- 1 True wireless earbuds
- 2 Bluetooth earbuds
- 3 USB-C earbuds
- 4 Bluetooth headphones
- 5 Streaming speakers
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The best wireless headphones, USB-C earbuds, and smart speakers you can buy (Fall 2019)
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The best smartwatches, fitness trackers, and wearables for Android (Winter 2019)
- View All 7 Articles In This Series
Hey, are you listening to music right this second? Maybe a podcast? I bet you are. If you're looking to upgrade whatever it is you're listening on, you have a ton of options. Android Police tests all kinds of headphones and speakers, but those reviews are a whole lot of words to read. So here, as part of our Most Wanted series, is a digestible list of the audio gear we're really feeling this fall.
True wireless earbuds
More and more true wireless earbuds are coming to market, ranging in price from explicit luxury to surprisingly cheap. There are good options no matter your budget, and they all feel satisfyingly futuristic to use. Until recently, a lot of manufacturers refused to stop using outdated microUSB connectors to charge their true wireless earbuds' cases, but thankfully, that's changing.
Sony made a splash in the wireless audio space with last year's WH-1000XM3, a pair of premium active noise-canceling headphones that ended the Bose QuietComfort II's long reign as ANC champ. They've followed that hit with the WF-1000XM3, an equally badly-named pair of true wireless earbuds. In his time with the earbuds, Ryan found that they sound incredible. Like their over-ear big brother, they pack active noise canceling — it's not as robust as what you get out of the WH-1000XM3, but with a much smaller form factor, that's to be expected. The buds will last about five hours on a charge with noise canceling on, and the case can top them up three times and charges over USB-C.
That case is a little bulky, though, and the earbuds lack any formal water resistance rating. They also don't support the fancier Bluetooth audio codecs, like aptX and AAC. Even so, the WF-1000XM3 remain our top pick for true wireless earbuds. You can grab a pair for about $230.
Samsung Galaxy Buds
Samsung's Galaxy Buds offer almost everything you could want out of true wireless earbuds at a great price point. For $100 less than our top pick, you're getting nice audio quality and solid battery life, with the buds eking out six or so hours on a charge. The battery in the included charging case isn't as robust, providing about seven additional hours of playback time. It's wonderfully convenient, though, being particularly small and easily pocketable and charging over USB-C or Qi.
There have been reports of the buds exhibiting spotty Bluetooth connectivity when paired with Pixel devices, but if you've got any other Android device — particularly a Samsung one — these are an obvious choice. As Scott pointed out in his review, the Galaxy Buds "probably aren’t the best at anything, but they do everything pretty well."
Anker's SoundCore Liberty Pro 2 earbuds were just released this week, and they seem promising so far at $150. The Jaybird Vista are an outstanding option for fitness-oriented use, with a very snug fit and IPX7 water resistance. They'll run you about $180. The SoundCore Liberty Neo are an incredible value at $50, if you don't mind microUSB. Back on the high end, the Sennheiser Momentum sound absolutely fantastic and come with a cool fabric-wrapped charging case for $300. And believe it or not, Apple's AirPods make for a fine Android companion. Just be sure to sort out their volume quirks.
Remember these? True wireless earbuds may be the future of wireless listening, but good ol' Bluetooth earbuds still get the job done. They might not be as slick, but they're plenty functional.
In her review, Rita described the Libratone Track+ as "almost perfect." The noise-canceling wireless buds sound great and are solidly constructed, with metal bits and a thick, rubberized cable. They're IPX4 certified, too — which isn't much water resistance, really, but it's enough to keep sweat from ruining them at the gym. Rita says they're comfortable and fit snugly in-ear without falling out during exercise. Battery life is solid, too, with six to eight hours of playback time depending on usage.
But they are just almost perfect. The companion app is a mixed bag, and they charge by microUSB. That's certainly better than a proprietary connector like the ones Jaybird insists on using, but USB-C is the standard and we want it everywhere.
There's also the price. At $175, these guys aren't cheap. Still, they're a premium product, and for the most part, they earn their price tag. You can grab them in black or white on Amazon.
Here's something you won't get from true wireless earbuds: bone induction. The AfterShokz Aeropex actually sit outside your ears and gently vibrate to transfer sound to your eardrums through your skull. They work surprisingly well, and sound great. As they don't block external sound at all, they're perfect for when you absolutely need to hear what's going on around you, but still want to listen to music or a podcast without playing it on a speaker. They're also IP67 water resistant.
They're not without drawbacks, though. They're bad for noisy environments, obviously, since they let in ambient noise by design. They also charge with a proprietary cable, which is never ideal. Still, Rita calls them "the best bone conduction headphones out there." You can pick up a pair for $160.
There are myriad great choices when it comes to Bluetooth earbuds. The OnePlus Bullets Wireless 2 come in at $99, and feature great battery life and fast charging over USB-C. The Jaybird Tarah Pro are a very good pair of athletic-focused buds, with great sound and killer battery life for $160. The Jaybird X4 share the Pro's sound quality and sport a more customizable fit, and cost $30 less.
Of course, wireless isn't your only option if you want personal audio but lack the jack. USB-C isn't just a reversible charging standard; it's an all-purpose port, and there are plenty of earbuds that plug directly into it, sans dongle.
Libratone Q Adapt
If you want a premium pair of wired USB-C earbuds, you need look no further than the Libratone Q Adapt. Google carries the earbuds on its own store, and they're guaranteed to work with all Pixel phones as well as the Pixelbook and Pixel Slate. Richard really liked them, particularly their robust sound profile and noise-canceling capabilities.
