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True wireless earphones review 2021


Clark Mcgreat

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These are the best true wireless in-ear headphones. In-ear headphones with a true wireless design such as Apple's Airpods are extremely compact and ideal for commuting and exercising. Since there is no longer a connection cable between the right and left earplugs, good models are hardly noticeable after a short time. In the comparison test, we checked numerous true wireless headphones and tell you where the basic strengths and weaknesses of the products are and what to look out for when buying. Our top recommendation are the excellent Huawei FreeBuds Pro for around 150 euros. You can get a much cheaper true wireless headphone with useful performance for just 30 euros.

 

These best true wireless in-ear headphones we review
Can't find the right product for you in our recommendations? Then try our personal step-by-step advisor below the table to find the right wireless in-ears for you.

 

Huawei FreeBuds Pro
Overall rating: very good: The Huawei FreeBuds Pro achieved an excellent rating in all categories in the test. The sound is fun and the wearing comfort is great. With a total running time of over 38 hours, they are also very durable.

Huawei FreeBuds Pro Pros:

  • Excellent sound
  • Long battery life
  • Comfortable seat

Huawei FreeBuds Pro Cons:

  • Some functions only for Android or Huawei smartphones
  • Not waterproof

We rate the Huawei FreeBuds Pro presented in autumn 2020 in the test in all categories with the top grade "very good". All in all, you get a full sound that is particularly impressive with natural voice reproduction. Sometimes the bass is a bit intense. The headphones have active noise canceling for better shielding from loud ambient noise. The ANC's performance is not perfect, but it is very good. The manufacturer has even given the FreeBuds Pro an ambient mode to make the environment easier to understand.

Huawei headphones also do a lot right when it comes to comfort: They sit comfortably and do not generate any pressure in the ear. In addition, sensors recognize when you put the earbuds on or off. Due to the smooth surface, taking it out of the small charging case is a bit fiddly. Incidentally, you can conveniently charge the latter wirelessly on a Qi-Pad. The battery of the in-ears is empty after almost 8.5 hours together with the charging box, we achieved a runtime of over 38 hours in the test.

You have to accept some restrictions if you do not have an Android or Huawei smartphone. The manufacturer's app is not available for iOS and some functions require a Huawei device or certain OS versions.

 

Panasonic RZ-S300W
Overall rating: very good: Our test shows that you get a lot for your money with the Panasonic RZ-S300W. Very good sound quality and a total battery life of 30:42 hours cost just 80 euros.

Panasonic RZ-S300W Pros:

  • Good sound
  • Impressive battery life
  • best price performance ratio

Panasonic RZ-S300W Cons:

  • Slightly exaggerated heights
  • Lack of power at higher volume

The Panasonic RZ-S300W also gives you very good in-ear headphones, but you have to make compromises in some areas. The sound quality is overall very good and clear, the battery with 30:42 hours felt tireless. However, the highs are a bit sharp and the sound appears too flat in the standard setting. With the "bass optimization" the music comes to life and gets more volume. At a higher volume, other in-ears, such as the Sony WF-1000XM3, still sound a bit more secure and convincing.

When it comes to comfort, the Panasonic headphones leave something to be desired. Despite the magnetic holder, the earbuds don't jump into the small case really well. Practice is required here. The touch controls are not very elegant either. Tapping two or three times for quieter and louder is a little painful in the ears. In return, the RZ-S300W costs just under 85 euros, which results in a first-class price-performance ratio.


Sony WF-1000XM3
Overall rating: very good: Sony's in-ear headphones WF-1000XM3 showed top performance in all categories in the test. The sound is great and the battery lasts a long time at 37:40 hours.

Sony WF-1000XM3 Pros:

  • Great sound
  • Very convenient
  • Long-lasting battery

Sony WF-1000XM3 Cons:

  • Not waterproof

In the test, the Sony WF-1000XM3 (for the test) - like the Huawei FreeBuds Pro - received a terrific overall rating: We gave the in-ear headphones a "very good" rating in all categories. The sound is great, the headphones sit comfortably and do not slip, have excellent battery life and almost perfect features. The sound is very clear, with a rich bass. We like the mids as well as the highs, but the sound of the latter sometimes has a bit too much energy. The sound of the Sony is great for true wireless in-ear headphones.

