Best Bluetooth Headphones Buying Guide [2021]

Bose QC35 headphones on a desk next to some plant and a coffee pot

The market for Bluetooth headphones has grown a lot and there are plenty of options to go through. This can make it very confusing to decide what options to go with, especially if you want specific features or need to meet a budget.

After testing many headphones options, doing hours of research, and getting opinions from others we have decided the best options in various categories for you.

Let’s check out our favorite options now.


Our Top Recommendations

1. Sony WH-1000XM4s – Our Favorite Pick

Sony’s WH-1000XM4s or XM4s for short are regarded as one of if not the best Bluetooth headphones on the market. They are great in all categories and often set the bar for things like battery life, ANC, and design.

The XM4s get around 30 hours of battery life, deliver a pretty clean sound, and have arguably the best ANC in any headphone. You also get key features like a transparency mode so you can hear everything around you.

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2. Drop + THX Panda – Best Sound

If sound is your main priority but you still want Bluetooth then Drop and THX’s Pandas is your best bet. They deliver excellent sound quality, especially for a Bluetooth pair of headphones. For the on the go audiophile, this is an excellent option to consider.

Unfortunately, the Pandas do not have ANC but for some, the audio quality is worth the sacrifice. Drop’s Pandas still don’t have the best audio for any headphone but in the Bluetooth category, it is second to none. The sound is clean, balanced, and packs punches in all the right areas.

It is also rated for about 30 hours of battery life and has fantastic comfort.

3. Apple AirPods Max – Best ANC

Apple’s AirPods Max is fantastic in multiple categories but where is it is best at is ANC. It is great at blocking out consistent background noise as well as sudden noises. It also features a 20 hours battery life, an aluminum design, great comfort, and sound quality that is almost as good as Drop and THX’s Pandas.

Unfortunately, you only have full access to the features of the AirPods Max if you use the headphones with an iPhone. Although the AirPods Max are great in a variety of categories because of the lack of in-depth support with Android and Windows, these headphones are not our favorite pick.

The fact of the matter is these headphones are fantastic if you use Apple products but if you plan to use Android and you prioritize ANC then the Sony XM4s may be the best option for you.

4. Microsoft Surface Headphones 2 – Best Interface

Angled view of Surface headphones from Microsoft.

The Surface Headphones 2 from Microsoft are a phenomenal pair of headphones but one area that makes them unique is the interface. Microsoft not only utilizes touch-capacitive functions that are on many Bluetooth headphones but they also provide two dials built into each earcup. The dials feel great and are very easy to understand. It allows changing volume and the level of ANC or background noise to be a very smooth process.

Microsoft’s Surface Headphones 2 have pretty good sound quality, a pretty decent battery life, and a comfortable design. They deliver a lot of what you would get with the top players like Sony’s XM4s but come at a cheaper price. If you are willing to make sacrifices on things like a smaller battery life (which is still quite good) and a slightly worse sound then the Surface Headphones 2 can provide a great experience at a fantastic price.

If you want to find out more about Surface Headphones 2, check out our review on them here.

5. Jabra Elite 85h – Best Value

If you are looking for a Bluetooth pair of headphones that gives you as much as possible at a fair price Jabra has a great option with their Elite 85h headphones.

The Jabra Elite 85h gives you ANC, a long battery life (up to 36 hours), fast charging, rain and water resistance, solid comfort, and a pretty decent sounding pair of headphones.

Jabra is known for providing great value audio devices and the Elite 85h is no different. These headphones are a great option to go for if you want all the key features and solid performance, without breaking the bank.

6. Razer Opus – Best Budget

For those who do not want to spend upwards of $200 for a pair of headphones, the Razer Opus gives you a ton of great features at a great price. While this pair still is not the cheapest Bluetooth pair out there, it is giving you a lot while not being overly expensive like the bigger players like the Sony XM4s or AirPods Max.

It is important to note that occasionally you can find the Jabra Elite 85h at a cheaper price and the Surface Headphones (1st generation) also hover at around the same price. Both are two great options to consider and out compete the Razer Opus in different ways depending on what you are looking for.

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Also Great

There are also some other competitive options that may be great for you but may not be the best in any one category.

Bose NC700

Bose NC700 headphones on a desk next to some keyboard switches

Another great pair of Bluetooth headphones is the Bose NC700. The NC700s deliver performance that is close to the Sony XM4s in every category but aren’t the best at anything. They are still a great option but we would usually just recommend going with the XM4s over them.

One reason you may choose to get Bose’s NC700s is if you like the looks. The sleek, modern design makes the headphones look good in any setting.

Surface Headphones (1st Generation)

If you still want the performance of the Surface Headphones 2 but you don’t have the budget then the original Surface Headphones are a great option. Not only are they a great value offering but they offer the same sound quality and almost all the same features as the Surface Headphones 2. The main differences are the battery life, more color options, and support for some more audio codecs.

Microsoft’s Surface Headphones are very comfortable, have a great sound for the price, and the overall package is quite solid.


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Is ANC Necessary?

One of the most common features among Bluetooth headphones is ANC or active noise cancellation. A question for many though is if they need ANC and if it is worth the additional cost.

ANC is a very nice feature to have because it can allow you to listen to music in more environments without being bothered by sounds from the outside world. This can help you stay focused while working in a public environment, allow you to able to listen to music outside in your own bubble or make everything quieter in a place like a plane.

In short, ANC is not a necessary feature but it can be very beneficial in many situations and along with ANC often comes a “transparency mode”. This will allow you to hear what’s around you, sometimes at an elevated volume, in case your in a situation where someone is talking to you or you need to hear anything else around you.

If you often use headphones while outside or work in a public or loud environment then ANC is very useful and a worthwhile investment. You can be more focused and enjoy music better in peace. Not to mention having ANC can make a flight much more enjoyable.

If you have extra money in your budget or ANC is useful in your use case it is a very useful feature.

Does Bluetooth Ruin Sound Quality?

One of the most important factors to consider when buying a new pair of headphones is the sound quality.

Bluetooth can affect sound quality but it also depends on the price point. For the vast majority of people, the sound quality from Bluetooth headphones above the $200 price tag will have great sound quality.

Only those who are used to very premium headphones or high fidelity audio will not be able to get the same experience with Bluetooth headphones but the Drop + THX Pandas and Apple AirPod Maxs deliver fantastic audio quality.

The amount of information that can go to Bluetooth headphones is capped unless you use them with a wire because only a specific amount of information can travel wirelessly. Again this issue won’t affect the majority of people.

In general, Bluetooth does not ruin audio quality but it will cap the potential for the audio quality. If you want the best audio possible you will either have to go with some of the more expensive Bluetooth options at $400 and $500 or just get premium headphones that aren’t Bluetooth.

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How Does Sound Quality Compare

If the only thing you value is sound quality, there are many options to consider. There are many Bluetooth headphones that have solid sound quality but the headphones with the best quality are not Bluetooth and you can get higher quality sound for the price as many Bluetooth headphones.

