2020 is the remarkable year for true wireless earbud. Mobile phone manufacturers such as Samsung, Google continues to introduce their next version of TWS to the market, while latecomers Microsoft Surface debuted with Office 365 tricks and presentation clicker. Traditional audio makers also follow up the trend and countless brand new TWS released and unlike phones, the TWS are more diverse in design.
If you are looking your first pair here are a couple of things you should know about
$20 – $50: Most of TWS in this price range are from unknown brands, you get knockoff, entry-level true wireless earbuds and they are basically functional. But they get a few issues related to connectivity that just one bud is the primary and if you switch to pair your phone with the other, you have to reset/clear the earbuds’ memory.
Not all of them sound bad, if you just need a pair that work you can easily find a pair. I would recommend EarFun Free, FiiO JadeAudio EW1 and TOZO T10.
Well-known brand like Anker aslo have low-end model like Anker Soundcore Life P2 (which I reviewed) with long-stem alike Airpods and they are more than enough to satisfy everyday needs – listening to music, workingout and calls.
It’s possible to get dual driver TWS in this price range, like SOUNDPEATS Dual Dynamic Drivers which deliver great bass and clear treble.
$50 – $100: The key different is these earbuds in this price range have solid build quality, better sound and call quality, longer battery life.
More mic built-in so the call quality is much better and they are also equipped by more advanced Bluetooth processors.
$100 – $200: Galaxy Buds+ Plus or Airpods fall in to this price range.
Above $200: You get premium features like noise cancelling, touch control and a lot more, but the sound quality compared to $100 – $200 price range is controversially not better.
Some may look weird on the ear, I never image they ever exist but audio makers are creative. They come up with a lot of interesting looks for earbuds.
To choose the design itt depends on where you have the earbuds on and your favorite outfit. It’s fine to wear a pair of sports earbuds in a casual corporate environment, but it seems not mix up with a more professional working environment.
Large housing earbuds can host large dynamic driver so they pump stronger bass. But your ears may not accommodate these earbuds.
I see a lot of my friends having small ear, the most suited size would be Airpods’ size earbuds.
4. Battery life
First pairs of true wireless earbuds from the beginning may last from two to three hours. But over time their battery get better and now I think it no longer matters, since you just listen music in a few hours and store them back in the charging case.
Actually battery isn’t made with more capacity but earbuds with a low power Bluetooth processor will waste less power and we have more time to enjoy music.
There are two types of battery used for true wireless earbuds, Lithium Ion button cell battery and Li Polymer battery pack. The first is smaller, more durable and safer.
As Li battery aging overtime, companies such as Apple figured out to optimize the charging by adding a new feature to headsets (Airpods, Airpods Pro). With iOS 14, AirPods are able to learn from your charging routine and won’t get full charged until you take them off, they stop charging at 80% of maximum battery capacity.
5. Bluetooth Version And Codecs
Till date the Bluetooth 5.0 is the latest version developed by Bluetooth Special Interest Group, which offers higher bitrate, wider range, less energy consumption, multipoint support, and able to transfer really big files.
Other than Bluetooth version, you could see some codecs, such as AptX, AAC, LDAC, SBC and other high-birate.
For instance, if your TWS earbuds like Anker SoundCore Liberty Air 2 get AAC support, but your phone doesn’t (Android phones) you won’t get benefit from that spec, but if you have iPhone which AAC runs at a maximum of 250 kbps over Bluetooth you get the benefit of earbuds with AAC. So listening music from your iPhone with the Air 2 the sound is slightly better than from Android phones.
Higher bitrate can translate to better sound, but not always if a bandwidth is overloaded it can cause the problem to the sound.
6. Eartips, Fit And Noise Isolation
Airpods come without eartipds, if you hate something that insert deeply into your ear canal earpods or alike are good choices.
Earbuds can seal in with eartips that not only lift the bass but the noise isolation, it can be a bit discomfortable at the first time.
Sports earbuds have earhooks or wingtips to fit.
7. Control button vs touch control
It is up to you tho choose the touch/pressing button, either is just interaction other than that I think it needs to be responsive and intuitive.
8. Charging case
The case often comes in a compact, pocket size. It should be rough because it’s the item I often drop drop.
Quick charging or wireless charging is also the feature we should consider.
9. Wireless charging
There is no earbuds with wireless charging yet, but their charging case, which is compatible with Qi-charging mat.
10. Noise cancellation
Premium feature for frequent travellers, but it costs a lot of money. Airpods Pro and WF-1000XM3 cost roughly $250. Both claimed as industry leading NC but I think this feature is far from perfect, though they work.
11. Volume level
Some deliver tiny sound and volume, and you may not like this.
12. Sound signature
There is a co-relation between sound isoation and sound – unsealed earbuds tend lacks in bass compared to sealed earbuds.
Often three ranges – and audio engineers will configure the sound according to the design of housings, number of driver and size.
Which kind of sound signature do you prefer.
Strong, plentful bass
Natural, balanced sound
Treble – focusing sound
Considering others like instrument separation, sound stage
13. Extra features
If you really want to monitor your health status, there are some helpful features packed in earbuds like HRM, fitness tracking.
Multipoint is a great feature if you need connect your earbuds with 2 devices at the same time – You can keep streaming music from your laptop while you are able to get call notifications from your phone, but just a few TWS such as Jabra Elite Active 75t supports it.
Quick charging can be a hit if you often forget to charge your gear before working out, a couple minutes of charging can provide enough juice for earbuds to last the whole training session.
14. Operating system
Earbuds will soon be run by OS that can be updated for new features. Google for example is reportedly working with Feature Drops for Pixel Buds.
There is a delay when sound transmitted over Bluetooth, Low Latency is important for watching movies or playing game on phones, earbuds can deliver sound in sync with what’s happening on the screen.
Razer Hammerhead True Wireless with handful Ultra–Low Latency Connection (only 60ms delay) are great of playing online game.
Surround Sound Feature
Apple recently revealed the Spatial Audio for Airpods Pro, the feature will take your watching movie experience to the whole new level by creating virtual 3D sound.