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David Pogue tested 40 Bluetooth earbuds to find the best of the best

David Pogue
Tech Critic

Admit it, my people: the way of the world is to go wireless.

First phone cords went away, then internet cables, then printer cords; power cords’ extinction is coming soon.

So why, then, are we so upset about losing earbud cords?

Yes, yes, OK: It’s a pain to have yet another battery to charge, and wired buds give you better sound quality for the dollar.

But wireless earbuds have compelling advantages, too—for example, they’re wireless. You don’t have to fish out a wiry mass from your bag, untangle it, avoid catching it on your clothing or furniture, or figure out how to thread it so it doesn’t drive you crazy when you’re working out or running.

Soon enough, the decision will be made for you. Motorola (MSI), LeEco, and Apple (AAPL) have begun eliminating the headphone jacks from their smartphones, and other phone makers are following suit.

When Apple removed the headphone jack from the iPhone 7, a popular cry was, “They just want to force us to buy their $160 AirPod wireless buds!” And yes, Apple would love that, but it’s not mandatory. The world is teeming with wireless earbuds that don’t come from Apple. Many are better, less expensive, or both.

How do I know? Because I’ve tested them out. Forty of them (40). My ear canals are practically bleeding at this point.

I’ll try out 40 pairs of earbuds for you. No problem.

But you know what? You’re worth it.

What to expect from Bluetooth earbuds

Most of today’s earbuds use the Bluetooth 4.1 technology, which is pretty great. It eliminates the lag between the video you’re watching and its audio, and it lets your earbuds remain “paired” (wirelessly connected) to two devices simultaneously, like your phone and your laptop. (You hear sound from only one at a time.)

Almost all of the candidates come with a Micro USB charging cable, which you can connect to your computer or, with a USB “wall wart” (not included), to a power outlet. The earbuds get between 4 and 18 hours of music playback time, and you can wander between 30 and 100 feet from your phone before the music begins to drop out.

The good ones come with cases to protect them and an assortment of rubber or foam ear tips; it’s super important to find the ones that fit you best. Since these are in-the-ear-canal buds, a snug fit blocks outside noise and gives their generally feeble bass a fighting chance to reach your brain.

These days, wireless buds come in all kinds of crazy incarnations; it’s as though you gave some guidelines (“battery, circuit board, two earbuds”) to six different aliens and then watched how many approaches they came up with. In general, they break down like this:

  • Completely detached. On these, there are no wires—not even between the earbuds. They’re two separate pieces; you can hand one to a friend, if you like, for simul-listening. For about 80% of the population, they stay in place even during running, but it may take you a long time to get over the feeling that you’re going to lose one. Most are kind of heavy, and all of them look bizarre in your ears. Most, like Apple’s AirPods, come with a battery-equipped case that recharges your buds. Controlling volume and skipping tracks can be tricky on these, since there’s no remote, and phone calls generally aren’t great, since the microphone is nowhere near your mouth.
  • Cord style. The huge majority of Bluetooth earbuds still have one wire—between the buds. That way, you’re a lot less likely to lose one. The good ones offer some way to shorten that wire behind your head so that it doesn’t slap as you run. There’s usually a remote control with three buttons—volume up, volume down, play/pause—that also contains the microphone for calls and Siri/Google Now. Usually, you have to memorize patterns of short, long, double, and triple-clicks of these buttons to perform all the functions of music playback and call management.
  • Collar style. You’re seeing this style crop up in offices these days: a lightweight plastic collar that hangs around your neck all day long, with thin earbud wires coming out of it. That extra real estate means more buttons for dedicated features, beefier batteries, and a vibration mode that lets you know when a call is coming in. Calls sound great, of course, because now the microphone is positioned right below your mouth. You may not be so crazy about the collar style if you run, though; it’ll bang on your collarbones.

In the endless scrolling pages below, I’ll show you my notes for each of the 40 earbuds I tested. But in the event that you actually have a life, here’s the short version: the winners in each category.

