Christmas gifts for tech lovers: the best headphones and earbuds

We’ve scoured the shelves for the finest headphones and Bluetooth wireless earbuds, that offer crystal clear sound and impressive noise cancelling

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 10 December, 2016, 12:03pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 10 December, 2016, 12:03pm

In a busy city like Hong Kong with its cacophony of buses, trams and cars – let alone the constant chatter – escapism is as easy as putting on a pair of headphones. But only if they’re any good. From the latest wireless urban products and activewear to travel-friendly earbuds and noise-cancelling devices for completely shutting out the world, we’ve scoured the stores for the very best headphones available today.

Christmas gifts for tech lovers: the best wearable gadgets

The iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, that were launched a few months ago, do not use wired headphones. Without a standard 3.5mm audio jack, all audio is routed through the Apple Lightning port, and though there is an adaptor in the box for attaching headphones, it may have started a new trend. Other wireless headphones will doubtless follow in 2017.

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Cue a surge in Bluetooth-enabled over-ear headphones. Ironically it’s the Apple-owned Beats by Dr Dre that does the best business, with its Beats Solo3 Wireless headphones (HK$2,288, apple.com/hk) that have an impressive battery life (40 hours) and bass-heavy sound. Are these insanely popular headphones in danger of looking generic? Perhaps, but there are endless colour options, making this option, perfect for fashionistas.

For a more affordable alternative, try Sony’s MDR-XB650BT (HK$1,180, sony.com.hk). More refined over-ear alternatives include the Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 Wireless headphones (HK$1,799, fortress.com.hk), which keep going for 22 hours on one charge, and the B&W P7 Wireless headphones (HK$3,688, price.com.hk), which can last 17 hours.

In 2016, Bluetooth spawned a new genre of earphones that could well prove to be the shape of things to come; totally wireless two-piece earbuds without neckbands or cords.

Apple’s much anticipated AirPods (HK$1,288, apple.com/hk) are leading the charge and are the obvious choice for iPhone owners, but at the time of writing were still not being shipped.

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However, such ‘true wireless’ earbuds are beginning to take off and there are some other tempting niche choices.

Jabra’s microphone-equipped and sweatproof Elite Sport (HK$1,849, hk.mobilefun.com) earbuds will will appeal to active types who love to talk while they train, the more versatile Earin (HK$1,980, lanecrawford.com.hk) are better suited to those who want something more professional looking. These earbuds only boast three hours battery life – a massive drawback, for sure – but they can all be recharged twice using a hidden built-in power source in their clever charging cases. For example, Earin’s capsule keychain provides a couple of charges to get them through the working day.

There are wired headphones with the very best in active noise cancellation, another niche feature aimed at those who could use some relief from the hum of a busy office, a noisy commute, or the 80 decibels of white noise inside an aircraft.

The handy Bose QuietComfort 20/20i (HK$2,580, bose.hk) earbuds come in two versions for Android and Apple devices. They are snug in the ear and easily fit in a shirt pocket, making them great for travelling. Sennheiser’s MM 450-X Travel (HK$3,869, en-hk.sennheiser.com) are headband-style, but collapse into a compact size.

For business travellers for whom bulk is no concern and only the best noise cancellation and immersive audio is sought, it’s hard to beat the Bluetooth or wired Plantronics Backbeat Pro 2 SE (HK$1,399, plantronics.com/hk), though the similarly wireless Sony MDR-1000X (HK$3,180, sony.com.hk) come a close second.