You don't need to spend more than $100 on wireless headphones such as AirPods or Beats. There are plenty of Bluetooth headphones that cost half as much and play music, place phone calls and have great battery life. I tested six of them and picked the best
I tested sets from popular affordable brands including Anker, Aukey, Skullcandy, iFrogz, Braven and JLab with prices ranging from $25.99 to $49.99.
One of the most affordable options was my top pick.
My testing consisted of both casual and more intense use with each pair.
I used each pair in different environments, including at work sitting at my desk and walking through the hallways, and also while exercising to see how well they'd stay in while moving. I also placed calls with each, when possible, to see how well the microphone worked.
During my tests, I listened to a range of music from songs by Bruce Springsteen to pop hits from Ariana Grande.
Anker's $25 Soundbuds Curve headphones were my favorite of the bunch.
The Soundbuds Curve headphones sounded good with clear high and low tones. Call quality was strong, and the promised 12 hours of battery life rang true in my tests.
They have a pretty sleek design and comfortable buds, though the ear hooks were a little too big for me at first. I found that after a few wears they become quite comfortable and are a breeze to get on or off.
Zagg's iFrogz Impulse Duo Wireless have a unique cloth coating on the outside, with cords that connect the two earbuds to a controller. I really like that the volume control module doubles a clip that allows for easy storage -- as you can wrap the cord around -- and can be attached to your collar.
I think these are the most versatile in terms of design paired with performance. However, they don't get as loud as other models and the battery life wasn't as good.
Aukey's Latitude Wireless headphones offer three different sound modes that cater to different styles of music, but I found that the default mode was best and balanced high and low notes pretty well.
They come with "wings" that are supposed to help them stay in your ears, but I found they actually fell out more with these on. I took the wings off and they were more stable in my ears while running.
The Latitude Wireless headphones had the shortest battery life at 8 hours, though, and at the same price, you can get my pick, the Anker Soundbud Curves, which offer up to 12 hours of use.
Braven's FLYE Sport proved to be a mixed bag -- the earbuds fit very comfortably but the sound quality was average.
The bass response was almost non-existent, which was weird since a lot of budget headphones typically try to maximize this for effect.
The build quality was shockingly bad: they don't feel like $50 earbuds and have a lightweight plastic feel. The tangle-free cord feels flimsy, and I don't trust the durability of them.
JLab's Fit 2.0 surprised me with the design. They have thin memory wire ear hooks that mold around your ear which was comfortable. Traditional hooks that are found on most over-ear headphones can't do this, but the result is not immediate.
The inline control is bulky and adds weight to the set, which made them more annoying to wear than lighter headphones. JLab has a strong bass which can be overpowering at times, too.
I got around 5 1/2 hours of playtime which is half what I got on my recommended pair.
Skullcandy's INK'd headphones sound fine -- though bass heavy -- but I didn't like the design. The cord from the neckband to the earbuds is thin and too short. This caused the headphones to bounce while I was running.
I also experienced connectivity problems. If my phone was in my pocket or hand, the song would stop for a second or two, and then resume. I tried connecting to a second device, but it was still a problem. Skullcandy sent another pair which didn't have the same connectivity problems, but we still preferred the other headphones in this roundp.