A lot of what you are paying for with Bluetooth headphones is the feature of Bluetooth. If all you care about is sound quality and the feature of Bluetooth is not important to you, there are various options on the market that you can look at. A solid Bluetooth pair will typically cost anywhere from 200 to 600 dollars but you can get the sound quality of a $200 pair of Bluetooth headphones for half the cost.

If sound quality is your main priority, there are many different headphones that you can consider like open-back headphones, which can offer a cleaner and wider sound.

Overall the sound quality of open-back headphones is not bad but for the price, there are better options and the best sounding headphones on the market are mostly wired, especially professional-grade options.

How To Choose Bluetooth Headphones

Top view of Bluetooth headphones and earbuds on a desk.

Choosing headphones can be very complicated and confusing. It is important to understand what budget you are looking at and then what features you prioritize the most.

Do You Need Bluetooth?

Before considering what Bluetooth headphones you want, you need to decide if you really would benefit from Bluetooth headphones.

If you want headphones to use on the go or you just want the ease of use of a Bluetooth device then Bluetooth may suit you perfectly. Bluetooth can make your setup easier and it can also make using headphones easier to use because there is no cable that you have to worry about.

If you plan to use your headphones with a desktop or in a studio environment then Bluetooth headphones may not be worth it for you and investing in a wired pair may give you better sound quality and price to performance.

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The Price

If Bluetooth headphones are right for you then the next important thing to decide is your budget. There are many Bluetooth headphones at various price ranges. If you have more money you can get headphones with features such as ANC in addition to great sound quality. There are also many fantastic value options.

Once you find what price is right for you, you should look at all the options in your price range. Finding what features matter to you is a great way to narrow down options and then you can find the best option for your price tag.

Sound Quality

The most important thing about headphones is how they actually sound. All the best sounding options will cost about $400 or more but you can still get great sound quality at a lower price tag.

When you have narrowed down your budget, understanding what options in your price range have the best sound quality is an important consideration. Of course, it is always good to maintain a balance of the best sound quality you can get in your budget while also getting the features that you prioritize.

Looking at comparisons between different options can be very helpful in deciding what are the best options.

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ANC

One of the most common features of Bluetooth headphones is ANC or active noise cancellation. This uses microphones on the outside of the headphones so an offset sound can be played allowing you to hear less sounds from the outside world.

ANC quality depends greatly but it gets better usually as you spend more. Headphones with better ANC will block out more outside noise especially sudden sounds like a door closing or someone coughing.

Noise cancellation is incredibly useful in public environments, especially very noisy ones like a plane or a public building. This will allow you to be able to listen better and get distracted less. If you want Bluetooth but are not in loud environments often you can potentially save some money. Most people will benefit from having ANC but unless you are always in loud environments you should not stretch your budget to get a pair with ANC.

Looks and Build

The build among Bluetooth headphones is mostly similar among all the options. Typically they use a mainly plastic fame with the use of materials like pleather and potentially some metal. Occasionally you can find some options that have mostly metal designs like the Apple AirPods Max.

Although more premium feeling and looking builds are nice to have they are not necessarily needed. Most premium Bluetooth headphones have solid build quality even with mostly plastic construction. If you do prioritize having an all-metal build there are a few options to consider but you will most likely have to pay a premium.

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Other Important Features

Apart from the main priorities of build quality, sound, and price, there are other nice to haves like software support, a carrying case, or other features that improve your experience with the device. These other features may help you narrow down which headphone is right for you.

Many headphones do have these additional features like software, a carrying case, and potentially additional cables so you may need to look out for more specific things about each like how good the software is.

Why Trust Us

As a team with tech and audio enthusiasts, we not only study these subjects for work but also outside of that. We gather the most relevant information and like to test as much as possible ourselves.

We have had the opportunity to test these different headphones and also have experience in many other areas of the audio world. Additionally with this content not only can you get a recommendation from a user that may have similar interests as you but you can get a view from an audiophile’s perspective.

At The Tech Frontier, we have compiled this list through our testing of different Bluetooth headphones. We also have used previous knowledge with different kinds of headphones, platforms, and operating systems to provide recommendations for all kinds of audiences.


Conclusion

Surface Headphones with a plant in the background.

Hopefully these options have helped you narrow down your search as to what options are best for you and you now know what to look for in headphones when you’re researching what to purchase.

There are many great Bluetooth headphones that have little differences in their interface of an improvement in a specific part of how it sounds so doing some additional research is very useful to make a more informed decision.

If you want to check out more guides and reviews check out the rest of our site with new articles coming out every week.

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AirPods Pro vs PowerBeats Pro: Which One Is Better?

Ever since Apple released their AirPods, in-ear headphones have taken over the audio market.

In-ear headphones, commonly known as earbuds, are the new wave and for good reason. Having your headphones fit into your pockets without needing to deal with the tangled mess of wires, is very convenient.

Today we are going to be taking a closer look at two earbuds that have broken the audio game since their release to see which one is better. The AirPods Pro and PowerBeats Pro, sold by the same company, Apple.

PowerBeats Pro case next to Apple Airpods Pro case on a desk

The Main Differences

While being sold by the same company for similar prices, you would be shocked by the number of differences the AirPods Pro and PowerBeats Pro have.

In this article, we are going to split them up into separate sections, including battery life, design, comfort, features, audio quality, and more.


Whats In The Box?

Unboxing experience of PowerBeats Pro and AirPods Pro

Let’s talk about what we are getting in the box from each of these products.

With the AirPods, we get the actual AirPods and charging case (obviously), two sets of different ear tip replacements, and a USB-C to lightning charging cable. Unfortunately, you do not get a USB-C power adapter or any power adapter. So to charge your earphones, you’re going to need to already own a wall adapter, or buy one.

Let’s move on to the Beats. The Beats packaging is almost identical to that of the Airpods. You get the case, and the earphones, three sets of replacement ear tips, and a USB-A to Lighting charging cable. Now once again, Apple does not supply the user with a power adapter, so you are going to need to buy one, or already own one.

Now obviously, like with any tech product, both of these include manuals in the box. They just weren’t really exciting enough to put in the picture.

Let’s keep track of the score for this showdown. So far it’s PowerBeats Pro: 1 and AirPods Pro: 1.

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Design and Comfort

Airpod Pros next to PowerBeat Pros

Let’s first talk about the design of the two different cases. Now obviously the PowerBeats Pro have a much larger case in comparison to the AirPods Pro. This can either be a good thing or a bad thing for you. If you are someone who constantly loses things, and can’t seem to be able to keep track of where your stuff is, maybe the Powerbeats are a better option for you. Being so much larger, they would be much harder to lose than the Airpods Pro.

