Recommend wireless earbuds to me
May 9, 2017 1:09 PM   Subscribe

What secure, non-bulky, strong-signaled wireless earbuds should I upgrade to (for use with my iPhone 6s)? Are there decent completely wireless options that aren't super expensive?

My current cheap Bluetooth earbuds are crapping out, so I am looking for recommendations for a new pair of wireless/Bluetooth earbuds to use primarily with my iPhone 6S. I mainly use them for listening to podcasts while commuting, but also some exercise/dog walking and I want music to sound decent. I have a list of criteria for my ideal unicorn earbuds, and I'd like recommendations that fit most of them, but I'm flexible.

Currently I have two pairs of wireless earbuds, both bargain basement. First, I have a pair of these PomGear Basik earbuds. They are just terrible. The sound is echoey or maybe "tinny" is the right description, and they are constantly dropping the signal and cutting out, and the battery life sucks. Even when my phone is in my pocket moving around causes the sound to cut out very often, and I can't get more than a few feet from my phone without losing it completely.

The other pair, these Lanbailan Q9s, I like. The major pros are clear sound and excellent signal. They NEVER cut out, and the signal goes quite far, I can get up to 50ft before losing signal, and that's with a lot of obstructions around. Battery life is okay at about 5.5 hours. The problem is that they are top-heavy and can fall out of my ears if they are bumped. Also the cord between the two earbuds is way too long and is often annoying or in the way. At one point I caught one on something and the casing popped open. I was able to put it back together and they worked fine for several months, but now they are dying. I think this is in part because everything was loosened up and plugging and unplugging to charge has finally pulled things out of whack (I believe that's the technical term.)

I'm considering these based on good reviews, but they are a bit bulky, and I did see some mention of sound cutting out.

So here are my criteria:
-no signal cutting out. Even in reviews of top rated sets, I've seen mentions of this. My $20 earbuds literally never cut out when I have my phone anywhere near me, so this is a must. And signal range of at least thirty feet.

-secure in the ears, not top-heavy (could be over-the-ear, or not)
-decent battery life, 8+ hrs, but I could live with less

-clear sound, not echoey (but doesn't have to be super great, I probably can't tell the difference.)

-sealed (noise isolation) or unsealed, I see advantages to both

-preferably charging is through something other than micro-USB. Could be lightning port or some sort of dock or case. Hopefully won't wear out as fast.

-I like the idea of completely wireless, if they are secure in the ears. If there is a strap or cord between them, it should be minimal and unobtrusive.

-I prefer controls to be on the earpiece, rather than the strap/cord. I only require pause/play, but volume, etc. would be nice.

-durable, water/sweat resistant would be a bonus.

-no more than $100 (I'm looking to upgrade a bit, but also open to bargain sets that you really like. I'd be happy with my Q9s if they stayed in my ears better.

So please, recommend headphones that you think fit my criteria, or just ones that you really like. Or tell me what completely different ones I should consider instead. Or even what technical specs to look for, I don't really know anything about it.

Thank you!
posted by catatethebird to Shopping (12 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
i have been entirely resistant to bluetooth/wireless earbuds for a LONG time but finally bought these BeatsX magnetic earbuds for running and use with my new Apple Watch based on this review. I like the magnetic closure so they stay aorund your neck when you pull them our of your ears. I like that they are super light and secure in my ears. They don't meet all of your requirements but they do meet most.
posted by Brittanie at 1:22 PM on May 9, 2017 [2 favorites]

Not quite what you're looking for (they charge with MicroUSB), but the LG Tone series is quite good for the price, IMO. Fairly good sound quality, long battery life, better range than the earbud-on-a-wire type units I've used and the buds certainly don't pop out of the ear. It comes with a few different sizes, which is nice. They seem good in terms of sweat and rain resistance, too. I've been out in the rain with them on and no umbrella on many occasions with no issue, and I sweat like a pig during summer yet they still work fine after several years.

I was initially resistant to the idea of having something hanging on my neck, coming from an old Plantronics set that was literally just a couple of earbuds, but within the first half hour of using them I forgot they were even there. The large battery is really good for longevity, since battery life is still acceptable many years down the line when it eventually starts to degrade.
posted by wierdo at 2:04 PM on May 9, 2017

I wanted to put in a good word for these from Cambridge Soundworks. I've had mine for the last 6 months and I would recommend them.

