The Best Phone Speakers and Smartphones for Music Lovers

iphone-speaker-issues

Most people listen to music primarily on their phone, not a dedicated music player like an iPod. The most important part of the music experience on a phone is the digital to analog converter (DAC). That little chip takes digital music and plays it through your speakers. Of course, speakers matter a lot as well. If you listen directly from your phone, you’ll want stereo speakers. And finally, music quality is also affected by the headphones you plug in. If you care about audio quality, these are the best phone speakers and smartphones for music lovers. The 3.5mm Headphone Jack…

Read the full article: The Best Phone Speakers and Smartphones for Music Lovers

Most people listen to music primarily on their phone, not a dedicated music player like an iPod. The most important part of the music experience on a phone is the digital to analog converter (DAC). That little chip takes digital music and plays it through your speakers.

Of course, speakers matter a lot as well. If you listen directly from your phone, you’ll want stereo speakers. And finally, music quality is also affected by the headphones you plug in.

If you care about audio quality, these are the best phone speakers and smartphones for music lovers.

The 3.5mm Headphone Jack Debate

3.5mm headphone jack vector

Apple was the first to remove the 3.5mm headphone jack on its phones and use only the Lightning port. Soon, other phone manufacturers followed suit and now often have the USB-C port for audio on flagship or high-end phones. Whether they should include the 3.5mm jack or not is a hot topic of debate, but it’s also a bit pointless.

You will usually use the earphones that come in your phone’s package. And these days, it makes more sense to ditch the wire and only use Bluetooth headphones. If you have a set of favorite speakers, you can also use a converter.

Unless you’re an audiophile, you don’t need to bother with the 3.5mm port issue. And if you’re an audiophile, you can get some excellent converters like the FiiO i1 DAC and amplifier.

FiiO i1 Portable DAC and Amplifier for Apple Lightning Port with Built-in Microphone and IOS Remote Controls for IPHONE/IPAD/IPOD FiiO i1 Portable DAC and Amplifier for Apple Lightning Port with Built-in Microphone and IOS Remote Controls for IPHONE/IPAD/IPOD Buy Now At Amazon $39.99

The Best Phone for Front-Facing Stereo Speakers
HTC U12+

HTC U12+ has great front-facing stereo speakers

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The HTC U12+ is great for people who want to buy a smartphone, use the earbuds that come bundled with it, and utilize the phone’s speakers to play music at times.

Its front-facing stereo speakers are louder than any other, perhaps save for the Razer Phone. The fidelity is maintained even when you raise the volume. But like with any stereo speakers on phones, your music will sound better if you buy quality Bluetooth speakers.

The HTC U12+ also comes with a set of custom USB-C earphones meant for the phone. Plug them in and the device uses software to turn them into active noise-canceling earphones. As far as I’m aware, no other phone does that at the moment.

Such small software tweaks actually set the HTC U12+ apart from the others. It will help you set up a sound profile that’s pleasing to your ears. It’ll adjust equalizer settings according to the music playing. Overall, if you care about your music but don’t like to fiddle around with apps and settings, the U12+ is an experience that most users will like.

While the front-facing speakers are great, the HTC U12+ has some features that several people find annoying. For example, the “squeeze gestures” aren’t intuitive at all, especially for volume control. But you get used to them after a while.

Watch out for: The upcoming Razer Phone 2. The original Razer Phone’s stereo speakers beat those of HTC’s previous flagship, the HTC U11+. With the Razer Phone 2 launching soon, the U12+ might have some competition. For now, you can still go with the original Razer Phone instead of the HTC U12+ if pure stereo speakers are more important to you. But know that these mainly increase volume, not audio quality.

The Best Music Phone for 3.5mm Headphones
LG G7 ThinQ

LG G7 Thinq has a 32-bit Quad DAC for better music on headphones

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LG’s flagship G7 ThinQ continues with the company’s new focus on audio. This phone’s claim to fame is the 32-bit Hi-Fi Quad DAC, which you never find on smartphones. No, you don’t need to know what that jargon means.

The “32-bit Quad” bit is a little marketing gimmick, though. In actual practice on a phone, a 32-bit DAC doesn’t sound that different from a 24-bit DAC (which most flagship phones use). What matters is the quality of the chipset, and that’s where the LG G7 ThinQ shines.

That DAC only comes into play when you plug in headphones with a standard 3.5mm headphone jack. And when it does, the sound is better than any other phone you will pair those headphones with.

Conversely, the 32-bit DAC makes no difference for wireless Bluetooth headphones since the DAC doesn’t activate on those. Nonetheless, wireless headphones sound great because of the ThinQ’s support for Bluetooth 5 and aptX HD.

Unfortunately, the G7 ThinQ does not have stereo speakers. Instead, the device has a single speaker at the bottom. The company tries to justify this by saying it uses a unique “boombox” design to boost the sound. But it boosts volume, not sound quality.

Needless to say, the rest of the features of the G7 ThinQ are as good as it gets. It packs the top-notch Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor, a gorgeous IPS screen with Dolby Vision and HDR10 support, one of the best cameras on the market, and is water-resistant too.

The bottom line is that if you use wired headphones with your phone, then the LG G7 ThinQ is the best sound you will get.

The Best Music Phone for Most Users
Samsung Galaxy S9+

Samsung Galaxy S9+ is the best music phone for most people

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While you value your music experience, a good smartphone has to be a jack of all trades. For an overall great experience with good music, you can’t overlook the Samsung Galaxy S9+.

Samsung’s flagship models offer great audio playback. It’s decidedly better-sounding than all iPhones, especially when you pair it with good 3.5mm headphones. The packaged AKG earphones don’t expose the full range of Samsung’s audio experience here, so get yourself some good wired headphones.

The speakers aren’t great though. They’re loud, sure, but when you raise the volume beyond 80%, you will lose fidelity and even hear crackling on low-bitrate songs.

As a phone though, there’s almost nothing to complain about with the Galaxy S9+. In fact, the audio experience is the same as the S9 too, so you can choose between the Galaxy S9+ and Galaxy S9.

