Our gadgets are thinning. Though they occupy more of our attention than ever, they ask for less physical space: Apple has cleaved 3.9 entire millimeters from the iPhone since its debut, and popular earbuds increasingly eschew wires.
To that end, Beats has now released, for $250, the Powerbeats Pro “totally wireless” earbuds. Marketed to athletes, they clip around your ears and hold firm. Their buds are technically the style that would go inside your ear canal, but the design of the exterior shell keeps them nestled just outside of it instead — which does mean, like the AirPods before them, they have some issues isolating sound. (Namely: They don’t, really.)
Beats sent me these new Powerbeats for review, and while I liked them overall, they reminded me that the best wireless earbuds I’ve used actually have one key thing: a wire.
This superior breed is the Beats X, an earlier product from the maker of Powerbeats Pros. They cost a more reasonable $100, and though they wirelessly connect to your phone using Bluetooth, there’s a cord that links the left earbud to the right. It sometimes slaps my neck when I run with them. And that’s all okay. After trying smaller and smaller wireless earbuds on thinner and thinner phones, I’ve decided the best model is the one that’s at peace with its dangly splendor. The Beats X have sinuous wires hidden beneath a plastic coating that hangs around your head, with buttons to control your music, summon Siri, and power on or off. They’re against trend. But they also work really well.
Unlike AirPods and the Powerbeats Pro, Beats X are greedy for your ears. Pick the right earbud tips — the package comes with a few different sizes — and, reader, they will fill you. Outside noise will be blocked, allowing you to listen at more responsible and safer volumes. The Beats X are designed to journey inside your canals, while AirPods and the Powerbeats Pro rest just outside them, as if they’re nervous to offend. It reduces their effectiveness in…