Monday, August 8, 2022

Best Bluetooth Earbuds 2021: Neckbuds and Truly Wireless Earbuds for Everyone

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Wires may be good for audio quality and low latency, but they’re also really good at getting tangled, snagging on doorknobs, and making our headphones a big hassle to use on the go. Bluetooth is shaking up the headphone market, and Bluetooth earbuds are some of the hottest products you can get right now.Bluetooth earbuds offer an audio solution that works with a huge range of devices, from the best smartphones to computers and laptops, while also being incredibly easy to bring everywhere. You’ll find some that still use a tether, often coming in at a lower price while offering an impressive battery life. Meanwhile, truly wireless earbuds like Apple’s AirPods offer the most compact style, ditch wires entirely, and tend to rely on their cases to augment the battery life available from the earbuds themselves.

All the different Bluetooth earbud designs offer plenty to think about when you’re shopping, but you should also be aware that not all Bluetooth is the same. Some devices will support different codecs, which can improve the quality of the audio sent over a Bluetooth connection. For improved audio, keep an eye out for apX, aptX HD, AAC, and LDAC in the specs, or look for aptX LL to get a lower latency connection that can improve your experience with video and gaming content.

With the key features in mind, take a look at our top recommendations. Some will be better partners in the gym and during workouts while others will hold up better for phone calls or listening to podcasts on a walk. We’ve picked out winners in a bunch of different categories, so you can find one that best fits your needs.

TL;DR – These are the Best Bluetooth Earbuds:

1. Optoma NuForce Be Live5

Best Bluetooth Earbuds

Our Pick

Optoma NuForce Be Live5

On Amazon

The Optoma NuForce Be Live5 deliver stellar sound for their relatively modest $100 asking price. Thanks to its sizable 8mm drivers, audio sounds wonderfully crisp, with plenty of separation for you to pick up nuances. As the NuForce Be Live5 supports aptX and AAC, you’ll be able to enjoy high-quality audio streaming from both iPhones and Android phones.

This pair of headphones also delivers a decent eight hours of battery life and it comes with foam ear tips, so you get a better seal inside your year for noise isolation. That said, the Be Live5 doesn’t really cater to active users with only an IPX5 rating for water resistance.

If you’re looking for something more sporty, the Optoma NuForce BE Sport4 is the pair for you. It’s larger wings will ensure a tighter grip and it has a slightly longer 10-hour battery life along with a bass-ier sound profile.

2. Beats Flex

Best Budget Bluetooth Earbuds

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Beats and budget may not normally go in the same sentence, but the Beats Flex are actually shockingly affordable for the brand at $50. You’re getting a lot for the price with these buds, too. They include Apple’s W1 tip for easy pairing with Apple devices, and Apple users get a bonus feature in the form of Audio Sharing, which lets you share what you’re listening to with someone else wearing Beats headphones or AirPods.

The Beats Flex offer a 12-hour battery life, so you can get through a long day with plenty of music. And, if you ever forget to charge and let the battery get low, a quick 10-minute charge over USB-C can get the Beats Flex to run for an extra 1.5 hours. The earbuds include playback and call controls on the cable running between them, and the two buds can magnetically clasp together to keep them secure on your neck and automatically pause your music.

3. Anker SoundBuds Curve

Best Ultra-Cheap Bluetooth Earbuds

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Anker SoundBuds Curve

On Newegg

Anker makes a bunch of inexpensive products, from portable chargers to data hubs, and evidently, wireless earbuds. Priced just above $25, the Anker SoundBuds Curve comes at a good value.

They are IPX7 waterproof and boast an extraordinary 18-hour battery life. Their sound profile is pretty bass-heavy and the fit isn’t the most comfortable you’ll find, but for the money, they’re a great option.

4. Creative Outlier Air V2

Best Truly Wireless Earbuds

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Creative Outlier Air V2

On Amazon

One of the major perks of using Bluetooth is that you can avoid wires that get tangled up in your pocket, so if you want to make the most of that wireless technology, a truly wireless set of earbuds may be your best bet. And, for great performance and value, the Creative Outlier Air 2 are where it’s at.

These truly wireless earbuds offer up a strong connection thanks to Bluetooth 5.0, so you should enjoy easy pairing with your devices. Whether you’re on Android or iOS, you can enjoy improved audio quality over typical Bluetooth connections thanks to support for both the aptX codec and the AAC codec. These earbuds will let you listen for the long-haul as well, as they offer a 12-hour battery life from the earbuds alone and the charging case can add an extra 22 hours of listening time. That means they’ll be good for almost an entire workweek without you needing to remember to charge them.

5. Anker Soundcore Spirit X2

Best Bluetooth Earbuds For Runners

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Anker Soundcore Spirit X2

On Amazon

There are a lot of great earbuds out there, but when you’re running, you can’t be constantly worrying about them falling out. The Anker Soundcore Spirit X2 have you covered. These truly wireless earbuds feature flexible hooks and a wing on the tips to secure them in and around your ears. Running, jumping, and working out at the gym won’t be an issue for these buds.

You can go for the long haul with the Soundcore Spirit X2 thanks to their 9-hour battery life, and the battery in the case brings that up to 36 hours. Rounding out the package is support for the aptX audio codec, which can improve your audio quality over Bluetooth, letting you really get into your tunes. And, don’t worry about a little water, as these buds offer an IP68 rating for serious water resistance.

