Sound Guys Headphones and Bluetooth speaker reviews Wed, 21 Mar 2018 00:38:39 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Sound Guys 32 32 8CC434 Studio headphones: why you don’t want them Tue, 20 Mar 2018 16:15:04 +0000 Pleasing sound is subjective and that's why picking out headphones is fun

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Your audio philosophy may differ from your co-worker in the adjacent cubicle, which likely differs from that of an audio engineer. Regardless of where your belief system aligns, at the end of the day, headphones are simply a tool, a means to an end. As much fun as it is to lust over the latest and greatest, why spend a bunch of money you don’t have to? After all, most of us don’t want studio headphones. We want a subjectively pleasing sound.

Grounding the subject with coffee

Let’s step back for a thought exercise and discuss one of your Sound Guys’ favorite topics: coffee. Those who take their coffee black are most comparable to audio engineers. They’re able to appreciate the nuanced notes of a given roast and can tell when something is too bitter or diluted. On the other hand, others prefer a dash of half and half, some sugar, or both; this is equivalent to those of us who are accustomed to consumer-oriented headphones, which have a treated sound. Give a chronic cappuccino drinker a French roast, and they may be lost beyond describing it as “black” in the same way that a consumer may fail to pinpoint why some prefer the less exciting sound of studio headphones.

Either side has the letters L or R so you know which is which on the Sony MDR-7506 studio headphones.

The Sony MDR-7506 are a no-nonsense pair of headphones. They’re an audio mixing-standard and have served the community well.

Regardless of your preference, everyone’s still able to enjoy the effects of caffeine, and just like adapting your taste buds from cappuccinos to black coffee, you can adjust your ears to appreciate studio headphones. For the majority of use-cases, however, this isn’t necessary.

Why is it that I don’t want studio headphones again?

It’s all too easy to speak pedantically on headphones, but for most of us, listening is all about enjoyment. That enjoyment, well… oftentimes it goes beyond a flat frequency response. Headphones that reproduce flat responses—like black coffee—are great on a functional level. They provide a one-to-one, input-output relationship (or as close as is physically possible to achieve), making it easier to be aware of instrumental hiccups and spots where edits are necessary.

You’re not paying for someone else to use your headphones, you’re treating yourself to a spectacular listening experience.

You and I, though, we’re more likely to opt for something with coloration—a splash of cream, if you will. For example, if someone has only ever listened through Beats, donning a pair of Sony MDR-7506 headphones will be devastating. Okay, that may be teetering on the edge of melodrama, but the MDR-7506 won’t sound pleasing, relative to Beats’ bass-heavy sound signature. This is often an issue that arises when listeners who are accustomed to consumer-oriented cans dip their toes into the world of studio headphones.

The plastic doesn't hinge reinforcement is an apparent weak point of the JBL E55BT headphones. The swiveling feature does make them more comfortable though.

Though they don’t provide a flat response such as studio headphones do, the JBL E55BT provide plenty of user-friendly features from Bluetooth multipoint technology, virtual assistant access, and on-board playback controls.

Not only does it come down to an issue of sound—with studio headphones erring on the side of bland relative to consumer cans—but there’s also the matter of aesthetics. As one may expect, studio headphones tend to take on a more utilitarian look, while portability, style, and weight fall to the wayside. There aren’t many (if any) bells and whistles either; durability and functionality come first and foremost. Something like the JBL E55BT serve fashion-conscious users well. They come in five colorways, provide plenty of features, and will please the lay-person’s ear with low-end accentuation.

So if not studio headphones, what do I want?

Great question, and one that we can’t answer for you. Though it may be disheartening to hear that there isn’t a one-stop-shop answer for this, that’s the fun of headphones: figuring out what you like and don’t like. It’s like when I first bought an AeroPress and began reading up on the innumerable recipes. Expanding your audio knowledge takes time; figuring out what you like takes time, but once you have it all squared away, your ears will reap the reward.

What now?

Well, within the realm of consumer headphones, there are countless options. Do you like open or closed-back headphones? On-ear or over-ear? Oh, yeah and how about those earbuds? Bluetooth or wired? And the list goes on and on. Though we can’t tell you what the ideal pair is for your ears, we can point you in the direction of a few lists. If you work out a lot, check out our list of the best workout earbuds of 2018. On a budget? We’ve made a list of the best headphones under $50 (also under $100, $200, and best in general). If you’re wed to earbuds but realize that yours are in need of an upgrade, check out our list of the best earbuds under $100.

A photo of the Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO studio headphones and their silver velour ear pads.

The Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO may be great for mixing but are too cumbersome for commuting, and their open-back form doesn’t lend itself well to noisy environments.

Hopefully this clears up why most of us don’t actually want studio headphones. At the end of it all, it’s important to remember that you’re the one who’s listening to the headphones. In the same way that I like my coffee black, you may be a habitual latte guzzler; what sounds pleasing to you may sound grating to me, and that’s perfectly fine. As long as you enjoy how your music is reproduced, that’s what matters. You’re not paying for someone else to use your headphones, you’re treating yourself to a spectacular listening experience. Now, go grab a coffee, a nice pair of consumer cans, and enjoy the experience.

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Best Bluetooth speakers under $50 Tue, 20 Mar 2018 16:00:22 +0000 If you were wondering what some of the best, affordable Bluetooth speakers available were, here's a list with some of our favorites

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Music is a social experience, which is why cheap Bluetooth speakers have been exploding in popularity. When is the last time you went to a party that didn’t have music? If you were able to bring your favorite tunes with you wherever you go, why wouldn’t you? Well, it turns out that plenty of people feel the same way, because the cheap Bluetooth speakers market is booming.

You can spend hundreds of dollars on a speaker and know exactly what you’re going to get. Top notch build, good sound quality, and maybe an unforeseen feature or two. But when it comes to Bluetooth speakers under $50, it can be hit or miss. Are you actually getting a good speaker, or is just something that plays sound? That’s where this list comes in.

We narrowed it down to five main categories that we think would be most useful to anyone looking for cheap Bluetooth speakers. Keep in mind that, because these items are so cheap, most manufacturers need to make a few sacrifices. A great sounding speaker might not be the most portable, and a super durable one probably isn’t the prettiest. It seems obvious, but knowing what’s most important to you and what sacrifices you’re willing to make will make the final decision much easier.

What you should know

BackBeat FIT headphones wireless Bluetooth Workout Sweat resistant waterproof

The Plantronics BackBeat FIT are IP57-rated mean that they’re dust-resistant and able to be fully submerged for up to 30 minutes.

Plenty of listed speakers here are water-resistant, so here’s a quick rundown of Ingress Protection (IP) ratings and what they mean to your specific model.

Here’s the important split seen in the listed headphones:

Water-Resistant  Waterproof
 IPX4 IP67

Full charts are available here if you’re so inclined.

The Anker SoundCore is the best cheap Bluetooth speaker

The Anker SoundCore is a small speaker, but it has a crazy-long battery life. This will easily last a full day. Aesthetically, there is nothing really special, but what do you expect with cheap Bluetooth speakers? It’s a small, plastic box with a few handy playback controls up top that let you do everything from skip tracks to adjust volume.

Anker SoundCore

Full Review

The SoundCore is rocking Bluetooth 4.0 and an above average range of about 66ft. In our full review, this did have some limitations, but overall it worked fine. Usually in a sub-$50 speaker, we keep expectations in check. Anything around 10 hours is usually decent for the price, but the SoundCore blows that expectation out of the water with 24 hours of constant playback. If you’re main priority in a speaker is minimal charging, this is the way to go. That’s not to say that it doesn’t sound good, because it does. The dual drivers and patent-pending spiral bass port combine to virtually eliminate distortion at any point in the frequency range. That said, don’t expect to power a party with it, since it doesn’t get too loud. For small gatherings and personal use, however, it’s perfect.

Look fly on the cheap with the DOSS Soundbox Touch

You’d be hard-pressed to find a speaker that sounds decent at less than $50, but throw in a few really unique features on top of that and it’s damn near impossible. But that’s what makes the DOSS Soundbox Touch so interesting. As you may have guessed from the name this speaker fitches the typical playback buttons found on most other speakers in favor of a touch sensitive control panel. You can switch between inputs, skip between tracks, and adjust volume simply by tapping the appropriate areas on the top of the speaker. The glowing circle up top actually acts as a volume dial, so going clockwise raises the volume while counterclockwise lowers the volume. A small detail, but it’s pretty cool either way.

DOSS Soundbox Touch

The speaker features dual 6W drivers that do a decent job at delivering sound. If you’re a fan of a strong bass you probably won’t get enough of it here, but it does a surprising job at providing clarity in the mids. You will find some distortion at full volume depending on what you listen to, but for the most part you shouldn’t have too many issues. It comes with Bluetooth 4.0 which puts it squarely in the normal range of about 33 feet, but also comes with a 3.5mm input and micro SD card slot for when you don’t want to connect over Bluetooth. Playback should also last you a full 12 hours before you need to throw it back on the charger so if you’re looking for a way to listen to music while out and out this isn’t a bad option.

Always moving? Bring the JBL Clip 2

JBL Clip 2

Full Review

Previously, we had the Clip+ on this list, but it’s since been refreshed with a very worthy upgrade. The new JBL Clip 2 is one of the best cheap Bluetooth speakers you can get. The hard plastic grille is gone; in its place, you’ll find a fabric covering that gives it an IPX7 rating and a much better look and feel. The built-in plastic carabiner has also been replaced with a metal one, but the most important internal upgrade has to be battery life. The previous model maxed out at five hours; you can squeeze eight hours out of this one. Sound quality is also good enough for a hike, picnic, or even for the shower, but don’t expect it to get loud enough to power your backyard BBQ.


Omaker M4

Full Review

Omaker has been on this list before for their M4 durable speaker, but the new and improved M6 has kicked its predecessor off with an even more impressive array of features. Sure the M6 is a little bigger when compared to the M4, but it’s still fairly easy to carry around. It has a small hook so you can attach it via carabiner to a pack should you want to bring music with you on a hike, but it also has a more durable build. While it’s still made mainly of plastic, it’s not completely dustproof, waterproof, and shockproof with an IPX5 rating, though we’re sure those all have their limits it’s still nice to see the company improving the durability of an already durable product.