Most Phones Sound Like Their Competitors

Here’s a little secret. Most smartphone manufacturers don’t care about the DAC or the speakers of their phones. The DAC is part of whatever chipset they use, and given how it’s usually a Qualcomm chipset today, you will get similar audio performance when comparing phones in the same price range.

The real difference comes down to the speakers, especially when you’re considering front-facing stereo speakers. Speaker quality will depend on the price, again.

But if you ask me, it doesn’t make much sense to spend extra just for speakers. Instead, get some cheap Bluetooth speakers that will actually improve audio quality.

Read the full article: The Best Phone Speakers and Smartphones for Music Lovers

The 7 Best Portable Bluetooth Speakers

Whether for music, movies, or gaming, audio quality is key. Built-in speakers are notoriously lackluster, especially in phones, tablets, and laptops. The solution: use an external speaker. And for lush audio without wires, opt for a Bluetooth speaker. Because Bluetooth speakers offer wireless features, they’re more convenient than plugging in a 3.5mm cable, especially with headphone jacks becoming less prominent. Plus, portable Bluetooth speakers allow you to carry your device around the house. The Best Portable Speakers in 2018 When you’re searching for the best portable Bluetooth speakers, options range from tiny, inexpensive devices to massive, jaw-dropping pricey models. Which…

Read the full article: The 7 Best Portable Bluetooth Speakers

Whether for music, movies, or gaming, audio quality is key. Built-in speakers are notoriously lackluster, especially in phones, tablets, and laptops. The solution: use an external speaker. And for lush audio without wires, opt for a Bluetooth speaker.

Because Bluetooth speakers offer wireless features, they’re more convenient than plugging in a 3.5mm cable, especially with headphone jacks becoming less prominent. Plus, portable Bluetooth speakers allow you to carry your device around the house.

The Best Portable Speakers in 2018

When you’re searching for the best portable Bluetooth speakers, options range from tiny, inexpensive devices to massive, jaw-dropping pricey models. Which device is best depends on your needs and budget.

For instance, outdoor enthusiasts might prefer rugged wireless speakers while audiophiles will crave premium sound. Just like finding the right Bluetooth headset, there’s a lot to consider when picking out a Bluetooth speaker.

The Best Portable Speaker on a Budget
OontZ Angle 3 Ultra

Best Portable Bluetooth Speakers - OontXZ Angle

OontZ Angle 3 Ultra : Portable Bluetooth Speaker 14-Watts Deliver Bigger Bass and Hi-Quality Sound, 100ft Wireless Range, Play Two Together for Music in Dual Stereo, IPX-6 Splashproof Black OontZ Angle 3 Ultra : Portable Bluetooth Speaker 14-Watts Deliver Bigger Bass and Hi-Quality Sound, 100ft Wireless Range, Play Two Together for Music in Dual Stereo, IPX-6 Splashproof Black Buy Now At Amazon

The OontZ Angle 3 Ultra from Cambridge Soundworks remains one of the best cheap Bluetooth speakers. It’s surprisingly loud for the size and features 14 watts for rich audio. With a 100-foot range, you don’t have to worry about losing a connection. There’s a 3.5mm jack for a wired connection, plus on-device controls and IPX6 water resistance. Unfortunately, it isn’t completely waterproof, though.

This device benefits from improved sound quality over the Angle 3 and Angle 3 Plus. You’ll get about 20 hours of use from one charge. Generally, sound quality is solid with deep bass and punchy mids. There’s some distortion at higher volumes, but for a speaker this size that’s expected.

Overall, the OontZ Angle 3 is easily the best portable Bluetooth speaker for the price.

The Best Smallest Bluetooth Speaker
JBL Clip 3

Best Portable Bluetooth Speakers - JBL Clip 3

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While the JBL Clip 3 might not technically clock in as the smallest Bluetooth speaker available, it balances size and performance. For comparison, I snagged an uber cheap keychain-sized Bluetooth speaker, and while it works, it’s barely louder than the built-in speakers on my phone and tablet. The ultra-compact JBL Clip features an onboard carabiner, hence the clip from its name.

Delivering 10 hours of battery life, complete IPX7 waterproofing, and an audio profile far larger than its size, the JBL Clip 3 is the best truly portable Bluetooth speaker you can buy. This updated version is slightly heavier than its predecessors Clip and Clip 2, although sound quality is remarkably improved.

You may also consider the UE Wonderboom which features a prominent loophole but no carabiner. The Wonderboom is a bit larger than the JBL Clip, but is still light and easy to carry.

The Best Affordable Portable Bluetooth Speaker
Anker Soundcore Flare

Best Portable Bluetooth Speakers - Anker Soundcore Flare

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Tech company Anker dabbles in several areas, and its Soundcore Flare speaker provides good audio at a reasonable price. Punchy mids, lush lows, and clean highs coupled with waterproofing and LED lighting make the Soundcore Flare a top-notch Bluetooth speaker. With adjustable bass, it’s a well-specced device.

While EQ modes do exist here, differences aren’t really apparent. However, with a rich audio profile, IPX7 waterproofing, and a 3.5mm aux input, the Anker Soundcore offers arguably the best overall value of any portable Bluetooth speaker.

The Best Overall Portable Bluetooth Speaker
UE Boom 3

Best Portable Bluetooth Speakers - UE Boom 3

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Ultimate Ears, or UE, is a renowned name in the audio community. The UE Boom 3 comes in a recognizable cylindrical form factor. Because of its feature set combined with phenomenal audio, the UE Boom rapidly rose to prominence and its third-generation model only improves further.

Its fabric provides delightful durability, and there’s full waterproofing. The jumbo volume controls remain, plus a so-called Magic Button for control of music playback and linking to playlists from Deezer and Apple Music.

Since it floats, can link with multiple speakers, and allows for bass and treble adjustments, the UE Boom 3 is an incredible speaker. For an even more powerful option, check out the larger Megaboom. Or if you need Wi-Fi connectivity, try the UE Blast and Megablast which feature Alexa onboard.

Unfortunately, the UE Boom 3 isn’t cheap, although it definitely delivers. If you’re willing to pay a slight premium, it’s evident in the specs and sound quality.

