Comfortable wireless earbuds?
August 9, 2021 7:10 PM   Subscribe

I sprang for Bose Quiet Comfort noise cancelling earbuds, but the noise cancelling feature gives me a headache and makes me nauseous. They sound great though! Can you recommend wireless earbuds that sound good, are not noise cancelling, and are comfortable? In fact, comfortable is the thing I want most of all.
posted by swheatie to Technology (16 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Can you turn off the noise cancelling feature? I have over-the-hear QCs and I can toggle noise cancelling on and off. Their website makes it look like you can cycle between modes by double-tapping the left earbud.
posted by radioamy at 7:15 PM on August 9, 2021 [1 favorite]

I don't know how long you gave them, but I will say that for the first few minutes I had the noise cancelling feature turned on for my over-the-ear Bose QCs I was nauseous and kind of woozy. But that went away fairly quickly, and now I can wear them with no problems.

And yeah, you should be able to turn that off fairly easily. Mine have two noise cancelling settings, and then a setting with no noise cancelling at all.
posted by ralan at 7:22 PM on August 9, 2021

Response by poster: I can turn down/off the noise cancelling feature, but they're super expensive, so if I'm not using the main feature, it seems like a waste. It's possible I'll get used to them, and I'll try them a couple more times, but I get car sick and tend toward migraines, so it wouldn't surprise me if this is just how it goes.
posted by swheatie at 7:29 PM on August 9, 2021

I feel like this is going to be nearly impossible to answer because comfort is so subjective. Everyone's ear is a different shape, so what is comfortable in my ear might not be comfortable in yours. I like my AirPods Pro, but they do have noise cancelation and I think are almost as expensive as the Bose. I also like the regular AirPods I used to have but they fall out of my ears. I had some Beats wireless ones that were not bad before the AirPods. I know people who like Skullcandy. I know this is probably not very helpful, but maybe it gives you some directions to start in.
posted by primethyme at 8:27 PM on August 9, 2021

I agree with primethyme - comfort is going to be so personal as to render recommendations moot.

Do you have any good audio shops near you that allow headphone testing? If so, I'd recommend that. When I picked up my old $200-ish in-ear Sennheisers, I tested them out (and a few other models) in the store. Note that this was a few years ago (so not sure if this is doable in the now times), and even though I felt comfortable with the approach (they wiped everything down really well with alcohol pads before and after testing), there may be an ick factor there.
posted by Paper rabies at 8:38 PM on August 9, 2021

You may have already considered this but the Bose sport earbuds look physically similar (to me) to the QC version, maybe try those?

(For me, the only earbuds I have been able to wear for more than like 15 minutes without discomfort + sound quality is great are Airpods Pro. I was personally fairly shocked that this was the case, but here we are.)
posted by sm1tten at 8:47 PM on August 9, 2021

Buy a set of earbuds that comes with different sizes and styles of tips, that way you have a variety of options. Personally, the most comfortable headset I ever owned was one of the earliest A2DP stereo Plantronics sets. I used the foam earplug style tip on one side and one of the shaped gels on the other.

There is a pretty standard size for the nubbin on most earbuds with interchangeable tips, so you can buy a pack of tips from Amazon with like 20 different styles as long as the earbuds you use have the same size opening. Everything from the Plantronics to the LG Tone series to the surprisingly good for the price wired Panasonic buds I'm using now will all fit the same tips. (The Panasonic ones have a weird angle thing going on that makes some not work, but the nubbin the tips fit onto is the same size as all the others)
posted by wierdo at 9:00 PM on August 9, 2021

I have very sensitive hearing and the Bose 700 NC headphones, supposedly their top of the line, had a distinctive high-pitched staticky headache-inducing noise when used with an iPhone. On the other hand, AirPods Pro are incredibly pleasant and effective.
posted by dum spiro spero at 9:28 PM on August 9, 2021

You didn't mention a cost ceiling, so I'll mention that you can have tips made custom for your ears. It requires having an audiologist make a mold of your ears and then sending that mold off to have them made. This can be more expensive than the drivers themselves, but it should solve your problem for sure. This is standard for musicians with in-ear monitors on stage.

You can also buy alternate tips of many kinds, sometimes in different shapes, too, for relatively cheap. You know those foam earplugs that you squeeze before putting in your ear? They make earbud tips out of that stuff too. A set of those saved a pair of earbuds that kept falling out on runs; they may work for you. The brand I used is Comply but I think others exist too.
posted by dbx at 4:42 AM on August 10, 2021

Decibullz used to offer moldable ear gels to fit your ear but nowadays they only offer their own moldable earphones and airpod / earpod moldable adapters.

Ultimate Ears have something similar called UE Fits that also fitted to your ear but it's single fit only (cannot be re-molded, unlike Decibullz)

However, most earbuds can be improved by simply replacing the silicone ear tips with foam ear tips. They do need to be periodically replaced, but they are much more comfortable.

I personally get around all that by using bone conduction headphones, but I have special needs as my head is HUGE and finding a pair to fit my XL noggin proved to be difficult. :D
posted by kschang at 5:24 AM on August 10, 2021

Amendment to previous: these guys have a custom molding system for any earphones, or they have their own headphones, of course.
posted by kschang at 5:30 AM on August 10, 2021

I am not a big audiophile, so I don't go for high-end earbuds, just ones that work. My wife is about comfort and ease of use. I got us both Tozo's, which have been very good for what we wanted, i.e. comfort, decent sound, ease of use. She listens to audiobooks and also uses them for workout music. I use them for yardwork, etc.

they come with multiple tips and are comfortable for extended wearing (for us, YMMV).
posted by rich at 7:44 AM on August 10, 2021

I had a hard time finding wireless earbuds that I could wear comfortably until I got these EarFun Air earbuds. No noise cancelling, sound is pretty good I think, and they are super comfortable with several tip size options. I use them for work daily.
posted by assenav at 8:54 AM on August 10, 2021 [1 favorite]

I got a set of Jabra Elite Active 65t earbuds a couple years ago for exercising and travel. With the pandemic, I have ended up using them much more often than I planned, mostly for teaching and meetings on Zoom. I quite like them. They don't have active noise canceling but they do block out a fair amount of sound.
posted by brianogilvie at 12:05 PM on August 10, 2021 [1 favorite]

I was very happy with the sound of my Powerbeats Pro, but they ultimately didn’t work for me because they had no noise cancellation and the noise isolation was mediocre for me. But they were very comfortable and I would definitely recommend them to someone who didn’t care about or didn’t want noise cancellation.
posted by holborne at 4:59 PM on August 10, 2021

I absolutely love my Shure SE425s, though the SE215s sound pretty dang good and are waaaay cheaper. Both can be used with the BT-2 cable for bluetooth. The BT-2 is great IMO, and is being phased out so might be available on the cheap.
posted by TheCoug at 7:17 PM on August 11, 2021

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