Data Doctors: Wireless earbud buying tips

Q: What should I look for when buying wireless earbuds? There are so many to choose from that I don’t know where to start.

A: The last time I checked, there were over 90 companies that manufactured headphones and the vast majority have some form of wireless option available.

This is one tech gadget that will take a lot more research and due diligence on your part because you can’t actually try them before you buy them.

Start by thinking about when and where you’ll most likely be using them as the form factor and features you’ll want may be quite different for each use.

Wireless vs. true wireless earbuds

There are actually two categories of wireless earbuds — those that have a wire that connect the earbuds and those that don’t (True Wireless Earbuds).

Those with a wire tend to be harder to lose, cost less and, in some cases, ride in your ears differently because the earbuds themselves tend to be smaller and lighter with support arms that can go over the ear.

True wireless earbuds have to incorporate everything into each earpiece, while those with a cable between them can move the battery and controls into the connecting cable.

True wireless earbuds typically come with a carrying case that also acts as a portable charger, so it’s more convenient when you need to charge them on the go.


If you plan to use them on long airplane rides or mass transit, there are two very important considerations: noise isolation and battery life.

Noisy environments can dramatically impact your listening pleasure, so make sure they have some form of noise canceling technology.

If you know that you’ll be using the earbuds for long stretches at a time, make sure you pay attention to the continuous battery life rating and with true wireless earbuds, the additional charging capability of the carry case.

If you use your headphones mostly in very noisy environments, you’ll probably use them at a higher volume, which requires more battery power.

Office users

If your primary use will be in an office setting, in addition to noise cancellation, you’ll want to make sure that the earbuds include a microphone for phone calls/Zoom meetings.

Another consideration for office use is the ability to have more than one device connected to the device so you can use them with your computer and smartphone at the same time.

Active/fitness users

If you plan to use your earbuds while working out, especially strenuous cardio or running, the fit in your ear is very important.

Heavier true wireless earbuds may not stay in place or become uncomfortable after a short period, so look for products specifically designed for active users.

The IP (Ingress Protection) rating on your earbuds will also be important because of the moisture from perspiration during a workout or if you get caught in the rain while jogging or biking.

The minimum you should look for is IPX4, which means it’s splash-proof, but IPX5 or 6 would be better for those that know they’ll expose their earbuds to lots of moisture.

Research tools

There are countless “Best Earbuds” reviews online that I’d recommend you start your research with, but once you’ve narrowed down your choices, you can get in-depth side-by-side comparisons of any two devices at the RTINGS website.

Ken Colburn is founder and CEO of Data Doctors Computer Services. Ask any tech question on Facebook or Twitter.

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