While wireless over-ear headphones have been saving us from Tangle Rage™ for some time now, when it comes to really making our lives easier on the go, only the portability of in-ears will do.
The Apple AirPods were not the first of their kind to cut the wires by any means, but their arrival at the end of 2016 did give the in-ear industry a nudge in the right direction. Now there are alternatives everywhere you look.
That can only be a good thing for Android users. While the AirPods will work with Android phones, so much of their functionality is geared towards iOS that we’d argue your money is better spent elsewhere.
Not sure where to start? Read on for a lowdown on some of the best wireless in-ears on the market right now.
To ensure you’re getting the most out of your wireless in-ears, be sure to try out all the included eartips to get the best fit. Without a good seal in your ear, they might not be as comfortable or secure as they can be, plus it’ll have an effect on sound quality too.
RHA TrueConnect (₹14,999)
If you’ve put off buying some totally wireless earbuds because you’re worried about them falling out, look no further than a pair of RHA’s TrueConnects.
They come with 10 different tips (seven made of silicone, three from Comply foam) so you’d need to have very oddly shaped ear holes to not find a perfect fit. Each earphone is more compact than they look in the pictures too, plus they only weigh 7g each, so when they’re in you hardly notice them.
At least, you wouldn’t if they didn’t sound so good. Bass is punchy without being overpowering, and while the mid-range could perhaps have a bit more clarity, they’re a fun listen with a pretty wide soundstage. They’re easily up there with the best-sounding true wireless in-ears available, plus the secure fit means they do a decent job of cutting out any environmental jibber-jabber, too.
Where they fall slightly short is on the bells and whistles you get with some other pairs. They come in a very well-built USB-C charging case that means you get an impressive 25 hours out of the batteries, and they’re waterproof to IPX5, but compared to Apple’s futuristic AirPods they’re much more straightforward. The connection is almost as reliable, though, with only very brief and occasional dropouts, and while the controls can take a little getting used to they’re reliable and responsive.
Considering they also cost less than a pair of AirPods, RHA’s TrueConnects have all the important stuff nailed.
STUFF SAYS ✭✭✭✭✭
Samsung Galaxy Buds (₹9999)
Using AirPods with an Android phone is a bit like drinking gravy through a snorkel; it works but it just feels a bit wrong. The same can be said of Samsung’s Galaxy Buds and an iPhone.
There are certain features of Samsung’s totally wireless earphones that you need an Android phone, preferably a Galaxy, to use. The main one is Ambient Sound mode, which allows you to tweak how much outside noise they let in to prevent you from stepping in front of a runaway Segway. Voice Focus also makes it easier to hear people talking when you’re wearing them, plus you can customise what the touch-sensitive buttons do.
Those controls can be a tad temperamental but it gets better as you get used to them. The lightweight design and choice of three different buds, plus three wingtips to go with them, means they’re incredibly comfy and they never feel like they might fall out of your ears, even if you’re a fan of aggressively headbanging along to your tunes.
Chances of that are fairly high, because the AKG-tuned Galaxy Buds sound pretty damn good. Treble can be a little thin and the bass obviously won’t kick as hard as a larger pair would but you can always give it a little helping hand through the app’s equaliser.
STUFF SAYS ✭✭✭✭✭
Jabra Elite Active 65t (₹14,999)
Elsewhere on this list you’ll find Jabra’s Elite Sport in-ears. As the name suggests they’re aimed at fitness freaks and come with a built-in heart rate monitor. If your runs could be better described as Hungover Plod than Elite Sport, these Jabras might be the ones for you.
Despite their bulbous appearance they fit well, which is important if you’re going to be pounding pavements or pumping iron with them in. A choice of three silicone ear tips means they can be customised for different size ears, although it does mean they’re not the most comfortable for long listening sessions.
There are buttons built into each one: the left adjusts the volume and skips tracks, while the right is used to pause, recieve calls and bring up your phone’s voice assistant. That’ll give you a few things to remember but you’ll pick it up soon enough.
You can also toggle the HearThrough mode on and off, which allows you to adjust how much of the outside world the earphones let in. The noise-cancelling is impressive but it’s just one of many functions you can tweak via Jabra’s Sound+ app, with an EQ available for each mode. There’s also an accelerometer built in to monitor your steps and auto-pause when you take them out, although detection can be a bit hit and miss.
Audiophiles will probably pick holes in their audio performance but we like our sports headphones to be punchy and energetic - all the better to help push you through the pain.
STUFF SAYS ✭✭✭✭✩
Bose SoundSport Free (₹18,990)
You probably associate Bose with big, over-ear noise-cancellers but now you can also associate them with big, in-ear sports headphones.
