Many people consider totally wireless earbuds to be the best type of earbuds for one obvious reason: no cable. Instead, there are two earpieces which insert into the ear canals. Aside from playing music, they integrate many practical features, especially for fitness enthusiasts, like sweat-proof housings and a secure fit.
The most important feature for headphones is sound quality, and luckily it is easy to find a pair that sounds great with clear treble and rich bass. Unfortunately, because of limitations in technology, all Bluetooth headphones have issues related to connectivity, which keeps some people from buying a pair.
Here are top seven things you should consider before buying totally wireless earbuds this year. No doubt, 2018 will see the launch of some new models. We’ll be on the lookout and will update you as we see new products launch.
These are currently some of the top-selling earbuds on the market and the 3 brands we think are worth considering: click to read our full review of each model: Bose SoundSport Free, Samsung Gear Iconx Review and the Apple Airpods.
Truely Wireless Earbuds (Buyers’ Guide)
The cost for decent completely wireless earbuds can range anywhere from about $50 to $300+. A budget pair on the lower end of the price scale is the BÖHM S10, which are designed for sports and active users. Samsung Gear IconX and Apple with its recently released AirPods occupy the middle of the price range and Bose SoundSport Free is one of the higher priced earbuds that has surely revolutionized the truly wireless headphone market.
If the two earbuds are untethered they are separated, so you can connect to the right or left earbud individually if you want to. In order to create stereo audio, the earbuds must pair with each other so you can simultaneously hear the same sound from them. Have you ever heard it said that the sound from one earbud chases the other? This won’t happen if you are listening to wired earbuds, but with totally wireless earbuds it might.
Wireless earbuds, right or left or both can connect to your phone to stream music. However, it is not easy to maintain these two steady connections between earbuds and a device because the Bluetooth signal has to transmit through your body which is about 60% water. Also, the syndication between earbuds may not be stable. The connection stability also depends on where you keep your device – the closer to the earbuds, the better the connection is.
The Dash and Earin have this problem. They can lose connection from phones, or there is an audio gap between the two earbuds. To have a more reliable Bluetooth connection, the Dash utilized near field magnetic induction (NFMI) for communication between the two earbuds.
Bragi developed the second generation of the Dash, making their product simpler, and they called it “The Headphone”. This time they resolved the connection issue that existed in the Dash by removing sensors and fitness tracking features. Now The Headphone is solely for listening to music.
Overall, Apple AirPods are best for their stability in the Bluetooth department.
3. Sound Quality
Regular Bluetooth earbuds with a short cable attached to 2 earbuds don’t sound good compared to wired earbuds. Completely wireless earbuds are still Bluetooth stereo audio, so they don’t have perfect sound yet, but we expect that to change in the near future.
That said, wireless stereo audio doesn’t impress audiophiles. They tend to sound thin and lack bass and clarity. If you need a pair to truly enjoy music, you should get wired earbuds which cost around $150 for a great pair. If you prefer earbuds with heavy bass check out the Erato Apollo 7 or SOL REPUBLIC Amps Air. For earbuds with great all around sound, the Jabra Elite Sport are amazing, but they are pricey. An alternative could be Bragi’s The Headphone, the second generation of The Dash.
4. Comfort and Fit
Wireless earbuds are normally large and heavy compared to wired earbuds. Some users find them bulky and say they don’t fit well or aren’t comfortable. The BÖHM S10, VerveOnes, and the recently launched Sol Republic Amps Air earbuds are all examples of how large wearables can still fit into your ears even if they are packed with a lot of inner components like batteries and Bluetooth hardware. They look bulky but are lightweight, and comfortable. Other wireless earbuds like the Erato Apollo 7 and Samsung Gear IconX are much smaller. It all comes down to your personal fit preference.
Wireless earbuds may fit even more snugly and securely with wing tips, and increase the noise isolation with eartips.
5. Extra Features
Earbuds today are built with a lot of innovative features, but you cannot use all of these features if they are not easy to access or control. The most common features are fitness tracking, noise cancellation, voice command prompt, app connection, playback control and hands-free calling. For sports, sweat-proof or waterproof earbuds are useful for rough and active conditions. Earhooks or wingtips are necessary parts to lock earbuds in the ear. You may not need all these features, though, if your main purpose is just listening to music.
Ears are the perfect location to place sensors that track biometric information. Taking this into account, wireless earbuds have built-in sensors and could replace wristbands for fitness tracking. Unfortunately, wireless earbuds can’t be worn all day as wristbands because of their short battery life and the need to listen and communicate with those around you.
