Now that we’re a few years into manufacturers releasing smartphones without headphone jacks, it’s becoming more common for users to own smartphones that no longer have the 3.5mm headphone jack. If you’re on a tight budget, the Mpow H5 is your best bet if you’re looking for a great all-around Bluetooth headphone.
Best Overall: Mpow H5
The Mpow H5 seemingly tick all the boxes. First and foremost, they offer great sound. The bass is thumping and has a fantastic rumble but isn’t overbearing. This extends into the lower-mids and starts to taper off in the mid-mids and upper mids. And the treble is neutral, flat, and bright, giving the overall sound a dark and warm tonality. If you’re a fan of bass, the H5 should be one of the first headphones you look at. The amount of bass the H5 produce is rather impressive, especially for this price. It doesn’t distort or drown out the rest of the sound signature.
The H5 has insane battery life with up to 30 hours on a charge, which will be more than enough for most people. They also feature a leather headband and ear cups, which will help with long-term comfort. You could easily wear the H5 for a long haul flight and not have any issues.
The H5 only have two real downsides, first being that they only support the SBC Bluetooth codec. That means you won’t get improved audio or better latency, which is typically found in AAC or aptX. SBC in terms of sound is excellent as most people won’t hear the difference, but latency will be an issue if you plan on watching videos or playing games and don’t want to experience lag. Of course, you can use them wired to cut down on this.
The other downside to the H5 is that they use Micro-USB for charging instead of USB-C. If you own a modern smartphone or modern tech in general, you may need to carry a separate cable to charge your headphones.
- Great sound quality
- Long battery life
- Premium materials
- Comfortable to wear for long periods
- No AAC/aptX Bluetooth audio codecs
- Micro-USB for charging
High-quality audio over Bluetooth
The H5 from Mpow offer great sound overall, with long battery life and are super comfortable for long periods.
Best Truly Wireless: JLab JBuds Air
Truly wireless earbuds are fantastic for working out, and the JBuds Air from JLab are no exception. They feature almost all of the basics that truly wireless earbuds typically come with: auto on/off and play/pause, and earbud independent audio playback. This means you can go early 2000s headset style and just have one earbud in your ear.
In terms of sound quality, these are as expected for its price range. A V-shaped sound signature which equates to thumping bass and slightly elevated treble. Dynamic range is excellent however the soundstage is rather narrow compared to other true wireless earbuds.
Being a set of truly wireless earbuds, this also means they come with a charging case. On its own, the earbuds will last up to 4 hours on a single charge, with the charging case netting you an additional 14 hours. The only real downside of the charging case is that it has an integrated charging cable. This means that if the cable frays or completely stops working, you’ll need to replace the case entirely. Overall battery life is decent for truly wireless earbuds.
The JBuds Air are IP55 water and dust-resistance rated. This means you’ll be able to take them on a run or long workout session and should be okay in mild weather conditions like rain. In terms of actually sealing your ears, they come with three sets of ear tips in the standard small, medium, and large sizes as well as one set of ear hooks to provide better stability.
- Bluetooth 5.0
- IP55 water & dust resistance
- True wireless
- Fun V-shaped sound
- Non-detachable cable
Best Truly Wireless
JLab JBuds Air
Truly wireless earbuds that are great for all types of use cases. They offer stellar sound quality, a great seal, and are super comfortable for long periods.
Best Active Noise Canceling: TaoTronics Active Noise Canceling Headphones
Compared to the top high-end ANC headphones, the Taotronics Active Noise Canceling compare favorably.
In terms of Bluetooth audio codecs, they support SBC and AAC. This means that you’ll be able to take advantage of better sound quality and lower latency. Ideally, they would support aptX for even better sound and latency, but AAC is totally fine. Plus, AAC is now supported not only on every iPhone but also on Android handsets running Android Oreo or later.
That brings us to sound quality and active noise canceling (ANC). For ANC, these are great for their price. The TaoTronics block out most low-frequency, consistent noise like trains, buses, and planes. In terms of sound quality, the TaoTronics has a massive V-shaped sound signature that emphasizes the bass and treble quite a bit. The bass has a small bump to give it a bit of warmth and thump, but the treble is turned up quite a bit, making treble-heavy tracks hard to listen to at times.
Where the TaoTroincs fall short compared to other ANC headphones is any variety of ambient sound mode. With ANC headphones, it’s nearly impossible to hear the environment around you, and that’s by design. However, most if not all other ANC headphones have an ambient sound mode that allows you to tap or press a button to disable ANC quickly. Ambient sound mode reverses the ANC microphones and pumps in the environment around you without having to remove your headphones.
Lastly, the TaoTronics ANC net you up to 45 hours of battery life on a single charge. Unfortunately, it uses Micro-USB for charging, which is expected for headphones at this price point but is extremely annoying for those who have more modern gadgets.
