Bluetooth Headphone Reviews:

Get Unwired!

Rumor has it that phone and tablet manufacturers, and that includes Apple, will be phasing out the venerable 3.5mm headphone jack that has been standard for decades.

What will replace it? Most people currently think it will be USB or Lightning that does the job, so soon we may see compatible headphones hit the market.

But why even bother with any sort of wire? Why not go wire free? This is especially important for those of us who listen to a lot of music and watch a lot of TV on our iPads. The iPad is an excellent media consumption device, but it is a bit big, so having headphones that connect to it wirelessly is a revelation. Even better, a decent set of Bluetooth headphones no longer costs and arm and a leg. Sure, you are always going to have $500 audiophile products, but if you just want to catch up with some Breaking Bad on Netflix you don’t need a set of those.

I’ve had a look at some of the best-selling Bluetooth headphones of various types and collected the most promising looking ones here. Let us have a look at each one and see if the juice is worth the squeeze. I put my favorites up first and the rest are in no particular order.

Just to be clear, NONE of these headphones are audiophile units; if you are an audiophile you know more about headphones than I do and can just ignore this page. These reviews are written from the perspective of a regular person who appreciates decent sound, but doesn’t obsess about it.

Top Pick: Jumbl™ Audio Adapter/Receiver

The Jumbl™ Audio Adapter/Receiver is a product I actually own; in fact I own two of them. The reason I own them is that I have been faced with a conundrum on several occasions. Wireless Bluetooth headphones provide a wonderful experience and I personally don’t ever want to go back to the wired days, but they are pretty expensive compared to their wired siblings.

This means I have to buy separate gym, commuting, work, and home entertainment headphones – each with their own Bluetooth.

Also, some of the best headphones you can buy do not have a wireless version to purchase.
That’s where the Jumbl™ comes in. Sure, it isn’t a Bluetooth headphone set, but it will turn any device with a 3.5mm input into a wireless audio device.

It also has a microphone for call and Skype. There’s a full set of volume and playback controls and you get six hours of continuous playback off a full charge.

This is one of the easiest products to pair and use. Like many higher-end headsets you can pair with more than one device at a time and you can listen to audio from both, although not at the same time. While one is playing the other will be muted.

The Adapt is a great device that’s very versatile and easy to use. If there is one thing I would like to have improved it’s the battery life; even at the cost of making the battery a little bigger, since it is already very small. However, it automatically switches on and off, so you’ll find that unless you are listening to audio constantly the actual battery life will easily get you through a typical workday.

Even at $40 this is a product that brings a lot of value to the table, especially if you want to keep using a favorite set of headphones that isn’t going to be upgraded any time soon.

The Spoil Yourself Choice:
Bose SoundLink Around-Ear Wireless Headphones II

Bose has built a reputation as a premium audio device maker, although in audiophile circles it gets quite a bit of derision and people are more likely to point you in the direction of something like Sennheiser. Still, for us regular Joes and Janes this is one of the best audio brands that still borders on affordable and, frankly, dollar-for-dollar Bose will generally beat the stuffing out of anything that Beats has in both sound and build quality. Especially build quality.

These Soundlink headphones have some really tasty specs. The best of which to my mind is the 15-hour battery life, which outdoes everything else on this page. Even better, a 15-minute quick charge will give.

These are not however, noise-canceling headphones – the built-in dual mikes are for noise control when using them to call or VOIP someone. No, these are noise isolating, so if active noise cancellation is what you are looking for then this is not the place to look. However, crank these guys up and you’ll be introduced to some of the best sound at this price, if owners of the product can be believed. Keep in mind that these are generally less expensive than the Beats too, or at least priced the same.

If my money were on the line and I didn’t care about the brand status of the Beats then I’d opt for the Bose headphones at this price.

Most Innovative:
AfterShokz Bluez 2S Black Open-ear Wireless Stereo Headphones

Ever since AfterShokz put their first products on the market I have been very intrigued by the idea of an open-ear, bone conduction headphone. Instead of going in, on, or over the ear it goes onto your cheekbones instead, sending the sound into the ear and bypassing the external route.

Originally marketed as something for people who jog or cycle and need to stay aware of things like traffic, quite a few people (like me) have used the wired sports version to listen to our iPads and other Bluetooth devices while still hearing what’s going on in the office and other environments. My Aftershokz Sports 2s have replaced my headphones at work, combined with an OT Adapt.

These Bluez 2S headphones represent the most current and advanced version of this technology in commercial form. These are not marketed as sports-specific, but retain the strong sweat and rain resistance the range has become known for.

The Bluez also improve on one of the weakest areas for older versions of the tech: bass. The Sportz series has suffered from weak bass as a side-effect of how the technology works, but the Bluez are comparatively better, although they still don’t (and likely never will) match traditional headphones in this regard.

The other problem with earlier transducers has been leakage of sound so others can hear what you are listening to. This has also been reduced in the Bluez 2.

You get six hours of play, ten days of standby, and a charge time of only two hours.

I’m a big fan of bone-conducting headphones as a main audio interface for an iPad, but let us get one thing out of the way – they are terrible for music. You can listen to music on them of course and hear everything well enough, but I find the best use for this sort of headset is Netflix, YouTube, or gaming on the iPad.

Best Budget Pick: SoundPEATS QY7

Read that again. That’s PEATS; not BEATS. Which may be a very good thing for your wallet as these earphones are far friendlier to your wallet than the good Dr. Dre’s products. That’s not to say that these are cheap; the price is definitely not at the bottom of the range. These are billed as “mini” sports headphones and so you have sweat resistance, a range of high-visibility colors, and a design that clearly says “sporty”.

