Wireless earphones have been around for a long time now but the absence of wires matters today more than ever before. The true wireless earphone wave has truly engulfed wires and has left nothing but a Bluetooth behind for connection. But this isn’t a sob story. Freedom from wires is actually a story of struggle and resistance with a happy ending. A tale of how old days when we used to spend hours detangling wires are behind us.
We may have exaggerated a little but detangling wire is a struggle and most people would agree. But while Bluetooth might have taken the wires’ spot in this plot, what it brought along was some serious confusion. With wired earphones, things were relatively simple. You had earbuds or over the head headphones to choose from. Bluetooth earphones on the other hand have three major categories or styles of Bluetooth earphones and each category is monumentally different from the other. And because these are generally a level above the traditional wired headphones in the price department, you do not want to invest and then regret buying your Bluetooth earphones. So, which wireless would pair best with your wire-free lifestyle?
1. Truly wireless earbuds: Look ma, no wires! At all!
The gadget which is most likely to bring the tech cupid out and hit you with a “love at first sight” arrow is this one. Truly wireless earbuds are truly a rage at the moment. Companies love making them and consumers seem to love buying them. And we do get the obsession that comes latched on with these Bluetooth earbuds. They are absolutely wire-free, they are tiny, they are the portable-est and of course, they look super cool and trendy. They also come in various different designs, something that you will not find in the other two categories. But while there is a lot to love about the true wireless earbuds, these might not really be everyone’s cup of tea.
The fact that they are completely wireless, means that you get two separate buds, which means you have to be careful about where you keep them and how you use them. No matter what the brand that is trying to sell you the ‘ultimate wireless earbuds’ dream, all of them fall out. Some more often than others but they all do. No matter if they go deep into your ear canal or sit pretty on the outside or have hinges or wings to back them up, all wireless buds do suffer from the occasional dropping-out-of-ears-syndrome.
What’s more, because they do not have any wires between the buds and are relatively smaller size (lesser space for drivers), the audio quality is generally a couple of steps below what you get as compared to their wired or slightly wired counterparts – something especially noticeable at lower price points. And if you lose one, the pair is ruined. You can go around using just one of the buds or buy a single bud (which is a very rare option in most cases) but if you lose one, you have pretty much entered the useless city. Because their design is tiny, they have tiny controls which can be a pain to access and use, and if the buds happen to be really tiny, the microphones might end up being far away from your mouth, making calls a bit of a problem. That small size also means battery life takes a hit- even the much talked about AirPods give you about five hours, and although the cases generally top that up generously, you end up having to carry and charge the case as well!
All this does not mean that true wireless earbuds are a lost cause. They fit in really well in business environments and offer you true freedom from wires or any kind of bulk that headphones or earphones may bring along. They sort of work well in light-active situations such as yoga or power walks. So, if you are someone who is on call a lot or whose lifestyle does not involve a lot of heavy-duty movements and is not extremely careless with their gadgets, TWS will fit right in into your life. They are small and unobtrusive, and for the most part, are very good for casual listening (there are some audiophile-level TWS too, but those are limited in number). And well, they are the only ones in this list to come with bells and whistles like wireless charging. Latest latest!
2. Wireless earbuds: A bit of wire hurt no one!
Think of TWS with wires but no wires (you get it?) and you get wireless earbuds (or neckband earphones). These basically fall in the slightly wired category where the buds have a wire connecting them but have a wireless connection between the earbuds and the device. These might not attract the ones who like to lead a true wire-free life but are wireless enough for the ones who want freedom with a hint of security – the ones who do not like to live life right on the edge (with the fear of earbuds falling off them).
Unlike true wireless earbuds that come in a variety of shapes and sizes, wireless buds follow a rather basic blueprint. Earbuds on either end of the wire, battery capsule near one of the buds, and a control center capsule near the other in simple wired earbuds. Or a stiff plastic collar band with battery inside and controls on the side and small wires on each end with earbuds at the tip. Ultimately, they are all wire with an earbud at each end – buds that can rest outside your ear or tunnel into them, depending on your inclination. And while wireless purists might look down on the thought of having a hint of wire, it is actually not as bad.
These are super light, in spite of the wire. And having the wired connection in the middle means you will not lose one of the buds (you can only lose the whole band altogether but not just a bud) and in case the buds fall out of ears, the band will often save them from hitting the ground (generally falling around your neck), saving them from potential damage. What they lack in design, they make up for in the battery and audio department. Most wireless earbuds are generally a notch or two above their TWS counterparts when it comes to battery and audio – something like the OnePlus Z Wireless can get you twenty hours of battery. They also often come with a microphone unit that you can (if you wish) physically hold closer to your mouth, which gives them a bit of an edge in call quality. Audio quality is generally very good and if you prefer studio-level sound, well, you can get that too in this super portable form factor, if you are ready to spend a little!
They also are the most affordable kind of Bluetooth buds you can find as they are relatively cheaper than over-the-ear headphones and TWS. And they work exceptionally well for people who are constantly on the move. They can just hang around in your neck and because they are generally light, they will not feel like a burden either. They are also perfect for those who love intense workouts, weight lifting, jump rope, or just good old running because even if the buds fall out of your ears, they will still not fall on the ground. The collar band type might attract executives who simply want something relatively weight which they can use easily throughout the day.
3. Wireless over-the-ear headphones: For those who love SOUND!
These are the veterans of the Bluetooth world and are basically collared wireless earbuds after years of hitting the gym and a lot of steroids. Apologies for the bad joke but it is what it is. Much like their wireless earbuds buddies, they also follow a basic design pattern with earcups on either end which sit over the ears and a band that goes over the head.
These headphones are generally the best audio and battery wise as compared to their other wireless counterparts – within all that bulk lies space for bigger batteries (there are many which comfortably offer close to forty hours) and bigger drivers. Amongst the lot, they generally have the best controls which are big enough to be accessed and used, be it buttons or touch. The microphones also are more powerful at the higher end and call quality is generally decent. But because they are bulky they are not as portable or activity-friendly as the other two Bluetooth buds.
These are the headphones you would want to use when you are sitting down and enjoying your music or a movie. The bulk also makes them almost impossible to lose or misplace but that also means they cannot fit in your pockets like truly wireless earbuds or some wireless buds can. You have to carry them in a bag. And they are heavy too, often in the region of 250 to 300 grams. And that does mean that they can tire your head out – sometimes even the headband connecting can squeeze your head a little. The cups themselves can either just fit on your ears or envelop them completely, depending on your preference.
Both TWS and neckband earbuds connect via Bluetooth with your device and while these do too, many of them also come with an option to connect them with your phone using a wire, which means you can use them even when you run out of battery. These would be perfect for people who want to experience audio or video with headphones on in peace and like to binge watch or listen to content because of their design, long battery life, and generally superior audio quality. They are big, bulky, and kind of announce “I am so intense about sound quality.”
So if you have decided to try the wire-free life, you now know exactly which ear pair would work best for you. You could get rid of all wires with TWS, keep a hint and steer clear of the bulk with plain Bluetooth earbuds, or just get totally into the audio experience with over the ear headphones. You ahead and choose. You have nothing to lose but some wires!