Greatest Black Friday 2021 headphones offers: AirPods, Bose, Beats, Jabra and extra – CNET

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This story is part of Holiday Gift Guide 2021, our list of ideas, by topic, by recipient and by price, to help you discover the perfect gift.

Black Friday has become more of a sweeping concept spanning multiple weeks rather than an actual single-day sale. Sure, you might find a few low-price deals on the actual Black Friday, but in many cases, the discounts you see in the period leading up to Black Friday — and in the days following it — are arguably just as good or better. That means you can find bargains on some of our favorite headphones right now.

Note that I’ve only included headphones on sale that are recommendable. Also, prices and availability were accurate at the time of publication, but they may fluctuate. This article was last updated on Saturday, Nov. 20.

Read more: Best headphones for 2021

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Amazon has been sporadically discounting its second-gen Echo Buds and they’re now down to their lowest price yet: $90. That’s $50 off their list price of $120. That’s $10 less than what they hit on Amazon Prime Day and it’s a very good deal for a solid set of noise-canceling earbuds with hands-free Alexa capabilities. They’re available in black or white.

Note that if you want a wireless charging case, the price ticks up to $90. That model normally sells for $140, so again you’re looking at $50 off for that model as well. I thought the Echo Buds 2 offered some welcome improvements over the originals, including better sound and noise cancellation. They also fit comfortably and are decent for making calls.

Read our Echo Buds 2 review.

 

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Released back in September for $329, Bose’s brand-new QuietComfort 45 noise-canceling headphones are now on sale for a limited time for $279, their lowest price to date. That’s a $50 savings.

The QuietComfort 45 look similar to their comfy predecessor, the QuietComfort 35, and sound pretty similar too. But they do have some small design upgrades, including USB-C charging and, more importantly, better noise canceling (possibly the best out there right now) and improved voice-calling performance.

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Sony’s WF-1000XM4 may not fit everybody’s ears equally well, but if they do fit, they’re a fantastic set of true-wireless earbuds. Both their sound and noise-canceling capacity are excellent, and their performance as a headset for making calls is significantly improved over the earlier WF-1000XM3. 

However, they’re normally expensive at $280, and due to high demand after their release this year, they haven’t really gone on sale (they occasionally sell for $10 off). But Amazon, Best Buy and other retailers now have them discounted to $248 — that’s $32 off their list price for a limited time. 

The buds are available in two colors — black and silver (more like a sand color). As I said, they’re the best-sounding true-wireless buds. While they fit my ears well — and should fit the majority of ears well — they are a little bit on the bigger side, so they may not work for some people with smaller ears. Both Amazon and Best Buy have good return policies, however, if they don’t work for your ears.

Read our Sony WF-1000XM4 review.

 

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Google’s Pixel Buds A-Series are kind of unusual, in that they’re new but not exactly an upgrade. They look and sound very similar to last year’s Pixel Buds 2, which debuted at $179 but are now selling for less. However, instead of getting new features — like active noise canceling — they’ve actually lost a few. Why? The “A” stands for affordability: They list for $100 and now are on sale for $80, their lowest price to date. That new lower price is the real story here, making these a bona fide true-wireless value, particularly for Android users. And the integrated stabilizer arcs (aka sport fins) help keep the buds securely in your ears during sporting activities. Read our Pixel Buds A-Series review.

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Woot has Apple’s newest AirPods, the AirPods 3 on sale for just $165 right now, which is $15 less than the Apple Store and other retailers. For the full savings, you’ll need to sign in with your Amazon Prime account, otherwise they are $170 for everyone else.

Amazon

Sony’s flagship WH-1000XM4 noise-canceling headphones are once again on sale for $248, matching their low price for the year. That deal returns to Amazon and other retailers like Best Buy. Their list price is $350, but this is the second time in the last two weeks that the headphones have hit this price, and I expect the WH-1000XM4 will regularly be on sale this holiday buying season.