Two 3.5W speakers pump out a sound that, we admit isn’t the best, but it does so loudly. So if you just want to jam to your favorite tunes while being outdoors this is an easy way to do that. Up top, you’ll find all of the buttons for playback controls that let you pause or play music, adjust volume, and pair to new devices while inside is a battery that should provide roughly 12 hours of constant playback.

Creative Metallix

Full Review

So what do we recommend as the “bang for your buck” item on what is more or less a “bang for your buck” list? The Creative Metallix Bluetooth speaker. This speaker isn’t as cool to look at as some of the other options, it isn’t as portable, and it isn’t as durable, but for only $29 this little guy packs a punch. As far a sound goes, it’s a little better than you might expect from a speaker of this size. You won’t get much of a low end (obviously) and mids can be lacking in detail, but considering the size it’s still fairly impressive.

It’s not exactly a durable speaker, but it survived a few bangs and bruises during our full review without a problem. It has a decent connection that will keep your music playing up to around 30 feet without skips or stutters, and if you happen to get two of these you can pair them up for stereo sound which is a neat little trick. You can plug in an audio cable or pop in a micro SD card if you don’t want to play over Bluetooth, and there’s also a few playback controls built into the bottom of the metal speaker and even an FM tuner should you want to listen to the radio.

Considering this speaker is small enough to fit in the palm of your hand it’s good how much Creative managed to put in here without sacrificing too much on sound. Creative claims a battery life of 24 hours but that’s really only if you leave the volume at about 50%. At normal listening volumes, we got closer to 9 hours, which is still good enough for a day out.

How we chose

A simple search on Amazon reveals hundreds of options from a myriad of manufacturers, and that’s just for cheap Bluetooth speakers, so how do you know what to choose? Well, to be honest, it’s borderline impossible to test and review them all, but you can do a ton of research and gather up the best options, which is exactly what we did.

A photo of the JBL Flip 3 put into a bag.

The JBL Flip 3 is the perfect speaker to stow in your bag but is $20 more than our $50-limit.

After ordering a bunch of the top options we narrowed it down to a few of the products we had already reviewed and know to be good, and then a few others that surprised us for the price. Of course, nothing here is going to make it into the MoMA, but for less than $50 it doesn’t need to. These cheap Bluetooth speakers just nee to be functional and better than average, which these are.

If you have any good recommendations for cheap Bluetooth speakers that weren’t on this list, make sure to drop a comment down below and help out your fellow audio lovers looking to make a purchase. We’ll keep this list updated to reflect new and inexpensive speakers as they come out.

Didn’t find what you were looking for? Checkout these:

Disclosure: We may receive affiliate compensation in connection with your purchase of products via links on this page. Even though we may receive compensation, we always give our honest opinions, findings, beliefs, or experiences on each product. See our ethics policy for more details.

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Best Waterproof Bluetooth Speakers Tue, 20 Mar 2018 07:00:08 +0000 Whether you're going to the beach or the pool, these are the best waterproof bluetooth speakers on the market.

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Hot weather means two things: pools and beaches. But those aren’t the best places to bring your electronics. It doesn’t take a scientist to know that impure water and electricity don’t mix. That means if you want to bring your favorite speaker to have some tunes on the beach you’re out of luck, unless of course that speaker is waterproof. Luckily, there are plenty of companies making water-resistant or waterproof speakers and all of them are hoping their product is the one you grab with you before you head out. So which ones are the best for you? Let’s look at some of the important things you should know before making your purchase.

Related: Best Bluetooth Speakers under $100

The best waterproof Bluetooth speaker is the Fugoo Sport XL

If you’re headed to (or throwing) a pool party, one speaker that you’ll want by your side is the Fugoo Sport XL. Fugoo prides themselves on making durable speakers, and their products usually have a sound quality to match their build. But the Fugoo Sport XL takes what we like about the company and puts it into an extra large waterproof speaker perfect for the pool.

This speaker has 8 drivers placed strategically around the speakers in order to provide you with quality sound regardless of where you’re standing. The Fugoo Sport XL isn’t exactly the most portable product, but if you want to power a party it’s definitely the way to go. The drivers consist of two mid/sub drivers, four tweeters for the higher notes, and two passive radiators. The placement of the drivers isn’t the only reason this speaker can push out sound in all directions; it also has a clever shape that helps it distribute sound evenly regardless of where you’re standing relative to it.

Fugoo Sport XL

Full Review

Up top are buttons that allow you to control playback right from the speaker, so you can keep your phone safely away from water and still be able to fully control your music. There’s a play/pause button, skip forward and skip back buttons, volume controls, and a multifunction button that lets you access Siri and Google Now. There’s also a 3.5mm input if one of your friends (or you) still prefer to use an iPod classic. Both the Sport XL and Style XL jackets will even float so if it drops into water it won’t sink to the bottom before you can get to it. On that note, one other cool feature is the built-in USB output that allows you to charge you or your friends devices. If you’re worried about that taking a toll on the battery life of your speaker, you shouldn’t. The Fugoo Sport XL is rocking a giant battery that should provide you with 35 hours of constant playback, so charging phones for a day at the beach will barely put a dent in it.

Since this is a best waterproof Bluetooth speakers list, it’s time we talk about that. The speaker jackets are IP67 certified meaning that you can remove the speaker and swap out the covers of the Sport, Style, or Tough and still be protected from water and dust. It’s completely submersible up to 3 feet for 30 minutes which is great if you want to share your good taste in music with the fishes, or if you accidentally drop it in a pool. The Tough XL jacket won’t float, but at least you know that it’ll be safe up to 3 feet. The Fugoo Sport XL isn’t cheap in any sense of the word—it costs around $229—but you get what you pay for: one of the best waterproof speakers around.

What We Considered

Whittling down an entire product category to only a handful of recommended products takes a lot more work than you might expect. For one, not everyone is after the same kind of product. Just like how sound is different to every person, some products might check all of the boxes for some people, and not for others. Which brings us to the second aspect of one of our best lists: categories.

Depending on what the list is covering, the categories within it might change as well. Some remain constant through all lists such as “Best All-Around” or “Bang for your Buck,” but others might change. For example, a list discussing the best headphones might have a pick for “Best Active Noise Cancelling,” but that isn’t an important factor when it comes to something like a waterproof Bluetooth speaker. So each list has a few different categories that are relevant to the kind of products that are being discussed.

The last thing we consider when choosing a product is what other people are saying about it. We review as many products as we can get our hands on, but we can’t review all of them. So how do we remedy this? Research, research, research. In addition to the vast personal network of reviewers we’ve built in our time around the block, we’ve dug through forums, read reviews, scrolled through comment sections, and done everything we possibly can to gather as much information about a product we haven’t reviewed before putting it on a list. Even if we’ve reviewed a product, chances are we’ll gain a bit of insight or knowledge just by seeing what the community, or former colleagues we trust have to say.

You’re going to want to check out these alternatives

Most durable speakers you’ll find tend to be small, super portable, and more on the rugged side. It’s rare that you find a water-resistant speaker that also looks good, but if you want quality design then check out the Bose SoundLink Revolve+. This speaker isn’t cheap, but you get what you pay for which is a uniquely gorgeous Bluetooth speaker that’s perfect for hanging poolside in the summer.

Bose SoundLink Revolve+

It’s worth mentioning that this speaker is IPX4 certified so although it can take a splash or get rained on no problem, you’ll want to avoid throwing it in the pool as it isn’t completely submersible. But if you’re willing to sacrifice that spec and take a little more care of where you place the speaker, you’ll get a speaker that looks as good as it sounds. Okay, maybe it looks a little better than it sounds, but it’s still a good sounding speaker overall.

The SoundLink Revolve+ might not be portable enough to strap to your pack while going on a hike, but it does come with a small handle that makes it easy to move from place to place. It has a battery life of roughly 16 hours and even lets you access Siri or Google Now via a button right on top of the speaker. It also has a lantern-like design that allows it to pump out 360-degrees of sound so regardless of where you are in relation to the speaker you’ll be able to hear it.

JBL Charge 3

Full Review

There are plenty of nicely designed speakers to choose from, but if you’re going to be traveling somewhere with lots of water (hopefully a nice beach somewhere) then you might prefer one that’s also waterproof. JBL has more than a few waterproof speakers, but the one that most earns the highest spot on this list is the Charge 3. The JBL Charge 3 is a great speaker to bring with you on trips due to its size which falls somewhere between the Flip 4 and the JBL Xtreme. Talk about having the best of both worlds.

You’ll get the benefits of large speaker which include sound and battery life, in a size that can easily fit in a suitcase or backpack. The Charge 3 is covered in an IPX7 waterproof fabric that protects the drivers on the inside and, just like the Flip 4 and Xtreme, it too has an exposed bass radiator. This means that not only will the low end sound slightly better, but it will look way cooler (especially if you get a little water on it). Needless to say if there’s any vulnerable spot on the speaker, it’s this. Still if JBL says it can be submerged for up to 30 minutes in a meter of water we’ll take their word for it.

A photo of the JBL Charge 3 used in the hot tub, with water on it.

If you want tunes in the hot tub, you want the IPX7-rated Charge 3.

On the bottom you’ll find a small stand incorporated into the design which is perfect for just pulling it out of a suitcase and placing it on a nightstand somewhere. You’ll get about twenty hours of battery life which blows a lot of the competition out of the water, and it also has the ability to charge your devices via a USB output. Another useful feature if you don’t want to leave your phone charging in the room, or worse if your phone is close to dying while you’re playing DJ at the beach.

On top of the speaker are a few playback controls like pause/play, volume control, and a Bluetooth pairing button, but you’ll also find the JBL connect button. Pressing this will allow it to sync up with other relatively new JBL speakers to provide a true stereo. The Charge 3 comes in white, black, red, and teal so you have options.

UE Wonderboom

Full Review

This isn’t the first time a UE product has made its way onto this list. Before the Wonderboom this spot was taken by the UE Roll 2, another oddly shaped waterproof speaker with a unique design. Unlike the disc shaped Roll 2, the Wonderboom has more of the classic cylindrical shape you’d expect to see from Bluetooth speakers. It’s a short and pudgy speaker with the signature + and – volume buttons that come on UE products.

