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Are all Bluetooth earphones created equal?

I am an owner of an iPhone. After buying and returning four pairs of Bluetooth earbuds this year I am really discouraged with Bluetooth technology. Sound quality and consistency, steady reception, and pairing have all been problematic for me. Have any of you used the new Apple AirPods and have you found them to be better performers? In what ways? Ultimately, are all Bluetooth earphones created equal and what separates good performers from bad ones in regards to sound quality and consistency, steady reception, and pairing? Many thanks!

--Submitted by Liz G.
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In reply to: Are all Bluetooth earphones created equal?

I went back to wired buds and headphones.

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Bluetooth Advancing...

In reply to: Are all Bluetooth earphones created equal?

I've not tried the Apple AirPods yet, but have been using Bluetooth earbuds for years, now. Starting with Jaybird Freedoms in various iterations (buds connected with a cable), and latterly with fFlat5 Aria Ones, and Erato Apollo 7s.

The wired Jaybird solutions maintain contact with each other perfectly, for obvious reasons. I use them for working out, riding bikes, and anything else involving physical exertion that is liable to cause one of the buds to fall out. The cable is the safety mechanism; losing or wrecking one of the pure wireless buds can really ruin your day.

The fFlat5s have terrific sound, the best I experience with my wireless earbuds, and better than commonplace wired ones. They are large, and thus more prone to falling out of the ear canal, and only one connects to the Bluetooth transmitter on my iPhone, the other joins the first wirelessly. This creates occasional drops and distortion. I use them for stationary listening when I can't be bothered digging out my JHAudio in-ear monitors, and for less strenuous exercise, like dog walking.

One charge gives me 3 to 3 1/2 hours of use, more than enough for my purposes. The charging case is said to be good for 2 more complete charges, but I have never tested that claim.

The Apollo 7s are the best solution I've hit on, so far. The sound isn't quite as full and robust as with the fFlat5s, but the form factor is better. Smaller, less obtrusive, and yet the battery life seems at least as good as the fFlat5s. Same claims re the charging case. I have never had one fall out unexpectedly, using the Comply tips that fit my ear canal best, which are the same size as I use woth the fFlat5s. They each connect independently to the source, so no drops. The sound is good, better than cheap wired earbuds, but obviously nowhere near the JH16 IEMs, that I use mostly for air travel.

I have just ordered a set of the Here One noise-cancelling Bluetooth earbuds, which are promised by February. This MIGHT be the "final solution", if they provide me with sufficient isolation for long distance air travel, and battery life that makes using them up there convenient. I realize the 3.5 mm jack is fated to be obsolete, probably within five years, and while I have experimented with a Bluetooth TX/RX device, I don't think that degree of complexity in my already-overstuffed electronic gizmo travel kit will ultimately prevail.

As with over-the-ear, on-the-ear, and in-ear wired solutions, there are wide variations in deliverables with the Bluetooth offerings. Sound isolation, battery life, and ergonomics (ie, the risk of them falling out) are the key limiting factors with today's offerings, in my experience.

I've read the AirPod reviews, and will continue experimenting with 3rd party solutions, even though my smartphone and tablet are both iOS. I'm not a millennial, so I find the cosmetics unsatisfying. I prefer having some form of mechanical interface for things like volume, on-off, track changes, etc. And the "one-size-fits-all" shape worries me from a sound isolation standpoint, which is echoed in two of the reviews I've read. Too many rock concerts, auto races, and 8 hour shifts in lightly muffled, poorly insulated diesel trucks have left me with diminished aural capacity, and I will take every measure to preserve what's left, as long as possible.

Summary: Wireless is the wave of the future, and Bluetooth is far and away the winning technology. It sounds as though those who value painless connectivity, and like, or don't mind, the odd appearance of the AirPods, will find them satisfactory.

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five years??? Maybe

In reply to: Bluetooth Advancing...

Your comment about the 3.5mm jack being obsolete in a few years may come to pass but I will not give up my wired headsets for BT simply because the hard wired sets be they headphones or ear buds still put out better sound quality than similar quality BT. Like vinyl records I can't say that the writing is on the wall for hard wired cans just yet.

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Several Factors to Consider - Short Answer is "No"

In reply to: Are all Bluetooth earphones created equal?

Hi Liz….Happy Holidays!!!

This may be a moot point if you’ve already invested substantially in Bluetooth (BT) headgear and a compatible device. While “brand” is important relative to product reliability, build quality and customer support it will not necessarily guarantee BT quality that is superior to another brand (i.e. product A versus B).

BT is like any other Over-The-Air (OTA) transmission protocol in that its development spans generations (i.e. versions or latest standard). Like Wi-Fi which has 802.11 a/b/g/n and now ac protocols, so does BT.