The Best Small Bluetooth Speaker for Big Sound
Bose SoundLink Revolve

 Best Portable Bluetooth Speakers - Bose SoundLink Revolve

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There’s a reason audiophiles flock to Bose for everything from noise-canceling headphones to speakers: quality. The Bose SoundLink Revolve is the quintessential portable speaker with its condensed size, integrated microphone, 360-degree omnidirectional sound, and distortion-free bass. Not only is the SoundLink Revolve exquisite to the ears, it’s shock and water-resistant.

The slightly larger SoundLink Revolve Plus does provide louder sound, though you’ll easily fill even a moderate to large room. Using the Bose Connect app, you can pair speakers and use two at once, even selecting different speakers as left and right channels.

While the SoundLink does not come cheap, you definitely get what you pay for. As an alternative, the Bose SoundLink Mini remains one of the best portable speakers on the market.

The Best Portable Speaker That Goes to 11
Sony GTK-XB90

Best Portable Bluetooth Speakers - Sony GTK-XB90

Sony GTKXB90 High Power Portable Bluetooth Speaker Sony GTKXB90 High Power Portable Bluetooth Speaker Buy Now At Amazon $348.00

While Bose, JBL, and UE tend to dominate the Bluetooth speaker space, Sony makes some of the best portable Bluetooth speakers. Its hulking GTKXB90 boasts three tweeters, two subwoofers, Bluetooth and NFC, plus a 16-hour battery life. You can daisy-chain speakers for a wireless party.

Unfortunately, at 13.2 x 26.4 x 13.2 inches and 30 pounds, the GTK-XB90 is a behemoth. Sure, there’s a battery, but this calls into question the definition of portable. You can tote it around, though you may prefer a less bulky and cheaper option. The Sony GTK-XB90 is thus a monolithic speaker with a price to match.

For similarly full-sized sound, try the JBL Boombox.

The Best Bluetooth Speaker for Audiophiles
Marshall Kilburn

Best Portable Bluetooth Speakers - Marshall Kilburn

Marshall Kilburn Portable Bluetooth Speaker, Black (4091189) Marshall Kilburn Portable Bluetooth Speaker, Black (4091189) Buy Now At Amazon $224.99

Not only is the Marshall Kilburn an excellent-sounding portable speaker, it’s possibly the best-looking device as well. With retro looks, loud audio, deep window-quaking bass, and controllable treble plus bass, the Marshall Kilburn is an awesome choice for audiophiles.

With an amp aesthetic, the Marshall Kilburn is as pretty to the eyes as it is to your ears. However, as portability goes it’s a bit cumbersome. While the Kilburn is no Sony GTK-XB90, it’s considerably heavier than the average cylindrical portable Bluetooth speaker. Additionally, you won’t find a built-in mic or playback controls, which should come standard on any premium Bluetooth speaker.

But retro sentiments and a gorgeous audio profile make the Marshall Kilburn a solid bet.

The Best Portable Bluetooth Speakers for All Uses

Ultimately, what Bluetooth speaker you prefer depends on several factors. From entry-level contenders to rugged speakers and high-end portable speakers, there’s an option for everyone.

Largely, consider your requirements. If you value a rugged, go-anywhere speaker for hiking and outdoor use, snag a speaker that’s water-resistant or waterproof. For audiophile quality, check out premium speakers from trusted brands. Names like Bose, JBL, UE, and Sony tend to provide top audio quality.

However, inexpensive offerings from brands such as Cambridge Soundworks provide alternatives to pricey portable Bluetooth speakers. For private listening, check out the best wireless earbuds you can buy!

Read the full article: The 7 Best Portable Bluetooth Speakers

The 8 Best Noise-Canceling Headphones for Audiophiles

noise-cancelling-headphones

Headphones enhance a variety of activities. From music listening to hands-free calling, gaming, and even movie watching, a robust pair of headphones is a must for anyone. However, noise-canceling headphones elevate audio consumption. Through filtering outside sounds, these isolate the audio pumping through the cans. Need to reduce noise pollution? These are the best noise-canceling headphones available for audiophiles. Why Buy Noise-Canceling Headphones? Noise-canceling headphones offer plenty of benefits over standard headphones. Namely, noise-canceling headphones fight noise pollution. That snoring guy in the window seat next to you? Not a problem. Your obnoxiously loud roommate? Nope, you won’t hear them…

Read the full article: The 8 Best Noise-Canceling Headphones for Audiophiles

noise-cancelling-headphones

Headphones enhance a variety of activities. From music listening to hands-free calling, gaming, and even movie watching, a robust pair of headphones is a must for anyone. However, noise-canceling headphones elevate audio consumption. Through filtering outside sounds, these isolate the audio pumping through the cans.

Need to reduce noise pollution? These are the best noise-canceling headphones available for audiophiles.

Why Buy Noise-Canceling Headphones?

Noise-canceling headphones offer plenty of benefits over standard headphones. Namely, noise-canceling headphones fight noise pollution.

That snoring guy in the window seat next to you? Not a problem. Your obnoxiously loud roommate? Nope, you won’t hear them either. But there’s a bit of a catch.

Although these headphones isolate the audio playing through your headset, blocking outside sound remains the first priority. Sound quality comes after this. Audiophiles will want to find headphones that satisfy both criteria. (Noise cancelation is different from noise isolation!)

Looking for the best in noise cancellation and optimal sound quality? Check out these top picks.

1. Paww WaveSound 3

Best Noise Canceling Headphones - PawwWaveSound 3

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The Paww WaveSound 3 is an excellent pair of cans that offers superb noise pollution reduction that won’t break the bank. It’s a pair of Bluetooth headphones that comes complete with an airplane adapter, charging cable, and carrying case. You’ll notice exquisite noise cancellation, with reduction for as high as 23 dB of ambient noise.

Additionally, the Paww WaveSound 3 headphones include a microphone for calling. While this headset currently sits at 4.3 out of 5 stars on over 1,100 customer ratings, its active noise cancellation comes up short when compared to offerings from premium headphones. Still, its sound quality rivals that of much higher-end headphones.

With wired and wireless connectivity, superb noise reduction, and top-notch build quality, the Paww WaveSound 3 ranks among the best noise-canceling headphones available on a budget.

