As you’d agree, there’s an abundance of TWS or truly wireless stereo earphones in the market. You’ll find hundreds of wireless earbuds under different budgets with differentiating features like ANC, wireless charging, touch controls, and more. But what’s important is whether the truly wireless earbuds fit your requirements. This guide will share nine important things to check and compare before buying TWS earbuds in 2022.
When Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone in 2008, it revolutionized consumer technology. There was so much you could do with a handheld device. Eight years later, when Tim Cook announced the AirPods, there wasn’t as much amazement, but this would take the industry for a similar storm. In 2018, AirPods became the second best-selling Apple product within two years of launch. Other manufacturers took note of this and flooded the market with truly wireless earphones.
With so many offerings, it does get hard to come to a decision. Yes, we get your confusion, so take a moment before you fill in your payment information and read this guide to know if you are buying the right pair of TWS earbuds.
Things to Check Before Buying TWS Earbuds
We have listed nine parameters to check when buying a pair of TWS truly wireless earbuds. Go ahead, and read the next few sections to understand everything that can affect your user experience.
1. Design (Fit and Comfort)
When Apple introduced the earpods with iPhone 5, they mentioned that the reason for the unique, never seen before shape was to fit all types of ears. This design was the result of extensive research, and what we could infer is that it takes a lot of effort and R&D to design a pair of earphones for all types of ear profiles.
Even though that did not receive 100% positive feedback with regards to fit, there was a lesser subset of people who had complaints with the design.
Fit and comfort are extremely important, and it comes down to whether the TWS Earbuds have external rubber ear tips or a unibody fit. For most users, the rubber ear tips fit well as you get to select the size of the ear tips as you swap them out.
For some, these rubber ear tips end up popping out; in that case, they can opt for the unibody design. But even then, there are a few exceptions, like the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live, which are huge, and you have to be skeptical about how it fits well within your ear. On the other side, you can take a look at the Pixel Buds A with its compact form factor and snug fit, as several users have mentioned that they found the best fit on these.
Therefore, when it comes down to making a decision – it is pretty subjective and personal to users, and you can look into your previous experiences with earphones.
2. Sound Quality (Volume, Noise Cancellation, Driver)
The sound quality of TWS earbuds is determined by the volume, noise cancellation, and driver size. In terms of volume, not all wireless earbuds are created equal. Some earbuds require the maximum volume, while others can produce adequate sound with the volume set to 50%.
You can only get the maximum volume out of wireless earbuds; in contrast, a pair of wired earbuds can be connected to a portable headphone amplifier, so if you’re comparing a few models in the audio store, try comparing the volume levels. You need to look for the maximum volume in decibels (dB) in the specification list.
When it comes to noise-cancellation, it is a feature on some wireless earphones that can help to lessen the distracting background noise. Remember that noise-canceling circuitry consumes batteries, so you generally won’t get very long listening sessions. Additionally, the earpieces may be quite bulky to accommodate the bigger-size batteries that the circuitry requires.
Most noise-canceling earbuds have a “Hear-Thru” feature, which allows you to mute the music and hear what people are saying without taking the earbuds out and changing the noise cancellation to a level that is safe or comfortable when, for example, jogging. There are mainly two types of noise-canceling – ANC and ENC.
The ANC active noise cancellation means to cancel the noise by introducing additional noise on top of it. It uses a technology that adds an overlay of noise that can cancel the unwanted noises. The ENC, environmental noise cancellation, means canceling the noise in your background or simply in your environment. ENC can reduce the noise at a very nominal level, whereas the ANC can cancel out a noise up to 40dB or more.
Another essential factor to consider when buying TWS is driver size, shown in millimeters (mm) or centimeters (cm) on the earbuds’ specifications. A larger driver can obtain nice bass and fairly impressive audio quality. The frequency range should also be considered.
The majority of headphones provide a range of 20Hz to 20kHz. Although this doesn’t necessarily mean high-quality sound, it can serve as a guide because it corresponds to the volume that a typical human ear can tolerate. A TWS with a strong frequency response can play all low, middle, and high tones accurately and in the right proportions. So, you can look at the range of frequencies the pair of earphones can offer.
3. Audio Codecs (SBC, AAC, AptX, LDAC)
A codec is an algorithm that takes your data (music) as input, compresses it to reduce the size, and encodes it in a format for transmission. The same codec is also required to decode the encoded data to generate the music to the output source. Find out which codecs are supported by your preferred wireless earbuds.
Basic models support only SBC, a codec that doesn’t support higher resolution music and frequently produces flat audio due to its slow transmission speed. Once you understand what the codec means, here’s what you need to keep in mind: firstly, check if your smartphone supports the codec type.
The SBC codec is the most basic one out there, and while it gets the job done, it definitely isn’t the best. In contrast, AAC is a much more powerful compression algorithm that minimizes audio quality loss while draining the battery at a slightly faster rate. AAC codec is best used in Apple devices. Whereas some phones support Qualcomm’s AptX codec, which offers low latency of around 40ms while offering good audio quality.
On the upper end, you have the LDAC codec, which offers a much superior audio quality, but only a few music files are configured to make the best use of LDAC. We suggest the TWS you pick either supports AAC or AptX, but this would not be a problem as most of the offerings available today support them.
4. Pairing, Touch Controls, and Gestures
The TWS earbuds have control pads or buttons to press to change the volume, skip a track, give voice commands, or answer calls. Cheaper wireless earbuds frequently lack controls, so if you want to change the volume or skip a track, you’ll need to be near your smartphone.
Most modern earbuds can even automatically pause music when you take one out of your ear, thanks to in-ear detection. More importantly, it is even better if you are allowed to re-configure or customize the controls of your truly-wireless earphones.