The winner: Detached earbuds

The Apple AirPods ($160) take it. Their design is far slimmer, and somewhat less goofy looking, than their bulky rivals, which look like you’ve jammed wine corks into your head. Each AirPod plays music for five hours on a charge, but when you slip them magnetically back into their little dental-floss box/case, they get a fresh charge—24 hours’ worth in all.

If you’re prepared for the downsides of detached buds, the AirPods are great.

They really don’t fall out, as you’d expect them to, and they sound fantastic, even on phone calls. (The little stem points the microphones at your mouth.) Unfortunately, they have no buttons, so you can’t adjust the volume or skip tracks without speaking Siri commands or picking up your phone.

The AirPods contain what Apple calls the W1 chip, which confers several advantages. First, the “pairing” process with an iPhone is absurdly easy: Just open the case. Instantly, the phone acknowledges their proximity and offers a Connect button. The Beats X and Powerbeats 3 also contain the W1 chip, and the pairing process looks something like this:

(If you have an Android phone, you pair the AirPods the usual way, using your Bluetooth settings.)

The W1 also means that once you’ve introduced the AirPods to your iPhone, it’s automatically listed as available to your Mac or Apple Watch, too. It also boosts the Bluetooth signal considerably; you can walk really deeply into your home without worrying that the sound will cut out.

Important note: Since you have no option to choose different tips, AirPods aren’t comfortable for everyone.

The winners: Corded earbuds

The world offers hundreds of corded Bluetooth earbuds. No-name Chinese corded earbuds fill the pages of Amazon.com like grain in a silo.

I have buddies who don’t care about sweat resistance, Bluetooth range, elegant controls and all that jazz; they just buy super cheapies (you can find ‘em for under $15), good enough for listening to podcasts and YouTube, and don’t care when they die or get lost.

But if you do care about comfort, battery life, music quality, Bluetooth range, looks, sweatproofness, and features, then you can’t get wrong with today’s winner, the Jaybird X3s.

Among the finest of many, many fine corded Bluetooth earbuds.

They come with nine pairs of tips, including Comply foam tips (squish, insert, wait for them to expand) and wingtips, which hook into your cartilage to hold the buds in place. You can thread the cord either over or under your ears; a clip lets you shorten the cord to prevent slapping while running. Eight hours of playback time. All of this for $130.

A nice alternative, by the way, is the Optoma NuForce BE6i. It offers a clone of the Jaybirds’ list of virtues—eight hours, eight pairs of tips, $130—but offers voice prompts with a cute British accent, a flat, tangle-resistant cable, and a little less bass and Bluetooth range.

The winners: Collared

OK, this stunned me: For some reason, Samsung is selling a full-featured collar-style Bluetooth earbud set for $33 on Amazon: the Level U. It sounds fine, it’s got incoming-call vibrations, it has a tremendous Bluetooth range, and it’s $33. What am I missing?

Clearly, it’s not the best collared set you can buy, but it’s by far the best for the money.

At the opposite extreme, there’s the $400, super-deluxe, leather-wrapped, Klipsch x12. I mean, 18 hours of battery life. Splash resistant. Carrying case, six pairs of tips, and ridiculous Bluetooth range. And the sound—holy moly: spectacular clarity, weighty bass, detailed highs, solid midrange. You’ll think you’re listening to fancy wired headphones.

From left: Samsung Level U ($32), Klipsch x12 ($400), LG Tone Infinim ($67).

In a more practical price range, I really liked LG’s line of collars, like the Tone Infinim, the Tone Active+, and the Tone Platinum. They have retractable, spring-loaded earbud wires, which are tidy and brilliant (above, right).

The Tone Active+ collar even has external speakers in addition to the retractable buds. Their power won’t shatter any wine glasses. But since they sit just below your ears, they’re perfectly listenable as you putter around the house, take a call at your desk, or share a song with a couple of friends sitting nearby.