BT protocols have developed as follows with all subsequent versions being backwards compatible to the previous:
• 1.0 & 1.0B
• 1.1
• 1.2
• 2.0 + EDR (Enhanced Data Rate)
• 2.1 + EDR
• 3.0 + HS (High Speed) *
• 4.0+ LE (Low Energy)
• 4.1
• 4.2
• 5

* HS provides theoretical data transfer speeds of up to 24 Mbit/s, though not over the Bluetooth link itself. There is an associated relationship with 802.11 xxx WiFi which at the beach is most likely not an option Wink

Given the above...if Product A employs BT 2.0 + EDR and Product B employs BT 4.1; both devices will exchange data at the most common denominator which in this example is BT 2.0 + EDR. When opposing, standards are employed the data is in constant negotiation between the two protocols even though it occurs at speeds unnoticeable to mere mortals. Simply put if both products are manufactured to the same exacting standards of component (parts) quality the BT data flow will be most consistent if both devices employ the same BT protocol (i.e. send device & receive device).

In the real world, none of the above truly matters. Everything happens too quickly for one to notice. However, in the real world all OTA signals transmitted by consumer devices must accept interference as mandated by the FCC. Therefore, in highly signal saturated areas BT performance may suffer regardless of the protocol, but possibly even more when the protocols are not matched.

BT technology while not the greatest for audio transmission versus wired or over WiFi is not entirely to blame for poor sound quality. The internal components of the sending and receiving device must be considered. The quality of the components used to create the circuitry to create the BT transmission is a factor. You may have noticed that many makers of high-end headphones ($350 and up) typically; either don't have a BT product in their line-up; or if they do, it's only one and it's sold at a very high price. Those manufacturers don't want to gamble on BT technology and it's inability (at present) to reproduce an accurate sound which may have a damaging affect on their brand. Beats and Bose are the exception. Typically, speaking the cheaper the device the poorer the quality of components used. That becomes even more critical with speakers and their ability to translate the BT data into ear pleasing sound.

My advice….if you are going to drop $400 or more on an iPhone, Android or Windows Phone (or some other high-end BT capable storage component) as your primary music device…don’t go cheap on a set of BT earbuds or phones. But…if you’re looking for that sub $50 BT earbud/phone click the link for Cnet picks:


Now that you know…be sure to investigate the BT protocol employed – 1.0 thru 5 – when purchasing earbuds or headphones. If you’re interested; click the link for information on BT technology and development.


I hope this information helps you to make an informed decision. Good shopping!

Together Everyone Achieves More = T.E.A.M.

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I should expand on my statement

In reply to: Several Factors to Consider - Short Answer is "No"

…be sure to investigate the BT protocol employed – 1.0 thru 5 – when purchasing earbuds or headphones….

The same reasoning should be applied to the device that will send the BT signal (i.e. cell phone, tablet or MP3 player). If given the choice between which BT component (sending or receiving) should employ the latest BT protocol; if an exact match is not possible, I would choose the receiving device to be the most advanced component.

IMO it's better to have the earbuds/headset receive a lower BT protocol and have the adjustment done as an “accommodation” versus sending a higher BT protocol and the adjustment made as a signal downgrade. Think this….it’s easier for water (BT signal) to flow from a small diameter pipe (phone, tablet, MP3) into a larger diameter pipe (earbuds/headset) than vise-versa.
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This is depressing

In reply to: Are all Bluetooth earphones created equal?

Quite frankly, reading this post and the replies is pretty depressing. To me, sound quality is very important. Having a headphone that will only last a few hours is unacceptable. Wearing a headphone that falls off is a no-no.

Go back to wired. If your phone doesn't have a 3.5 mm jack, get the adapter from 3.5 to Lightning.

Personally, in the future when I have to replace my phone I will choose the one that has an audio jack provided that other specs are comparable.

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Wired Isn't Necessary

In reply to: This is depressing

Please see the post that I just put up today in this forum.

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I never did find a satisfactory BlueTooth headphone

In reply to: Are all Bluetooth earphones created equal?

I first tried to go wireless about 4 years ago and tried a couple of BT headsets but the pairing was so complicated, and the sound quality so bad, and the mics didn't work well for calls, so I returned them the same day.

Since 4 years had gone by and I now have an iPhone 7 Plus I thought I might see if things had improved. Ideally I would like a device that I could pair with my iPhone and also my Mac for Skype/Zoom calls. I went over to a major electronics store here and there were dozens and dozens of models.

