The descriptor “wireless” is bandied about in product synopses and tech magazines, without seeming to abide by a strict definition. A product that previously offered a functionality dependent on wires may be labeled “wireless,” even if it contains other functionalities still attached to wires.
It’s a semantic question worth asking. Like an ancient Zen koan: if a tree falls in the forest, and no one’s around to hear it, does it make a sound? Or: if a wireless speaker uses wires to plug into the wall but does not need wires to connect to its audio source, i.e. your phone, is it truly wireless? Or is it, like, half-wireless? Half-wired? At least as it pertains to the world of headphones, we’ve got a definitive, unequivocal, authoritative answer for you. As for those other realms, well – for now, you’re on your own.
Wireless vs. True Wireless
What's the difference?
The term “wireless headphones,” in today’s parlance, is simultaneously used to describe two distinctly different things. Many pairs of headphones categorized as “wireless” do, actually have wires. The term “wireless” applies to any pair of headphones that have no physical tether to their audio source. This means that in order for headphones to be considered wireless, a wire can still connect the headphones to one another, just so long as they don’t plug into the phone or mp3 player itself. The term “wireless” entered the consumer lexicon when Bluetooth headsets first rose to prominence in the early 2000s.
Back then, in the public approximation, these headsets were the tools of telemarketers and business guys who talked at airports too loudly and took their jobs a little too seriously. But nowadays, everyone uses bluetooth technology. Headphones with wireless connectivity to your phone are becoming the new standard, and the presumptive successor to that wireless iteration, true wireless headphones, are gaining traction, too. Headphones that neither have a wire between them and the phone or music player, nor between each each other, can be referred to as “true wireless.” Many manufacturers, like Bose, boast both a “wireless” and “true wireless” model of their headphones.
To some, true wireless headphones are easier to lose than the wired-wireless model. Alternatively, as true wireless headphones have only been on the market for about a year, some people might think the trusty, wire-bound versions are more reliable for sound quality and dependable connection. However, the latest generation of true wireless headphones has ironed the bugs out, and the resulting freedom and listening power is something audiophiles have dreamed about for years. If you’re looking to take a leap, and move past a wire bound existence, then take a look at this list of Best True Wireless Earbuds on the market today.
Anker ZOLO Liberty
High Note: Budget. The Anker Zolo Liberty headphones are good quality for a low price, when it comes to true wireless headphones.
The Lowdown: They won’t offer as high a build or sound quality, but the Anker Zolo Liberty true wireless headphones are a solid pair of earbuds for someone looking to avoid putting down too much on their first foray into true wireless tech. They boast Graphene-Enhanced Sound for full audio immersion and high clarity, and overall good quality, with good lows, mids and highs. True Wireless headphones generally have to make a sacrifice on battery life, and the Anker Zolo Liberty headphones offer a modest but respectable 3.5 hours of continuous use without needing to charge up.
High Note: Fit. Proprietary technology makes the Erato Verse headphones very comfortable wears.
The Lowdown: Perfect for the gym, the Erato Verse True Wireless headphones offer a feature called Patented SpinFit™ tips, which allow users to adjust the fit to their own particular ear canals. Extremely lightweight, these headphones are shaped like little space shuttles – in fact, Erato offers another model aptly called the “Apollo 7” – and in those tiny shuttles is packed some serious, space-age tech. Namely, two 5.8mm micro drivers specifically engineered to crank out some heavy bass. Like the Anker Zolo Liberty buds, the drivers are made from a graphene material to flex and offer high sound quality, from a thumping bass to a sparkling treble.
High Note: Battery Life for the price. JBL Free headphones offer 24 hours of playback, when you make use of the portable charging case.
The Lowdown: With four hours of consistent playback without needing a charge, the JBL is at the far end of the spectrum in terms of true wireless headphones’ battery life. The corresponding charging case offers another 20 for users, making a full day of listening possible. It also sports a quick charge feature, which utilizes a 15-minute charge for 1 hour of music playback. An integrated microphone and automatic stereo-mono mode switching allow for perfectly clear phone calls. IPX5 waterproof certification means you can sweat through the oldies without destroying your fancy new headphones.
Samsung Gear IconX
High Note: Google Voice Integration. Samsung Gear IconX are fully integrated with “Hey Google” features to streamline your experience.
The Lowdown: Having a fitness coach packed inside your headphones may seem futuristic, but it’s essentially what you get when you plug in a pair of Samsung Gear IconX true wireless headphones. Google’s your guide, and it has access to your exercise data, like distance traveled, calories burned, reps completed. Five hours of Bluetooth streaming, seven hours of MP3 listening and fours hours talk time allow you to get out of the house and go, without feeling held back, whether you’re out for a jog, or taking a conference call in the great outdoors. Another great feature – you can store up to 1,000 songs with 4GB of built-in storage, so that you don’t feel tethered to your phone. Headphones unconnected to anything? Now that’s true, true wirelessness.
