than from buds in your ears, but in-ear sound quality has improved a great deal. More importantly, in-ear headphones are much more likely to be water resistant, and much better suited for use when working out. Get a good sweat going, and you'll turn your headphone earpads into a nasty mess. For our top picks, check out the best earphones and the best headphones for running.
Preferences for the length of headphone cables vary for portable users, especially depending on where you prefer to wear your device: a backpack or a pants pocket necessitates a longer cable, while you'll opt for a short one when wearing a player on a neck lavalier or an armband. But a cable length at either extreme need not be a fatal flaw: extension cables can lengthen those that are too short, and cable wraps can tighten up ones that are too long.
Newer models manage to strike a balance between operability and layout. Some use actual tactile buttons to control playback, call management, track navigation, and volume. Some others cleverly divide controls between the two earpieces with touch panels—tapping the left ear, for instance, will skip a track backward, while tapping the right will skip forward. Despite needing to do a little more thinking before you tap, eventually the division of controls between the two earpieces reveals itself to be intuitive. So on-ear control panels are getting more creative and user-friendly, but there's still a ways to go before they catch up with traditional wireless models.
If you have your heart set on true wireless earbuds and don’t want to pay $100 or more, we recommend the Skullcandy Sesh pair. These earbuds have a fun, bass-forward sound, a comfortable fit, water resistance, and easy-to-use controls—all for a typical price around $60. We also love that the pair comes with a two-year warranty and Skullcandy’s Fearless Use Promise, which means if you lose or break one earbud, you pay to replace only that part, and the company will ship you a completely new pair. The three-hour battery life per charge isn’t amazing, but you can get three more full charges from the included case, which is small enough to fit in a pocket.
Although the Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 pair sounded good and came with a neat optional silicone carry sleeve for the charging case, we had difficulty getting the tips to seal, and the control buttons clicked loudly in our ears when we pressed them. The Melomania 1 also produced a noticeable latency delay that made watching videos on a device less enjoyable.
These are typically lighter than over-ear models, and they press on the ears instead of the sides of your head. Some users find them to be more comfortable than over-ear models and less likely to make their ears hot during long listening sessions. On-ear headphones, like over-the-ear, also come in open-back and closed-back varieties, but regardless, they often let in more outside sound because they typically don’t form as tight of a seal with the ear. Some can fold for storage and come with carrying pouches.
A: Absolutely not... unless you're just looking for an excuse to try something new. But if you're not made of money, you can always hit up the manufacturer for a pair of replacement tips. Most earbuds only come with one set of each size, so losing one can be annoying. If you're in an experimental mood, Comply offers aftermarket tips that fit your brand and come in a variety of materials.
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.
1More Dual-Driver BT ANC In-Ear Headphones: These earbuds have a traditional neckband-style design, and the active noise cancelling has two modes: one that’s more intense for use on planes and one that’s less so for commuting. A hear-through mode allows for easy conversation without your having to pull the earbuds from your ears. The flexible neckband coils up for easy storage in a pocket. Unlike many Bluetooth ANC earbuds, this 1More pair also works corded via an included cable (and the noise cancellation still works in corded mode), which makes it a great option for use with in-flight entertainment systems. In our tests, the tuning was a little unnaturally boosted in the treble and bass, but overall it sounded enjoyable. The seven-hour battery life is shorter than what you can get from other new true wireless designs, but a 10-minute charge gives you three hours of use, so you’ll be back in business quickly.
Even if they don't sound as magical as you'd hope a $249 model would, the AirPods Pro still manage to be a great pair of truly wireless earphones. That's largely due to their winning design and fit, improved bass performance, effective noise canceling and excellent call quality. Yeah, they're expensive at $250, but the good news is you'll use them so much you'll probably wear the battery down -- it does degrade over time and isn't replaceable -- and have to buy a new pair in 18 to 24 months if you don't lose them first.
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.
Sports headphones are among the most popular types of headphones and the best ones are now wireless. Sweat-resistant or even totally waterproof, they can be used at the gym or for running or biking. Some are have an open or semi-open design to let some sound in for safety reasons (so you can hear traffic noise). However, other models have a sealed, noise-isolating design.
If you're a music lover, chances are you're not happy with your phone or media player's bundled earphones. Most of the time, they sound pretty dismal. Some devices don't come with any earphones at all, but even the models that do include them tend not to offer a high-quality listening experience. Your music and video can definitely benefit from an upgrade.