Buyer's Guide 2019: Best Bluetooth Headphones & Earbuds

Whether you're a fan of over-the-ear headphones or tiny, wireless earbuds, our 2019 Buyer's Guide to Headphones has the set for you. There's something here for everyone, from noise-canceling headphones to fast-charging earbuds, from more expensive and well-known vendors like Sony and Apple, to more affordable options that offer excellent audio quality, comfort, and fit. Let's find out what sounds good this year for your workout, commute, or just lounging around the house.

Related: Buyer's Guide: Best Bluetooth & Wired Headphones of 2018

Sony WH-1000XM3 ($288.00)

Call the king the king. The iPhone Life office is twenty steps from a rail line, but you’d never know it while wearing the best sound-canceling headphones in the world. The WH-1000XM series established Sony as the king of the hill of audiophile headphones for your iPhone. With voice assistant integration, best-in-class sound canceling, gesture controls, and 30 hours of battery life, these have what you expect from the one wearing the crown. You can even grab a refurbished pair off Amazon at a discount that cuts a chunk off the ticket price, making the best headphones on the market cheaper than anything else in their weight class.

JBL Live 650BTNC ($129.95)

Our managing editor fell in love with these headphones. Their active noise canceling didn’t really impress me, but nearly everything else about them did. The light-weight and comfortable fit is good for any head size, the audio quality is above average, the battery life is advertised as a completely sufficient 20 hours, and you can use Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant with a dedicated on-headphones button separate from the still-functional Siri button. For a smart set of over-ear headphones that you can wear throughout the day, look no further.

Apple AirPods 2019 ($144)

Rock-solid wireless connection, easy pairing, peerless Siri integration, and Apple’s top-notch design aesthetic all come together to set the standard against which all other true wireless earbuds must be measured. Sound quality is still only middling, but for most consumers, the convenience of the case, which now allows wireless charging, and the overall elegance and freedom of the design are more than enough to make the AirPods the first and last stop.

Jaybird Tarah Pro ($159.99)

I never cared all that much for the behind-the-neck wire situation, but these stand out for their 14-hour battery life and IPX7 waterproofing that will keep them safe in up to a meter of water. These are robust, well-designed headphones with a lot of subtle but important design features, like a magnetic charging cradle and a cloth-wrapped cable. One note: install the associated app. It gives you EQ controls, and many of the profiles available make the Tarah's sound substantially better than when they came out of the box.

Creative Outlier Air ($79.99)

Don’t let the great price point fool you; these aren’t your average budget buds. The sound quality is comparable to or maybe a little better than the AirPods, but the battery life is much better—ten hours consecutive playtime, with a fast-charge case that pushes the total to 30 hours. Their connection is faultless, you can listen to phone calls in both ears and not just one, you can stow either bud and keep listening on the other, the voice assistant and microphone work great, the controls are intuitive, and the charging case actually fits in your pocket. The Creative Outlier Airs aren’t just a budget alternative to the AirPods—I prefer them.

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Author Details

Cullen Thomas's picture

Author Details

Cullen Thomas

Cullen Thomas is a Writer and Producer at iPhone Life, creating tips and guides to help users unlock the full potential of their iOS and iPhone. In addition to writing countless tip-of-the-day articles and many detailed guides, Cullen has spent nine years as an instructor in media and communications at Maharishi University, lecturing on technical and artistic subjects ranging from camera and audio hardware to story-plotting to how to manage a film crew. Cullen answers questions daily about iPhones and iOS as part of the Ask an Editor insider service, and designs curriculum for iPhone Life’s online classes. As a frequent contributor to iPhone Life magazine and occasional guest on the iPhone Life podcast, Cullen likes to talk about security and privacy news, tech, gadgets, and apps, even if nobody asked.

Cullen holds a master’s degree in Cinematic Arts from the David Lynch School of Cinematic Arts. Cullen also holds two Bachelor’s degrees from Maharishi University, one in literature with an emphasis in writing and the other in Communications and Media. Cullen’s short fiction has been featured in anthologies from Amphibian Press and TANSTAAFL, and Cullen co-owns a game design company, Thoughtspike games, which builds thought-provoking puzzle games. Cullen is a sci-fi author, a coffee connoisseur, and an iPhone expert.