There’s an entire hall at the IFA technology show dedicated to the latest and greatest audio products, and headphones play a big part of what’s new this year. Bluetooth headphones, especially true wireless earbuds, were a major trend at the 2017 event, and while we auditioned several we really liked, there were plenty of other models we’re also eager to try.
Below we’ve put together a list of our favorite headphones from IFA 2017, including those we’ve checked out and those we think you should watch for in the near future.
Jabra Elite 25e – $80
There’s a solid reason why you’ll want to buy the new Jabra “halo-style” wireless headphones — an impressive 18 hours of battery life (or 22 days of standby). They are very lightweight, with water-resistance, Siri and Google Assistant control, and big buttons that make it easy to hit the right one when exercising. The Jabra Elite 25e can be pre-ordered through Jabra now.
Audio Technica ATH ADX5000 – $2,000
When the price tag for a pair of headphones is at least four figures, the listening experience had better be incredible, right? The Audio Technica ATH ADX5000 are open-back cans that give a wonderfully spacious and full sound, bringing vocals to the forefront, with a midrange and high-end that are incredibly pleasurable to hear. We listened to them for just a few moments on a noisy show floor, but what we heard was impressive. Although they’re a big pair of over-ear headphones, they’re very light and comfortable, with a glorious Alcantara-covered headband and earcups. The ADX5000 headphones are also the first from the brand to come in their own luxurious suitcase. It’s massive, but the good news is if you take the headphones out, it could be used for a weekend getaway.
Libratone Q Adapt – $250
These lightweight, on-ear Bluetooth headphones boast an adjustable noise-cancellation feature called CityMix, which lets in varying degrees of ambient sound, depending on your requirements. For example, they’re designed to drown out the sound of the crowd in a coffee shop. The battery lasts for about 20 hours, and there’s an app to control various features, including the glowing bird logo on the earcup. They sounded great in our quick demo, delivering plenty of bass and an immersive soundstage. They’re available to buy now.
Zolo Liberty+ – $150
Zolo, the audio sub-brand of battery experts Anker, was the subject of a hugely successful Kickstarter campaign in June. While we still haven’t heard the Zolo Liberty+ wireless earbuds, we did see the design and fit, both of which are impressive. The audio also promises to be great, with Zolo using drivers made from strong, super-conductive graphene. The battery provides about three hours of music playback, while the case has enough juice to keep them running for 24 hours. An Anker representative testing the Liberty+ said she easily got a week’s worth of use during her daily commute. They also link up with Siri or Alexa, and have a handy transparency mode so you can listen to your surroundings.
Aftershokz Trekz Air – $150
These headphones use bone-conduction technology — something Aftershokz has considerable experience with — which means they don’t fit inside your ears, but the drivers instead push sound through your cheekbones. The audio experience doesn’t compete with in-ear headphones, but the big benefit is being completely aware of your surroundings while using them. That makes them ideal for sports of all kinds, especially cycling and running. At just 30 grams, the Trekz Air are the slimmest and lightest headphones Aftershokz has produced, yet they still have enough battery power for six hours of listening. The IP55 water-resistance keeps sweat from causing a problem, and they are designed to be comfortable. You can pre-order them now, with delivery expected at the end of September.
Under Armour Sport Wireless Train – 199 euros
Designed to keep up with even the most intense workouts, Under Armour’s Train Bluetooth headphones would look right at home hanging next to a free weight bench. The sweatproof fabric over the cups can be removed and washed, and the headband is vented to keep you cool while staying securely on your head. The standout feature is TalkThru, which allows you to hear everything going on around you at the flick of an oversized switch, which can be especially important in training environments. JBL has also tuned the audio performance, the battery provides 16 hours of music playback, and the headphones come in a tough protective case. The Train headphones will hit stores in December. (U.S. pricing forthcoming.)
B&O Play E8 – $250
The B&O Play E8s are the company’s first truly wireless in-ear headphones, and true to the brand’s other audio products, the sound quality is very natural, while the comfort is exceptional. They seemed to be made for our ears, and didn’t want to budge once they were inside, ensuring complete immersion in the sound. There is also a transparency mode so you can hear what’s going on in the outside world when you need to. While battery life sits just above middling at around four hours (12 hours total with the charging case), the design is far more stylish than many similar products. Additional features include touch controls on the buds, and an attractive leather battery case for charging the buds on the go. B&O Play will release the E8s in October.
Sony WF-1000X – $200
Sony was another company showing off its first pair of truly wireless earbuds at IFA 2017. The WF-1000X stand out from the crowd by offering three-stage noise cancellation, which is designed to let in voices, surrounding audio, or virtually nothing at all. The earbuds are less stylish than the B&O Play E8s, but are also very comfortable, with a very strong baseline and an almost raucous, vocal-heavy soundstage. They sound great, but have no controls on the buds, forcing you to use your phone. The battery lasts around three hours and the case provides two more charges for a total of nine hours, which isn’t fantastic for the genre, but the promise of impressive noise-cancellation hopes to offset that issue. They are available to buy now.
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