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The best headphones from Apple, Sony, Jaybird, Samsung for your holiday audio needs

by Ted Bear (2019-12-04)


id="article-body" class="row" section="article-body"> This story is part of Holiday Gift Guide 2019, your source for the season's best gifts and deals, hand-picked by the experts at CNET. With a multitude of models to choose from, it's not easy to figure out which headphone to buy these days. With that in mind, we're highlighting several of our highest-rated wireless headphones -- not all of them are pricey -- to help narrow down your gift choice this holiday season.

EarFun Free
Best bargain
Sarah Tew/CNET Looking for budget-priced true wireless earbuds? What's most impressive about the EarFun Free is the features: Bluetooth 5.0, both USB-C and wireless charging, and fully waterproof (IPX7), according to their specs. Do they sound fantastic? No, but they sound pretty good. They don't have the clarity of higher-end true wireless earbuds that cost $150 or more, but they do have plump bass and enough detail to avoid sounding dull. They're also pretty solid for making calls. An excellent value at less than $45. Read our Earfun Free first take.

$43 at Amazon Anker Liberty Air 2
Best for making calls under $100
Sarah Tew/CNET AirPods and other name-brand truly wireless headphones cost $160 and up. But the Anker SoundCore Liberty Air 2 earbuds have an appealing design and deliver solid sound quality at less than $100. Available in black or white, this second-gen model offers USB-C charging, better battery life (up to 7 hours) and call quality. In fact, except for active-noise canceling, it offers a lot of what the AirPods Pro do for a lot less, including a compact charging case that has a smart matte finish. Its noise-isolating design seals out a lot of ambient sound passively and it's a top-notch set of earbuds for making calls -- close to the performance level of the AirPods Pro.

With an IPX5 water-resistance rating (they can sustain a stead stream of water but can't be full submerged), they're suitable for gym use and running.   Read our Anker SoundCore Liberty Air 2 first take.

$100 at Best Buy Sure to please
Apple AirPods Pro
Sarah Tew/CNET Even if they don't sound as magical as you'd hope a $249 model would, the AirPods Pro still manage to be a great pair of truly wireless earphones. That's largely due to their winning design and fit, improved bass performance, effective noise-canceling and excellent Call Girl In Saket quality. Yeah, they're expensive at $250, but the good news is you'll use them so much you'll probably wear the battery down -- it does degrade over time and isn't replaceable -- and have to buy a new pair in 18 to 24 months if you don't lose them first. Read our Apple AirPods Pro review.

See at Best Buy Now playing: Watch this: AirPods Pro first impressions: Should you upgrade? 8:18 Jaybird Vista
Good for runners
Sarah Tew/CNET At $180, these true wireless earbuds are a little more expensive than they should be, but they're among the better true wireless headphones to hit the market in 2019. They'll appeal to those looking for a more discreet set of totally wireless sports earbuds that offer full waterproofing. Read our Jaybird Vista review.

$180 at Amazon $247 at Walmart $180 at Best Buy Sony WF-1000XM3
Great-sounding true wireless
Sarah Tew/CNET Sony hadn't been much of a player in the true wireless (AirPods-style) headphone arena, but its WF-1000XM3 changed that. While it's not cheap at $230, it's the best-sounding set of truly wireless earbuds at this price, matching and perhaps even exceeding the performance of pricier competitors from Sennheiser, Beats, Master & Dynamic and Bang & Olufsen. Needless to say, it crushes the AirPods' sound, and has a feature the AirPods don't have: Active noise cancellation.  Read our Sony WF-1000XM3 review.

$228 at Amazon $228 at Walmart $228 at Abt Electronics Samsung Galaxy Buds
Android-centric true wireless
Angela Lang/CNET If you're looking for a headphone gift for an Android user, the Galaxy Buds are Samsung's latest answer to the AirPods -- and they're a likable set of true wireless earphones. Read our Samsung Galaxy Buds review.

$108 at Amazon $150 at Abt Electronics $130 at Best Buy Apple AirPods
The popular choice
Sarah Tew/CNET Apple's second-gen AirPods are an incremental upgrade from the original AirPods -- and incremental upgrades tend to be a little boring. And on the surface, anyway, the new AirPods aren't exciting. But thanks to those updated components on the inside, which include a new H1 chip that supports Bluetooth 5.0, improved audio synchronization and always-on Siri, they're definitely better in small ways that a lot of people will appreciate. Even though it's $40 more at $199, the model with the wireless charging case is probably the one to get -- if you're giving it as a gift anyway. Read our Apple AirPods 2019 review.

$139 at Amazon $139 at Walmart $159 at Apple Beats PowerBeats Pro
Sportier AirPods
Sarah Tew/CNET The Powerbeats Pro, Beats' first true wireless earphones, are larger, sportier versions of the 2019 Airpods. They offer all the same basic conveniences of the AirPods, including fast pairing, rock-solid wireless connectivity and always-on Siri voice recognition for iOS users, but they deliver bigger sound and have better battery life. Only drawbacks: They're fairly pricey and have a bulky charging case.  Read our Beats Powerbeats Pro review.

$250 at Amazon $250 at Walmart $250 at Apple Sony's WH-1000XM3
Top noise canceling
Juan Garzon / CNET Sony's WH-1000XM3, the third generation of Sony's excellent wireless noise-canceling headphones, is more comfortable and features even better performance. With a strong battery life, it's currently our top-rated noise-canceling headphone, edging out the Bose models. Read our Sony WH-1000XM3 review.

$348 at Amazon $270 at Walmart $348 at Abt Electronics Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700
Best Bose
Sarah Tew/CNET Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, the long-awaited successor to its QuietComfort 35 II models, may not be a quantum leap forward but they offer slightly better sound, call and noise-canceling quality. Alas, they cost $400, but they're a strong all-around performer with up to 20 hours of battery life. Read our Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 review.

$399 at Amazon $399 at Walmart $399 at Dell JBL Live 650BTNC
Value noise-canceling
Sarah Tew/CNET While its noise-canceling feature and comfort levels aren't quite on par with competing models from Bose and Sony, JBL's Live 650BTNC (around $160 online) sound measures up well and it's worth considering if you don't want to spend $300 or more on a noise-canceling headphone. Read our JBL Live 650BTNC review.

$200 at Amazon $200 at Dell $200 at Best Buy Bose Frames
Two gifts in one
Sarah Tew/CNET Here's a way to give two gifts at once. Yes, the Bose Frames ($200) are both sunglasses and headphones -- and they sound surprisingly good for sunglasses headphones.

The Frames are available in two models: the Rondo and Alto. You can only get them in black for now. Read our Bose Frames review.

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