How many hours a day do you spend plugged into your headphones? Four? Six? Eight? It’s likely a lot. And, whether you listen through the chunkiest pair of on-ear statement-makers or prefer a subtler set of buds, you’ll only be wearing them more as commutes, holidays and gym sessions start up again.
So it pays to have the right pair. Apple may keep refining its AirPods and Google its Pixel Buds — but we’re more interested in practical function than big names. So which wireless earbuds are the best for you? Whether you want a focus on music, taking and making calls or exercise, we’ve rounded up the best below — and they’re all under £100…
For the best music, look for bass and spatial audio technologies
Let’s start with music – arguably the most important use of your earphones. Even in this age of unlimited podcasts and calls-on-the-go, most of the time you pop your buds in to listen to your favourite tracks. And, for this, you’ll want the best quality, clarity and volume money can buy.
Something like Sudio’s Tolv headphones, with 15 metres of wireless range and the latest Bluetooth technology to ensure your tracks don’t skip. Or these Tune earphones from JBL — developed with a ‘Pure Bass’ system that’ll give every playlist a punch. Or, for a more recognisable name, LG’s Tone earphones may look a little plasticky, but they’ve been tuned up with Meridian’s Headphone Spatial Processing technology — to create a realistic soundstage, and truly impressive spatial audio.
Sudio Tolv True Wireless Headphones
JBL Tune 120TWS Earphones
LG Tone Wireless Earphones
For workout practicality, choose a sweatproof, ergonomic design
When working out, most of us try to lose ourselves in the most pumping, thumping playlists we can find — music to power us to personal bests. So, whether you’re out for a run or upping your weight in a freshly re-opened gym, look for loud sound, sweatproof construction and a practical shape.
Something like JLab’s Audio Air Sport design — curved to fit around your ears and stay put regardless of how high you jump, quick you turn or fast you run. Sony, too, has a brilliant option. The electronics giant’s Sports Wireless headphones connect with the brand’s Connect app, allowing you to experiment with different motivating sound signatures and presets. Or, for a cheaper option, JAM’s Live Free earphones may not look fit for a workout, but a range of sweatproof silicone ear tips will allow you to find the perfect secure fit.
JLab Audio Air Sport Headphones
Sony Sports Wireless Headphones
JAM Live Free Earphones
For business use, noise cancellation and high-bitrate streaming are essential
But earphones are no longer exclusively items of leisure. While we may relax listening to music, or plug in before a morning run, we also use these buds throughout the day — taking calls, organising our schedules and making notes on the go. For this, you need to look for a different type of tech…
From RHA, these TrueConnect headphones are ideal for a professional pace of life — with high-bitrate streaming ensuring maximum signal strength, clear calls and uninterrupted audio. Philips, like Sony above, has created a predictably decent — and reasonably priced — option, with Google Assistant awakened with a simple double-click on the multifunction button. Even Huawei, for all its sins, has an excellent option for call-making and taking, with three integrated mics and powerful active noise cancelling — making its FreeBuds the best option of all.
RHA TrueConnect True Wireless Headphones
Philips UpBeat Wireless Earphones
Huawei FreeBuds 3i Earphones
For travel, look for the longest battery life
Finally, there are those earphones engineered for the travellers; the jet-setters and the globe-trotters. We may not be thinking much about long-haul flights or voyages at the moment — but the minute all worldwide lockdowns lift, we’ll be packing our headphones in our carry-on and heading to the airport. So we’d better make sure they’re good ones — and that means looking at battery life.
From Happy Plugs, these AIR 1 wireless buds have an incredible 14 hours of playtime — and 90 hours on standby. That’ll get you from London all the way to Kuala Lumpur, or even Las Vegas. With graphene enhanced drivers, these Melomania earphones from Cambridge Audio may have a slightly lower battery life (still an impressive nine hours) but they make up for that dip with a superior listening experience. Or opt for Creative Outlier’s Gold Earphones; the best of all worlds with 14 hours playtime, Super X-Fi software and a sweatproof construction.
Happy Plugs AIR 1 True Wireless Headphones
Cambridge Audio Melomania Earphones
Creative Outlier Gold Earphones
Looking for something a little louder? Here are the best home speaker systems for your house…
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