Last Updated: August 2018
Bluetooth – the great unifier. Back in the 90s the Bluetooth protocol was created so different electronics could talk wirelessly to one another. It’s named after a tenth-century king, Harald “Bluetooth” Gormsson, who unified a bunch of Danish tribes into a kingdom and no, that is not a joke. And it does precisely what its namesake did, but with electronics instead of tribes. Using the Bluetooth standard electronics such as computers, phones, speakers, PlayStation controllers, light bulbs, cars, and of course, earbuds can communicate.
So which set of Bluetooth earbuds are the best? That’s where we come in. In this guide we’ve broken down all the best options for Bluetooth earbuds at any budget level and use case, as well as what to look for in a good set of Bluetooth earbuds when you’re out shopping for yourself. And if you’re looking for the best Bluetooth speakers, we’ve got you covered there, too.
Before we begin, you should know that when shopping for a pair of Bluetooth earbuds there are two things to keep in mind. First, the Bluetooth signal doesn’t carry well through objects. That could be walls or people, and could lead to the signal being dropped. If that’s happening to you, move your source closer to your earbuds (for instance, moving your phone from a back pocket to a front pocket). Second is battery life. Eight to twelve hours is generally on the high end. If you’ll be using them constantly throughout the day there’s a chance they’ll need to recharge nightly.
If you plan to workout with your Bluetooth earbuds be sure to get something that is at least water-resistant. This is measured with the IPX rating system (there is one for both water and dust, but on headphones it’s referring to water). You’ll want to find something at least IPX-4 (protection from water splashes for at least 5 minutes), and higher if you sweat more than the average person. Above IPX-6 is water proof territory. IPX-7 means the earbuds are safe submerged in up to three feet of water for up to 30 minutes. If you need to take them underwater make sure the charging port can be sealed shut.
Another workout issue that unfortunately needs to be kept in mind is safety. The workout headphones listed here are unsealed, which means they allow you to hear your surroundings if the volume isn’t turned up too high. If you’re running across streets or in areas where there are obstacles the importance of this feature cannot be overstated.
Finally, in all audio signals there is inherent latency. Even more so in the wireless transmission of Bluetooth as opposed to speaker wire. Bluetooth devices use aptX Low Latency technology to combat this. There are a few headsets out there that feature impressively low latency, but if you’re specifically looking for a competitive gaming edge I’d recommend sticking with a corded option for gaming.
The Best Bluetooth Headset For Runners – Urbanears Stadion
I’m in the middle of half-marathon training and the Urbanears Stadion is my choice for my workouts. Over the past few months I’ve put in over 150 miles with them and find them to be extremely comfortable. The low end is a little heavy and muffled, but not to an extreme. The coiled behind-the-head design eliminates cord bounce noise that some earbuds are prone to and the controls, while minimal, are easy to use – even positioned behind your head. Battery life is up to 8 hours, so you only need to charge them every few runs. The one limitation is for people with a larger head size the coils can pull at the earbuds while they’re in your ears and be uncomfortable.
The Best Noise-Cancelling Bluetooth Earbuds – Bose QuietControl 30
The name Bose has been synonymous with Noise Canceling headsets for years, and for a very good reason. If the primary purpose of your earbuds is noise cancellation, there’s no reason to look further than the Bose QC30. The majority of the frequencies affected are between 100 and 2,000 Hz, so it will help with airplane hum and nearby talking. There’s also an optional app that lets you adjust the amount of noise canceling. And they even sound good. The problem: They’re expensive and never seem to go on sale.
The Best Budget Bluetooth Headset – Anker SoundBuds Curve
Anker makes a bunch of inexpensive products, from portable chargers to data hubs. Their headphones are mostly in the $20-30 range and offer pretty good value for the price. They are water resistant and boast a 12.5-hour battery life. Their sound profile is pretty bass heavy and the fit isn’t the most comfortable you’ll find, but for the money they’re a great option.
The Best Completely Wireless Bluetooth Earbuds – Jabra Elite Sport
If you have an aversion to wires, you’re in luck. The Jabra Elite Sport are true wireless earbuds. These don’t have the wire that connects the left and right earbuds together, and instead they each sit independently in your ears. The Jabra Elite Sport is a little heavy on the bass but overall has great sound sound quality. There’s also a built-in heart rate monitor that works well with a proper fit. I personally had some issues with the fit and seal in my ear, but know others that this wasn’t an issue. If possible try them out before you spend the money on them.
Another Great Bluetooth Earbud Option for Runners – Plantronics BackBeat FIT
If your head is on the larger side and the Urbanears don’t work for you, the BackBeat FIT is an excellent alternative. The sound quality is very good, even a bit better than the Urbanears because with the Plantronics there isn’t a heavy emphasis on the bass. The fit in my ears wasn’t as comfortable, but wasn’t enough to be an issue over the course of a 6 mile run. They’re also sweatproof and waterproof in case you take them into the shower.
Bluetooth Headset with Affordable Bells and Whistles – Phiaton BT 100 NC
The value you get from the Phiaton BT 100 NC is a bit surprising. They sound great, without too much emphasis on any one frequency band. The fit is comfortable, and with the controls on the neckband the earbuds are light and small. Plus, they offer decent noise-canceling so it’s hard to complain. The one drawback is the earbuds don’t have a retraction mechanism to pull them back into the neckband when not in use, although you can fit them in manually.
Another Great Wireless Bluetooth Earbud Option – Apple AirPods
The Apple AirPods are essentially the true wireless version of the regular Apple EarPods. The sound profile is practically identical, which is to say decent but not great, and they work seamlessly with Apple devices. The one thing they’re missing is music and volume controls. They have Apple-specific functions, like Siri control, that make them great for iPhone users, but less of a value for non-Apple owners.