Saturday, November 30, 2019

Best soundbars for TV shows, movies and music in 2019

Looking for the best soundbar you can buy in 2019? It's an important investment for any home cinema enthusiast. 

As TV displays get slimmer and slimmer, their built-in speakers tend to be lacking. Let's face it, even the best Samsung TV could use an external speaker system – and that's why we've rounded up the very best soundbars on the market in one handy guide as we enter the world of Cyber Monday deals.

Want to save some money on your next soundbar? Here are the best Cyber Monday deals we've found so far...

If you admire the slim aesthetic of your new 4K TV over everything else, then a good soundbar is your best option. They are built to be just as pleasing to the eye as they are to the ear. They're also a good solution for smaller homes and rooms with little space that wouldn't be able to squeeze a 7.1 channel speaker system in. 

The majority of soundbars on this list are made to sit in front of your screen, but they can also be wall-mounted above or to the side of it as well, providing you with ultimate choice as to how your home entertainment set-up looks.

Despite most only featuring front-facing speakers, many soundbars are able to confidently project sound in a way that makes it seem as though there's booming audio coming from every direction.

Best soundbars at a glance

  1. Samsung HW-Q90R Soundbar
  2. Sony HT-X8500 Soundbar
  3. Q Acoustics M4 Soundbar
  4. Samsung HW-Q70R Soundbar
  5. Sennheiser Ambeo 3D Soundbar
  6. Sonos Playbar
  7. Sonos Beam
  8. Denon HEOS Bar
  9. Vizio SB362An-F6 Sound Bar
  10. Polk Audio Command Bar

Best soundbars 2019: TechRadar's top picks

best soundbar


The Samsung HW-Q90R is the company’s new all-singing, all-dancing flagship soundbar. It not only supports object-based audio in the shape of both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, it’s also the only 2019 model to achieve this with actual rear speakers and four upward-firing drivers.

No other soundbar comes close to producing the full Dolby Atmos and DTS:X experience, and thanks to tuning from Harman Kardon the HW-Q90 even sounds good with music. A decent set of features and fully-specified HDMI connections complete a nearly flawless package... as long as you can afford it.

Read the full review: Samsung HW-Q90R Soundbar review

sony soundbar


Given that rival Dolby Atmos-compatible soundbars typically sell for twice the price, Sony’s HT-X8500 warrants an easy recommendation. Cost-cutting can be attributed to connectivity and features but what’s genuinely confounding is just how great the HT-X8500 sounds. 

The key to the HT-X8500’s gutsy performance is Sony’s proprietary Vertical Sound Engine - working with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X content, it creates a convincing illusion of wraparound sound that allow Dolby Atmos movies to play with a clear sense of expanded height and width.

The build quality and design of the soundbar is exceptional, and its general audio performance impresses with its clarity and spatial presentation. 

Overall, if you want a home theatre sound system that won’t dent your budget, it’s probably the best option to come around this year.

Read the full review: Sony HT-X8500 Soundbar review

Q Acoustics M4 Soundbar


The Q Acoustics M4 soundbar doesn’t immediately set pulses racing with its slightly prosaic looks, ‘mere’ 2.1-channel sound and lack of any HDMI support. However, you only have to hear what the M4 can do with both music and movies for your doubts about it to evaporate almost instantly. 

In fact, though, it sounds so much better than pretty much any rival soundbar in the same price bracket, that it’s actually ridiculously good value - especially if you care about music as much as you care about movies. 

Read the full review: Q Acoustics M4 Soundbar review

best soundbar


Samsung's California-based audio lab has been on a roll. In the last few years, the lab has helped the company put together the award-winning Samsung HW-M650, last year's powerful, Dolby Amtos-ready Samsung HW-N850, and now, the Samsung HW-Q70R, a soundbar designed to keep up with the Korean giant's 2019 QLED TVs.

If you've followed Samsung's naming structure in the past, the Samsung HW-Q70R represents a revised version of last year’s HW-N650 and although the new model costs more at $800 (£800, AU$1,099), the good news is that the Q70R adds support for Dolby Atmos and DTS:X and still uses Acoustic Beaming technology that widens the soundstage.

The resulting soundstage is big and open, lending itself to larger screen sizes. The overall effect is somewhat front heavy, but that’s to be expected given the lack of rear speakers. However once you take into consideration the looks, build quality, and features, this is a solid midrange combo.

