The Best Wireless Earbuds

After putting 25 models through more than 30 hours of testing by our expert listening panel, we’ve chosen the Phiaton BT 100 NC as the best Bluetooth earbuds for most people. Music sounds fantastic, calls are clear to both you and your caller, and the fit is comfortable. Plus, this pair is a fantastic value, with better performance and features than headphones that cost twice as much.

Our pick

Phiaton BT 100 NC

Fantastic sound, decent noise cancelling, and great for phone calls: The Phiaton BT 100 NC will get you through a busy day.

The battery life on the BT 100 NC is about 7.5 to 12 hours depending on use, but these earbuds also function while charging—a feature that can be very helpful on cross-country flights or long workdays. If you need to connect to a non-Bluetooth source, the BT 100 NC functions in listen-only mode corded via an included ⅛-inch headphone jack. These headphones are water and sweat resistant, too, so if you get caught in the rain or perspire on a hot day, you won’t need to worry about them shorting out. That said, the collar can get in the way of vigorous workouts, so if you’re looking for your best bet for hitting the gym or going on a run, check out our guide to the best wireless exercise headphones.


Samsung Level U Pro

A terrific choice especially for anyone with a Samsung device. The Level U Pro’s only real downside is piercing high frequencies when you don’t use it with a Samsung phone.

If our pick is sold out, or you have a Samsung phone, we also recommend the Samsung Level U Pro. The sound can be a bit piercing on high notes and consonants, which is what kept this pair from being our top pick, but this is an otherwise nice-sounding set of headphones with well-defined mids and bass. It has a light and comfy collar with dual microphones that ensure clear calls, in addition to a few unexpected features that are quite nice to use. The earbuds have magnets that can attach when you hang them around your neck. When you separate the magnets, the Level U Pro will auto-answer an incoming call; they also pause your music when stuck together. The roughly nine-hour battery life should get you through most days, and should these earbuds run out midday, they will work via Bluetooth while charging. Finally, if you’re a Samsung phone or tablet owner, you can get an accompanying app that lets you adjust the sound to your liking—we recommend turning down the treble. However, without the Samsung-only app, you can’t do much to fix the piercing highs.

Also great


The BeatsX is a solid set of Bluetooth headphones, offering compact size, good sound, easy pairing, and a comfortable fit. It just costs way too much.

If you need better call quality than sport headphones can provide, but don’t care for the bulky collar design of our other picks, the BeatsX is a great option—especially for iPhone users. The high price makes it a worse value compared with our other picks, but unlike our other picks’ stiff collars, the BeatsX’s flexible neckband can easily coil up into a pocketable package. In addition to being more portable, the BeatsX has a W1 Bluetooth chip (the same chip as in Apple’s AirPods), which makes pairing with Apple devices super-easy and also slightly improves switching between paired devices. The average battery life of eight hours should get you through most days, but these headphones don’t work while charging. However, Apple users will appreciate that they charge via Lightning cable—so you have one fewer cable type to bring while you’re traveling. The sound quality on the BeatsX is great, with the exception of a boosted and somewhat blurry bass frequency region. We usually like the fun of extra bass; it’s just that the BeatsX’s “thump” sounds a little more like a “thud.” It has some other downsides, too: The microphone quality, for starters, is about what you’d get from a corded set of earbuds, so your calls will sound okay, but this mic will pick up more background noise than our pick’s mic will.

Who should get this

These headphones are for music lovers who want to listen wirelessly while at (or commuting to) work or school, who also need Bluetooth earbuds that can take calls clearly—something that wireless workout headphones struggle with. Whether you’re sitting at your desk or in a plane, train, or the back of an automobile, any of these picks should offer a reliable way to get great-sounding music to your ears and clear-sounding voice to your phone-call recipients. On- or over-ear headphones are also capable of hitting these points, but they can get in the way of glasses and are quite bulky next to even the largest collar-based earbud designs.

Many of the headphones in this category are resistant to water or sweat, but none of them are primarily designed for high-impact activities, so you likely won’t want to use them for more than light weightlifting and walking. For workouts, we suggest looking at our guide to the best wireless exercise headphones.

