Dr. Mac’s Rants & Raves
This year I auditioned at least half a dozen new wired and wireless headsets for my iPhone and other devices. After countless hours of testing, I concluded that while none of the new headsets will unseat my long-time favorite wired and wireless headphones, I did discover a pair of new devices I like well enough to use occasionally and can recommend without hesitation.
My Faves—Wireless and Wired
Let’s start with a quick look at my current favorite wired and wireless headphones.
My absolute favorite headphones of any type are Apple’s wireless AirPods.
Although they’re priced a bit beyond my comfort zone at $159, after a year of testing, they’re still my go-to headphones for most occasions. They sound better than you’d expect, are surprisingly comfortable considering they’re fabricated from hard plastic, and they work flawlessly on all of my devices. Plus, unlike many Bluetooth headsets, AirPods don’t become “unpaired” for no reason.
AirPods killer feature, however, is that no other headphones even come close to AirPods’ audio quality for making and receiving telephone (and FaceTime) calls. People can hear me so well they often think I’m using a wired headset, even when I’m walking around outdoors.
Moving right along, my favorite wired headset for nearly a decade is the Klipsch Image S4i ($75.95), now discontinued but still available. Before AirPods they were my absolute favorite for myriad reasons—they’re affordable, comfortable, and sound almost as good as AirPods for making and receiving calls.
Worthy of Your Consideration
While I recommend the AirPods or Image S4i without hesitation, I tested a couple of other headsets I think may be worthy of your consideration.
The first is Blackloud’s Soundot AF1 FM ($79.99), wired earbuds that include a built-in FM receiver and a digital signal processor (DSP) that lets you fine-tune what you hear.
Controlled with a free iOS app, their signature feature is compression-free FM radio that works without requiring internet connectivity. In other words, you can listen to FM radio anywhere in the world, even without a cellular or Wi-Fi connection. Because it uses its own built-in FM chip, it also reduces the battery drain and playback delays associated with streaming audio. If you love to listen to FM radio, this is the headset for you.
Finally, while I’m not a fan of “noise-cancelling” headphones, which sound muffled and lousy to my ear when their noise-cancelling circuitry is enabled, I found a set this year that has so many redeeming characteristics that I can recommend them in spite of the whole muffled noise-cancelling thing.
They’re called Mixcder E7; they’re over-the-ear Bluetooth wireless headphones that feature Active Noise Cancelling (ANC) to continuously detect and react to outside noises, analyze sound waves, and block out ambient sound by creating inverse sound waves.
Until recently, noise cancelling headphones like these would run you at least $200. Like more expensive offerings, the Mixcder E7s are super-comfortable and provide a rich, full listening experience with nicely-defined bass. But, unlike those others, these are reasonably priced at just $59.99.
The E7s also include an audio cable, so you can use them even if their rechargeable battery is dead. Note that noise-cancelling isn’t available if you listen via the cable.
I think they sound great with noise cancelling turned off
I still hate noise-cancelling most of the time, but I now appreciate it in airplanes, trains, and other places with high ambient noise levels. In my humble opinion, they sound surprisingly good for their price with the noise cancelling option disabled and less than horrible with it turned on.
One last thing: From now until Christmas you can save $20 on Mixcder E7s with coupon code MIXCDER7 at www.amazon.com.