For convenience, Sony supplies various attachments from which the user can choose the most suitable one for himself. The in-ears are pushed into the ear canal and rotated until they are firmly seated. Thanks to the excellent active noise suppression, the WF-1000XM3 effectively suppresses ambient noise in the test. The touch controls are good. In our test, the WF-1000XM3 lasted for more than nine hours without the use of noise canceling with charging in the battery case you get a total runtime of a very good 38 hours.
 

QCY T1
Overall grade: good: The QCY T1 true wireless headphones “only” deliver an all-round good performance in the test but at an extremely affordable price.

QCY T1 Pros:

  • Very low price
  • Decent sound
  • Good battery life

QCY T1 Cons:

  • Case without lid
  • No volume control on the headphones

You only pay around 30 euros for the QCY T1 (to test) and for this low price, the small true wireless in-ear headphones are surprisingly good. It sounds quite balanced and pleasant, if not quite as natural as the top models. The highs are a bit pointed and not particularly detailed, and it could appear a bit fuller in the middle area. Overall, the sound is okay and should satisfy many users.

The battery life of 3.5 hours without recharging and 15.5 hours including the battery case is also good. The low price is noticeable in the processing quality. The plugs are held magnetically in the case, which is practical. But this has no cover, so dust and dirt can penetrate. The processing of the plugs looks solid.


Apple AirPods Pro
Overall grade: good: The AirPods Pro sit firmly and comfortably, sound very good and have strong noise canceling. However, only iOS users receive the full range of functions.

Apple AirPods Pro Pros:

  • Strong sound
  • Very good noise canceling
  • Long battery life

Apple AirPods Pro Cons:

  • Not all functions on Android

Apple's completely wireless in-ear headphones Airpods Pro with noise canceling leave an excellent impression in the test. The active noise cancellation works very well, the sound is great, the battery life is long and the wearing comfort is high. The Airpods Pro do better than the normal Airpods in every way. If you are used to the latter, you have to get used to it, because you no longer just hang the Airpods Pro loosely in the ear cups, but press them gently into the ear canal. We find the wearing comfort to be excellent.

The battery life is also excellent, but not quite on the top level of the best models on the market. With one charge, the Airpods Pro last for almost 5.5 hours without the use of ANC (on an Android mobile phone), including reloading in the carrying case, you can expect a runtime of just over 27 hours. With the ANC activated, the runtime hardly differs. If you only have 15 minutes to charge the completely drained earphones, you get a very good remaining battery life of just over 2.5 hours.

 

Powerbeats Pro
Overall rating: good: The beats Powerbeats Pro show a strong performance in the test, we like the sound and the battery life is downright spectacular.

Powerbeats Pro Pros:

  • Excellent battery life
  • Firm, comfortable fit
  • Fun sound for electro

Powerbeats Pro Cons:

  • Elevation display a bit exhausting at times

The Beats Powerbeats Pro (for test) with their ear hooks are predestined for users who easily slip other in-ear headphones out of their ears or who want to be sure not to lose the earplugs while exercising. The Beats Powerbeats Pro sit firmly without pressing and after a short time practically no longer attract attention. In addition, they are protected against splash water in accordance with the IP standard X4. The handling is also easy: The Beats Powerbeats Pro have small buttons instead of touch fields, but we like the controls very much. The noise insulation is decent.

The sound of the Beats Powerbeats Pro is clear and has a strong bass. Electronic music is particularly effective. The highs are open, but tend to be hard and “bite” at the expense of harmony and relaxation. Voices also seem a bit cool and harsh and not entirely natural. Overall the sound is good. In terms of battery life, the Beats Powerbeats Pro last a spectacular 11:44 hours and that's almost over-ear headphones level. Including the charge in the battery case, there is a total of 28 hours of runtime.