If you’re looking for our take on AirPods and other similar types of totally cordless, collarless earbuds, you’ll want to check out our true wireless headphones guide. Bear in mind that when it comes to these kinds of earbuds, the microphone won’t be as good, the battery won’t last as long, and you’ll likely pay a lot more money to get similar, or slightly inferior performance compared with that of the picks in this review. We still think true wireless are better suited for early adopters at this time, given the high prices and numerous quirks, but that will likely change as the quirks get ironed out and prices start falling in the coming years.

If you don’t care so much about playback quality, are just getting your podcast fix on, or want to spend a lot less, you can turn to our guide to the best cheap Bluetooth earbuds, but know that when it comes to Bluetooth earbuds, you very often get what you pay for. And lastly, although we did take active noise cancelling into account as a bonus feature for this guide, if you fly a lot or need earbuds with the very best noise cancelling possible, you can also look to our guide to noise-cancelling in-ear headphones.

How we picked

We panel-tested a few dozen headphones to find out how they all stacked up. Photo: Lauren Dragan.

To find the best wireless earbuds for daily use, we took into account every Bluetooth earbud model from more than 100 reputable manufacturers that put their focus on audio quality and mic quality. But that was simply too many to test, even for our dedicated panelists. So we narrowed down the list using some key criteria:

  • As always, great sound quality and a comfortable fit are of utmost importance for headphones you’ll use throughout the day. We noted which earbuds got the worst reviews from pros, and passed on those that had consistently poor reviews.
  • Voice-call quality is also key for daily-use earbuds, since you’ll likely be taking a lot of calls on them both on the go and at your desk. In this regard they should ideally match or beat the corded earbuds that came with your phone.
  • Full-workday battery life is another must-have feature in a set of Bluetooth earbuds you’ll use every day. That means at least seven hours, but the more the better.
  • You should also be able to listen while charging so the earbuds aren’t totally useless when they run out of battery power—say, in the middle of a long-haul flight.
  • They should also be splash and sweat resistant. Although these headphones aren’t designed for working out, you never know when you’ll get caught in a heat wave or a downpour on your commute.
  • Finally, we think that around $100 is the right amount to spend for a set of headphones with these features. That’s enough money to obtain high build quality from a company with a decent track record and reliable customer support, but it’s not so costly that you’d be devastated to lose these earbuds.

After establishing the above criteria, we looked at professional reviews from outlets such as CNET and PCMag, as well as customer and fan reviews on the sites of Amazon, Best Buy, and Head-Fi. This process left us with 25 contenders for our expert panel to test.

John takes his listening tests seriously. Photo: Lauren Dragan.

Our panel evaluated the sound quality, ease of use, fit, and comfort, and ranked their top three picks. I then took those favorites and tested the microphones over phone calls in both quiet and noisy areas via a voice-recorder app. I checked the Bluetooth signal drop by wandering a good distance away from my phone, putting it in a pocket or bag, walking outside, and going several rooms away. And, of course, we tested battery life to make sure that the actual use time lined up with each manufacturer’s claims. Once we had a sense of how each set of headphones performed, we took price and extra features into account and then chose our final winners.

Our pick

Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald.

Our pick

Phiaton BT 100 NC

Fantastic sound, decent noise cancelling, and great for phone calls: The Phiaton BT 100 NC will get you through a busy day.

When getting work done is more important than working out, you can’t go wrong with the Phiaton BT 100 NC. No other Bluetooth earbuds in our test group pack so many helpful features into such a user-friendly package at an affordable price. These earbuds provide a comfortable fit and great sound quality paired with a moderate amount of active noise cancelling. And if the battery dies, they can work over Bluetooth while charging and can even work without power in listen-only mode if you plug in the included headphone cable. Although the BT 100 NC is a sweat- and splash-resistant model, the collar design gets in the way of most gym routines. But at under $100, and often sitting around $70 retail, these earbuds are an excellent value.