Besides: having nothing in your ears is the most comfortable of all.

Lots of wireless buds offer excellence in one area or another (see below), and very few are outright stinkers. But for most people—especially those for whom money doesn’t grow on trees—the models listed above are the most likely to bring happiness.

I know, because I did the exhausting research and testing for you. You’re welcome.

The 40 contenders

Here are my notes on the 40 wireless earbuds I tested.

The little graphs for price, battery, Bluetooth range, and number of ear tips show you where they fall relative to their competitors.

For example, if you see “Battery hours: 4 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦,” then this model can play music for only four hours, whereas the best models last 18 hours (18 diamonds).

Unless otherwise noted, they all sound basically alike: fine for watching videos, making calls, doing Skype or FaceTime—just not so great with bass.

Adv.Sound Model 3. They’re billed as “high-resolution music monitors,” and by golly, they sound fantastic. Putting them on takes some training, though, because one loop of wire goes around your head, and another down your torso.

Adv.Sound Model 3: Exceptional sound, not so great for workouts.

Amazingly, these wireless buds can become wired buds when the battery dies or you want all the quality you can squeeze out—no other buds do that. But they’re not for working out, since they’re not sweat-resistant.

Style: Cord

  • Price: $80 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Battery hours: 5 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Ear tip pairs: 6 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Range, in Poguesteps: 25 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Ear wings included? No
  • Case included? Yes

Apple AirPods. No other earbuds have this design, or these pros/cons. Terrific sound, battery life, pairing simplicity, range, as described above. Double-tap to get an immediate, crisp “I’m listening” chime from Siri—and then you talk. Just ridiculous amounts of cool technology packed into tiny space. (Here’s my full review.)

AirPods. Amazing, but not suitable for all ear canals.
  • Style: Detached
  • Price: $160 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Battery hours: 5 (with case, 24) ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Ear tip pairs: 1 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Range, in Poguesteps: 48 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Ear wings included? No
  • Case included? Yes

Beats Powerbeats 3. Apple owns Beats, so it’s no surprise to find the W1 chip in these corded earbuds—so you get the insta-pairing with an iPhone and the insane range. These are made for working out: they’re sweat-resistant, hook over your ears, and allow ambient sound. These babies aren’t going anywhere. They have unusually good battery life. If you’re rushed, five minutes of charging provides one hour of listening. A clip can shorten the cord.

PowerBeats 3, complete with W1 chip.
  • Style: Corded
  • Price: $150 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Battery hours: 12 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Ear tip pairs: 4 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Range, in Poguesteps: 48 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Ear wings included? No
  • Case included? Yes

Beats X. Another Apple-owned product—with that nice W1 chip. A standard earbuds-and-cord design, but there are three pods along the cord instead of the usual one. One has the playback controls, one has the power button, and one’s there just to confuse you. Magnets keep the buds together when you’re not listening. Requires a Lightning cable to recharge (included); five minutes gives you two hours of juice. Not much bass (yes, even though it’s Beats).

  • Style: Corded
  • Price: $150 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Battery hours: 8 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Ear tip pairs: 4 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Range, in Poguesteps: 48 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Ear wings included? Yes
  • Case included? Yes

Bose QuietControl 30. These are the buds you want on a plane; they’ve got Bose’s famous noise cancellation technology, which shuts up the engine roar amazingly well (though not as well as Bose’s wired models). That helps with the sound quality, which is leaps better than the cheapy buds. You can control how much outside noise you want to admit, using either buttons on the controller or a companion app—handy when you’re biking or running. Pairs with NFC, if your Android phone has it. Gorgeous build quality; sweat resistant and pricey.