That being said, if you are someone who has grown to love the minimalistic form factor of most wireless earbuds, small and slim, then you are probably going to like the AirPods Pro more than the Powerbeats.
About the earbuds themselves, the AirPods have a much smaller design. Unlike their predecessor, the Airpods, the AirPods Pro actually have silicone tips that make sure that no matter how hard you shake your head, they won’t fall out. They also greatly improve comfort and help support compatibility with many more ears.

The Powerbeats Pro have a sort of double protection from falling out. They have the ear tips that the Airpods Pro have, as well as wingtips to guarantee that no matter how hard you are working out, the earbuds stay in your ear. The wingtip might not be favored by all, however, as they stick out a bit more than the AirPods Pro.

For this round, it looks like a tie between the Powerbeats Pro and Airpods Pro. Let’s give them each a point. After this round, its PowerBeats Pro: 2, AirPods Pro: 2.

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Sound Quality

Now, this is where it gets a bit more complicated in the comparison. Sound quality is obviously a really important aspect of any audio device. But if you are buying these as an audiophile and need the absolute best sound quality, I’m sorry to tell you, but you’re in the wrong spot.

Ok so let’s get one thing straight, these two pairs of earbuds are not to be bought if you are strictly looking for the best sound quality. These are two great pairs of earbuds when it comes to design, convenience, but not for the optimal sound quality.

Also in this comparison, we won’t use the special audio features that the Airpods pro have in mind, just to make it fair. But do remember when you’re buying either one to remember the features when you click to check out.

The PowerBeats Pro have the typical emphasis on the low-end frequencies, giving users a higher bass while exercising. The mids are more recessed, but if you listen to bass-heavy music primarily, that may be what you are looking for. The highs are nothing too special and being much more predictable with a sharp dropoff, to avoid users from experiencing ear pain while listening to their music.

Now for the AirPods Pro, they have a much more consistent sound profile but still have that fun V-Curve among Bluetooth earbuds. Now the only thing that can possibly edge the AirPods pro over the Powerbeats Pro is the ANC isolation system. Asides from that, it’s mostly subjective.

Overall the main takeaways are that the AirPods Pro have a bit cleaner sound but it is not a huge improvement. Both have similar sound signatures too and will sound great with Pop, Rap, or EDM genres.

At the end here the AirPods Pro come out ahead at 3 to 2.

Battery Life

AirPods Pro and PowerBeats Pro cases being charged

Battery life can be one of the most important aspects of any sort of technology, but you definitely don’t want your headphones dying on you as you are only halfway through your commute to work.

The PowerBeats Pro supply 9 hours of playback on a full charge. With the charging case, however, users can enjoy another 24 hours of playback. If by somehow, you managed to completely discharge your charging case, don’t despair, as just 5 minutes of charge gives the earbuds 1.5 hours of playback.

The AirPods Pro are a bit of a different story. On a full charge, you can only expect 4.5 hours of playback on each pod. Just like the Beats Pro, users can expect 24 hours with the Airpods pro charging case. When it comes to fast charging, a quick 5-minute plug-in can give you another hour of playback.

Apple users also have the luxury of checking the battery status of their device through the use of the batteries widget, which was introduced in the release of IOS 14.0.

So at the end of this round, I felt that PowerBeats had a minor step up just taking the lead. At this point, its PowerBeats Pro: 3, AirPods Pro: 3.

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The Features

Even though the Powerbeats are sold for about $30 less, you would think that two products sold by the same company would have a similar caliber of features right? Well, you would be wrong. The Airpods Pro absolutely blow the PowerBeats Pro out of the water in this aspect.

On the Airpods Pro, you have ANC (Active Noise Cancellation), Transparency mode, and Spatial Audio. ANC is pretty self-explanatory, activate it to block out noise from the outside. Transparency does the opposite, it allows noise in so you can hear your surroundings. Spacial audio essentially provides users with 3D audio when watching supported TV shows or movies. Not only that, but the Airpods Pro have tests to ensure that the ear tip that you have chosen makes a proper seal in your ear. Another great feature the Airpods have is the ability to activate Siri or toggle ANC and Transparency mode, by holding the end of the earbud.

Let’s move on to the PowerBeats Pro. They basically have none of the cool audio settings the AirPods Pro have. With the PowerBeats, you can activate Siri by holding the button on the side. Aside from that, the only better thing about the PowerBeats over the AirPods is the ability to change the volume of the media with a button on the actual earbud.

I think it’s obvious that the AirPods Pro took that round with ease, so the score is now PowerBeats Pro: 3, AirPods Pro: 4.


Conclusion: Which Is Better?

PowerBeats Pro case next to Apple Airpods Pro case on a desk

So what is the final verdict? Well, each of these products have their separate pros and cons, and it really depends what you want out of an audio device. Are you looking for the ideal workout device, or something more low-key?

Well, let’s answer these questions. The only thing that the Powerbeats pro have that is objectively advantageous in comparison to the Airpods Pro is the greater battery life, and the only thing the Airpods Pro have that is objectively advantageous to the Powerbeats Pro is the onboard features. They both have different designs and comforts, one isn’t completely better than the other, and they both have virtually the same components in the box.

Now all of this comes at a price, obviously, and the PowerBeats Pro can often be found for a bit cheaper. The PowerBeats are often found for a bit under 200 while the AirPods Pro are often 200 or more. Now which one is better, well we can’t make that decision for you as the best option depends on your situation. If you mostly work out then the PowerBeats may be the best option for you but if you want an all-rounder the AirPods Pro may be the one for you.

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Microsoft Surface Headphones 2 Review: ANC, Bluetooth, Style

The Surface Headphones 2 are a pair of headphones for enjoying music especially while on the go.

Microsoft positions the pair in a highly competitive market of Bluetooth, ANC headphones with an interesting twist on having a more unique interface and look.

Let’s dive in and take a look and see how they compete.

Angled view of Microsoft Surface Headphones 2

The Verdict

Rating: 5 out of 5.

If you want an excellent pair of headphones that has Bluetooth, ANC, and a solid build, the Microsoft Surface Headphones are a great option to consider. They are a great option for music listening at home or on the go.

If you want everything that the top Bluetooth headphones deliver at a slightly cheaper price this is a great option. Microsoft’s Surface Headphones 2 are still very competitive but have a better value over some of the more expensive offerings on the market.

The Surface Headphones 2 are often compared to more expensive options like Sony’s XM4s or Bose NC700s. Although the Surface Headphones are 100 or more dollars less expensive, they compete very closely with these options and are often compared to both.

The build is strong along with a comfortable design that makes these a great option no matter where you are. You can use them throughout the day. Along with this, you get similar sound quality as other premium Bluetooth headphones.

The interface is one of the most unique things about this pair and the inclusion of dials makes interacting with the device very easy while still having a lot of functionality.

Additionally, there is support from many other features like a carrying case, software support, fast charging, ANC, and ambient sound.

If your main priority is having the best sound quality then there are other options to consider but for a Bluetooth pair, this is excellent.

You can find the Surface Headphones 2 on Amazon for a great price.


