If you’re looking for a pair of true wireless in-ear headphones, you will have noticed that there are a wealth of choices available. This can make choosing the right pair for your needs (and your wallet) a daunting task.
Whether you’re buying your first pair or upgrading, there are several things to consider before you splash the cash. We have put together a guide to help you make the right choice, covering everything from comfort to sound quality.
1. The Perfect Fit for Comfort
If you listen to a lot of music, then comfort while you do so is important. How your wireless headphones sit within your ear is going to have an effect on how you enjoy your listening experience. Poorly fitting headphones, be they too tight or too loose, are not going to make for a pleasant listening session.
It is important that the headphones that you choose come with a range of customizable options. If you have several size ear-tips included in the box, then you’re off to a good start. You can maximize your comfort by swapping out the ear tips to suit the size of your ear canal. This means they won’t put too much pressure on the inside of your ear as you listen.
Some wireless in-ear headphones also come with a securing loop. They can take several forms. For example, the Soundcore Liberty 2 Pro earbuds come with several pairs of “ear wings”. This is essentially a rubber loop that sits behind the folds in your outer ear. These need to be comfortable too; you need to be able to customize the size of securing loops, so this is also a consideration.
2. Snug In-Ear Security
A great pair of in-ear headphones is likely to be a fairly sizeable investment. With this in mind, you aren’t going to want your headphones diving for the nearest puddle with every minor turn of your head. The “ear wings” we mentioned earlier assist with keeping your headphones in place—and so do the ear-tips.
A secure fit may also be provided by ear hooks. Instead of sitting inside the folds of the ear, these loop over the top, keeping them in position. The Powerbeats Pro in-ear headphones boast this feature; good job, given the $249.99 price-tag Dre has whacked on them! The hooks with these headphones are adjustable too, for maximum comfort.
You can eliminate the security issue another way. If you plump for a pair of Apple’s Airpod Pro headphones , then MinusK offers a strap to make your wireless headphones, erm, wired…
3. Battery Life
Without the benefit of a wire to deliver power, wireless headphones need to power themselves. Each headphone does this by packing its own rechargeable battery. You’ll want to use the headphones for prolonged periods of time, so battery life is a factor. Fortunately, most true wireless headphones come with a carry case that, more often than not, also charges them.
The advantage of a charging case is that even long journeys or extended use isn’t a significant problem. Lypertek’s Tevi ear-buds boast an astounding 70-hour battery life with the case. You won’t need to worry about the battery fizzing out if you’re about to jet off on a long-haul flight if you’re rocking a pair of these. You’ll probably get the return journey out of them, too!
Even without a case, though, you want to get plenty of juice out of your fully charged headphones. Apple’s Airpod Pro, for example, store up to five hours of energy in the on-board battery. Sennheiser’s Momentum headphones offer a meager four hours of playback. If you have some prolonged headphone use ahead, consider something with a little more gas in the tank. The Klipsch T5 headphones offer a whopping eight hours of battery life.
4. Noise Cancelation
When you’re listening to music, you don’t want external noise interrupting your favorite track. Other people’s conversation, traffic noise, and many other sources of sound can spoil your listening experience. This is why noise cancellation is important. With this feature, your headphones will filter out any background sound. This will leave you with much better quality audio that isn’t muddied by the sound in your immediate environment.
Similarly, if you want to take a call, you don’t want to only be hearing half of the conversation—that’s no use to anybody. Noise cancellation ensures that you can hear exactly what your conversation partner is saying, and vice-versa. Very important when it comes to ordering in your favorite takeaway food! The Soundcore Liberty 2 Pro earbuds offer a noise-canceling feature, thanks to the built-in mics and Qualcomm tech.
5. Sound Quality
This is a pretty obvious one, right? Well, you would think so, but a lot of people are led astray by a lower price tag. While it isn’t always the case, investing more cash in your headphones will ensure that you receive great sound in return. Never buy a pair of headphones just because Travis Scott prints his signature on the side.
One tell-tale sound-quality give away is the size of the drivers the housing contains. You will generally find the size of the drivers (in millimeters) within the specifications of the headphones you are looking at. A bigger driver delivers a nice, fat bass sound, which shouldn’t sound muffled or—worse still—non-existent.
The term frequency response should also feature in any specs. The frequency response refers to the range of frequencies that the headphones can deliver. Most headphones operate at a range of 20Hz to 20kHz, which just so happens to be what the average human ear is capable of hearing. This doesn’t necessarily denote high-quality sound, but it can help you. If you struggle to hear certain frequencies, a pair of headphones that boosts those frequencies will deliver a more balanced sound to your ear.
Sound Pressure Level
Sound Pressure Level is another factor to be wary of. The value you see next to the SPL is a great indication of the volume your headphones can reach. It stands to reason that “the louder the better” is not a plus-point when buying headphones. However, you do want to be able to actually hear the music, so opt for something that sits around the 85-90dB mark and you shouldn’t have any volume problems.
Finally, distortion. A specification sheet will list this as THD, or Total Harmonic Distortion. This is basically the value given to the level of distortion in relation to the volume. A value of anything less than 1% will be perfect for listening to music and watching movies. This means that a sudden volume increase, an explosion in a movie, for example, won’t result in the overall sound being distorted.
Anything Else to Consider?
Modern in-ear headphones come with plenty of additional features that can improve the quality of the sound you hear. Apps containing equalizers can allow you to customize the sound to your own ears; let’s face it, nobody hears anything the same as the next person.
If you’re stuck on what headphones are best for your needs, at a price that suits you, then check out our guide to the best wireless headphones for any budget .