Bose QuietControl 30: Best noise cancellation you can buy.
  • Style: Collar
  • Price: $300 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Battery hours: 10 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Ear tip pairs: 3 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Range, in Poguesteps: 20 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Ear wings included? Yes
  • Case included? Yes

Bose Soundsport Wireless. Here’s Bose’s take on corded workout buds. Splash/rain resistant, a clothing clip, and terrific bass. The little globules stick way out from your head, though, so you can’t put a helmet on over them, and they look a little goofy.

Bose Soundsport—good sound for athletes.
  • Style: Corded
  • Price: $150 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Battery hours: 6 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Ear tip pairs: 3 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Range, in Poguesteps: 20 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Ear wings included? Yes
  • Case included? Yes

Bragi The Headphone. Totally detached—a followup to the Bragi Dash (a do-it-all in-ear doodad that purports to measure your heart rate). The right earbud contains three tiny control buttons that are no picnic to operate; the left one has only one big button. Sound quality isn’t great, and the real heart-breaker is that the charging case doesn’t also have a battery, as rivals do, so the buds don’t recharge except when the case is plugged in.

Bragi The Headphone. Totally detached.
  • Style: Detached
  • Price: $150 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Battery hours: 6 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Ear tip pairs: 3 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Range, in Poguesteps: 30 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Ear wings included? No
  • Case included? Yes

Decibullz Custom-Fit Wireless. Cheap, pretty bad earbuds (the shortest battery life, and shortest range, of this roundup)—with a clever gimmick: The earbuds melt into pliable goo when boiled in water. You’re supposed to mash it into your ear as it cools, so that it perfectly fits your nooks and crannies. It really works—it helps out with sound, fit, and comfort, and easily accommodates a helmet—but looks bizarre. (You can also buy the mashable plastic portion separately to use with better earbuds.)

  • Style: Corded
  • Price: $120 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Battery hours: 4 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Ear tip pairs: 3 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Range, in Poguesteps: 10 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Ear wings included? Yes
  • Case included? Yes

Jabra Halo Free. OK cheapo buds. Dedicated button for Siri or Google Now. An app that offers additional features, like a map that shows you the last place you had them turned on, and a voice that can read your messages. Water resistant. The protruding bulb blocks helmets.

  • Style: Corded
  • Price: $60 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Battery hours: 5 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Ear tip pairs: 3 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Range, in Poguesteps: 18 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Ear wings included? Yes
  • Case included? No

Jabra Halo Smart. Amazingly cheap, super lighweight collar-style buds with astonishing battery life (15 hours). Magnets for bud-clicking; vibration for incoming calls; mediocre, bass-free sound. Companion app tracks last known location.

  • Style: Collar
  • Price: $50 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Battery hours: 15 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Ear tip pairs: 4 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Range, in Poguesteps: 25 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Ear wings included? No
  • Case included? No

Jabra Sport Rox Wireless. Nice, steel buds. Magnets on the buds that auto-pause your music (why didn’t anyone think of this before?). Rain, shock, dust resistant. NFC pairing.

  • Style: Corded
  • Price: $100 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Battery hours: 5.5 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Ear tip pairs: 7 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Range, in Poguesteps: 13 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Ear wings included? Yes
  • Case included? Yes

Jabra Halo Fusion. Nice to have a dedicated power/Siri button on one of the collar’s two lobes; otherwise, cheap and basic.

  • Style: Collar
  • Price: $60 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Battery hours: 6.5 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Ear tip pairs: 3 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Range, in Poguesteps: 18 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Ear wings included? No
  • Case included? No

Jaybird Freedom. Tiny, sweat-resistant, metal buds, helmet-friendly; very bright sound. Charges from a tiny cradle that snaps onto the remote on the cord—a blocky, bulky arrangement, but the cradle has a 4-hour booster battery inside. Loaded with features and cord-draping options. App lets you adjust the sound character.