The Hear One has a built-in active noise-canceling feature and advanced access to an app that controls how you hear the world around you. This is a safety feature that allows you to be aware of things happening around you, as well as being able to chat with your friends without taking the earbuds out. “Transparency”, “hear through”, and “aware mode” are all different names for this feature, but they basically all work the same.
IQbuds offer speech enhancement which allows you to selectively enhance the sound you want to hear. This is not simply passive or active but actually amplifies the sound and cancellation features.
Touch control is a smart feature that can recognize touch patterns: single, double tap, tap and hold, etc. This is very useful for controlling playback, volume, and hands-free calling. Usually, if there is a button on the earbuds that you press, it creates an annoying beeping sound.
Since wireless earbuds are very small, so if they fall out it is very difficult to find them. Phazon wireless earbuds have a cool feature that allows you to locate your earbuds through their app if they get lost.
Currently, there are only 2 wireless earbuds that can work as independent MP3 players: The Dash and Samsung Gear IconX. They both offer 4GB of internal storage to hold up to 1000 songs. Hopefully, in the future they can be synced with popular streaming music services like Spotify, Apple Music or Tidal so you don’t have to manually copy songs to those devices.
Most truly wireless earbuds are fitness-focused, and some even have built-in fitness features like oxygen consumption (VO2 Max), calories burned, step counting, distance traveled, heart rate monitor, and pace. The information collected is then monitored and stored in Android and iOS apps.
With integrated microphones, wireless earbuds can be used as a headset, but just one side works for hands-free calling. The quality of calls depends largely on the mic, so the Jabra Elite Sport uses dual-mics on each side, one for picking up your voice, the other for capturing ambient noises and filtering them out. To take calls, The Dash earbuds offer touch controls which allow you to just tap on either earbud to receive calls or navigate tracks. Built-in voice command prompts allows you to take calls, control playback or even launch apps without touching the earbuds.
Because wireless earbuds are small, there is no room to store a big battery. Because of this 3 hours is usually the maximum battery life for wireless earbuds. You have to charge them regularly, and the idea of a portable charging case that serves as a power bank for the earbuds has been adopted by many companies. The Earin charging case is a tube, while others are rectangular cases. The charging case or clip is pocket-sized and can provide the earbuds up to 5 full charges. It does take time for the earbuds to get fully charged, usually more than an hour. However, Sol Republic used fast charging tech in their first wireless earbuds, the Amps Air, that enables earbuds to get 45 minutes of play time after just 15 minutes of charging. AirPods are even better that, and get 3 hours of battery life from just 15 minutes of charging.
|The Dash||Apple Airpods||Kanoa|
|3 hours||5 hours|
7. Volume Level
If you want to rock out with your music, keep in mind wireless earbuds aren’t able to crank up the volume. It is unclear whether this is a safety feature or a way for manufacturers to save battery life, but these earbuds simply can’t pump out as much sound as wired earbuds.
Remember, they could get lost.
When I wear wired earbuds sometimes they fall out, but fortunately, the cable keeps the earbuds on my neck. If your wireless earbuds fall out, it is hard to locate such small things and they are expensive to replace. Some accessories offer a solution to this problem via a cable that attaches the 2 earbuds. This is quite interesting since while companies are trying to make headphones without cables, people still want cables to keep from losing their earbuds.
Another solution is a tracking app that will locate where your earbuds if they get lost or stolen. Currently, only Apple offers consumers the option to buy a single earbud when one of their AirPods gets lost. Apply has the “Find my Device” app for IOS and other companies have similar apps, such as the “Find My Buds” by Bose.
Here are 18 completely wireless earbuds you may be interested in (I only made the comparison of 12 sets, the criteria are overall rating, feature and price). This table may not be reliable if you decide to buy a pair, do your own research.
|Picture/Model||Rating||Accessories||Features||Price and Availability|
|3.0/5||Comply foam wing tips, A charging tube||Sweat-resistant|
The Bragi Dash
|3.5/5||Portable charging case, eartips||ANC, Mic, Integrated Mp3–4Gb internal storage|
BÖHM S10 Wireless Earbuds
|3.8/5||Eartips, Comfy Earhooks, Portable charging case||Sweatproof, Mic|
|VerveOnes||3.0/5||Eartips, Portable charging case||Dual Mic, Sweat&Waterproof|
Samsung Gear IconX
|3.8/5||Silicon jacket with hooks, eartips||Integrated Mp3–4Gb internal storage, Splash Resistant, Fitness Tracker|
|Charging Dock, Eartips||Sweatproof & Water-Resistant, Mic|
|Silicon jacket, Eartips, Charing Case||Water resistant,|
|Here one||Eartips, Charging Case||Mic, Speech amplification, Smart noise filter|
|Charging case, eartips||Hearing Aid-Speech Enhancement, Noise Cancellation, Mic|
|Smart case, eartips||Mic|
|Charging case||Mic, water–resistant|
Jabra Elite Sport
|Charging case, eartips, Earhooks||Mic, water–resistant, VO2 Max, Fitness Tracker|
Smart wireless earbuds can do a lot more than wired earbuds like measure time, calories, distance, speed, pace, and heart rate. This information can be tracked and stored on the earbuds themselves and later synced to an app. The app can then give feedback to improve your performance with a fitness coaching feature. Wireless earbuds can also be used as hearing aids or noise-canceling devices with transparency features that allow you to adjust how much ambient sound you want to hear.
