Thinking about getting your first true wireless headphones? Read on to find the benefits, drawbacks, and whether you should do so.
Even looking up ‘true wireless headphones’ on Amazon brings pages of results, with each product having been sold more than a few thousand times. But why are they so widely popular?
If you’re wondering whether you should jump into the trend and buy true wireless headphones, we’ve got you covered. In this article, we have compiled the benefits, drawbacks, and whether or not you should hop on the true wireless hype train.
Let’s get right to it.
What Are True Wireless Headphones?
True wireless headphones are Bluetooth earbuds or IEMs that operate without any cord or wire between the ear pieces or to the audio source.
Typical wireless headphones have a cord connecting the left and right earbuds while they connect wirelessly to the audio source. But, in a pair of true wireless headphones, each earbud has its own Bluetooth chip and antenna that allows them to connect to each other, eliminating the need for a wire between them.
Some earbuds also have master-slave configurations. In this configuration, the primary earbud acts as a point of connection between the audio source and the secondary earbud. This means you can’t use the secondary earbud to connect directly with your phone without the primary one.
But most headphones today come with a setup of two primary earbuds. This configuration is known as dual-mode Bluetooth configuration. With this setup, each earbud can connect directly to your device. This enables you to only use one earbud at a time, further extending its battery life.
The dual connection allows the earbuds to work independently, like stereo speakers. This is why true wireless headphones are called true wireless stereo (TWS).
True Wireless vs Wireless Headphones: What’s the Difference?
True wireless headphones, as the name implies, have no wires or cables connecting the two earbuds. Wireless headphones, on the other hand, have a wire connecting the two earbuds (usually via a neckband), but use Bluetooth to connect to the source device.
Why You Should Buy True Wireless Headphones
Now that you’re clear on what true wireless headphones are, these are the top reasons you should consider getting them:
Since they’re completely cord-free, you can move around without worrying about tangled cords or pulling on them too hard.
Support for active lifestyles
If you’re always on the go, TWS are the perfect type of headphones for you. They come in pocket-size cases, meaning more space in your bag for other items.
Additionally, some TWS also come with an IP rating for sweat and water resistance, so you can wear them even when you’re sweating or under a drizzle. Even if you’re actively into sports involving rigorous activities, there are also earbuds with ear hooks to ensure they don’t fall out of your ears.
True wireless headphones often come with built-in buttons or touch sensors, allowing you to control playback or answer calls without taking out your phone.
Due to their small size, it’s also easier to store a pair of TWS in your pocket or bag compared to over-ear headphones. Since they’re wireless, you don’t have to worry about tangled cords.
They also come with a case, so you don’t need a headphone pouch or third-party cases to store your TWS.
Expandable battery life
While their battery life is comparatively shorter than wireless headphones, the case for a pair of TWS acts as a battery bank that provides additional charges.
For example, the Master & Dynamic MW08 lasts about 12 hours on a single charge. But the case can provide up to 30 hours worth of battery – making them great for long trips where you don’t have access to power.
Why You Shouldn’t Buy True Wireless Headphones
While true wireless headphones are great, there are some caveats to their cord-free design. These are several reasons why you may not want to get a pair of TWS:
Easy to lose
If you’re someone who loses small objects like pens or keys, you should think twice before getting a pair of true wireless headphones. They’re tiny and easy to misplace – chances are you’ll lose them if you don’t have the habit of keeping things in place.
However, some models have a unique tracking system. For example, Apple allows you to track your AirPods via either iCloud or the “Find My iPhone” app. Some headphone companies, like Apple and SOL Republic, even go as far as to offer replacement earbuds for a discount.
True wireless headphones are prone to interference with other wireless devices. If there is a high volume of wireless devices nearby (e.g., in the gym or a crowded office), there’s a good chance you’ll get choppy sound from your headphones.
Bluetooth is also prone to interference by solid objects like brick walls and furniture.
The more objects you have between your headphones and audio source, the shorter the effective range will be.
So despite them being wireless, you have a limited range before losing connection with your phone or laptop.
Despite the rapid improvements, the sound quality of TWS is still marginally behind wired headphones.
The wireless connection protocol – in this case, Bluetooth – has limited bandwidth, meaning the amount of data that can be transmitted to the headphones is smaller. This means some details in the audio will be missing, which equals lower sound quality.
If you want the best sound quality – wired headphones are still the way to go.
One of the most common cases against TWS is their somewhat ‘short’ battery life. If you’re someone who doesn’t have the discipline to charge your TWS every once in a while, chances are you’ll find yourself not listening to music more often.
Getting a pair of true wireless headphones means you’ll have to know how much power is left on the earbuds and charging case. If you’re not that person, you should use wired headphones.
Who Are True Wireless Headphones Best For?
Now that you know the pros and cons of having TWS, let’s talk about who should get true wireless headphones.