Jaybird Freedom. Super tiny and light.
  • Style: Corded
  • Price: $150 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Battery hours: 4 (plus 4 in the cradle) ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Ear tip pairs: 9 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Range, in Poguesteps: 45 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Ear wings included? Yes
  • Case included? Yes

Jaybird X3. The champ. For $130, you get it all: category-leading sound, battery, and range; helmet-friendly size; sweat and water resistance.

Jaybird X3—the sweet spot.
  • Style: Corded
  • Price: $130 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Battery hours: 8 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Ear tip pairs: 9 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Range, in Poguesteps: 45 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Ear wings included? Yes
  • Case included? Yes

JBL Reflect Mini BT. Reflective cables—a great idea for night joggers. Sweat/water resistant. Weak range, no case. They don’t turn off automatically after you stop using them.

JBL Reflect Mini: Reflective cords. Good idea.
  • Style: Corded
  • Price: $90 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Battery hours: 8 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Ear tip pairs: 4 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Range, in Poguesteps: 20 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Ear wings included? Yes
  • Case included? No

JLab Audio Epic2. An over-ear memory-wire hook keeps these babies in place. Sweatproof and even rinse-able. Impressive battery life.

Jlab Audio Epic 2: The memory wire forms to your ear tops.
  • Style: Corded
  • Price: $100 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Battery hours: 12 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Ear tip pairs: 6 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Range, in Poguesteps: 26 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Ear wings included? No
  • Case included? Yes

Klipsch x12. Almost absurdly overbuilt: leather band, copper accents, black chrome. 18-hour battery life, huge distance range, vibration mode for calls, crazy great sound. Super comfy, thanks to the unique oval-shaped silicone ear-canal plugs. 6 tip pairs, including Comply foam ones.

Luxury comes to earbuds: The Klipsch x12.
  • Style: Collar
  • Price: $400 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Battery hours: 18 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Ear tip pairs: 6 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Range, in Poguesteps: 45 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Ear wings included? No
  • Case included? Yes

LG Tone Infinim HBS-910. Inexpensive, likable collar-style. Sturdy yet flexible plastic collar. Press buttons on the inner collar to make the retractable earbuds snap back inside to avoid tangle and clutter. Dedicated buttons for volume, track forward/back, calls, power. No case, not sweat resistant.

LG Tone Infinim HBS-910: Retractable buds.
  • Style: Collar
  • Price: $80 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Battery hours: 12 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Ear tip pairs: 3 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Range, in Poguesteps: 39 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Ear wings included? No
  • Case included? No

LG Tone Active+. External speakers—not powerful, but very handy (calls, listening to music without anything in your ears). Retractable buds (tug on them rather than pressing a button). Sweat/water resistant. Tone & Talk app can read your notifications and texts, and let you customize the button controls.

LG Tone Active+. External speakers!
  • Style: Collar
  • Price: $130 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Battery hours: 13 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Ear tip pairs: 3 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Range, in Poguesteps: 39 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Ear wings included? No
  • Case included? No

LG Tone Platinum HBS-1100. LG’s top-of-the-line Bluetooth collar. Great dedicated buttons. Earbuds retract with buttons. Tone & Talk app. Not sweat-resistant. (Clearly, LG offers a huge range of these collar-style buds—for help in telling them apart, here’s a chart.)

LG Tone Platinum HBS-1100 collar style.
  • Style: Collar
  • Price: $200 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Battery hours: 10 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Ear tip pairs: 3 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Range, in Poguesteps: 39 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Ear wings included? No
  • Case included? No

LG Force. LG also makes this standard corded earbuds, distinguished by the ear-shaped loops. Takes a little effort to put on, but they stay on. Incredibly light (under an ounce); nice sound. Dedicated power button. Sweat/water resistant.

LG Force. These babies won’t fall off unless your ears do.
  • Style: Corded
  • Price: $100 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Battery hours: 6 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Ear tip pairs: 3 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Range, in Poguesteps: 39 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Ear wings included? No
  • Case included? Yes

MEE Audio X7 Plus. Memory-wire loops route over your ears and stay in place. Cable shortener included. Great range. Sweatproof.

