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The best headphone gifts for the holidays

Who wouldn't appreciate a good headphone as a gift this holiday season? Here's a wide selection of top wireless models.

With a multitude of models to choose from, it's not easy to figure out which headphone to buy these days. With that in mind, we're highlighting several of our highest-rated wireless headphones -- not all of them are pricey -- to help narrow down your gift choice this holiday season.

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Looking for budget-priced true wireless earbuds? What's most impressive about the EarFun Free is the features: Bluetooth 5.0, both USB-C and wireless charging, and fully waterproof (IPX7), according to their specs. Do they sound fantastic? No, but they sound pretty good. They don't have the clarity of higher-end true wireless earbuds that cost $150 or more, but they do have plump bass and enough detail to avoid sounding dull. They're also pretty solid for making calls. An excellent value at less than $45. Read our Earfun Free first take.

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AirPods and other name-brand truly wireless headphones cost $160 and up. But the Anker SoundCore Liberty Air 2 earbuds have an appealing design and deliver solid sound quality at less than $100. Available in black or white, this second-gen model offers USB-C charging, better battery life (up to 7 hours) and call quality. In fact, except for active-noise canceling, it offers a lot of what the AirPods Pro do for a lot less, including a compact charging case that has a smart matte finish. Its noise-isolating design seals out a lot of ambient sound passively and it's a top-notch set of earbuds for making calls -- close to the performance level of the AirPods Pro.

With an IPX5 water-resistance rating (they can sustain a stead stream of water but can't be full submerged), they're suitable for gym use and running.   Read our Anker SoundCore Liberty Air 2 first take.

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Even if they don't sound as magical as you'd hope a $249 model would, the AirPods Pro still manage to be a great pair of truly wireless earphones. That's largely due to their winning design and fit, improved bass performance, effective noise-canceling and excellent call quality. Yeah, they're expensive at $250, but the good news is you'll use them so much you'll probably wear the battery down -- it does degrade over time and isn't replaceable -- and have to buy a new pair in 18 to 24 months if you don't lose them first. Read our Apple AirPods Pro review.

Now playing: Watch this: AirPods Pro first impressions: Should you upgrade?
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At $180, these true wireless earbuds are a little more expensive than they should be, but they're among the better true wireless headphones to hit the market in 2019. They'll appeal to those looking for a more discreet set of totally wireless sports earbuds that offer full waterproofing. Read our Jaybird Vista review.

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Sony hadn't been much of a player in the true wireless (AirPods-style) headphone arena, but its WF-1000XM3 changed that. While it's not cheap at $230, it's the best-sounding set of truly wireless earbuds at this price, matching and perhaps even exceeding the performance of pricier competitors from SennheiserBeatsMaster & Dynamic and Bang & Olufsen. Needless to say, it crushes the AirPods' sound, and has a feature the AirPods don't have: Active noise cancellation.  Read our Sony WF-1000XM3 review.

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If you're looking for a headphone gift for an Android user, the Galaxy Buds are Samsung's latest answer to the AirPods -- and they're a likable set of true wireless earphones. Read our Samsung Galaxy Buds review.

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Apple's second-gen AirPods are an incremental upgrade from the original AirPods -- and incremental upgrades tend to be a little boring. And on the surface, anyway, the new AirPods aren't exciting. But thanks to those updated components on the inside, which include a new H1 chip that supports Bluetooth 5.0, improved audio synchronization and always-on Siri, they're definitely better in small ways that a lot of people will appreciate. Even though it's $40 more at $199, the model with the wireless charging case is probably the one to get -- if you're giving it as a gift anyway. Read our Apple AirPods 2019 review.

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The Powerbeats Pro, Beats' first true wireless earphones, are larger, sportier versions of the 2019 Airpods. They offer all the same basic conveniences of the AirPods, including fast pairing, rock-solid wireless connectivity and always-on Siri voice recognition for iOS users, but they deliver bigger sound and have better battery life. Only drawbacks: They're fairly pricey and have a bulky charging case.  Read our Beats Powerbeats Pro review.

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Sony's WH-1000XM3, the third generation of Sony's excellent wireless noise-canceling headphones, is more comfortable and features even better performance. With a strong battery life, it's currently our top-rated noise-canceling headphone, edging out the Bose models. Read our Sony WH-1000XM3 review.

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Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, the long-awaited successor to its QuietComfort 35 II models, may not be a quantum leap forward but they offer slightly better sound, call and noise-canceling quality. Alas, they cost $400, but they're a strong all-around performer with up to 20 hours of battery life. Read our Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 review.

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While its noise-canceling feature and comfort levels aren't quite on par with competing models from Bose and Sony, JBL's Live 650BTNC (around $160 online) sound measures up well and it's worth considering if you don't want to spend $300 or more on a noise-canceling headphone. Read our JBL Live 650BTNC review.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Here's a way to give two gifts at once. Yes, the Bose Frames ($200) are both sunglasses and headphones -- and they sound surprisingly good for sunglasses headphones.

The Frames are available in two models: the Rondo and Alto. You can only get them in black for now. Read our Bose Frames review.

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