CES is a great place to get an idea of the audio trends we're likely to see over the next year, and this year's tech extravaganza was no different; CES 2020 was dominated by true wireless earbuds, ranging from basic budget-friendly pairs to ultra high-tech noise-cancelling models.
While it was a fantastic year for the true wireless form factor, it felt like over-ear and on-ear headphones were rather neglected – you'll notice that only one pair of over-ear headphones made it into our roundup below.
We were hoping to see the rumored Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless Headphones, but were disappointed – but that's not to say that this wasn't an exciting CES for audio tech.
- What are the best headphones of 2020?
With built-in noise cancellation, Audio-Technica's latest true wireless earbuds could prove a worthy rival for the likes of the Sony WF-1000XM3.
We were unsurprised to find that the audio fidelity offered by the ATH-ANC300TW is very good, thanks to carbon-coated 5.8mm drivers and support for Hi-Res Audio codecs.
Like other Audio-Technica earbuds, they sport a natural, wide soundstage, with good separation between the low, mid, and high frequencies, and we were impressed by their noise-cancelling capabilities.
Available in May, the ATH-ANC300TW will set you back $249 / £209 (around AU$360 based on current conversion rates) – that makes them more expensive than many of their rivals, including the Sony WF-1000XM3.
- Read our hands-on Audio-Technica ATH-ANC300TW review
The Nuraloop wireless earbuds were among the most impressive headphones we saw at CES this year, thanks to innovative tech that tailors their sound precisely for you.
These high-tech buds analyze your hearing by playing a series of beeps at different frequencies, collecting data on the tiny sounds emitted by the cochlea in your ears in response.
The accompanying app then builds a unique hearing profile based on your results, tweaking the EQ of the Nuraloops so that they sound good to your ears (and your ears only).
Listening with our personalized EQ settings, we were totally convinced that we were experiencing the very best sound quality possible for our ears; and with active noise cancellation built-in, these earbuds offer a double-whammy of sonic immersion.
The downside? The Nuraloops release date has been consistently pushed back since September 2019, and it's entirely possible that Nura will miss its next release window of early 2020.
They come two years after the release of the Nuraphone headphones, which we praised for their EQ options and full sound – even if the in-ear and over-ear hybrid design may not have been for everyone.
Price-wise, the Nuraloop headphones currently cost $199 / £199 / AU$299; however, as an early-bird price, that will likely change when they finally come to market.
Sennheiser HD 450BT
Sennheiser came to CES 2020 with two new pairs of wireless headphones, including the noise-cancelling Sennheiser HD 450BT. Building upon the success of previous models like the HD 4.50BTNC, these noise-cancelling headphones are a cheaper alternative to the Sony WH-1000XM3.
Full disclosure: we weren't exactly blown away by the sound quality on offer here, but we liked the well-balanced soundstage and decent noise cancellation. Are they as good as the Sony WH-1000XM3? Not by a long shot – but they are about $150 / £150 cheaper, and that in itself is a compelling enough reason to give them a go.
With a fully foldable design, these cans are targeted squarely at commuters who want the flexibility and convenience of wireless noise cancellation, without the extortionate cost – and at this early stage, it looks like Sennheiser could be on to a winner.
- Check out our hands-on Sennheiser HD 450BT review
JLab Go Air True Wireless Earbuds
True wireless earbuds for $29 / £29 (about AU$40)? Sign us up! The JLab Go Air are ridiculously cheap, particularly when you compare them to our current favorite model, the Sony WF-1000XM3, which cost $230 / £220 / AU$400.
At a fraction of the price, you do unfortunately get a fraction of the quality – but that's not the point. What's exciting about these earbuds is that they open up the world of true wireless listening to everybody, with an accessible price point that won't scare off those who are looking to cut the cord for the first time.
It's indicative of an interesting divide in the true wireless market; while the likes of Audio-Technica are packing their buds with premium features like noise cancellation (and bumping up the price as a result), JLab has gone in the complete opposite direction, offering a cheap alternative without all the bells and whistles.
After listening to these buds, we can't recommend them based on sound quality. However, for those looking for cheap backup buds or perhaps a first pair for their kids, the price can't be argued with.
Technics EAH-AZ70W True Wireless Headphones
Technics has a reputation for making some of the best-sounding audio equipment around, and the brand finally announced its first pair of true wireless earbuds at CES this year.
Available from June 2020 for £239 / $249 / AU$365, the Technics EAH-AZ70W True Wireless Headphones are packed to the brim with audiophile-friendly tech that could well steer people away from the likes of the Sony WF-1000XM3 and the Apple AirPods Pro.
These buds boast Dual Hybrid Noise Cancelling, which is a combination of FeedForward Noise Cancelling (FF-NC), used to combat exterior noise, and Feedback Noise Cancelling (FB-NC) used to cancel noise generated from inside the ear.
The EAH-AZ70W should sound good too; they're packing 10mm drivers that uses a graphene-coated hard plastic diaphragm in conjunction with an airflow-optimized acoustic control chamber, to present treble detail and enhance bass response.
Unfortunately we weren't able to hear them for ourselves; the model presented at CES was still in pre-production form. So, we'll have to wait until we carry out our full review to find out whether Technics could topple Sony from its position at the top of the true wireless heap.
- Read our hands-on Technics EAH-AZ70W True Wireless Headphones review
Shure AONIC 215 True Wireless Sound Isolating Earphones
According to Shure, the AONIC 215 True Wireless Sound Isolating Earphones use the same design that musicians use for ear-monitoring on stage. With eight hours of battery life, and a further three charges included in the case, these $275 (around £210 / AU$400) earbuds are pricey – but impressive nonetheless.
We tested the AONIC 215s briefly, and we felt they offered stellar audio quality for their small form factor, alongside adjustable noise cancellation and a handy Environment Mode.
- Check out all of TechRadar's CES 2020 coverage. We're live in Las Vegas to bring you all the breaking tech news and launches, plus hands-on reviews of everything from 8K TVs and foldable displays to new phones, laptops and smart home gadgets.
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Olivia was previously TechRadar's Senior Editor - Home Entertainment, covering everything from headphones to TVs. Based in London, she's a popular music graduate who worked in the music industry before finding her calling in journalism. She's previously been interviewed on BBC Radio 5 Live on the subject of multi-room audio, chaired panel discussions on diversity in music festival lineups, and her bylines include T3, Stereoboard, What to Watch, Top Ten Reviews, Creative Bloq, and Croco Magazine. Olivia now has a career in PR.