The best options for when you want Fast Pair headphones

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Fast Pair is a technology that lets you quickly pair your Bluetooth headphones to your Android phone without having to dig through multiple menus. Simply place them into pairing mode and bring your headphones and Android phone close together. There aren’t too many options on the market (yet), but the Jaybird Tarah are the best we can find thanks to its overall solid battery life, sound quality, and comfort.

Best Overall: Jaybird Tarah

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The Jaybird Tarah are solid, versatile earbuds. First and foremost, they are IPX7 water resistant, which means you’ll be able to use them in practically any scenario (aside from swimming). Whether you’re running a treadmill, or accidentally drop them in a puddle, the Jaybird Tarah will be able to withstand it.

Sound quality is good with a neutral low- and mid-bass, a slightly boosted upper-bass and low-mid, and a recessed mid-mid, neutral high-mid and low-treble, along with an overall boosted treble. This gives the Tarah an overall mid and treble forward sound without being overly overbearing. Dynamic range is excellent and the soundstage is rather lackluster but is expected due to the earbud design.

Battery life is solid with up to six hours on a single charge. While it’s not the best battery life we’ve seen in earbuds, it makes up for it with fast charging, which nets you a full hour of listening with a 10-minute charge. However, the Jaybird Tarah uses a proprietary connector to charge, which is even worse than using the aging Micro-USB connector.

Comfort is excellent if you’re alright with the wing and bud design. Unlike some other earbuds that use a hook to add stability, the wing sits on your ear’s cartilage to help add support. Once you find the right wing and bud, the Jaybird Tarah are super comfortable and you won’t have any discomfort issues.

Pros:

  • Solid battery life
  • Good sound quality
  • IPX7 water resistance
  • Excellent comfort

Cons:

  • Proprietary charging connector

Best Overall

Jaybird Tarah

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  • $74 from Amazon

All around buds

The Jaybird Tarah are defined by IPX7 water resistance, good battery life, and excellent comfort.

Best Battery Life: JBL Live 650 BTNC

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The JBL Live 650 BTNC’s strong suit is battery life with up to 30 hours of audio playback on a single charge. There’s no fast charging, which is unfortunate, and the 650 BTNC uses the aging Micro-USB port. This means that once the headphone dies, you’re looking at waiting around two hours for a full charge. However, since the headphones will last you all day normally, this shouldn’t be an issue.

Sound quality is quite good. The overall bass is boosted, which makes the sound signature warm. However, the rest of the sound signature is neutral and flat. Dynamic range is excellent and the soundstage is pretty bad, being narrow and unnatural sounding.

Comfort is decent. You won’t experience any ear fatigue or discomfort when they’re on your head, but you may experience your ears getting warm after extended listening sessions. This means you’ll likely be taking breaks after a few hours of usage to let your ears cool down. That being said, the Live 650 BTNC are relatively portable, as the ear cups can fold and swivel to stay flat.

The Live 650 BTNC feature active noise cancelation (ANC) and it’s exactly where you expected it to be — just as good as previous generation Sony and Bose ANC headphones. It’ll drown out most consistent, low-end noises, but will struggle with pretty much everything else. The Live 650 are fantastic for traveling in this regard.

Pros:

  • Long battery life
  • Good ANC performance
  • Solid, warm sound
  • Ear cups fold for portability

Cons:

  • Micro-USB for charging
  • Ear cups get warm

Best Battery Life

JBL Live 650 BTNC

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  • $200 from Amazon

Battery life champ

The Live 650 BTNC feature excellent battery life, great bass-boosted sound, and solid ANC performance.

Best Neckbud: 1More Dual Driver BT ANC

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If you’re looking for Fast Pair neckbuds, the 1More Dual Driver BT ANC is right up your alley. One of the major strong suits of the Dual Driver BT ANC is its battery life, with up to seven hours on a single charge. The buds charge over USB-C and even offer a wired mode when your battery is low with a USB-C to 3.5mm cable. Unfortunately, you can’t charge and listen wired at the same time because there’s only one USB-C port on the buds.

Comfort wise, the Dual Driver BT ANC are exceptional. Thanks to the neckbud design, the buds rest around your neck when not in use. There’s no special sauce here either, the buds simply go in your ears. No wings or hooks to worry about. You won’t experience any discomfort or fatiguing with the Dual Driver BT ANC. You can, however, turn them off by magnetically attaching the two buds together.

