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The Ears Have It: 6 Killer Earbuds and Headphones

Eric Hiss

Tune out distractions with these top earbud and headphone models

Heads up, busy people. As you know, THRIVE | Coworking has so many advantages, from the serendipitous personal interactions that energize your day to the opportunity to collaborate with your team on an as-needed basis. But sometimes, you might want to retreat into your own personal space, whether to block out extraneous sounds or maybe just to enjoy a fave podcast or tune. Thanks to the current state of earbud and headphone technology, that’s all a done deal, accompanied by as many advanced features — such as Active Noise Cancelling — as you are willing to pay for. From options that range from easy-on-the-budget to more cowbell please, here is a top crop of the latest and greatest that will deliver the sound of silence (or a jamming track) when you want to enter your private space, wherever you are.

Bose 700 Noise Cancelling Headphones Style: Over-ear wireless; Price: $$$

Bose is a go-to brand for pretty much any type of audio accessory. And so it is with these ANC (active noise canceling) over-ear headphones that come loaded with features. Let’s start with the obvious: The noise cancellation is highly customizable, with 11 levels of sound zapping just a tap away on the left earcup. The 700 is also a winner when it comes to making and taking calls and using voice assistants like Alexa and Google Assistant. Use touch controls to get easy access for calls, music, navigation and more without ever needing to access your phone. And for those long days, where you’re jumping from calls to playlists to Alexa asks, rest assured the light headband and padded earcups will keep you comfortably connected. ($379)

Apple AirPods Pro Style: In-ear wireless; Price: $$$

You know the drill with Apple products: A sleek and stylish coolness factor paired with best-of-class technology. The device is also most likely going to perform best with other Apple products, so there’s that consideration. What that all looks like in the Apple AirPods Pro is three levels of noise cancellation matched with some pretty serious acoustics chops thanks to a custom speaker driver and a high-dynamic range amplifier somehow all packed into this small sonic powerhouse. We give the AirPods Pro extra points for ergonomic touch controls, seamless connection with your iPhone and Siri, as well as offering three sizes of silicone tips for a near-custom fit. ($249)

Beats Fit Pro Style: In-ear wireless; Price: $$

If you’re the type who takes a run before you make your first call or hits the gym at day’s end, Beats Fit Pro should be in your pack — they’re good to go whether you’re working up a sweat or just plain working. Water and sweat resistant, the Beats Fit Pro shares other features with AirPods Pro (Beats is now a subsidiary of Apple) including active noise canceling, Adaptive EQ, and Spatial Audio for a surround sound feel. Apple’s H1 chip provides for audio sharing, and there’s some great ergonomics at play here, too, with this design’s signature “wingtips” providing added in-ear stability and a secure fit. ($199)

Jabra Elite 45h Style: On-ear wireless; Price: $

Proving that you can still get quality at a modest price point, the Jabra Elite 45h offers a solid performance on a lot of levels, including drivers that deliver excellent audio from high to low frequencies, comfort in the form of memory foam earpads, and even a feature-rich companion app. What you won’t get here is noise canceling, but if that’s not a priority, the Jabra Elite 45h should be on your shortlist. Other features we like include easy-access earcup controls for features like call management, voice assistants (Siri for iOS, Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant), and a beefy battery life of up to 50 hours on a single charge to keep you connected on even your longest days. ($99)

EarFun Free Pro 2 Style: In-ear wireless; Price: $

Another easy-on-the-wallet option, this one in the wireless earbud category, is the Free Pro 2, a super-lightweight and ergonomic design from EarFun. There’s no skimping on features, and although the performance of say, noise canceling, won’t be at the same level as units costing hundreds of dollars more, the fact you can get transparency mode and an enhanced four-microphone array for clearer conversations in busy environments is something to call home about. Another plus is the unit’s quick charging ability, with a mere 10-minutes charge providing 120 minutes of play time. ($79)

Beyerdynamic DT 700 Pro X Style: Over-ear wired; Price: $$$

If you’re part of the creative class — mixing music or other pursuits where sound must be spot-on accurate — or just a demanding audiophile, this newest model from Beyerdynamic is a good call. Made in Germany with all the technical rigor you would expect, the DT 700 Pro X delivers accuracy, power and a dynamic, clean sound (including bass), thanks to Stellar.45 drivers with an impedance of 48 ohms. Translation: You will quickly realize what you have been missing with Bluetooth headphones. Included with the headphones are two straight cables (mini-XLR to 3.5mm) and a quarter-inch headphone jack adapter. However, note that the cables don’t feature in-line mics or remote. With plush, velour earpads, expect lots of comfort while you’re creating your next big thing. ($299)

Written by Eric Hiss

July 8, 2022

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