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Earbuds have been on my mind lately (and literally IN my head), so I've been having various conversations with friends and colleagues about their 'buds of choice. Then, the strangest thing happened. My dear friend... we'll call her Liz*... admitted the only headphones that actually stay in her head are Apple AirPods. WHAT (???) NOBODY (!!!) likes apple AirPods. Seriously. Read a review. Try them for yourself. They don't stay in your head and you look like a total goober with the stark white pods dangling out of your ears. Even Liz admitted that she and husband, Jamie**, think it's weird that they fit her ears so comfortably, and that she enjoys them so much. Hence, the importance of this list of the best alternative earbuds to replace your plastic Apple ones. (That I write from my Apple MacBook Pro as I browse Instagram on my iPhone.)
*lol, her actual name
**lol, also his actual name
1. Samsung Gear IconX
It’s no accident that Samsung Gear’s IconX earbuds are at the top of the list. The surprisingly comfortable buds hit every mark: Not only are they truly cable-free, they come equipped with two sizes of ear gels that fit perfectly into any sized ear hole. (Ew… but, true.) They also come with a super slim charging case that’ll look actually kind of chic when charging next to the rest of your gadgets. Pick from three colors: blue, black, or white.
And, if you’re a semi-fitness buff like myself, you’ll love that they are sweat resistant and have the added bonus of phone-free workouts! Seriously. Simply download the Samsung Gear app, add your favorite music, and you can go on a leisurely run with your favorite playlist without schlepping your phone, too. What’s more, it has a built-in fitness tracker that’ll track your steps, so you seriously don’t need to carry your phone with you on your next run. We promise you won’t miss it.
2. Here One
It’s the most expensive on this list but for good reason: The Here One is a truly cordless set of earbuds that boasts an impressive 3-in-1 technology with premium audio, noise cancellation, and speech enhancement. What does this mean? Not only can you stream music and make calls, you can also cancel out annoying noises with Real-World Sound Control or even “turn the volume up” on the world around you.
The feature that we love the most? Smart noise filters—the ability to tune out unwanted sounds like an airplane engine (you can still hear your seatmate… if you’d like), office chatter, and more. On the flip side, you can amplify noises, too — so that soft spoken coworker just became a whole lot more audible.
Over time the Here One learns your preferences, so you don’t need to constantly fiddle with controls. And, you can adjust each individual bud based on your ear’s sensitivity, so if your right ear needs a little less noise, you have full control.
The only downside is that you only get about two hours of streaming for each charge, but if you have the charged carrying case with you, you can get an additional eight hours out of your new buds.
Need a simple pair of buds for music and calls? Skybuds gives you four hours of music listening on a charge. And, like the Here One, you can use Skybuds’ “Adaptive Awareness” to let you tune out the world around you while listening to music, or you can use “Active Awareness” to keep the rest of the world’s audio up without losing quality of the music you’re listening to. (Simply download the Skybuds app and use the handy slider to determine how much or how little of the outside world you want to let in.)
They’re also sweat-proof and water-resistant, so use these on long runs without worrying about breaking them with your damp brow. (Sorry! You’re sweaty.) Simply press the button on the buds to start and pause your music. Getting a phone call? Press the same button to answer—or hold down on the button to ignore.
If you’re in it for the looks, the buds come in three sleek colors—charcoal (a dark black), nimbus (silver), and pearl (white)—and is equipped with a matching charging dock that’ll keep your Skybuds charged for 24 hours.
4. Apple AirPods
Oops, did we say that we hated Apple’s AirPods? Because for some (read: Liz above), they actually do work, and we can’t ignore a whole group of people with abnormal ears, can we? Simply toss these buds in your ears and they instantly connect to your iPhone (or whatever Apple device you have nearby): Have your buds in, open up your Apple product and click “Connect.” It’s that easy. And if you take the pod out? The music stops, too, so not tapping or button pressing required.
These pods are slightly more snug that Apple’s corded ones, so they shouldn’t simply fall out of your ears when you’re walking or running. And while the sound quality can’t be beat, customers really dig the charging case. It takes the battery life of the AirPods (about 5-6 hours) and extends them in literal minutes.
5. Jabra Elite Sport True Wireless
If you’re a fitness junkie, you need the Jabra Elite Sport. At the basic level, it boasts three hours of talk and music with an additional six hours of life with the charging case. But the best part? You can get in-ear heart rate updates, customizable in-ear audio fitness coaching, pacing caculculator, and advice on your recovery. Basically, it’s a personal trainer in your ear. Of course it’s completely sweat- and waterproof, and it comes with five sets of rubber gels so you’ll get a perfectly snug fit every time.
6. bem wireless
On a budget? Go with bem. They’re totally wire-free, Bluetooth-integrated earbuds with a single that will get you four hours of talking and listening. And a cool feature that’s missing in other buds? The earbuds have a speakerphone function so your music can be played aloud for your friends.
7. Nuheara IQbuds Truly Wireless Earbud Headphones
The cushioned design of Nuheara means these buds fit into your ear snugly, and the sound is directed straight into your canal for hours of clear music. A single tap control lets you play and pause music, answer or cancel calls. Like Here One and Skybuds, you can dim or enhance the sounds around you. The most exciting part? With these buds you get a whopping 16 hours of streaming without a charge! But if you have the mobile charging case, you get another 16 hours on top of that for a total of 32 hours of listening time. Now looking for long flights to test these babies out...
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