Pros

  • Bluetooth
  • Budget pricing
  • Both wireless and wired modes
  • Reduction for up to 23 dB
  • Lots of included accessories
  • Excellent sound quality

Cons

  • Active noise cancellation is lacking

2. Audio-Technica ATH-ANC7B QuietPoint

Best Noise Canceling Headphones for Audiophiles - Audio-Technica ATH-ANC7B

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC7B QuietPoint Active Noise-Cancelling Closed-Back Headphones, Wired Audio-Technica ATH-ANC7B QuietPoint Active Noise-Cancelling Closed-Back Headphones, Wired Buy Now At Amazon $99.95

Like the above, the Audio-Technica ATH-ANC7B headphones yield impressive noise-canceling ability with supreme sound quality. It’s an affordable headset that anyone should consider. The ATH-ANC7B is a wired set (not wireless) and remains considerably more affordable than models from the likes of Bose and Sennheiser.

Its over-ear form factor folds up well for travel, and Audio-Technica engineers its headphones to function in passive mode if the noise cancellation feature is switched off or the batteries die.

At the price point, it should come as no surprise that noise cancellation isn’t top-tier. Expect a bit of sound bleeding. Furthermore, the ATH-ANC7B don’t sound as polished as other headphones for the money. Altogether though, the ATH-ANC7B balances sound quality and noise reduction well.

Pros

  • Budget pricing
  • Good sound quality
  • Work in passive mode
  • Fold up for travel

Cons

  • More sound leakage than on competing headphones
  • Better sound quality available

3. Bose QuietComfort 35 Series II

Best Noise Canceling Headphones - Bose QC 35 Series II

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When it comes to high-end audio, Bose consistently ranks among the upper echelon. Not surprisingly, this holds true for audiophile-quality noise-canceling headphones. The Bose QuietComfort 35 Series II, successor to the Bose QuietComfort 35, sounds fantastic and features strong noise reduction. However, they certainly aren’t cheap. Sound quality is delightful, though lower-end cans like the Paww WaveSound rival them.

These headphones offer a crisp and clear audio profile, as well as stunning noise cancellation. Moreover, Bose packs fantastic battery life and simple pairing, which is a nice convenience.

Unfortunately, these workhorse headphones come in an extremely boring veneer. And because the active EQ jacks up bass frequencies a bit when you lower the volume, you might notice bass-heavy audio at lower volumes.

But in functionality, it completely dominates. Despite minor quibbles, the QuietComfort 35 Series II stands as one of the best pairs of noise-canceling headphones on the market.

Pros

  • Excellent audio quality
  • Top-notch noise cancellation
  • Great battery life
  • Simple pairing

Cons

  • Active EQ a bit bass-heavy
  • Mundane looks

4. Sony WH-1000XM2

Best Noise Canceling Headphones - Sony WH-1000XM2

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For those seeking premium audio quality and noise cancellation that bests Bose, check out the Sony WH-1000XM2. Its noise cancellation is arguably the best you’ll find, while its audio paints a lush soundscape. Additionally, you’ll find a substantial 30-hour battery life.

The Sony WH-1000XM2 boasts gorgeous sound and incredible comfort. Unfortunately, the battery is not user-replaceable. Aside from that, the touch controls are a bit cumbersome and the build quality, particularly around the hinges, is a little weak. But these noise-canceling headphones deliver where it counts: audio quality and noise reduction.

Because of their performance in these areas, the Sony WH-1000XM2 totally justifies its high price tag.

Pros

  • Excellent audio quality
  • Top-notch noise cancellation
  • Arguably better sounding than Bose offerings
  • Good battery life

Cons

  • Battery not replaceable
  • Moderate build quality

5. Sennheiser HD-1

Best Noise Canceling Headphones for Audiophiles - Sennheiser HD-1

Sennheiser HD1 Wireless Headphones with Active Noise Cancellation - Black Sennheiser HD1 Wireless Headphones with Active Noise Cancellation - Black Buy Now At Amazon $349.63

Sennheiser is a renowned name among headphones aficionados, and its HD-1 headphones are a top pick. These noise-canceling headphones are an all-around solid offering with impeccable noise cancellation, mind-blowing sound, and Bluetooth.

Disappointingly, noise canceling features don’t match what you’ll find on Bose headsets. Yet looks, comfort, and Bluetooth support in addition to its strong noise cancellation makes the Sennheiser HD-1 a major contender. Sure, these HD-1 headphones don’t come cheap. But if you’ve got the budget, Sennheiser’s HD-1 cans are one of the best noise canceling headphones for audiophiles.

Pros

  • Excellent audio quality
  • Great noise cancellation
  • Comfortable
  • All-around solid package
  • Bluetooth

Cons

  • Noise cancellation not as robust as Bose
  • Pricey

6. Plantronics Backbeat Pro 2

The Best Noise-Canceling Headphones for Audiophiles - plantronics backbeat pro 2

Plantronics Wireless Noise Cancelling Backbeat - Headphones (Black & Tan) (Pro 2) Plantronics Wireless Noise Cancelling Backbeat - Headphones (Black & Tan) (Pro 2) Buy Now At Amazon $180.59

With strong battery life, the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 touts impressive lasting power. With included accessories such as a carrying pouch, the BackBeat Pro 2 is a fantastic option. Aside from lush performance with music, these Plantronics noise-canceling headphones work well for making calls.

While it’s a comfortable pair of headphones, the BackBeat Pro 2 is a bit heavy. Moreover, noise-cancellation doesn’t match that of Bose cans. Nevertheless, its price to performance ratio makes the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 a worthy contender in the noise-canceling headphone space.

Pros:

  • Comfortable
  • Excellent audio quality
  • Good for calling
  • Carrying case included
  • Affordable

Cons:

  • Slightly heavy
  • Poorer sound quality than Bose and Sennheiser

7. Bose QuietControl 30

The Best Noise-Canceling Headphones for Audiophiles - Bose QuietControl 30

Bose Quietcontrol 30 Wireless Headphones, Noise Cancelling - Black (761448-0010) Bose Quietcontrol 30 Wireless Headphones, Noise Cancelling - Black (761448-0010) Buy Now At Amazon $289.99

Whereas many sets of noise-canceling headphones come in an over-the-ear or on-ear form factor, the Bose QuietControl 30 is different. Instead of a bulky set of headphones, the QuietControl 30 come in a neckband-style pair of earbuds. It’s sweat-resistant, making these noise-canceling earbuds the ideal workout companion.

