Best Earbuds Or In Ear Headphones of 2020

I went about testing almost every earbud that has been rated highly across the Internet, during the months of Oct-Nov, 2020. Here is the test criteria I used:

  • Bluetooth connection, which withstands these events:
    • Walking 20-30ft away from the source
    • Turning on a Microwave oven, and sitting within 2-3ft of a Microwave oven
    • Turning on Bluetooth on a source and selecting the device
  • Audio performance, with the following qualities:
    • Bass: Individual drums are heard in Audiomachine’s Earth Shaker (this rendition).
    • Clarity: Can feel the plucks and mini booms starting at 0:28 in Cara’s How Far I’ll Go.
  • Battery life of at least 3 hours, with the case covering for another 12.
  • Call performance
    • Mic filters out wind/noise (the other person doesn’t say, “I can barely hear you.”).
    • Movement around or away from source doesn’t drop or distort bytes.
  • Individual buds can work independently.
  • Noise cancellation which filters out at least 50% of the sound from a running Microwave oven.
  • Comfortable fit: such that you can sleep in with them, with your head turned over one.
  • Doesn’t need a special app to twiddle around (who has the time to do this?).
  • Easy to pull and place back into their case.

I referred to Tom’s guide, which has always been my favorite with their in depth reviews and good recommendations. Also, SoundGuys, that generally have good recommendations for audiophiles. Finally, WhatHiFi, who have good premium recommendations. Also, searching on Amazon helped me look at democratic results.

I compared the following, and rejected each based on what is listed below them.

  • OnePlus True Wireless Buds
    • Uncomfortable and call performance is bad.
  • Samsung Galaxy Buds+
    • Call performance was off.
    • Bass performance was a hit or miss.
  • Sony WF-1000XM3
    • Uncomfortable, large and battery performance is inconsistent.
  • Tozo T6
    • Bad audio quality and no noise cancellation.
  • Tozo NC9
    • Uncomfortable and very hard to pull from the case.
    • Excellent audio performance, I would sometimes forget that these aren’t Airpods.
    • Gestures on earbuds are leaky.
  • Jabra Elite Active 75t
    • Uncomfortable and not good with noise cancellation.
  • Jabra Elite 85t
    • Almost there, but uncomfortable. Only right bud works independently.

Winner:

  • Apple AirPods Pro
    • Hit everything just right, except for battery performance.

Based on everything, and I generally don’t like Apple products, nothing beats Airpods Pro. As soon as they fix the battery performance next year, these are going to be the best premium headphones money could buy. AirPods Pro have a couple very significant disadvantages, that I’ll live with:

  • No support for Android (had to install Air Battery app to even get battery levels on the phone).
  • No way to control volume from the buds.

If you dislike Apple and are fine with not wearing your buds all the time, consider Jabra Elite 85t.