Headphones should be easy revise. Compared to the myriad of other product categories that we review day in and day out, there aren’t many variables. Do they sound good? How is the battery life? What about noise cancellation? How do they adapt?
This last element is, of course, highly subjective, even more so than the others. And that points to one of the biggest issues with product review. Like the music we listen to on it, preference is a deeply personal thing. These are products that we often wear for hours, pressed intimately against our ears while we work, travel, exercise and even sleep.
As I’ve written of many times, I’ve never seen a category of consumer electronics grow as quickly as Bluetooth headphones, moving from novelty to convenience seemingly overnight. The truth is, most of them are pretty good.
As a rule of thumb, I often tell people to go with a pair from the company that made their phone. There is something to be said for a pair of products that have been effectively designed to work together. It is certainly a good starting point. But there are plenty of other variables to consider when purchasing a set of heads for yourself – or as a gift this holiday season. The sound, price, comfort, design, and size are all worth considering here.
Over the past year or so, I’ve reviewed more wireless headphones than any other product category (by a pretty wide margin). There is no one-size-fits-all solution among them – and probably never will be in this space. The following are some of my favorites in this booming and booming category. You can’t go wrong with any of them.
Apple AirPods Pro
Price: $ 249
Review: Apple’s AirPods Pro set an expensive new standard for headphones
Having just celebrated their third anniversary, Apple’s pro-level buds are a bit long in the tooth. But in terms of the overall package, they’re still the ones to beat. Sure, the company just introduced the third generation of standard Buds, with some new features that blur the line between models, but price aside, the Pros are still superior in many ways. That is, unless you have an aversion to silicone tips.
They sound great, are comfortable, have excellent noise cancellation, and work seamlessly with iOS devices.
Beats Fit Pro
Price: $ 199
Review: Leading the pack
Until today, I would point to the Powerbeats Pro whenever someone asked me for a good pair of workout headphones. And while the Fit Pro isn’t an outright replacement for this product, they did make it to the top of my list for the category. As someone who recently returned to running, I’m in awe of what Beats has been able to do in such a small category. I’ve had an aversion to stability wings after testing stiff, painful models in the past, but the company got things right here.
OnePlus Buds Pro
Price: $ 150
Review: Much better
After hitting with their first pair of Buds, OnePlus has done a lot more with the Pros. They don’t set the world on fire with any sort of technological innovation here, but they are a strong, well-rounded pair that won’t require you to take out a second mortgage. The Pros have good noise reduction, are comfortable, and as an added bonus, pump meditative white noise into your ears by squeezing the rods.
Samsung Galaxy Buds 2
Price: $ 150
Review: Samsung Galaxy Buds 2
Unlike the rest of the Galaxy lineup, Samsung’s Buds aren’t flashy. And, honestly, that’s good. They’re compact, sturdy, and get the job done. Like the OnePlus Buds Pro, they don’t push any limits, but they’re a great pair of buttons at $ 150, with adaptive noise cancellation. They work particularly well with other Samsung devices, so if you’re in the Galaxy ecosystem, these are probably the ones for you.
Price: $ 280
Test: Sony sets a new standard with the WF-1000XM4 headphones
Not for the faint of heart – or the wallet – Sony has returned with another set of truly excellent audiophile headphones this year. They tend towards the bigger, bulkier side of things so I wouldn’t recommend going there, but if you’re looking for a pair of heads for, say, enjoying a good live jazz record, these really are. hard to beat. With their predecessors, the WF-1000XM3 and the confusingly named WH-1000XM3 / 4 on-ear phones, Sony continues to set the standard for great-sounding headphones.
Nothing Ear (1)
Price: $ 100
Review: something interesting
Honorable mentions for a pair of jokers / outsiders for those looking outside the big cos. Nothing made a well-built pair of heads at a good price. They also look of the room, with a clever, semi-transparent design language. I had some connectivity issues early on, although the company largely addressed this issue with subsequent firmware upgrades. If you’re looking for something outside of the Apple / Samsung / Sony world that won’t break the bank, check it out.
Nura Nura True
Price: $ 200
Review: The hardware startup adapts its innovative sound technology for truly wireless headphones
Nura has adapted its smart sound adaptation technology to a pair of portable headphones. They lack some of the immersive depth of their on-ear counterparts, but the company is able to create a truly impressive music experience with its personalized profiles.