Now that the headphone jack is an endangered species, at least when it comes to smartphones (thanks, Apple), it’s time to start thinking about ditching cables altogether.
And what better way to do it than with a pair of properly wireless in-ear buds?
Earin’s crowd-funded, cable-free earbuds have been around for the best part of a year in the US. Just pop a pair in your ears, sync ‘em with your phone, and press play. No messy wires to tangle, no adapters to carry around, no cords to get caught up in your clothes.
Sounds simple? It really is… when they work.
WHAT A PAIR
The tiny, cylindrical earbuds are about as big as a pair of dice, with an Earin logo on the edge that doubles as a conductive contact for the charging case.
They’re super light, and don’t stick that far out of your ears - so they’re about as sleek as a pair of properly wireless buds get. Does that mean you’ll still get a few stares while you’re riding the bus? Yep, it does - these still feel like you’re wearing a piece of the future.
They're also a whole lot more subtle than Apple's odd-looking AirPods.
With no built-in microphone, each bud is as small as the tech will allow, but it means you've got to pop one out when you get a call - which is pretty irritating.
Bundled Comply foam tips help isolate sound, and create a comfortable fit. They won’t silence background noise completely, but you won’t need to jack the volume up to maximum, either. I was consistently a few clicks lower than my usual listening volume - that’s just how effective those tips are.
They stay locked in place for the most part, needing a little poke every now and then if they shift in your ears, but I wouldn’t want to use them for anything other than a light jog. Because they’re cylindrical, they’ll start rolling if one falls to the floor. The black colour could make it tricky to find, too.
There’s no delay while the buds pair with each other, and no annoying voiceover like with Motorola’s Verve Ones - they just work once you’ve taken them out of the case. Speaking of which…
BEST CASE SCENARIO
Nope, that’s not a mascara pen or lipstick tube - it’s a compact charging case that’ll top up each Earin bud three times before you’ll need to hunt down a plug socket.
The top slides off and the buds pop in and out with a firm click. This sliding tray feels a little flimsy when fully extended, but the rest of the all-metal case feels like it could take a battering and be no worse for wear.
It’s the perfect size, too: small enough to slip in a pocket alongside your phone, so you’ll barely even notice it’s there until you need to recharge.
A red LED lights up when you snap the buds back into place to show they’re charging, and turns off when they’re full. That’s only useful if you know the case has charge, though: it can’t change colours, blink or flash, so there’s no clue if it’s actually out of juice. It’s irritating when you pop in the buds, only to realise everything has run out of power.
Earin’s companion app tells you how much charge each bud has, but not when they’re sat in the case.
CAN'T STOP THE DROP
A much bigger problem is the spotty wireless connection - the one thing a pair of wireless in-ears absolutely needs to get right.
Basically, your phone only connects to the left earbud, which then shares audio with the right bud using Bluetooth. Passing wireless signals directly through your skull doesn’t really work that well, which can lead to dropouts.
It’s really annoying when you’re just about to hit the drop in that latest Skrillex EDM banger, or an angry Metallica guitar solo, and you lose all audio in the right ear for a few seconds.
The buds usually sort themselves out after a few seconds, but sometimes the only way to fix it was to stick them back in the case, then putting them back in your ears.
Three hours between charges is pretty good going, seeing how small each earbud is. It was enough to get me through a European plane journey without having to resort to the in-flight magazine.
Sat in their case, the buds charge in under an hour, and the case itself takes about as long when you plug it in over microUSB.
Heading out all day? You’ll be totally drained (case and buds) after twelve hours of listening. That’s about average for any Bluetooth headphones, though, and on par with other wireless in-ears.
SOUND OF THE UNDERGROUND
It’s not enough to just cut the cord - wireless earbuds actually have to sound good as well. Earin mostly delivers on that front, with a crisp mid-range and highs that usually deliver.
Unfortunately, it’s the low-end that fails to deliver. Bass-heavy tracks feel too subdued, with no real presence. Electronic and rock tracks just feel weak as a result - disappointing if those are your most frequently listened-to genres.
The Earin companion app does let you toggle on a bass boost, but it goes too far in the other direction - overpowering the mix and leaving the low-end booming, instead of tightening everything up.
The sense of space is pretty limited, too, leaving songs feeling a bit constricted. It wasn’t enough to completely put me off using them, but I was well aware there are better sounding in-ears for much less cash if you can put up with a cable.
EARIN WIRELESS EARBUDS VERDICT
Earin might have been one of the first out of the gate with truly wireless in-ears, but in the year since first showing up on Kickstarter, bigger companies have joined the party - and done a better job.
For everything they get right, like the excellent charging case, the Earin buds hit a stumbling block somewhere else.
Kicking fancy features to the kerb might make these some of the smallest truly wireless in-ears around, but not being able to take calls with them is irritating. Connection troubles make for a frustrating listening experience, too.
There haven’t been any software tweaks or updates to improve connection woes in the year since launch, so as much as they sound pretty good, and are properly tiny while you’re wearing them, those issues mean I can’t give them a full recommendation right now.