As far as sound quality goes this speaker is definitely not going to be impressing anyone. It sounds good enough to use poolside or at the beach, but that’s about it. What is impressive is the IPX7 waterproof rating which, means that it can be completely for up to 30 minutes in up to a meter of water. Additionally, the speaker can also float: making it a great waterproof speaker for the beach, since you can drop it and not have to worry about losing it to Davy Jones’ locker. The fabric covering that wraps around the speaker is dual purpose, as it protects the internals of the speaker from water but also does a great job at providing grip for the user even when the speaker is soaking wet.

A photo of the UE Wonderboom waterproof Bluetooth speaker.

Compact and powerful, the UE Wonderboom can handle anything you throw at it.

One feature that we found odd in the full review was the elastic loop on top of the speaker. The UE Roll has a similar one but it was much larger, allowing you to hang it from basically anywhere you saw fit. The one on the Wonderboom is way less helpful, being barely large enough to hang on a towel rack. As far as controls go this speaker has the two volume buttons on the front and two buttons up top. One of those buttons is the power button which doubles as the play/pause button when music is playing, while the other button is for Bluetooth pairing. You can also press the volume buttons down at the same time to hear a cute beep that tells you whether your battery life is full, moderate, or low.

Speaking of which, battery life is another pain point for the speaker if you use it on max volume. We got about two hours of constant playback in our testing, though to be fair UE said that it must have been an issue with our review unit so hopefully you fare better than we did. Still, even with our battery troubles we couldn’t help enjoying the Wonderboom. It’s a great little waterproof speaker that’s perfect for picking up and throwing in your bag on your way to the beach or to a friends house. Throw in the fact that it costs less than $100 and comes in six cool colors and it’s hard not to recommend for this specific use case.

JBL Flip 4

Full Review

Sure, the Fugoo Sport XL is great, but as its name implies it’s a fairly large speaker. But maybe you need something a little more portable, and with better sound quality. That’s when you’d go with the JBL Flip 4. Two JBL speakers on the same list? They’re good, okay?

Essentially, you’d pick up the Flip 4 over the Charge 3 if you didn’t often find yourself in the position of needing to provide music for a wedding reception (Chris here: I did exactly that this summer). It’s also a much more capable piece of hardware than the Charge 3 in terms of raw audio quality, so listeners that just want some tunes in solitude may want to look here first. When Adam tested this model earlier in the year, he noted:

The Flip 4 sounds very similar to the previous model... There’s only a few subtle differences here as far as I can tell, one of them being in the highs. On the Flip 3 I found a slight distortion when the speaker was maxed out but that doesn’t seem to be an issue on this new model.

The only major sore spot here is the battery life. If you max out the volume, it’s only going to last you about four hours. That’s nowhere near the listed spec of 12 hours, and you can only achieve that by reducing the volume to about 50-75%. That’s a perfectly fine listening volume, but if you really need your tunes bumpin’, you’re going to want a more powerful speaker than the Flip 4.

We’re not the only outlet to like the Flip 4, but most people haven’t really updated their lists since the Flip 3 came out. While this is essentially the same unit that lots of people love, it boasts better waterproofing than the original—literally the only reason why it didn’t make this list for us until now.

Water-resistant vs Waterproof

The first thing to be aware of is just how much water can the product take? Not all speakers are created equal and some are more resistant and durable than others. One way to know exactly how durable a speaker is by looking at it’s IP rating. This is a set of standards that a product must be put through and survive in order to get the certification. The full charts are available here if you’re interested, but the common ones you need to know are these:

Water-Resistant Waterproof

Depending on where you’re going to be using the speaker some things might be more important than others. If you’re taking it to the beach you might not be so worried about water damage (unless you plan on losing it in the ocean) but dust and sand resistance is probably something you should consider. Likewise if you’re going to be using it poolside there likely isn’t going to be a lot of sand around. But if it accidentally gets knocked into the pool it’s good to know just how waterproof it is.

Pros of waterproof speakers

So what are the benefits of a waterproof speaker? Besides the obvious advantage of not having to worry about water damage, they’re also usually fairly durable. Like any electronic dropping it isn’t a good idea, but these devices are made with the knowledge that users are going to be taking them out of the house. So they’re usually a little more durable than your average speaker.

Another clear advantage is portability. For the most part, these speakers are intended to move around easily with you. Sure there are beefier options out there for those of you who prefer sound quality over portability, but most are small enough to easily toss in a bag on your way out of the house.

Related: Best waterproof headphones

Cons of waterproof speakers

As always there are some sacrifices that need to be made when you want one aspect of a product to be great, and when it comes to waterproof speakers: that thing is sound quality. Drivers need to be protected from water and dust to varying degrees which usually means they don’t sound as clear as their non-waterproof competition. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of speakers that sound great considering they’re waterproof but few can match comparably priced speakers designed for sound.

Another big con when it comes to waterproof speakers is the price. This isn’t always the case, but most of the time waterproof speakers will be just a little bit more expensive because of the added feature. That said, if you’re looking for a waterproof speaker it’s obviously worth the extra cash.

Why you should trust us

In addition to the fact that this site is all of our day jobs, both Adam and Chris have several years of reviewing consumer audio products under their belts individually. Having kept a finger on the pulse of Bluetooth speakers for several years allows us to be able to figure out what’s good, and what’s best avoided. Considering Chris’ burning hatred for all things Bluetooth, if he approves of something, it’s damned special. In a similar vein, Adam has reviewed tons of these speakers over the course of almost three years, so he’s heard the best (and worst) of what the category has to offer.

A photo of the JBL Charge 3 in use near a hot tub.

We put in countless hours of research year-round to ensure our findings are sound. It may look as if we’re relaxed, but we’re hard at w0rk—always.

We should also state that we regularly update these lists as items become available. However, we only add them if there’s a really solid reason for doing so. Usually, we have to use it first—unless there’s some mind-meltingly awesome feature or price-change that would deem a test or re-test unnecessary. As you can imagine, that doesn’t happen often.

These best lists may not always reflect your experiences, but they are our earnest attempt to get the right product onto your wish list. We do this because we genuinely want you to be happy with your purchases—none of our writers see a dime from partnership deals or referral purchases—and nobody here is allowed to benefit from steering you towards one product or another. While this site does make money from referrals, the individual writers are paid based on their work regardless of whether or not people clicked that “buy” icon. They’ll never even know if anyone did, though I suppose the site going under might be a good hint.

Honorable Mentions

There are literally thousands of waterproof Bluetooth speakers you can choose from, and we went with what we think are the top 5. If none of these are really what you were looking for here’s a short list of products that we considered but for one reason or another ended up being scrapped.

Disclosure: We may receive affiliate compensation in connection with your purchase of products via links on this page. Even though we may receive compensation, we always give our honest opinions, findings, beliefs, or experiences on each product. See our ethics policy for more details.

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Sony MDR-7506 Review Mon, 19 Mar 2018 13:00:41 +0000 The industry standard for a reason

The post Sony MDR-7506 Review appeared first on Sound Guys.

There are a few different scenarios when a pair of headphones become a “must-have” item. One instance is travel. Traveling with a pair of active noise-canceling cans is a must, if you want any kind of peace and quiet. Then there’s exercise and more casual use cases where the quality of sound might not matter as much as the durability of the headphones. Then, of course, there’s the audiophile whose only concern is getting the best sound out of their equipment. But another category that people tend to ignore are those on the production side of things. And when it comes to audio production one pair of headphones have become all but an industry standard: the Sony MDR-7506 headphones.

You’ll find them on the heads of people in recording studios, newsrooms, and video production crews. As someone who has been in recording studios and currently has a job where editing audio is a requirement, I figured I’d try them out. And although I did like them for work, there were some aspects that made them a little frustrating to use at times. But first, let’s talk about who should buy these.

The Sony MDR-7506 headphones fit nicely into a backpack.

The MDR-7506 headphones have a plastic build with a are over-ear cans meant for production.

Are the Sony MDR-7506 for you?

  • The great thing about these (as you’ll see later in the video) is the sound quality that you get for the price. At only $79 these are great for any budding YouTuber on a tight budget or larger organizations that need to get their entire team a pair of cans.
  • People who are going to be using these at a desk. Because of their long coiled cable and closed-back design, these make for a great office/studio buddy. But if you’re a commuter the cable is a little too much of a hassle.

How are they built?

Holding up the MDR-7506 headphones to show the plastic build.

Entirely made of plastic, the Sony MDR-7506 aren’t the most durable pair of headphones.

Talking about the build quality of these headphones is a bit conflicting for me because even though I like 80 percent of what they have to offer, that other 20 percent would just make these that much better. Let’s start with the obvious. These headphones are made almost entirely of plastic. This is great because it means they’re super lightweight and don’t weigh you down while carrying them around, but it also means that they’re not all that durable. They come with a soft carrying case but that isn’t enough to protect them if I throw them in a bag. And more often than not, I just ended up throwing them into my bag and hoping for the best. On the bright side though these won’t cost an arm and a leg to replace even if they do break, so there’s that. They also fold nicely down into a more compact footprint which is probably my favorite thing about these. Just pushing the earcups up towards the headband gives you a satisfying click that lets you know you’re good to go, and though it still doesn’t seem unbreakable it becomes so much smaller that it’s super useful.

The headphones don’t have any kind of plush memory foam padding, but they’re still sufficiently comfortable for getting the job done. True, they do clamp down on the ears a little too hard, and the crown of my head felt like it was pinched during longer listening sessions. But neither of these issues were enough to make me take these off in relief. Still, if Sony would have just made the earcups or padding a little more comfortable I would have nothing to complain about. Luckily, I wasn’t the only one that felt this way which has led to a thriving market on Amazon for replaceable ear pads with better padding. So if you do get these and want to go that extra mile, you have plenty of options.

The Sony MDR-7506 headphones sitting next to some of my favorite instruments.

I had no problem driving these headphones with cell phones or even a tiny synthesizer.

Now, I usually have a thing for all-black headphones with a minimal look to them, and these toe that line, but something about them stops me from really enjoying the design of these. It could be the wrinkles in the padding, or the fake leather stitching, or the heavy branding on both ear cups, but it’s most likely all of the above. All of that put together results in something that simply isn’t pleasing to the eye. To be fair though these came out a few decades ago, so maybe they were the epitome of design at the time. Now they just seem like boring, work headphones to me.

The headphones can become more compact for easy transport.

