Stylized Alex Ward logo

Headphone Reviews

Okay, so where do I start? I have a ton of true wireless earbuds and I've been itching to get a post about them out. First we'll start off with a table of all the ones I've used, along with several of their traits, and then I'll write a review of each one of them along with some helpful links if you want to know more.

Note: I've not finished doing the microphone reviews yet, and I intend to have a sample of each of the microphones available, but I'll get to that eventually.

Now, obviously this is all super subjective. Especially the comfort category. So take everything in here with the proper grain-of-salt...ness.

Cut to the chase, what are your top 3?

  1. Apple Airpods Pro v2
  2. Anker Soundcore Space A40
  3. Sony WF-1000XM4
  4. LG Tone Free FP9

(Yeah, that was 4, but the LGs deserve to be on a list).

If you're on a budget, the Skullcandy Sesh line is worth a look.

Headphone Matrix

HeadphoneBattery Hours (Buds)Battery Hours (Case)Bluetooth VersionANCNoise IsolationLow LatencyTracking (Find)BT MultipointIP RatingMicrophoneSound QualityComfortCase SizePrice
Skullcandy Sesh Evo5195.0NoSomeNoYesIP55233$ 29.99
Skullcandy Sesh ANC6465.2YesYesYesYesNoIP55333$ 79.99
Skullcandy Indy4125.0NoSomeNoNoIP55224$ 39.99
Galaxy Buds6135.0NoYesYesPartialIPX22442$ 66.50
Galaxy Buds Live6155.0YesNoYesPartialIPX2451$ 219.99
Apple Airpod Pros4.5185.0YesSomeNoYesIPX44551$ 199.99
Apple Airpod Pros v26305.3YesSomeNoYesIPX4551$ 249.99
LG Tone FP96155.2YesSomeYesPartialIPX42441$ 139.99
Sony WF-1000XM48165.2YesYesYesPartialNone5541$ 279.99
Sony WF-1000XM34125.0YesYesYesPartialNone415$ 199.99
Razer Hammerhead (Gen 1)4125.0NoNoYesNoIPX4333$ 43.00
JLAB Air Executive6.5245.0NoSomeNoNoIP550224$ 40.00
Status Between Pros12365.2NoYesNoNoIPX5442$ 149.00
Anker Soundcore Space A4010505.2YesYesNoNoYesIPX4441$ 99.00
Anker Soundcore VR P106245.2NoSomeYesNoNo*IPX4443$ 69.99

Some notes:

  • Tracking (Find) denotes whether or not there's a "Find My" equivalent - either via Apple Find My, Tile, or otherwise. "Partial" generally means that if you're in bluetooth range you can make them beep loudly.
  • Case Size - 1 = Smallest, 5 = Largest. 1 is about the ideal and is compared to the iPod Pro case size.
  • Comfort and Sound Quality are both 1 = Worst, 5 = Best.

Headphone Reviews

Skullcandy Sesh Evo

These are the cheapest on the list, and for the price they're surprisingly solid as far as budget earphones go. If I'm going somewhere with a reasonably high liklihood that the headphones won't return with me, these are the ones that are coming.

Sound-wise, they're generally pretty flat - but they do support 3 different EQ modes which can tweak the sound a little. In my experience, they don't really make that big of a difference.

They're not uncomfortable, but they're not exactly comfortable either. I can wear them for a reasonable amount of time and not notice they're there - but activating the buttons can take a bit of effort since you need to push them inward towards your ear canals.

The case itself is a good size. Reasonably pocketable, and holds the buds without too much issue.

One neat thing about the Evos is they have built in tracking with the Tile app. While not as good as the latest iteration of Find My, it does work and is a nice bonus for an incredibly cheap set of true wireless earbuds.

Skullcandy Sesh ANC

Building on the same platform as the Sesh Evos, these are the same form factor, with a slightly thinner case and added ANC.

The ANC itself is pretty decent, and you can switch between three modes: ANC On, ANC off, and "Stay Aware" mode - ultimately the Stay Aware mode didn't have particularly great transparancy, and I could barely tell the difference between it and ANC off mode until I went into the app and adjusted the Stay Aware slider all the way up, and then it had good transparency for an indoor setting. Outdoors, however, the ANC was still stronger than I'd have liked for walking around, looking for traffic, interacting with folks on the street and the like. ANC on was pretty good for the price point it's at.