 

Pros and Cons: What Does True Wireless Mean in In-Ear Headphones?
When buying headphones, it's always about making the right compromises, because there is no such thing as the perfect headphones for all application scenarios. The so-called true wireless or truly wireless in-ear headphones are ideally suited for users who travel a lot and want to carry the most compact models possible with them; or who play sports and are looking for headphones that both sit firmly in the ear and "disappear" as much as possible when worn. Because unlike over and on-ear models, they are tiny.

Since they completely dispense with cables, there is also no cable between the left and right ear pieces and they are barely noticeable after a short time; if they sit perfectly. Some of them are even waterproof or at least splashproof. On the other hand, the battery life of the little things is rather short, but sufficient for most situations, and the sound of expensive over-ear headphones is often fuller and more relaxed, although there are also top-of-the-range in-ear models that stand out. On the other hand, some in ears also sound really bad.

 

True wireless in-ear headphones: how much you get for your money
There are also differences between the in-ear headphones that not only affect the sound quality and battery life, but also the wearing and handling comfort. In addition, the fit in the ear depends heavily on the respective physiognomy of the user. And without a perfect fit, the sound quality also suffers and more on that later. The price range is also enormous, from 30 euros to 350 euros there is something for every budget in our test field. There are both expensive models, which in our opinion are not worth the money, as well as cheap ones, with which many users should be very satisfied.

 

In-ear headphones comfort: Try wearing them
Before you can hear the first tone, you have to attach the true wireless headphones securely and precisely in your ear. The reactions to some models in our editorial team were very different and ranged from enthusiasm to lightness and inconspicuousness to physical aversion and our colleagues literally refused to wear certain models for more than a few minutes. In some cases, some of the earbuds that fit well with some colleagues could not even be fundamentally attached to the ears of other colleagues, so that they could easily fall out.

This experience shows that people sometimes judge in-ear headphones very differently due to their specific physiognomy and that you should definitely try on products that are on your shortlist. It is also important to try out all the ear cushions (rubber or foam) that are supplied, which differ in size and in some cases, until you find the best fit. If the in-ear models are inserted too loosely in the ear or if the driver is not directed ideally into the ear canal, the sound quality will be significantly reduced.

 

Types of in-ear headphones: ear canal or auricle
In-ear headphones are either pressed tightly into the ear canal or hung loosely in the auricles. Both have advantages and disadvantages. They sit more firmly in the ear canal than in the auricle, isolate outside noise better and can produce a richer bass. The so-called occlusion effect is very pronounced here: steps and jaw movements influence the sound. Such a tightly closed ear canal can also feel uncomfortable because the air cannot escape. Apple's Airpods Pro are stuck without creating annoying pressure and that's great. In-ear headphones like Apple's Airpods 1 and Airpods 2 that are only hung in the auricle sit more loosely and almost inconspicuously. But you have to be a little more careful with them when doing sports and they don't isolate ambient noise.

To ensure an even more reliable hold, some in-ear headphones have wings that are either clamped behind the ear or ensure a secure fit inside the ear. Most models, however, simply rely on being so deep and tight that they can do without such aids. This usually works well, but not always and if in doubt it depends on the shape of the ear or the ear canal. If individual models loosened slightly when jumping in our test, we downgraded them.

 

Control of the true wireless headphones: Touch is often better than button
Compared to over-ear headphones, which offer plenty of space for control buttons, the operation of the tiny in-ear plugs is a bit more impractical. Basically, we have rated models that rely on touch rather than key operation a little better, since capacitive fields are simply more practical in this case. This allows you to easily control an ear stud with your finger instead of having to feel it for the millimeter-sized buttons or painfully press it into your ear when operating it.

We also looked at the possible control commands and their implementation. Can the functions increase, decrease, forward, backward, play, pause or only part of them be performed? And how comfortably does it work? With some models, users can only control the volume via the mobile phone and not on the ear stud. There are definitely differences in comfort between the products.

