Step 1: Is Bluetooth the Right Choice?
If you find yourself annoyed by headphone cords bouncing around during your workout, or constantly catching your headphone cord on the corner of your desk, you will likely love the wireless freedom of Bluetooth. However, having Bluetooth headphones or earbuds does add another layer of logistics as you have to make sure they're charged, which means remembering yet another charging cable when you travel. Wired earbuds and headphones also tend to cost more than wired models of comparative quality. So, if you don't often find yourself wishing you didn't have to deal with a headphone cable, you might want to just keep things simple and go with a classic wired model.
Step 2: Are Earbuds the Right Choice?
Before you buy a pair of earbuds you're going to want make sure that earbuds are actually the best choice for your specific needs.
Earbuds are great when weight and size are an issue. Earbuds are ideal for working out because they are generally light enough that they won't jostle around as you bounce on the treadmill, and generally don't have any soft, cushiony bits that can get soaked in sweat and become gross. They are also great for travel as they can easily be shoved into a pocket. Some people even prefer them for flying because it's easier to lay back and fall asleep with tiny earbuds as opposed to large, over the ear headphones.
Earbuds do have their drawbacks, however. While they do block out some noise, they can't compare to the sound isolation you can get from over the ear headphones. Also, the larger drivers in over the ear headphones can produce much better sound quality than earbuds. That's not to say earbuds can't sound good, many do, but the best earbuds are no match for the best over the ear headphones.
Step 3: Will You be Working Out?
While most earbud designs will work for use around the house, not all can handle the rigors of exercise. If you're looking for a workout soundtrack you'll want earbuds that have some way of providing a secure fit. Most models use either ear fins that sit in the upper part of the ear or over the ear hooks to provide that extra stability. Also, many models provide multiple sizes of ear pieces so you can find the one that sits most securely in your ear. You'll also want a model whose cord isn't too heavy and thus doesn't bounce around when you're running or jumping. You can use our athletic performance scores to judge which models are best for for your workout.
Step 4: Are You Willing to Pay More for Better Sound?
In Bluetooth earbuds, like many things in life, you get what you pay for. We feel that all of the pairs we tested provide decent enough sound to keep you motivated through a workout, but if you're will to pay $150 or more you can get something that sounds quite phenomenal. If you're an audiophile that really appreciates the booming, clear bass and crisp, defined, treble, you may want to spend that extra money.
For many, upgrading from cheap earbuds to the Bluetooth variety can improve workouts, commutes, and long flights. We hope our buying guide has helped you find a pair of Bluetooth earbuds that will work for you. For the low down on the best models around, check out our full review here.