The Phiaton BT 100 NC was our panel’s nearly unanimous pick, especially for the price. In our tests the overall quality of the sound was detailed and clean, and even sonically dense orchestral music had nice separation that enabled the listener to pick out each element in the mix. The mids were lovely, and instruments that rely on resonance, like piano and acoustic guitars, had a nice depth to their sound. But the highs could be a touch sizzly—the details on “S” sounds had a slightly harsh sibilance, and snare hits had a little extra rattle. Basslines came through clearly, and we could make out the differences between individual notes. If you don’t get a great seal, however, or if you’re accustomed to the bass-forward tuning of, say, Beats or Skullcandy headphones, you might initially find yourself wanting a bit more oomph. That said, our resident bass-head Geoff was fine with the tuning, so it’s not so much a lack of bass, but rather a lack of emphasis on the bass.

When it comes to long-term use, comfort is everything. This Phiaton pair’s necklace/collar design perfectly balances light weight and functionality. Every part of the design exists for a reason, from the haptic vibration that lets you know a call is coming in even if the earbuds are out of your ears, to the holes at the end of the collar that serve as a dock for said earbuds when they’re not in use. The slim, rubberized band that runs behind the neck is thin and flexible, so thicker necks don’t feel choked. The cable that runs from the collar to the earbuds is angel-hair-pasta narrow, so even if it does brush your jaw on occasion, it’s never annoying. You’ll also find the controls easy to access, as well as to use, without looking.

All the controls on the BT 100 NC are easy to reach and use without looking. Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald.

From the collar you can control volume, play/pause and skip tracks, call up voice commands, and toggle the ANC on and off. As a bonus, the controls also let you fast-forward and rewind tracks, a feature we almost never see in Bluetooth earbuds. This feature is fantastic if you’re trying to find a specific part of a song or podcast without digging for your phone in your bag.

On calls, the microphone does a great job of picking up your voice no matter what direction you are looking, despite its being on the outer edge of the left side. It’s sensitive enough that you won’t need to speak loudly for your caller to hear you. Nor will you need to constantly hold the mic up to your face, as is the case with many corded headphones that have a remote/mic control down by your chest. In our tests, while it did pick up some background noise, the Phiaton BT 100 NC’s mic didn’t fare much worse in busy places than headphones that claimed to have built-in background-noise reduction. Basically, it’ll work fine so long as you don’t accidentally cover it with a shirt or jacket collar.

Bonus feature: The BT 100 NC includes an analog cable for listening to non-Bluetooth devices. Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald.

Speaking of noise cancelling, this Phiaton pair does offer active noise cancellation. Turning that feature on results in a noticeable reduction in the sound of low-frequency hums such as from an air conditioner, traffic, or a plane engine, but you’ll still hear more background noise than you would with the best ANC headphones available. Or as Geoff Morrison put it in our guide to the best noise-cancelling in-ear headphones: “[While our top NC picks] elicit a ‘Wow, these are quiet!’ reaction, the 33iS and BT 100 NC prompt more of an ‘Okay, yeah, neat’ reaction.” That said, our top picks from that guide cost about $100 to $150 more than the BT 100 NC on most days.

The active noise cancelling is a handy feature, but using it will reduce your headphones’ battery life. Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald.

The claimed battery life on the BT 100 NC varies based on your activity. The rated call time is 7 hours with ANC on or 11 hours with it off, while the claimed music listening time is 7.5 hours with ANC on or 12 hours with it off. And Phiaton rates standby at 15 hours with ANC on or 220 hours with it off. Our results were about in line with those claims, though most people won’t do only one thing all day, so with normal activities you will probably have to recharge after 7 to 10 hours.

Even if the headphones’ battery does die, they still have full Bluetooth functionality while charging via USB, or you can listen only (no calls) via an included ⅛-inch detachable headphone cable. Many other Bluetooth earbuds are useless when they run out of power. The versatility of having a corded option, especially for use with in-flight entertainment or to plug into a non-Bluetooth PC, is a nice bonus feature and pretty unusual in this category.

Overall, the Phiaton BT 100 NC doesn’t stand out in any single attribute, but it performs consistently well in every respect, and that’s why we think it’s a great set of wireless earbuds for most people.


Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald.


Samsung Level U Pro

A terrific choice especially for anyone with a Samsung device. The Level U Pro’s only real downside is piercing high frequencies when you don’t use it with a Samsung phone.

