Apple, Bose, Beats and more

Best headphones in 2024 for work, travel and play (Photo via Getty Images).

When my small-town parents visited Toronto for the first time, what struck them most wasn’t the number of people or the height of the buildings: it was the headphones. Almost everyone on the street wore them: pedestrians zoomed through intersections, all bobbing AirPod-flanked heads or talking into thin air. One person took them out forcefully when asked for directions and frowned with a look that screamed: Aren’t headphones the universal sign for? Do not talk to me?

We’ve been ear-deep in headphone culture since the inception of the voluminous and always cool Beats by Dre. Lately, our ears have gotten smaller and become more than music-generating powerhouses: they’re our intimate companions; little technological wonders that have many of us loving jewelry for hours on end.

And yet, sifting through dozens of options and choosing the right earbuds can be a daunting task. Here, I’ve reviewed seven of the most popular headphones – after putting them through a workday and a sweaty workout – to help you decide which is best for you.

man with AirPods Pro (2nd generation) and airpods on the tableman with AirPods Pro (2nd generation) and airpods on the table

With seamless iPhone pairing and Siri at your disposal, the AirPods Pro (2nd generation) are hard to beat for Apple enthusiasts.

Love them or hate them, the most important criticism there is Apple is that the updated versions of their products differ little from their predecessors (see: iPhones 6 through 14). However, the AirPods Pro 2nd generation are a surprising exception and are miles ahead of their non-Pro counterparts. Like many people, I spent much of the past year wearing the standard AirPods (not the Pros), whose long frames many compared to cigarette butts for the ears. The Pros not only look sharper, they also perform much better. Pairing the phone is seamless, the battery life is plentiful, and the noise cancellation technology is better than any other device on this list. I wore them on a flight and could barely hear the constant hum of the plane engine, let alone the babies’ cries.

I only recommend the AirPods for Apple users. Others might still be able to use the AirPods because they connect to Bluetooth, but they’ll miss out on useful settings like voice commands for Siri and seamless battery life control. If you don’t have an iPhone, you’re better off looking elsewhere.


Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) with MagSafe case (USB-C).

$280 at Amazon

man wearing Bose Quietcomfort Earbuds II in blackman wearing Bose Quietcomfort Earbuds II in black

With premium sound quality and impressive noise cancellation technology, the Bose Quietcomfort Earbuds II create an auditory experience that’s hard to match.

  • Why it’s great: Adaptable noise cancellation, powerful bass and clear sound

  • Room for improvement: Some Amazon shoppers had trouble connecting to the companion app

Android users, these are your AirPods Pro counterparts. The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II feature nearly identical noise-cancelling technology, have a similar cultural cache (at least in music lover circles), and even cost the same. When you buy headphones at this price, you expect some benefits beyond impeccable sound and ear comfort – and the Bose headphones deliver. They come with customizable levels of noise cancellation, which is incredibly useful. It allows me to go into full silent mode when I wear them to work and then carry them around with little noise as I walk or run around town and need some level of spatial awareness. That attitude, along with their sleek look and durability, makes the QuietComfort headphones all-day: you can wear them to work and then leave them on for your workout at the end of the day. And just like the AirPods with the iPhone, these devices pair beautifully with the Bose Music app, allowing users to easily manipulate noise cancellation settings, sound preferences, battery life, and software updates.


These Bose headphones have thousands of five-star reviews.

$319 at Amazon

man wearing Jabra Active Elite 7 earbuds man wearing Jabra Active Elite 7 earbuds

The Jabra Active Elite 7’s workout tracking technology and sweat resistance make it an excellent choice to wear while exercising.

  • Why it’s great: Sweat and dust resistant, high quality sound, personalized feedback

  • Room for improvement: If you already have a smartwatch, you may not benefit from the additional features

The Jabra Active Elite 7 is perfect for the fitness enthusiast who can’t get enough workout data. Many devices (watches, phones, rings and bands) now give you specialized information about your workout, but the Elite 7 are the first headphones I’ve seen do this. They have built-in motion sensors that track activity and provide real-time suggestions and personalized feedback, all accessible via the Jabra Sound+ app.

The thing is, I suspect many people are like me and already have a watch that takes care of that. Nevertheless, it’s a fun environment and adds to the all-round technical nature of the Active 7s. They’re ruggedly sweat and dust resistant, they have a handy Find My Jabra feature that prevents you from losing them, and via the app they adjust the bass and treble to best suit your specific ears. Even if you don’t care about the fitness information, it’s well worth the purchase.