The Sony MDR-7506’s can fold down to a more compact size (and they have a satisfying click while doing so).

The cable is non-removable (so don’t break it), but it’s super thick and durable. It almost weighs the headphones down when you’re wearing them but I kind of like that about them. It adds a nice heft that inspires a little confidence from them and makes them feel heavier and sturdier than something made of plastic. I will say that while this was welcome while sitting at my desk, it was a bit of a hassle to use while out and about just because of how heavy and long the coiled cable is.

How do you connect to them?

These come with a 3.5mm connector

The 3.5mm connector is the only way to connect these to anything, but they come with a 1/4″ adapter.

Obviously, these aren’t Bluetooth, so there are no fancy codecs you have to worry about. These are a good ‘ol fashioned pair of cans that end in a gold 3.5mm connector with threading on it to attach the included ¼” adapter for when you need to plug into something a little more substantial than a smartphone, or maybe not even that anymore. Now, these do have an impedance of 63ohms so any weaker smartphones might need a bit of a boost to power them but I had no problems while using an iPhoneX (with dongle), Pixel 2(with the freaking dongle), my Macbook Pro, or my OP-1 synthesizer. Each sufficiently drove the headphones where I didn’t have any issues at all.

Let’s talk sound

I said at the beginning that these are considered industry standards, and sure their compact build has something to do with that but it’s mainly because of the sound that the 40mm drivers pump out. Now when it comes to audio production you’ll hear terms like “flat” and “neutral” thrown around a lot, and what this means, in a nutshell, is that the headphones can reproduce each frequency in the frequency range (in this case 10Hz – 20kHZ) at the same sound-pressure level.

The MDR-7506 headphones folded up in a backpack.

Sony made these for audio production, and they’re good at what they do.

While that’s what most headphones meant for this kind of work aim to achieve, the Sony MDR-7506 excel at this. But they also emphasize a part of the frequency range that not many consumer headphones do, which is the mids and highs. It’s no secret that Beats headphones add a hefty amount of emphasis to lower notes which result in a booming bass that consumers enjoy, but the MDR-7506 go in the other direction. They emphasize the mids and the highs, which can be both good and bad. Though they can reach as low as 10Hz they don’t really do that great of a job bringing the bass to the forefront. I’m used to the thumping kicks in the song Girls by Slow Magic being front and center, but here they’re left in the background while the rhythmic shake/claps that come in at 0:39 sound take center stage. Even with everything going on at this point in the song you can still clearly hear the slight reverb added to the claps giving it a live feel.

This is also seen in the song Home Again by Michael Kiwanuka. The song starts out acoustically with just Michael’s vocals and his guitar driving everything forward, and in most headphones, the bass strings that he plucks 14 seconds into the song are immediately noticeable and (not to get too deep) almost add a kind of urgency to the track forcing you to pay attention. Here those plucks don’t have the same impact, instead, his vocals are given prominence. This is all well and good for people that don’t want bass taking over a song, except that it’s almost too much. At certain points in the song, you can hear some distortion and harshness creeping into the song.

The headphones can become more compact for easy transport. Holding up the MDR-7506 headphones to show the plastic build. The MDR-7506 headphones lying on a table The Sony MDR-7506 headphones sitting next to some of my favorite instruments. Wearing the Sony MDR-7506's. The headphones in a bag. The MDR-7506 headphones folded up in a backpack. The Sony MDR-7506 headphones fit nicely into a backpack. The coiled cable is long and heavy Headphones on a stand Either side has the letters L or R so you know which is which. These come with a 3.5mm connector

Final Thoughts

So you’re probably thinking, “If there are harshness and distortions, then why are they the industry standard?” Well, it’s because of that emphasis on the mids/highs that makes these so great. You have to remember their intended purpose. They’re not for listening to music, though you obviously can use them for that. These were made for production, and when producing you want to make sure that whatever you’re mixing is going to sound clear to the listener. So if something sounds harsh to you on these headphones, you know that it’s for sure going to sound harsh on someone else’s headphones and you can account for that in your mix.

That’s what makes these so great for people recording live on the field or anyone editing in a studio. I recently edited a podcast with a pair of crummy in-ears while I was traveling, and it sounded fine to me – until I got home and listened with these. Every little flaw became immediately apparent. For anyone who needs the finished product to sound perfect and doesn’t want to spend thousands of dollars on a pair of reference headphones like the Sennheiser HD800, it’s easy to recommend these. So should you buy these? If you’re going to be producing, absolutely. They’re an industry standard for a reason.

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Plantronics Voyager 6200 UC review Sat, 17 Mar 2018 16:00:56 +0000 A headset designed for a day in the office and a night on the town

The post Plantronics Voyager 6200 UC review appeared first on Sound Guys.

You wake up, look in the mirror and think, “I’m a working person, who needs a pair of headphones that will work for me.” There are numerous headsets that you could choose from, but you want something that’s as versatile as you are. Looks like you’re in luck; the Plantronics Voyager 6200 UC headset fits in at home, in the office, at the gym, on the train, and in the coffee shop.

Who are these for?

To be frank, these are for anyone jaded by sub-par Bluetooth connectivity. If you fall into this camp, stick around. As per usual, Plantronics sets the bar for office communication technology and general connection stability.

  • Office managers. Plantronics’ Class 1 Bluetooth implementation allows for up to 98 feet of travel, which means that your employees will be able to run to the water cooler without disconnecting from their calls. Additionally, the Plantronics Voyager 6200 UC are certified for Skype for Business. The active noise-cancelling is great for nearly eliminating room ambience, and there are both included and additional software options to improve functionality.
  • Desk jockeys. If your office space doesn’t provide Bluetooth-enabled headsets, the Plantronics Voyager 6200 UC is a great option. Aside from the aforementioned features, the headset alerts you to when you’re speaking but unwittingly muted. It also vibrates when receiving incoming calls, even if your device is silenced.

What’s Inside

The Plantronics Voyager 6200 UC include a total of three pairs of ear tips, a charging cradle, wireless USB, micro-USB cable, a zippered carrying case, and the headset. Pictured: The Plantronics Voyager 6200 UC docked in the cradle, which is connected to a Microsoft Surface Book. The earphones and carrying case are on the laptop with a Logitech Anywhere MX mouse parallel to the laptop. It's an aerial shot.

The Plantronics Voyager 6200 UC include a total of three pairs of ear tips, a charging cradle, wireless USB, micro-USB cable, a zippered carrying case, and the headset.

Inside the no-frills packaging is a soft-touch, zippered carrying case that contains two extra pairs of ear tips, a micro-USB cable, a circular charging cradle for docking the headset, and a wireless USB receiver. It’s worth taking a step back to appreciate the carrying case, because yes, it’s that nice. Molded to the shape of the Voyager 6200 UC, the patterned interior resembles the bodysuit armor in Black Panther.

Build & Design

The flexible neckband structure is lightweight and comfortable, and a rubberized coating creates just enough friction to prevent it from sliding around. Our version is black and orange—or is it a poppy-red? Either way, the alternate colorway option is sand, which could have just as easily been called “egg yolk white.”

Though I’m not yet wed to Bluetooth headphones, the Plantronics Voyager 6200 UC are well-designed. An elevated multi-function button enables virtual assistant access, and my collarbone accidentally pressed it if my coat was zipped all the way up, pushing the neckband inward. Above are the volume buttons, which are easy to depress. A voice prompt notifies you when the volume is maxed out. To enter pairing mode, push the power button up for two seconds. From there it just takes moments to form a cogent connection.

The included carrying case is the perfect combination of sturdy and flexible. Its internal pouch can easily store the included cables and cradle with room to spare. Pictured: The headset placed in the open carrying case to show off the contoured mold, which is reinforced to provide protection for the headset. On the bottom-left corner of the image is the cradle, wireless USB receiver, and a Plantronics-branded flash drive. The upper and bottom-right corners are a wood table to contrast the black product.

The included carrying case is the perfect combination of sturdy and flexible. Its internal pouch can easily store the included cables and cradle with room to spare.

Opposite of the multi-function button, an orange button toggles wide-band audio and stereo support. In plain English, this means that users with a compatible device can manually toggle HD voice. Further up the neckband is the active noise-cancelling switch. More on it its effectiveness in the Sound Quality section, but it does a solid job blocking out lower frequencies.

Looking fly as a pair of Jordans, the Plantronics Voyager 6200 UC headset sports a black and orange-layered grille. Not only does it manage to appear simultaneously professional and dope but the microphones are omnidirectional, so they should effectively pick up your voice while lessening background noise. (More on this later.)

Software features

As we now know, prolonged subjection to loud audio is a surefire way to induce early-onset hearing loss. Plantronics combats this by implementing SoundGuard® DIGITAL, which protects listeners against anything exceeding 118 dBA. They also feature G616 anti-startle. This detects and mitigates sporadic, sharp increases in signal level, so if a loud pan pangs next to your head, the earphones will attempt to counteract it.

Plantronics combats this by implementing SoundGuard® DIGITAL, which protects listeners against anything exceeding 118 dBA.

Additionally, IT management can take control with Plantronics Manager Pro. This is sold separately and allows for IT departments to oversee and manage Plantronics-supported devices. They can remotely ­initiate firmware updates and gain insight from acoustic event-reports, device usage, and more. Plus, without any appended expense, clients can download Plantronics Hub for Mac, PC, iOS, and Android-enabled devices to customize voice prompt, volume, and general device settings.


A small black cradle charges the Plantronics Voyager 6200 UC headset, but they can also be charged directly via the micro-USB port on the bottom of the neckband. Pictured: The Plantronics Voyager 6200 UC headset cradled in the included dock. In the back right corner of the image is the wireless USB receiver.

A small black cradle charges the Plantronics Voyager 6200 UC headset, but they can also be charged directly via the micro-USB port on the bottom of the neckband.

Charging via micro-USB or cradle requires one and a half hours to top up the 350 mAh lithium-ion battery. Once ready, the Plantronics Voyager 6200 UC provide 16 hours of playback, nine hours of talk time, and 14 days of standby time. That’s right, these can self-sustain for an entire Shakespearean fortnight. When active noise-cancelling is on though, the battery is undercut to 10.5 hours of playback time. To get a battery readout, just hold the power switch up for two seconds.


