For all these reasons, the AirPods Pro are a solid choice for Apple’s products, especially the iPhone. But we’d be remiss if we didn’t point out that, in fact, every other pair of fully wireless earbuds work great with iPhones too. And you can found a pair that sound just as good as the AirPods Pro for a bit less money. It’s a big world out there, so before you just jump into the most obvious Apple pairing, we suggest shopping around a bit.
China-based upstart 1More blew our minds when we discovered how little the company wanted for the Triple Driver headphones, the first pair we’d ever heard from the brand. For this kind of build quality and performance, we’d expect to pay at least double. And while these aren’t wireless earbuds, if you don’t mind some strings attached, they more than make up for their wired constraints with sweet sound for the dough.
Just because the headphone jack is under attack doesn’t mean that you should give up on earbuds. It’s hard to beat the convenience of the best earbuds since you can roll them up and stuff them back into your pocket. You don’t get that kind of utility from over-ears. While the AirPods are convenient, they don’t sound nearly as good. Whether you want wired or wireless, we’ve got you covered with some of the best earbuds currently available.
Historically, many headphones had relatively high impedance, often over 500 ohms so they could operate well with high-impedance tube amplifiers. In contrast, modern transistor amplifiers can have very low output impedance, enabling lower-impedance headphones. Unfortunately, this means that older audio amplifiers or stereos often produce poor-quality output on some modern, low-impedance headphones. In this case, an external headphone amplifier may be beneficial.
JLab's affordable, wireless sport buds also offer great value for the money. They have a very comfortable over-ear clip and Cloud Foam tips, and are IP66 rated. (I ran in the rain with these with no problem.) They have a crisp, clear Bluetooth 5.0 connection and decent 6-hour battery life. I can wear these for up to two weeks of working out without having to recharge the case, which also has its own convenient included charging cable. As is typical with JLab's workout buds, the signature EQ is bass-heavy and upper ranges can sometimes sound a little frizzy. But as I'm running or hiking, I sometimes forget I'm even wearing them.
If the damage is done there’s nothing that can currently undo it. On the bright side, you can learn more about how hearing loss occurs by reading our explainer piece. You can still take care of your remaining hearing by limiting volume levels to 85dB. That’s the recommended limit for safe-listening, and because earbuds are much closer to your ears than the speakers at a concert it’s even more important to keep that limit in mind.
Anker is known more for its value headphones, but it's trying to step into more premium territory with its Soundcore Liberty 2 Pro earbuds, which carry a list price of $150. From a design standpoint, they share some similarities with Sony's WF-1000XM3, although this model doesn't have active noise-cancellation. Anker says they have large 11mm drivers combined with Knowles Balanced Armature, with up to 8 hours of battery life on a single charge (32 total hours of playtime with the case) and noise-cancellation microphones to help reduce ambient sound so callers can hear you better. They charge via USB-C and also support wireless charging.
However, the Bose 700 earphones have a much slimmer profile when folded up, and they have a few updated elements, including more integration with digital assistants, touch controls, and sensors for Bose’s “augmented reality” apps. Bose has kept some of the best-loved features from its older models as well, such as adjustable levels of noise cancellation, a monitoring mode to let in sound from your environment, and an advertised 20-hour battery life. According to Bose, call quality is improved as well, though CR doesn’t test call quality in headphones.
Will Greenwald has been covering consumer technology for a decade, and has served on the editorial staffs of CNET.com, Sound & Vision, and Maximum PC. His work and analysis has been seen in GamePro, Tested.com, Geek.com, and several other publications. He currently covers consumer electronics in the PC Labs as the in-house home entertainment expert... See Full Bio
We have been consistently impressed with JBL's recent offerings, and these headphones—designed in collaboration with Under Armour—are no exception. Our reviews editor Jeffrey Van Camp notes that these are probably best for people with medium- to larger-sized ears. They also don't allow an air gap, which can make music sound muffled if you don't adjust them. But they have a decent five hours of battery life and great features like TalkThru, which lets you lower the music and amplify ambient sound to talk to your workout buddies.
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.
Headphones are available with high or low impedance (typically measured at 1 kHz). Low-impedance headphones are in the range 16 to 32 ohms and high-impedance headphones are about 100-600 ohms. As the impedance of a pair of headphones increases, more voltage (at a given current) is required to drive it, and the loudness of the headphones for a given voltage decreases. In recent years, impedance of newer headphones has generally decreased to accommodate lower voltages available on battery powered CMOS-based portable electronics. This has resulted in headphones that can be more efficiently driven by battery-powered electronics. Consequently, newer amplifiers are based on designs with relatively low output impedance.
If you’ve already decided you want something for sports, jump over to our best running headphones guide. If you’re after something for home and office listening you may also be interested in our best wireless headphones guide. Or, if you salivating at the idea of a completely cable-free set of Apple Airpods Pro-style earphones jump to our best true wireless earbuds guide.
Balance armature driver: In a balanced armature driver, the headphone’s diaphragm is connected to the armature, with micro-vibrations producing the sound. Most balanced armature drivers are best within a specific frequency range, which is why many headphones contain multiple balanced drivers, with certain frequencies divided between drivers for full-spectrum sound.
Gaming headsets are headphones that have a microphone attached and allow users to speak to other people and hear them with the same device. In fact, gaming headsets have other practical applications as well. You can use them in business or personal situations when you want to speak to people on a computer using a video phone program or social media chat room. Although these work for music applications, they're more suited for conversational clarity.