The Dual Driver BT ANC feature active noise cancelation (ANC) as well. The ANC performance is as expected from an earbud. It aids with passive isolation but it won’t blow anyone away. It’s great for reducing background noise, especially while commuting, but we wouldn’t recommend flying with these.

In terms of sound, it’s OK at best. The bass is only slightly boosted but is still flat all around. The midrange is a bit odd, as the low-mids are also boosted just a bit to compensate for the bass boost, while the mid- and upper-mids are a bit boosted which could create a fatiguing sound. The treble is overall recessed giving the Dual Driver BT ANC a warm, forward sound that lacks quite a bit of air due to the lack of treble. Dynamic range is excellent, and soundstage is decent for an earbud.

Pros:

  • Solid battery life
  • Wired audio option
  • USB-C for charging
  • Excellent comfort

Cons:

  • ANC performance could be better
  • Sound is decent

Best Neckbud

1More Dual Driver BT ANC

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  • $110 from 1More

Wired and wireless

A great back up earbud that offers wireless and wired options even when your battery dies.

Best Value: Soundcore Anker Spirit Pro GVA

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The standout feature of the Soundcore Anker Sprit Pro GVA is the water and dust resistance. The earbud is rated IP68, which means not only are they water resistant like some other earbuds on the market, they are also dust resistant, which means the Spirit Pro GVA are capable of resisting the same amount of water and dust as many modern smartphones.

In terms of battery life, you’ll get up to 10 hours on a single charge, which is pretty good. They aren’t fast charging capable and charge over the aging Micro-USB port. which isn’t ideal as most modern tech is moving to USB-C for charging. This means you’re looking at roughly two hours to fully charge them when your battery is dead.

Comfort wise, the Spirit Pro GVA are excellent if you’re into their wing and bud design. They come with several buds and wings in the box to help get the right fit. Once you get the right fit, you won’t have issues with discomfort or fatiguing.

Sound quality is above average. The sound signature overall is warm with boosted bass, and a neutral mid and treble response. Dynamic range is excellent but soundstage is below-average when compared to other wireless earbuds.

Pros:

  • Great battery life
  • Excellent comfort
  • IP68 water and dust resistant
  • Above-average sound
  • Affordable

Cons:

  • Micro-USB for charging
  • No fast charging

Best Value

Anker Spirit Pro GVA

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  • $39 from Amazon

Excellent value

With IP68 water and dust resistance, great battery life, and excellent comfort, there’s little to hate about the Spirit Pro GVA.

Best Integration: Google Pixel Buds (2019)

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Both the now discontinued Pixel Buds and the upcoming truly wireless Pixel Buds (2019) are Fast Pair capable. However, the outgoing Pixel Buds were discontinued before the new Pixel Buds (2019) were even released. This means that we don’t have the full story on the Pixel Buds (2019). There’s no solid release date yet, but Google says they’re coming sometime in early 2020.

However, what we do know is that the buds feature five hours of battery life on a single charge, with up to 24 hours with the charging case, which charges over USB-C and is wireless charging capable. Basically, the buds feature all of the standard battery life quotas and charging formats people have come to expect from truly wireless earbuds.

Obviously, sound quality and comfort are the biggest question mark here. Nobody has been able to hear what they sound like yet and only time will tell if the Pixel Buds (2019) sound any good. However, comfort from the previous generation Pixel Buds were solid so we’re expecting something similar here. It’s worth noting that both Pixel Buds models are in-ear earbuds, so if you’re not a huge fan or if you have a track record of them hurting your ear, this probably won’t change with the Pixel Buds.

The biggest draw with the Pixel Buds (2019) is that they integrate super well with the Google Assistant and Android devices. You’ll be able to call up the Assistant hands-free. Obviously, you have Fast Pair, which allows you to quickly pair your Pixel Buds to your Android smartphone.

Pros:

  • Long battery life
  • Wireless charging & USB-C
  • Great integration with Google Assistant
  • Not available yet

Cons:

  • Sound quality & comfort are currently unknown

Best Integration

Google Pixel Buds

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  • $180 from Google

Great integration

We’ll have to see if comfort and sound quality are any good. Otherwise, the Pixel Buds seem to be a really great value.