Note that the WH-1000XM4) were released last summer and probably won’t get an upgrade until next summer. Bose recently released its new $329 QuietComfort 45 headphones, which arguably have better noise canceling. That Bose model has been on sale for $279.

Read our Sony WH-1000XM4 review.

 

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The WH-XB910N is the step-down model from the WH-1000XM4. It’s an Extra Bass model, so it does have a preponderance of bass. I liked the previous version, the XB900N, and it was a decent deal when it went on sale for $150, which is what XB910N is priced at now. This updated version looks the same but offers improved noise canceling and multipoint Bluetooth pairing, so you can pair it with your smartphone and computer simultaneously. It also supports Sony’s LDAC audio codec.

While improved, the noise canceling isn’t quite up to the level of the WH-1000XM4. And the WH-XB910N doesn’t have some of that model’s extra features, such as Speak to Chat, wearing detection sensors and Sony’s Precise Voice Pickup technology. However, it does have a Quick Attention Mode that allows you to put your hand over the ear cup to go from noise canceling to an ambient-aware transparency mode. Also, these headphones now come with a hard case like the WH-1000XM4. Battery life is rated at up to 30 hours at moderate volume levels — that’s the same as what you get from the WH-1000XM4.

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With Apple releasing the new third-generation AirPods and Beats Fit Pro, we should see regular sales on the AirPods Pro this holiday season. Note that there’s an updated version of the AirPods Pro that, like the AirPods 3, includes MagSafe wireless charging (it’s a minor upgrade, but if you have Apple’s MagSafe charger — or another magnetic wireless charger — the AirPods Pro will stick to it). Since both the older and upgraded models are the same price right now, just make sure you get the one that’s MagSafe-compatible. You might as well. 

The price for the AirPods Pro has been ping-ponging between $180 and $200. Note that Walmart will have the AirPods Pro priced at $159 for Black Friday, though we expect that deal to sell out quickly.

Read our Apple AirPods Pro review.

 

Jabra

Released in mid-2020, the Jabra Elite 45h was essentially billed as the best pair of on-ear headphones for the money. While there’s nothing terribly fancy about them, they’re one of the best on-ear headphone values right now, with good sound quality, a sturdy design and comfortable fit (for on-ear headphones, anyway). Additionally, these Bluetooth on-ear headphones perform well as a headset for making calls and include a sidetone feature that allows you to hear your voice in the headphones so you don’t talk too loudly. Battery life is also good.

The Jabra Elite 75t earned a CNET Editors’ Choice award a couple years ago. Jabra recently released its Elite 7 Pro buds ($200), so now we’re seeing the Elite 75t nicely discounted in all colors. The slightly more rugged Elite Active 75t buds, now $100, are also on sale.

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Bose’s QuietComfort Earbuds have some of the best noise canceling out there. They also sound good. And once again, they’re being significantly discounted. Several retailers, including Amazon, Best Buy and Bose, have the QuietComfort Buds on sale for $199, matching last month’s low price. 

Recently, Bose released a substantial firmware update for the earbuds, adding “full transparency with dynamic noise reduction, new modes for specific activities, Spotify Tap integration, audio controls, easier device switching — and more.” So the buds have been improving over time.

The biggest downside to the buds is that they’re a little beefy and stick out of your ears. However, a lot of people, including me, love the fit of Bose’s StayHear ear tips. Read our Bose QuietComfort Earbuds review.

You can also get some limited-time discounts on a few other Bose earbuds and headphones, though the deal on the QuietComfort Earbuds is arguably the best of the bunch.

Skullcandy

Skullcandy’s Hesh Evo is an affordable over-ear wireless that sounds pretty decent for this price (it’s a little bass forward). I wouldn’t say they’re for critical listeners, but they’re fairly comfortable and make a decent gift for any kids in your family. They’re available in three colors: ’92 blue, true black and light gray.

