Ever since Apple launched its AirPods, the wire-free earbud market has seen an endless stream of products come into the scene, each claiming to be the best. As a consumer, you’ll be forgiven if you’re confused by the wide variety of earphones out there and don’t know which brand to go for. This article is meant to guide you on what qualities to look out for when choosing the right wireless earbuds to purchase so you can enjoy a superb listening experience.
What are Wireless Earbuds?
True wireless earbuds are not to be confused with neck bud-style wireless earbuds. Unlike the neck bud-style earbuds that have a single cable that connects the left and right earbuds to each other, true wireless earbuds do not have a cable at all. They’re designed to connect to your phone, computer, or other listening devices via Bluetooth, and have their controls, mic, and battery built into the housing of the earbuds. Each earbud has its own battery, and the pair comes with a charging case that, apart from carrying extra battery power, provides safekeeping when you’re not using them.
True wireless earbuds go by different names, including true wireless earbuds, fully wireless earbuds, and completely wireless earbuds.
9 Things to Consider When Choosing Wireless Earbuds
When you purchase a new phone, then it usually comes with its own set of earphones, but these may not be adequate to meet the sound requirements of the discerning listener. Below are the make or break qualities to look out for when purchasing wireless earbuds.
1. Great Audio Performance
You need to pay attention to the impedance of the earbuds, the inbuilt resistance that the audio signal goes through them. Ideally, your earbuds’ impedance should match that of the audio source, be it your smartphone, laptop, or DAP. It’s imperative to check the sensitivity of the earbuds. Sensitivity is measured in terms of decibels of Sound Pressure Level per milliwatt (dB/mW). Simply put, the more the sensitivity, the louder are your earbud speakers. That said, quality earbuds should be able to give you loud sounds without distortion. Sensitivity levels below 100dB/mW are generally recommended for good sound output that won’t damage your ears.
In converting electrical signals into sound pressure, the strength of the drivers in your earbuds matters a lot when it comes to sound quality. Frequency response is another important spec to consider. It refers to the sound range in terms of bass, mids, and treble delivered by your earbuds, and is measured in hertz (Hz). If, for example, you prefer music that’s heavy on the bass, then what you’ll need is earphones that have a low bass frequency.
2. A longer Expected Battery Life
True wireless earbuds have one major advantage over the more conventional earbuds; you can charge them without relying on external power banks or other power sources because they come with a charging case. When shopping wireless earbuds, the number of hours your earbuds can last before you have to recharge them is clearly important. Most wireless earbuds in the market give you 5 to 8 hours playtime on a single charge, although you can double this time by using their charging case. When choosing earbuds, make sure the battery life indicated is at least 5 hours of continuous playback, especially if you plan to use them for long-distance journeys.
3. Reliable Bluetooth Connectivity
Bluetooth connectivity enables you to move around freely without feeling tethered to your device. Standard wireless earbuds come with a Bluetooth range of around 30 feet, but if you move a lot, true wireless earbuds can give you ten times this range. These days, most Bluetooth devices support the standard SBC Bluetooth codec, which may not be good enough for some audiophiles. AptX codec – which delivers clearer sound quality with longer battery life for your earbuds. Compared to other codecs using the same bandwidth, aptX is able to compress and send more audio files to earbuds and still deliver high-quality sound.
Alternatively, you can look for earbuds that have NFC(Near Field Communication Support), a wireless radio technology that resembles Bluetooth to connect devices that are not that far apart. It provides super-fast and convenient pairing between devices, and, unlike Bluetooth, you don’t have to keep pairing the device often, which can be quite a hassle.
4. The Controls Shouldn’t be Confusing.
Most truly, wireless earbuds come with gesture control. With just a quick tap or swipe, you can accept and reject calls, change the volume, or even skip a music track. Some brands allow you can customize these gestures using a smartphone app, while others come with extra features like voice command. That said, the touch controls shouldn’t be over-complicated and should always be predictable and reliable.
5. Brand Recognition Shouldn’t Outweigh the Price.
Earbuds from established brand names go for a premium because of their superior sound quality, compact design, and enhanced features. Some will set you back more than $200. As a discerning shopper, the question you should ask yourself is, what is the value delivered, and are you getting the biggest bang for your buck. Presently there are plenty of cheap wireless earbuds in the market, mostly manufactured by Chinese companies that don’t meet the quality threshold, but there are also products that are of decent quality which go for far much less than the bigger brand names and still tick many of the must-have boxes.
6. Comfortable to Wear
Different ear shapes and sizes make it impossible for all earbuds to fit perfectly in our ears. However, quality earbuds should be comfortable to wear and shouldn’t fall off when you engage in rigorous activities like working out in the gym. For a good fit, try getting earbuds with silicone or foam tips that don’t hurt or irritate your ears like the rubber or plastic ones. Foam tips are a good option if you have difficulties fitting most earbuds in your ears. However, you should keep in mind that while foam ear tips provide more comfort than those made from silicone, they don’t last as long and are harder to keep clean. For the diehard athlete, it’s probably best you buy earbuds that come with ear clips so they can fit more snugly in your ears during your workouts.
7. With Special Features Like Active Noise Cancellation
Unlike passive headphones that reduce ambient noise through soundproofing, active noise-cancellation (ANC) headphones minimize unwanted ambient sounds using active noise control, especially for game lovers used to playing games on mobile devices. Wireless earbuds that use ANC technology have microphones inside them whose job is to detect lower frequency noise and nullify it before it reaches your ears. This is accomplished when the microphones produce an inverted sound that cancels out the unwanted noise. CVC (clear Voice capture) is a good example of a noise reduction software that uses advanced algorithms to improve the sound quality of your wireless earbuds.
Irrespective of which brand you use, you will realize that Active Noise Cancellation works better at some frequencies than in others. For example, some wireless earbuds may focus more on reducing noise from traffic than, say, machinery.
8. Water-proof Earbuds are Beneficial to Have
If you enjoy listening to music while working out in the gym or during your morning jog, you’ll find that sweat-resistant earbuds come in very handy. Wireless earbuds, like other electronics, are given an IPX score to indicate how dust or water-resistant they are, a score that can range anywhere between IPX0 and IPX8 (it rises as resistance increases). When purchasing your earbuds, check to see whether they have a rating of at least IPX4, which means they can block out dust, moisture from sweat, and water splashes. Some earbuds with coating of stainless metal may look cool, their colors may change a hint due to aluminum oxidation after 1-2 years of use, which is pretty common.
9. Balanced Sound Signature
Every audio device comes with its own unique sound quality. Some devices accentuate the base notes, while others highlight the higher treble ranges. This unique sound profile is referred to as a sound signature. There are six basic sound signatures that can be used to classify various audio devices, namely extra bass, V-shaped, flat, bright, warm, and balanced.
As someone shopping for the right wireless earbuds, you will ideally be looking for a balanced sound signature that accommodates the various sound frequencies, from the lowest to the highest, and balances them perfectly without enhancing them too much or making them too flat. The sound that is produced should be vivid but not too colorful while providing the perfect mixture of vocals and instruments, including the lows, mids, and highs of the sound stage.
When all is said and done, the type of earbuds that will make you happy is a matter of personal taste and your budget. Hopefully, the information provided above is more than adequate to help you make an informed decision when purchasing your earbuds. Good luck with picking the best kind.