In The Box

Unboxing of Surface Headphones 2

Everything is packaged very nicely. In the box you will find the headphones and some accessories.

  • Carrying Case: A carrying case holds almost everything that you will need to use the headphones, including the pair themselves. It is a well-made, hard case with fabric.
  • Headphones: Inside the carrying case are the headphones with some protective paper that you can peel off.
  • USB-A to USB-C: You get a rubberized cable for fast charging the device at 4.1ft (1.5m) .
  • 3.5mm to 3.5mm adapter: If you want to use the pair wired, you get a 3.1 ft (1.2m) long cable.
  • Instructions: In the case, by the cables, you will find the instructions on how to use the buttons and gestures.
  • Manual: You will also get a manual that covers everything that you may need to know like contacts and support.
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Technical Details

  • Drivers: 40mm Dynamic Drivers
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz to 20kHz
  • Sensitivity (Sound output): 115dB with cable or Bluetooth
  • Noise cancellation: Up to 30dB for active, up to 40dB for passive
  • Inputs: USB-C, 3.5mm
  • Weight: 0.64lbs (290g)

The Build

Top view of Microsoft Surface Headphones 2

The build of the Surface Headphones is quite good. You have good use of aluminum, plastic, fabric, and pleather. Plastic is used for most of the design with aluminum for the frame. You can also see aluminum connecting the earcups to the headband. The earcups and top of the headband use pleather with fabric inside the earcups.

I have accidentally dropped the pair and they have been fine. Through regular use, you should have no issues. You get the standard build with other headphones premium ANC headphones.

There is no sweat rating on the Surface Headphones but I had no issues with regular use or exercise. I wouldn’t want to risk anything with more premium headphones but I have taken the pair on runs and to the gym and had zero problems. They are fine from my testing but there is no official rating to back it up. I would also not recommend using the pair in the rain as there is a high risk of damage.

After using the pair for about a year, there are some sweat stains on the inside but it is nothing too bad and there is no effect on the performance of the device.

To back up the build of the device is a 1 year warranty.

The pair feels well build and nice to the touch. I have no complaints.

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Style and Comfort

You have two color options with the Surface Headphones 2. You can get a matte black or a light gray. Both look quite nice and are resistant to scratches and other cosmetic issues.

There Microsoft logo is on the lower part of the headband on both sides. It is a reflective material that is consistent with the logos on the other Surface line’s products. Overall this style looks quite nice, especially if you own other Surface products.

The comfort of the Surface Headphones 2 is pretty good and it is among the best for Bluetooth headphones. There is a decent amount of cushioning on both the headband and earcups so there are never pressure points. I only found that there would be too much pressure if you are using the headphones for extended periods of time of two or more hours.

Using glasses with this pair is not as good as some other headphones that I have tried but it is pretty good.

Although there isn’t too much pressure, the Surface Headphones stay on your head really well even if you are running or jumping. The Surface headphones are a decent option for working out but they don’t support any official sweat rating so use them at your own risk. I have not had any issues with my pair and I have had them since they came out, using them for everything from working to going to the gym.

The earpads use of pleather makes them very comfortable but if your ears get hot easily then you could run to comfort issues. My ears get hot no matter what headphones I use. With the Surface Headphones, my ears get uncomfortably hot after about 45 minutes of usage. For most people, you could probably use the pair for upwards of two hours.

Another potential issue you may encounter with the Surface Headphones is that your ears may touch the drivers. The material on the inside is some sort of soft fabric so it doesn’t get uncomfortable.

Most people will not have an issue with the size of these headphones unless you have a very small head. Most small heads will fit well but children may encounter problems.

The headphones are quite light at 290g or 0.64lbs. This helps them not feel heavy on your head even after long periods of time. The low weight also makes the headphones very portable.

Sound Quality

Frequency Response of Microsoft Surface Headphones 2
Frequency Response Results From Sonarworks

The Surface Headphones have a more “appealing” and “fun” sound signature that is mainstream among Bluetooth headphones. There is more of a V curve meaning there is more of a boost in bass and some of the vocals.

The bass hits quite nicely and vocals don’t sound harsh but unfortunately, the mid-range controlling most instruments is a bit recessed.

Although these headphones have the same sound profile as many consumer headphones there are some other factors considered like the clarity of the sound and separation between different sounds.

I would say that you get what you pay for. The sound quality is better than most of the cheaper offerings and even options at the same price range. The quality is quite good but not as good as maybe the Sony XM4s, although they are more expensive.

I noticed that the quality of the sound was the same between wired and Bluetooth. This is also due to the fact that most audio platforms, like Spotify or Apple music, only playback audio at a quality of 320kbps. The amount of information in the music would have to be much different to notice much of a difference between wired and wireless.

Overall the sound is quite good and unless you are used to very premium headphones or audiophile quality pairs the sound is amazing for most. The only issues I felt were that the mid-range instruments were not as present as I hoped and although there is quite a lot of bass and it is able to hit hard, it was not necessarily always clean. This is common among popular noise-canceling headphones.

That being said, this is a deep-level analysis from someone who has tried more premium sounding headphones so the sound signature and quality will be great for most people in the market for Bluetooth headphones.

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The Interface

One of the most unique aspects of the Surface Headphones is the interface. Most high-end Bluetooth headphones will support gestures to skip songs or change the volume but Microsoft takes it a step further.

Microsoft uses two dials, two buttons, and both earcups are touch capacitive.

One button is used to turn on and off the device and the other button is used to activate either Cortana or your device’s virtual assistant. This makes communication with Google Assistant or Siri very easy, even if you don’t have your phone is in another room.

The controls on the earcups allow you to skip or go back to a track as well as pause and play. It doesn’t matter which earcup you use because the controls work on both.

Finally, arguably the most unique thing about the Surface Headphones, the dials. These dials are smooth and continuous. On the edge of the earcups are two dials. The left one controls the level of ANC as the dial on the right controls the volume.

The control that is given to you from the dials makes the Surface Headphones very easy to use and the interface is one of the best on any headphone. It is very easy to use and you have a lot of functionality without needing your phone.

Software

Software for Surface Headphones 2

Software is always a great thing to go alongside a pair of headphones. With the Surface Headphones, Microsoft has their Surface Audio app both on the PC and phone.

The software allows you to monitor important things like battery or volume and gives you access to in-depth functionality.

With the software you can change the name, edit EQs, change language, and update the device.

Over the air updates can improve things like battery life and even sound quality.

Cortana and Voice Assistants

One interesting feature of the Surface Headphones is the inclusion of a voice assistant, Cortana. You can use Cortana to do things like read emails to you or interact with any Microsoft app.

Ultimately I don’t find Cortana to be useful but you can still use the headphones with the virtual assistant of your device. To interact with the assistant of your device, simply long-press the side of either earcup.

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Connectivity

The Surface Headphones support the industry standard Bluetooth 5.0.