If our pick is sold out, or you own a Samsung device, the Level U Pro is also a great choice. These earbuds are comfortable enough to be worn all day, can work wirelessly while charging, and sound rather good, especially if you don’t mind some sibilance to consonants. Although the Level U Pro retails for around $100, we’ve seen this set go as low as $40, and at that price it’s a total steal. It also has some nice bonus features, such as magnets on the earbuds that auto-pause your music when stuck together and allow the Level U Pro to auto-answer incoming calls when separated. Samsung phone and tablet users get even more controls and features thanks to a Samsung-only companion app.

Overall, in our tests we thought the Samsung Level U Pro sounded pretty good. Midrange and bass were well-defined, with a depth that created a sense of space with no blur or muddiness. But our panelists dinged its performance in the high-frequency range. “S” and “T” sounds were particularly piercing; anyone who is sensitive to intense highs will find the effect fatiguing. It sounded as though someone had put the microphone too close to tambourines, cymbals, and snares: They were louder, and they had a sharp, tinny edge that marred what otherwise was a really nice-sounding set of headphones. On Samsung devices, you can somewhat mitigate this problem by using the EQ in the free app, but with anything else, you’re more or less stuck with what you get out of the box.

The ergonomically curved neckband on the Level U Pro is lightweight and very comfortable. Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald.

The design of the Level U Pro is comfortable and light. In our tests, although the collar wasn’t very flexible, the curved joints had enough give that the pair fit all of our panelists equally well. The cables that connect to the earbuds are thin and unobtrusive, and the volume, play, and pause buttons are easy to access. The collar vibrates when you get a call, so if the earbuds are out, you’ll still be alerted to your phone ringing. One caveat: If you are using a non-Samsung phone, the headphones’ volume control is independent from your phone volume. You will need to set your phone’s volume to high before storing it away, and then adjust as needed on the Level U Pro.

With dual microphones in the collar, the Level U Pro sounds clear whether you’re calling or video-chatting.Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald.

The Level U Pro sounds great on calls thanks to its dual microphones, which reduce echoes and background noise. The effect is not a massive improvement in very loud environments, but it can help with typical coffeehouse or office noise. In our tests the dual mics were less successful in diminishing wind noise, which wasn’t surprising for this kind of earbud.

While the Level U Pro headphones are splash and sweat resistant, the collar design isn’t optimal for active gym use. However, if you do break a sweat or get caught in a drizzle, they shouldn’t short out on you. Samsung claims a nine-hour talk/listen battery life, and 300 hours on standby. Of course, your results may vary, but should the Level U Pro run out of power, it can function via Bluetooth while charging.

The Samsung Level U Pro has button controls that work on both Android and Apple devices. Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald.

The Level U Pro also has a number of usability features that are unusual yet practical. For example, the magnets on the earbuds are handy for keeping things tidy, but they also pause your music when stuck together and trigger the headphones to answer calls when separated. If you’re on a Samsung phone, the Level U Pro will also automatically resume playback when the earbuds are separated and end phone calls when they’re reattached. Additionally, the free Samsung-only Level App has EQ capabilities, including several presets for various styles of music. And the Level U Pro issues an audible warning if your selected volume level is in a range that is dangerous to your hearing health, a feature that we’d like to see in more headphones in the future.

Overall, if you can’t get our top pick, or if you have a Samsung phone, the Samsung Level U Pro is a solid pair of Bluetooth earbuds at an affordable price. They sound good, feel very comfortable, and take calls with ease, and they’re sure to help you get through a busy day.

Also great

Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald.

Also great


The BeatsX is a solid set of Bluetooth headphones, offering compact size, good sound, easy pairing, and a comfortable fit. It just costs way too much.

If you’re an Apple user and want Bluetooth earbuds that pair easily, charge via a Lightning connector, and have a fun bass-boosted sound, the BeatsX will be perfect for you. It’s quite expensive considering its lack of bonus features, but it’s a solid set of earbuds, and its pocketability alone may be worth the price for some folks.

Credit where credit is due: Beats headphones in general have come a long way in terms of sound quality. Gone are the days of loud and poorly defined bass that smears and muffles everything else in a song. The BeatsX has a treble- and bass-boosted sound profile that in our tests brought a little pop to consonants and cymbals, and added an extra oomph to basslines that paired nicely with modern pop, hip-hop, and electronic music. Is it a neutral or “audiophile” sound? No, but it’s a lot of fun.

