THEY MAY LOOK BULKY, BUT WIRELESS NECKBAND EARBUDS ARE SURPRISINGLY COMFORTABLE AND WON’T TIE YOU UP IN KNOTS. A REVIEW OF OUR TOP 4.
FOR ANY MUSIC lover who longs to be untethered from a smartphone, Bluetooth headphones look like they’d offer the ultimate freedom.
In reality, though, they can be harder to live with than expected. Totally wire-free models, like Apple’s futuristic AirPods, are easy to lose. Over-the-ear models weigh you down too much to feel truly liberating. And those Bluetooth ’buds whose earpieces are linked by a single wire have their drawbacks, too: subpar battery life and unwieldy cables that you can hear hitting your body as you move around.
In the real world, where you’re constantly taking your headphones on and off throughout the day, the neckband earbud may turn out to be the most practical.
With neckband earbuds, each earpiece has a short wire connecting it to a band that fits around the back of your neck.
The seemingly clunky design offers many advantages: Because the cables are short and kept apart from each other,
they’re unlikely to tangle (unlike the corded earbuds you’re always stuffing into your pockets). The neckband anchors
the cords in place, so there’s less noise when you listen on the move.
And when you’re not using them, you can simply let the earbuds dangle. It’s easy enough to drape the neckband over
your shoulders and leave it there until the end of the day.
Although the band itself does add weight, it rests mostly on your collarbone; after a while, you don’t notice it. Most
important, that little bit of bulk allows manufacturers to pack in larger batteries that last all day. These are also pretty much
the only category of headphone to vibrate when you get an alert on your smartphone (available on all models shown here
except the BeatsX).
LG’s Tone series of neckband headphones feature earbuds whose wires can be retracted by giving them a tug, like a rollup shade. If you’re looking for active noise cancellation, the Bose QuietControl 30 ($300) offers that perk, but we found that simply making sure that the earpieces of standard earbuds are seated firmly in your ear canal does a pretty good job of blocking outside noise, too.
Here, four models that not only sound great but are sleek and comfortable enough to hang out with all day.
HANGERS ON : Sonically Superior Neckband Earbuds
1. For Apple Acolytes: BeatsX
This is the outlier of the bunch: Unlike other earbuds shown here, the BeatsX has no bulky neckband to house a large battery, yet it delivers eight hours of playback (and yields two hours of playtime with a five-minute charge). Even better, for owners of an iPhone, iPad or Mac running a newer operating system, the BeatsX eliminates much of the headache associated with Bluetooth pairing. Your first device will automatically sync with the BeatX with just a tap. After that, all of your other Apple devices associated with the same iCloud account get paired in the background. A thicker cable does make these ’buds feel heavier than the others do, and as with other Beats products, the sound is aggressively bottom-heavy. But for Apple devotees, the convenience makes
up for the minor tradeoffs. $150 (Bt5,000), beatsbydre.com
2. For Stellar Sonics: Sennheiser HD 1 In-Ear Wireless
Expecting pristine sound quality when using earbuds in public is rather misguided, since subtle sonic improvements are easily obliterated by background noise. That said, this pair does sound heavenly, delivering airy, shimmery high and mid frequencies plus plenty of measured and musical-sounding low end. The austere neckband, clad in sheepskin leather with a contrasting red stitch, houses an 1,100 milliam hour (mAh) battery that provides 10 hours of playback and can be fully recharged in 90 minutes. A little known feature that will appeal to audiophiles: If the compressed sound of Bluetooth gets you down, you can connect these earbuds to a computer via a micro-USB cable to listen using a purely digital audio path. $200, sennheiser.com
3. For Discretion: V-Moda Forza Metallo Wireless
If draping a neckband over your shoulders all day will detract from your meticulously put-together look, fear not.
The Forza Metallo Wireless’s lightweight titanium neckband is slim enough to hide under your shirt collar. Sound is open and uncoloured, with a crispness that shimmers and bass that never veers toward boomy. It’s also sport-friendly. In addition to being water resistant, it has a nanocoating that protects against sweat’s corrosive properties. Three sizes of earfins, which lock into the folds of your ear to keep the ‘buds secure, are included. The Forza Metallo has a 10-hour battery life (and a 15-minute quick charge that yields two hours of playback). $170, v-moda.com
4. For All-Day Listening: Klipsch X12 Neckband
The X12’s neckband is the most ornate. Clad in leather with copper-coloured caps, it houses not one but two 110-mAh batteries, thus these headphones’ impressive 18 hours of battery life. Although at 3.25 ounces (92.14 grams), it’s the heaviest model of those shown here, the X12 is still comfortable to wear. Music comes across as neutral and coloured, and a wide range of eartips makes it easy to get a good seal: Three sizes of single-flange tips are included, as well as two sizes of double-flange (for superior noise isolation), and a pair of audiophile-grade expanding foam eartips that are superlative at blocking background noise. The dedicated switch to toggle vibration alerts on and off is a nice touch, too. $399, klipsch.com