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Spending more time working, exercising and watching TV at home had many people use their headphones and earbuds more than ever this year. In 2020, wireless headphones allowed people to attend a meeting on Zoom while cooking dinner (so long as they were muted and the camera was off, of course). Noise cancelling headphones — like the newly launched Apple AirPods Max — tuned out loud family members and eager pets when you needed a moment to yourself. Some people also took advantage of staying home by upgrading their entertainment systems, preparing to host a party with friends when life returns to normal and otherwise elevating their streaming devices. We’re looking back at some of the most purchased headphones and earbuds we covered this year, along with stand out speakers and soundbars.
Apple AirPods are by far the most purchased earbuds we’ve ever covered, and they were dubbed the best wireless earbuds for Apple users. The newest model, Apple AirPods Pro, were recently trending on sale during Black Friday. They boast an active noise cancellation feature and a transparency mode to keep some sound coming in — and they come with a wireless charging case that delivers more than 24 hours of battery life. Apple AirPods Pro are sweat- and water-resistant, making them many people’s go to headphones to wear while exercising.
While many wireless earbuds can cost you upwards of $100, these earbuds from Anker come in at under $50. They’re water-resistant and deliver three-and-a-half hours of wireless playtime from a single charge — but the charging case provides nine extra hours of battery life. Readers also showed special interest this year in the TaoTronics SoundLiberty 53 Wireless Earbuds and Jaybird Vista True Wireless Earbuds.
Active noise cancelling headphones make you feel like you’re suddenly in a quiet room, deadening outside sound instead of merely dampening it. Sony’s WH1000XM3 Noise Cancelling Headphones block out more noise than many of its competitors, but they still let in some sound through their microphones if you want to hear it. The headphones have a bassy sound, and are equipped with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. The headphones are also available in an upgraded version. Readers also especially liked Mpow H19 IPO Noise Canceling Headphones this year, too.
Although they’re a step down from the Apple AirPods Pro, these AirPods still stay in your ears while you move around and eliminate the pesky (often tangled) headphone cord . The AirPods have voice-activated Siri access and come with a wireless charging case. They’re powered by the Apple H1 headphone chip, so they deliver a faster and more stable wireless connection to your devices, too.
When looking for bookshelf speakers, experts recommend you go with ones that have a larger bandwidth and a flatter frequency. Edifier’s Powered Bluetooth Bookshelf Speakers have built-in volume and tone controls, as well as wireless Bluetooth compatibility. They’re self-powered so no amp is needed, and they pair with a smartphone or iPad as well as with a Blu-ray player or self-powered turntable. Polk Audio’s T15 100 Watt Home Theater Bookshelf Speakers are also a popular option.
Just in time for the holidays, Roku launched the Roku Streambar this year, a compact soundbar and the smaller sibling to the Roku Smart Soundbar. It equips four speakers into its body — two front-facing and two pivoted sideways — and can stream 4K HDR content. It also works alongside Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. The Roku Ultra 2020 Streaming Media Player was also recently released and is similarly liked by Shopping readers.
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