Reliant solely on Bluetooth 4.1, a 3.5mm headphone jack isn’t an option here. Clear voice prompts make the initial and subsequent pairing processes a cake walk. It takes all but ten seconds, max, to complete. Plantronics sensibly enabled SBC and Qualcomm’s aptX Bluetooth codecs. This is ideal for hitch-free communication, as the aptX codec is low latency, removing perceptible audio-visual lag.

In typical Plantronics-style, the Voyager 6200 UC maintain a stable connection with ease. Class 1 Bluetooth allows for users to travel up to 30 meters from the source. Pictured: The earbud placed on the reverse side of the charging cradle. The bottom of it matches the orange/poppy-red accents of the headset. In the bottom-left corner of the photo is the top-third of a Logitec Anywhere MX mouse, and a Microsoft Surface Book takes up the upper-right, diagonal third of the photo.

In typical Plantronics-style, the Voyager 6200 UC maintain a stable connection with ease. Class 1 Bluetooth allows for users to travel up to 30 meters from the source.

If you value stable connectivity before all else, Plantronics is the brand to keep tabs on.

Again, Class 1 Bluetooth range allows for up to 98 feet of movement. This works vertically and laterally, as I made sure to roam the putrefied stairwells of my apartment complex while testing the Plantronics Voyager 6200 UC. Unlike other Bluetooth headsets, these, as the Pinterest platitude goes, “keep on keeping on” no matter the physical barrier. The nine other Bluetooth-enabled devices in my apartment also failed to pose an issue for the Voyager 6200 UC. Plantronics, props to you.

How about those mics?

Just like the infallible “first date, shoulder counting” trick, there are 1-2-3… 4 of them. The omnidirectional placement optimizes your voice and mitigates superfluous ambience. Initially, I was excited to use these; however, in a blind test, I was unable to tell the difference between the Bose On-Ear Wireless and the Plantronics Voyager 6200 UC microphones. Bose uses a dual-mic setup, so there seems to be the disappointing issue of diminishing returns regarding mic quantity.

Multipoint technology—what does it do and how does it benefit an office?

It allows for the simultaneous connecting of two devices and pairing of up to eight, which sounds like overkill… until you remember that we’re in the Golden Age of Bluetooth. Naturally, it comes in handy when switching between the collection of company-provided and personal electronics.

A basic, black paint job with orange accents keeps a low profile for the Plantronics Voyager 6200 UC headset. It's well-designed but could benefit from retractable earbuds. Pictured: The Plantronics headset on stacked, wood coasters on a wood table. The earbuds themselves are out of frame but the neckband is surrounding a Plantronics-branded flash drive that sits atop the coasters.

A basic, black paint job with orange accents keeps a low profile for the Plantronics Voyager 6200 UC headset. It’s well-designed but could benefit from retractable earbuds.

Though the option for eight pairings is great, the most frequently used feature is the ability to simultaneously connect to two devices. Even as someone who works remotely from just a personal laptop and cellphone, switching optimizes workflow and efficiency. I no longer waste time trying to manually connect my devices to no avail.

Sound Quality

Auditory masking is when our perception of sound is limited by other sounds.

Designed to be a versatile headset, the Plantronics Voyager 6200 UC earphones can “go beyond the office.” Back in my hometown, where the noise level of the local commuter train easily rivals that of an underground rave, the headset is okay. As we’ll get into further down, the active noise-cancelling tames low frequencies with ease but falters with sharper sounds, such as the human voice. Passive noise isolation, however, performs rather well, assuming that you take a couple of minutes to find the appropriately sized ear tips.

As one may expect, the Plantronics Voyager 6200 UC earphones favor vocal-heavy music. Bass reproduction is the weakest aspect of the earphones' sound. Pictured: The Plantronics Voyager 6200 UC on top of a Microsoft Surface Book. The lower-left and right diagonal sections are a wood table, and the headset rests atop the laptop with teh earbuds between the ends of the neckband.

As one may expect, the Plantronics Voyager 6200 UC earphones favor vocal-heavy music. Bass reproduction is the weakest aspect of the earphones’ sound.

With active noise-cancelling on, the sound quality dramatically improves. Though we could get lost in the thick of it, the gist is this: auditory masking is when our perception of sound is limited by other sounds. See, our brains only reserve so much bandwidth for auditory processing, so when we’re surrounded by noise, “unimportant” frequencies are filtered out. Thank evolution, because I’d much rather be able to hear a lion’s roar than a barista steaming milk.

How do the Plantronics Voyager 6200 UC handle music?

Rather well. Sunday Candy by Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment opens with a rhythmic, 80 bpm piano beat in the key of C Major. The Voyager 6200 UC appropriately separate major and minor keys, emphasizing the treble over the bass. The Voyager does a fine job reproducing trumpets without overpowering Jamila Woods and Chance’s harmonies in the gospel-reminiscent ballad.

For those without the time to listen to Sunday Candy, it’s an instrumentally busy song. The Plantronics Voyager 6200 UC careen through the overlapping claps, brass horns, piano, vocals, and percussion without creating musical bedlam. The treble is occasionally exaggerated as demonstrated by ringing chimes in the chorus.

As one would expect, vocals shine through in the Plantronics Voyager 6200 UC sound signature. The song culminates to create unity between Woods, Chance, and the collective choir, and the earphones’ reproduction of the final bars are gorgeous. Chance’s voice appropriately echoes the choir without latency, and the reverberations act as a vocal transition into the following lyrics, rather than providing a delayed reproduction.

Active noise-cancelling or attempted noise-cancelling?

Active noise-cancelling on the Plantronics Voyager 6200 UC performs well with low frequencies, easily disarming the annoying sound of an airplane's engine. The technology struggles to combat voices and higher frequencies. Pictured: A close-up of the back of the neckband with the headset in hand, drawing attention to the active noise-cancelling toggle. To add contrast, the orange earbud wire is wrapped around the neckband.

Active noise-cancelling on the Plantronics Voyager 6200 UC performs well with low frequencies, easily disarming the annoying sound of an airplane’s engine. The technology struggles to combat voices and higher frequencies.

As we headphone enthusiasts know, active noise-cancelling technology can be hit or miss. On cheaper models, audio receives a lazy volume boost with a half-hearted attempt at blocking out ambient noise. That said, the Plantronics Voyager 6200 UC’s performance is interesting. Their ability to lower an airplane engine’s roar to a low rumble is awesome. In fact, the headset’s general handling of low frequencies is superior to any active noise-cancelling that I’ve used. Unfortunately, there’s a “but.” There’s always a “but.”

But the Plantronics Voyager 6200 UC are pushed as an office workhorse, and they can’t lower frequencies higher than a standard office air conditioner. Office chatter easily permeates the active noise-cancelling sound barrier. And if you find yourself seated adjacent to unruly children on a four-and-a-half-hour flight to L.A.—ha—just pop a Dramamine and call it a day.


The Plantronics Voyager 6200 UC can be had for just over $200. The silicone ear tips grip the contours of the ear without irritation. Pictured: The headset and its accessories laid out on a Microsoft Surface Book.

The Plantronics Voyager 6200 UC can be had for just over $200. The silicone ear tips grip the contours of the ear without irritation.

If the Plantronics Voyager 6200 UC were only available at their original price of $299, I’d be hard-pressed to recommend them. Fortunately, the price has since dropped nearly a whole Benjamin, making them worth it. Though the active noise-cancelling struggles to disarm daily chatter, it does a great job reducing room ambience, like air conditioners, refrigerators, and printers that hum in the key of E Major.

Extras aside, the dependable connectivity alone is enough to warrant purchasing this headset.

Again, if you’re an office manager with the financial liberty to outfit your office with the Plantronics Voyager 6200 UC, their compatibility with Skype for Business, Plantronics Hub, and—if you’re willing to shell out cash—Plantronics Manager Pro make these the pick for office productivity. Extras aside, the dependable connectivity alone is enough to warrant purchasing this headset. And for the John Doe office worker, these are a great investment as well. The earphones—though there’s room for improvement with higher frequency noise-cancelling—are a splendid two-in-one option that performs well in a multitude of environments.

Disclosure: We may receive affiliate compensation in connection with your purchase of products via links on this page. Even though we may receive compensation, we always give our honest opinions, findings, beliefs, or experiences on each product. See our ethics policy for more details.

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2018 Best Earbuds Under $50 Fri, 16 Mar 2018 13:37:13 +0000 $50 can get you plenty of things, including some really great sounding earbuds.

The post 2018 Best Earbuds Under $50 appeared first on Sound Guys.

Finding a good pair of cheap earbuds is a lost art form, which is why we want to help you find the best earbuds under $50. Not everyone has the money or the incentive to go out and spend hundreds ofor even one hundreddollars on something just for casual listening or a commute to work.

When it comes to convenience, nothing beats being able to throw your ‘buds into your pocket. Even the best over-ear headphones lack that level of portability. With earbuds, you used to have to sacrifice a great deal of quality if you wanted a sub-$50 pair of earbuds, but that isn’t necessarily the case anymore. So let’s get into it, here are some of our top picks for the best ‘buds fifty bucks can buy.

The best earbuds under $50 are the Brainwavz Delta

The Brainwavz Delta look like they were built to last, and for the most part, they feel like it too. The 45-degree, 3.5 mm jack has a hard, plastic casing that looks difficult to damage. Regarding fit, if the three included sizes don’t feel right for you, they come with a fourth “premium” ear tip made of memory foam. Hopefully those will do the trick. Worst-case, go for the Comply ear tips; they cost a pretty penny but dramatically improve sound quality and passive isolation.

Brainwavz Delta

Speaking of sound quality, the bass is emphasized but not at the expense of the mids or treble. The reinforced cable also means you wont have to worry about these breaking. They have 8 mm drivers in the each earbud and a sensitivity of about 100 dB. Digging even further into the specs shows a frequency range that covers all of what humans can hear: 20Hz – 20kHz. Should you decide to get the version that has the playback controls built into the wires, it’s worth mentioning that they are designed to work specifically with your device’s OS. Just make sure to get the appropriate iOS or Android version. Like all the others best earbuds under $50 list, the best part about these is the price.