The in-line mic on the BeatsX sounds about the same as mics on corded earbuds with a similar design. Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald.

In our tests the mids were well represented, though some of the upper range of a bass guitar could get lost in dense rock. That’s because the bass boost, although exciting, can come across as ever so slightly blurry and bleed into other parts of a song. As a result, the “thump” you might expect from a kick drum ends up landing more like a “thud,” almost as though someone left on too much reverb.

The BeatsX offered solid performance in our tests, but no bonus features and a higher price kept it from the top spot. Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald.

If the BeatsX were priced under $100, that flaw would be no big deal. But this pair usually costs about $50 more than similarly equipped competitors, with not much to show for it if you’re not an Apple user. It offers a standard-sounding microphone, a standard three-button remote, and, if you aren’t pairing it to an Apple device, a standard Bluetooth-pairing experience. The stated eight-hour battery life should be enough for an average day, depending on your use. But if the battery dies, you’re out of luck: Although these headphones charge quickly via a Lightning cable, they don’t function while charging. This limitation is pretty standard for Bluetooth earbuds, but it’s worth noting if you plan to use your set on a long flight.

The one undeniable advantage the BeatsX has over similar headphones is its ability to smoosh down to fit into an easily pocketable carrying case. The included case is about the same size and feel as that rubber squeezy coin purse your grandparents might have used.

A key feature of the BeatsX is its ability to coil up into the included compact coin-purse-chic pouch. Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald.

For most people, other options sound as good and give you more features for less money. But if you covet the nifty Apple W1 pairing experience and aren’t bothered by the price tag, you won’t regret paying the premium for the BeatsX.

