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Best wireless neckband earbuds
Neckband earbuds serve as a comfortable wireless option for listeners not yet ready to make the leap to true wireless earbuds or feel that conventional wireless earbuds are too unwieldy. There are plenty of options out there but we’ve highlighted the absolute best for athletes, iPhone users, general consumers, and more, so you can spend more time listening and less time researching.
Editor’s note: this list of the best wireless neckband earbuds was updated on February 2, 2022, to include the Beyerdynamic Blue BYRD (2nd generation).
For the best neckband earbuds, go with the Beyerdynamic Blue BYRD (2nd generation)
The Beyerdynamic Blue BYRD (2nd generation) is a great headset for listeners who want typically good sound quality in a premium package. This Bluetooth 5.2 headset supports SBC, AAC, and aptX streaming for high-quality audio on any device. Heck, you even get Bluetooth multipoint connectivity so you can keep an ear on two devices at once. You can’t plug in for a wired connection like you can with the later-mentioned 1MORE Dual Driver ANC Pro, but the Blue BYRD (2nd generation) is more comfortable.
The neckband is much sturdier than the first-gen Blue BYRD, and evenly distributes weight across the base of your neck and collarbone. You can coil the neckband and earbuds up into the zippered carrying case to take it with you, but it can’t compact as much as a pair of true wireless earbuds might. Since this is a fairly new release, the neckband houses a USB-C (rather than microUSB) charging port.
You can customize the sound to some degree through the MIY Beyerdynamic app, but there’s no custom EQ. Still, the default frequency response closely follows our consumer curve, and should please most people. You get pleasantly amplified bass and treble notes with a slightly quieter midrange response.
We recorded nearly 12 hours of constant playback from the Blue BYRD (2nd generation), which falls short of the 14-hour battery life but outperforms that of any true wireless competitors. If you want a great pair of neckbuds and don’t mind paying for it, the Blue BYRD (2nd gen) is it.
What you should know about neckband earbuds
What is a Bluetooth codec, and which is best for iPhone and Android?
All wireless earbuds feature Bluetooth codec support. Bluetooth codecs inform how a file is transferred from the source to a headset. It encodes and decodes digital audio data into a specified format while balancing quality and efficiency. The bare minimum requirement is SBC compatibility. Over the years, its performance has improved immensely but Android users who value audio quality should keep an eye out for aptX or aptX HD support. If you’re an iPhone user, the AAC codec works well and reliably, which can’t be said for Android devices. To get the absolute best audio quality, you’ll have to go with wired listening.
Why does your music sounds bad?
A good fit can dramatically improve audio quality: it improves isolation which immediately affects bass response. If earbuds don’t fit well, it’s a severe detriment to audio quality because you’re not properly isolated from the environment.
When you’re able to hear external noise. your music is degraded due to auditory masking. This is when the louder outside noise makes it more difficult to perceive the quieter sounds of your music. Situations like this put you at risk for noise-induced hearing loss, because we’re more likely to pump up the volume in such instances. Getting a proper fit can serve as an easy way to help prevent auditory damage. Not all ear tips are created equally, though, which is where third-party tips can be useful.
Wireless vs true wireless earbuds: Which is better?
True wireless earbuds have no wires attached to them at all, whereas wireless and wireless neckband earbuds have a wire connecting each earbud to the other.
If you follow the changing world of consumer audio, then you’re already well aware of how pervasive true wireless technology has become. In fact, it’s advanced so much that sub-$100 and sub-$50 options are aplenty. There are even extremely premium options abound like the Sony WF-1000XM4 and Jabra Elite 85t, both of which are great alternatives to the Apple AirPods Pro.
This doesn’t automatically render standard wireless options outdated. Quite the contrary; these remain a great compromise pick for listeners who don’t want to deal with finicky truly wireless connectivity or worry about losing an earbud.
True, there’s been a noticeable decline in wireless neckband earbuds releases, but oftentimes you can find great performers on promotion to entice consumers. If you’re unsure about true wireless tech and want something reliable and with better battery life, standard wireless earbuds are the way to go.
What does IPX4 mean?
IP ratings can be confusing, and the bare minimum of what you should look out for if you plan to perform any intense exercise with any neckband earbuds is an IPX4 rating. Anything IPX7 and up can withstand complete submersion, the number determines duration and depth. Products rated IPX6 and below cannot be submerged. However, they can withstand varying degrees of water sprays.
If you want wireless earbuds for swimming, you’ll need a pair with onboard storage. Bluetooth connection strength isn’t great enough to carry a signal underwater.
iPhone users should grab the Beats Powerbeats
The Beats Powerbeats takes everything we love about the Powerbeats Pro and puts it into a more affordable package. The water-resistant build is great for working out and H1 chip integration affords benefits to iOS devices such as hands-free access to Siri, improved battery life, and seamless device switching.
The round cable joining the earbud housings is comfortable, and it lets the earbuds drape around your neck when not in use. Battery life is excellent: we recorded just shy of 18 hours of playtime when connected to a MacBook Pro running macOS Catalina 10.15.3. Like other Beats products, these ‘phones support Fast Fuel: five minutes of charging via Lightning cable provides 1.5 hours of playback.
The Powerbeats share the same frequency response as the Pro model, meaning bass frequencies are amplified. This is consumer-friendly but not great if you’re trying to critically listen to classical music; then again, if that’s your preferred genre, you likely aren’t considering Beats to begin with. There are onboard controls including a volume rocker on each ‘bud, multifunction button, and power switch. Unlike the Pro model, the earphones don’t have automatic ear detection so you’ll have to manually pause music when removing the earbuds for a second.
The OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z have a stellar battery life
Seeing as OnePlus didn’t return the headphone jack to its 7 and 7 Pro phones, it seems appropriate that it offers a wireless solution. The Bullets Wireless Z includes a dashing pair of neckband earbuds that sport magnetic housings for autoplay and pause functionality.
The earbuds have an IP55 rating so you can easily use them for your workouts. What’s more, the company provides an array of ear tips for a custom fit which should be comfortable for long listening sessions. The battery life on these buds is what is truly excellent. On a single charge, the OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z affords 20 hours of playback time. In addition, if you quick charge them for just 10 minutes, you’re afforded 10 hours (yes, you read that right) of playback. Though the audio quality isn’t the best we’ve ever heard, it’s fine for casual listening and the crazy battery life makes these great for background listening all day long.
The 1MORE Dual Driver ANC Pro supports wireless and wired playback
If you don’t want to rely solely on lossless Bluetooth playback from your earbuds, you’re in luck: the 1MORE Dual Driver ANC Pro lets you plug in for wired listening in a pinch. It also has solid active noise cancelling performance for the price.
The earbuds fit very well because the oval earbud nozzles contour to the natural shape of the human ear canal (compared to circular nozzles). Battery life isn’t nearly as good as 1MORE claims, but it’s still fine. We recorded almost 12 hours of playback on a single charge, which falls 8 hours short of 1MORE’s specifications.
1MORE tuned these earphones to have a neutral-leaning bass and midrange response which is great for listeners with vast music libraries. There’s quite a bit of treble emphasis from 10-11kHz, which makes it easier to hear high-pitched resonances. If you have particularly sensitive hearing, you may need to equalize this a bit.
The Poly (Plantronics) BackBeat Go 410 is affordable
The Plantronics BackBeat Go 410 serves as an economical pair of noise cancelling neckband earbuds. For around $100, listeners are afforded effective noise cancelling technology, a comfortable fit, and a sweat-resistant build.
Automatic environmental noise detection enables the earbuds to alternate between Low Noise Mode or High Noise Mode. At first, it may seem like a gimmick, but it performs well enough that I’d advise against using activating noise cancellation when exercising outdoors or walking down busy city streets.
Related: Best noise cancelling earbuds
One of the most unique features of the BackBeat Go 410 is the ability to enable wired listening if the battery has been exhausted. The earbuds do allow for a constant 7 hours, 53 minutes of playback before the battery drains, and the dual-purpose microUSB cables is great in a pinch. It sheathes a 3.5mm plug which can be plugged directly into your phone’s headphone jack or a dongle if need be.
This is a rare breed of wireless earbuds that allows for wired listening when the battery dies.
These operate via Class 1 Bluetooth 5.0, allowing for a 30-meter wireless range. While connectivity is reliable, the earbuds only support the SBC Bluetooth codec. This means there is some audio-visual lag when streaming video. On the whole, these are a great buy for listeners who want minimal compromise.
How we chose the best neckband earbuds
We performed hands-on tests for each of our picks including battery life, frequency response, and isolation. Aside from objective testing, though, we contextualized the price of each product and considered that with its given features. While we understand that our picks may not please everyone, we feel they’ll please most listeners. If we missed one of your favorite earbuds, be sure to leave a comment below as this list is a living document that we regularly update.
Best wireless neckband earbuds: notable mentions
- Beats Flex: The predecessor to the BeatsX, these earbuds have almost exactly the same design as the BeatsX. They have a great 12-hour battery life, good sound, auto-pause, and magnetic housings, along with Apple’s W1 chip, the older version of the H1 chip, installed. They’re also relatively affordable, as Bluetooth earbuds go, retailing for $49.
- House of Marley Uplift 2 Wireless: Environmentalists may be drawn to these earbuds constructed from recycled materials.
- Huawei FreeLace Pro: These earbuds can be charged directly from your phone, assuming it has a USB-C input.
- Jabra Elite Active 45e: These workout earbuds are a good alternative to bone conduction headphones because they’re designed to allow outside noise in while still resting in the ear.
- Sennheiser HD-1 In-Ear: If you like the idea of fashion-forward earbuds and want something more premium than the OnePlus Bullets Wireless, this is a smart pick that supports AAC and aptX.
- Sony WI-1000XM2: Listeners who like the idea of Sony’s more portable ANC earbuds will appreciate these earphones. Battery life is very good and the headset supports SBC, AAC, aptX, aptX HD, and LDAC—all on top of wired audio for high-resolution playback with a compatible service and device.
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Frequently asked questions about
There isn’t one, really. Some people just prefer this style because it’s more secure around your neck than normal wireless earbuds and they’re a little bit harder to lose.
The Beats Powerbeats Pro and Jaybird X4 built very differently: the former uses an ear hook design to stabilize the ‘buds around the back of the ear, while the latter uses wing tips attached to the base of the nozzles to create friction along the contours of the outer ear. Jaybird uses an in-line module to house the microphone and playback/volume controls, but Beats integrates these things into and on the housings. The X4 can be fully submerged in water while the latter can withstand heavy sweaty and sprays of water. It depends on what you prioritize and what kind of fit you enjoy. If battery life is even a slight concern, go with the Powerbeats: they double the X4 battery life.