No headphone jack? No problem

The Anker SoundBuds NB10 are Bluetooth-enabled and oriented towards workout enthusiasts. Though these don’t quite cut it for our best workout earbuds list, they surpass what most consumer may expect for sub-$40 earbuds. The flexible-hooking design is great for working out, providing added stability; plus, the ear tips are ergonomically angled to stay in comfortably, whether your walking down the grocery isle or running on the treadmill. Battery life isn’t going to blow you away at six hours, but it’ll easily get you through a week’s-worth of workouts. Not to mention, they’re IPX-certified.

Anker Soundbuds NB10

Full Review

Housed in aluminum, the drivers are fairly durable. Pair that with a braided, tangle-resistant cable, and these are easy to regularly carry around. That said, the cable is a double-edged sword, because it still feels cheap. Then again, who’s surprised? After all, these are the best earbuds under $50. In all fairness, things get more luxurious once you start listening to them. Aside from overemphasized, harsh highs, these make for an enjoyable listen. Connecting is easy via a standard 3.5mm jack. A single long-press of the multi-function button lets you access personal assistants like Google Now and Siri.

The Shure SE112-GR provide the best sound for earbuds under $50

The Shure SE112-GR shouldn’t come as a big surprise; the brand has a well-earned reputation for quality audio products. These come with an in-line mic option, but those cost around $60.00, which put them outside of the earbuds under $50 price range. Opting out of the mic puts these earbuds under $50. That price makes it one of the more expensive earbuds on this list, but oh, so worth it.

Shure SE112-GR

Full Review

Fresh out of the box, the first thing you notice is the quality of the cable. The heavy duty wire ends in a 90-degree, 3.5 mm jack and looks impossible to break. They max out at 105 dB, which is right at the threshold of pain for most people (120 dB), but I thought this was a good thing. It means you don’t have to max out your device to get a comfortable sound. If you’re looking to wear these in typical earbud style you’ll be a little surprised since these have to be worn in an over-the-ear style. Though it may be odd, a lot of earbuds take this approach. Plus, it mitigates microphonics, which is when vibrations from the cable impede sound quality.

Need good sound on the cheap? Check out the Panasonic Ergo Fit

Eventually all good things come to an end, so were closing out the list with the Panasonic Ergo Fit earbuds. These are super comfortable and are pretty much the best headphones you can get for $10.00, way less than $50 for those keeping score at home. As far as build quality goes, these do look cheap… because they are. They tangle easily, so be wary of crumpling them up and stuffing them in your pockets. That said, the audio quality is better than anything you’ll find for this price, hands-down.

Panasonic Ergo Fit

One of the cooler things about the Ergo Fit is that they come in eight colorways. Originally, they were designed to match the colors of the 5th gen. iPod nano. Unsurprisingly, the earbuds have an ergonomic fit, meaning that they’ll stay in your ear fairly easily. They’re not exactly ear-huggers, so don’t expect them to stay in if you’re doing anything that requires a lot of movement. For day-to-day usage, you won’t have a problem. If you decide on another pair of cheap headphones on this list, these are worth picking up as a secondary pair to compliment them.

Who are these for?

Anyone who has found themselves between a rock and a hard place, financially speaking. No matter what pair you commit to from this list of the best earbuds under $50, you’ll be making the least amount of compromises possible, given the constraints.

Aside from those restricted by a budget, these are great for anyone looking for a supplementary, on-the-go pair of earbuds that won’t break the bank but will make their ears happy. From the tough to the beautiful, we’ve gathered it all to help you feel confident in your next pair of ‘buds.

Though sound quality and comfort differs from person to person, but these have been pretty much unanimously agreed upon by many as some of the best bang for your buck earbuds. Be sure to let us know what your favorites were, and also let us know if you have any personal favorites that were not on this list. Who doesn’t like a good deal?

Didn’t find what you were looking for?

Checkout these related best lists:

What makes a set of earbuds “the best?

Users can control their music with intuitive gestures via the right ear cup. Pictured: Beyerdynamic Aventho Wireless headphones being worn. The right hand is using touch controls.

The Beyerdynamic Aventho Wireless provide an intuitive, gestural experience. It’s easy-of-use features like this that we accounted for when searching for the best earbuds under $50.

When it comes to earbuds under $50, we know that there are some sacrifices that companies have made to each product. From build quality to sound clarity, there are some cut corners for the sake of affordability. Plus, we took extra time to take into account how most people actually use headphones. After all, what’s the good in having a best list that doesn’t help most people buy headphones they like? Because our ad-free business model relies on you enjoying your headphones without returning them, this list represents what we earnestly feel is the most deserving of your money.

Why you should trust us

Not only is this site our nine-to-five, but Adam, Chris and Lily each have multiple years of reviewing consumer audio products. We’ve kept tabs on the ever-changing world of audio, giving us the ability to parse apart the gimmicks from the gems. As frequent visitors of SoundGuys already know, Chris wears his hatred for all things Bluetooth like a lovesick teenager wears his heart on his sleeve. The Bluetooth products listed? They’re damned special. Adam, a SoundGuy for nearly three years, has heard everything from pristine highs to vacant lows. Then there’s Lily with countless hours clocked in at a radio station working in a professional studio environment and reviewing audio products on her own time prior to joining SoundGuys.

We want you to be happy with your purchasenone of our writers see a dime from partnership deals or referral purchases—and nobody here is allowed to benefit from steering you towards one product or another. While this site does make money from referrals, the individual writers are paid based on their work, regardless of whether or not people clicked that “buy” icon. They will never even know if anyone did, though the site going under might be a good hint.

Disclosure: We may receive affiliate compensation in connection with your purchase of products via links on this page. Even though we may receive compensation, we always give our honest opinions, findings, beliefs, or experiences on each product. See our ethics policy for more details.

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SonarWorks True-Fi review Fri, 16 Mar 2018 13:30:43 +0000 If you have headphones you like, there's more you can get out of them.

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While you’re probably accustomed to seeing us review headphones and speakers on our site, SonarWorks’ TrueFi software deserves a special mention if you’re in the audio production or audiophile community. Though it may seem a little strange to drop a hair under $80 on software, you may want to consider it if you want to maximize the performance of your existing setup.

Who’s True-Fi for?

Audiophiles who want to play with their headphones to see if they’d like another set better, or want to make the most of their existing headset

Musicians who want to remove as much influence from their equipment as possible should appreciate this software. However, it’ll take some getting used to in lieu of monitors.

What does True-Fi do?

In a nutshell, True-Fi takes your headphones, and alters the signal that reaches it so that what you hear is as uninfluenced by the equipment itself. Basically, the software controls for your equipment.

SonarWorks has built up a large database of headphones and their frequency responses. By logging each dataset that details how each individual model of headphones perform exactly, the software can apply corrections at a super-fine level of control.

Additionally, the software can alter the frequency response to appeal to users of varying ages and stages of hearing loss. While that may not sound all that cool to younger users, older listeners should definitely check out the free trial—this isn’t simply a bump to the upper mids. It also limits exposure to highs that are outside your range of normal hearing (based on the age you input).

That cool thing is, this software works with just about any computer, and because it handles the signal processing of all the audio on your device, you’ll get the most out of your computer without additional hardware. If you’ve ever messed around with Voicemeeter, this is a solution that takes all the guesswork and tutorials out of the equation. Just mash that power icon in the True-Fi app and the software does the hard work for you.

How does it work?

While this is a really smart application of software, the underlying mechanisms behind it are actually fairly straightforward. SonarWorks has built up a large database of headphones and their frequency responses. By logging each dataset that details how each individual model of headphones perform exactly, the software can apply corrections at a super-fine level of control. This way, there’s very few (if any) errors along the range of frequencies.

As you can imagine, this means that True-Fi is an effective tool when it comes to high-end listening and mastering. Of course, producers will want to gut-check their final mixes on an array of different common headphones and speakers, but you could also give the SonarWorks Reference 4 software a go if you’d rather just emulate those products.

Screenshots of the True-Fi software.

SonarWorks’ True-Fi program adjusts the frequency response to make the most of your headphones.

Of course, the software doesn’t work for every set of headphones, so you’ll have to check it against the constantly-updating list of headphones supported. If your headphones aren’t on this list, you may want to hold off on plunking down the money for True-Fi, as it’s tough to predict when and which headphones will be added. You can also request headphones to be added to the software if you don’t see yours on that list.

What does a flat frequency response sound like?

If you’re not familiar with the benefits of a “flat” sound, it’s essentially the platonic ideal of what music equipment should offer. Meaning: in a perfect world, your headphones, amp, DAC, and whatever else you own shouldn’t alter the sound in any way from the original mix. Obviously, we don’t live in a perfect world, so as you can imagine there’s a lot of equipment out there that attempts to tailor its sound a bit to be more appealing to consumers. There’s nothing wrong with that, but there are some consequences for your sound.

For example, by changing the frequency response you alter the ability of the speaker to reproduce sounds. Well, “duh,” you might say. But think of it this way: every sound, every note, every song will sound a bit off if you don’t hear the fundamental constituent signals with each of its frequencies at the volumes your brain expects them to be. When a system can’t reproduce notes at the same power across the entire spectrum of audible sound, your audio will sound less “clear,” and you may notice some other weird characteristics to the sound applied. This is largely the result of exaggerated auditory masking drowning out sounds that should be there.

A manufacturer-supplied render of headphones, the SonarWorks True-Fi app, and a computer.

SonarWorks Modern signal processing is quite powerful, and SonarWorks’ True-Fi app breathes new life into even cheap headphones with a flat frequency response.

However, a flat frequency response isn’t a type of emphasis many are used to. Many may find the bass “lacking” in that it’s not emphasized over other notes like it is with most consumer headphones. However, over time you should grow to appreciate being able to hear just about everything in the mix without the usual harmonics and quieter sounds getting masked out.

Should you buy it?

If you’re an audiophile that’s strongly considering buying more equipment to get the most out of your headphones, you may want to look at software like SonarWorks’ True-Fi first. I make the same recommendation for speakers. Where a DSP is useful to make the most of your speakers, equalization software like SonarWorks’ True-Fi is useful to make the most of your headphones. However, this is a very powerful tool at a fair price.

If a DAC or amp is doing its job, buying a new one shouldn’t affect the sound any, and usually the best way to improve your music is with equalization. Many audiophiles just embark on a journey to try tons of headphones to find the right one. However, it’s possible that you can just adjust the ones you have to be what you want! While it can take some work, tools like True-Fi exist to take the effort out of the equation.