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Apple’s AirPods Max headphones were down to a new low price of $430 in certain colors. They bounced back to their usual sale price of $479, but Costco just lowered the price to $440 and Amazon is matching it. Note that Amazon is applying its discount of $39.01 at checkout (it’s highlighted in green under the price) only to the blue and black versions. The other colors do not get the extra $39 discount.

Read our Apple AirPods Max review.

 

Earfun

I was a fan of Earfun’s earlier Free Pro earbuds, which offer good sound for around $50 and have little sport fins that help keep them in your ears securely. Now Earfun has released the Earfun Free Pro 2 buds with aluminum alloy caps, improved noise canceling and a couple of extra microphones that help boost voice-calling performance. They list for $80 but after you click the 10% instant discount coupon on their Amazon product page and then add the code EFANCFP6 (extra 20% off) at checkout, the price goes to $56 before tax (that’s $24 off). The code EFANCFP6 is good through Dec. 10. Just remember to apply it at checkout.

I used the Free Pro 2 for a few days and they deliver good sound for their modest price, with decent clarity and deep but well-defined bass. They produce relatively big, open sound. They don’t have such extra features as an ear-detection sensor so your music automatically pauses when you take one or both buds out of your ears, or an app that allows you to update their firmware. But they’re lightweight, should fit most ears well and have decent noise canceling along with a transparency mode (it’s not as good as the AirPods Pro’s transparency mode, which is hard to beat). They also charge wirelessly and are rated for up to six hours of battery life.

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Available in four colors, the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 noise-canceling headphones hew more closely to the newer Galaxy Buds Pro and Galaxy Buds Live, both of which have eye-catching glossy curved designs and the same compact charging case as this new model. In fact, it’s the Buds 2’s design and fit — they’re 15% smaller and 20% lighter than the Buds Plus — that make them a potentially more likable alternative to the slightly better-sounding Buds Pro.

Like the Buds Pro, the Buds 2 are equipped with active noise-isolating earbuds. That means all the latest Galaxy Buds models now feature some form of active noise canceling, though it’s slight with the Buds Live, which have an open design sans ear tips. While the Buds 2 look more like shrunken versions of the Buds Pro, I found them more akin to the Buds Live in that they barely stick out of your ears and are fairly discrete. Because they sit more flush with your ears — and have that curved design — they also pick up less wind noise. They’re IPX2 sweat-resistant.

Read our Galaxy Buds 2 review.

 

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Bose’s QuietComfort 35 II have been around for a few years, but Bose keeps selling these popular headphones even after the release of the new QuietComfort 45 (the Bose Headphones 700 remain the flagship noise-canceling model in its line). Its price recently has been ping-ponging between $199 and $179.

Read our QuietComfort 35 II review.

 

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While Jabra has released its new Elite 7 Pro earbuds, which feature a new, smaller design, the Elite 85t technically remain the company’s flagship earbuds. They’ve been on sale before for $170 but haven’t dipped to as low as $150. They do feature very good sound and call quality along with multipoint Bluetooth pairing so you can simultaneously pair them to your phone and computer.

Read our Jabra Elite 85t review.

 

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Samsung’s bean-shaped Galaxy Buds Live were arguably the most innovative new true wireless earbuds of 2020. Like the standard AirPods, they have an open design so you don’t jam an ear tip into your ear. They’re comfortable to wear and fit my ears more securely than the AirPods. These wireless buds are discreet and basically sit flush with your ear, which reduces wind-noise while biking. I regularly use them for running and biking, and they’re great for sporting activities if they fit your ears well. But one warning: Some people won’t get a secure fit, so buy them from a retailer that has a good return policy.

They deliver good sound and work well as a headset for making calls, with good background noise reduction so callers can hear you clearly even when you’re in noisier environments. While they feature active noise canceling, it’s mild compared with the noise canceling in earbuds that have a noise-isolating design. In other words, buy them for their design and sound, not their noise-canceling features.

Read our Samsung Galaxy Buds Live review.

