GearTools & Tech

The Best Headphones and Speakers of 2020

Top-notch tunes need equipment to match

(Photo: Inga Hendrickson)
buyer’s guide

Beats Powerbeats Pro ($250)

buyer’s guide
(Photo: Courtesy Beats)

Three things matter most in today’s wireless headphones: a dependable Bluetooth connection, quality sound, and a snug fit. Beats’ Powerbeats Pro nails them all. These earphones have the same light weight and low profile of your typical popcorn-size buds, but with hooks that help anchor them in place, so they don’t feel painfully wedged into your ears. But what puts the Powerbeats over the top is bold, clear, dynamic sound and louder-­than-average output compared with other Bluetooth models. They last an impressive nine hours on a charge (a five-minute refill gets you 90 minutes more). The charging case, which holds 15 hours of additional juice, is bulky, but the Powerbeats have other virtues, like sensors that start and stop the music automatically when you put them in or take them out. Sure, you’ll find fine options for less, but for travel, workouts, or just working, these are the best we tested.

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Adidas RPT-01 ($169)

Headphones and Speakers
(Photo: Courtesy Adidas)

Best Full-Size Headphones

There’s no doubt that earphones revolutionized working out, but sometimes you want something that stays put without a lot of wriggling. The wireless RPT-01 pairs easily, pumps out bold, well-rounded sound for up to 40 hours, and is sweatproof, with knitted ear and headband covers that slide off for easy cleaning. The hard plastic frame hidden un­derneath is durable enough that you can stuff them into the bottom of your pack.

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Jays m-Seven True Wireless ($129)

Headphones and Speakers
(Photo: Courtesy Jays)

Best Value

It can’t handle thumping bass as well as the Powerbeats Pro, but the m-Seven produces clean, crisp midrange and high notes, and runs more than nine hours on a charge. It relies on touch controls—a quick tap to pause, two taps to skip ahead, and three to activate voice commands. This is mostly a good thing, though careless repositioning of a bud can ­accidentally pause the music. That ­shouldn’t be an issue, though: compared with other tiny earphones, the m-Seven is among the best at staying put.

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DemerBox DB2 ($349)

Headphones and Speakers
(Photo: Courtesy DemerBox)

Best Wireless Speaker

A speaker built into a waterpoorf, ultra-­rugged Pelican case may seem gimmicky. Not at all. This is the ­best-sounding Bluetooth speaker we tested, with loud, undistorted bass and clear highs. Meanwhile, the unit charges your phone and keeps it safe. Pop the stopper into the main air vent for complete waterproofness. With a 100-foot wireless range, 5.4-pound weight, and carry handle, it’s a loud, lovable companion for campsite, raft, or SUP.

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Ausounds Au-Flex ANC ($200)

Headphones and Speakers
(Photo: Courtesy Ausounds)

Best for Running

This lightweight Bluetooth headset is sweatproof, with sound quality comparable to the ­Powerbeats Pro. The rubber ­neckband eliminates the risk of dropped buds on the trail and avoids the tugging and tangling of other behind-the-head models. With a battery life of 22 hours (10 hours with active noise cancellation, which drowns out jet-­engine drones and awful gym music), they’re our favorite go-anywhere set.

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Filed To: MusicAudioTechnologyWearable TechGear of the Year
Lead Photo: Inga Hendrickson

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