Headphones & AirPods Comparisons

Headphones & AirPods Comparisons

Unlike earbuds, headphones have large drivers and intricate components that offer better sound quality. They’re also more comfortable to wear throughout the day and typically come with a portable charging case.

Apple’s AirPods are great for listening to music and podcasts, making hands-free calls, and activating Siri with voice commands. They’re also lightweight and provide excellent noise cancellation.

1. Jabra Elite 65T

The Elite 65Ts don’t quite match the effortless ease of pairing found on AirPods, but getting them to connect is still pretty simple: flip open their matte black case and hold one in each ear, and your iOS device will automatically detect them. They’re also among the most comfortable true wireless earbuds to wear while working out, and they provide above-average noise cancellation. Their companion Jabra Sound+ app gives you a graphic EQ plus presets and more settings like battery data and location-based triggers that adjust their audio quality.

Headphones Mockup Half Side View

The Elite 65ts have a single multi-function button on the right earbud that lets you control music playback, answer calls, and activate your phone’s voice assistant. Listening to Janelle Monae’s “It’s Code,” I could hear the bass guitar and crisp cymbals, while on Kanye West’s “Flashing Lights” I got a pulsating bassline, punchy vocals, and a clean snap in the drums.

2. Beats Studio Pro

If you want the convenience of wireless earbuds but prefer the more robust, sculpted sound quality and comfort of over-ear headphones, Beats’ 2023 Studio Pro model may be your jam. These rock-solid true wireless earbuds support lossless audio over Bluetooth and USB (with support for Apple’s native audio encoding), as well as Apple’s one-touch pairing, hands-free Siri (“Hey Siri”) control, and Find My compatibility for finding your headphones when lost.

The Studio Pro’s foldable hinges above the ear cups make them easy to stash when not in use, while the soft carry case offers some protection against bumps and scrapes. Compared to other premium headphones, these are lightweight, offer excellent noise cancellation and battery life, and sport an appealing and modern look. They do lack some features exclusive to Apple, though, such as head-tracking for spatial audio and advanced controls.

3. Beats Fit Pro

Beats’ latest pair of earbuds offer the kind of premium features that make them well worth the money for most music lovers. They feature a snazzy design, great ANC and automatic play/pause that work equally well on Android as it does on iOS (though the Android version is locked out of the always-listening assistant and spatial audio).

The Fit Pro’s squishy wings and sensor-equipped earbuds are designed to fit snugly in most ears. They have a long-press button that’s customizable to control music, and you can use it to manually pause or resume playback when an earbud is taken out.

They use the same proprietary 9.5mm transducer as the AirPods Pro and deliver the same sonic signature, including a bass-heavy emphasis and excellent leakage performance. You can also adjust the sound via the Beats app to suit your preferences.

4. Apple AirPods

Apple pioneered the wireless earbud trend and has maintained its lead with the AirPods. They’re compact and easy to use, with seamless integration into the Apple ecosystem. They pair automatically with the iPhone, can be switched to other Apple devices easily and change settings or get firmware updates via the built-in Settings app. The Apple AirPods 2 have a better battery life than the previous generation, a more compact case, and improved noise isolation. They now include a built-in speaker that can play a welcome ‘Find My AirPods’ tone, and they support Precision Finding when used with the new iPhone 11 and later.

AirPods are a good choice if you’re an Apple ecosystem devotee, but you can also pick up great premium earbuds from other brands that offer a similar level of smart features and hands-free Siri controls. Keep an eye out for deals as the holidays approach, as you can often get them at a much more affordable price.

5. Sony MDR-XB950X

The Sony MDR-XB950X are a good pair of headphones for mixed usage. They have a solid build that feels premium and durable with padded headband and ear cups. They’re not the most portable over-ear headphones as they don’t fold and the ear cups don’t lay flat to reduce their footprint.

They’re also very bass-heavy out of the box but can be tamed with an EQ. That’s a plus for those who want a heavy listening experience but it can make them less than ideal for critical listeners.

They don’t isolate well enough for commuting in loud environments. They leak a lot of sound, too, which lets ambient noise into your music. They’re also not the best pair of headphones to wear for long stretches because they can pinch the tips of your ears.

6. Sony MDR-XB950XX

Like wedge cork heels and JNCO jeans, the mouthful of a name that adorns this pair of Sony headphones may not make for a fashion statement but it does provide great comfort and solid audio quality. Its bass gives a gentle thump and instruments and vocals sound much clearer than on the AirPod Pros.

Glowing headphones illuminate the vibrant nightclub scene generated by AI

Using a digital processor the MDR-XB950XX boosts bass frequencies which provides a welcome oomph to rock and techno tracks. But with that oomph turned off, the audio is some of the most detailed available from wireless headphones.

The percussion sounds on Cecilia by Nick Drake are very clean, including shakers, hands slapping the wood of a guitar and drum sticks hitting a hard floor. This is an excellent headphone that should be a consideration for anyone with a large music collection.

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