Apple was the first phone maker to kill off the headphone jack, but they were far from the last. While the general public laughed at the time, now even Samsung has decided to ditch the ancient analog audio interface that’s served us for all our lives. If you want to use wired headphones with your new iPhone or iPad, you’ll have to use an adapter. If you have one of the new USB-C devices, you can get USB-C headphones as well. So you don’t necessarily have to give up your beloved wired headphones just because our friend Jack has left.
However, this is meant to be a transitional phase and in time we will all move to wireless headphones that transition smoothly from one device to the next. The coolest development in this regard is the advent of the “true” wireless bud, which is what you’ll be seeing here. Before that, let’s talk about what qualifies something as a “true” wireless bud in the first place.
What are “True” Wireless Earbuds?
This type of wireless headphones is a completely new category of product, which is why I have decided to review them separately from more traditional bluetooth headphones. If you head over to that page you’ll immediately realize the big difference between these two types of audio devices. That’s right, true wireless earbuds consist of two completely independent devices, one for each ear. Even the lightweight sports buds on my other review pages are connected to each other somehow, albeit by a single wire.
With these buds each piece has its own connection, battery, and hardware. Often each bud can work by itself as a mono headphone/earpiece. True wireless buds also usually come in a special case that contains a battery. When the buds are in the case, they charge wirelessly. The case itself is charged by plugging it in. That’s the short description of this new type of headphone – now we have to talk about what separates a good set from a bad one.
What I’m Looking for in a Good True Wireless Bud
Apple launched the true wireless category with their AirPods and, predictably, other companies have copied the design with a vengeance. That means there’s plenty of choice on the market and various different factors to consider when picking out which set is right for you.
First things first: price. The Apple AirPods set the bar here and debuted at around $150. If something costs significantly more, there has to be a compelling story in the specs to justify the price bump.
Battery life is very important as well. With these buds there are three components to this: how long you can use the buds in your ears before they have to go back into the case is part one. How long they take to charge up in the case is part two. Finally, how much juice the case itself holds is part three. Getting the right balance between these three numbers is a big part of what makes a given set of buds good or not.
I also like to see features such as water-resistance and multiple eartips to match different ear sizes. Noise cancellation is a big one too!
Finally, sound quality. No earbud is going to match a good over-ear set of headphones, but the bar is still pretty high these days. Strong bass and well-separated mids and highs are desirable. Of course, I will be relying on the general consensus among people who’ve bought and used each bud to make a judgment on this front. With that out of the way, let’s start with the product that kicked off this whole sound revolution.