How to Choose the Right Wireless Earbuds for You
True wireless earbuds have been all the rage in recent years. With advances in Bluetooth and battery technology, we can now ditch the cables without major sacrifices in sound quality.
Still, there are a lot of factors to consider when choosing a set of Bluetooth wireless earbuds. Some of these are true for any earbuds, and others are unique to Bluetooth. While it’s up to you to decide where your priorities lie, we’ve put together some tips to consider that we hope will help you find the perfect pair for your needs.
Discover your Comfort Zone
One of the main advantages of true wireless earbuds is that you’re free to move around and step away from your device without worrying about cables getting pulled out or tangled. However, this means that your earbuds require built-in batteries, which tends to make them larger and heavier than traditional wired ones. The extra size and weight can put pressure on your ears, making the earbuds less comfortable to wear over time. It can also cause them to easily fall out of your ears if they don’t have a strong hold, which is a good way to break or lose your fancy new pair.
There are a few ways to improve comfort and keep your earbuds in place: hooks that wrap around your ear, cushioned tips (made of silicone or foam) that create a tight seal, or just by having a lightweight, balanced design. Sets with soft tips tend to come with several different sizes to fit different ear canals, so if this is an option you prefer you can make it work for nearly any ear shape. Since we all have uniquely-shaped ears, no earbuds will fit everyone perfectly, so it’s best to try a few pairs and see what feels right for you.
Earbuds that seat themselves fully in your ear create a better seal that naturally blocks out a lot of outside sound, while open-air earbuds block less and tend to leak more sound from them to the outside world. However, many people prefer open-air earbuds for this exact reason: since you can still hear some sounds around you, they don’t isolate you in your own little world – you can still hear loud sounds like cars passing or someone calling your name. They also put less pressure on your inner ears so they may be more comfortable for longer listening sessions.
Bluetooth earbuds tend to use touch controls on the back of the earbuds themselves to perform tasks like raising or lowering the volume, skipping tracks, and answering calls. The basic taps and presses are fairly similar from model to model, but certain earbuds may have additional functions, better responsiveness, or a wider effective tap area.
The NexiGo Air T2's are a great example of this. With a much wider tap area than most other earbuds, you can easily input a wide range of commands without ever pulling out your phone.
Wireless earbuds have one primary purpose – to transmit audio. Of course they should be able to do this well, but what that means will depend on how you intend to use them. For instance, if you primarily use them for listening to music, you might choose a pair that’s tuned to emphasize frequencies in the type of music you listen to most. Earbud specifications will often include a frequency response graph which shows how they respond so you can evaluate this in advance, but the ultimate test is the listening experience.
Rock and pop fans will probably want a set with a prominent mid-range, with a boost between 500 and 2000 Hz, as this is the range where guitars and vocals tend to sit. Accenting the mids will make the music feel lively and “punchy”. The same is true if you watch a lot of movies and TV with your earbuds in – you’ll hear dialogue better when there’s a “mid-hump”.
Fans of hip-hop or EDM will likely want a set of earbuds with plenty of bass, as those styles rely heavily on a powerful kick. Deep bass frequencies are not heard by your eardrums so much as felt in your body. With earbuds, this effect is usually achieved through the use of larger drivers (10mm or more) and a design that creates a strong seal in the ear canal which transmits the bass frequencies to the bones of your skull.
Classical aficionados, meanwhile, will likely prefer earbuds with a relatively flat EQ that emphasizes clarity, detail, and instrument separation, so the nuances of each instrument come through effectively.
On the other hand, plenty of people primarily use their wireless earbuds to make phone calls, with music and video as an afterthought. If that describes you, the features you should prioritize are clarity (low distortion) and articulation in the mid and high ranges. This sound profile will ensure that you can easily understand others, and it’s also beneficial across a wide range of applications.
Show off your Style
Like anything you wear in public, true wireless earbuds can be a fashion accessory, which is a bigger consideration for some than others.
Want them to catch eyes? Go for bright colors, a shiny metallic finish, or a unique design with dramatic curves. Larger earbuds will also attract more attention and may suit your style. Just make sure they’re still comfortable to wear.