Still, quality fails to surpass the likes of the QuietComfort 35 or QuietComfort 20. Additionally, there’s no wired connectivity option, so you’re relegated to a Bluetooth connection. But with many phone manufacturers abandoning headphone jacks, this may be a non-issue anyway.

The earbuds stay in your ears fairly well. Ultimately, the Bose QuietControl 30 features a snug, comfortable fit and noise cancellation in a small package.

Pros:

  • Great for workouts
  • Sweat-resistant
  • Good for calling

Cons:

  • No wired connection option
  • Noise cancellation not as robust as on or over-the-ear headphones

8. Sennheiser HD 4.50 BTNC

The Best Noise-Canceling Headphones for Audiophiles - Sennheiser HD 4.50 BTC

Sennheiser HD 4.50 Bluetooth Wireless Headphones with Active Noise Cancellation, Black and Silver(HD 4.50 BTNC) Sennheiser HD 4.50 Bluetooth Wireless Headphones with Active Noise Cancellation, Black and Silver(HD 4.50 BTNC) Buy Now At Amazon Too low to display

The Sennheiser HD 4.50 BTNC provide a luxurious, audiophile-quality experience which compete with Bose headphones at an affordable price. They’re wireless with solid battery life and conveniently fold for portability.

There’s an included carrying case as well. Build materials deliver comfort, though plastic and synthetic leather components pale in comparison to high-end models from Bose and Sony. But with quality on par with the QuietComfort 35 Series II at a lower price point, the Sennheiser HD 4.50 BTNC is a terrific buy.

Pros:

  • Convenient folding design
  • Included carrying case
  • Wired and wireless connectivity
  • Excellent price-to-performance ratio

Which Noise-Canceling Headphones Will You Choose?

Noise-canceling headphones are an excellent investment. By blocking out ambient noise from around you, you can focus on the audio pumping through the headphones. Almost any noise-canceling headphones will filter out sound. However, for audiophile-caliber noise-canceling headphones, these are the best cans on the market.

Bose is a safe bet for ultimate function and uncompromising quality. You may consider the QuietComfort 25, a medium budget pair of noise-canceling headphones. Though the QuietComfort 25 doesn’t offer a wireless option, it’s far less expensive than its older sibling, the QuietComfort 35. Similarly, Sennheiser is a trustworthy name.

For those that demand a wireless in-ear style pair, Bose’s QuietControl 30 handily trounces the competition. However, its performance doesn’t rival over-ear cups. The HD 4.50 BTNC is an excellent set of noise-canceling headphones with excellent build quality.

If you’re on a tight budget, the Naztech i9BT (our review) delivers decent audio and wireless functionality. But if you’re willing to spend a bit more, you can snag even better-sounding noise-canceling headphones.

We’ve rounded up the best wireless gaming headsets if that’s what you need. Take a look at the best Bluetooth headsets with long battery life, too.

Image Credit: IgorVetushko/Depositphotos

Read the full article: The 8 Best Noise-Canceling Headphones for Audiophiles

Buying Wireless Headphones? 6 Things You Need to Know

wireless-headphones

Apple removed the headphone jack from the iPhone in 2016. Companies like Google, Motorola, and HTC followed soon after. Suddenly, once-niche wireless headphones were thrust into the mainstream. Buying Bluetooth headphones can be confusing, though. From sound quality to getting them set up, each model works differently. There’s a lot to understand, so let’s get started. 1. Types of Wireless in Headphones When you think of wireless headphones now, you likely think of Bluetooth headphones. If your phone doesn’t have a headphone jack, then Bluetooth is your best option for listening to music. Your other choice is to use a…

Read the full article: Buying Wireless Headphones? 6 Things You Need to Know

wireless-headphones

Apple removed the headphone jack from the iPhone in 2016. Companies like Google, Motorola, and HTC followed soon after. Suddenly, once-niche wireless headphones were thrust into the mainstream.

Buying Bluetooth headphones can be confusing, though. From sound quality to getting them set up, each model works differently. There’s a lot to understand, so let’s get started.

1. Types of Wireless in Headphones

When you think of wireless headphones now, you likely think of Bluetooth headphones. If your phone doesn’t have a headphone jack, then Bluetooth is your best option for listening to music.

Your other choice is to use a USB-C headphone dongle. That’s a messier solution, and gets worse if you need to charge your phone at the same time.

Bluetooth is convenient because it’s supported in all mobile devices, as well as a growing number of other electronics. It has a range of about 32 feet, and is pretty energy-efficient.

It’s also improving rapidly thanks to the move to kill off headphone jacks.

There are a couple of other, older wireless headphone technologies still in use. Both are mostly used for TV, and both need a separate transmitter. Infrared is quite rare now, and requires a line of sight connection between the headphones and transmitter.

Radio frequency, as seen in products like the Sennheiser RS120, is more powerful.

Sennheiser RS120 On-Ear Wireless RF Headphones with Charging Dock and HDR120 Supplemental HiFi Wireless Headphone Bundle Sennheiser RS120 On-Ear Wireless RF Headphones with Charging Dock and HDR120 Supplemental HiFi Wireless Headphone Bundle Buy Now At Amazon $150.17

It can work at ranges of up to 150 feet, and the signal can pass through walls, so it’s usable with a home stereo as well as a TV. However, it’s prone to interference and isn’t secure in the way that Bluetooth is.

Many modern TVs now offer Bluetooth as standard. If yours doesn’t, you can add a Bluetooth transmitter easily enough.

2. Bluetooth and Sound Quality

The sound quality you’ll get on your Bluetooth headphones depends on what audio codec they use. The codec is a piece of software that encodes the audio at one end and decodes it at the other. Both your audio player and headphones need to support it.

SBC

Early versions of Bluetooth compressed audio very heavily, producing a harsh, digital sound.

The move to improve quality began with the introduction of the advanced audio distribution profile (A2DP). This enabled streaming of high-quality stereo audio via the SBC codec. It’s now effectively the standard.

