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You can have a pair of headphones that blocks out noise in crowded spaces, or have the most sweat-resistant earbuds for working out—but at the end of the day, your headphones should focus on superb sound quality. Just like eyesight, though, we all experience sound a little differently. So shouldn’t your headphones be able to adjust accordingly?
Our unique hearing patterns vary with age, conditions, or just how we were born. You might not hear the crisp highs of a treble range as clearly, or feel the kick of the bass as strongly as others. Several audio companies are doing away with the idea of a one-size-fits-all listening experience, so your next pair of headphones or earbuds could come with personalized sound. What that means: using an app or listening test, your buds will customize the EQ for better sound based on your hearing levels.
Of course, you can always figure out how to manually adjust the EQ on your smartphone. But specific settings, such as “Bass Reducer” and “Treble Booster” presets, can be too limiting. Headphones with personalized sound do all the work for you, and often combine with Active Noise Reduction technology for the most rich, immersive experience you can get out of your favorite tunes.
Get ready to hear familiar songs in new ways you’ve never experienced before—personalized sound is often compared to trying on a new pair of glasses, or “hearing in color.” You’ll just have to try it out for yourself and listen to the difference.
What Makes a Good Pair of Headphones With Personalized Sound?
There are many factors to consider when choosing the best headphones with personalized sound for you; below are the most important ones, which we considered while we were researching this list.
Style: Larger over-ear headphones have bigger drivers, if you want more of a studio-quality sound, even if headphones with personalized audio are less ubiquitous than earbuds. They could actually be the better option too if you’re watching out for your hearing health. But while earbuds are more compact and sit closer to your eardrum, your customized hearing test may be slightly more accurate because of the tighter fit.
Hearing Test: Audio companies are using a variety of hearing tests to create customized sound profiles, and no two are alike, even if they may seem to function the same way. Some tests feel closer to an ENT’s hearing test and focus on volume, while others let you sit back and listen to a bunch of differently pitched tones. But be aware that many hearing profiles won’t exactly explain what adjustments were made, and why.
Noise Cancellation: The wireless headphones and earbuds we’re recommending also support ANC (active noise cancellation) technology, which uses microphones to block out certain frequencies. Besides the EQ adjustments from custom sound, your music will sound clearer and more detailed when ambient noise is blocked. While it can impact battery life, some of our choices on this list have charging cases that can recharge quickly so you can get back to listening.
Audio Quality: While these headphones and earbuds will hopefully help you enjoy your music in new ways with a personal listening profile, you still want the music to sound good on standard settings. All our picks deliver on rich, full audio — no adjustments necessary.
Nura’s goal is to give you “music in full color”. But it’s clear they’ve not only revamped the experience of sound, but reinvented the headphone itself. The Nuraphone actually combines in-ear buds with cushion-y, over-the-ear cups like a traditional pair of headphones. The buds deliver crisp, clear vocals, while the over-ear cups reverberate body-shaking bass.
The real star of the show here is the Nura App, which creates an individualized listening profile (you can create up to three) by conducting a hearing test through the app. We set up a profile while testing out Nuraphone’s earbud counterpart, NuraLoop, recently: it plays a series of sound frequencies for one minute to analyze your hearing, then makes adjustments.
Once complete, you can compare the neutral listening mode with your own personalized profile, which is represented visually in the app. Adjusting for volume, bass, and treble tones, we found that the customized sound was a little more bass-heavy than we’d normally like. But the audio was definitely rich, and sharper than before.
One thing really impressed us, though: with “dual isolation” from its unique in and outer ear design, you get regular noise cancellation and ANC (active noise cancellation). We’ve found that they’re superior at blocking out everything but your music for truly a immersive sound. There’s also a “Social Mode”, which gives you the ability to hear your surroundings while still preserving the clear melodies from your music.
Listen on your Nuraphone for up to 20 hours on a single charge, and utilize the touch controls on the two headphone cups to skip tracks, change volume and answer calls. Even if your personalized sound profile isn’t life-changing, the extra features make these headphones the total listening package.
2. Apple AirPods Pro (Gen 2)
Compared to the first generation of AirPods Pro, the latest model features a personalized spatial audio setup. In fact, we find that with Personalized Spatial Audio, the AirPods sound quality has never been more immersive.