Some wireless earbuds like Apple AirPods and Hearnotes are not included in this list. Apparently, not all crowdfunding campaigns are successful, the most famous case is Dot which claimed to be one of the smallest wireless earbuds, but failed to deliver their products and was suspended.
Here is some more information about companies and startups which manufacture wireless Bluetooth earbuds. You can check back for price and availability.
1. NextEar: An Earin competitor, the Nextear claimed to be the smallest earphones on the planet.
Style: Totally wireless earbuds | Play Time: up to 4 hours | Frequency Response: 20-30,000Hz | Driver Size: 8mm | Driver type: Balanced armature (BA) | Sensitivity: 94.5± 3dB at 1mW | Impedance: 16 ohms | Bluetooth range: N/A | AptX: Yes
2. IQbuds: Nuheara developed the wearable called IQbuds which is not only a hearing aid device, but wireless headphones as well.
Style: Totally wireless earbuds | Play Time: up to 4 hours | Frequency Response: N/A | Driver Size: N/A | Driver type: Balanced armature (BA) | Sensitivity: N/A | Impedance: N/A | Bluetooth range: N/A | AptX: No | Additional features: Noise cancellation, Hearing Aid
The IQbuds feature SINC(Super intelligent noise cancellation) which can enhance or diminish the ambient sound to your preference.
3. Earin: A Swedish startup that met their funding target soon after they launched their campaign. They were the first company that announced their first generation of wireless earbuds. Claimed as smallest earbuds, the Earin sounds good, but lack fitness features and a mic for hands-free calling. Click here to check the current price of the Earin.
Style: Totally wireless earbuds | Play Time: 3 hours | Frequency Response: 20-20,000Hz | Driver Size: N/A | Driver type: Balanced armature (BA) | Sensitivity: 105 dB SPL +- 2dB | Impedance: 25 ohms | Bluetooth range: N/A feet | AptX: Yes
Kickstater Campaign: Earin – The Worlds Smallest Wireless Earbuds
4. The Dash: This German company made a bold move to be the first to make a computer that fits into the ear. However, technical issues caused shipping delays. Finally, The Dash has been released after a long wait by backers, but they are not fully equipped with all the promised features, and software updates and a stable connection are still on issues to fix.
The Headphones: Bragi made the second generation of The Dash, a well-known headphone, named The Headphone. This model cuts outsmart features like fitness tracking and transparency which existed in the first version. The Headphone is smaller and more compact than its predecessor. It also sounds better and is much cheaper, lighter and more comfortable to wear compared to the previous model. Due to cutting manufacturing costs for The Headphone, Bragi also removed the tap control feature and instead built 3 buttons on each earbud, which is not very intuitive and gives an awkward experience for users. The headphones have a solid Bluetooth connection, so there’s no need to worry about sound hiccups or pairing cut out if you place your device within 10 meters of The Headphone.
Style: Totally wireless earbuds | Play Time: 6 hours | Frequency Response: 20-20,000Hz | Driver Size: N/A | Driver type: Balanced armature (BA) | Sensitivity: 105 dB SPL +- 2dB | Impedance: 25 ohms | Bluetooth range: N/A feet | AptX: Yes | Headset functionanlity: Yes.
Kickstater Campaign: The Dash – Wireless Smart In Ear Headphones
5. Here One: The first built-in active noise cancellation pair, but they can’t survive for long haul flights with only 5 hours of battery life.
Style: Totally wireless earbuds | Play Time: 2.5-3 hours, 4-5 hours ANC on | Frequency Response: 20-20,000Hz | Driver Size: 8mm | Driver type: NA | Sensitivity: NA
Kickstarter Campaign: Here Active Listening – Transform The Way You Hear The World
6. Skybuds: These earbuds offer impressive sound, but unfortunately they are expensive and feel cheap because of their plastic housing. The Bluetooth pairing is not the most persistent. Like average Bluetooth earbuds, they play for 3 hours or more between charges. The fitting is not as comfortable as the Samsung Gear IconX.