MEE Audio X7 Plus. Memory wire for added eargrip.
  • Style: Corded
  • Price: $90 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Battery hours: 8 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Ear tip pairs: 3 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Range, in Poguesteps: 35 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Ear wings included? No
  • Case included? Yes

Monster iSport Victory. The cable is coated with rubber, for a weird, non-tangling feel. A shortener is built in. It has above-average sound, and the buttons on the remote are much more feel-able than on most. Sweat resistant. Short Bluetooth range.

Monster iSport Victory, with its weird cool rubbery cords.
  • Style: Corded
  • Price: $57 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Battery hours: 8 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Ear tip pairs: 5 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Range, in Poguesteps: 11 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Ear wings included? Yes
  • Case included? Yes

Motorola VerveOnes+. Fully detached, sweat/waterproof earbuds. The bulky outer pod may or may not nestle neatly into your particular ears. You have to learn the meanings of various clicks, double, triple, and long presses on each side. Great sound. Long delay before Siri. Have to pause the  music before you can use Siri or Google Now. Case is also a recharger, providing a total of 12 hours of playback.

Moto VerveOnes+, shown in their little recharging cylinder case.
  • Style: Detached
  • Price: $150 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Battery hours: 3 (12 in charging case) ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Ear tip pairs: 3 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Range, in Poguesteps: 13 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Ear wings included? NO
  • Case included? Yes

Motorola VerveLoop+. Super light, waterproof/sweat-proof. Companion app notes the last connected location—a sort of “Find my buds.” Protruding bulge not helmet-friendly.

Moto VerveLoop+: a fine choice.
  • Style: Corded
  • Price: $57 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Battery hours: 9 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Ear tip pairs: 4 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Range, in Poguesteps: 25 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Ear wings included? Yes
  • Case included? No

Motorola VerveRider+. Super light, water/sweat-proof, excellent battery life. Bright orange for visibility. Magnetic tips. Companion app for locating or turning notification vibrations on and off.

Moto VerveRider+, in “don’t hit me with your car” orange.
  • Style: Collar
  • Price: $85 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Battery hours: 12 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Ear tip pairs: 3 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Range, in Poguesteps: 25 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Ear wings included? No
  • Case included? No

Optoma NuForce BE6i. Magnetic, aluminum-construction buds; sweat-proof; voice prompt has a cute British accent. Have to pause music before triggering Siri/Google Now. Flat, no-tangle cable. Everything included. Overall, a superb pair.

Optoma NuForce BE6i: Competent and satisfying all the way around.
  • Style: Cord
  • Price: $130 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Battery hours: 8 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Ear tip pairs: 7 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Range, in Poguesteps: 25 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Ear wings included? Yes
  • Case included? Yes

Phiaton BT 220 NC. Strange design: The wires connect to a control box that dangles on your torso—will drive runners crazy. Supposedly has noise canceling, but it’s very, very weak. Amazing battery, poor range.

Phiaton BT 220 NC: The stethoscope design doesn’t really help.
  • Style: Cord
  • Price: $125 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Battery hours: 16 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Ear tip pairs: 2 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Range, in Poguesteps: 8 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Ear wings included? No
  • Case included? Yes

Plantronics BackBeat Fit Bluetooth. Super minimal and light. No remote on the cord; the buttons are on the buds themselves. Thick rubberized cord wraps over your ear—stays in place. Sweat/waterproof. Reflective armband case. Lets in ambient sound for running/biking safety (plugs don’t seal ear canals). Bluetooth 3.0, alas.

Plantronics BackBeat Fit. Minimalist, waterproof, rugged.
  • Style: Cord
  • Price: $78 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Battery hours: 8 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Ear tip pairs: 1 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Range, in Poguesteps: 13 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Ear wings included? No
  • Case included? Yes

Roam Ropes. Radical, somewhat tangly stethoscope/pendant design, created by the guy who originally developed the Beats headphones. You’re supposed to let it just hang around you when you’re not using the buds. Painful treble when cranked. App lets you adjust the sound signature.