Read the full review: Samsung HW-Q70R Soundbar review

best soundbars 2019


Sennheiser is best known for its range of headphones and professional microphones, but it recently extended its ambitions to home audio as well, with the introduction of its new Ambeo Soundbar. 

The bulky soundbar is packed with the latest audio technologies, including Dolby Atmos and DTS:X for surround sound audio, as well as Sennheiser’s own Ambeo ‘virtual 3D’ sound system. Sennheiser clearly has its sights set on the home cinema market with the Ambeo, although the bar's Wi-Fi connectivity means that it can double up as a pretty impressive music system as well.

It’s not perfect – Sennheiser’s reliance on Google Home to provide wifi streaming seems like an odd choice – but the sheer sound quality of the Ambeo Soundbar ensures that it justifies its wallet-breaking price tag.

Read the full review: Sennheiser Ambeo 3D Soundbar review

best soundbar


The Sonos Playbar is a non-HDMI device that uses optical to hook up to a TV. Used simply on its own it delivers a massive sonic boost to your TV listening, but operating it does require using a smartphone or tablet app. The benefit is that it can seamlessly segue in to a Sonos wireless system, and can even act as the front three speakers in a 5.1 setup with two Play:1s acting as rears. 

Unfortunately although it's optical-only setup will be great for most, it does exclude owners of TVs that lack this connector, which has pushed it a little further down this list. 

Read the full review: Sonos Playbar review

Sonos Beam


The Sonos Beam is a fantastic soundbar for its price, one that takes full advantage of the Sonos ecosystem and is a joy to use (and set up, if your television has HDMI ARC). Its smaller form factor means it’s a device that will sit comfortably next to a 32-inch TV but it’s got enough of a footprint to not be dwarfed by a much bigger set. 

The Sonos Beam doesn’t offer earth-shattering bass and the lack of Dolby Atmos support will irk some, but at this price point it'd be more of a surprise if it had been included. The voice control may be Alexa-only for now, but it works well and if you have adopted some of Amazon’s TV toys, it really is worth experimenting with. 

Read the full review: Sonos Beam review

Denon HEOS Bar


 With its nine drivers are arranged in trios for left, center and right channels and a virtual surround mode to create the illusion of having more speakers around the room, the HEOS Bar is pretty much whatever you want it to be.  

Blessed with such a balanced soundscape, the HEOS Bar proved immediately adept with music, and has a consistently warm yet refined sound quality that's all its own. The fact that it lacks the opportunity to tweak the audio settings is not as important as we had feared. 

Music sounds superb, especially lossless tunes, from which HEOS Bar drags out a lot of detail. However, we did notice on a couple of occasions that the first half-a-second was cut-off songs. 

Read the full review: Denon HEOS Bar review

best soundbars


The key feature of the SB362An-F6 – also referred to more helpfully as the “36-inch 2.1 Sound Bar” on most retailer's websites – is really its sheer value for money, costing just £149 in the UK and an even more competitive $139 in the US, where it was launched at the end of last year.

Despite the bargain-basement price, the SB362An-F6 is neatly designed, measuring 36 inches wide, and a streamlined 2 inches high, and 5.2 inches deep (914xx52x133mm). It will sit comfortably underneath the screen of most TVs, and Vizio also includes a pair of wall-mount brackets as well. 

The SB362An-F6 isn’t perfect, but its dramatic and imposing sound provides a real audio upgrade for your television’s built-in speakers. The Virtual:X technology works well too, helping to create a more immersive atmosphere while you’re watching. And while it might be missing a few bells and whistles, there’s no doubt that the SB362An-F6 provides excellent value for money.

Read the full review: Vizio SB362An-F6 review

soundbars


If $300 is your budget cap for a smart sound bar, then we highly recommend the Polk Audio Command Bar for any small or medium-sized living room.

As you might be able to tell based on the soundbar’s design, the Command Bar comes with Alexa built right into it making it unquestionably smart. It’s also relatively inexpensive too, coming in at $250 (£249, AU$649), and it comes with a subwoofer. 

It has defined and powerful low end, some cool smart features, and looks pretty good, too.

Read the full review: Polk Audio Command Bar review

What's the best soundbar for around $200/£200?

We can't stress this enough: when it comes to soundbars, there’s a lot of choice. Despite being called soundbars, they tend to come in different shapes and sizes. They also range in price from under £100/$100 to over £1,000/$1,500 (see: Creative X-Fi Sonic Carrier). 

