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Which wireless earbuds should you buy?

Publish Date:

Wednesday, November 23, 2016 2:39 pm PST


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It's time to go wireless, or at least that's what headphone makers are telling us this year. The biggest headphone news of 2016 was the launch of Apple's wireless AirPods—or the almost-launch. The new cord-free version of Apple's icon earbuds were announced in September but are currently delayed and without a release date as the California company continues to tweak them.

But for listeners looking to go wireless now, there's no need to wait. The wireless earbud field is already crowded enough, with 800-pound gorillas such as Beats By Dre and Bose throwing elbows with crowd-funded newcomers such as Bragi and Earin, with literally dozens of brands in between. I filtered through reviews, rankings, and my own testing to bring you this guide.

I'll be honest: I don't see much reason to purchase over-the-ear wireless headphones—what, the cord adds too much weight? (Then again, serious gamers needing to connect across a room might disagree.) The wired ones we reviewed last year will sound better and do so without needing a battery or a daily charge. Earbuds, though, are a different story. Cords are always a bother for athletes, and walking or traveling wire-free, without worrying about getting tangled up on the way onto the bus, sounds like a commuter's dream. And I've always wanted to fall asleep without the minor anxiety of wondering if my headphones are going to strangle me.

Here's what I found from my first steps into our brave new Bluetooth-connected world.


Plantronics' BackBeat FIT sport headphones come with a soft, rubbery strap and over-the-ear loops, to guarantee they don't fall off during a serious gym session. They paired instantly with my phone, offered good volume, clear sound, and revealed one of the true pleasures of wireless headphones: no noise from a wire slapping your chest with each workout step.

Plantronics says they're both water- and sweat-proof, and the company rates the battery at 8 hours, which should be enough for your next marathon or all-day hike. But the open-tip design, while great for street safety, isn't intended to shut out the world at a library or office: for that, Plantronics' BackBeat series includes the BackBeat Go 3, which has a more traditional earbud design and a 6.5-hour battery. If the price is right, these are a great buy.

Platronics BackBeat FIT, $99. BackBeat Go 3, $99.

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