The best true wireless earbuds we listened to at CES

By Billy Steele , Engadget 2019 was the year that true wireless earbuds became ubiquitous, so it makes sense there were a lot of new models ...

By Billy Steele, Engadget

2019 was the year that true wireless earbuds became ubiquitous, so it makes sense there were a lot of new models at CES. Those include new options from Audio-Technica, Jabra, JBL and more. I spent the week listening to new products from the companies that had working units to demo. Some of the more interesting ones, like Klipsch's T10, were on display but there wasn't a functioning model to try. As CES draws to a close, I've compiled my list of the best true wireless earbuds I tried this week so you'll have an idea of what's coming soon and if they're any good.

Jabra Elite Active 75t

© Provided by Engadget   Jabra Elite Active 75t hands-on

I've been using a pre-production model of the Elite Active 75t most of the week at CES, and unsurprisingly, these are every bit as good as the regular Elite 75t. You still get the benefits of improved sound, battery life and smaller overall size on the Active model. Plus, there's the addition of the soft-touch grip coating instead of bare plastic on the outside of the buds. What's more, improved water resistance means you don't have to worry about dropping these in water -- so long as its not more than three feet deep and you get them out quickly.

These and other Jabra earbuds and headphones stand to improve even more with new features that are coming to the Sound+ app. MySound will provide a hearing test to tailor your listening accessory to your ears while MyControls will allow you to customize the on-board controls to suit your needs. And the best part about the Elite Active 75t is it costs $200 -- a reasonable price for a feature-rich set of true wireless earbuds.

Price: $200

Availability: February 2020

Audio-Technica QuietPoint ATH-ANC300TW

© Provided by Engadget   Audio-Technica

Audio-Technica's first true wireless earbuds with active noise cancellation (ANC) made a great first impression. I only got to listen to them for a few minutes, but I could immediately tell the audio is much better than on the ATH-CKS5TW I reviewed last month. The ATH-ANC300TW are more expensive at $249 and have a shorter battery life of 4.5 hours (buds only). That's quite low compared to the competition nowadays, but the ANC and stellar sound might convince you to buy them anyway.

Sure, the rated battery life is disappointing, but the sound profile is where the ATH-ANC300TW really shines. These have an audio tuning that's much closer to what I'd call the "signature" Audio-Technica sound: punchy bass that doesn't overpower, crisp detail and a warm overall tone. The ATH-CKS5TW definitely doesn't have that, even though it does offer insane battery life. Sometimes we get more listening time out of earbuds than companies claim, and if the ATH-ANC300TW can creep up to at least six hours, these would be much easier to recommend.

Price: $249

Availability: Spring 2020

Technics EAH-AZ70W

© Provided by Engadget   Technics

Panasonic debuted its first true wireless earbuds at CES this week, and the lineup includes the Technics-branded EAH-AZ70W. The earbuds take some aesthetic cues from the iconic turntables, with a mix of black and silver accents. These sounded every bit as good as the Audio-Technica ATH-ANC300TW, if not better. I listened to them on different days, so I hesitate to declare a clear winner, but the Technics true wireless model did a stellar job with a selection of remastered Queen tracks.

The sound was big and open, with room for the instruments to stand on their own and create a sort of atmospheric space to exist. A lot of true wireless products have sound that feels like compressed noise being beamed into your ears. Panasonic has overcome that issue on its Technics model. These could be some of the best earbuds we review this year, if the final version is anything like what I tried this week.

Price: $249

Availability: June 2020


© Provided by Engadget   JBL

As usual, JBL announced a ton of headphones at CES. The most compelling model is probably the LIVE 300TWS. I used them for several days this week, and I continue to be impressed by what you get here for the price. I'm not a huge fan of the fit wing/loop on these, as it took some extra adjusting to get them to nestle in my ear. However, everything else is pretty good. Touch controls work well, though the swipe gestures can be frustrating. JBL offers a mobile app that allows you to tweak the on-board controls, and that kind of customization is always nice.

The overall audio quality is good, but not great. The Audio-Technica QuietPoint ATH-ANC300TW, Jabra Elite Active 75t and Technics EAH-AZ70W all sound better overall, but the 300TWS is still a solid performer. There's punchy bass that a lot of $150 models don't offer, and the app allows you to dial things in a bit to fit your preferences. If you want quality that doesn't command $200 or more, these are worth a look.

Price: $150

Availability: Spring 2020

JLab Go Air

© Provided by Engadget   JLab

I'll admit I had very low expectations for a set of $29 true wireless earbuds. Whether it's fair or not, there's a certain price point everyone associates with quality, especially with true wireless earbuds. Not anymore. JLab's Go Air is a solid set of earbuds that fall into the territory of impulse-buy, instead of carefully considered investment. The company did sacrifice some features to get to this price (automatic pausing, for example), but the Go Air does have on-board controls for volume, skipping tracks, play/pause, activating Siri/Google Assistant and cycling through three EQ presets (balanced, bass boost and JLab signature). They're also small, so they sit in your ear nicely and don't stick out much.

The claimed five-hour battery life is on the lower end of the spectrum. However, the charging case does have a USB connector attached that tucks in nicely on the bottom of it. So the days of having to carry an extra cable with you are over. The audio quality isn't nearly as good as what you'd get on the likes of the Jabra Elite 75t, AirPods Pro or Sony WF-1000XM3, but it's not bad either. Bass isn't as full or punchy, but there's some nice clarity to the overall tone. It's definitely serviceable for $29.

Price: $29

Availability: March 2020


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Daily News | local news, US news, world news and much more!: The best true wireless earbuds we listened to at CES
The best true wireless earbuds we listened to at CES
Daily News | local news, US news, world news and much more!
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