The familiarization phase with in-ear models is longer than with conventional headphone headphones, because users first have to internalize which functions the manufacturer has placed on which earpiece. We had to study the instructions more often. But ultimately that's just a question of getting used to it.

 

Handling the in-ear headphones: the charging cradle is always with you
The included transport cradle, which also serves as a charging cradle, is also important for ease of handling. Some cases are tiny and can be stowed inconspicuously in trouser and jacket pockets; the Airpods stand out here. Others look more like small glasses cases. We also give plus points if the ear studs are held in the case with magnets: On the one hand, they don't fall out unintentionally, on the other hand and this is even more important, you practically only have to let the in-ears "fall into" and they dock by themselves. That feels pretty satisfying and of course comes in handy too.

We also rate it positively when the headphones switch on automatically when they are removed and when they go out as soon as they land back in the charging cradle. This is the case with most models, but not all. Incidentally, the automatic switch-off only works when the battery case is still charged, otherwise the music continues until the plugs are exhausted. In some cases, individual in-ears switch themselves off or mute for a short time when you take them out of your ear for a conversation; if you put it back in, the music can be heard again.

We also awarded points for an ambient noise function that is known from some noise-canceling headphones. Then the ear stud uses its integrated microphone to loop outside noise through. If you wish, you can hear the road traffic better while jogging or any announcements on the train or plane, if that is not what you want, you often benefit from good passive shielding by closing the ear canal.

You can see which features the models support in detail in the detailed view of our true wireless in-ear headphones list of the best (in the standard view on the PC or notebook, click on the "All products in detail" button).

 

Battery life of the true wireless headphones is usually okay
The battery life that in-ear headphones can last without recharging is rather modest compared to other types of wireless headphones: On average, the models we tested played just over 4 hours of music, the worst came to around 2.5 hours, but there are also models that run well over ten hours. Over and on-ear headphones have significantly more runtime reserves with their 11 to 40 hours.

Practical restrictions hardly occur in everyday in-ear users, as the small plugs are always stowed back in their transport case with integrated battery after use so that they are not lost. This means that the case charges them automatically without any further action. This is very practical and puts the short continuous operating time into perspective. A charging process is not possible without a case, the plugs do not have a separate cable connection. Incidentally, there is also no extra audio cable connection such as over-ear Bluetooth headphones.

This brings the total running time into focus, which the transport / battery tray enables. In this way, the battery life is much more convincing, sometimes over thirty hours. At the lower end, there are models with ten or less hours. On average, you have to plug in the charging cradle products about as often as headphone headphones with a mediocre runtime.

Finally, we checked what battery life is available when users only have 15 minutes to charge the empty earplugs. Many models only offer 30 to 60 minutes of remaining runtime in this test, but newer models with fast charging technology also offer several hours and that's great. Finally, the total charging time for the empty plug including the empty battery case also flows into our battery note.

 

The sound quality of the in-ear headphones shows major differences
Almost all of the headphone headphones we tested can be heard well to very well. The in-ear models are different, because there are larger fluctuations. Some models sound excellent, even if every headphone has its own sonic characteristics and none is “perfect”. In terms of sound, we count the Bose Soundsport Free, the Sony WF-1000XM3, the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2, the Audio-Technica ATH-SPORT7TW and also Apple's Airpods Pro or Huawei's FreeBuds Pro. At the lower end there are models that sound very thin and artificial and are simply not fun. Which sound you prefer here will depend on how well the devices sit in your ears, what your hearing is like and which headphone sound you already know and prefer.

Ultimately, however, it only helps to try it out or choose other categories such as wearing comfort and battery life. Basically, we also found that listening with plugs that sit deep in the ear feels more stressful for the ears in the long run than listening to music with over-ear models. A few times after hours of rehearsing, we had the feeling that our hearing had become tired. With this in mind, we can only advise you not to turn up the volume too high.

Edited by Clark Mcgreat

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