The competition

  • The 1More iBFree added an unpleasant hissing edge to consonants, cymbals, and snares. Testers also didn’t like that the hard stem connected to the cable could occasionally jab at their faces.
  • The Aukey EP-B48 are lightweight, but the bulb-shaped tips wouldn’t stay in our test panel’s ears. The noise cancelling is minimal at best, and the sound quality is coarse, with blobby lows and unrefined highs. Stick with our picks, or save even more money on an under-$50 pick.
  • The pretty build quality of the Bang & Olufsen Beoplay H5 Wireless could not distract our panel from the cable noise, clumsy lows, and uneven high frequencies. It seemed to have a boost around 8 or 9 kHz that made everything sound sibilant, and the dull lows didn’t help. Add in a high price and a weird charging method (it’s a cube dock that does not fit in a case or pocket), and all signs pointed to a pass.
  • Beyerdynamic’s Byron BT and the similar BTA model both suffered from the same sound issues, namely boosted low frequencies and a sibilant peak in the syllable range. Our panelists also struggled to find a good fit. Brent found that the stem attaching the cable to the earbuds pressed into his ear, and I thought that the remote/mic and cable were heavy and caused the tips to tug out of my ears when I turned my head.
  • The Beyerdynamic Byron BTA earbuds were a bit better balanced than the BT set, but their highs were still icy in a fatiguing way. The fit also has the same problems as the BT pair, despite the smaller remote and mic—turn your head, and the earbuds can tug loose.
  • Bose’s QuietControl 30 offers the best ANC out there and is clearly built to last, which is why it’s our wireless top pick for the best noise-cancelling in-ear headphones, but if noise reduction isn’t your top priority, you’ll likely be better served by other options. The sound quality is good, but a little dull. You can’t use a cord to listen, so if you fly a lot and use in-flight entertainment, you’re out of luck.
  • The Brainwavz BLU-100 was marred by a poor fit, sibilant highs, and a huge frequency dip right in the bass-guitar/male-vocal range.
  • Though we love the House of Marley Smile Jamaica BT’s flexible, packable neckband design, the included eartips were too small for even our panelists with medium-size ear canals. So a lot of people won’t be able to get a good seal. Possibly the fit is why the sound lacked the ability to play low notes and had blurry mids and sizzling highs.
  • iClever’s IC-BTH01 earbuds were not the best, but far from the worst in our rankings. Half the panel liked the fit, while the other half found that the stabilizing wings chafed. A frequency peak in the highs gave a metallic edge to strings in our tests, but if you like the wing-type fit and the extra pop on syllables, this set could be okay for you, if you can find it—iClever may have discontinued this model already.
  • The collar of the Jabra Halo Smart felt narrow on most of us, and the thick cables curled in and almost hugged the neck in an uncomfortable way. Add to that sizzly highs and too much bass, and none of us were thrilled with these headphones. A pity, because the 17-hour claimed battery life is impressive.
  • Jam Audio Contour have minimal active noise cancellation and the sound quality made acoustic guitars sound as though they were being played in a stairwell.
  • The JBL E25BT’s low frequencies were ill defined and too forward in the mix, so the result sounded muffled. The cable can be noisy if you wear a collar, and the transmitter widget that hangs behind your head can be annoying, even when clipped. Although these headphones are affordable, our top picks edge them out.
  • The JBL Everest 110 have a large earbud that can make your ear canal feel stuffed. This would be forgivable, but we weren’t huge fans of the tuning. Lows are a little dull, and the highs have an intense spike that leaves male vocals sounding buried. In the end, you feel as though you need to turn up the volume, but when you do, consonants and cymbal hits are painfully loud and tinny. With so many options, that was enough to edge out the Everest 110.
  • The LG Tone Infinim III have a nifty retractable cable that, provided it never breaks, is a great way to keep cord tangles at bay. However, the very small included tips made it impossible for three of our four panelists to get a seal, and the earbuds felt as though they could fall out at any second.
  • The LG Tone Pro have threadlike cables that feel delicate and possibly breakable. The tips included were too small and 75 percent of our panel couldn’t get a good fit, so the sound and stability suffered.
  • The LG Tone Studio are half headphone and half Bluetooth speaker that you wear around your neck. Sadly, they accomplish neither job particularly well. Too heavy to wear as neckband headphones, the design is unwieldy and clunky-feeling on your neck. The speaker aspect, due to the size lacks any lows, so kick drums have a “puh, “puh” quality to them. Instead of the Tone Studio, you could purchase our pick and a small BT speaker and save a ton of cash.
  • Our panel found that the LG Tone Ultra had small eartips that made getting a proper seal difficult. This pair also had less-than-intuitive controls that took an effort to learn. We liked the retracting-earbuds design, but in every other aspect (fit, sound, controls) they were bested by our picks.
  • Moshi’s Mythro Air has a widget on the cable that is the downfall of the design. It flops around when you walk, tugs, and generally gets in the way. The pair includes a shirt clip, but that doesn’t really make the design less annoying. You can EQ the sound with the Moshi app, but in our tests the highs had a slightly icy, sibilant edge regardless of the setting. Brent and I liked the sound, which makes the design flaw all the more disappointing.
