Tech

The Best Bluetooth Headphones

Here we are, it’s that time of year where many retailers offer great discounts, and leave us wondering which gift should we buy? If anything, buying any product, whether it is for yourself or for a loved one, sometimes gets very tricky. Let me talk about myself, when it comes to Bluetooth headphones, some products can be very expensive, and so I’d really want to do an extensive research to make sure I don’t regret my purchase. The team over at reviews.com recently published their detailed review, where they tested 20 different Bluetooth headphones to find out the best Over-Ear, On-Ear, In-Ear, and truly wireless Bluetooth headphones.

30-second review:

According to audio experts, the best Bluetooth headphones come down to a few core concepts. They should feel good to wear, be easy to carry and use, and fun to listen to. After testing 20 popular models, we found four styles outperformed their competitors.


Best Over-Ear

Bose QuietComfort 35

This lightweight pair of headphones sounds great, filters out noise, and gently cushions your head. (about $499 in Lebanon)


Best On-Ear

Jabra Move

The Jabra Move boasts the features and vocal clarity of premium on-ear headphones for a fraction of the price. (about $119 in Lebanon)


Best In-Ear

BeatsX

A flexible neckband and snug earpieces keep these headphones comfortably in place. (about $180 in Lebanon)


Best True Wireless

Apple AirPods

They’re smaller than most wireless earbuds, and they didn’t cut in and out when listening to music or phone calls. (about $2oo in Lebanon)


If you want the depth of over-ear headphones, our pick is the Bose QuietComfort 35. They gently surround the ears and excel at sealing out environmental noises that interfere with music and podcasts. Balanced sound quality will satisfy bass-lovers and fans of powerful vocals for up to 20 hours on a single charge. Because they surround your ears, they’ll sound more realistic, but are inherently bulkier — our other picks are better for those who want more portability. If you can deal with the size, easy-to-use features like multi-device pairing make the Bose solid workhorse headphones for taking to the office, home, and anywhere in between.

The Jabra Move are our favorite on-ear headphones. The fit is close to perfect, and they sound just as good, if not better than some premium headphones for half the price. If you don’t like headphones that sit on or in your ears, or you’d like to seal out more noise, you’ll want to go with the Bose. But the Jabra Move are significantly cheaper and slightly less cumbersome.

We love the BeatsX for their thoughtful and balanced design. Unlike other in-ear headphones, we rarely had to adjust the wires and the earpieces fit in our ears without making them sore. They also sound great whether you’re listening to the heavy bass of hip-hop or the soft piano of a rock ballad. As in-ears, the BeatsX sound less natural than over-ears or on-ears like the Bose or Jabra Move, but they’re less bulky and give the ears more breathing room.

True wireless tech is still in its early stages, but the Apple AirPods are the most comfortable and reliable in their category. They offer some of the best call quality we could hope for with their dual mics, and their small charging case guarantees you’ll be able to listen on the go. Music won’t sound the best compared to our other picks because the AirPods don’t fit as snugly. Even so, the sound quality is still clear; the Bluetooth connection is dependable, and the absence of wires makes the AirPods innovative and practical.

How We Found the Best Bluetooth Headphones

The first thing that comes to mind when looking for headphones is sound quality, but during our research, we learned that differences in sound measurements don’t necessarily determine which headphones are best.

Rather than get lost in the details of critical listening, audio expert and consultant Børge Strand-Bergesen recommends that the average listener “think of headphones as a lifestyle and convenience investment.” It’s more important to choose headphones based on when and where you want to wear them. If you’re at work, commuting, or out jogging, you won’t be able to notice subtle sound differences.

That said, the best Bluetooth headphones still need to sound good. To find our top picks, we looked for headphones that were consistently celebrated for their audio quality. But following the advice of our experts, we also focused our search on headphones with the best reputations for comfort and convenience. After reading through tech and hobbyist sites like CNET and InnerFidelity, we ended up with 20 final contenders that promised the best experience for listeners at home and on the go.

Different shapes and fits have an effect on comfort and sound. Simply put, the more covered your ears are, the more natural the sound quality, so we separated our finalists into four style categories. In-ears and true wireless styles are more portable, but will have a worse soundstage — the sense that sound is coming from different angles and places. Choosing a style comes down to personal preference and needs, but all our top picks needed to fit comfortably and sound great.

We jammed out for hours to compare headphones.

Dan Wiggins, acoustics and audio expert, told us, “The most important things to consider are functionality, portability, and audio quality.” With his advice in mind, we gathered 10 volunteers to test out multiple pairs over the course of a week. Here’s what we looked for.

How comfortable are they?

We asked our testers to wear each pair of headphones for at least 30 minutes — we took note when our testers took a pair off early or wore a pair longer. Headphones like the Apple AirPods were so comfortable that we forgot we had them on. Others, like the Nuhearas, only made it through five songs before our ears felt sore.

We also checked to see if the headphones stayed on our heads or in our ears without needing constant adjustment. Models like the BeatsX stayed in place even with a couple vigorous shakes of the head. Others, like the Optoma BE6i in-ears, slipped out when we were simply trying to adjust an earpiece.

How easy are they to use?

We looked for design choices and useful features we’d be thankful for as everyday listeners. A good pair of headphones should be easy to control and last a long time before they require a recharge.

Set-up for most of our headphones was easy, so we also looked at the ease of repairing them to our devices. For example, the Jabra Move reconnects to its last two paired devices seamlessly when you turn them on. Other models, like the Bowers & Wilkins P5, forced our testers to re-pair manually with the Bluetooth options on their phones.

