7 features to look for when buying wireless earbuds

From physical features to software nuances, here’s what to consider before adding Bluetooth buds to your cart.

7 features to look for when buying wireless earbuds

Key Takeaways

  • Bluetooth codecs matter for audio quality, so be sure to check for aptX, LDAC, or Samsung Scalable Codec support.
  • Noise-cancelling & transparency modes can make for better audio and focus experience, but can often come with a heftier price tag.
  • In-app equalizer enhances versatility. Look for customizable EQ options for different listening experiences.

If you're in the market for a pair of wireless earbuds, the options are almost endless and the list of possible features can be overwhelming. Some features are more consequential than others though, and picking what works best for you is really important.

From physical features like ear tips to lesser-known features like codec support, everyone will have different priorities and needs, but these are the ones most should think about and look into.

To help you figure out what to look for in wireless earbuds, here are some features to pay attention to when considering your options. From physical features like ear tips to lesser-known features like codec support, everyone will have different priorities and needs, but these are the big ones that most people should at least think about and look into when purchasing wireless earbuds.

7 features to look for when buying wireless earbuds

1 Different Bluetooth codecs

Not all codecs are the same and each serve different needs better

7 features to look for when buying wireless earbuds

Which codecs are supported by a pair of wireless earbuds is really important if you care a lot about your audio quality. As a baseline, all wireless earbuds support the SBC codec, so that'll always be a given. Another commonly supported codec is AAC, which delivers better Bluetooth audio quality on Apple devices. If you use an Android device primarily, SBC support is likely the better option of the two, so AAC wouldn't be as important a consideration.

If you use an Android device primarily, SBC support is likely the better option of the two, so AAC wouldn't be as important a consideration.

There are other codecs that have higher bitrates and therefore can deliver better audio quality. Some of these include the aptX family, including aptX, aptX HD, aptX Low Latency, and aptX Adaptive, which all have higher bitrates, and therefore deliver better audio quality, than SBC. Other codecs include LDAC, which is Sony's high bitrate codec, and Samsung Scalable Codec, which works only with Samsung devices.

7 features to look for when buying wireless earbuds

2 Noise-cancelling and transparency

Noise control is a more premium feature, but for many it's essential

7 features to look for when buying wireless earbuds

Noise-cancelling is widespread tech at this point in wireless earbuds, and many people even consider it an essential feature. Good noise cancellation can help you concentrate at work or block out loud droning sounds on your commute, and can save you a lot of headaches in the process. Transparency mode is another one that often comes in tandem with noise-cancelling, which allows you to be more aware of your surroundings using the same onboard microphones that cancel out the noise.

Earbuds that come with noise-cancelling and transparency mode generally come at a much higher price point than those that don't, so if you're looking to save money and don't care as much about noise-cancelling, it's a feature you can avoid when filtering through products to ensure you don't spend money on a feature you don't need. But if you want your earbuds to help you filter out distractions and bothersome noise, definitely look for earbuds with noise-cancelling.

7 features to look for when buying wireless earbuds

3 In-app equalizer availability

Being able to change your sound profile makes earbuds so much better

7 features to look for when buying wireless earbuds

Not all earbuds have apps, and not all earbuds with apps have in-app equalizers. Being able to EQ your earbuds is an incredible feature that can make your earbuds much more versatile. For example, you might want to listen to EDM with boosted bass frequencies, but listen to podcasts with a more flat, neutral frequency response. Being able to adjust your EQ allows for this flexibility.

Not all in-app equalizers are created equally.

Not all in-app equalizers are created equally. The most bare-bones version of these is a list of presets to choose from with no customization, which can still be really helpful. Then you can have a three-band equalizer for just lows, mids, and highs, or an equalizer with even more specificity beyond that. In my opinion, the more customizable the better, but anything is better than nothing.

7 features to look for when buying wireless earbuds

4 Bluetooth multipoint connectivity

Switching between devices easily elevates the earbud experience

7 features to look for when buying wireless earbuds

Bluetooth multipoint is an incredible feature for people who frequently switch between devices. For example, if you want to be able to pick up a call on your earbuds while you're working on your laptop and listening to music, multipoint enables you to do that very easily, and you can go right back to working when you're done the call without having to reconnect your earbuds to your laptop.

7 features to look for when buying wireless earbuds

5 Lots of ear tip options

The more sizes to choose from, the better your fit will likely be

7 features to look for when buying wireless earbuds

Obviously, not all ears are the same, so everyone has different needs when it comes to fitting their earbuds in their ears. A lot of earbuds come with three sizes, which is great for most people, but sometimes cheaper earbuds only come with two sizes. If you can find earbuds with even more size options, that's even better, since that enables you to find the perfect fit more easily. With a better fit, you get a much better listening experience, since outside noises won't leak in as much, and if you have noise-cancelling, it'll actually do its job.

7 features to look for when buying wireless earbuds

6 Long battery life and charging options

Longer battery life and faster charging makes for a better experience

7 features to look for when buying wireless earbuds

Earbuds that have a longer battery life are not only better because you're less likely to have them die on you at an inconvenient time, but it's also better for the overall lifetime of your earbuds. Fewer charging cycles means your battery won't lose capacity as fast, so you won't have to replace your earbuds as soon. Additionally, how they charge matters. USB-C charging is faster than microUSB charging, and wireless charging support is a nice added feature on some earbuds that, while slow, is really convenient.

7 features to look for when buying wireless earbuds

7 Good onboard controls

Intuitive and customizable controls make for easier use

7 features to look for when buying wireless earbuds

Being able to control playback on your earbuds in an intuitive way without touching your phone is great, but it's even better if you can control everything from playback to noise control to phone calls too. Since a lot of earbuds require you to go into an app on your phone to fully control your earbuds, the more onboard controls there are the better.

If you use earbuds with a laptop, you might lose some ability to control your earbuds if there aren't a lot of onboard controls, since the app would be on your phone.

If you use earbuds with a laptop, you might lose some ability to control your earbuds if there aren't a lot of onboard controls, since the app would be on your phone. Additionally, you want to make sure the controls actually make sense to you so you can remember how to use them. If not, being able to change the controls to something that suits you better will ensure you actually use the onboard controls.

7 features to look for when buying wireless earbuds

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