Best Active Noise Canceling: Bose QC35 II

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It’s no secret that Bose makes some of the best active noise-canceling (ANC) headphones on the market. While the new NCH 700s don’t support Fast Pair, the older QC35 IIs do. They’re still a solid choice, despite being a few years old.

In terms of sound, the QC35 IIs are great. The sound signature overall is very neutral and flat, with minor inconsistencies most people won’t hear. Where it falls short is in dynamic range and soundstage. The lack of dynamic range can make the treble sound a bit sharp and piercing, and the soundstage is decent but relatively small compared to other closed-back, over-ear headphones.

Battery life is solid with up to 20 hours of battery life on a single charge. The QC35 II charges over Micro-USB instead of USB-C which is fine considering that the QC35 II is a couple of years old.

Comfort is where the QC35 II absolutely shine, though. If you’re generally not a fan of over-ear headphones, the QC35 II might change your mind. They are the de-facto headphone when it comes to comfort. You won’t experience discomfort or fatiguing (other than an overload of treble) with them.

Pros:

  • Excellent sound quality
  • Superb comfort
  • Great battery life
  • Great ANC

Cons:

  • Micro-USB for charging
  • Expensive
  • Treble-forward sound can be fatiguing for some

Best Active Noise Canceling

Bose QC35 II

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  • $349 from Amazon

The old champ

The Bose QC35 IIs used to be the go-to recommendation for travel headphones. Better headphones are now available but the QC35 IIs are still a solid choice.

Bottom line

Fast Pair headphones are relatively rare as many manufacturers haven’t adopted the technology yet. And the ones that do seem to treat it as an afterthought, often forgetting about the feature between generations.

However, the Jaybird Tarah are an excellent headphone that provides great sound, battery life, and comfort. While battery life could be better and the propriatary charging accessory puts a damper on the affair, they’re just a great all-around pair of headphones.

How to choose the best Fast Pair headphone

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Fast Pair headphones are fairly rare, with only a few dozen of them available on the market. However, the general guidelines when looking at any headphone are the same, focusing primarily on sound quality. Otherwise, you’re looking at comfort and battery life. You don’t want to get stuck with a pair of dead headphones on a long flight or a long workday.

Sound Quality

Sound quality should be the top priority for potential headphone buyers. It doesn’t matter if they’re super comfortable or look pretty if your headphone sounds like absolute crap. Fortunately, most pairs of Fast Pair headphones sound above-average.

Our top pick is the Bose QC35 II for having an excellent and rather neutral sound signature. This is despite them only having decent dynamic range and soundstage. Our second pick is the JBL Live 650 BTNC for having a slightly warmer sound signature but better dynamic range and soundstage.

Best JBL headphones, ranked by sound quality

Bose QC35 II
JBL Live 650 BTNC
Jaybird Tarah
Soundcore Anker Sprit Pro GVA
1More Dual Driver BT ANC

Comfort

While there’s no rhyme or reason to it, most Fast Pair headphones are super comfortable, while some become uncomfortable almost immediately or after a little bit of usage. Honestly, it varies by vendor here, but comfort should have a serious role in your purchasing decision.

Once again, the Bose QC35 II take the top spot for comfort, which doesn’t surprise anybody. The Bose QC35 II have unmatched comfort in most scenarios. Our next three picks are all earbuds and earbuds, which are typically super comfortable once you find the right size, allowing you to wear them for countless hours.

Best Fast Pair headphones, ranked by comfort

Bose QC35 II
Soundcore Anker Spirit Pro GVA
1More Dual Driver BT ANC
Jaybird Tarah
JBL Live 650 BTNC

Battery Life

Unsurprisingly, over-ear headphones tend to have longer battery life than earbuds, and that holds true here. The JBL Live 650 BTNC are our current champ with up to 30 hours of battery life on a single charge, followed by the Bose QC35 II with up to 20 hours.

Our third pick are the Google Pixel Buds, which technically get you up to 24 hours of listening time, but that’s split up into increments as the buds need to charge every five hours. The included wireless charging case is what provides the additional listening time.

Best JBL headphones, ranked by battery life

JBL Live 650 BTNC
Bose QC35 II
Google Pixel Buds
Soundcore Anker Spirit Pro GVA
1More Dual Driver BT ANC

Credits — The team that worked on this guide

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Peter Cao spends more time than he’s willing to admit listening and analyzing music and headphones. When not on the clock, he’s probably still doing the same, playing basketball or playing video games.