- It rained TWS right throughout 2020, with literally dozens of models from a number of brands hitting the market at price points ranging from Rs 999 to Rs 29,999 (and higher).
- As the year comes to an end, we pick our favourite buds that were truly outstanding as well as truly wireless.
- The list includes the offerings from Samsung, Oppo, OnePlus, Redmi and more.
- For our take on best smartphones of 2020, click here. And for the best headphones of 2020, click here.
It was the year when truly wireless earphones (TWS), moved from being the toys of a tiny niche to being well and truly mainstream. At the beginning of the year, the TWS segment comprised a few players, with most quality offerings being in the vicinity of Rs 10,000. By the time we came to the end of 2020, almost every mobile phone brand had some skin in the TWS game, decent TWS were available for Rs 1500, and you could even get close to audiophile-level sound at around Rs 7,000. In a year when TWS devices flooded the market, these seven truly wireless buds truly stood out:
Samsung Galaxy Buds Live – the best of 2020 for sounding great and thinking…different!
Yes, people made jokes about their shape with a lot of us in North India calling them the Rajma (kidney bean) TWS, but all things said and done, the Galaxy Buds Live were easily the best TWS of the year. Their shape was super innovative and they stayed in our ears a whole lot longer than some of their cousins that came with tips and stems galore. They sounded very good (a little heavy on the bass, but still very clear), had decent battery life (about seven hours) and while their ANC was iffy, I think they did what very few other TWS did this year – they pushed design to another level. And tried to think different…wait, who does that remind us of?
Lypertek Tevi – cocking a snook at premium, the OnePlus of TWS?
All right, these were actually launched towards the end of 2019, but they became more available in India in 2020. And had not Samsung launched the Buds Live, these would have been my choice for the TWS of the year. That’s because the Lypertek Tevi did to TWS what Xiaomi and OnePlus did to premium flagship phones – showed the world that great performance did not come with great price tags. At around Rs 7,000, the Tevi delivered sound that was close to the best of what Sony, Apple, and Sennheiser delivered at the top end. And came with staggeringly good battery life (ten hours on the buds, SEVENTY hours with the case) and dust and water resistance. Call quality needed work, but these remain the best TWS for audiophiles on a budget.
Jabra Elite 75t – still among the best anti-AirPods
While every brand and its granny have been trying to take on the AirPods, none has managed to put contenders against Apple’s TWS kings as consistently as Jabra. And 2020 saw the brand come out with the superb Elite 75t, which again provided users with a very good alternative to the AirPods at a similar price. We loved the slightly punchy bass sound these delivered and also the call quality, and of course, the battery life was on point as well. They remain the best non-AirPods for under Rs 15,000 in our book, if you are not the types open to experimentation (if you are, just get the Buds Live!). Just like their predecessors.
Oppo Enco W51 – ANC on a shoestring
Oppo was the surprise Bluetooth audio star of the year for me, with its Enco series of TWS and wireless earbuds delivering some very good sound at surprisingly affordable prices. And of the lot, the Enco W51 deserve special mention. Because they brought ANC to the budget TWS segment. Was it ANC to die for? Not really. But what could not be denied was that the brand had brought a niche feature into the range of the mainstream consumer. And that was something. The sound quality was surprisingly on the balanced side, given the bass-heavy inclinations of its cousins, and while the battery life was not the greatest, calls were good.
Redmi Earbuds S – budget gets a shot of quality
These were not perfect by any means. The sound seemed a little too bass-heavy, and the battery life was just about passable. Then why are they on this list? Well, because they convinced a lot of folks that you could get a TWS at a relatively low price which just worked.
For Rs 1,799, the Redmi EarBuds S were a rock-solid investment for anyone who wanted the TWS experience on a shoestring budget. Of course, they were not exceptional, but at that price, they were not expected to be. What they did was show that you did not need to bust the bank if all you sought was a wireless audio experience.
OnePlus Buds – Bringing on the funky colours…and surprisingly settled sound!
The year saw OnePlus enter the TWS segment, and just as with its other audio products, this one too grabbed attention. And that was mainly because of a rather funky shade of blue and a blue case that had green innards (they called it the Nord variant!) – it was available in white and grey too, though. The OnePlus Buds certainly made the product stand out in the crowd, and came with a very balanced sound as well as great integration with OnePlus devices and impressive battery life (seven hours). One of the better sub-Rs 5,000 TWS options out there.
Amazfit PowerBuds – sporty buds that delivered smarts with sound
They were a very decent pair of TWS, delivering very good, slightly bass-heavy sound. But what gets the PowerBuds into this list was the smarts they brought to the TWS table without costing a bomb. They had good sound, very good battery life (eight hours), and reasonable dust and water resistance. But what made them special was the fact that they also came with a reasonably accurate heartbeat sensor and even a sort of transparency mode (in spite of not having ANC) that allowed you to hear ambient sounds. My favorite sports and fitness TWS of the year for those on a budget.
(Note: The selection here reflects the individual opinions of the author)