The Saga of the Wireless Earbuds: A Ranting Review

I'm a bit of a gadget dork, but nothing captures my attention more than headphones and earbuds. I've own:

  • Two sets of over-the-ear noise-canceling headphones
  • Two sets of in-the-ear noise-canceling earbuds
  • Countless earbuds of every brand you can think of
  • Two sets of in-the-ear Bluetooth earbuds
  • One set of on-the-ear cans

Why I need so many ways to listen to music and podcasts is beyond me, but in the last year, the innovation that most excited me are truly wireless earbuds.

The Dark Ages: The "Wireless" Corded Bluetooth Earbuds

Most Bluetooth earbuds look like this:
Picture of Bluetooth earbuds

That cord is annoying. Really annoying. You can choose to either have it dangle behind your head where then it gets caught on your collar all the time, or you can put it in front where it can snag on just about anything, defeating the purpose of having wireless Bluetooth earbuds in the first place.

It's still better than a cord dangling all the way down to your phone, but still...

Then the Light: Truly Wireless Bluetooth Earbuds, But With Issues

Then, the truly wireless...
Picture of Bragi The Headphone

So, first the pros:

  • No stinkin' cord
  • Stays connected without any dropouts, even when I walk into another room
  • Earbud batteries last 4-5 hours (but more on batteries later)
  • Moderately better sound than I expected
  • Stay in your ear fairly well. The Comply foam-fit eartips were the best, but after six months, they did wear out. I still need to get new ones.

Cons:

  • These cost $150. Apple's Airbuds are $150, but they come with a rechargeable case. Oh man, I can't tell you how important this is! You listen to these for a couple hours and then put them back in the case. Then, with the Bragis, you forget to charge it. So, you pop them back in your ear for another couple hours. After you do this 2-3 times, you're out of juice, but now you're not in a convenient place to charge them. Sucks.
  • Controls are somewhat hard to press. They get easier over time as you "break it in," but still.
  • Bass is not great, so if you listen to a lot of hip hop or dance music, these aren't going to cut it. (Good bass is hard to get out of earbuds to begin with, so there's that.)
  • Terrible for phone calls. Caller hears everything around you except for you.

ONLY ONE YEAR LATER: Cheap Chinese Bluetooth Earbuds

I started seeing products like these earbuds on Amazon for $50 and I'm thinking, these have to be terrible, right? I bet they sound terrible, don't stay connected, drop out of my ear, etc. But, I have to know, so I ordered them last week because of one small interesting tidbit: Many of the ones ~$50 come with recharging carrying cases...What?!?! That's a feature only offered in $150-200+ wireless earbuds I thought!

EMACFIRE Wireless Earbuds
(The electricity coming out of is to demonstrate that it's magnetized, not that you'll get a jolt.)

So, pros:

  • $50!!!
  • They look pretty cool actually. It "looks" metal, but it isn't. Still, they look nice.
  • Very few dropouts. I get one once every few hours. That's manageable.
  • They sound better than the Bragis. Bass is better. Clearer mids. Eh...what the hell?
  • No fit problems, and I have weirdly shaped ear canals. (I'll post about that if there's demand.)
  • And, last but not least, a case that charges the earbuds. These, the earbuds only last a couple hours, but guess what? You don't wear these for more than an hour or two at a time anyway, and then you plop them in for a charge. This works way better than what Bragi did which was invest all their time cramming as much battery time into the earbud while not thinking it'd make more sense to just put in in the case. Their Dash product has a charging case, but it's like $200.

Cons:

  • Good luck getting warranty service on these, but I haven't tried yet, so maybe I'm being cynical.
  • Terribly written manual, but who cares.
  • Can't change volume on earbud.
  • Still terrible for phone calls.

Summary: Paying $150 Is Stupid

I feel like a chump for buying the Bragi. I guess this is my punishment for being an early adopter.