Professional musicians spend a lot of time testing and using earbuds. Here are their favorite wireless earbuds.
If you’ve ever walked out of a live stage performance with ringing in your ears, you know how delicate eardrums can be. Fortunately, many headphone designs manage to drown out external sound waves while letting folks lucidly listen to music, podcasts, videos, virtual meetings, or phone calls safely.
We asked musicians, who work in loud settings and often jet-set or road-trip for gigs, which pair of wireless earbuds they always pack. And while no pair of headphones is perfect, these are the best wireless earbuds most sought by masters in the music world for eardrum health, ease of use, and quality acoustics.
Best Wireless Earbuds Review
Professional Musician Gabriel Mervine: Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless ($190)
Trumpeter Gabriel Mervine has been a professional musician since age 13. Now in his 30s, Mervine teaches and performs original works across genres in his hometown of Denver and nationwide. He’s jammed with American funk band The Motet for almost a decade, in addition to other groups such as the Gabriel Mervine Quartet, which released a new single last month.
His favorite earbuds are the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless set, a 2019 winner of the consumer-voted Travel Retail Awards.
“I use these headphones all the time. They’re great for traveling, phone calls, deeper listening to music, napping in a car full of people, the gym, bus rides, and even cleaning at home sometimes,” said Mervine.
This pair is Bluetooth-compatible and has fingertip touch control, so you can easily change the music or answer calls. They include four ear tip sizes, allowing a more custom fit. These buds have a steeper price tag ($190), but the sound is prime. The two-mic beam technology increases the signal-to-noise ratio and enables greater purity.
Mervine said, “These headphones have a great consistency and high quality of sound, which is extremely clear. I listen to a lot of classical music, which can be difficult to hear precisely, but not on these headphones. Overall, I really like the quality of Sennheiser products and have used their products for a long time.”
“They also have great customer support for the few times I’ve had issues with other products over the years,” he said. Mervine doesn’t use them on runs or bike rides out of respect and safety for other recreationists. That said, he did note there’s a headphone setting called Transparent Hearing that allows users to hear their surroundings or hold a conversation while music is playing.
Luthier and Acoustical Engineer Matt Lackey: Plugfones Liberate 2.0 ($85)
Matt Lackey uses multiple wireless earbuds, but his top pick is the Plugfones Liberate 2.0, which he’s owned for a few months. These earbuds are a two-in-one earplug-earbud hybrid. Lackey is a professional instrument-builder and owner of Lackey Instruments. He plays fiddle and mandolin, and he’s also a part-time stone fabricator.
“These headphones have a 29-decibel sound-cancellation rating, which is great for keeping harsh noise away from my eardrums while I work on materials, like granite, and simultaneously allowing me to listen to music softly,” said Lackey.
The earbuds comply with the Noise Reduction Standards of Michael & Associates, an independent psychoacoustics laboratory. And the pair includes a second set of silicone plugs that offer a lower 27-decibel noise reduction. Also, the IsoTalk technology is a built-in noise-isolating mic, which helps reduce environmental noise for the person on the other end of the line.
“I also like that the buttons are easy to feel. Other pairs of headphones I’ve owned have had buttons that are not so easy to locate. And these quickly charge-up in 10 minutes, which gives you 2 hours of use,” he said.
Professional Musician Aubrey Mable: Skullcandy Indy True Wireless Earbuds ($60)
Guitarist, singer, and songwriter Aubrey Mable is half of LVDY, an indie-folk band with singer-songwriter Kathleen Hooper.
Based in Denver, the duo first picked up steam with grassroots shows across the U.S., followed by a successful $50,000 Kickstarter campaign to support their first full-length album. Mable balances music life on the road — she built out her own live-in van, dubbed Fitz — with a career as a health and wellness coach.
She needs one pair of earbuds for all tasks. Enter the Skullcandy Indy True Wireless Earbuds, which she bought 5 months ago and uses on the regular.
“I use these headphones when I travel. And they’re great for listening to music, and also for hands-free phone calls. I love that they have a more ergonomic, grippier earpiece than other earbuds. They fit and stay in my ears with ease. They produce a great sound, and they also do a very good job of canceling out noise if I’m in a louder setting,” said Mable.
The headphones feature Bluetooth wireless technology and noise reduction of ambient surroundings. The gel-like earpieces are resistant to sweat, water, and dust, which helps them stay put. And they include touch controls for calls, volume, and switching tracks.