The Sesh ANCs do have different EQ modes, but unlike the Evos you must have the app in order to change modes. It has 3 built in modes: Music, Movie, and Podcast. You can also set custom EQ modes.

Skullcandy Indy

These are actually pretty disappointing, they're very similar in sound quality to the Sesh Evos, but they're worse in about every other way that counts. The Case is too big to be pocketable, the buds themselves are not comfortable, the wings come off of the buds when you try to take them out of your ears.

If you want a set of Skullcandy, just go for the Sesh Evos.

Galaxy Buds

I picked these up right when Samsung released them, and they were my daily drivers for a long time.

The original buds do not have ANC, but they do a pretty great job at noise isolation. They do have the option to allow noise through so that you can hear the surroundings through the noise isolation.

The IPX2 rating lets them survive a bit of a sweaty run, but anything more than a light drizzle is going to potentially cause some problems with the buds.

Fit wise, they feel great - the isolation doesn't feel unnatural or like there's any pressure build up.

Sound quality is pretty good, they have an equalizer that you can tweak - the bass notes aren't very pronounced though.

Galaxy Buds Live

Okay, so these little beans are bizarre and I love them.

First off, they do have ANC, and it works fairly well - but there's zero noise isolation so the sounds from the outside tend to leak in. But the ANC does help mitigate that some.

Fit wise, these fit in the ears in the most unique way out of all of the buds I own. There is no silicon part to seal the ear canal, they just sit in the lower portion of the ears. Even so, they're in there pretty good - I don't think I can shake them out by shaking my head vigorously.

Otherwise, their sound quality is on par with the Buds, with a little bit of quality suffering because of the lack of seal.

Apple Airpods Pro

These are basically the gold-standard for me. They're very comfortable, have strong ANC, have a very pocketable case, etc.

One of the best selling points is if you're on the Apple Ecosystem, switching between paired devices is really quick. Likewise, Spatial Audio is really ...neat? Bizarre? I don't know but I like it.

Apple Airpods Pro v2

Building on the success of the Airpods Pro, the v2s take a great product and improve them even further. Basically everything about the v1s is improved, with the ANC being impressively strong especially in a very noisy environment. It can be a little jarring when the ANC kicks up a notch when the environment gets louder and suddenly you feel a bit more pressure on your ears.

I have been having one strange issue with the v2s, sometimes they like to disconnect from the system I'm on, but it's really hit-or miss.

LG Tone Free PF9

All around, these are great earbuds for listening to music. I use them primarily with my Steam Deck. Their sound profiles are good and you can adjust a lot of settings via the LG App.

They have ANC, and their transparency mode is among the best (rivaling the Airpods for hearability). In fact, they pick up voices very well and can block out other noises. Unlike a lot of ANC headphones, voices come through clearly and not "tinny" when the transparency mode is on.

The only bad thing I have to say about these is the microphones are bad. Really bad. You'll probably be understood on calls, but the person(s) on the other end are not going to have a pleasant time.

Sony WF-1000XM3

For me, these were a huge disappointment and I've since gotten rid of them. First off, the case is huge. This is probably not a problem if you're carrying them in a purse, but for a pocket they're going to take up most of the space in there. The buds themselves are small so I guess most of the bulk is just battery?

The buds are just uncomfortable for how they fit in the ear canal. I tried a bunch of different tips, and none of them made it any more comfortable. My ears always hurt within 30 minutes.

The ANC is good, and the sound profile was quite good, lots of bass and everything is crisp and clear. Transparency mode is fine, though external sounds do sound a little tinny.

The connection, however, was far from stable. It'd frequently bug out when on calls, just listening to music, or trying to do normal things.

Sony WF-1000XM4

I'm pleased to say that Sony did fix most of the complaints I had in the previous version of these buds, and I like the XM4s a lot better. In fact, they made it to the #3 on the list of buds that I own.