- Long battery life
- Great ANC performance
- Foldable design
- Great quality for the price
- Micro-USB for charging
- Lacks aptX
- No ambient mode
- Treble is a bit high
Best Active Noise Canceling
TaoTronics Active Noise Canceling Headphones
ANC at this price is unheard of. Combine that with great sound quality, battery life, and portability, and you’re getting a killer package.
Best Over-Ear: Mpow 059
The Mpow 059 are a great pair of over-ear headphones for the price. Unlike many other headphones in this price range, the 059 are rated to last 20 hours on a single charge. And while they are over-ear design, they can still be folded up and packed away neatly like some higher-end headphones.
And because they are over-ear headphones, they offer passive noise isolation, which should help cancel out some of your environment. It’s not active noise cancelation (ANC) which would block most of your environment, but reducing some noise is still better than no noise.
For those who like color, the 059s don’t disappoint. They come in a variety of colors such as black/red, black, black/green, grey, black/blue, silver, and pink. The construction overall is decent, but you probably don’t want to sit on them or try to bend them too hard.
In terms of sound quality, these perform decently well. The mid- to upper-bass region is boosted quite a bit, which gives you a deep and heavy bass without being overly boomy or muddy. The mid-range is underwhelming. The lower-mids are boosted to compensate the upper-bass boost, while the mid-mids are recessed, pushing main vocals to the back of most tracks. The upper-mids are neutral and should help the upper harmonics of lead vocals. For treble, the low-treble is neutral and natural, which helps balance backing vocals and lead instruments. However, the rest of the treble region is rather lackluster as there is a significant boost that will not only make sounds such as vocals and cymbals sound sibilant, but creates a rather muddy treble region. Overall, the sound is very much V-shaped where the bass and the treble are boosted, and the mid-range suffers quite a bit.
Lastly, these offer Micro-USB for charging instead of USB-C, which is pretty typical of headphones in this range. The 059s are also lacking AAC or aptX Bluetooth audio codecs support, only having support for the SBC codec. Which, again, is pretty typical of headphones in this price range.
- Passive noise isolation
- Battery Life
- Foldable, portable design
- Color options
- Lacks AAC/aptX Bluetooth audio codecs
Solid over-ear introduction
The Mpow 059s are super comfortable and last up to 20 hours over Bluetooth. The V-shaped sound will be okay for many, and the different color options are a nice touch.
Best On-Ear: Skullcandy Grind
So maybe you don’t like over-ear headphones because they block out too much noise, but truly wireless earbuds don’t block enough noise. That leaves on-ear headphones, and that’s where the Skullcandy Grind comes in.
They are super comfortable and can be used for several hours at a time without any signs of pain or fatigue. In terms of build material, they’re surprisingly good. The Grind features a predominantly metal design that feels rugged and sturdy.
It supports Bluetooth 4.1 and just the basic SBC Bluetooth audio codec. That means this will work with most, if not all, Bluetooth smartphones, tablets, computers, etc. But this also means it doesn’t support any of the higher quality Bluetooth audio codecs such as AAC or aptX. While most people won’t hear the difference, the main advantage of something like AAC or aptX is its much lower latency. If you plan only to use these for audio, this won’t matter. But if you’re planning to play games or watch videos, use the included 3.5mm cable.
In terms of sound quality, the Grind perform decently well. There is a slight bass boost that is virtually impossible to hear, a decent mid-range that has an increase in the upper mid-range which equates to a slightly brighter overall sound. The treble region is mediocre at best. Those with sensitive ears may want to avoid the Grind due to its excessive treble boost. Due to the treble boost, treble-heavy tracks and even some more balanced tracks may sound piercing to the ear.
Another potential downer is the use of micro-USB instead of the new USB-C standard. This isn’t a huge deal if you have older devices, but if you’ve upgraded your phone, tablet, or computer within the last few years, it more than likely has a USB-C port on it somewhere. Fortunately, the Grind makes up for it by having a decent 12-hour battery life that will last you all day.
The Skullcandy Grind don’t offer any special features such as ambient mode or ANC. Heck, it doesn’t even have the most up-to-date specs. But at its price, it’s hard to ask for more.
- Great comfort
- Premium build materials
- Long battery Life
- Lacks AAC and aptX Bluetooth audio codecs
- Treble-heavy sound could be piercing for some
On-ear headphones that won’t break the bank. The Grind offers solid sound, excellent battery life, and provide an overall comfortable listening experience.
Best Workout Buds: Anker SoundBuds Curve
The Anker SoundBuds Curve are excellent workout earbuds. The most important thing when it comes to workout buds is water resistance, and the SoundBuds Curve are among the best with an IPX7 rating. It doesn’t matter if you’re out in the rain, drop them in a puddle, or are merely sweating, these will do the trick.
