In years past, CES has been wall-to-wall with new headphones and true wireless earbuds, but the all-digital CES 2021 was a quieter affair, with fewer announcements. Still, the headphones that did take the virtual stage were a varied group, and some of them were especially noteworthy. Here are the best headphones from CES 2021.
V-Moda’s M-200 studio-oriented headphones arrived in late 2019 to strong reviews based on to their incredibly precise sound and superb craftsmanship. But as a wired-only set of cans, they excluded themselves from a variety of scenarios outside of the home or studio. The company’s newest model, the $500 M-200 ANC addresses this shortcoming by adding wireless capabilities (while preserving the wired option).
The new model also adds two other much-needed features: Active noise cancellation (ANC) and the ability to tweak the EQ. Suddenly, the M-200 ANC are now a contender in the high-end noise-canceling wireless headphone market currently dominated by Sony, Bose, and most recently, Apple. With 20 hours of battery life, the M-200 ANC don’t push the envelope in terms of endurance, but V-Moda’s reputation for solid audio quality could make them a good choice for picky listeners.
Unlike many CES 2021 product announcements, which don’t materialize until weeks or months later, the M-200 ANC went on sale the same day they debuted.
If you asked us what the Holy Grail for true wireless earbuds looks like, we’d probably say they need to have great sound, great comfort, and an ANC feature that significantly blocks outside sounds, along with a transparency mode that quickly lets those sounds in when you want them. They’d need to have all-day battery life, decent call quality, and — if at all possible — be a good deal more affordable than the models we’ve seen so far.
That’s a tall order, but more and more true wireless earbuds are approaching this ideal, and Anker’s Souncore brand may have come the closest to date with its new Liberty Air 2 Pro. At just $130, they aren’t exactly cheap, but when you look at how many boxes they potentially check, they’re a bargain when compared to comparable models from Apple, Jabra, Sony, Bose, and Sennheiser.
Digital Trends received an early review sample and (spoiler alert) we’re pretty impressed with them so far. Watch for our full review in the coming days. You can buy theright now.
The true wireless earbuds category was kicked into existence by Earin in 2014, and ever since then, the features you can expect have been growing every year. Battery life, sound quality, connection quality, and ANC have all permeated their way into the choices we now have. But one thing that seems to have been ignored is size. That’s what makes the $199 Earin A-3 intriguing. They may not move the needle on any of the attributes we usually talk about, but they’re now the world leader when it comes to size and weight.
That’s right — according to Earin, the A-3 are the smallest and lightest true wireless earbuds you can buy. They may also be the most comfortable. Instead of using the in-ear canal design that is favored by virtually all of the best true wireless earbuds, the A-3 are built without silicone eartips and sit just inside your outer ear — like a set of Apple AirPods, minus the golf-tee stems.
Normally, this would be a recipe for poor sound quality, especially when it comes to low-end bass response. But Earin says it has solved that potential gotcha by stuffing the A-3 with a massive set of drivers that are capable of moving a lot more air than similar “open”-style buds. Did Earin succeed? We won’t know until we try them.
The A-3 will be available later in 2021 after an initial production run is offered to Earin’s original Kickstarter backers from 2014.
JBL introduced an immense lineup of headphones and true wireless earbuds at CES 2021, but we’re going to focus on just two models: The $300 JBL Tour One, an over-ear set of noise-canceling headphones, and the $200 Tour Pro+, a set of noise-canceling true wireless earbuds.
These aren’t the only JBL models for 2021 to feature ANC — the company now offers the feature on a wide range of products — but they do have a feature we think is worth calling out, literally: The ability to summon either Google Assistant or Amazon completely hands-free using their respective wake words.
In a world where we rightfully judge headphones and earbuds based on criteria like sound quality, noise canceling, and battery life, something like voice assistant access may seem trivial. But when you consider that these are the first non-Google, non-Amazon products to provide this feature and that the feature works with both assistants, it’s kind of a big deal.
After all, why shouldn’t your headphones give you a choice? Sonos was the first to blaze this same trail in the smart speaker world and it’s great to see JBL doing the same for headphones and earbuds.
Of course, the Tour One and Tour Pro+ sport tons of other great features like ANC, hi-res audio, wireless charging, water-resistance, and excellent battery life, but we’re going to have to wait until the end of May 2021 to find out how well these features work.
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- The best earbuds for 2021