  • The Moshi Vortex Air, like the Mythro Air, comes with an enormous transmitter that requires clipping to your shirt. Unfortunately, it sits behind your head, so you need to clip it to the back of your shirt collar, which can be annoying when you’re in a high-backed chair. Additionally, the cable noise from the wrapped cords is really loud every time you move. Aside from that, in our tests the lower mids were blurry, and the bass lacked definition, so male voices got buried in the mix.
  • Motorola’s Verve Rider+ lacked clarity in the male vocal range due to a somewhat blurry bass. In terms of sound, this pair was a middle-of-the-road choice for our panel. Brent got a great fit, but I had a tough time getting a seal. Overall, we all liked other options better, so the Verve Rider+ missed out on being a pick.
  • The Onkyo E200BT’s included tips were too small for larger ear canals like Brent’s to get a seal, and for the rest of us on the panel, the highs were sizzly. The BT antenna widget on the braided cord was heavy and pulled down the earbuds. Nobody was happy.
  • Onkyo’s E300BT had the same antenna-widget fit issues as the E200BT. While we liked the lows on the E300BT better than on the E200BT, the highs were still too forward for our taste. Snares had a “WHAP!” quality. Despite that, the sound quality wasn’t good enough to overcome the poor design.
  • Optoma’s NuForce BE6/6i missed low-end fullness. The mids and highs sounded unsupported and coarse. These earbuds were fine on acoustic guitar, but anything with low bass was lackluster. The fit was bulky, and the earbuds stuck out of the ear canal a good bit. If the cable could be threaded over the ear, they might stay put better, but the cable is too stiff for that to work well. Overall, this pair sounded less expensive than its price tag.
  • The Paww DualSound headphones had a tough fit. Three of our four panelists had difficulty keeping this pair in their ears, as the weight of the thick linguine-style cable and BT antenna widget pulled on them too much. The sound was not a favorite of ours, either: Coarse highs and dull lows meant male vocals got lost in the mix.
  • The big steel rectangle earbud design of the Phiaton BT 110 looks cool—until you put these things on. None of our panelists liked the fit, or how the earbuds looked when worn. The sound of the BT 110 was that of quality drivers badly voiced: The high highs were peaked, and the low lows, as well. The vocal range was recessed, so to hear a singer, we needed to turn the volume up to a level at which the cymbal-range highs quickly became uncomfortable.
  • RBH’s EP-SB headphones sounded great in our tests, and they’re similar in build quality and comfort to our previous Bluetooth sport-earbud pick, the Jaybird X2. This pair had a little boost in the treble frequencies, but it wasn’t unpleasant, and many people will appreciate the extra detail in strings, fret noise, and consonants. But call quality was “meh” at best, and at $150, these earbuds just don’t offer enough features for non-sport use to compete.
  • The Roam Ropes are expensive, and they have a bizarre Flavor Flav–esque design that gets in the way no matter what you are doing. We heard muddy lows, even when we used the EQ app. They’re also prone to interference. No.
  • The Sennheiser HD-1 In-Ear Wireless are very comfortable. However, the high frequencies are forward and piercing. “S” sounds on words are clear, but painfully loud. Combined with a reverb-like quality to the bass frequencies, there is a segment of the mids in the bass guitar range that feels veiled, as though you wish you could turn up the volume on just that segment of the recording. Though the HD-1 have a fancy leather-wrapped necklace, we thought our picks were a better overall value.
  • The Skullcandy Method Wireless’s awesome rainbow-colored tips aside, our overall experience with this pair was a mixed bag. The collar was snug, though not uncomfortable. Larger ear canals will have a tough time getting a seal with no larger-size tips available. And unfortunately, in our tests the bass was loud, muddy, and formless, like a subwoofer with too much reverb.
  • The Sony H.ear in MDR-EX750BT’s lows were somewhat dull, and it had a slight peak in the consonant range of the high frequencies, but overall our panel liked the sound. You can find other, significantly less expensive options that have similar sound quality. The dealbreaker: There is no way to call up voice commands or voice-dial out from the MDR-EX750BT, unless the phone is unlocked and “Hey, Siri” or “Ok, Google” is active. Otherwise, you need to get your phone out of your pocket. If this pair were to cost closer to $90, it would be a great purchase.
  • Our panel loved the lightweight design of the V-moda Forza Metallo Wireless and found them to be very comfortable and easy to use. The main problem is their sound. There is a hissing, sizzly quality to the highs that makes strings and snares sound boxy and inauthentic, and the mids feel dull and lifeless. Live recordings sound two-dimensional.

Wrapping it up

Although some Bluetooth earbud models outdo the Phiaton BT 100 NC in one single attribute, nothing else we’ve tested has the same combination of great sound, a design jam-packed with useful features, and a truly affordable price. These headphones are versatile, comfortable, and a fantastic value. If you’re looking for Bluetooth earbuds that work well for both work and play, we know you’ll be happy with our pick.


  1. David CarnoySamsung Level U Pro reviewCNETFebruary 27, 2016
  2. Alastair StevensonSamsung Level U Pro reviewTrusted ReviewsMarch 4, 2016
  3. David CarnoyBeatsX reviewCNETFebruary 9, 2017
  4. Brian HeaterBeats X bring Apple’s wireless headphone tech to a tethered form factorTechCrunchFebruary 10, 2017
  5. Stanley GoodnerReview: Phiaton BT 100 NC earphones pack plenty of features in a portable packageNew AtlasJuly 17, 2015


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