Hard plastic and a mediocre app are the only things holding these earbuds back
A mostly fantastic speaker with some serious limitations
When it comes to smart speakers, there are many great options, but for ones that also function as a smart home hub, there are really just two names: Amazon and Apple (though Google is starting to make some noise with their offerings). Amazon seems to have a stranglehold between its full-sized, if somewhat elderly Echo, the newer Echo Dot (5th Gen), the Echo Show, and Echo Studio, along with all the older discounted generations of each model that’s still available.
They're pricy, but it's justified by great sound and features
It’s easy to find great true wireless earbuds, but most of them feel very similar, lacking anything interesting to stand out from the crowd. However, Poly’s new Voyager Free 60 series is taking a stab at enlightening the experience with a case featuring touchscreen controls and a mind-blowing set of features. While these buds are marketed toward corporate buyers, and even feature certifications for the top video chat services, they’re pretty great for just about everybody, as long as you can stomach the price — or get your employer to cover it.
The second-generation wireless headphones sound better and run longer
Master & Dynamic has released a rebooted version of its MH40 Wireless headphones for 2023, promising improved sound quality thanks to new custom titanium drivers along with a healthy boost in battery life, new mics, and a few other small but useful improvements like AAC support and removable ear pads.
Sonos takes some risks that pay off with its latest speaker
My first few days with the Sonos Era 300 were frustrating, and it had nothing to do with the matte black speaker failing to blend in with my living room's messy decor. My right ear was blocked and everything sounded muddled, including the Dolby Atmos-mastered tracks I desperately wanted to find as compelling and straight-up better than whatever stereo mixes Spotify had been spitting out of various connected speakers for years. My first impressions of the Era 300 (and the smaller Era 100), in a small crowded Manhattan office officiated by the Giles Martin, made me hopeful that spatial audio — nascent, but not an entirely new concept to me at the time — was as transformative as Sonos wants it to be.
Feature-packed and rich audio — two keys that make for killer budget buds
If you’re asking yourself whether a cheap pair of wireless earbuds can offer similar quality to options costing two to three times as much, I have news for you. The EarFun Air 3 Pro are shockingly cheap for a pair of earbuds that appear to offer so much from a quick skim of the feature list, and they hold up impressively well.
A great option for extreme athletes
The H2O Audio Tri Multi-Sport are a unique pair of headphones from a pretty unique company. Only a few manufacturers out there offer waterproof headphones for swimming and even fewer focus on bone conduction options for the water. Well, H2O Audio is one of them and the Tri Multi-Sport are bone conduction headphones that can spend as much time in the water as on land as they’re fully waterproof. In fact, as the name suggests, these headphones are meant for the activities involved in a triathlon, meaning you can run and bike with them and then take them into the water.
Decent audio and ANC for 100 bucks is an easy sell
Not too long ago, affordable true wireless earbuds were a rarity, and good ones were rarer still. Today, though, it's not unusual to see earbuds that cost $150, $100, or even less sporting desirable features like active noise cancelation and multipoint connectivity. Jabra's Elite 4 earbuds, which launched in March 2023, cost just $100, and offer audio quality and ANC that are both better than they need to be for the price. They may not have every bell and whistle you're after, but if all you really need is solid audio and ANC, the Jabra Elite 4 might be for you.
Surprise: Apple's earbuds aren't nearly as good outside Apple's ecosystem
We're spoiled for choice when it comes to great earbuds. Legacy audio outfits like Bose and Sennheiser, not to mention pretty much every company that makes Android phones offer compelling options. But while many individual manufacturers make buds that work best with their own phones, Apple takes it a step further with AirPods, which are made expressly to be used with iPhones, iPads, and Macs.
The original was already very good, it just needed a few adjustments
OnePlus set a high bar with last year’s release of the Nord Buds, which are generally some of the best budget wireless earbuds on the market. They were priced at an almost suspiciously low $39, but delivered pretty clear sound and a set of features that would be good enough for most users. Despite having more expensive and flashier options, they’ve even become one of my go-to pairs of earbuds.
A step in the right direction, but Nothing's still got some kinks to iron out
Nothing's first pair of earbuds, the Ear 1, came to market in 2021 with a unique look and a very appealing $99 price tag. After a midlife price increase, though, they started to look a little dubious, with average sound and weak battery life.
Pump tunes with Spotify Connect, and upgrade your Echo
Odds are pretty high that if you’ve ever shopped on Amazon around Prime Day or any other major shopping holiday, you might have bought an Echo or Echo Dot for nearly free. Or maybe you got one bundled with another smart home purchase.
Competent audio and ANC and all the features you need for $150
Flashy flagships may get the most attention from tech media, but there’s something really satisfying about a product that does everything you need it to and nothing you don’t at a price that seems fair. The Jabra Elite 5 earbuds are just that. They offer good audio and ANC, long battery life, and great call quality, plus several convenient features that make them easier to use, all for a realistic MSRP of $150. I think I’ve found my new favorite midrange earbuds.
Not a huge upgrade, but the OnePlus Buds Pro 2 are easy to like
OnePlus has largely shed the flagship killer ethos that once made its phones so appealing to Android enthusiasts, but that spirit lives on in its earbuds. Announced alongside the OnePlus 11, the OnePlus Buds Pro 2 offer robust audio and killer call quality for an upper-midrange price of $179. Their ANC and battery life is only average for this price point, but these earbuds still offer great value.