Kickstarter Campaign: Skybuds – Free Your Sound
7. VerveOnes: the name comes after the company, Binatone, which borrowed some technology from Motorola.
8. Kanoa: Wireless earbuds for music and sports with a long Bluetooth working range of 33 feet. The KANOA uses a BA driver for accurate, detailed sound. The sound is wirelessly streamed to the earbuds with AptX support. They fit perfectly into your ear without sliding out or moving around.
Style: Totally wireless earbuds | Play Time: 3 hours (battery: 47mAh)| Frequency Response: 20-19,000Hz | Driver Size: N/A | Driver type: Hybrid Balanced Armature Driver | Sensitivity: 31dBPa/V at 1kHz | Impedance: 16 ohms | Bluetooth range: N/A feet | Water Resistance: IP67 | AptX: Yes
9. Phazon: The game changer for earbuds, these prove that one size doesn’t fit all.
Indigogo campaign: Wireless Earbuds Guaranteed Not to Fall
10. Jabra: This company is well known for making headsets. They also make smart Bluetooth headphones like Jabra Sport Pulse. At IFA 2016, they introduced their first cordless earbuds, the Jabra Elite Sport. The earbuds work with the company’s Sport Life app.
11. Apollo 7 wireless earbuds: Created by Erato Audio Technology Ltd–a Taiwanese Kickstarter startup, the Apollo 7 are sweat-resistant, good-looking earbuds the most compact wireless earphones on the market. Though they are expensive and have a short play time of around 3 hours, Apollo 7 are among the best sounding sets. Erato also announced 2 other budget models: Muse 5 and Rio 3. The latter will have hangers like
12. FireFlies: Wireless earbuds tend to be very expensive, but these affordable, truly wireless earbuds are within any price range. Their Kickstarter achieved its goal in just half a day.
13. Truebuds: The smallest wireless earphones.
Indigogo campaign: Truebuds – The smallest cordless stereo earbuds
Play time: 6 hours | Driver type: Balanced Armature | Waterproof: IP 53 | AptX: Yes
14. Airpods: Finally Apple announced their new wireless earbuds with 5 hours of battery life. They only play music when you have them on, the built-in infrared sensors are able to detect and trigger the tracks. Apple also developed the W1 chip, which will process both Bluetooth connection and sound as well as batter use.
Though Airpods are not making a breakthrough in sound quality, their smart features and rock-solid connection tops the competition for best wireless earbuds.
Play time: 5 hours
15. Axum: Wireless sport earbuds
Style: Totally wireless earbuds | Play Time: 4 hours (battery: 60mAh)| Frequency Response: 20-20,000Hz | Driver Size: N/A | Driver type: Dynamic, M-voiD® Sound Technology| Sensitivity: N/A| Impedance: 16 ohms | Bluetooth range: 10 meters | Waterproof: Yes | AptX: Yes
Indigogo comparing: Axum – World’s Best True Wireless Sport Earbuds
16. Onkyo: Onkyo W800BT: Onkyo was one of the first companies to announce wireless earbuds. Built-in 8.6 mm drivers do the job for delivering good sound and an impressive amount of bass.
Style: Totally wireless earbuds | Play Time: 3 hours | Frequency Response: 6-22,000Hz | Driver Size: 8.6mm | Driver type: Dynamic| Sensitivity: 107dB/mW| Impedance: 16 ohms | Bluetooth range: 10 meters |
17. Sol Republic Amps Air: Combine a wire-free in-ear design with a robust built that the company claims “grips the inner ear like new tire treads” and you have Sol Republic Amps air. The bass doesn’t distort in high volumes, surprising for earbuds of this size. As long as you are using them at a moderate volume, the lows should be as distinct as the rich trebles and warm mids. Overall, these are some of the best sounding, punchy, in-ear, cable-free earbuds you will ever come across.
Style: cord-free Bluetooth earbuds | Play Time: 3 hours.
18. RippleBuds: These compact and discrete-looking earbuds are built with innovative tri-flange eartips that maximize ambient noise blocking capacity. The integrated microphones are able to filter out the noise, so your voice is always clear.
Which pair should I buy?
Wireless earbuds are worth the cost, but they aren’t cheap so you should be very picky about the build quality and functionality since not all features as advertised by manufacturers work properly. Don’t be fooled by specs alone. Although frequency response, sensitivity, and impedance do matter they won’t make a huge difference in sound quality. In the world of wireless earbuds, you should care about how they sound and work rather than what specs manufacturers list. Our top pick overall is the Samsung Gear IconX for its solid Bluetooth connection, good fit and excellent sound.