The second most important thing is comfort and stability, which these nail completely. They use a hook and bud design that are highly unlikely to fall out of your ear, even with the most intense workouts.
In terms of sound quality, these are among the better ones out there when it comes to this price range. The SoundBuds Curve offer a ton of thump and rumble in the bass, which is excellent for genres such as EDM, hip-hop, and rap. The mid-range is rather neutral, and the treble is very uneven, which equates to some tracks having piercing treble and sibilance, and others lacking treble entirely.
In terms of the underlying tech, the SoundBuds Curve support Bluetooth 5.0 and the aptX Bluetooth audio codec. This means you’ll get higher audio fidelity, lower latency, and a more efficient battery life with up to 18 hours of on a charge.
The only downside, as with many other headphones at this price, is that they charge over micro-USB instead of the more modern connector that is USB-C.
- Bluetooth 5.0 with support for aptX
- Long battery life
- IPX7 water resistance
- Micro-USB for charging
- Uneven treble reproduction
Best Workout Buds
Anker SoundBuds Curve
Flex-able workout earbuds
With IPX7 water resistance, 18 hours of battery life, and aptX support, it’s hard to say no at this price.
Best Battery Life: Tribit XFree Tune
If you’re looking for headphones with the absolute most extended battery life, look no further than the Tribit XFree Tune. With up to 40 hours on a single charge, it’s highly unlikely you’d be in a scenario where you’re running low on juice. The only downside is that they use Micro-USB for charging instead of the newer USB-C connector.
In terms of comfort, these are great. No issues with pain on the crown of the head or heat building up over long periods. The ear cups are large and accommodate big ears (including my own). And when you want to put them away, the ear cups fold up nicely, making them super compact for travel.
For sound, they’re above average. The bass isn’t overly punchy or thumpy and is controlled very well. The mid-range is neutral, and the treble has a good boost without being overly sibilant or fatiguing. They feature Bluetooth 4.1 and have support for SBC and AAC when it comes to Bluetooth audio codecs. This is better than most in this area as AAC nets you improved sound quality and lower latency. While still not ideal for gaming, playing videos should be fine in this scenario.
- Ridiculously long battery life
- Comfortable for long use
- Support for AAC
- Micro-USB for charging
Best Battery Life
Tribit XFree Tune
Long listening sessions
Wow, the Tribit XFree Tune last quite a long time with up to 40 hours of use on a single charge. The comfort lets you listen for long periods, and the sound is excellent.
Best Comfort Buds: Mpow Flame
For some users, the most important thing when it comes to earbuds is the comfort, and the Mpow Flame covers that pretty well. They have a hook plus earbud design, which means they also have great stability on top of comfort.
You’ll also get excellent water resistance with the Flame as well with an IPX7 rating. This means that if you drop your buds in a puddle or plan on using them for working out, you can pick them up, dry them off and you’ll be alright.
In terms of sound quality, the Flame have a V-shaped sound signature. This means the bass will have a considerable bump with thumping, deep bass that can sometimes feel overpowering and downright muddy. The treble is boosted but isn’t overly piercing. The mid-range is neutral, but due to the overemphasis on bass, it will sound recessed at times.
For battery life, they’re pretty decent with a total of 9 hours of listening. In terms of charging, you’re able to get the full 9 hours of listening with a 1.5-hour charge. The Flame are one of the few headphones in its price range to offer any fast charging. Most other headphones will require 2-3 hours to charge from 0 to 100%.
The Flame uses Bluetooth 4.1 instead of Bluetooth 5.0. They also only support SBC for the Bluetooth codec, lacking AAC or aptX. In both cases, this won’t matter much if you’re planning to use them for listening to music. And lastly, the Flame uses Micro-USB for charging versus the newer USB-C standard.
- Comfortable and stable
- Bass boosted, V-shaped sound
- Long battery life with fast charging
- No support for AAC/aptX audio codecs
- Micro-USB for charging
Best Comfort Buds
The Mpow Flame are super comfortable with a fun V-shaped sound. The battery life is decent but charges rapidly.
Great headphones come in all shapes and sizes. Just because the headphone is cheap doesn’t mean it’s bad. Even if you pay an exorbitant amount of money on a headphone doesn’t necessarily guarantee good sound quality, comfort or battery life.
A great example of this is the Mpow H5, which is a solid headphone that does pretty much everything. It features a long 30-hour battery life, a superb bass-boosted sound, and premium build materials for a ridiculously low price.
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
Peter Cao spends most of his days receiving, testing, and reviewing headphones. If not, he’s usually analyzing and enjoying music whether it be digitally through Apple Music, or via analog on his vinyl player.