The cheaper the model you go for, the more basic the connections are likely to be. Whereas more expensive ones add superior HDMI inputs (including 4K / HDR passthrough), wireless audio streaming (e.g. Bluetooth and AirPlay), better power, more refined speaker drivers, and decoding of Blu-ray sound formats.

Of course a full surround setup is the premium solution to bad-sounding TVs, but if you're short on space (as well as budget) then a soundbar offers a good compromise. So what is the best soundbar for around £200/$200? 

Best headphones 2019: Your definitive guide to the latest and greatest audio

Best headphones 2019: Welcome to TechRadar's round-up of the best headphones available to buy right now in every style and at every price point.

A good pair of headphones are an absolute essential for many of us. Aside from breathing new life into our favorite songs, they keep us entertained and distracted with music, podcasts and audio books when we're traveling to work, working out or just trying to disconnect from everyone else. 

We spend a lot of time with our headphones – and if you're looking for a new pair, you're going to want a pair of the best headphones you can find. 

It's our mission to hook you up with a pair of great-sounding headphones – the best headphones money can buy, even when you're on a budget. 

We encourage you to take a look at all the headphone lists here on TechRadar – however, if you're in a hurry and just want to find the best headphones your money can buy, you've come to the right place.

Want to save some money on your next pair of headphones? Here are the best Cyber Monday deals we've found so far...

How to choose the best headphones for you

Choosing the right headphones for you can be an agonizing decision – but it doesn't have to be if you look for a few key features. 

Above all, sound quality is the most important thing to look for. That doesn't mean you have to buy the most expensive audiophile headphones on the market; it just means that you should have an idea of what kind of sound you like. 

How you define good sound quality depends on your personal taste. Do you like a warm, well-rounded sound, or do you prefer ultra high-fidelity that allows you to hear every single detail of your music? Are you a dedicated bass head or a classical music junkie?

If you're all about that bass, you'll want to look out for dynamic drivers that displace lots of air, leading to a bassy soundstage. If detail is everything, look for large frequency ranges – 20Hz to 20 kHz is the standard, so anything larger than this may allow for more detail in the highs and lows. 

It's also important to consider the soundstage as a whole; if you love a wide, open sound, try a pair of open-back headphones. Worried about sound-leakage when you're in the company of others? Try a pair of closed-back cans with a secure fit to stop your tunes bothering the people around you.

You also need to consider the design of your new headphones. Do you want the freedom of true wireless earbuds or the security of a pair of sturdy over-ear headphones?

Wireless or wired is also an important consideration. A few short years ago, we may have tried to dissuade you from buying a pair of wireless headphones (the technology had issues with wireless connectivity over Bluetooth and sound quality took a dive as a result). 

Nowadays however, advances in Bluetooth technology means that wireless headphones can sound fantastic and rarely experience annoying dropouts. If you're going for wireless headphones, make sure the battery life is decent, too.

You should also think about what you'll be using your new headphones for; if you need to soundtrack your workout, you'll want to look at headphones specifically designed for running or swimming.

Lastly, you need to consider price. You don't have to break the bank when your buying a pair of headphones, as evidenced by our guide to the best cheap headphones of 2019.

So, with all that in mind, here are the best headphones we've tested and reviewed this year.

The best headphones of 2019, at a glance

best headphones


If there’s anything surprising about the new Sony WH-1000XM3 it’s that they’re so consistent with what Sony has released in the last two years in the form of the Sony WH-1000XM2 and Sony MDR-1000X. To wit, they’re a dominant noise-canceling pair of headphones that can beat anything Bose has with both arms behind its back. 

That’s because, while Bose has done a tremendous job working out its noise cancelation algorithm over the years, Sony has spent that time perfecting audio playback while simultaneously creating an adaptable algorithm that doesn’t just create a single sterile sound barrier, but multiple kinds that can tailor itself to whatever situation you’re in. 

Beyond being exceptional at keeping external noises at bay, these impressive Sony headphones are Hi-Res Audio-ready, sporting aptX, aptX HD and LDAC codecs, plus offer will offer Google Assistant support right on-board. If you need a headphone that can live up to any challenge and excel in any environment, these are the pair for you.

Read the full review: Sony WH-1000XM3 review

in-ear headphones


After spending a few weeks with both the 1MORE Triple Driver in-ear headphones and the 1MORE Quad Driver in-ear headphones we were blown away at just how much value each one gave in their prospective price ranges. 

For $100 / £100 (about AU$168), it’s hard to think of a better sounding and built headphone than the 1MORE Triple Driver. That said, if you want just that little extra refinement and luxury materials, the 1MORE Quad Drivers are still a bargain at twice the price.