 

Sony

Sony’s new entry-level C500 earbuds were released just a few weeks ago. Now they’re already on sale in white at Amazon for $78 or $32 off their $100 list price for a limited time. They have been as low as $68 in a one-day flash sale. 

While the C500’s design sensibility has more in common with the high-end WF-1000XM4 than their predecessor, the WF-XB700 Extra Bass, the C500 is not a noise-canceling model and is pretty basic as far as earbuds go, with no ear-detection sensors or transparency mode. But the buds are compact, lightweight, fit comfortably and sound good for an entry-level model.

Read our Sony C500 first take.

 

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The Powerbeats 4 are essentially the Powerbeats Pro with a wire between them. Some people like having the wire so they can let the buds dangle from their neck when they don’t have them in their ears. You can find them at a nice discount these days. Read our Powerbeats 4 review.

Read our Beats Powerbeats 4 review.

 

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Beats’ Powerbeats Pro, which have been out for a few years, list for $250 but have recently dipped to $150 (and even less in some colors), their lowest price yet. With Beats’ new Fit Pro buds arriving (read our review), we should see the Powerbeats Pro regularly on sale.

Read our Beats Powerbeats Pro review.

 

Bose

The second-generation Bose Frames haven’t really seen any discounts since their release (the previous versions have been on sale). Now the Tempo, Tenor and Soprano are all $30 off or $220. The Tempo has the biggest drivers and delivers the best sound, but it is a sport model. I use it for biking and running.

Read our Bose Frames review.

 

Sony

The WH-CH710N is Sony’s entry-level noise-canceling headphones. At their list price of $200, they’re grossly overpriced, but a lot more compelling at $78. The set’s sound and noise-canceling features are a big step below what you get with the WH-1000XM4, but these are overall competent headphones that are fairly lightweight and comfortable to wear. In other words, this pair is far from the best but a good choice if you can’t afford something higher-end. No carrying case is included.

David Carnoy/CNET

The Momentum True Wireless II remain Sennheiser’s flagship true-wireless earbuds. But shortly after the release of the CX ($130), Sennheiser’s second-generation midrange buds, the company has followed up with the CX Plus, which adds noise canceling for $50 more ($180). They look nearly identical to the standard CX buds but have a glossy black finish on the buds’ exterior touch-sensitive surface. Cosmetically, they’re more akin to the older and slightly larger CX400BT.

I like the CX for the money and the CX Plus deliver the same excellent sound while rounding out the feature set with active noise canceling and a transparency mode. Battery life is rated at up to eight hours at moderate volume levels and these are splash-proof, with an IPX4 rating. They do stick out of your ears a fair bit. 

The noise canceling isn’t quite as good as the Sony WF-1000XM4’s noise canceling, but I thought it was quite effective and headset performance was also decent, though not necessarily stellar. These are all-around solid noise-canceling earbuds that can count sound quality as their biggest strength.

Also on sale:

Sarah Tew/CNET

First released in 2016, the Beats Solo3 predates the Solo Pro and has the W1 chip instead of the H1 chip. While it’s wireless, unlike the Solo Pro, it’s missing noise canceling. That said, it’s one of the most popular Beats models ever made and often gets discounted to $100. Read our Beats Solo3 review.

Expired deals

These headphones were on sale recently at these prices. We expect that some of these deals will return in the days leading up to Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Bose’s flagship noise-canceling headphone is a few years old and has sporadically been nicely discounted, though not always in all colors. The black version is currently $300 at Amazon. We could see that price dip lower in the coming weeks, but we may have to see the sale on the QuietComfort 45 end before we see even deeper discounts.

Read our Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 review.

 

Sarah Tew/CNET

In 2020, the entry-level AirPods hit $99 during Black Friday sales at Walmart. This year, Walmart has raised the bar by selling them for $89, an all-time low. Amazon and Costco (membership required) have basically matched that price, but these are already dropping out of stock. Elsewhere, they’ve been selling for around $115. Note that this model doesn’t have a wireless charging case.


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