Obviously, you should give the demo a try to see if it’s right for you, and definitely confirm that your headphones are on their supported equipment list before buying.

Disclosure: We may receive affiliate compensation in connection with your purchase of products via links on this page. Even though we may receive compensation, we always give our honest opinions, findings, beliefs, or experiences on each product. See our ethics policy for more details.

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What is frequency response and how does it affect my music? Thu, 15 Mar 2018 17:51:12 +0000 If you've hung around in audio circles long enough you'll probably have come across the term frequency response, so here's everything you need to know about it.

The post What is frequency response and how does it affect my music? appeared first on Sound Guys.


If you’ve hung around in audio circles long enough you’ll probably have come across the term frequency response. It can crop up in pretty much any discussion, ranging from headphones and speakers right on through to DACs and amplifiers, and even room acoustics. Whether you’re familiar with the subject or brand new to the term, here’s everything you need to know about frequency response.

As the name explains, we’re dealing with frequency and how well a particular component is able to reproduce all of the tones that we can hear. Human hearing ranges from very low frequencies at just 20 Hz, all the way up to very high frequencies at around 20 kHz. Although individual hearing will vary between these two extremes. In a musical sense we often see this split into bass, middle, and treble sections. These aren’t fixed definitions, but typically bass accounts for frequencies between 20 and 300 Hz , mid is 300 Hz to 4 kHz, and treble counts as anything above 4 kHz, very roughly speaking.

Frequency Response describes the range of frequencies or musical tones a component can reproduce.

Frequency response measures if and how well a particular audio component reproduces all of these audible frequencies and if it makes any changes to the signal on the way through. For example, what’s the lowest frequency that subwoofer X can reproduce. Barring any deliberate EQ settings, the ideal frequency output of a component should be equal to the input, so as not to alter the signal. This is often called a “flat” frequency response, where a fixed volume sine wave (measured in decibels) can be swept through the system and will be the same amplitude at all frequencies at the output.

Several charts showing how frequency response can alter the output of a sample waveform.

Frequency response can often be thought of much like a filter, which can boost or attenuate the input signal to alter the sound.

In other words, an ideal frequency response is one that doesn’t adjust the volume of the bass, middle, or treble, from our source. By comparison, if you’ve messed around with any music app’s EQ settings, you might have seen a non-flat EQ setting that boosts bass or cuts treble, etc. So if a component (such as a headphone driver) doesn’t have a flat frequency response, you may end up hearing more or less of certain frequencies than there should be. In extreme cases, this can ruin the listening experience.

Problems obtaining a flat response

Unfortunately with audio, what’s ideal and what’s actually happening seldom go hand in hand—and achieving a perfectly flat frequency response across the entire audio signal chain is incredibly difficult. This is most often an issue with headphone drivers and speakers, where mechanical properties, electronics, and acoustics combine to produce non-linearity that impacts the sound. For example, impedance matching and capacitive coupling between amplifiers and speakers, speaker inductors coils and drivers, and even the acoustics of the room you’re in can all affect the final frequency response.

Every component in the signal chain should ideally have a flat frequency response, so that the sound passes through unaltered. But the reality is that many components don't offer ideal performance.

In the real world, you’ll often see frequency response specifications quote a range of frequencies, such as 20 Hz – 20 kHz, followed by the amount of variation in the frequency response quoted in decibels, such as +/- 6 dB. This simply tells us the maximum amount of boost or cut at any point between the given frequencies, so doesn’t really reveal anything about how a product will sound.

For most people, plus or minus 3 dB is considered the lower limits of what you can hear—so small deviations of 1 or 2dB here and there aren’t anything to be concerned about. But multiple deviations 3 dB or above highlights some perceivable alteration to your music. Resonant frequencies, which appear as notable isolated humps on a frequency chart, can be particularly problematic, as certain musical notes and tones then become exaggerated or masked.

Therefore, it’s not enough to look at a frequency response figure like 20Hz-20kHz +/- 3dB, it’s better to be able to see where these swings in emphasis occur and how they are distributed. A smoother frequency response is better than a highly variable one, with flat being the ideal target.

A sample frequency response chart that shows an ideal frequency response compared to an acceptable, and bad frequency responses.

A comparison of an ideal (green), a likely imperceptable real world example (yellow), and more audible (red) frequency responses for speakers.

When it comes to DACs, the output should always be almost completely flat across audible frequencies, even in modern low cost designs. The conversion from digital to analog in today’s hardware is a straight sampling conversion, before filtering out the noise at frequencies well beyond human perception. There aren’t any mechanical or acoustic problems to worry about at this stage.

Amplifier circuits are a little bit trickier, but generally speaking: even an average DAC/Amp combo should have a flat frequency response when powering all but the lowest impedance speakers/headphones.

While headphone speaker components may exhibit wide variations in frequency response, DAC and amplifier components should be flat.

Fourier analysis and your music

So far, we’ve dealt with a rather easy to grasp aspect of of frequency response: that a non-linear response will alter the way our source sounds. However, this isn’t just about common concepts like bass and treble, but it also impacts the sound quality of every instrument in the mix. To get our head around this more subtle aspect of how non-linear frequency response can affect what we hear, we need to turn to Fourier analysis.

In a nutshell, Fourier analysis and the Fourier transform reveal that a complex waveform can be expressed as the sum of a series of sine waves of differing amplitudes. So a square, triangle, or any other wave shape that appears in the time domain can be represented by multiple different individual frequencies of varying amplitudes in the frequency domain. This includes the waveform shapes that are created by musical instruments, ranging from sharp beats of a snare drum through to fat square wave electric guitars.

In musical instruments, these sine waves are predominantly harmonically related, occuring at odd and even octaves (multiples of the fundamental note frequency) above the root note. So for example, if you play natural C on a violin, that sounds the fundamental frequency of 261 Hz, plus some second harmonic at 522 Hz, third at 783 Hz, fourth at 1044 Hz, and so on with diminishing amounts of volume. Other instruments have different harmonic relationships which partly produce their unique sound. The diagram below shows the frequency relationship differences between the sound of a piano and a violin to serve as an example.

Samples charts showing the fundamental frequencies and the harmonics of a piano note and a violin.

Harmonics may be quiet, but they’re no less important to your music.


Why does this matter? Well going back to frequency response and filtering, we can now see that a non flat response not only alters the overall representation of our music, but can change the way that individual instruments sound as well. Even if a frequency response graph doesn’t present any major bass or treble issues, the smaller nonlinearities at certain frequencies can alter our perception of certain instruments.

See also:

How to EQ: Fine Tune your listening experience

Some general rules of equalization are that decreasing an instrument’s fundamental frequency produces a less powerful sound, while increasing it adds “depth.” Similarly, reducing an instrument’s harmonics leads to dull sounds lacking in space, while boosting harmonics increases presence but can eventually sound overly harsh. Taking this one step further, boosting and cutting different instrument frequencies may even end up masking or amplifying the sound of other instruments in the track. So a nonlinear frequency response can undo all the hard work that an engineer will have put into carefully mixing a track.

A photo of Lily Katz wearing Audio-Technica headphones, giving the thumbs-up.

Music producers have their work cut out for them, as changes to emphasis mean changes to sound quality overall.

Why frequency response is important

By the traditional standards of HiFi, a good audio system is one that takes an input signal and outputs it without changing it at all. This includes components ranging from the source audio file, through to digital processing and components like a DAC, right on out to the amplifier and speakers. Frequency response is just one part of this equation, but one that has a very large impact on how the output sounds.

Frequency response isn’t just about whether there’s too much bass, mid, or treble coming out of a system. It can also more subtly affect the tone and balance of instruments within a track, potentially coloring and even ruining our listening experience. A perfectly flat, ideal response isn’t possible with every component, but today’s higher-end technology can certainly come close enough that a human could never tell.

If our goal is listen to back to music in as pure a form as possible, then we have to pay attention to frequency response. It can also be a handy tool if you’re looking to EQ your way out of less than perfect hardware too.

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Decoding IP ratings Thu, 15 Mar 2018 14:34:29 +0000 It's as easy as 1, 2, 3... 4, 5, 6... and sometimes 7 and 8

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What does “IP” mean?

In the same way that many people throw around the acronym “NASDAQ” without knowing that it stands for the National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotation, we who keep our fingers on the pulse of the tech world often discuss IP ratings without knowing what the “IP” stands for: ingress protection.

The P2i water-repellent coating isn't as good as an official IP rating, but after soaking the ear cups, the headphones held up without any issues. Pictured: The Plantronics BackBeat 500 FIT lying flat on a wood surface with water on the ear cups.

The P2i water-repellent coating isn’t as good as an official IP rating, but after soaking the ear cups, the headphones held up without any issues.

Now, if you’re like I was prior to researching water-resistance, you might not know what “ingress” means either. That’s a-okay. “Ingress” is just the act of going in or entering, which makes sense since IP ratings depend on how well a device can resist dust or water.


Okay, but what’s the “X” doing there?

Excellent question. (Alright, alright. No more puns.) The “X” serves as a placeholder for the degree of dust-resistance regarding IP ratings. Not all devices receive just an ingress rating; hence why many are rated IPX4 or the like. The latter rating—in this case, the “4”— is technically referred to as a liquid ingress protection rating.

Sadly, we’re not calling on Tom Hanks to help us with the DaVinci Code; however, IP ratings—or codes—are much more practical to our daily lives. As we said, IP ratings are broken down into two categories: dust and water-resistance. The former ranges from zero to six, while the later goes up to eight. As you might expect, the lower the number, the less it’s able to combat the respective hazards.

 Water-resistantWaterproofCan withstand...
IPX0Not water-resistant
IPX1Dripping water (1 mm/min)
Limit: vertical drips only
IPX2Dripping water (3 mm/min)
Limit: Device max tilt of 15° from drips
Limit: Device max tilt of 60° from sprays
IPX4Splashes, omnidirectional
IPX5Water jets (12.5 L/min)
Example: Squirt guns
IPX6Strong water jets (100 L/min)
Example: Powerful water guns
IPX7Complete submergence
Limit: 1 m. for 30 min.
IPX8Complete submergence
Limit: 3 m. for 30 min.