There’s very little we can fault the Triple Drivers for. Its rubber cable is annoying and its remote control feels cheap but these are just nitpicks. But, for its price, it’s impossible to do better than 1MORE's Triple Driver in-ear headphones. 

Read the full review: 1More Triple Driver In-Ear Headphone review

budget in-ears


If you have a tendency to lose or break headphones but still value sound quality, it’s hard to think of a better value than the RHA S500u. 

These headphones have no business sounding so good for the price, sporting a  balanced soundstage with a slight mid-bass bump. 

Bass is slightly emphasized but not egregiously and features good impact while maintaining good control – and highs, while sibilant at times, makes music sound more exciting.    

Read the full review: RHA S500u review

on-ear headphones


For your money, you can't do any better than Grado's SR60e. The third-generation of the Brooklyn, NY-based company's Prestige Series is its best and most refined yet. 

The SR60e in particular is a smart choice if you're looking for an entry-level set of headphones that sounds like it should cost you way more than it does. 

Its open-backed ear cup design makes them a more breathable experience than what most on-ear headphones can deliver. In a few words, it's our gold-standard when it comes to on-ears.

(Our review is for the SR60i, but the newer SR60e headphones are largely similar in design and performance.)

Read the full review: Grado SR60e review

budget headphones


While the original Plattan headphones were just fine for a pair of on-ear headphones, Urbanears wasn’t satisfied with being mediocre. The company took customer feedback to heart and addressed many complaints about comfort, sound quality and isolation. 

For the most part, Urbanears succeeded, making the Plattan II a worthy sequel to the company’s most popular headphone.  

In short, these are basic headphones without a ton of features. But, because they're feature-light, you get a good-sounding pair of wired headphones for significantly less than you would otherwise. 

Read the full review: Urbanears Plattan II review

best over ear headphones


While Beyerdynamic may not be as well known as its German brother, Sennheiser, the audio company has a history of creating some of the best sounding audio gear on the market – the company’s DT770DT880 and DT990 were renown for their excellent build and sound quality. 

Above them all, however, stands the Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro, an open-back version of the Beyerdynamic DT 1770 Pro, a headphone which won our Editor’s Choice for its imaging, design and value for the money. Both headphones are priced the same ($599 / £589 / AU$1,159), so you won’t find a deal picking up one over the other. The difference here comes down to sound. 

As they’re open-back, the DT 1990 Pro are meant to be used at home or in the studio for serious analytical listening. Sound is able to get in and out but the good news is that the open-back design gives you the DT 1990 Pro a great sense of space. Soundstage is quite wide, too, allowing even the most lackadaisical listener to pinpoint the exact location of where each instrument is playing.  

If you've been searching for a pair of Hi-Fi headphones that are used by some of the world's leading audio engineers, these are them.

Read the full review: Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro review

cheap over-ear


Audiophiles typically shun wireless headphones because of poor sound quality. However, Bluetooth audio has improved tremendously over the years. There are now plenty of wireless headphones that can please the music enthusiast, with Hi-Res Audio support being more and more prevalent.

That said, the Audio-Technica ATH-SR5BT feature some of the best wired and wireless sound quality for a headphone under $200 /£150. They play well with all music genres and offer a near-flat response curve. They're extremely comfortable for long listening sessions and are well built. 

Battery life is equally impressive with nearly 40 hours of playback from a charge, and while they lack some features of more expensive wireless headphones like active noise cancelling and multi-device pairing, these are tradeoffs worth making for phenomenal sound.

Read the full review: Audio-Technica ATH-SR5BT review

Bose headphones


While we think the Sony WH-1000XM3s are the true best noise-canceling headphones, the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 are a close second – and for the sake of offering an alternative, we've included them in this list.

Traditionally, noise-canceling headphones have been designed to block out the environmental sounds around you, so that you can hear your music more clearly (or catch some shut-eye on a noisy flight). 

This can be really effective if you’re listening to music. If you’re making a phone call however, the person you’re speaking to can still hear everything that’s happening around you, whether you’re standing on a busy street or trying to speak on a rumbling train.

The Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 seek to remedy this, by applying noise-cancelation to phone calls as well as music, which is fantastic feature.

The sound quality is undeniably good, with a vibrant, lively character and well-balanced soundstage.

If you’re trying to decide between buying the Sony WH-1000XM3s and the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, we’d recommend going for the former because of that lower price and better battery life. That being said, you wouldn’t be making a mistake if you opted for the Bose cans instead (and we wouldn’t blame you if you did) – they sound great, look stunning, and the noise-cancelation is out of this world. 