As we’ve described, everyone perceive sounds differently based on the size and shape of their head and ears. Apple uses a “TrueDepth” camera on the iPhone to create a personal profile for Spatial Audio by taking pictures of your head shape and the outside of your ears (a process similar to setting up Face ID, which only takes about 20 seconds). While it doesn’t allow you to toggle back and forth to hear the different between your personalized sound versus the standard, you can turn it off in the Control Center, but trust us when we say the sound is precisely tuned just for you. Personalized Spatial Audio can be used with music, movies, and TV shows — and Apple’s dynamic head tracking — across iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple TV.
2. Anker Soundcore Liberty 2 Pro TWS Earbuds
Anker’s highest-end pair of completely wireless Bluetooth earbuds has entered the personalized sound game. “Due to physiological differences,” Anker states, “the sound we hear is totally unique.” To ensure everyone gets the best listening experience possible, the Soundcore Liberty 2 Pro uses the Soundcore App, where the level of customization really shines.
With HearID custom sound, the app analyzes your unique hearing profile and creates a tailor-made sound setup to suit your ears. Already have a personal sound preference? You also have the ability to take control of the sound and adjust the EQ to your liking, or utilize their 22 stellar preset sound profiles. It’s a nice touch that they hand over the reins if you’re an audiophile who knows what you want.
Anker says you should expect to get around 8 hours of music playback per charge, so you can keep that personalized sound going all day long. The earbuds’ charging case, which will top up their battery life, will add 4 more full recharges for a total of 32 hours of playback.
What sets the Soundcore Liberty Pros apart from a lot of its competition is that the baseline sound is so nuanced, you might not even need customization. With two drivers instead of one, these buds can equally handle treble frequencies and base for a better, more balanced sound.
If you need a pair of earbuds that can adjust to your hearing, or just deliver solid, expansive sound, Soundcore’s Liberty Pros are an all-around great pick.
3. Jabra Elite 85t Earbuds
These Elite 85t earbuds from Jabra are another worthy contender when it comes to customizing your listening experience. Jabra’s parent company, GN Group, has actually created hearing aids before, so they have significant expertise when it comes to knowledge about the ways we hear differently.
Jabra uses this to their advantage with the MySound feature on their Sound+ app, which tailors music levels to your preferences based on a brief hearing test. You simply tap the screen of your phone whenever you hear a series of tones in each earbud, which is more reminiscent of a hearing test you might get from an ENT than some of the other picks on our list. The EQ is automatically applied once you complete the MySound listening profile, although there’s minimal information offered about why specific sound adjustments are made.
That being said, the overall sound quality is still superb, with deep bass and clear high notes thanks to their 12mm speakers. Personalization for these earbuds doesn’t stop at music either, and the app packs a lot in terms of versatility: the level of noise cancellation can be changed from the app, so you can adapt any level of ambient noise when you’re out and about. You can also access MyControls to personalize earbud button controls, and a MyFit feature makes sure the seal of your buds is just right for the best sound quality possible.
Jabra has placed a high importance on not just sound, but call quality with the Elite 85t. Six microphones and wind protection means you’ll sound crystal clear even in the noisiest of crowds. The battery life is also pretty good, with five and a half hours on one charge and a total of 25 hours with the charging case.
If you want a serious upgrade in both call and audio quality, the Elite 85t is a good option that won’t make you compromise on either.
4. Skullcandy Indy ANC True Wireless Earbuds
Skullcandy’s Indy ANC Wireless Earbuds are the first wireless buds to feature Audiodo Personal Sound technology—it uses an algorithm that’s designed to keep the highs, mids, and lows perfectly balanced, so you’ll never have to crank the volume to potentially damaging levels.
The Indy ANC combines Active Noise Canceling with the ultimate audio customization of sound through the Skullcandy App. What’s unique about this hearing test is that it’s conducted separately in each ear, so if your hearing levels are naturally a bit different on both sides, the buds will compensate accordingly. This custom output makes for a noticeably different sound experience, so it won’t just feel like you slapped a generic EQ booster over your music.
Skullcandy’s four microphone noise cancellation is especially effective, with two modes so you can keep your zen when excessive ambient noise is raging, but turn on Transparency if you need to catch a quick conversation, or hear what’s happening around you. While reviews admit it lacks the spacial audio quality of other formidable competitors, such as the Apple Airpods Pro, this is a time when personalized audio can really come in the clutch: the custom sound on these earbuds can enhance the deep bass, rich mids and highs of all your favorite songs.
You can get up to 32 hours of total battery life with the charging case, and with ANC off, you can listen for two hours on just a 10-minute charge. Picking up calls and adjusting your volume on the go is also a breeze with touch controls.
If you’re looking for personalized sound that’s guaranteed to actually feel, you know, personal, then check out the Indy ANC Earbuds.
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