Not only did I find them really hard to pair (even the store staff found it confusing) but when I did pair they either didn't have mics, or the mics didn't work well or the quality was just obviously bad compared to wired (and I'm no audiophile).

Finally I decided to just stick with wired solutions. You plug them in, and they work, and they don't need charging, and they don't need pairing. For my Mac I use my USB headset.

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The problem is Bluetooth itself in iOS 10

In reply to: Are all Bluetooth earphones created equal?

While you may get different results with different earphones, the basic problem is that Bluetooth is very buggy in Apple iOS 10 on your phone. It worked OK in iOS 9. Problems have been reported with pairing, connecting, sound quality, and dropping phone calls. The suggested fixes, such as un-pairing and re-pairing, only work for a while and then problems return. As of the latest iOS version 10.2, this has still not been fixed. It has become a critical problem connecting an iPhone to cars with Bluetooth, as you can see by googling "iOS 10 Bluetooth car problems". In my case, I can no longer depend on Bluetooth for a phone call in my car, so I'm violating the state hands-free law. Until Apple fixes Bluetooth in iOS 10, I'd suggest wired earphones.

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Skullcandy Smokin' 2 wireless buds for me

In reply to: Are all Bluetooth earphones created equal?

I am so anti-Apple these days! I hate how they make you do things "their" way rather than the most convenient way. That being said, I refuse to give them any more of my money. After I got my 7 with NO HEADPHONE JACK, I tried a $50 pair of Skullcandy Smokin' buds 2 Bluetooth earbuds that my brother recommended and am very happy! Great value and performance for the money!

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It's a mess...

In reply to: Are all Bluetooth earphones created equal?

The entire situation has become untenable. Going back to wired is not an option for mobile devices, as the wire eventually gets snagged on something and then you are ear hurt. I've tried so many BT earbuds & headphones that my pocketbook hurts. But I am looking forward to 2nd Gen AirPods with dedicated swipe controls of some sort, as tapping those 1st Gen buds is also an ear hurt. What a mess.

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Bought something different

In reply to: Are all Bluetooth earphones created equal?

After Shokz Blue 2s. Does not go into the ear. Around back of head, over the ear contacting the bone in front of the ear. Sound quality to me sounds as good as buds but leaves the ear open to hear all sounds around you.
it uses "Bone conductive technology". Work great for me.

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Thank you!

In reply to: Bought something different

I'm going to have to give these a try as all earbuds make my ears hurt after a short period of wearing time. I had not heard of these before, but looking at them online, I think they might be the solution to my problem.

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Maybe these will actually work properly

In reply to: Are all Bluetooth earphones created equal?

I contributed to an Indiegogo crowd funding project called Phazon wireless earbuds guaranteed not to fall. They are nearly ready to ship in Feb. I'm not a tech savvy person so check out all the stats yourself. They are now going for $179 +shipping. Cheers.

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most of them are not satisfactory

In reply to: Are all Bluetooth earphones created equal?

I tried with couple of them (I do not want to name the brand). I do not use for music. i want to use them (headphones) for talking on phone as i am mildly hearing deficient. But my complaint is the mic in the headphones are not good (perhaps the headphones may be good for music only). perhaps for my special needs wired headphones may be better but not yet tried as I am not sure which is the best. I do not want to spend too much money as the phone itself is not very costly

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Bone conductive

In reply to: most of them are not satisfactory

Online research on that line may solve your problem.

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An update here

In reply to: Bone conductive

My Aftershocks have lately developed a problem. Since the mics are in the headset behind the mouth they pickup other sounds and my voice fades at the other end. This could be also a BT problem but the phone is always in my pocket so if BT problem might be some kind if electrical/electronic interference. Warehouse I work in has wifi wired end to end side to side for selectors, lifts and remote computers. This also happens at home if I am moving around.
Still love my Aftershocks.

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Have you tried the Bose QuietComfort 35 yet?

In reply to: Are all Bluetooth earphones created equal?

Great question, and have enjoyed reading the detailed responses (particularly ajtrek and see2xu, so thorough, nice)!

Curious if those complaining about sound quality have tried the Bose QuietComfort 35 headphones? Realize these aren't particularly portable, or for sports, as they are full around ear headphones ... but ... from my experience the sound quality is awesome. They also have a tremendous built in microphone, and Bose noise-cancellation technology is takes another leap forward with this new product. You can tell from the sterling reviews on Amazon that most would agree: https://www.amazon.com/Bose-QuietComfort-Wireless-Headphones-Cancelling/dp/B01E3SNO1G

In my experience there are a few negatives about these headphones, but only one is related to bluetooth. In general, the bluetooth has worked perfectly for me and once you get used to losing the wire there's no going back. I just bought an iPhone 7 Plus and am not sure where I put the headphone adapter, I guess I might use it someday, but wireless is the present/future for sure.

