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Best back to school gear in 2021: Headphones and speakers

Best audio products for back-to-school audiophiles.

If you are looking for some reasonably priced audio gear for college, here is a selection of affordable audio devices that will suit you -- if you like in-earbuds, over-ear headphones, or Bluetooth speakers that deliver great sounds. These are great for audiophiles. I have been really impressed with this batch of devices, and it has been really hard for me to choose my favorites.

Earfun Air TWS

IPX7-certified Bluetooth earbuds

Great audio headsets for back-to-school students zdnet

The Earfun Air TWS earbuds can play for up to 7 hours and be charged four more times, delivering up to 35 hours of playing time when recharged in its case. The earbuds are IPX7 rated, so they are waterproof and sweatproof. The case ensures that the earbuds can only be placed into the case one way. To pair the buds, simply take out the buds from the case.

The earbuds will power on and automatically enter into pairing mode. They are comfortable to wear, with four eartips for a custom fit. The earbuds can pair individually and are easy to control if you touch either ear. Pairing is fast and easy. Sound is good across the high and mid ranges but lacks a little bass depth if you love deep rich sounds.

These are really comfortable earbuds that you could easily wear all day. Currently, there is a $10 coupon on the product page, so the price is $49.99. 

Tribit XSound Surf

12W Bluetooth speaker

Great audio headsets for back-to-school students zdnet

The Tribit XSound Surf packs a real punch for sound. Its 12W speaker really delivers deep booming bass sounds and produces good sound across its entire range without sounding tinny. It has Bluetooth 5.0 for a quick connection to your device, and TWS so you can get true stereo if you have two speakers. The battery will last for over 9 hours playing time at medium volume. It has a built-in microphone for hands-free calling.

This speaker IPX7 is waterproof, so it can withstand immersion in up to 1m of water for up to 30 minutes. I think that this is one of my favorite Bluetooth speakers I have tried in 2020. It is an absolute bargain for $24.99.

Tranya T10

IPX7-certified Bluetooth earbuds

Great audio headsets for back-to-school students zdnet

The Tranya T10 earbuds distinguish themselves by having a graphene 12mm driver,  which delivers good bass for Bluetooth earbuds. The mid-level sounds are good, but I found the high ranges a little tinny. They are IPX7-certified and can withstand heavy rain or sweaty workouts.

The battery in the buds will last for up to 8 hours of playback, and the charging case will deliver up to 32 hours playtime. There are four sets of ear tips to get the best fit for your ears. Although they fit snugly, others can hear the sounds when you play music. Tapping the earbuds up to three times will enable you to answer a call, change the volume, and change tracks.

OneOdio Studio Pro-50

Over-ear headphones

Great audio headsets for back-to-school students zdnet

One thing to note with the OneOdio Studio Pro-50 headphones is that they are not Bluetooth-enabled. These headphones are designed to be plugged into your sound deck on your computer or audio deck if you are DJ'ing. These headphones have two jacks: 3.5mm and a 6.35mm jack -- one on each ear cup.

There is a cable with 3.5mm jacks at each end, and a microphone so the headphones can be used for voice calls. There's another reversible 3.5mm/6.35mm cable to plug into a Hi-Fi. In the box, there is also a bag to carry the cables and leads. If you are an audio purist who hates the lag and drop outs caused by the variable Bluetooth signal, then you will enjoy the streamlined sound across the range from these headphones.

Votomy VT 360

Bluetooth speaker

The best Holiday audio for under $100 zdnet

The Votomy VT360 Bluetooth speaker is loud. At 30W, it easily is the loudest speaker I have tried this time. It has a 5,200mAh battery and will deliver superb bass from its dual bass passive radiators for up to 12 hours. It has TWS so you can pair two together to really belt out the sound. Mid and high ranges are superb.

Bluetooth 5.0 easily connects to devices,  and the speaker is also rated IP67, so it is dustproof and waterproof. It can also be used as a power bank to charge other devices. You can tap to answer a call and speak through its built-in microphone. It also has a 3.5mm jack for direct connection.

It is a little heavy at 0.9kg, but if you keep the speaker in one place and do not pack it in your bag too often, then this speaker will be perfect for your living space or party.

Tronsmart Apollo Bold

ANC earbuds

Great audio headsets for back-to-school students zdnet

The Tronsmart Apollo Bold earbuds come in a round case and are edged with rose gold trim differentiating them from other earbuds. These earbuds have active noise canceling and TWS and deliver a good range of sound. There are a range of light indicators to note, both on the case and the earbuds. There are three pairs of ear tips for a customised fit, and the earbuds feel snug in my ear.

The sound is excellent with good deep bass -- unusual for earbuds. Midrange and high ranges are also excellent. Noise canceling is really good and someone sitting close to you can not hear the sound. A nice feature is that, when you remove one of the earbuds to talk, the music pauses. These are more expensive than other devices in this list, but if you want an immersive sound without any external distractions, then these are definitely worth the extra money.


Bluetooth earbuds


The FIIL T1X earbuds are TWS enabled with a good rich sound. Bluetooth 5.0 delivers quick and easy pairing to your device, and quickly charge within 10 minutes. You can get up to about 6 hours of playing time, and recharge the devices up to three more times. Sound in these earbuds is good across bass, mid, and high ranges, and the earbuds fit well, with silicone cuffs to ensure a snug fit. There are four ear tips and spare silicone cuffs to ensure a perfect fit. Hardly any sound can be heard by someone sitting close to you.

Double-tap the right earbud to answer or reject calls, use the right earbud to navigate tracks, and the left earbud to modify the volume, or invoke the voice assistant. Once you have learned which earbud does what, they are nice and intuitive. Furthermore, you can tweak the settings to achieve a perfect sound with the app to modify the equaliser settings. The T1X are definitely one of my go-to earbud brands for 2020.

OneOdio Fusion A70

Over-ear headphones

Great audio headsets for back-to-school students zdnet

The OneOdio Fusion A70 headphones have 3.5mm and 6.35mm jacks that fit into the headphones for a hard wired experience. The 3.5/6.35mm cable also has a useful  locking feature. Insert the 3.5mm jack into the headphones, swivel, and the jack will lock in place so it will not come out of the headset, no matter how much you boogie around at your PC.

Furthermore, you can configure our headphones to enter pairing mode and use the cable to connect to another set of headphones. Sound is superb across all ranges, and loud. Bluetooth pairing is quick and easy, and there is minimal lag. 

The over-ear cups fit well and cut out ambient sound well. The controls on the headset are simple and enable you to navigate through tracks by long pressing, adjust the volume, and answer calls. These headphones are not noise canceling but ambient noise is kept to a minimum. I love the fit and feel of these headphones, and they are a bargain for the price.