Read the full review: Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 review

noise canceling headphones


For the money, the JBL Live 650BTNC punch above its weight in terms of sound quality, build, and features. They offer your choice of either Google Assistant or Amazon's Alexa voice assistant, and can have their EQ customized by the JBL Headphones app.  Battery life is rated at 20 hours with ANC and wireless enabled and if you use the JBL Live 650BTNC with a wire with ANC enabled, you can get upwards 30 hours on a single charge.

If you don’t want to splurge on the Bose QC35 II or Sony WH-1000XM3, you’ll be satisfied with the JBL Live 650BTNC knowing that you’re getting 80% of the performance at 50% of the price tag.

Read the full review: JBL Live 650BTNC review

wireless headphones


Again, the Sony WH-1000XM3 are our true winners in this category, but if you want an alternative, the Jabra Elite 85h is it. 

Offering class-leading battery life, terrific style and plenty of personalization when it comes to sound profiles, the Elite 85h is easy to recommend. That said, purists will bemoan the lack of high-end codec support and there are punchier headphones on the market at this price point. 

When you consider that Jabra’s Elite 85h headphones are the company’s first attempt at premium wireless ANC headphones, the result is quite commendable. We can’t wait to see what the company’s next premium ANC headphones will accomplish.  

Read the full review: Jabra Elite 85h review

budget wireless headphones


For years, the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 were one of our favorite wireless headphones because of their excellent sound, build quality and features. Unfortunately, though, they were also kind of expensive. 

For a lot less ($150 / £140 / AU$240), Plantronics now sells the still-very-good BackBeat Go 810, which uses less premium materials but sounds nearly identical to its more expensive predecessor. 

That being said, we feel the Go 810 are an affordable pair of ANC headphones that will please travelers and commuters who don’t want to spend too much money on headphones.   

Read the full review: Plantronics BackBeat Go 810 review

focal stellia


The Focal Stellias sound absolutely fantastic. Their wide-open soundstage and detailed, accurate sound treatment means they make any genre of music sound brilliant.

If you listen to songs you think you know inside out, the Stellias' precise separation of the frequencies means that you will probably hear details you’ve never noticed before.

If you like to keep things minimal in the headphones department, you probably won’t like the showy, opulent design of the Focal Stellias, and they can feel a little chunky for wearing on the commute into work. 

But if luxury is your thing, the full-grain leather cups, woven cables, brushed copper accents, and matching carrying case are likely to appeal. 

That luxury feel is translated right down to the presentation of the user manuals in a neat little leather-style wallet – and you may well expect to find this level of detail in exchange for parting with $3,000. Ouch. 

Read the full review: Focal Stellia headphones review

bluetooth headphones


The NuForce BE Sport4 wireless earbuds are that rare find: earbuds that are good for basically all situations, whether you're looking to take them out on a run or just wear them around town. 

They're ideal for exercise, although any urbanite will also find their lightweight functionality and impressive sound isolation highly appealing. 

If you want proof that wireless headphones can now compete with the best of them, look no further.

Read the full review: Optoma NuForce BE Sport4 review

Sony WF-1000XM3


Considering it's still rare to get noise-cancelation in wired earbuds at all, the fact that Sony has managed to pack it into a pair that are not only wireless, but true wireless is very impressive indeed. 

The Sony WF-1000X manage to offer a level of noise-cancelation that's very good for a pair of earbuds – it won't offer the same isolation as a pair of over-ear cans, but if you're after a sleek form factor then the compromise is worth it. 

That being said, in spite of a few minor problems we feel that Sony has knocked the ball out of the park with the WF-1000XM3: not only are these hands down the best-looking True Wireless headphones out there, but they combine serious noise cancelling tech with fist-pumping musicality. 

If you don’t want the inconvenience of carrying full-size cans, they’re a persuasive alternative.

Read the full review: Sony WF-1000XM3 Wireless Earbuds review

Press on to page two to see how to pick out a good pair of headphones along more of our recommendations.

Check out our videos below for a roundup of the best headphones available.

There's usually more to a set of headphone than meets the eye. As such, we've provided a breakdown of what you can expect to find in each kind of headphone.

Not only will learning more about headphones help you make a more informed purchase, but you'll know when you're really getting your money's worth.

What headphones should you buy? Check out our video below for everything you need to know.

