We focus our testing on five different metrics: sound quality, athletic performance, comfort, battery life, and portability.
Remember that eclectic playlist we mentioned? We used it to listen to every type of music imaginable in each one of our earbuds, one right after the other. During this process we paid close attention to the bass, treble, and overall clarity produced by each model. We even threw some podcasts into the mix for those that like to listen to talk radio.
Within this metric we also graded the call quality on each set of earbuds. To do this we made multiple calls with each model to the same iPhone, and had both the caller and the callee note the audio quality.
To test athletic performance we hit the road, trail, and gym. We wore every pair while running, mountain biking, and doing some general fitness at the local health club. We didn't stop until the sweat was dripping off our brows so we could get a good idea of how each pair handled strenuous workouts.
Comfort can be somewhat subjective, so we made sure to get our earbuds into the hands (and ears) of as many people as possible. We had all of our co workers wear multiple pairs for a full work day and rate how comfy cozy or awfully annoying they were.
Our battery life testing was straightforward. We charged each pair up to capacity, turned them to 75% of maximum volume, and played our eclectic playlist through them until they died.
To score portability we evaluated the weight and shape of each pair of earbuds. Those that could be coiled into a ball and stuffed into a pocket got high scares, while those with rigid pieces that could only fit in larger pockets got lower scores.