A 2014 report by SoundExpert, an audio quality testing site, concluded that at its highest possible bitrate of 372Kbps, SBC was comparable to an AAC file encoded at 192Kpbs, and that “most artifacts it produces are beyond human perception.” However, it’s mostly used at lower bitrates, so isn’t always the best quality.

aptX

The next step up is aptX. Most Android devices from the last few years support this codec. It delivers “CD-like” performance, at a bitrate of 352Kbps with lower latency. This uses compressed audio.

aptX HD

Better still is aptX HD, which is the high definition upgrade on the classic aptX formula. It’s still compressed, but streams at a much higher bitrate of 576Kbps, and has much lower latency.

A small but growing number of devices support aptX HD, including the Galaxy Note 9, OnePlus 5T, and LG V30. It requires specific hardware, so if your device doesn’t support it there’s no way to upgrade.

AAC

Apple doesn’t support aptX on the iPhone or iPad. Instead, it uses AAC, an enhanced variation on SBC. It uses a lower bitrate (256Kbps), but efficiencies in the codec make it comparable to aptX, if not better. Using AAC-compatible headphones with an AAC source (like Apple Music) also reduces degradation in sound quality.

Latency

We’ve mentioned latency; this is a major issue with Bluetooth headphones.

Latency is the short delay between an audio signal being sent and when you can hear it. You won’t notice it when listening to music, but if you’re watching a video or playing a game, it can cause the sound to be out of sync with the picture.

Latency varies depending on the hardware and software setups you have. aptX HD has significantly reduced latency compared to the older codecs. Apple’s use of AAC with the Airpods has minimized it to barely perceptible levels.

3. Battery Life for Wireless Headphones

Bluetooth headphones get power from their own built-in rechargeable battery.

Over-ear Bluetooth headphones have space for a large battery, charged via a USB cable. You should look for between 20 and 30 hours of battery life—the JBL Everest, for instance, promises up to 25 hours.

JBL Everest Bluetooth Headphones
Image Credit: Harman

Bluetooth earbuds have shorter battery life. Those that use a cable to connect the two buds can typically offer around eight hours, and charge through a USB cable. True wireless earbuds, where both parts are separate, are good for around three to five hours. They come with their own special charging case. which also keeps the charge topped up when you’re not using the buds.

airpods charging case
Image Credit: Apple

Remember that volume levels affect battery life. The louder your music, the shorter the battery will last. Battery life quotes on manufacturers’ spec sheets tend to reflect optimal conditions rather than real-world use.

4. Pairing Bluetooth Headphones

Connecting Bluetooth headphones to a phone or other device can be as quick as plugging them in, or it can be quite frustrating.

The W1 chip in some of Apple’s headphones has reduced pairing down to a three-second process. Open the case on the AirPods (or press a button on the side of select Beats headphones), tap an onscreen prompt, and you’re done.

Android 6.0 and above offers a similarly quick system called Fast Pair, albeit with limited support from headsets so far.

Some headphones use NFC to speed up pairing. This is a wireless technology that enables devices to communicate by holding them close to one another.

When used in conjunction with an NFC-enabled device—including many Android smartphones but not the iPhone—you can pair the headphones with the device simply by tapping them against it.

If none of this works for you, you have to pair your headphones manually. This involves locating the Bluetooth settings on your device, pressing a button on the headphones, and entering a passcode when prompted (usually 0000). It’s slower and more tedious, so you might need to refer to the manual to get it right.

5. Remote Controls for Wireless Headphones

Wired headphones often have a remote on the cable, but Bluetooth headphones don’t have this option.

Instead, they build some basic controls, along with a microphone, into one of the earpieces. This may be in the form of buttons or touch sensors. It could also be a button to activate voice controls.

For controlling AirPods, a double tap launches Siri. From there, you use commands like “Turn volume up” or “Skip track” to control your music.

Companies like Bose and Sony make Bluetooth headphones that work in the same way with Google Assistant. Jabra is among those that supports Amazon’s Alexa.

The accessibility of the controls is something you should always test when buying, or choosing to keep, new headphones. The button design and layout is sometimes determined more by aesthetics than practicality. They aren’t always easy to find by touch alone, especially if you’re in the gym.

6. Form Factor and Size

Wireless headphones come in the three standard styles: over-ear, on-ear, and in-ear. The first two look and function much the same as their wired counterparts. But the latter, in-ear, is quite different.

A recent trend in the in-ear format applies to true wireless earbuds. Unlike the earliest models, which had the two buds connected by a cable that would go around the back of your neck, many models now lack wires altogether.

Sennheiser true wireless earbuds
Image Credit: Sennheiser

The move began with Apple’s AirPods. Now, most manufacturers are on board: Sennheiser, Bose, B&O, Samsung, and more. The Jabra Elite 65t is regarded among the best in-ear earbuds.

Jabra Elite 65t Alexa Enabled True Wireless Earbuds Charging Case  – Titanium Black Jabra Elite 65t Alexa Enabled True Wireless Earbuds Charging Case  – Titanium Black Buy Now At Amazon $169.99

These all work on the same principle: they come with a charging case that maximizes your play time. But there are issues, too. Latency can be an problem, so they aren’t all ideal for video. Battery life is shorter, at up to five hours. They’re more expensive than wired earbuds. And the diminutive size makes them easier to lose.

But you can’t beat them for convenience and portability.

Bluetooth Headphones Are the Future

Like it or not, headphone jacks are on their way out. Bluetooth headphones are the future.

Audiophiles may resist for a while, but for most of us, wireless is now more than good enough. It’s easy to use, affordable, and the quality improves all the time.

If you’re ready to take the leap into the world of wireless music, take a look at our guide to the best Bluetooth headphones you can buy right now. Still holding out? These phones still have a headphone jack.

Read the full article: Buying Wireless Headphones? 6 Things You Need to Know

The 3 Best Affordable Noise-Cancelling Headphones for Students

Noise cancellation comes in two types: passive and active. Passive noise-cancelling headphones just seal your ears with enough padding to block out noise. Active noise cancellation headphones emit a pitch that cancels out incoming sound, thus only letting you hear what’s playing through headphones. Active noise cancellation is almost always the way to go. If you want passive noise-cancelling headphones, you can buy a good pair of in-ear headphones for as little as $20, or even use the pair that came with your phone. But ideally, spend a little more and get a good pair of on-ear or over-ear active…

Read the full article: The 3 Best Affordable Noise-Cancelling Headphones for Students

Noise cancellation comes in two types: passive and active.