Yep, there’s no getting away from the fact that the SoundSport Frees are a bit on the chunky side, with a fair portion of each bud protruding from your ear when they’re in place. Controls are built into the top edge of the right earbud and they come with Bose’s wing-shaped StayHear tips to keep them from falling out. Despite their size they’re surprisingly comfortable, plus they’re also sweat and water resistant.
Battery life is a fairly standard five hours, with the customary charging case offering an extra 10 on top of that. One thing that does make them stand out from the competition is the Apple-esque Find My Buds mode offered via the Bose Connect app. If you happen to misplace one or both it’ll show its location on a map and you can even get them to emit a distress signal when you’re in the vicinity, although given how chunky they are you’ll hopefully never need to use it.
While there’s none of Bose’s trademark noise-cancelling here, the SoundSport Frees do manage to create a decent amount of isolation. Sound is bold but balanced with driving bass that’s suitable for gym bunnies and commuters alike.
The only real issue is a lack of reliability when it comes to Bluetooth connectivity. Say what you like about Apple’s AirPods but their wireless performance is rock solid. Unfortunately we can’t say the same about these. It’s the only black mark against what is otherwise a well-performing pair of true wireless buds.
STUFF SAYS ✭✭✭✭✩
Sony WF-1000X (₹14,990)
Wireless know-how runs in the family at Sony. The company’s WH-1000XM3 are among our favourite wireless over-ear headphones, and its first wireless in-ears are almost as special.
The WF-1000X have a smart but unfussy look, and a wonderfully comfy fit. They hang just slightly outside your ear – not so much that you look like you’re trying to close a business deal but just enough to ensure the microphone is in the best place.
That’s because alongside phone calls and smart assistance, the WF-1000X needs its mics to help with its noise cancellation. Naturally, over-ears manage a more convincing job here, but the WF-1000X offer as good a performance as we’ve heard from in-ears.
Pairing is quick and playback is largely stable, with the familiar Sony sound that puts timing, drive and dynamics at the top of its to-do list.
Such an engaging sound is spurred on by stacks of clarity and insight through the midrange, and is supported by a bass response that’s punchy and well controlled at all times.
We’d take a touch more space if pushed, but the WF-1000X are far from sounding congested. In fact, they’re the best sounding wireless in-ears we’ve heard.
Expect playback for up to three hours (having noise cancelling on will shorten this slightly), with two more charges on-the-go from its case.
STUFF SAYS ✭✭✭✭✭
Jabra Elite Sport (₹21,990)
As their name might suggest, Jabra is aiming the Elite Sport at the gym bunnies among you, with some fancy features up their sleeve to give you a helping hand during workouts.
Their design is pretty bulky, which ensures a snug fit – not just for staying put when you’re on the treadmill, but also for reading your heart-rate. This doesn’t make them the comfiest in-ears we’ve worn, though, and after an hour or two you might need to give your ears a rest.
They work with the Jabra Sport app, which records your heart rate to create an informed workout report, but can also set you up with a training plan or talk you through one of its pre-programmed cross-training sessions. There are even some activities where the Elite Sport’s sensors can count your reps for you, and pretty accurately too.
The heart-rate monitor, on the other hand, doesn’t have the accuracy of some more accomplished fitness wearables. It’ll give a good enough idea for casual gym goers, but no more.
The Jabra Elite Sport haven’t forgotten they need to sound good either, with a crisp, clear performance and plenty of bass kick.
There’s not quite as much airy detail here as you might find elsewhere, nor are they as explicit with dynamics, but they’re well organised, with a good balance and no sharp edges in the treble. A very pleasant surprise indeed.
STUFF SAYS ✭✭✭✭✭
Bragi Dash Pro (₹29,999)
The Bragi Dash Pro buds might be the priciest in-ears in our list, but they offer much more than your average headphones.
Like the Jabras, they pack a heart-rate monitor and the ability to track a choice of activities, including running, cycling and – since they’re waterproof to 1m – swimming, with automatic lap counting.
Their lack of GPS means distances for rides and runs is often a bit out, but if you aren’t too worried about absolute accuracy, you can leave your phone at home and the Dash Pros will sync with your phone when you’re back. There’s even 4GB of onboard storage for saving playlists to the Dash Pros themselves, and an impressive five-hour battery life for longer activities.
Touch controls on the earbuds give you access to all of the Dash Pros' functionality without reaching for your phone, but they can also detect gestures, so you can control them using only head movements. You’ll look a bit daft, but it works, and allows you to go entirely hands free when you need to.
By the time you’ve discovered everything these buds can do, you’re wondering if how they sound even matters. The good thing is they don’t sound bad at all, offering a pretty even-handed balance, with a decent amount of space, plenty of clarity and just enough bass that you won’t feel short changed.
There’s a slight hardness to the treble at volume though, and we’d like the dynamics to be more expressive too.
STUFF SAYS ✭✭✭✭✩