It was only a matter of time before cords were banished to tech’s ‘bargain box.’ The unveiling of Apple AirPods and smartphones sans-headphone jacks has left many of us wondering when we should untangle ourselves from the audio shackles of the past.

Bluetooth headphones have always had their critics; you have to pair them and charge them. Music can be patchy and, compared to regular headphones, Bluetooth sets are more expensive than their tangled counterparts. But in July 2015, a report from NPD Group showed Bluetooth outselling its wired rivals. Headphones from brands like LG, Beats, Bose, Skullcandy, and Jaybird claimed 54% of sales in the States. Apparently, cordless convenience trumps connection hassles.

There’s a lot to like about Bluetooth headphones nowadays: the price is dropping, battery life is growing, and tech smarts are increasing. Bluetooth headphones also double as hands-free headsets, so you can multitask like a maniac. Red Wire examines some head-gear worth testing.

During the commute

Trains, planes, trams, busses…The daily commute is best when you can block out the rest of the world, and noise-cancelling cans are the ticket. Noise cancellers are inbuilt with microphones and a processor, which create opposing sound waves to the ones headed to your eardrum. Why is this good? Background noise can be stressful, grating, or distracting. Bose have long led the noise-cancelling game, and their dominance extends to wireless, too. Test their QuietComfort 35 against Denon’s on-wear AH GC20 Globe Cruiser. Both sit at a higher price point, but provide quality sound with zero wires. For a little extra volume at a lower cost, Beats’ Studio Wireless and Sennheiser’s on-ear MM 450-X are worth a whirl. Other noise-cancelling Bluetooth players? Plantronics BackBeat PRO, Parrot Zik Wireless, and Sony MDR-ZX770BN – all over-ear options.

In the office

The right pair of ‘at work’ headphones should block out colleague banter but let you take a call. Arguably, the best looking of the bunch is the Harman Kardon Soho Wireless. With square cans, a handsome leather carry pouch, and solid on-ear controls for taking and making calls, these tick both style and sound boxes. In-ear, the Plantronics BackBeat Go 2 is light on bass but perfect for easy listening and calls. Plantronics made its name producing Bluetooth headsets, so sound quality should come as no surprise. The Rolls Royce of over-ear cans are the Sennheiser RS 220, which are basically a wearable theatre. However, with the price tag of around $600, and calling not a priority, wearing them round the office could be a little over the top. Sennheiser also does Bluetooth on a budget with the MM 100, which are much more work-appropriate.

At the gym

 If there’s one space Bluetooth headphones are made for, it’s the gym. Sport buds should be hardy and immovable; sweat-proof headphones that glue to your ears. JayBird is a consistent player in the sports bud game. True to its name, each pair comes with multi-sized “wings” (sometimes called “fins”) that fix inside your ear and stay there no matter how hard you train. The JayBird X2 is the latest iteration, featuring silicone and foam tips to ensure a tight fit. Another strong contender, especially when it comes to running, are the JLab Epic 2 wireless sport ear buds, which include eight different gel tips to help get the fit right. Unless you’re pounding marathons, the 12 hours of battery life should also go the distance. Bose is a more recent entry into the sports buds arena, but its Soundsport Wireless will keep most audiophiles happily on the move. At a lower price point, the Plantronics Backbeat Fit pack a huge amount of sound into sleek wireless headgear.

Got another Headphone-tip or perfect playlist to share? Leave a comment and let us know!

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Aimee Chanthadavong

Content Producer

Aimee Chanthadavong,
Content Producer

As Content Producer of RedWire, Aimee is a passionate storyteller about people, technology, and anything else that requires her to use a bit of journalistic detective work.