The Shokz Open Run Pro fits snugly around your head and delivers sound through the cheekbones to clear your ear canal.The Shokz Open Run Pro fits snugly around your head and delivers sound through the cheekbones to clear your ear canal.

The Shokz Open Run Pro fits snugly around your head and delivers sound through the cheekbones to clear your ear canal.

  • Why it’s great: Comfortable during exercise, clears the ear canal

  • Room for improvement: Larger than its counterparts

The Shokz headset is unlike anything else on this list. The main difference is that it does not cover your ear canal. Instead, the small speakers rest on the cheekbones just in front of the ears and deliver sound via bone conduction. The idea is to enjoy music without losing awareness of your surroundings. Sounds strange, but it works.

As I said, I love running around town – and I enjoy the Open Run Pro because they help me find the difficult balance between alertness and stillness at the same time. They play so loudly that I can jam to my music, never overshadowing the sound of the cyclist or the gas guzzler approaching quickly on my shoulder. A bonus for athletes is that the Shokz are sweat-resistant and, despite their size, rest comfortably on the head without bouncing. That said, if you’re the type of person who wants to immerse yourself in music and completely forget about the world around you for a while, then the Shokz might not be for you.


These user-favorite headphones have nearly 17,000 reviews.

$170 at Amazon

JBL Tune 130NC earbud headphones in the man's ear and on the tableJBL Tune 130NC earbud headphones in the man's ear and on the table

Compact and durable, the JBL Tune 130NC is a smart purchase for bargain hunters.

  • Why it’s great: Affordable, comfortable and great battery life

  • Room for improvement: Some customers note that the headphones are “not good” for calls

When buying headphones, not everyone wants to pay more for an arsenal of settings; some people just want a reliable speaker. If you’re not too keen on having Siri in your ear, sound waves whizzing through your cheekbones, or workout information from your earbuds and would rather have something that gives you hours of reliable music, I’d recommend the JBL Tune 130NC. At $130, it’s a good buy: the songs may not be as crisp as in, say, the Bose QuietComfort, but the difference is far too small to make you stop mid-workout and crave more bass. There’s also some noise cancellation and the charging case extends listening time to a whopping 24 hours. I also like their durability: all my previous JBL products have stood the test of time gracefully and performed well for years to come.


man wearing Beats Fit Pro earbuds and black headphonesman wearing Beats Fit Pro earbuds and black headphones

The Beats Fit Pro is small but powerful, has selective noise cancellation and absorbs a big charge in just five minutes.

The first time I used the BeatsFit ProI tried my best not to compare them to their powerful big brother, the Beats By Dre headphones, for fear of being disappointed. And sure, small pods can’t deliver the same deep sound as a device 50 times their weight, but these earbuds still live up to their namesake and pack a killer punch. I even found myself lowering the volume on bass-heavy songs.

Besides having great speakers, these devices also have a few ingenious advantages. The first is Transparency Mode: a noise-cancelling feature that lets in external sounds when they’re particularly loud or loud, so you’re only aware when you need to be. I tested this on a busy street: the earphones suppressed the constant hum of the city and let in the occasional shrill car horn. The second is Fast-Fuel, which gives the Fit Pros 90 minutes of life juice after just a five-minute charge.

Best Buy Canada

man with Powerbeats Pro in white in the man's ear and on the tableman with Powerbeats Pro in white in the man's ear and on the table

The Powerbeats Pro has all the features of its brother, the Fit Pro, and the Apple H1 chip ensures an easy connection to the iPhone.

  • Why it’s great: Unparalleled sound quality, easy pairing with Apple device

  • Room for improvement: Some reviewers found the headphones fell out of sync too easily

Think of the Powerbeats Pro like a cross between the AirPods and the Beats Fit Pro. They have essentially all the settings and features of the Fit Pro, but thanks to the built-in Apple H1 chip, you have access to fun features like Siri and iCloud syncing, and you can easily make calls during a workout. While the noise canceling technology may not be as powerful as what I’ve seen from the AirPods, the music quality here is better and more suitable for bass lovers. I also rank the Powerbeats Pro as the most comfortable on this list: they fit snugly without pressing against my ear hole and are snug during hard runs or rigorous plyometric workouts. If you enjoy the Beats Fit Pro but want something that will keep you a little more connected to your phone, it’s worth spending the extra $30 for the Powerbeats.


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