6. Bose QuietControl 30

Best Noise-Cancelling Bluetooth Earbuds

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Bose QuietControl 30

On Microsoft Store

The name Bose has been synonymous with Noise Canceling headsets for years for good reason. If the primary purpose of your earbuds is noise cancellation, there’s no reason to look further than the Bose QC30.

The majority of the frequencies affected are between 100 and 2,000Hz, so it will help with airplane hum and nearby talking. There’s also an optional app that lets you adjust the amount of noise canceling. And they even sound good. The problem: They’re expensive and never seem to go on sale.

7. Plantronics BackBeat FIT 2100

Another Great Bluetooth Earbud Option for Runners

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Plantronics BackBeat FIT 2100

On Amazon

If your head is on the larger side and the Urbanears don’t work for you, the BackBeat FIT is an excellent alternative. The sound quality is very good, even a bit better than the Urbanears because with the Plantronics there isn’t a heavy emphasis on the bass. They’re also sweatproof and waterproof in case you take them into the shower.

8. Phiaton BT 100 NC

Bluetooth Headset with Affordable Bells and Whistles

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Phiaton BT 100 NC

On Newegg

The value you get from the Phiaton BT 100 NC is a bit surprising. They sound great, without too much emphasis on any one frequency band. The fit is comfortable, and with the controls on the neckband, the earbuds are light and small.

Plus, they offer decent noise-canceling, so it’s hard to complain. The one drawback is the earbuds don’t have a retraction mechanism to pull them back into the neckband when not in use, although you can fit them in manually.

9. BeatsX

Best Bluetooth Earbuds for Bass

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Apple users don’t have to get AirPods to get a solid pair of Bluetooth airbuds that’ll work with their devices. The BeatsX feature Apple’s W1 chip and support the AAC codec, helping offer a better audio experience than the most basic pair of Bluetooth earbuds. The BeatsX also will give you some strong bass, as the Beats brand has a reputation for.

You won’t run short on battery thanks to an 8-hour battery life, and if you need some extra juice, these earbuds can charge back up in just a few minutes to deliver an extra two hours of playtime. Since the earbuds charge over a Lightning connector, they’ll be extra convenient for iPhone owners, but less so for Android users.

10. OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z

Longest-Lasting Bluetooth Earbuds

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OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z

On OnePlus

For the convenience of wireless earbuds, we’re often forced to confront the fact that their compact form factor comes with a trade-off on battery life. Many buds only offer a few hours of playback at a time and rely on their cases to top up. That’s not the case with the OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z. These tethered earbuds sneak in enough battery to deliver 20 hours of audio playback. After listening to that much music, you’d probably want to sleep and recharge right alongside the earbuds. And, while you might need 8 hours of sleep to recharge, these buds feature Warp charging, so they can get back up to 10 hours of playtime after spending just 10 minutes plugged in.

The buds themselves feature Bluetooth 5.0 for a strong and stable connection, including support for a low-latency mode that’ll improve your experience in games and video. Beyond that, they’ve got a lightweight design at 28 grams, and they have an IP55 rating to protect them from a bit of dust and water.

What to Look for In Bluetooth Earbuds

So which set of Bluetooth earbuds are the best? You should know that when shopping for a pair of Bluetooth earbuds there are two things to keep in mind:

First, the Bluetooth signal doesn’t carry well through objects. That could be walls or people, and interruptions from these objects could lead to the signal being dropped.

If that’s happening to you, move your source closer to your earbuds (for instance, moving your phone from a back pocket to a front pocket). Second is battery life. Eight to twelve hours is generally on the high end. If you’ll be using them constantly throughout the day there’s a chance they’ll need to recharge nightly.

If you plan to workout with your Bluetooth earbuds be sure to get something that is at least water-resistant.

If you plan to workout with your Bluetooth earbuds be sure to get something that is at least water-resistant. This is measured with the IPX rating system (there is one for both water and dust, but on headphones, it just refers to water).

You’ll want to find something at least IPX-4 (protection from water splashes for at least 5 minutes), and higher if you sweat more than the average person. Above IPX-6 is waterproof territory. IPX-7 means the earbuds can be safely submerged in up to three feet of water for up to 30 minutes. If you need to take them underwater make sure the charging port can be sealed shut.

Another workout issue that unfortunately needs to be kept in mind is safety. The workout headphones listed here are unsealed, which means they allow you to hear your surroundings if the volume isn’t turned up too high. If you’re running across streets or in areas where there are obstacles the importance of this feature cannot be overstated.

Finally, in all audio signals, there is inherent latency. Even more so in the wireless transmission of Bluetooth as opposed to speaker wire. To combat this, you should look for a headset using a more advanced codec, such as aptX or AAC, which can have an advantage over the standard SBC codec in latency and audio quality. For dramatically lower latency, you’ll want to keep an eye out for aptX Low Latency or LHDC. Also make sure the device you’re playing audio from supports the same codec, otherwise you won’t see the benefits. If you’re specifically looking for a competitive gaming edge, we recommend sticking with a corded option.

If you’re looking for the best Bluetooth speakers, we’ve got you covered there, too.

More Expert Tech Roundups

Mark Knapp is a regular contributor to IGN and an irregular Tweeter on Twitter @Techn0Mark


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