Passive noise-cancelling headphones just seal your ears with enough padding to block out noise. Active noise cancellation headphones emit a pitch that cancels out incoming sound, thus only letting you hear what’s playing through headphones. Active noise cancellation is almost always the way to go.

If you want passive noise-cancelling headphones, you can buy a good pair of in-ear headphones for as little as $20, or even use the pair that came with your phone. But ideally, spend a little more and get a good pair of on-ear or over-ear active noise cancellation headphones.

Here are the best noise cancellation headphones that deliver great features and sound on a student-friendly budget.

1. Audio Technica ATH-ANC7B

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC7B QuietPoint Active Noise-Cancelling Closed-Back Headphones, Wired Audio-Technica ATH-ANC7B QuietPoint Active Noise-Cancelling Closed-Back Headphones, Wired Buy Now At Amazon $99.95

Best headphones with active noise cancellation under $100.

The Audio Technica ATH-ANC7B is one of the best-reviewed, most-recommended noise cancelling headphones out there. It’s an old set of cans, first released back in 2009. But it got the formula right, and after successive price drops, it’s the best value-for-money option out there.

Inner Fidelity’s Tyll Hertsens is one of the industry’s most respected audio device reviewers, and he uses an ANC7B. It’s his primary recommendation for budget noise-cancelling headphones—an opinion shared by several other sound experts. The headphones can handle high volumes without distortion, have a deep bass, and excel with mid-range audio.

The ear padding has memory foam coated with leather, which holds its closed-back 40mm drivers. The ANC7B has a removable 3.5 mm cord, which is excellent since that’s what breaks headphones. So if your wire breaks, just buy a new one.

An AAA battery powers the noise cancellation unit, which lasts for about 40 hours. The ANC7B continues playing with passive noise cancellation even when the battery dies, which is a major bonus.

2. Audio-Technica ATH-ANC23 QuietPoint

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC23 QuietPoint Active Noise-Cancelling In-Ear Headphones Audio-Technica ATH-ANC23 QuietPoint Active Noise-Cancelling In-Ear Headphones Buy Now At Amazon $35.00

Cheapest good earphones with active noise cancellation.

If you prefer earphones to headphones, then the Audio-Technica ATH-ANC23 QuietPoint will wow you with its bang for the bucks. Again, this is an older set of headphones, but price drops over the years have made it possibly the best sub-$50 noise-cancelling headphones around today.

Unlike most headphones, noise-cancelling earphones have a little adapter-like attachment. The attachment is where noise cancellation happens. The feature does make the device a bit more cumbersome, but the elimination of background noise is worth it. And no, it’s not a headphone amp to improve sound quality.

Wearing these, you can listen to music at the normal volume you prefer, without having to pump it up to cut out the frat party outside your room. This is a positive, especially since the ANC23 struggles with sound quality at high volumes.

But otherwise, with normal usage, these in-ear headphones pump out a stable, detailed sound. In fact, it’s quite adept at playing live concerts and bringing alive the ambient sound in the venue.

3. CB3 Hush

CB3 Hush

CB3 HUSH Wireless Headphones with Active Noise Cancelling Technology (Black) CB3 HUSH Wireless Headphones with Active Noise Cancelling Technology (Black) Buy Now At Amazon $79.99

Cheap Bluetooth headphones with active noise cancellation.

The CB3 Hush is excellent for people who need a set of Bluetooth headphones for travel. Whether you want to cut out the background sounds of your daily commute or the continuous low hum during a flight, the Hush does it with aplomb. It has made several audio reviewers into fans.

The audio quality is a hit-or-miss affair though. The CB3 Hush is fine for pop songs, classical music, or movies and podcasts. But if you listen to songs that require rich reproduction, these headphones can’t do it.

This pair is more about giving you active noise cancellation, Bluetooth, a long battery life (over 12 hours), and decent audio, while keeping it all under $100. That’s what makes it among the best Bluetooth headphones you can buy today.

Other Cheap Noise-Cancelling Headphones

The above aren’t the absolute cheapest noise-cancelling headphones you’ll find, but we do recommend them for their quality and satisfaction. However, there are a couple other cheaper options worth considering.

Sony MDR-ZX110

sony-mdrzx100

Sony MDRZX110NC Noise Cancelling Headphones Sony MDRZX110NC Noise Cancelling Headphones Buy Now At Amazon Too low to display

The Sony MDR-ZX110 has the big-name Sony brand and a low retail price. That sounds tempting, but the sound profile of those headphones leaves a lot to be desired. Its noise cancellation also isn’t that great, but it works for regular commutes.

Phiaton BT 100 NC

Phiaton-BT-100-NC

Phiaton BT 100 NC Wireless Active Noise Cancelling Neck Band Style Earphones Mic Phiaton BT 100 NC Wireless Active Noise Cancelling Neck Band Style Earphones Mic Buy Now At Amazon $69.99

You want Bluetooth and active noise cancellation, but you don’t want the big cans of headphones? Get the Phiaton BT 100 NC. It doesn’t sound as good as the CB3 Hush, but it gets the job done for a pair of earphones. Plus, since it’s in-ear, you get some additional passive noise cancellation.

The Best Noise-Cancelling Headphones to Splurge On

The bottom line is, in the case of active noise cancellation headphones, you need to stop buying cheap junk and spend on quality. The good ones are worth the extra cost, such as the best wireless earbuds.

Read the full article: The 3 Best Affordable Noise-Cancelling Headphones for Students

The 5 Best Windows 10 Sound Equalizers to Improve Your PC Audio

windows-10-sound-equalizers

If you’re an audiophile, a heavy gamer, or simply enjoy customizing the sound on Windows 10, you’re probably looking for a sound equalizer app. An equalizer can adjust the loudness of specific audio frequencies—called bands—to suit both the listener’s preferences and the acoustics of the environment. For example, an equalizer will let you boost the bass when listening to dance music or increase the treble in a room that responds to low-frequency sounds. 1. Windows 10 Sound Equalizer Windows includes a native sound equalizer. However, it’s very basic. You can’t adjust the various bands or create your own profiles. For…

Read the full article: The 5 Best Windows 10 Sound Equalizers to Improve Your PC Audio

If you’re an audiophile, a heavy gamer, or simply enjoy customizing the sound on Windows 10, you’re probably looking for a sound equalizer app.