I was able to go about 100 feet (30.5 meters) away from my computer or phone with obstacles in the way before the audio started to cut out. Without walls or other obstacles, you can probably be over 200 feet (61 meters) away from your device without it cutting out.

You could leave your device and walk anywhere around most apartments and even many homes without the audio cutting out. At the gym, you could potentially leave your phone in a locker if it is close enough to you.

Pairing the device is also easy. Simply press the power button and then press again and hold for about five seconds until you hear, “You’re ready to pair”. Whenever you turn on the device it will automatically connect to paired devices.

You can pair with multiple devices for seamless switching from a phone and computer with audio plays from a different device.

Overall this is standard Bluetooth performance with options from the likes of Sony and Bose but it is still quite good and works with few issues.

You can also use the Surface Headphones wired if you want via the 3.5mm cable.

Battery and Charging

The battery and charging are not as good as some of the industry leaders but the performance is still quite good, especially for the price.

Microsoft’s Surface headphones can charge to 100% in under two hours and get an hour of playtime after 5 minutes of charging. Sony has a charging speed with their XM3s of five hours in just 10 minutes.

As for the battery, you can get about 20 hours of music playback while using Bluetooth and ANC. I found that this was enough to last me over a week with two to three hours of daily usage. While using them at work, they can last me a few days if using them for the majority of the day.

Microphone

Close up of earcup for surface headphones 2

In order to have noise cancellation, the headphones need multiple mics. As a result, the Surface Headphones have a better mic than most headphones I have tried and on par with more premium Bluetooth Headphones.

They are better than the mics of AirPods but still worse than a dedicated microphone.

The sound is good enough for calling but I would not recommend using Surface Headphones for any recording.

ANC and Ambient Sound

One of the defining features of the Surface Headphones is ANC or active noise cancellation alongside an ambient sound mode.

In total, you have 13 levels of ANC adjustment from amplified ambient sound to full noise cancellation.

The ANC performance is not the best but it can block out the surroundings while in a bus and remove a lot of the sound of a plane or vacuum. It is pretty good and definitely one of the best options but still trails the likes of Bose and Sony with their flagships.

As for the ambient sound, it is quite clean sounding. It sounds as if you were hearing all the sounds around you with your own ears.

There is an amplified ambient sound mode. This makes everything louder than it actually is. I found it very useful to listen to people talking to me from another room and it helps you to hear your surroundings while still listening to music.

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Alternatives

Many of the alternatives to the Surface Headphones are at higher price points but they are still able to compete in many areas.

Sony XM4

The Sony WH-1000XM4s is arguably one of the best headphones in this category of Bluetooth, ANC headphones. Compared to the Surface Headphones 2 they can’t compete with the dials and the build is very similar. They both share many features like being able to connect to different devices, fast charging, and more.

The XM4s do perform better in multiple fields though. Sound, ANC, and Battery are all a bit better with the Sonys. The performance is not huge but the XM4s deliver some of the best performance in these fields for Bluetooth headphones. You get 30 hours of battery life, a cleaner sound, and arguably the best ANC in any headphones.

It is important to mention that the XM4s are often $100 more than the Surface Headphones 2 and understanding if spending the extra money is worth it is essential to understanding which one is best for you.

Bose NC 700

The Bose NC 700s are another fantastic option that is positioned often at a higher price point than even the XM4s. They deliver a minimalistic look, a similar design concept to the clean look of the Surface Headphones.

They have similar build quality, comfort, Bluetooth performance, and battery life. Where the Bose NC 700s pull ahead is in cleaner sound and some of the best ANC. The ANC is better at blocking out consistent sounds like an airplane and sudden sounds like a door closing.

Again the Bose NC700s are also, usually, over $100 more than the Surface Headphones 2. They may have less value but then looks, and improved ANC and sound quality may make it worth it for them.


Conclusion

Angled view of surface headphones 2 on a desk

Competing with the best Bluetooth headphones, the Surface Headphones 2 delivers great value and performance competing heavily with the top options.

They are a great option to use both while you work and while you work out and they can get you through the day with long battery life. Microsoft delivers on giving a solid build with great sound quality and ANC.

All this is supported by the abundance of other features like fast charging, a carrying case, software support, and the interface with dials. The interface itself makes the headphones such a great option along with everything else.

The Surface Headphones 2 are well rounded and will deliver everything most people need at a price that is cheaper than its competitors

If you think these are a great option for you, then check out the Surface Headphones 2 on Amazon.

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Open vs Closed-Back Headphones: What Is Right For You?

When looking at headphones, there are two kinds of headphones that you need to decide between. Open-back and closed-back headphones.

Open-back headphones can provide many benefits in sound and long-term comfort, while closed-back headphones can be friendly in more situations and can have a more “fun” sound signature. Both types are tailored for different situations with various pros and cons.

Let’s take an in depth look at the differences and see what is best for you.

Closed back headphones next to an open back pair

Open vs Closed Back: The Main Differences

Open BackClosed Back
LocationOnly good for private listeningGood for use anywhere
SoundHas best sound stage and midsHas best bass
Heat Buildup Can be an issue after a couple hoursCan become an issue after an hour
Bluetooth?Can’t work with BluetoothBluetooth compatible
Premium MarketMost of the high-end market is open backSome of the premium market

Open-Back: Open-back headphones are headphones with the driver being open or partially open. The earcups will often have grills to allow the sound out. This allows for a much more open sound, other benefits in treble and midrange, and improved long-term comfort. Heat build-up is less of an issue.

Closed-Back: Closed-back headphones are when the earcup is fully closed off. This traps in sound allowing the headphones to be more suitable in a public environment. Closed-back headphones also make it possible to have features such as Bluetooth connectivity. They typically have better bass response in comparison to closed-back headphones.

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How Does Open-Back Affect Sound?

Side view of closed back headphones

The main reason why open-back headphones are so beneficial is the many benefits to sound that they can have. The open driver allows some of the sound to exit the earcup away from the ears. This can improve the accuracy, the soundstage, and many other elements of the sound.

The main downside of the open drivers is that they leak sound. This means that if you are listening to music or playing a video game someone in the same room as you may be able to hear what you are listening to or at least the fact that you are listening to something. This is not ideal for public music listening.

While the open-back design can make the sound feel wider and more open, it can also cause you to hear more of the environment around you. If you are in a very noisy environment this could ruin the listening experience but at the same time, music listening is never that great in a noisy environment with both types of headphones.

Soundstage and Imaging

The biggest and most noticeable difference that you will notice between open and closed-back headphones is the soundstage and imaging.

Soundstage is the space and environment of the sound that is created by headphones, IEMs, or similar devices. Imaging is related to the location and size of the instruments or objects in that sound environment.

If you are playing a game it is very easy to pick out the location as to where someone is. You can hear the specific room where someone is and due to a wider sound, there is a wider area for sound to come from. This means you can more accurately hear where someone is in an environment.