Fitness enthusiasts and sports athletes
Fitness enthusiasts and sports athletes do a lot of physical activities, so wireless earbuds are an excellent investment. Whether you’re hitting the track or lifting weights, the freedom to move without getting entangled in cables is something you will appreciate.
If you engage in outdoor sports, you will undoubtedly appreciate TWS with IP57 certification (water and dust resistant) to ensure they survive when you get home, like the Jabra Elite Active 75t.
You should consider getting a pair of good true wireless headphones if you’re constantly on the road. The first benefit you’ll get is the freedom of cable-free music streaming while on a cross-country flight.
An effective ANC will save you from a lot of humming engine sounds or the forsaken crying child down the aisle. It also helps you to sleep peacefully through long trips.
On the other hand, transparency mode lets you stay alert or have a conversation while still listening to your music. Both of these features are handy to have for frequent travelers or commuters.
Top True Wireless Headphones in the Market Today
If you’re convinced that you need a pair of true wireless headphones, here are our picks for the best ones:
- Sony WF-1000XM4
- Jabra Elite Active 75t
- Master & Dynamic MW08
- Edifier NeoBuds Pro
- Galaxy Buds 2 Pro
- AirPods Pro 2
The Sony WF-1000XM4 are a pair of top-of-the-line TWS from Sony with exceptional sound quality, ANC, and battery life. If you’re looking for no-compromise TWS, these are worth checking out.
In our review of the WF-1000XM4, we concluded that they arguably have one of the best ANC on the consumer headphones market. They can block out most unwanted noises, like speeding cars or train engines, while barely affecting the sound quality.
Sony also equipped the WF-1000XM4 with LDAC Bluetooth codec, which has one of the highest quality among Bluetooth audio codecs. Sound-wise, these have a slightly enhanced bass. But if that’s not your preference, you can download the Sony Headphones Connect app to customize your EQ. The app also lets you fine-tune the ANC and transparency mode.
A single charge on the WF-1000XM4 lasts for 8 hours, with the case providing an extra 24-hour battery. So, no shortage of entertainment even on a long road trip! But as with most flagship products, the WF-1000XM4 are slightly on the higher price tag.
Jabra Elite Active 75t
The Elite Active 75t have a warm sound that you can adjust through the Jabra Sound+ app. Sadly, these only come with SBC and AAC codecs, with no support for AptX.
Moreover, these still use physical buttons. Pressing the buttons means you push the earbuds further down your ear canal – which can be very uncomfortable.
Master & Dynamic MW08
If you want a pair of TWS with long battery life, look no further than the Master & Dynamic MW08. A single charge on these earbuds gives you up to 12 hours of playback time – no need to recharge for the entire day.
But in case you forgot to charge them, you can get 4 hours of playback with a 15-minute charge. The charging case provides an additional 24 hours of battery life.
However, MW08 offer more than just superb battery life. These earbuds come with AptX Bluetooth codec that delivers excellent sound quality. You also get a customizable ANC that you can fine-tune through the M&D Connect app.
Unfortunately, you can’t customize the EQ or sound profile despite the MW08 having a companion app. So, you’re stuck with their default sound signature.
Edifier NeoBuds Pro
The Edifier Neobuds Pro are an excellent choice if you’re looking for a pair of TWS for phone calls and online meetings. These earbuds feature six microphones – three on each earbud – that deliver crystal-clear audio for phone calls or online meetings.
What makes NeoBuds Pro’s mic stand out is the way they handle background noises. While the background noises aren’t entirely gone, they get toned down significantly in favor of your voice when speaking.
The NeoBuds Pro also have a decent ANC and transparency mode (which the brand officially calls the Ambient mode). They’re also customizable through the Edifier Connect App and EQ and touch control settings.
However, we found that the automatic pairing process is a little finicky with both mobile and desktop devices – but it’s a mild annoyance at most.
Galaxy Buds 2 Pro
The Galaxy Buds 2 Pro are arguably the best TWS you can get for Android devices, especially if you also use a Samsung phone.
If you use a Samsung device, you also get Samsung’s proprietary Bluetooth codec called Seamless. It allows you to stream hi-res audio and enjoy lower latency. But even if you don’t, they still offer a complete package of sound quality, ANC, and versatility.
Out of the box, you’ll get a neutral sound signature that fits well with various content types. You can also tweak the sound through the EQ in the Samsung Wearable app.
The app also has features like earbuds fit test, 360 audio, control customization, and ANC/transparency mode customization. Unfortunately, the app isn’t available on iOS.
AirPods Pro 2
On top of that, the ANC and transparency mode on the AirPods Pro 2 are arguably one of the best in the earbuds market. They also pack a solid 10-hour battery on a single charge with an extra 20 hours on the charging case.
If you’re still on the fence, the best way to look at it is to weigh the features of true wireless headphones and assess how they can benefit you in the long run.
Before checking out true wireless headphones, make sure to rank which factors are most important to you. And remember, different brands have different strengths. Take your time to do your research before making the purchase.
Did you end up buying your first TWS? Let us know your experience in the comments!