Truly wireless earphones have come a long way in the past few months, and we’re now seeing new options launch every week. The segment has seen some big improvements as well, including the introduction of active noise cancellation, ever-improving battery life, and technical improvements such as better Bluetooth codec support and drivers. We’ve taken a fresh look at the segment based on products that we’ve reviewed recently, as well as factored in the reducing costs of good affordable options.
Good options at under Rs. 10,000 were rare just a few months ago, but the segment has transformed significantly to the point where you can expect quality for even around Rs. 6,000. On the other end of the price range, the entry of the Apple AirPods Pro in late 2019 changed the segment completely, proving that you can add features such as active noise cancellation to even the smallest of earphones. Here’s our updated list of the best true wireless earphones you can buy today.
How do truly wireless earphones work?
Up until the advent of truly wireless technology, wireless headphones and earphones have had some kind of connector between the left and right channels, be it a wire or a headband. With truly wireless earphones, even this short cable is gone, and each earbud features its own battery, DAC, amplifier and Bluetooth chip. The earbuds individually connect to the source device, or a dominant earbud that is connected to the source then also connects with the second earbud to provide the digital signal.
This way, each earbud is able to work independently, yet the two function together to ensure that the listener gets stereo sound output from the source. The obvious advantage of this arrangement is the convenience of a completely wire-free listening experience, which improves comfort and ease of use. This is a boon in many usage scenarios, including while working out, in crowded places, on your commute, or when you want to use your earphones while lying down.
Truly wireless earphones often also include built-in microphones, which makes it possible to use them as hands-free devices with your smartphone. Provided the microphones are good enough to pick up sound over a slightly longer distance, this makes truly wireless earphones the most discreet and effective way to have telephone conversations on the move. And while the additional components may make the earbuds a bit heavier than typical earphones, many new options have compact, light-weight designs that are comfortable and don’t rely on winged tips or ear hooks to stay in place in your ears.
Best truly wireless earphones: Apple AirPods Pro
Our favourite true wireless headset you can buy today is the Apple AirPods Pro. Yes, it’s expensive at Rs. 24,900. However, for that price, you get features and sound quality that, in our opinion, is unmatched in the segment. The AirPods Pro is a big improvement over previous AirPods, thanks to one big feature – active noise cancellation. This makes the headset a lot more useful than most other true wireless options, and improves your ability to hear the sound even in the noisiest of environments. There’s also Transparency mode, which lets in outside sound in the most natural sounding way we’ve heard on any earphones to date. We found the sound to be engaging, immersive, and clean.
Much of the improvements in these earphones can be credited to the in-ear fit, which makes for better noise isolation and a more immersive listening experience. The AirPods Pro is also incredibly flexible, and is able to adjust to different tracks on the fly for a comfortable, yet entertaining sound.As expected, the AirPods are meant to be used with Apple devices and work best if you have an iPhone or iPad. That isn’t to say they won’t work on Android smartphones or computers, but certain features will only work with an Apple device. But regardless of what device you use it with, the AirPods Pro is an easy and engaging pair of true wireless earphones.
Buy: AirPods Pro
Affordable Option: 1More Stylish True Wireless In-Ear Headphones
Only a year ago, the affordable true wireless segment had only a handful of options to choose from. Things changed through the year, and we now have many more capable options at under Rs. 10,000. The best of these is the 1More Stylish True Wireless In-Ear Headphones, priced at around Rs. 6,000 online right now.
A big advantage with this headset is support for the aptX Bluetooth codec, which significantly improves sound when used with compatible devices – most current-generation Android phones support this codec. You also get Bluetooth 5, good battery life, natural sound, refined bass, and absolute bang for your buck.
We also like how the 1More Stylish True Wireless In-Ear Headphones look; it’s an understated approach that doesn’t draw too much attention, while keeping things classy. Perhaps the only really drawback is the use of the Micro-USB port for charging, and a slightly soft mid-range that may not suit listeners looking for a balanced-sounding pair of true wireless earphones. This is the pair to go for if you have a budget of under Rs. 10,000.
Best for Android: Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless
The Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless is, hands down, the best truly wireless headset you can buy today. The headset supports the aptX, aptX Low Latency, and AAC codecs in addition to SBC, and this is its biggest advantage. When paired with an aptX compatible smartphone, we were able to hear a level of sound quality that we didn’t think was possible with truly wireless earphones until now.
The sonic signature ensures clean sound, while the quality of the drivers make for tight and attacking bass, sparkly highs and an excellent sound stage that gives you a great sense of width in the acoustics. The sound quality is objectively better than any other truly wireless headset we’ve used, and indeed nearly as good as the Sony WH-1000XM3, widely considered to be the best wireless headphones in the world.
The Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless earphones run for about 4 hours 30 minutes on a single charge, and can be charged back up twice over using an attractive fabric-wrapped case. The earbuds themselves look good, and are light despite the large size.