The overall sound can feel a lot more immersive in both games and while listening to music. Open-back headphones also allow you to pick out where a sound is coming from better which is very nice, especially for those who like to analyze the music that they are listening to.

Bass

Open-back headphones don’t necessarily change things like the high end and the mid-range but one area where they can cause change is the bass. Typically one of the downsides of open-back headphones is that they often have less bass in forms of quantity. Often the bass is still accurate and still sounds good but there may be less of it.

This isn’t true for all open-back headphones as there are some headphones like the Philips X2HRs that have a lot of bass or planars that have a very punchy sound.

This does not mean that the bass on open-back headphones is bad. In fact, many open-back headphones have a lot of bass, and the low-end sounds very clean and punchy. Many closed-back offerings can make the bass sound muddy.

In the case that you do want more bass, you can always use an equalizer.

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Accuracy and Distortion

Another area where open-back headphones can improve the sound is in accuracy and distortion.

Open-back headphones often have improved sound accuracy, most notably in the mid and high range. This improvement over closed-back headphones is consistent in the area of sound distortion. Closed-back headphones often have distortion that can also affect sound accuracy because of echo from the wall on the outside of the driver. Sound can bounce off the closed ear cup causing distortion in the sounds. Open-back headphones are a lot better with this issue.

The levels of accuracy and amount of distortion can all depend on the headphone model regardless if they are open-back or not.

It is important to note that not all open-back headphones have perfect clarity and sound accuracy but they do help. As you spend more, the more premium options in the market will also perform better as well.

How Does Closed-Back Affect Sound?

Side view of open back headphones

Closed-back headphones may not have all the benefits of open-back headphones but they can still help to provide a very fun sound signature. There is often a sacrifice for sound quality for practicality to have features like Bluetooth and noise cancellation.

The closed-off driver blocks off sound from escaping. This allows you to not have a problem with sound leakage so you can use closed-back headphones in public. This also can result in an improvement in the bass.

Closed-back headphones may not provide all the sound benefits of open-back headphones but they can deliver a fun sound profile for bass heads and certainly are great for practicality. You can use closed-back headphones without bothering others and also without getting bothered by others.

Soundstage and Imaging

As mentioned previously, closed-back headphones usually have a lesser soundstage in comparison to open-back headphones. This does not mean that the soundstage is bad with closed-back headphones but the soundstage is more intimate and the imaging may be less specific and accurate.

While some open-back headphones may have what seems like an endless soundstage, closed-back headphones vary greatly in soundstage. Cheaper offerings often have minimal soundstage while more premium closed-back headphones can have a much wider soundstage.

Overall the level of soundstage depends greatly but won’t be as good as open-back headphones. The same goes for imaging.

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Bass

One area where closed-back headphones have a potential improvement is in the bass. Open-back headphones often have clean sounding base but closed-back headphones will usually have more bass. Depending on the quality of the headphones the bass will sound more punchy and less muddy.

Often cheaper closed-back pair will have bass that is there but does not really have any impact and it may have a lot of distortion causing it to sound what is described as muddy. Although cheaper offerings may have a large quantity of bass, the quality is not that good.

On the flip side, more premium offerings can deliver clear, punchy bass in great quantities that can be very enjoyable, especially for bass heads.

The additional bass can allow for a more fun-sounding pair of headphones. This means that many-closed back pairs of headphones are great for just sitting back and listening to music rather than analyzing the sounds or listening to how different instruments interact with each other.

Accuracy and Distortion

One of the worst areas, in particular with budget offerings, that the closed-back headphones affect sound is by adding distortion and echo.

To most people, you will not notice this issue but if you have tried more premium headphones then the distortion in many closed-back headphones will become more of a noticeable issue. The distortion I am talking about is not from the driver itself but it is a result of sound bouncing off the wall of the earcup causing reverb in the sound, potentially distorting it.

You may not have perfect accuracy in vocals or mid-range with many closed-back options but more premium closed-back headphones will have a very accurate sound with minimal distortion and no audible distortion for most.

This is more of a nitpick and this issue is something that you will only notice if you are using a budget option or if you are accustomed to better options.

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Comfort and Heat Build Up

One of the most important things about headphones is comfort, especially long term comfort.

The comfort of open-back headphones and closed-back headphones can’t directly be compared in all aspects because there are so many different kinds of headphones designs for both styles.

One area where they can be compared is heat build-up. A big issue that plagues the long-term comfort of closed-back headphones is how quickly the earcups get hot. Often many closed-back headphones will get hot after 30 to 90 minutes with many people not being able to use their headphones for longer because of how uncomfortable it can get.

Due to the nature of open-back headphones, they deal with this issue a lot better. Since the side of the earcup is open, not only does this affect sound but this gives your ear access to air on the other side of the driver.

Heat still generates within the earcup but it does not become as unbearable as closed-back headphones, at least not as quickly. Since the hot air does not get trapped your ears can stay a lot cooler for a lot longer. This is especially useful for those who get hot ears quickly or those who use headphones for long periods.

If you wear headphones for long durations and are in a private space, you could notice a benefit from an open-back option.

Should You Get Open Back or Closed Back

What Is Best For Gaming – Open Back

Angled view of open back headphones with setup in the background

One of the main benefits of open-back headphones is that they provide a wider sound than closed-back headphones. This directly benefits gamers because it is easier to hear who is around you. The location of information of where information is coming from is usually more accurate on open-back headphones compared to closed-back too.

With a wider sound, everything can feel more immersive in open-world titles and it can also provide more information in competitive titles. With a greater sense of space, it is easier to understand how close or far another player may be and where exactly a gunshot may have come from.

If you talk while you game with others you may want to be able to hear your own voice. Often closed-back headphones make it harder to hear yourself, especially with a loud game playing. This can be quite weird.

With open-back headphones, this can be less of an issue. Since you can hear your voice you can also hear other things around you. If you are gaming in a loud environment that can distract you from your game too.

Another important consideration is long term comfort.

When gaming you can be playing for a few hours at a time and some people even game for most of their day as a job. This means that you will want headphones that are comfortable, especially for long periods of time.

While the comfort of the earcups and headband is different for each headphone, most open-back headphones will accumulate heat and a reduced rate compared to closed-back options and will accumulate less of it overall. Heat is not trapped in the headphones because the earcup is open to an extent.

Heat build-up is often one of the most uncomfortable things about wearing headphones. This can make wearing headphones a lot more comfortable, especially for longer periods.

When you are gaming you are typically at a more private place like a desk. This means it does not matter if noise comes out of your headphones. This means you can use open-back headphones without bothering others.

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What Sounds The Best – Open Back?

Someone’s taste in sound is a very subjective matter as some people like sounds closer to their ear others like a wider soundstage and some may like more bass while others may prefer a more balanced sound signature.

Open-back and closed-back drivers often result in different sounding headphones. If you want the best bass experience there are good options that are open-back but some of the best pairs are closed-back. If you want a wider sound or something with solid vocals, your best bet is with open-back.