High Note: Sweat resistant. These headphones are designed for you to push your limits.
The Lowdown: The Jaybird RUNs are perfectly designed for what their name suggests – running. Ergonomically designed for your ears, both to be comfortable and secure, the Jaybird RUN true wireless headphones are sweat proof and water resistant, and will incur no damage from a little mud, or a lot of perspiration. A Jaybird app allows you to customize the sound how you like it – whether its crisp highs or throaty lows that you prefer. The app also allows you to track these headphones down, should they go missing – which is, in my opinion, a necessity for tiny little headphones that don’t have any wires. With a 12-hour battery life in your pocket and a 4-hour lifespan when playing music, these Jaybirds will run for as long as you can (unless you plan on finishing a marathon with them, then it’s a toss-up).
Jabra Elite 65t
High Note: Conversation quality. Along with general sound quality, the Jabra Elites offer crisp conversational specs to elevate your phone calls on the go.
The Lowdown: Thanks to dual microphone technology in each earbud, the sound quality offered by these Jabra Elite true wireless headphones is, well, elite. Boasting four microphones in total, you will hear well, and be heard equally well by the caller on the other end. These microphones can also be programmed to pick up any commands to your virtual assistant – the Jabra Elites are Alexa, Google, and Siri capable. An awesomely comprehensive corresponding Jabra app lets you customize your music profile, change how much nearby noise you want to hear, and tweak various other things to perfect your experience.
Apple Air Pods
High Note: Continuous Playback. The Apple W1 Chip is so energy frugal that the Air Pods can last for ages.
The Lowdown: With an industry leading 5 hours of continuous playback available without needing a charge, the Apple Air Pods are incredibly efficient. Not only do they offer the most battery life of any true wireless headphones, but their quick charge feature provides 3 hours of battery life in just 15 minutes. How many times have you been on your way to the gym when you realize that your headphones are dead or dying? With Apple Air Pods, you can charge them to 60% in just 15 minutes, so you know they won’t die halfway through your routine. Another awesome feature: audio automatically plays when you put these headphones in your ears, and pauses when you take them out. Leave it to Apple to make the most intuitive headphones you can buy.
Bose Soundsport Free
High Note: Sporty. The Bose Soundsport Free true wireless headphones are designed to be the perfect exercise companion.
The Lowdown: The Bose Soundsport Free true wireless headphones are the headphones every workout warrior needs. Highly sweat resistant and durable, these headphones are built for the gym. They come with 3 different pairs of StayHear+ Sport tips to keep them securely in your canal, no matter how intensely you move. These sporty headphones offer premium sound quality, and an IPX4 waterproof rating that won’t be damaged by a little moisture. One unique feature: if you don’t want to interrupt your workout for a phone call, you can take the call through just one of the headphones, while continuing music play back in the other.
B&O Play E8 by Bang & Olufsen
High Note: Sound and Style. Bang & Olufsen brings their elegant style to headphones with Beoplay.
The Lowdown: The E8 Headphones from Bang & Olufsen are part of of B&O’s Beoplay division, in which they apply their speaker design skills to products outside of that specific wheelhouse. We are reaping the benefits, now, with the B&O E8 true wireless headphones, which offer a smooth design and stylish look that is definitely unrivaled in the industry. The E8s are made from premium material – only the finest aluminum, textile, polymer, silicone, foam, and leather – for comfort and a clean look. They boast Near Field Magnetic Induction (NFMI) streaming technology, which eliminates audio degradation and improves bluetooth connectivity. They also come equipped with an authentic leather charging case. While they might seem to be all about the visual aesthetic, when considering the name in audio which Bang & Olufsen has made for itself, it’s hard to imagine that these earbuds don’t live up to that standard.
Bragi Dash Pro
High Note: Smart! The Bragi Dash Pro claim to be the first true wireless headphones with built in A.I.
The Lowdown: The self-proclaimed first intelligent true wireless headphones, the Dash Pros are smarter than your average earbuds. Bragi brags of an artificial intelligence system that tracks your activities, so that you can accurately measure your running, cycling and swimming activities. Head gestures allow you to communicate to your headphones, from skipping a song to ignoring or taking a call. In ear biometric sensors can detect everything from your cadence to the number of breaths you’ve taken. To some, this might seem like too many metrics – but monitoring your workout can help you optimize it. It also offers iTranslate capabilities, which can help you communicate in 40 languages! Passive noise isolation keeps the audio crisp and untainted by ambience. But you can also adjust how much audio you want to hear, if you want to be partially present in your environment. With a bevy of incredible features, it’s no wonder that this pair of headphones is the most expensive on the list. But the Bragi Dash Pro just might be worth it.
12 Best Wireless Chargers For iPhone 8 and iPhone X
If you’re going to go wireless, go wireless. Check out this list of 12 Best Wireless Chargers For iPhone 8 and iPhone X, and shed the wires tethering you to the past.