A good pair of wireless earbuds can deliver more than simply great sound. They can also provide you with the freedom to move around while giving you the type of comfortable fit and hands-free experience you can’t find anywhere else.
Over recent years, Apple have led the wireless earbud charge with their AirPod range and along with other premium headphone manufacturers like Jabra are pushing consumers towards wireless as the de facto standard for music listening on smaller devices.
But with AirPods coming in at over the $150 mark (older models may be a little cheaper) the question is, are they worth the cost or are better options available? Let’s not beat about the bush:
Apple AirPods offer a comfortable user experience with great sound quality, especially in the premium AirPod Pro, but the cost and limitations for those without other Apple products may push some buyers to other brands.
We’ll dig further into this question later in the article, but first:
What should I be looking for in my wireless earbuds?
There are many factors that will sway your decision when buying wireless earbuds and it is important to make sure you get the right ones for you or you could be wasting a large amount of money. At the end of the day, your choice will be based on what you want and how you intend to use them. Here are a few factors to consider:
One of the most important factors to consider when buying wireless earbuds is how comfortable they are to use. You may think that as wireless in-ear devices, comfort comes as standard but unfortunately, that’s not always the case. The technology in wireless earbuds is relatively new and is constantly being refined. Look at Apple’s AirPods who are already on their 3rd generation (if you count the Pro model) and are still being adapted with each new generation. Some earbuds find it hard to fit in all the technology without becoming bulky or too heavy.
Then there’s the usage factor. People who use wireless earbuds tend to use them for extended periods of time so things like weight begin to impact on how comfortable they are. Our tip is to try a few different ones out and see which feel right for you.
So, are AirPods the most comfortable wireless earbuds you can buy?
That’s a difficult question to answer. They are certainly one of the most comfortable earbuds available and tend to fit most ears. They are also nice and light and don’t become ‘weighty’ over time. But they are a little rigid by design (no mouldable plastic earpieces) and if you find them uncomfortable there is little you can do about it. That is unless you have the Pro version which offers extra comfort in the form of three different sized earpieces.
What are the most comfortable wireless earbuds?
We really like the AirPod Pro for comfort but if you really want true luxury, the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 is just perfect. They have just the right amount of weight, are balanced perfectly, and provide a great ear fit with a variety of earpieces.
Quality of Sound
This has to be the most important factor when buying any music listening device and is an area that older wireless earbuds fell flat. But technology is constantly moving forward, and the quality of sound produced these days is incredibly high.
The biggest problem wireless earbuds have is that they rely on Bluetooth technology to transmit audio from your streaming device to the earpieces. Bluetooth wasn’t designed for high-quality audio and uses a variety of compression technologies to keep data sizes small. This means that no wireless device can ever truly match the sound quality of its wired compatriot but with the right technology can get pretty damn close.
What is the sound quality of AirPods like?
Pretty good. The second-generation AirPods offer a great range of sound with none of the tinniness you get with the wired EarBuds Apple insists on packaging with their iPhones. The AirPod Pro’s go one better and offer the sort of boisterous and dynamic sound you’d normally only find in high-end wired headsets.
So, do AirPods offer the best wireless earbud sound quality?
The AirPod Pro is definitely up there, and you’ll find it hard to find a better set. If we were to pick our absolute favorite earbuds for sound quality, then Sony’s WF-1000XM3 just has the edge due to a slightly more bombastic bass quality.
Compatibility and Connection Types
How your wireless earbuds talk to your devices as well as which devices they can communicate with is an important factor to consider before purchasing. Most wireless earbuds, including Apple AirPods, use Bluetooth to connect, but you may find some (normally high-end devices) using NFC. Bluetooth offers great compatibility and range but NFC (and other propriety technologies) generally offer better sound with less usable range.
At the end of the day, the earbuds you buy will depend entirely on what you want to stream your audio from. If you’re using a mobile phone, then Bluetooth will work just fine. If you’re using a specialist speaker system, then you may value the better audio quality of NFC.
What is the compatibility of Apple’s AirPods like?
While AirPods use standard Bluetooth 5.0 to speak to any compatible device (including Android phones) they include a variety of features that only work on other Apple products.
If you pair the earbuds to anything other than an iPhone, iPad, or Mac, you won’t be able to use Siri, benefit from the automatic stop mechanism when removed from the ear, use just one earbud, customize the double-tap gesture on the device, or even access the simple setup process.
This is a real area where AirPods fall flat and very few other wireless earbuds offer such a paired back feature set when used outside their intended device.
Which wireless earbuds offer the best compatibility?
How you control the sound
What’s the point in having wireless earbuds if you have to constantly grab your phone to skip tracks or adjust the volume? To be completely wireless you really need a good range of control options to enhance your experience and keep you moving while listening to your tunes. At the very least your wireless earbuds should have a volume control and ideally should include a way to move through music tracks.
Some newer models (like Apple AirPods) include voice control for even more freedom. At the end of the day, the more control options you have, the better your experience using them will be.
What are the control options like on Apple AirPods?
Oh my! This is an area that the Apple AirPods really excel in… so long as you’re streaming audio from another Apple device (see our previous comments). If you do have an iPhone, Mac, Apple Watch, or iPad, then you’re in for a treat. Along with full Siri voice control (hands free on the second generation and Pro versions), you have the option to remove the AirPods from your ears to pause audio and set a customisable double tap gesture on either earpiece.
So, do AirPods have the best controls?
They certainly have some of the best controls we’ve come across in any wireless earbud and for our money take the crown for convenience and ease of use.
So, you’ve bought yourself a new pair of all singing all dancing wireless earbuds and settled down to an evening of easy listening and podcasts… ok heavy metal and bouncing off the walls. But less than an hour in, your battery dies, and you have to wait another 4 hours for them to charge so you can bounce some more.
Battery life in any wireless device can be a real pain and with the small form factor of wireless earbuds, packing in a large enough battery for a lengthy listening session can be tricky. Before buying any earbuds make sure you check the fact sheet, box, or any online reviews to make sure you won’t have to head to the plug socket every 5 minutes.
What is the battery like in Apple’s AirPods?
Not bad actually. Listening time on normal AirPods (second generation) comes in at 5 hours with AirPod Pro’s running a little less at 4.5 hours. This gives you plenty of time between charges and the innovative charging case makes getting them back up and running convenient and easy.
What are the best wireless earbuds for battery life?
Most earbuds come in around the 5-hour mark, but a few do offer a little more usage between charges. The best set currently available for battery life while still offering great sound are the Master & Dynamic MW07 Go which gives nearly 10 hours from one charge.
We asked the question at the beginning of this article of whether AirPods are better than other wireless earbuds available right now. While there’s no doubt that Apple’s offerings are innovative and deliver great sound quality, decent comfort, and a range of excellent features, they are still best suited to those who already own Apple products.
If you are one of the people lucky enough to own an iPhone or iPad, then we can’t recommend them enough. For those who don’t, the reduction in features brings AirPods closer to the competition and other options may be more suited to you.