Open-back headphones typically are praised for having improved sound over closed-back headphones in many ways. We would say open-back headphones are the best sounding in many cases but because sound is so subjective you want fully determine what truly is better, especially with so many headphone options.

Overall what matters is that your headphones suit your preferences and needs. Getting open-back headphones will often be your best bet for having great sound quality but they’re a few more premium closed-back offerings that are quite strong such as the DT 1770 from Beyerdynamic.

What Is Best For Public Listening – Closed Back

Close up of closed back headphones

If you are in a public environment often or you need headphones for going out, closed-back headphones are the best option here.

The main downside of all open-back headphones is that sound is able to leak out of the earcup. Although this is a result of a wider soundstage and optionally more immersive experience, this can allow other people to hear what you are listening to.

The level of sound leakage depends on each pair but is an issue with all open-back headphones to an extent. It also depends on what volumes you are playing audio at. In some cases someone can only hear what you are listening to when right next to you and other times they may be on the other side of a room, still able to discern what you are playing.

Overall this won’t affect the listener and actually assists in making the sound feel very wide. This just makes open-back options bad if you are in an environment where people won’t want to hear what you are listening to like a bus or open office.

Closed-back headphones leak no sound most of the time and maybe a little at very high volumes but it is usually not an issue. Closed-back headphones, like earbuds, are commonly used and almost nobody will use open-back headphones because of this issue.

On top of all this, closed-back headphones often support features like Bluetooth connectivity for ease of use and active noise cancellation to make them a better option in public.

Closed-back headphones are just the more practical option in a public setting, even if you may lose on some sound quality.


Conclusion

Closed back and open back headphones on a desk

Overall open-back headphones will often deliver better sound for the same price as a closed-back offering but closed-back headphones deliver more practicality. Open-back headphones limit you to a private environment that should also be quiet but you can use open-back headphones anywhere without bothering others and some even have noise cancellation so you aren’t distracted from what you are listening to.

If you are a gamer or you just want to appreciate a wider and potentially clearer sound, then open-back headphones are great but they aren’t needed. Closed-back headphones don’t deliver bad sound and often can deliver better bass.

There is no wrong choice between the two but instead better use cases for both. Within both categories there are hundreds of options with different features and sound profiles to consider so doing additional research after seeing what is best for your use case is very important.

If you want to see more of our content, check out our newest articles.

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Google Nest Mini Review: A Smart Speaker With Value

In the past few years, virtual assistants have become commonplace in homes. More and more products are gaining smart home functionality to work with these virtual assistants. With growing popularity and need for functionality, it is key that companies making these assistants put out products that are fast and effective.

The Nest Mini 2 improved from the original Google Home and is one of the best value options when looking to invest in a virtual assistant. Not only can you get arguably the best virtual assistant but you get a pretty decent speaker to tie in the experience.

Let’s find out if the Google Nest Mini 2 is truly good and investing in Google’s Assistant will benefit you.

Google Nest Mini

The Verdict

Rating: 5 out of 5.

If you have been looking for a smart speaker with great value, the Google Nest Mini (2nd generation) is a fantastic option to consider. It is a speaker with good sound and even better functionality.

For those who want a greater smart home experience or just want a virtual assistant. You get a lot of support with the Google Home App and arguably the best virtual assistant with Google Assistant.

Google Assistant can answer a countless number of questions while being quick. You can settle disputes or ask or get work done faster through fast translations and calculations all with a virtual assistant.

You can even use the Nest Mini as a desktop speaker. It can sit on a desk or be moved around due to its compact size.

The sound quality is pretty solid especially for the price and it is a step over a monitor and even phone speakers.

Google’s Nest Mini also has a great build and look. It can fit in any environment with a stylish but minimalistic build and multiple color options to choose from.

If you want something more powerful or a more premium setup then getting something like the Nest Mini’s bigger brother, the Google Nest Audio Speaker, or a more premium speaker setup if you don’t want or need a virtual assistant..

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In The Box

Google Nest Mini Unboxing

When you open up the box everything is packaged quite nicely.

Included in the box are all the essentials you need to use the device and get started. Aside from the speaker, inside the box you will find:

  • The AC Power Cable: You get a standard single pin AC power cable. It’s quite nice quality and doesn’t distract from the look of the speaker.
  • Manual/Quick Start Guide: This will tell you the basic functions of the device and how to get started.

If you ever lose the manual or need more help the google home app can provide you with the resources you need, as well as just asking Google Assistant.

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The Build and Style

Close up of Google Nest Mini

Google gives us quite a nice looking and well made device with the Nest Mini 2.

The frame of the device is made from sturdy plastic and is quite rigid. There is no flex in the device anywhere. On the outside of the device, it is made from some sort of mesh fabric and rubber.

The bottom and sides are made from the rubber allowing it to stay in place well and not move around on a surface no matter how slippery. The top of the device looks and feels quite nice due to the use of the fabric. The fabric is inviting when wanting to use the touch functions for doing things like changing volume. It also makes the device look better rather than the use of all plastic which can make a device look cheap.

Google made the Nest Mini very compact with a diameter of about 3.85 inches a height of 1.65 inches. It is also quite light, weighing in at only 0.4 pounds. This makes it a great option on the go. You can easily bring the device to a hang out with some friends or move it to different rooms when you need it.

Google gives you four color options to choose from. Chalk (White), Charcoal (Black), Sky (Blue), and Coral. All look pretty good with a slight contrast from the fabric to the rubber.

As for the interface, the Nest Mini has one physical switch and three touch-sensitive buttons. The switch is used to mute the microphone. Then you have the three buttons for volume control on each side. The button top button is used to play and pause media, stop an alarm or timer, and if you press and hold for 15 seconds you can factory reset the device.

On top of the device, there are four LEDs. These turn on when you are talking to Google Assistant, the mic is off, or you are pressing any of the buttons. On the sides, there are two additional LEDs but those only turn on when pressing any of the buttons to show you where to press to increase or decrease volume. When changing volume the LEDs will be used to show you what volume you are at by using different brightness for the four LEDs.

Google Nest Mini on mute

When you mute the mic the lights will turn red and will not turn off until it is unmuted. For all other situations, the LEDs will be white. When you are talking to Google Assistant the four LEDs will activate and have a breathing effect as you talk to it. Overall the system is quite intuitive and works well.

To power the device there is one plug for AC power that goes to a plug, in the wall. It is a bit unfortunate that the Nest Mini 2 doesn’t use USB, but not a huge deal.

Overall the Google Nest Mini 2 is has a great build, especially for the price. The build of the device is strong and it has an appealing look. The use of materials even competes with smart speakers in higher price ranges. I’m quite impressed here.

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Sound Quality

Since this is ultimately a speaker one of the most important factors is the sound quality. In comparison to the competition and for the price the quality of sound is pretty good.