I'm hard on my headphones, run with them several times a week, etc, and these have held up great after 6 months of daily use. They fit most of your criteria, but do use a micro-USB to charge, and controls are on the wire. Range is very far, and the Bluetooth connection is rock solid for me (using iPhone 6s). Battery life is described as "7 hours of play time" and that sounds right to me (although I've never measured). They stay in my ears even when running, doing yard work, etc. I think they sound great, but I'm not an audiophile.
posted by machinecraig at 2:06 PM on May 9, 2017

I have some Anker Soundbuds that we're about $25 on Amazon. They work great.
posted by rossination at 2:13 PM on May 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

I bought these Soundpeats earbuds when they were on sale.

They're not the best sounding things in the world and they do charge via micro-USB, but they've never failed to charge, they last forever and they've withstood daily abuse for close to a year.

Aside from that, I usually lean on the Wirecutter for a consensus pick.
posted by GilloD at 2:19 PM on May 9, 2017

I have a headphone addiction. For Bluetooth, you really need to spend money to get decent performance. I have been disappointed by the range and reliability of any sub $100 Bluetooth headphones. I have both the BeatsX and Powerbeats 3. Both are awesome, though if you can, I recommend the BeatsX for the form factor and sound quality.
posted by Geckwoistmeinauto at 2:48 PM on May 9, 2017

I'm going to recommend the TaoTronics TT-BH07U. I have now owned two different Toatronic earbuds (TT-BH15 and the TT-BH06). I also have a Powerbeats 2, and an Ultimate Ears (not wireless) and I consistently go for the TaoTronics over both of the others.

It meets these in your check-list:
- Not top heavy and fits in the ear really well (comes with different wings and buds for a good fit).
- Never cuts out.
- Lasts about 5 hours (BH15 lasts 7 hours, but this one is sweat-resistant)
- Very clear sound (and quite good quality, I can't tell the difference with Powerbeats)
- Good sound isolation (although it even becomes better if you buy flange tips)
- unobtrusive cord
- IPX5 sweat-resistant

The are also magnetic so they stay around your neck when you are not using them. Mine have lasted forever so I think they are quite durable. My dad who could never get any earbuds to stay in his ear, got the BH15s and some third party flange tips and have been really happy with them as well.

It does charge with micro-USB, and the controls are on the strap (BH06 has them on the ear, but those are not sweat resistant). So it misses those criteria that you had.
posted by tuxster at 2:54 PM on May 9, 2017

I don't think you'll find anything that charges with something other than micro USB. Overall My top recommendation would be the Jaybirds Bluebuds X or X2 for the best sound quality. The Anker Soundbuds Sport are good, secure and sweat resistant for under $40.
posted by mattholomew at 4:17 PM on May 9, 2017

Response by poster: Thanks for the recs so far, will be checking them all out. To clarify, when I say without microUSB, I just mean on the earbuds themselves. I see most of the completely wireless sets have some sort of case or dock that the earbuds sit in (magnetically?) and the dock itself plugs into the microUSB cord. I'd love to hear about anyone's experience with any of them, the reviews are generally hit-or-miss. And I get the impression that the completely wireless sets seem to have much shorter battery life? (Also, magnetic charger contacts need to be more common in general, it's so much more convenient.)
posted by catatethebird at 4:52 PM on May 9, 2017

I have the BeatsX headphones. They don't check all your boxes, but they do check a lot of them -- particularly the sound quality.
posted by OrangeDisk at 7:00 PM on May 9, 2017

DO NOT buy the JLab Epic earbuds that Wirecutter recommends. JLab has some serious quality control issues, and there's a better chance than not that you'll be sending them back after a few days. I went through two pairs, both had horrible bluetooth range (less than 6ft line of sight) and died after a few days of use.

I do not know why Wirecutter still recommends them. The amazon reviews are a filled with experiences like mine. It is enough that I no longer trust the impartiality of Wirecutter.
posted by slagheap at 9:29 PM on May 9, 2017 [2 favorites]

I've got those Anker earbuds too, and for cheap ones, they're totally good. The sound lacks personality, but they're cheap Bluetooth earbuds - it's fine but no grunt. I haven't tested the range, but nothing has suggested that they're sub par.
posted by wotsac at 9:38 PM on May 9, 2017

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