Do you hear what I hear? Choose wisely on headphones – Houston Chronicle


This year I auditioned at least half a dozen new wired and wireless headsets for my iPhone and other devices. After countless hours of testing, I concluded that while none of the new headsets will unseat my longtime favorite wired and wireless headphones, I did discover a pair of new devices I like well enough to use occasionally and recommend.

Let’s start with a quick look at my current favorite wired and wireless headphones.

My absolute favorite headphones of any type are Apple’s wireless AirPods. Although they’re priced a bit beyond my comfort zone at $159, after a year of testing, they’re still my go-to headphones for most occasions. They sound good, are surprisingly comfortable considering they’re fabricated from hard plastic, and they work flawlessly with all of my Apple devices. But their killer feature is that no other headphones come close when it comes to making and receiving telephone (and FaceTime) calls.

My favorite wired headphones for nearly a decade are Klipsch Image S4i ($75.95), now discontinued but still available. Before the AirPods came along, they were my absolute favorite for myriad reasons — they’re affordable, they’re comfortable, and they sound almost as good as AirPods for making and receiving calls.

While I recommend the AirPods or Image S4i without hesitation, this year I tried a couple of other headsets worthy of your consideration.

The first is Blackloud’s Soundot AF1 FM ($79.99), wired earbuds that include a built-in FM receiver and a digital signal processor that lets you fine-tune what you hear.

Controlled with a free iOS app, their signature feature is compression-free FM radio that works without requiring internet connectivity. In other words, you can listen to FM radio anywhere in the world, even without a cellular or Wi-Fi connection. Because it uses its own built-in FM chip, it also reduces the battery drain and playback delays associated with streaming audio. If you love to listen to FM radio, this is the headset for you.

Finally, while I’m not a fan of “noise-canceling” headphones, which sound muffled and lousy to my ear when their noise-canceling circuitry is enabled, I found a set this year that has so many redeeming characteristics that I can recommend them in spite of the whole muffled noise-canceling thing.

They’re called Mixcder E7; they’re over-the-ear Bluetooth wireless headphones that feature Active Noise Cancelling to continuously detect and react to outside noises, analyze sound waves and block out ambient sound by creating inverse sound waves.

Until recently, noise-canceling headphones like these would run you at least $200. Like more expensive offerings, the Mixcder E7s are super-comfortable and provide a rich, full listening experience with nicely defined bass. But, unlike those others, these are reasonably priced at just $59.99.

One last thing: From now until Christmas, you can save $20 on Mixcder E7s with coupon code MIXCDER7 at www.amazon.com.

bob@workingsmarter

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