In-ear headphones

1More Triple Driver In-Ear Headphones

This type of headphone, more commonly referred to as an earbud or earphone, is usually the cheapest and easiest way to pump audio into your ears. If you've purchased an MP3 player, or more recently, the new iPod touch (7th generation), it's likely that a set was included with the purchase.

Earphones rest in or just outside the ear canal, creating a tight seal to keep air out and sound in. Compared to other types of headphones, these are the most discreet ones you'll find. Their small form-factor also makes them the king/queen of portability and the prime choice for athletes.

You're not likely to find strong performers at the low-end of the price spectrum. Their sound delivery is generally muddled, lacking bass and overcompensating for that with harsh mids and highs. That said, it won't cost you much money at all to find a value-packed option complete with inline controls and a microphone.

On-ear headphones

Grado's GW100 Wireless on-ear headphones

While similar to over-ear headphones in appearance, they fit to your head a little differently. Instead of enveloping your ears with a soft cushion, on-ear headphones create a light, breathable seal around your ear. Thus, the noise isolation is much less effective than in-ear or over-ear options. This might be a dealbreaker for some, but there are big benefits to consider here.

On-ear headphones are usually more portable than their over-ear brethren, and as such they appeal to travellers and the fitness crowd. Taking a walk or a jog around town is also safer, as you can hear traffic go by and be aware of potential hazards.

Over-ear headphones

The Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro headphones

This ear-muff style of headphone generally provides greater richness and depth of sound, which allows listeners to pick apart the instruments and sounds much easier. Additionally, over-ear, or circum-aural headphones, go around the ear and offer a generous amount of padding.

The price range for a set of on-ear headphones begins around $100 and from there, the sky's the limit. For example, the Oppo PM-1, while excellent, are priced exorbitantly at $1,099. It's definitely not necessary to spend that much. That said, you tend to get what you pay for.

If your headphone budget is in the $2-300, you'll start getting into options that have excellent build quality, premium materials and amazing sound and features like ANC (active noise cancellation.)

Wireless headphones

The OnePlus Bullets Wireless 2 

Wireless headphones can be split into three different categories: wireless earphones connected via a neckband, wireless on-ear headphones, and wireless over-ear headphones – all are battery-powered and use Bluetooth to connect to your smartphone, laptop, portable music player, or even your turntable. 

For wireless over-ear and on-ear models, you simply lose the wire connecting them to your device – otherwise, they look pretty much the same as your regular pair of wired cans, and give you the noise-isolating prowess of over-ears without the need for cumbersome wires to connect to your device.

Wireless in-ear models, earphones, or earbuds (depending on your preferred vernacular), have a neckband connecting each earbud, making them ideal for runners who want the freedom of a wireless connection with the security of a wire keeping their earbuds firmly around their neck. 

Opting to go wireless will cost you a premium of anywhere between $50-100 over the price of wired cans. Going futuristic isn't cheap. One important thing to consider is that your music player must support the Bluetooth wireless protocol, as it's required to use this type of headphone.

Speaking of Bluetooth, it has become exponentially more reliable over time, but it's always susceptible to disturbances in the force.

True wireless earbuds

True wireless earbuds on the other hand, have no cord whatsoever; no wires to get caught in your zipper, and nothing to keep each bud connected to each other. For some, this means true freedom; for others, untethered true wireless means constant danger of losing their expensive audio kit down the drain – or terrible connections. 

The latter, at least, has changed now – thanks to advances in Bluetooth technology like aptX HD, the best wireless headphones have never sounded better.

These advances have also paved the way for true wireless earbuds to dominate the audio market. You just have to look at the popularity of the Apple AirPods (2019)Beats Powerbeats Pro, and Samsung Galaxy Buds, to understand how successful the true wireless market has become in recent years. 

Noise-canceling headphones

Bose's QuietComfort 35 II headphones

This category, like wireless headphones, isn't limited to a form factor. You can find this clever mix of technologies integrated into the ear pieces of in-ear and over-ear headphones alike.

Many companies falsely claim to offer true noise cancelation with just the padding included around the ear cups. Don't believe it. This is PNC (passive noise cancelation), and it doesn't amount to much. You can even replicate this effect by cupping your hands around your ears, so why shell out the big bucks for it?

On the other hand, ANC (active noise cancelation) is the real deal. This technique employs a set of external microphones, which detect the decibel level outside. Once it has an idea of the incoming noise level, the headphone speakers inside transmit a noise generated to dampen the racket. The end result is an effect that hushes the outside noise, allowing you to focus.

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