Bone-conducting headphones - Bone conduction headphones send sound through the bones of the skull as opposed to through the ear canal. Most use transducers to send the vibrations through your cheekbones to your cochlea so your eardrums are free to take in sound from your surroundings. This type of headphone is used by many hearing-impaired people to hear the world around them and to listen to music.
These have a thin, smooth aluminum housing and triple flange ear tips so you can be confident that they won’t fall out. The minimalist design doesn’t allow any room for playback controls, but we’ll get these a pass. After all, these are specifically for professionals that work with audio, or anyone who doesn’t like to have an emphasis on certain aspects of the frequency range.
We run every pair of earbuds through a rigorous process over the course of several days. That includes playing them in all sorts of scenarios — be it on a bus, in the listening room, or at the office — and playing back from a wide array of sources. We know most people use their headphones with a smartphone, often with lower quality MP3 resolution tracks, so we test that, too.
If you don’t have time for a detailed breakdown of how codecs work, here’s the abridged version: they determine how data is transmitted from your smartphone to your wireless headphones. Different codecs make different compromises in quality and efficiency. SBC is the lowest common denominator of the Bluetooth codecs. Its support is required by all Bluetooth audio products.
The Galaxy Buds are Samsung’s bid for simplicity, and at that, they excel. Soft silicone eartips offer a great seal, keeping them snug in your ears and helping improve the bass response. The sound signature presnts warm bass and a detailed upper register that’s never sharp or sibilant. Their 6-hour battery life isn’t the best in the business, but it bests the AirPods, and that can be stretched out with additional charges stored in their wireless charging case.
The Anker SoundCore Liberty Air earphones look a lot like Apple's AirPods, but at $80 they cost about half as much, and they have a few notable advantages. Unlike the AirPods, the Ankers have an isolating design that will muffle some outside sound, and our testing shows their audio quality is significantly better, too. CR's technicians also note that they fit and stay in place better than many true wireless models.
In-ear headphones are like earbuds but are an upgrade to them. These headphones fit into the wearer's ear canal and stay in place with the use of foam or rubber tips. These tips are available in custom sizes so they can fit each individual wearer. When a proper fit's achieved, in-ear headphones reduce outside noise and deliver sound quality at about the same level as over-ear and on-ear headphones.