But it is premium, in both quality and price: the Q Adapt is approaching over-ear price territory at 129 bucks or more. Still, if you're the type of person who can keep track of small, valuable items, these could be the buds for you.
Moshi Mythro C
If you're not down wish spending three figures on a pair of wired earbuds, this option from Moshi might be more your speed. The Mythro C cost less than half what the Q Adapt do at $50, but there's still plenty to like about them. The buds offer just about the best sound you can get in this price range, and they're easy on the eyes, with a nice two-tone look. Bass is fairly prominent, but not overwhelming — and if you're not a fan of the stock sound, Moshi has an app to tweak it.
Long-term durability is a bit of a concern; Richard says the cable and in-line controls feel a bit flimsy. Still, if you can get a couple years out of them, that's not bad for the price.
Google offers its own USB-C earbuds for $30, and they're actually not bad. Highs are a little muddled, and they've got the same divisive cable loop deal to hold them in place as the Pixel Buds, but for the price, they're fine. OnePlus also released the Type-C Bullets this year, which are even cheaper at $25. They aren't as bassy as Google's offering, but higher frequencies sound better, and the buds feel higher quality, with a thicker cable and a less plasticky finish on the earpieces. Also, if you've got a pair of traditional earbuds that you like, there's no shame in using the dongle that (hopefully) came with your jack-less phone.
Also check out Moshi's Avanti C. They're decidedly niche, being high-end, on-ear USB-C headphones, but Ryne was a fan of their design and sound quality.
Prefer over-ear headphones? No problem! There's no shortage of wireless cans to suit just about any taste or budget.
Obviously. Sony's WH-1000XM3 noise-cancelling headphones became an instant classic when they launched, offering great sound quality, some of the best active noise cancellation you'll find anywhere, and a pretty comfy fit, to boot. They charge by USB-C, and can last up to 30 hours with noise canceling turned on. Richard wholeheartedly recommends them.
It's not perfect, of course. The headphones are premium and priced accordingly, at an MSRP of $350 (although they're discounted pretty much all the time anymore). Touch controls are a little wonky, too, especially in cold weather. Still, if you've got the cash, they're among the best noise-canceling Bluetooth headphones you can buy today.
Jabra Elite 85h
Jabra has stepped up its wireless audio game with the Elite 85h. They're high-end active noise canceling headphones that sound great and have incredible battery life, rated at 36 hours of playback time with ANC enabled. In his review, David found their noise canceling to be excellent, particularly when dealing with vibrations (on airplanes, for example). Plus, like Sony's offering, they charge over USB-C, which is a boon to those of us who have fully embraced the new standard.
There's no aptX support, but that's not everything when it comes to quality. David went so far as to call the headphones "the best value and overall experience in ANC headphones right now" at $300.
The Bose QuietComfort 35 II have been around for quite some time, but they're still absolutely great at what they do, and a lot of users find the headphones more comfortable than Sony's offering. The company's newer Noise Canceling Headphones 700 are worth a look, too, if you're in the market for something super premium.
If none of the above options tick all your boxes, consider the Plantronics BackBeat Go 810 or BackBeat Pro 2. For $150, the Go 810 offer many of the same benefits as the aforementioned Bose, while the Pro 2 are a little pricier and a little nicer. Need something really cheap? Mpow's H5 sound decent and have great battery life for just $50.
Headphones are great and all, but sometimes you want to share music with other people, and passing earbuds around a party can get awkward. With the advent of smart speakers, it's never been easier to fill your home with your tunes of choice, and there are plenty of great models to pick from.
Google Home Max
At launch, the Google Home Max was difficult to recommend to those on any semblance of a budget due to its $400 MSRP. It was so expensive, Ryan called it "a vanity project for Google" in his review. The thing could feasibly replace a high-end stereo setup, though, with its great sound and house-filling volume. Since then, it's seen a permanent $100 price cut — and while $300 is still expensive, it's no longer patently ridiculous to suggest a regular person might buy one.
In chalk or charcoal, the Home Max has a traditionally Google understated design that'll fit nicely into most decors. The thing's got five microphones, so it can still pick up your shouts of "Hey Google" when you've got music cranked. It can play tunes over Wi-Fi from just about any app you can think of, and there's an auxiliary input to connect your non-smart music source of choice (a turntable, for example). If you're a hi-fi audio madman, you can pair two together for an extremely expensive stereo setup, but even just one will probably be the best smart audio experience you've ever had.
JBL Link View
It isn't as handsome as competing products from Lenovo or Google, but this list is all about audio, and the JBL Link View is the best sounding smart display you can get right now. In her review, Rita cited the unit's "enveloping sound and oomph," and you can really feel the thing rumble with bass. The speakers are powerful, with nice stereo separation.
Looks are a sore spot, though, with the Link View's ovular design falling somewhere between pedestrian and outright ugly. There's also the matter of price: it costs $300, and that amount of money spent on a dumb speaker setup would surely get you better sound. Still, that's true of most smart speakers.
The Harman Kardon Citation One is like a Google Home, but more premium. It features the Google Assistant and its bag of tricks, and it's even a vaguely similar size and shape. It's more expensive, though, and it sounds markedly better, with an overall warm tone and clear sound across the frequency spectrum. There are also JBL's non-smart display Link speakers; the Link 20 sounds a lot like the Link View for considerably less money. Google's Nest Hub Max doesn't sound as good as the JBL Link View, but it's a better display and still has a pretty robust speaker.
Like we said at the top, there are a ton of great audio options for the technologically-inclined, even more so as these relatively young product categories continue to mature. Hopefully this list has made your shopping decisions a little easier.