When it comes to pairing, you will have the best experience if your TWS earbuds and the smartphone are of the same brand. You will get a seamless pairing interface, and you can pair them as soon as you open the case, and you will never have to visit the settings app.
This is best experienced with an iPhone and a pair of Airpods, and this is the ‘ecosystem advantage’ that people keep talking about. On the Android side, you have the Google Fast Pair.
It is an approach that uses both Bluetooth and your phone’s location to recognize Bluetooth devices in proximity to facilitate the pairing process so that you do not meddle with the settings and reduce as much human interaction as possible. If this is important, ensure that your TWS supports the Google Fast Pair feature.
5. The Charging Case (Design, Size)
While the concept of TWS earbuds is engaging, the charging case is even more fascinating. You can charge your earbuds on the go. But, different manufacturers have varying designs when it comes to charging cases. While we’re sure all of them are designed to keep inside your pocket comfortably, you can go ahead and choose what is comfortable for you.
We love the design choice of the Oppo Enco W31 – the circular-shaped box is quite slim and is easy to carry around. On the other hand, you have the slightly taller box-shaped design, like the case that comes with the 1st gen AirPods. Another alternative design choice is the pill-shaped box by OnePlus, and lastly, you have the slightly taller pill-shaped boxes as seen on the AirPods pro.
Take a look at images and renders online, so you have a good idea before purchasing one.
6. Dust and Water Resistance
When it comes to dust and water resistance in TWS earbuds, all you need to look for is the IPx – Ingress protection rating. This will be available in the spec sheet of the earphones. Here’s more about these ratings and what they actually mean.
The rating will usually have two variables after the letters IP where the first digit will have the dust resistance rating (6 levels). The second digit indicated the water-resistance rating (9 levels). There’s also an optional third variable that signifies some more specific information.
If you look at the ratings for a TWS, say the Airpods Pro, it will show a rating of IPX4. The first variable does not contain any numerical value, and hence this means that it has not been tested for dust resistance. While the second variable says 4, it means that it offers a level of 4 out of 9 for water resistance.
In real life, a level four is splash resistant and can handle the human sweat as you work out. Level 5 can offer resistance to low-pressure sprays, and level 6 can offer resistance to high-pressure water sprays. Level 7 or 8 can offer complete water resistance and can be submerged for thirty minutes or more.
The IP Rating for the Jabra Elite 7 active (IP57) offers a level 7 water resistance. The Jaybird Vista 2 takes it up a notch, has an IP68 rating, and is designed to be used by athletes. Note that the charging case may not have the same rating or protection as the TWS.
7. Battery Life
Most manufacturers of TWS earbuds will state a battery life of three to five hours. You can expect to deduct about 20% from the quoted amount in actual use. When the battery is depleted, you must put the earbuds back in their charging case where they can be recharged using the battery that is part of the charging case. The charging case has a battery that can recharge the earbuds three to four times before the charging case itself needs to be recharged.
A few wireless earbuds manufacturers may list the combined playing time of the three or four top-ups that can be accessed from the charging case rather than the actual playing time of the earbuds, so be wary of this. If a number such as 12–15 hours of playback time is given, it does not refer to nonstop listening on a single charge. Therefore, this is how you can be aware of how long you can listen to the earbuds before they need to be recharged.
8. Charging Type (USB and Wireless Charging)
When it comes to charging, you need to be aware of just three aspects. The port with which the charging case supports, whether it supports fast charging and if it supports wireless charging. Most modern-day earphones use the USB-C port so that you can have faster-charging speeds. If the charging case supports wireless charging, you can use all your wireless charging pads.
If you use a phone that supports reverse wireless charging like the S22 Ultra, you can quickly charge your TWS charging case on the go! Hence if charging convenience is a priority, consider buying TWS with USB-C ports and wireless charging support.
9. Bluetooth Version
Bluetooth 5.0 connection is the key component of any truly wireless earbuds. This is the latest available version of Bluetooth. It features improvements for more dependable connections between the smartphone and the wireless headphones and faster data transfer and dual audio connection.
A reduced amount of battery power is used when playing audio since it places more emphasis on Bluetooth LE (Low Energy). It ensures that your left and right headphones connect to your smartphone, tablet, or computer without a hitch and that there is no audio sync issue. You need not worry about the Bluetooth version, as most truly wireless earphones these days pack in the latest and the fifth iteration.
Can Truly Wireless Earphones Cause Ear Infections?
Truly wireless earphones can be a hub for bacteria and dirt caused by sweat due to prolonged usage. It can potentially lead to infections. While the short answer to the question is yes – let us elaborate on how you can safeguard yourself from infection.
The infection threat mainly comes in if you have a cur on your skin. Combined with the lack of moisture and earbuds scraping the inner lining of the ear canal, this can lead to an infection. To prevent any potential infections, you can follow some of the below steps :
- Sanitize by gently wiping your earphones with a microfiber cloth accessory.
- Use a cotton-tipped earwax remover to pick up visible dirt from the earbuds.
- Remember always to store earbuds in the case.
- Always ensure to clean your earbuds after a long sweaty workout session at the gym.
- And most importantly, unless fully sanitized – avoid sharing earbuds. Instead, we recommend using a premium service that lets you stream the same song on two devices. Health is wealth, so go ahead and pay for it!
These are all the things you need to check before buying a pair of TWS earbuds. I hope the guide helps you choose the truly wireless earbuds that suit you the best. We are always here to help consumers make the right decision – so stay tuned to WearablesToUse for articles and help guides towards wearable tech.