We tested usability down to the last detail, including how intuitive using the power and volume buttons felt. The B&O Beoplay H4 had buttons that we found slightly hard to tell apart, but we liked the Bose QuietComfort 35, which had buttons of noticeably different sizes and set at varying heights, making them easier for our hands to find and use.

Testers reported that the Bose’s buttons (left) were easier to distinguish between than the buttons of the B&O Beoplay (right).

We also appreciate the no-nonsense design of the Bose. You can expect a 20-hour battery life, standard features like voice control for Siri and Google Assistant, and the ability to fold into a compact hard case for easy to carrying. The Bose do provide the luxury of connecting to two devices. Switching between the two is as simple as hitting pause on one and play on the other. Listening to music on our laptops and being able to take calls is super convenient when our phones are out of reach.

The Sony MDR-1000X also pair with two devices, but you can’t switch between them for music like the Bose — Sony forces you to limit each device to either music or phone calls. This makes setting up two devices harder, and we couldn’t always get it to work. The Sony headphones are cheaper, but we’re happy to pay an extra $30 for better functionality.

As their name suggests, the QuietComfort 35 are also noise-canceling headphones. The feature has a reputation for hurting sound quality, but our testers agreed the Bose headphones sound great. Full disclosure: Sound charts describe the Bose as an above-average pair of headphones with some clarity issues in the treble range. Upon further listening, we noticed that high-pitched vocals or violins sounded filtered or fuzzy. That said, we had to focus in order to pick up on it, and didn’t notice anything when working, buying groceries, or relaxing at home. Even with critical testing, the famous bassline in Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain” was a joy to listen to. Each pluck of the bass came through clear and built up to the crashing end of guitars and vocals fans love. In short, we felt the headphones did that classic and many other songs justice.

If we must nitpick, we’ll admit they’re a little boring in the looks department for a pair that costs $329. But Bose offers a custom version so you can spice things up with your favorite color combinations. It’ll cost you an extra $100 though. Looks aside, the Bose QuietComfort 35 are a comfortable, convenient, and great-sounding pair of over-ear headphones.

Best On-Ears

The Bragi Dash Pro sounded great, but would cut in and out, which interrupted our listening. This was especially frustrating during guitar solos like the one in Jimi Hendrix’s version of “All Along the Watchtower.” The AirPods almost never cut out. Our tester told us they were able to hear “all layers of music in a very crisp manner.” We learned from the sound charts that the lower bass will sound slightly dull and the trebles can be harsh. Sound will also leak due to the earbud design. But compared to the other true wireless headphones, the sound was simply more reliable. Overall, the bass was still decent and the vocals came through clear.

Did You Know?

Fit can affect your headphones’ sound.

Adam Robertson, senior manager of product marketing at Jabra, pointed out that the way headphones fit on or in your ear will change your listening experience. He explained: “Fit is a critical component to making sure the sound is good. If your ear doesn’t have a good seal … you’re just leaking sound,” which means that “you could lose your bass and midrange.”

How can you tell if your headphones create a good seal? A good way to check with over-ear and on-ears is to just barely lift the edge of an earcup. If you notice a dramatic decrease in sound quality or increase in ambient noise, your headphones are giving you a great seal. If you don’t notice much difference, it’s time to find a new pair. The principle is the same with in-ear and true wireless headphones. But to test, simply pull an earpiece out ever so slightly.

Glasses can also interfere with the fit of headphones. Since over-ears, and on-ears rest on the frame of your glasses, this could affect the comfort and quality of your seal. No worries though, you can still find a good fit, and we tested all of our headphones with at least one person who wears glasses.

Don’t underestimate ear tips either.

Most ear tips are made from silicone, rubber, or foam. Each has its trade-offs. Foam tips are generally considered the most comfortable and effective at getting a quality seal because they’re better at molding to the ears. The downside is they are more expensive. If you’d like to try foam tips, we recommend the highly rated Comply foam tips. In addition, some tips come with flanges (layers that sit on top of each other). Flanges can provide better sound quality through noise isolation, but will be less comfortable. Lastly, you can also attach ear hooks or wingtips to many earpieces to improve your fit. Custom tips provide the best fit out of all the options, but they can start at $150. Like headphone style, it really comes down to personal preference. Whatever is most comfortable for you will always be the best choice.

What about aptX or AAC?

A few of our contenders, like the Bowers & Wilkins P7 and Beats Solo 3, advertise aptX and AAC support, respectively. If you’re like us, you’ll have one question: What does this technical gibberish mean? In simple terms, aptX and AAC are more effective ways of compressing audio data compared to the well-known MP3 format. More effective compression means that less sound quality is lost. AAC is supported across a wide variety of phones and other audio equipment, while aptX is being pitched as improving sound quality on wireless devices in particular, like Bluetooth headphones. Both the headphones and audio devices must support AAC or aptX in order for you to get the benefits. Heads up, iPhones don’t support aptX but will support AAC.

Do you need aptX or AAC? Not really. Our experts told us they will improve sound quality, but again, most listeners won’t be able to notice unless they sit down and focus. Sound quality also depends on other factors such as build quality and audio format. A pair of headphones could have aptX, but still sound worse than headphones without it. Case in point, the Sennheiser HD-1 M2 AEBT are aptX-compatible but don’t sound as good as the Bose QuietComfort 35 which are not aptX-compatible. The headphone world is complicated, but we did our best to make sure choosing a pair doesn’t have to be.

The Best Bluetooth Headphones: Summed Up

Bluetooth Headphones The Best
Bose QuietComfort 35 Over-Ears
Jabra Move On-Ears
BeatsX In-Ears
Apple AirPods True Wireless
Link to the article on  reviews.com: https://goo.gl/VPb31c
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