The sound quality is probably good for most people in general. It is cleaner and packs more of a punch than the different monitor speakers I tried and the speakers from modern smartphones including the iPhone 11 Pro and Oneplus 7T Pro.

If you are used to using monitor speakers these will have a lot more clarity and will deliver a lot more bass. As for phone speakers, the sound will still be better with minimal improvements in clarity, just punchy bass, and an overall fuller sound where you can hear more of each sound.

This is not mentioning the fact that this speaker can get considerably louder than both monitor and phone speakers. Either may be good in a situation where you are right next to the device but if you want to actually fill a room with good sound, the Nest Mini will blow the other two out of the water.

When comparing the Nest Mini 2 to dedicated speakers it is able to compete in lower price ranges. The Nest Mini delivers similar sound quality with bass and treble that is solid to those of speakers in the sub $30 category. If the speaker unit does have a subwoofer the Nest Mini just can’t compete as it won’t be able to provide as much clarity and bass as those units.

For a single speaker the sound is good and it will be just as good as many portable speakers.

If you want to use this speaker as a desktop speaker you can connect to your computer, assuming it has Bluetooth, there is some latency added. This is not an issue when listening to music but it is not recommended to use this speaker for gaming if you wish to use your Nest Mini as a desktop speaker.

I have been using the Nest Mini as my desktop speaker for the past few weeks and although it may not be good as super high-end speakers it is definitely solid at this price range especially considering it can do a lot more besides just being a speaker.

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Google Home Support

One of the key things that enables almost all the functionality of the Nest Mini 2 is the Google Home app.

The Google Home app is essential to setting up the app, connecting to services such as Spotify or YouTube Music, and gives you functionality with smart home capable products such as Philips Hue lights. The software also allows you to change things like the language or languages you want to speak in, the voice of Google Assistant, and much more.

Besides changing the virtual assistant settings and connecting to services you can also edit the EQ to add more treble or bass, play and pause media, and control the volume.

The app enables you to control everything “smart” about the speaker. It has a lot of functionality and for the most part, is pretty easy to use. It’s what makes smart speakers so special.

Google Assistant and Special Features

Google Next Mini next to a plant

The fact that the Nest Mini is a smart speaker provides a ton of functionality to the device and is what makes it special. Google Assistant can do many things from starting timers to setting reminders to answering questions.

Having the functionality of a device that will answer most of my immediate questions right away is very useful. I can have the Google Assistant do a command to figure something out while I am working on another part of the issue as if Google Assistant is a real assistant. Depending on your use case you could greatly benefit from a virtual assistant not just for smart home use.

One capability on the device that I found to be very useful was the ability to pair the speaker via Bluetooth to my desktop. If your device support Bluetooth you can use this speaker rather than something like monitor speakers and you will notice a sound improvement.

To further add to the sound Google also allows you to pair the speaker with multiple other Nest Audio speakers more a more full and potentially more immersive sound. I wouldn’t recommend buying two Nest Minis for this specific feature but if you have two of them it is a nice feature to have at any time

If you want to not have the speaker resting on a desk or counter you can hang it on a nail from the wall. This causes the sound to fire towards you which is nice in situations where just you are listening from the speaker. Hanging the Nest Mini from the wall also can provide a potentially cleaner look or may just blend well with your wall.

Although the small size is not intended for good portability it does make the Nest Mini great for being a device that you can take to a party easily. It is not as good as a portable speaker but if you don’t want to spend the extra money on a portable speaker and you have access to a wall outlet you can use it in most places as it is compact and light.

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Alternatives

Amazon Echo Dot 4th Gen

The main competitor to Google’s Nest Mini 2 is the Amazon Echo Dot 4th Generation. Overall the build, sound quality, and app support are about the same. The major differences are a few more minor features and the amount of support for each ecosystem.

With the Google ecosystem, you could interact with the speaker and an android phone and everything would be seamless. Also, some smart home products don’t have support for Alexa but only Google and Apple Home.

The Nest Mini is smaller in size in comparison to the 4th generation of the Echo Dot. The Echo Dot has more of a rounded shape making it take up more space. As for the construction itself, the materials used are mostly consistent except the Echo Dot uses some plastic where the Nest Mini uses rubber.

The sound is mostly the same but Google takes the edge just by having slightly more clarity and less of a “hollow” sound.

The main difference between the two besides the looks is the virtual assistants. They are quite similar in functionality with apps that can both do basically the same things as well. Google’s Assistant does take the edge in some situations for the most part but it is negligible.

Overall whatever you choose is up to your preference and there are a few minor features to look out for like if you want to hang the speaker from a wall with the Nest Mini or if you want to pay a bit extra and get an integrated clock with the Echo Dot.

Google Home Mini (1st Generation)

Google Nest Mini vs Google Home Mini

The Nest Mini (2nd gen) looks quite similar to the Home Mini (1st gen) with the only build difference is that the sides of the Home Mini use plastic rather than rubber. To power the devices you use AC power for the Nest Mini compared to Micro USB for the Home Mini. Single prong AC power is easier to plug in as it is the same shape all the way around compared to micro USB.

As for sound, there are minor improvements all around but it is not big enough to make an upgrade if you already have the 1st generation. Another minor improvement is the UI. There are now lights to mark where you change the volume just to make it more obvious on the Nest Mini.

The assistant is still the same between the two so both are equal in performance in that field.

Overall the Nest Mini is better than the Home Mini and getting the Nest Mini is definitely the better option even at a slightly higher price but if you already own a Home Mini there is no major reason to upgrade.

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Apple HomePod Mini?

If you are in the Apple Ecosystem or want to get into it then your cheapest option is to go with the Apple HomePod Mini. This isn’t the fairest comparison to the Nest Mini 2 as it is double the price usually so for the sake of argument we will mostly compare the functionality.

The HomePod smart speakers are only truly good if you are in the Apple ecosystem as you will need Apple-specific devices for it to work best. As a result, you pay Apple’s premium for this seamless experience. If you use android or like to use services that are competitors of Apple’s your best experience would be with something from Google or Amazon.

After comparing Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, and Google Assistant I found that Google Assistant and Alexa had the most functionality and could answer the most questions. Google Assistant has some exciting features that neither have like taking calls for you too.

Although Apple is known for having products with quite a good sound quality I don’t believe that investing in the HomePod mini is worth it over getting either something from Amazon or Google unless you are looking for the seamless and easy experience that Apple provides with their ecosystem.


Conclusion

At the $25 to $50 price range, the Google Nest Mini (2nd generation) is a great option for a smart speaker.

It could be the first step in creating a smart home or the final piece to bring everything together. The Nest Mini is a great option for those who want a small yet very functional device at a great price.

Google’s Nest Mini has a great virtual assistant, a ton of support for smart home devices, and has support with the in-depth Google Home App.

The build and sound quality are both strong with the build quality competing with speakers at higher price ranges.

Overall the Nest Mini is quite impressive and a strong option to consider.

If you enjoyed this article consider checking out some of our other posts.

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