For a professional look, you may want to seek out a set that is small and streamlined, with minimalist styling in white, black, or silver.
The charging case that your earbuds live in is also an aspect of their style, both in terms of form and function. Most modern true wireless earbuds have magnetic cases to hold the earbuds in place while they charge, and the satisfying click you get when they lock in place can add to the appeal.
These cases come in different shapes and may be small and unobtrusive enough to fit in a shirt pocket, or large enough to compete with your wallet. A round or ovular case may sit well in your pocket but could roll off a table, while a squared-off one will be more stable but may have uncomfortable corners that poke you while they’re in your pocket. Recently, as battery tech improves, some wireless earbuds have been housed in slim cases that are barely noticeable.
Charging case size was a focus for NexiGo Air T2’s, which are stored in one that’s just half an inch thick – slim enough to make watch pockets useful again.
Make the Good Times Last
Wireless earbuds tend to cost a bit more than comparable wired models, so you’ll want to find a pair that you can use for a while. Luckily you won’t ever have to worry about the aux cable, one of the most common things to break in wired earbuds. However, the lack of a cable makes wireless earbuds easier to drop, so it’s important that their housing protects the delicate drivers and connectors inside.
The most common materials for construction of wireless earbuds are plastic and light metals such as aluminum, and they may use softer materials like rubber, silicone, or foam for insulation and sealing. Highly secure constructions may be rated for IPXX water and dust protection, which for water ranges from IPX1 (condensation) to IPX8 (waterproof), and for dust ranges from IP0X (no protection from dust or foreign objects) to IP6X (dustproof). These ratings can be combined, so you may see ratings like IP56 indicating that an item has protection from both dust and liquids.
The drivers inside earbuds tend to feature neodymium magnets (which provide power), copper voice coils (which transmit sound), and diaphragms which push sound to your ears and can be made from a variety of materials. Some earbuds feature multiple drivers specializing in different frequencies, with sizes ranging from 8mm to 15mm. Larger drivers are capable of producing a wider range of frequencies, translating to deeper bass and higher highs. Though other factors in their construction also affect this response.
Check the Tech
When you search for true wireless earbuds, a common selling point is their featured technology, so it’s a good idea to enter the marketplace equipped with an understanding of what all the tech specs mean.
A major tech spec you will commonly see is the version of Bluetooth the earbuds use. Bluetooth 5.0, released in 2016, is easily the most common version used in modern wireless earbuds as it represents a huge improvement over the previous version, Bluetooth 4.2. This includes a quadrupling of the wireless range up to 800 feet (260 meters) and eight times the bandwidth, at 2Mbps, resulting in higher audio quality and lower latency. It does all this while decreasing power consumption and enabling new features such as electronic interference cancellation.
The latest commercially available Bluetooth version is 5.2, which came out in 2020 and introduced a few new features. For earbuds, the most important of those are LE (Low Energy) Power Control and LE (Low Energy) Audio. Both lower power consumption to increase battery life, without sacrificing audio quality.
Different Bluetooth earbuds also use different audio codecs, which are algorithms that compress and decompress audio files into the sound you hear. Some of these work better in conjunction with certain devices, but all of them — besides the default SBC — are capable of transmitting high quality audio. Bluetooth 5.2’s new LC3 codec is the most efficient, resulting in lower power usage and latency, with Qualcomm’s AptX just behind it. Here’s a more in-depth explanation of Bluetooth codecs.
Another key feature of a lot of earbuds is active noise canceling (ANC). This technology uses a combination of microphones and speakers to detect noise in your environment and create inverse sound waves that “cancel” it out. As you might expect, it tends to come on higher-end earbuds and it decreases both battery life and sound quality. But if you spend a lot of time listening to your earbuds in noisy environments, it may be worth it.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly for those who make a lot of calls, are the microphones built into most true wireless earbuds. These come in a wide range of quality and even number of mics (from one to four), which usually depends on the priorities of the manufacturers. The best-sounding earbuds don’t always have the best mics, and vice versa.