 Dust-resistantDustproofCan withstand...
IP0XNot dust-resistant
IP1XA solid object > 50 mm
IP2XA solid object > 12.5 mm
IP3XA solid object > 2.5 mm
IP4XA solid object > 1 mm
I5XDust-protected, small solid objects won't interfere with device operation
IP6XAny amount of dust, completely dust-tight

And that’s it. Yes, it really is that easy to figure out, but in case you’re like me and want a concrete example or two, we’ve got you covered.

Case Study 1: The Bose SoundSport Free

The low-end of the SoundSport Free signature is loud but unable to maintain a solid "thump." Pictured: The Bose SoundSport Free earbuds, which are stacked on top of each other and beside the open charging case.

IP ratings are found on many devices; the Bose SoundSport Free are IPX4-rated.

The Bose SoundSport Free true wireless earbuds are IPX4-certified. Thanks to our table, there’s no need for rote memorization, unless you’re into that kind of thing; then by all means, memorize away. For those of us who prefer cheat sheets, scroll up to the “IP ratings” tables. What does it say again?

Ah, yes, resistant against splashes from any direction. Cool. That means the SoundSport Free can handle even the sweatiest of us and be no worse for the wear. As a matter of fact, they’ll likely survive a clumsy spill from a water bottle too. That said, don’t go around thinking these are invincible. Full immersion will render them useless.

Case Study 2: The Plantronics BackBeat FIT

The Plantronics BackBeat FIT are in the hand and under a running faucet.

The Plantronics BackBeat FIT are IP57-rated and are some of the toughest headphones available.

Plantronics engineered the BackBeat FIT with durability above all other concerns. These Bluetooth workout ‘buds received one of the highest IP ratings at IP57, making them dust and water-resistant. Now, to what degree?

A dust-resistance rating of five indicates that the BackBeat FIT are dust-protected. This means that traces of dust can still permeate the headphones, but it won’t interfere with their ability to function. Regarding waterproofing, a rating of seven allows for complete immersion at one meter for up to 30 minutes.

Why you should care about IP ratings

Sure, there’s always someone who doesn’t need—or doesn’t think they need, rather—any kind of device-proofing, but accidents happen. Even the hydrophobic need to drink, leaving potential spills to chance. Nowadays, additional protection doesn’t necessitate additional cost. After all, look at our last case study. The BackBeat FIT cost just $70. That’s not to say that $70 is chump change. Quite the contrary, if someone gave me $70, I’d be elated and would immediately make seven consecutive trips to Potbelly’s.

Poor spending habits aside, headphones that are rewarded with IP ratings will likely remain on your head longer than those lacking certification. If a pair of headphones receives an IP rating, you can rest easy knowing that a drop of water, spring deluge, or an unexpected poolside shove won’t short-circuit the internals. And as a backup, many warranties cover water-resistance failures. Worst-case scenario you jump through some bureaucratic hoops to justify a repair. Still, not too bad.

If you found this interesting, check out our article on Bluetooth codecs and learn how to EQ with Adam.

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Best Bluetooth Speakers under $100 Wed, 14 Mar 2018 21:29:21 +0000 What can you do with $100? You can get some great Bluetooth speakers

The post Best Bluetooth Speakers under $100 appeared first on Sound Guys.

Any Bluetooth speaker under $100 is hard to shop for. Most people don’t mind if a speaker that costs less than $20 breaks, because it was “good enough” while it lasted. You might even be able to afford replacing it. But the point of no return is when you spend $100. It starts to become more of an investment, rather than a mere accessory for your phone. Bluetooth speakers under $100 need to be more than good enough; they need to be great.

As you should expect for this price-point, there needs to be a certain level of durability and quality to the product. These aren’t cheap, and though they’re not the most expensive or best sounding speakers you’ll ever hear, you still want to get your money’s worth. This list has a speaker for everyone, including a few staples and some you might not have heard of. But if it made this list, it deserves to be here.

You might also like: Best Bluetooth Speakers Under $50

Let’s talk water-resistance

Plenty of listed speakers here are water-resistant, so here’s a quick rundown of Ingress Protection (IP) ratings and what they mean to your specific model.

Playback and volume controls are intuitive. Accessing Google Now or Siri is responsive. Pictured: The playback and multi-function controls of the JBL Under Armour Sport Wireless Flex earbuds. The volume controls are placed on the end of the right side of the neckband, while the playback controls are on the left side of the neckband.Though the Flex lack an official IP certification, the nano coating does a good job.Here’s the important split seen in the listed headphones:


Water-Resistant Waterproof

Full charts are available here if you’re so inclined.

The best Bluetooth speaker under $100 is the JBL Flip 4

JBL has remained consistent with their Flip series, offering the best Bluetooth speaker under $100. The Flip 4 is very similar to the previous model (the JBL Flip 3), but it makes some improvements in a few key areas, hence why it’s the best Bluetooth speaker under $100. For one it’s now IPX7 waterproof where the previous model was only splash-resistant. This means that you can now submerge it completely in up to 3 feet of water for 30 minutes, though we’re not sure why you’d want to. Still it’s good to know that if you drop it in the pool you have some time before you have to go rescue it.

JBL Flip 4

Full Review

Another positive is that the new Connect+ button lets you connect this speaker with up to 100 others to play music in sync, but on the downside this feature isn’t backwards compatible with previous versions. So if you have a JBL Flip 3 and was going to double up with the new Flip 4 you’re out of luck. Battery life is also spec’d at around 12 hours when you leave the volume at around 50 percent, but if you play music on max volume you shouldn’t expect to get more than four, maybe five hours out of it. Even with those caveats, this is still our pick for the best Bluetooth speaker under $100 you can get. If you’re looking for an all-around speaker that sounds good and is durable enough to go with you wherever you go, go with the JBL Flip 4.

Like to roughhouse? Toss the CB3 Armor XL around

If you like to listen to your music outdoors then you should give the CB3 Armor XL a look. For a Bluetooth speaker under $100, the Armor XL can handle the toughest of conditions: mud, dirt, water, drops, this waterproof speaker can handle it all. Durability aside, this speaker sounds great; its deep, rich beats are sure to be a crowd pleaser. Though it doesn’t have as sleek of a design as some of the other speakers listed, it’s durable and sounds good. This little cube also has Bluetooth 4.0, and it can play music for a straight 10 hours. As you would expect from a speaker that’s meant to be durable, it does have a few basic playback controls built-in, since you’re probably not going to want to bring your $600 phone near water.

CB3 Armor XL

Better to deal with the $50 speaker while standing in a pool than a phone. It has a power button, dedicated phone button for answering and ending phone calls, a mute button, track skipping buttons, and volume buttons. The buttons are made of a soft plastic and embedded into the rubber of the speaker on top. Bass and kick drums come through loud and clear, thanks to the dual, 50mm drivers. If you enjoy a strong low-end, you’ll like this durable, Bluetooth speaker under $100. The speaker also comes with a rubber strap that you can attach to the speaker, so you can dangle it from a shower head or a backpack. While a shower or a beach might not seem like a hostile environment for you, it is for electronics, so a solid build is essential.

The UE Roll 2 is the best Bluetooth speaker under $100 for modern-day vagabonds

UE might not be too into high-end audio, but they seem to have a thing for high-value audio. Case in point: the UE Roll 2. It’s not a huge improvement over the original (so if you can find the original for cheap it’s still a really good deal), but there Roll 2 is  $63, and you get some added benefits as well. It gets roughly 15 percent louder than the original, which isn’t much, but it’s enough to make some songs sound just a little bit cleaner and more enjoyable. It also has a range of roughly 100 feet, up from about 65 feet of the original.

UE Roll 2

Full Review

Besides that, it hasn’t changed much. It’s still IPX7-certified, so you can submerge it in water. For something a little different, it has a handy bungee cord on the back for hanging it. On the downside, playback controls are limited to only volume adjustments, but you can connect up to eight other UE speakers via the free app. So if you’re looking for party speakers for you and your friends, getting a few of these might be a good idea.

Still looking for the best Bluetooth speaker under $100 for you?


Though they get plenty of acknowledgment for their headphones, Sony also has some really good speakers that sometimes slip under the radar, such as the SRSXB2. This is a compact speaker that doesn’t aim to be the most durable, like some others on this list. Instead, Sony decided to focus on two aspects of the speaker: sound and design, and they succeeded in both. The “XB” in the name stands for “Extra Bass” and while this does have a little more of a punch in the low end, it doesn’t negatively effect the sound. As far as bass goes, it’s our pick for the best Bluetooth speaker under $100.

But because you can usually find it around $50 now, it’s a great option. Design-wise Sony went with a rounded pill-like design that makes it looks kind of like an alarm clock. The speakers are also aimed slightly upwards which makes it perfect for setting down at a desk or bedside table, and you’ll get roughly 12 hours of battery life out of it. Sony also threw in a few nifty features. You can easily connect to it via NFC as long as you have a compatible device and if you want to step it up a notch, you can sync it with another SBSXB2 using “Double mode.” If a modern design and a good sound are your top priorities, this speaker might be the one for you.

Anker SoundCore Sport XL

Full Review

The SoundCore Sport is a great speaker, but if you don’t mind spending just a few more dollars you can get the Anker SoundCore Sport XL which is definitely what we’d consider to be a bang for your buck. You can usually find it for about $69, and it’s plenty more speaker than you’re probably used, making it worthy of one of our best picks as a Bluetooth speaker under $100. It’s a tough and durable speaker with an IP67 certification that lets it withstand submersion up to 1 meter. Anker also touts that it’s shock resistant, and though you probably shouldn’t go testing this extensively, it’s good to know that it can at least survive a drop or two.

Up top are a few playback controls so you can adjust volume, pause or resume music, and also skip to the next track. On the back you’ll find a small, exposed passive-bass radiator that adds some extra power to the low-end, and at average volume, you can squeeze out about 15 hours of constant playback, which isn’t too bad. Overall, this is one of the best values that you’ll find in the durable speaker category.

There are tons of Bluetooth speakers in the world so we’ll update this list whenever one deserving the title of “Best” reaches our ears. If you have any suggestions or feel we missed a quality Bluetooth speaker under $100, be sure to let us know. Who knows, your recommendation might pop up on the updated list.

Didn’t find what you were looking for checkout these best lists:

Disclosure: We may receive affiliate compensation in connection with your purchase of products via links on this page. Even though we may receive compensation, we always give our honest opinions, findings, beliefs, or experiences on each product. See our ethics policy for more details.

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