If you want in-ears that have ANC but can also be customized with your smartphone, then get the Sony WI-1000X. They have a more traditional in-ear design, so they’re not as comfortable as the Bose QuietControl 30/QC30 Wireless, but they feel much more durable and are highly customizable thanks to their compatibility with the Sony | Headphones Connect app. Their neckband is very rigid, though, and they also don’t come with as nice a carrying case as the Bose, which is a bit disappointing considering they’re generally very similarly priced.
The most important thing to consider is how you’re going to be using the headphones. If you commute, you probably don’t want open back headphones. If you’re going to be mixing movie soundtracks in a studio, you might not want a pair $10 in-ears. The audio market is exploding and there are literally thousands upon thousands of products out there. Chances are, there’s more than a few that are going to suit your needs perfectly and now that you know what everything means, finding it shouldn’t be too difficult. Happy hunting!
A: What you plug your headphones into can significantly affect their sound, and the quality of the amplifiers built into portable CD/MP3 players is generally awful. It's not their fault: the little guys have to power their electronics and their internal amplifier using a few puny volts. Even some of the better home AV receivers' headphone jacks offer highly variable sound quality.
The RHA T20 Wireless comes with tiny little screw-on filters that allow you to change the sound. This was a neat idea for analog headphones, but with digital EQ available, it seems silly, especially when the filters are so easy to lose. All of the choices had some flaws in the sonic balance in our tests. And then there’s the build: The remote has a metal panel, so it is a little heavy and can tug on the cable. The earbuds are detachable, but when you pull them off, the connectors can stick and lead to the cable ripping loose.
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.
One downside of the Powerbeats Pro is its large charging case, which is definitely not pocket-sized unless you’re partial to cargo pants. However, the Powerbeats Pro has a claimed nine-hour listening time and six-hour call time, so unlike with other true wireless earbuds, you may not need to keep the case with you all day long. In our wireless earbud review testing, at 50 percent volume level, our pair lasted well beyond the nine-hour mark, finally dying at two minutes shy of 12 hours. Of course, depending on your preferred volume level, your results may vary. Nine hours is pretty impressive compared with the results from most of the true wireless earbuds currently available, but with some of the newer Bluetooth chipsets slowly making their way to earbuds, we expect to see this longer battery life become more common in the near future.
These come in two types. The “closed back” models have sealed ear cups, which keep in more sound and muffle ambient noise. But they might also block out some things you want to hear, such as a doorbell or a ringing phone. “Open back” headphones have openings in the ear cups, which are intended to give the audio a clearer, more natural feel. They’ll let in more external sound, but noise can bleed out as well—perhaps enough to disturb someone nearby.
Whichever model you choose, make sure to use the included pouch or carrying case as often as possible in order to preserve the longevity of your earphones. Balling them up, shoving them into a pocket, and then untangling them each time you want to listen does more to wear them out prematurely than just about anything else. For more details, check out 5 Easy Tips to Extend the Life of Your Headphones.