An equalizer can adjust the loudness of specific audio frequencies—called bands—to suit both the listener’s preferences and the acoustics of the environment. For example, an equalizer will let you boost the bass when listening to dance music or increase the treble in a room that responds to low-frequency sounds.

1. Windows 10 Sound Equalizer

Windows 10 Sound Equalizer

Windows includes a native sound equalizer. However, it’s very basic. You can’t adjust the various bands or create your own profiles. For anyone who’s serious about their audio, it will not suffice.

If you’d like to check it out anyway, right-click on the speaker icon on your taskbar and go to Sounds > Playback. Next, right-click on your speakers and choose Properties.

In the new window, open the Enhancements tab and mark the checkbox next to Equalizer. You can choose one of the default sound profiles from the drop-down menu in the Sound Effect Properties section.

2. Equalizer APO

Equalizer APO for Windows 10

So, we’ve established that the native sound equalizer in Windows 10 is disappointing. Which apps should you use instead?

Our first recommendation is Equalizer APO. It’s the most powerful, customizable, and full-featured free sound equalizer that you’ll find.

The app operates as an Audio Processing Object (APO), so if your audio uses APIs like ASIO or WASAPI, it will not work.

Equalizer APO’s best features include an unlimited number of filters, multi-channel use, support for 3D surround sound, and very low CPU usage. You can also create multiple profiles (perhaps for your external speakers and your headphones) and hop between them in a flash.

The big drawback is the lack of a graphical user interface (GUI). You need to edit the filters in a TXT file. Thankfully, several third-party GUIs are available. We recommend Peace Equalizer.

Download: Equalizer APO (Free)

3. Equalizer Pro

Equalizer Pro for Windows 10

Equalizer Pro is another popular choice. It’s much more user-friendly than Equalizer APO thanks to its clean and clutter-free interface.

The app offers a ten-band equalizer. That’s not as many as some of the other sound equalizers in this list and way behind professional music equipment which might provide 30 or more. However, it’s more than adequate for all but the most dedicated audiophiles.

Equalizer Pro comes with 20 equalizer presets, a system-wide bass boost feature, and the ability to save your own equalizer profiles. The app also offers a preamp volume control. It means you can adjust a single band to boost low tones with needing to tweak each band individually.

Equalizer Pro is not free. You can enjoy a seven-day trial, but thereafter you will need to pay $19.95 for the license.

Download: Equalizer Pro ($19.95)

4. Viper4Windows

Viper4Windows for Windows 10

Viper4Windows is an open-source sound equalizer for Windows 10. It also works with Windows Vista, 7, and 8.1.

The equalizer offers an impressive 18 bands; it’s as many as you can hope to find on a consumer-level computer-based equalizer. The bands’ ranges run from -120dB to 13dB. As you’d expect, you can create your own profiles or use one of the many available presets.

Viper4Windows also offers some features beyond sound equalization. They include:

  • Room Size: You can set the size of the room you’re listening in, and Viper4Windows will adjust the surround sound settings accordingly.
  • Bass Boost: The app offers a customizable extra boost to the low-end sounds.
  • Distortion Control: You can choose from three presets or use the slider to tweak the control in decibels.
  • Reverberation Settings: Viper4Windows offers settings to control audio damping, density, bandwidth, decay, and more.

Note: Make sure you set Viper4Windows to run in administrator mode. Right-click on the app’s file and go to Properties > Compatibility > Settings > Run this program as administrator. Doing so ensures the equalizer will still work if another app runs the software.

Download: Viper4Windows (Free)

5. FXSound

FXSound for Windows 10

The FXSound app is two tools in one. There’s the equalizer (and its associated effects) and the real-time audio processing feature.

Firstly, let’s look at the equalizer. It comes with 10 bands that go from 110Hz to 15KHz. There are also customizable sliders for fidelity (to reduce the muffled sound in compressed audio), ambiance (to add extra stereo depth), surround sound, dynamic boost (to increase the loudness with increasing the dynamic range), and bass boost.

The preset profiles include Rap, Alternative Rock, Dialog Boost, Country, Techno, and countless more.

The real-time processing excels when you’re listening to audio on the web. internet audio is only 16-bit, but FXSound uses a 32-bit processor. The processor automatically adjusts the fidelity, ambiance, and surround sound of the audio, then re-dithers it into 16-bit. This allows the app to improve significantly on the theoretical limits of the web’s 16-bit output.

FXSound offers a seven-day free trial. The full app costs a one-off payment of $49.99.

Download: FX Sound ($49.99)

Bonus: Voicemeeter Banana

Voicemeeter Banana for Windows 10

If you do a lot of work with a microphone—perhaps because you’ve started your own podcast or upload a lot of videos to YouTube—you should try Voicemeeter Banana.

The app’s main feature is the advanced audio mixer. It lets you control your computer’s audio for any kind of streaming or recording.

From an equalizer perspective, the mixer lets you adjust audio input as well as output. Therefore, if you’re casting your screen via Twitch, speaking to the family on Skype, or recording a podcast with your friends, you can make up for any microphone deficiencies by making the sound crisper and less distorted.

You can play with the equalizer settings in the app’s Master Section.

Voicemeeter Banana is donationware. You can pay what you like for the software, and you don’t have to pay anything at all.

Download: Voicemeeter Banana (Free)

Learn More About Sound on Windows 10

Using a sound equalizer in Windows 10 is just one part of the battle. There are lots of ways to tweak the operating system’s audio output to your liking.

For example, did you know it’s possible to set the sound output devices on a per-app basis? Or use a hidden feature to give yourself virtual surround sound?

And remember, if anything ever goes wrong, we’ve got you covered. Just check out our article on how to fix audio issues on Windows 10.

Read the full article: The 5 Best Windows 10 Sound Equalizers to Improve Your PC Audio