For one, the case is much much smaller - it's just a hair bigger than the Airpod Pros case, so it's much more pocketable. For two, they're more comfortable to wear, as they sit in the ears better (I do still have some ear pain after several hours, but it doesn't happen nearly as quickly).

The sound is great, the bass notes are deep, and the overall sound profile is really good.

Razer Hammerhead (Gen 1)

The Gen 1 Hammerheads have about one thing going for them, and it's their low latency mode for "gaming". In practice, there are many better options than these now. I haven't used them in quite a while.

It's possible the updated version of them will have more features, but really - grab something else for a lower pricepoint if all you need is low latency.

JLAB Air Executive

I picked these up in an airport because I forgot my buds at home, and, well, I have a headphone purchasing problem.

They're "fine" soundwise - middling in about every respect. The way they charge is baffling, they have a USB-A dongle attached to the case - which makes the charging process generally pretty awkward. It's really only easy to charge via a laptop, because the cord is too short to reach comfortably to anything else (like a charger with a USB-A port built in).

The main reason I don't use these anymore is they developed a bug that would cause the volume to increase a single notch every 10-20 seconds. It was.... not great.

They've been sent to the e-waste recyclers.

Status Between Pros

I wanted to like these. I really did.

My gripes started with the case - it's really hard to get the buds out of them. This is good if your cat likes to knock cases onto the ground, scattering the buds to the wind, but it's not great when you want to use the things.

I was able to get them connected and listen a few times - but then my connection problems began. Couldn't get them to stay connected for the life of me, and coming back after a few days of not using them, it was a dance to see if I could get them to pair again.

Comfort: They're comfortable, I wore them for a good 6 hours without any issue - and the battery lasted that whole time (which was a plus). They do stick pretty far out of the ears though, so they look....kinda awkward.

Sound was generally pretty good - the bass wasn't as deep as some of the others, but the overall sound profile was good.f

All in all, I've given these away, as I can't justify the use of them given the annoyances in connecting.

Anker Soundcore Space A40

I love these - they're my #2 set of buds that I own. The case size is good, very pocketable.

The buds are very comfortable, and sit in the ears securely. Like the Airpod Pros I tend to forget I'm wearing them.

Sound profile is also quite good - the bass is rich on the default sound profile (which you can also adjust to a bunch of different profiles), though not as deep as the Sony XM4s.

Battery life is also ridiculously good outside of the case, as well as with the case - You won't need to charge these things very often, and when you do you can do it via QI charging.

They have bluetooth multipoint as well, which allows you to have 2 devices connected at once, and have the sound quickly switch between them, so you can say, be playing games on a switch and then be able to answer a call without needing to switch connections. It does not allow you to mix the audio between them, however. It's more like very rapid switching back and forth between audio sources without needing to do anything.

I've not yet tested the microphone, but when I do, I'll update here.

Anker Soundcore VR P10

So... these things are a bit of a gimmick, but they have a very cool gimmick which make them useful for a particular set of situations.

The gimmick itself is a wireless dongle which transmits the sound over a 2.4 ghz connection for low latency connections for use with VR and video games. You can just plug the dongle into the USB-C port of a PS5 and just go for it. Likewise, they sell it as a way to do "VR Audio" by putting the dongle into an Oculus Quest - it matches the color profile of a Quest 2 very well. Additionally! The dongle has passthrough charging, so you don't need to disconnect it to charge the Quest, which is really really neat.

The really cool thing about all of this is you can also pair the buds to a bluetooth connection point and mix the audio together. This means you can have Discord audio on your phone, while also listening to a game Audio on a PS5 - which is a very niche use-case but one that's extremely handy for me when I'm wanting to play FFXIV on my console but also chat with the Free Company at the same time.

Unfortunately, when you're doing something like that, you cannot easily control the volume of the game audio as it comes through. The buds will prioritize the bluetooth connection, and dim the game audio to a predetermined level - and you cannot adjust that mix.

Sound-wise, they're pretty solid - the fit is comfortable and they're secure in the ears (so I don't think you need to worry about them falling out if you're doing something intensive in VR).

They also have RGB LEDs on them...for some reason? I guess to make it look cooler.