The problem with these mics is that they’re next to your ear, not your mouth, so while picking up your voice they inevitably capture other noise around you. One solution is CVC (Clear Voice Capture), a form of noise cancelling which may be built into the earbuds or the device they’re connected to. It uses software to analyze the sound of your voice and isolate it by negating all other sounds.
Keep the Sound Alive
Finally, if you take your earbuds on a lot of trips (or just binge a lot of TV), the battery life will come into play.
There are actually two types of batteries to consider. The ones in the earbuds themselves, and the one in the case that recharges them. The earbud batteries can last anywhere from three to eleven hours, with the average battery life improving with each Bluetooth version. The case battery, on the other hand, is usually good for multiple full charges, but its capacity depends on the model. These days, getting two to four charges before needing to recharge the case is common.
One thing to note: cases that use USB-C not only charge the battery faster – they often have a “fast charge” function that can get the earbuds up and running for an hour or more in just a few minutes of charging. For those who often forget to charge until it’s too late, this can be a crucial bonus.
So which wireless earbuds should you choose?
Ultimately, there is no perfect set of earbuds for everyone, and the feature set that’s right for you largely comes down to personal preference. You’ll likely have to balance considerations like comfort, battery life, extra features such as CVC and ANC, a design that suits you, a sound profile that matches the way you plan to use them, and of course value for money.
But as with any electronic device, knowledge is power – which is why we’ve sought to provide you all the information you need to know what you’re getting. We’re confident that following these guidelines will lead you to a pair that you’re happy with.
Why the NexiGo Air T2 Wireless Earbuds Could be Your New Favorites?
NexiGo’s new ultra-thin Air T2 wireless earbuds just won an Innovation Award at CES 2022, so we’re pretty proud of them. Their biggest claim to fame is that, at just 3.2 grams and with the case coming in at only half an inch, they’re currently the world’s thinnest and lightest true wireless earbuds. It’s genuinely easy to forget you’re wearing them.
You might think that hitting the “thinnest and lightest” mark would require major compromises in other areas, but in fact the Air T2s are packed with premium features.
For one, they sound great. Their 13mm drivers are powered by a Qualcomm QCC3040 chipset which uses the AptX codec for clear, high-quality audio unhampered by compression or distortion. The vocal and instrument articulation is excellent, with each element staking out a clear space in the mix.
The Air T2s are equipped with Bluetooth 5.2 technology, which means they pair with devices quickly and maintain a stable connection up to 49 feet from the source, all while using low energy. In fact, they last up to seven hours on a single charge. Their case holds an additional three charges for a total 28 hours of listening, so you can take them on a weekend camping trip without worrying about falling behind on podcasts.
That clarity and low latency means that phone and video calls using the Air T2s are as smooth as it gets. To amplify that strength, NexiGo has fit four microphones in the small housing to enable CVC 8.0 noise cancelling, so you know your voice will be heard loud and clear no matter where you are.
And if wherever you are happens to get wet – as it often does for us here in Beaverton, Oregon – the Air T2 earbuds have you covered with IPX5 water resistance, which protects against direct streams from any angle. As long as you don’t drop them in the bath, they should keep going for a long time.
The NexiGo Air T2s have an open-air design, so they rest just inside your ear – not deep in the ear canal. Open-air earbuds are great for those who value situational awareness and all-day comfort, but many models have the drawback of falling out of your ears with the slightest movement. Fortunately, the Air T2s’ lightness and balance make that a non-issue for most wearers.
Every design involves compromise though, and in the Air T2s’ case, their unsealed fit does mean that they’re less than ideal for bass-heads or serious athletes, who may prefer something with a soft tip that provides a tighter seal. If you’re one of those – stay tuned! We’ll have something for you coming soon.
We’re confident that the NexiGo Air T2s are great at what they do and provide an exceptional value compared to others in their price category. That said, we’re not here to convince you that they’re the best wireless earbuds for every user. Our goal is to give you all the information you need to make an educated decision on which earbuds are the right ones for you. If you do decide on the Air T2s though we’ll be happy to welcome you to the family.