Biggest issues with these headphones, here's a quick summary:
1) Price. At $350 there is no doubt these aren't for everyone. But its Bose, so expect to pay.
2) Size. They are big and bulky for sure, but this comes with the form factor. Note: they are extremely comfortable while wearing. So for home, airplane, office, etc, you just put them on and forget them, they are great ... especially the noise-cancellation.
3) Bluetooth Connection Logic. I use these with my Laptop at work, and with my Phone when on the train (daily commute 45 mins each way). For some reason Bose designed the logic so that it always tries to pair with the last device it was connected to. That means it will try and fail repeatedly to connect with the laptop in your bag (you hear the automated voice say "trying to connect to MacBook Air" over and over, etc), rather than connect to the Phone sitting in your hand. This often requires going into Settings > Bluetooth on the Phone and forcing it to switch, or re-pairing the headphones. That's a big fail by the Bose team. I'm sure they could implement a more elegant way to handle this scenario.
4) Noise-Cancelling vs. Air Pressure changes -- I'm not totally sure why this happens, but whenever you go thru a pressure change (on an airplane, or in a train tunnel) there is an audible interruption in the music in the headphones. It seems like the Noise-cancelling logic doesn't know how to handle the change in pressure and creates some extra white noise to counter-act the change. The effect is annoying, but not a deal breaker. Wearing the headphones in wind can also be a problem for this same reason.
5) Faulty Switch. I read on Amazon that most of the complaints about these headphones are related to the On/Off switch failing for x% of users. Most have not had any problems, but thought I should mention it.

I'm still looking for a great pair of Bluetooth headphones for the gym (or for sleeping in noisy environs), as the QC 35's are not made for either scenario. However, if you want A) great bluetooth sound quality B) fantastic noise-canceling C) excellent microphone for phone calls D) extremely comfortable to wear and E) Bose legendary quality. Then you really should try the QC 35's just to see if they are worth the price.

Hope it helps.

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have you tried to disconnect first ?

In reply to: Have you tried the Bose QuietComfort 35 yet?

@ smitter
for the BT problem : have you tried to disconnect the QC 35 from the MacBook Air (using the BT menu) before going to use it with your iPhone ?
I found that I have a lot less problems when I disconnect a device before using another one

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In reply to: Are all Bluetooth earphones created equal?

I've tried a few different Bluetooth earpieces. My favorite is still the original Jawbone. Here's why: It has pretty good noise canceling ability, but unlike newer sets that have auto volume control, which can make it Very difficult for me to hear , the Jawbone allows me to set the volume high enough so that I can actually hear the person on the other end of the line. My environment can be quite noisy, and most headsets don't pick up that noise, and adjust the volume up enough.
My Jawbone does. It's comfortable enough, has a good battery life , and , while it has drop-outs , I think it has more to do with cell reception than anything. Wish they still made them !!!!
I'm currently trying out a Jabra Supreme, but it cannot match my Jawbone .
I'll probably end up returning it, for reasons above.

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Plantronics Voyager series is the model to beat

In reply to: Are all Bluetooth earphones created equal?

I'm at an age where headsets have to have excellent highs for me to hear the sibilants in speech - otherwise, the consonants are indistinguishable. I've tried more than a dozen headset models without success. As a corporate user, I've always found that Plantronics equipment has the clearest speech reproduction, so I tried the Voyager headsets some years ago, and never looked back. People to whom I am speaking say that the sound at their end is "studio quality". Moreover, they go for at least 2-days without charging. I've recommended them to dozens of friends and all have been delighted with them. BTW, I DON'T work for Plantronics!

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Plantronics Voyager Series IS INDEED 'The Model to Beat'

In reply to: Plantronics Voyager series is the model to beat

PRocky got it exactly right. I can wear my Plantronics Voyager bluetooth device for twelve hours and not even notice it, except when my phone rings. It is THE most comfortable, unobtrusive IT device I've ever owned. And now I own three of them - one that stays in a travel case, and two more than reside in our office. It's a true world-beater. And I'm a guy who has a long history of castigating IT and most of the garbage it foists on us. But the Plantronics Voyeagers series is in a class by itself. It's truly remarkable.

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Final Thoughts

In reply to: Are all Bluetooth earphones created equal?

The different views and opinions expressed in this post on BT Technology has been interesting to say the least. I dare say it’s one of the rare posts where the objective and subjective seemly morph into the oblique. To be clear in this instance “obliqueness” is not to say that any expressed opinion (or observation) is right or wrong. Every post – long or short – has its merit.