However, despite how good these earphones sound, it’s hard to get over the price tag. At Rs. 24,990, the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless is the among the most expensive sets of truly wireless earphones you can buy today. Furthermore, the included eartips aren’t comfortable enough, and the touch controls are a bit difficult to get used to — compromises that shouldn’t exist at this price level. Nonetheless, there is no better sounding pair of truly wireless earphones available today.
If you have a modern Samsung smartphone: Samsung Galaxy Buds
Just as the Apple AirPods are built for iPhones, the Samsung Galaxy Buds are meant to be used with the company’s new smartphones. However, the Galaxy Buds are a bit more usable with non-Samsung devices than the AirPods are with non-Apple devices. Nonetheless, you need a Samsung smartphone that supports the company’s proprietary Scalable Bluetooth codec — supposedly Galaxy devices running Android 7.1 Nougat or later — for best results. When we used the Samsung Galaxy Buds with the Samsung Galaxy S10+, the sound quality was significantly better than with other smartphones.
The Samsung Galaxy Buds are priced at Rs. 9,999, and are decent for the price even with non-Samsung smartphones. You get a decent fit, good features, and the ability to tweak the equaliser settings and controls when used with the Galaxy Wearable app for Android. Charging is through a compact case that adds an additional 10 hours of use to the buds.
At this price, the Samsung Galaxy Buds are a good purchase regardless of which phone you intend to use them with. You also get Bluetooth 5.0, ensuring a stable and quick connection and pairing process. However, with other smartphones, the earphones are limited to the SBC or AAC codecs, and a lack of aptX keeps them behind the Nokia True Wireless Earbuds when it comes to sound quality.
Buy: Samsung Galaxy Buds
Best truly wireless earphones under Rs. 5,000: Leaf Pods
Big-name options in the truly wireless segment don’t come cheap. However, if you look beyond the known brands to the smaller names, you’re likely to find a few pleasant surprises. One such option is the Leaf Pods, a pair of truly wireless earphones that is priced at just Rs. 3,999 — a fraction of the price of the other options on this list. While many of these affordable options don’t quite do enough to justify a recommendation from us, the Leaf Pods do.
Sound quality, battery life, and codec support are the strong points of this headset. You get six hours per charge from the earphones and an additional three charges from the case, for a total of 24 hours of use per complete charge cycle, although the charging case is itself a bit complicated to use. The sound is detailed, punchy and exciting, making the Leaf Pods well worth the price. While spending more will get you a better overall experience, this is perfectly worthwhile option to consider if you can’t stretch your budget beyond a certain number.
Buy: Leaf Pods
How we picked the best truly wireless earphones
We’ve reviewed or used a wide range of truly wireless headphones, including popular options from major electronics manufacturers, as well as options from traditional audio brands that have been in the business of making headphones and earphones for many years. We also took into account specifications, codec support and price to come up with our top recommendations.
Truly wireless earphones form a relatively new product segment, and we’ve had a chance to test most of the new options. Apart from the earphones themselves, we’ve also paid attention to the charging cases that come with these options. The cases usually offer additional battery backup, and also make for a convenient and safe way to carry your earphones when not in use. With all of these points in mind, we’ve selected our list of top recommendations, as well as other options to look out for as listed below.
Also consider these truly wireless earphones
Sony WF-SP700N: Priced at Rs. 11,290, the Sony WF-SP700N are among the rare options in this category to offer active noise cancellation. However, battery life and design aren’t strong points for this now-dated model.
Bragi Dash Pro: Although the Bragi Dash Pro is the most expensive option on this list at Rs. 29,999 (or more, depending on where you’re looking), these headphones are still considered by many to be among the best in the segment. However, newer options are more attractive, particularly the next option which offers better specifications for a lower price.
RHA TrueConnect: RHA has quite the reputation for making quality earphones, but the Rs. 14,999 RHA TrueConnect hasn’t quite lived up to the company’s reputation for sound quality. Still, it’s a decent first effort from the Scottish manufacturer, and has among the most attractive designs and charging cases among all options in the segment.
Realme Buds Air: This AirPods lookalike from Realme is quite an impressive value proposition, considering that you get desirable looks, USB Type-C and wireless charging, and stable connectivity. However, it doesn’t sound quite as good as other options in the price range.
Jabra Elite Active 65t: Although once among our favourite truly wireless options, the Rs. 14,999 Jabra Elite Active 65t now feels dated and bulky in comparison to the competition. The case isn’t quite as good as well, and newer options do come across as better picks.
Skullcandy Indy: The Skullcandy Indy looks and feels great, has decent overall battery life, and is great for voice calls. However, the sonic signature is a bit too shrill, and bass lovers won’t like how little thump there is to this headset.
Blaupunkt BTW Pro: One of the newest products on this list, the BTW Pro from Blaupunkt comes with aptX support, and many of the benefits present on its predecessor, the BTW01. It’s a bit expensive in our opinion, though.
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