Roam Ropes. OK, what?
  • Style: Stethoscope
  • Price: $200 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Battery hours: 9  ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Ear tip pairs: 5 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Range, in Poguesteps: 18 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Ear wings included? Yes
  • Case included? Yes

Samsung Level U. Stunning value for the money. Vibration for calls, magnets for buds, amazing range.

Samsung Level U: Cheap and good.
  • Style: Collar
  • Price: $33 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Battery hours: 11  ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Ear tip pairs: 3 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Range, in Poguesteps: 45 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Ear wings included? Yes
  • Case included? No

Skullcandy Smokin’ Buds 2 Wireless. Removable rigid neck channel for the wire, to give the neck portion some rigidity (if you like). Super crisp highs.

Skullcandy Smokin’ Buds 2 do not actually smoke.
  • Style: Cord/collar hybrid
  • Price: $60 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Battery hours: 7  ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Ear tip pairs: 2 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Range, in Poguesteps: 25 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Ear wings included? No
  • Case included? No

Skullcandy XTFREE. Big box attached to each bud—no go for helmets or looking normal. Short, behind-head cord. Sweat resistant.

Skullcandy XTFREE: Earboxes aren’t so trendy.
  • Style: Cord
  • Price: $70 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Battery hours: 6  ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Ear tip pairs: 4 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Range, in Poguesteps: 25 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Ear wings included? Yes
  • Case included? Yes

Skullcandy Ink’d. Very inexpensive. Light, flexible collar; you can roll it up. Limited tip options—no wings.

Skullcandy Ink’d, from the bargain bin.
  • Style: Collar
  • Price: $40 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Battery hours: 8  ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Ear tip pairs: 2 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Range, in Poguesteps: 25 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Ear wings included? No
  • Case included? No

Skybuds. Incredibly tiny, detached-style separate buds. You have to turn the right and left buds on separately. There’s an app to find your lost bud, and it has great sound. The case recharges the buds. No way to adjust volume without using your phone.

Skybuds: Detached and tiny.
  • Style: Detached
  • Price: $200 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Battery hours: 4 (with case, 24) ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Ear tip pairs: 3 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Range, in Poguesteps: 33 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Ear wings included? No
  • Case included? Yes

Sol Republic Shadow Wireless. Great-looking hybrid design: a thickened band around your neck. May bounce out of your ears when running. Water/sweat resistant. Bluetooth 4.0 (not 4.1).

Sol Republic Shadow Wireless: Sharp-looking.
  • Style: Semi-collared
  • Price: $60 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Battery hours: 8  ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Ear tip pairs: 4 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Range, in Poguesteps: 33 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Ear wings included? No
  • Case included? No

Sol Republic Amps Air. Detached-style. Entire outside panel is a button—hard to avoid hitting accidentally. The remarkable recharging case is a huge battery: can recharge the buds 15 times, or recharge your phone! Just put buds in case to turn them off; take out to turn them on. Case can charge buds 15 times or be a backup battery for phone! Case has charge LEDs. No volume control or track controls on the buds. Real bass.

Sol Republic Amps Air: Detached, if you’re into that kind of thing.
  • Style: Detached
  • Price: $150 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Battery hours: 3 (with case, 45) ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Ear tip pairs: 4 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Range, in Poguesteps: 25 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
  • Ear wings included? No
  • Case included? No

 

You have no shortage of options. Go forth and shopify!

David Pogue, tech columnist for Yahoo Finance, welcomes non-toxic comments in the Comments below. On the web, he’s davidpogue.com. On Twitter, he’s @pogue. On email, he’s poguester@yahoo.com. You can read all his articles here or you can sign up to get his columns by email