You get six sets of ear cushions and six sets of ear hooks, so you can find a combination that will fit your unique configuration of ear hole and shell size.

Battery life is a little worse than the Beats’ at only five hours and it takes two hours for a full charge.

In terms of the audio quality, well based on what people are saying, it’s brilliant. Considering that these are much, much cheaper than the Beats and there are no build-quality complaints, I’d rather buy this. I’m making this my top budget pick, not because they are the cheapest, but because they are the best balance between price and performance.

Photive BTH3

The Photive BTH3 is a very affordable set of over-the-ear headphones. Personal,ly I prefer to a use over-the-ear headphones whenever possible, especially if I’m going to have to wear headphones for a long time. Their audio is superior to even quite expensive in-ear headphones, especially when it comes to bass.

This is why I find the Photive BTH3 compelling. At less than $50 it is very affordable compared to other over-the-ear Bluetooth headphones on the market. It also has a pretty good overall rating at various online stores.

In terms of the styling there is nothing outlandish about these headphones, which may very well be a good thing since not everyone wants to wear headphones as a fashion statement. The outer surface of these phones are rubberized, which is something I think is important in something meant for mobile use.

It supports the latest Bluetooth 4.0 standard and has a stated battery life of 12 hours, which is good for most people.

It has easily-operated controls on the outside of the ear cups, and one of my favorite features is the inclusion of a 3.5mm auxiliary input, which means you can connect it to devices that don’t have Bluetooth. Also, did I mention if comes with an included hard case?

People’s impression of the sound quality is very positive, however there are several complaints of the earphones breaking off when fully extended and the company not replacing that under warranty. So, other than that, it seems good – just be prepared to baby those cup hinges. Or you could buy something more expensive.

Beats Studio Wireless Headphone

I have to admit that I am one of those people that sort of “forgot about Dre”. Beats headphones have never really appealed to me and people who are really experts on the subject seem to think that the audio qualities of these headphones is a bit overblown.

Still, we have to look at what is on offer here and one thing I can immediately say is that they are gorgeous. They come in a number of really good looking colors but my vote, as usual, goes to matte black.

In terms of features the Studio Wireless is packed with them. There’s adaptive noise canceling, 12 hours of battery life with a gauge, a mike for hands-free calling, and you can also use it in wired mode.

Just about everyone who has listened to these seem to think that the sound experience is really great and this part of the deal is worth the very high asking price. However, even with the latest model there are still plenty of complaints referring to cheap plastics and bad build quality, which is really worrying for such expensive headphones.

Still, not everyone has this issue and Apple (who now owns Beats) happily replaces units that have problems within the warranty period. If you can somehow get an extended warranty this is one of those rare products that may actually make it worthwhile.

Powerbeats 2 Wireless In-Ear Headphone

If you love Beats by Dr. Dre so much you wish they could go inside your ears, well stop reading and go buy these right now.

Joking aside, this is a much smaller and much cheaper addition to the Beats family, although, as Bluetooth in-ear headphones go, these are still up there in price. Once again I am blown away by the looks of these guys. Whatever criticisms people have of the Beats products, you can’t fault them on styling.

The two earpieces are connected by a short, adjustable cable that can easily go behind your neck.

There is an inline remote control so you can easily skip tracks and adjust the volume. Thanks to their smaller size, battery life is about half that of a full-sized over-the-ear set at about six hours total. Charging is via micro-USB, though, so you can recharge it using a power bank.

As with other Beats products people are lyrical about the actual audio, but the build quality of the product leaves much to be desired. It does, however, seem that if any issues are going to show up (and it doesn’t happen to everyone) they’ll show up during the warranty period. So if you prize the audio quality above all, these in-ear phones may very well be worth the risk.

JayBird BBX1MB BlueBuds X

The BlueBuds have a pretty positive reputation that precedes them. I always hear people using them as the benchmark for other affordable yet decent wireless earbuds.

Design-wise these seem like nothing special now, since a number of other brands have copied the basic design. There are a few things about the BlueBuds that still make them stand out. At eight hours, they have the longest rated battery life of earbuds this size I have yet seen. Most others manage to muster five or six hours before needing a recharge, which means you can use them as your daily earbuds to get you through work or play.

They also come with a lifetime anti-sweat warranty, so if your phones fail specifically due to a sweat-related issue, the company has you covered even years from now.

The other major claim to fame is the proprietary Bluetooth audio encoder and decoder they’ve created for these buds. They produce premium sound and bass, the latter of which is almost always lacking in buds, especially ones as tiny as these. On top of this it has boosted signal strength and the option to wear the cord either over or under the ears.

There is no doubt that a lot of design and tech has been put into this product and it is worth its higher asking price for sure. Is its higher price over and above that of the Sound PEATS? Well, that will depend on your budget. If you have the cash, go for these. If the price is a little too high, the SoundPEATS won’t disappoint you.

Can You Hear Me Now?

Bluetooth headphones have come quite far since only a few years ago. They are now definitely a viable replacement for wired headphones with few if any drawbacks, as long as you don’t mind charging them up after using them or calling it a day when they die.

They also no longer cost an arm and a leg. iPad users who switch to the wireless club will really find that it significantly changes the way you use your iPad, especially since most of us leave our iPads on mute most of the time when others are around.

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