BT technology as I alluded to in my original post is still maturing. Will it ever reach a point where it is flawless or comparable to wired components for audio translation? Only time will tell. *

If you are an audiophile BT tech for audio will most likely not meet your standards...so steer clear of it. For everyone else, having knowledge of the BT version employed in devices (send and receive) will help minimize frustrations later. Think BT v.4.0 or better.

Don’t go cheap (earbuds/headphones) if your budget will allow. Even with the latest BT version employed; if the internal components used (circuitry and speakers) are substandard…well you know the answer.

To piggy-back on an excellent point mentioned by u52983…neither the BT tech nor hardware build quality may be at fault regarding diminished signal and/or paring. The OS used in the storage device may conflict with the BT signal which must be addressed in an OS update.

In summary, barring any OS conflict, buying (or matching) gear that will deliver a stable BT signal is going to be trial an error. Make sure the merchant has a liberal return/exchange policy. Where we live, work and play will always influence a BT signal. The BT connection may be great at home and awful somewhere else. Time of day is also a factor; as well as diminishing battery charge. Based upon your life style you may have reconcile that your use of BT tech must be supplemented by a wired connection. Finally, as with any consumer OTA signal don’t expect perfection.

FYI, I use both wired and BT audio devices (longer than I care to say). That said…IMO…BT has improved tremendously from its early days. Cool

* BT signal use in some consumer electronics - not intended for audio translation - has matured with future improvements being almost cosmetic. One such application is the use of BT in TV remotes versus more expensive RF remotes or IR remotes that require near perfect alignment between the send and receive devices.

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Bose QC 30 Bluetooth Noise Canceling Earbuds.

In reply to: Are all Bluetooth earphones created equal?

I have a set of Bose QC 30 Noise Canceling earbuds. They are good. I have compared them to my Definitive Symphony 1 noise cancelling headphones. They are light, convenient to carry, and they cancel noise by fitting my ear canal well and they have the active noise canceling that Bose is famous for. I have used them on a Navaho twin, a Beech 1900 twin, and on 737s. The noise canceling level is adjustable but I usually leave it at maximum. The battery has lasted as long as 8 hours. The sound quality is good; it is biased a bit on the bass side but I can control for that. The bass is clean, not muddy like my old Bose QC 15's. Unlike the Definitives, there is not an annoying resonance with the headphone plastic and the turboprops. The Definitives have better overall frequency response. The downsides are having to adjust the buds to make a good seal with the ear canal periodically in flight. To get maximum battery use, I need to remember to turn them off while changing planes. They are comfortable to sleep in compared with the Definitives. The Definitives achieve better sound isolation and noise reduction (I can use a lower volume on the phone with the Definitives than with the Bose).

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A Pitch-Perfect Bluetooth Earphone

In reply to: Are all Bluetooth earphones created equal?

Like others who have posted replies on this topic, I have tried many Bluetooth earphones. When I was in a Sam's Club several years ago, I saw an employee wearing a Bluetooth earphone. I asked him what he thought of it, and he did about a five-minute 'rave' commercial.

He was right: the Plantronics Voyager Legend is terrific. Among its many other virtues, I can wear it all day. It is so comfortable and unobtrusive that I don't even know that I have it on. It also recharges quickly. I now have three of these earphones - one for each of our two cars, and another for our home office. It's not inexpensive, but it's well worth the money. I also recommend the recharging cradle (sold separately).

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In reply to: Are all Bluetooth earphones created equal?

I just recently bought a BT over-the-head with volume control, track skip, pause, mine sd card slot... The sound was great, except that after a couple of hours my head began to hurt. On doing a study on the radiation effects of BT what I found was disturbing. I returned the headphone and got a wired one instead!

"People need to realize that Bluetooth devices that fit in or around the ear typically radiate at 0.23 watts per kilogram (W/Kg). Some Bluetooth devices are actually worse than some of the lowest SAR cell phones.

This level of 0.23 W/Kg is 10 to 100 times higher than the RF exposure levels shown to make the blood-brain barrier pathologically leaky, allowing toxins and toxic molecules to cross the BBB. This is reported by Salford, Persson, NIttby and Schirmacher among others – to cause neuron death at 0.012 to 0.002 W/Kg."

If I am wrong do enlighten me.

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Not equal

In reply to: Are all Bluetooth earphones created equal?

Not all Bluetooth headphones are created equal. Some still have wires, so they’re not truly “wireless” as advertised. Choosing the best is tough, especially when they offer a variety of “smart” features like fitness and health tracking, personal training, local music storage, and more. How do you choose the ultimate earbuds for everyone? Because each person wants something different out of a product like this.

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