The wireless headphones race was launched by the restless Apple at the end of 2016, and then the battle began. Now hundreds of companies are tirelessly mining this profitable niche in a wide price range, depending on specifications, brands, quality, design etc.
TWS headphones do not require wire connection, the two modules (right and left earpieces) form a micro-stereo-system with good enough music and phone playback. TWS-headphones are equipped with a special case for charging, some models with increased battery capacity may even charge your smartphone, performing the function of a power bank. Qualcomm TrueWireless Stereo technology is the most advanced and efficient today, which is distinguished by reduced power consumption and reduced pairing / connection time.
Sony WF-1000XM3 has clear sound, excellent shape and efficient noise cancellation, which makes it an ideal choice for purchase and great value for money, keeping in mind its current reduced price. As a bonus, you’ll get an app providing headset flexible customization. Highly recommended!
According to Strategy Analytics, more than 300 million TWS headphones were sold worldwide in 2020. And that is 90% more compared to 2019. As experts note, no matter Apple holds the leading position, the competition is growing. Thus, all the major smartphone brands are noted in the Analytics, including Sony, Samsung etc.
We have tried to show the whole range of the popular TWS headphones. Of course, there are no models of headphones for audio connoisseurs, but everyone can find a model he will enjoy or prefer because of the design, high battery capacity of charging case. There are models that support wireless charging. There are headphones where charging case itself is a power bank, or headphones with increased water protection index.
Sony WF-1000XM3 offers excellent value for money. The headphones have one of the most advanced active noise cancellation systems. In the original application you can set the level of noise cancelling or turn on the adaptive mode. Everything is adjustable, except that you can not set the volume control on the earplugs themselves. However, you can leave the default settings as well.
The working time is good: up to 6 hours with or up to 8 hours without noise reduction. The case provides three full charges. The size of the headphones doesn’t make them an option for sports. The case is rather big, too. There is NFC for quick connectivity to mobile devices.
In terms of voice quality, Sony WF-1000XM3 is good, but not the best: your friends hear you, but the voice is muffled a little. Despite the basic set of codecs (only SBC and AAC), the headphones give high-quality sound with good details. The app has an equalizer for fine-tuning.
AirPods Pro were the company's first true wireless headphones with active noise cancelling. They are quite good at cutting out ambient sounds, in addition to the external microphones each earpiece has an internal one. It helps cancel the remaining background noise. By long pressing the leg headphones can activate the mode of transparency, which allows you not to lose contact with the outside world.
The package includes three pairs of pads, and if the user has difficulty deciding on a size, iOS settings allow to check fitting to the ears. And due to the through holes in the body, the pressure inside the ear and outside are leveled without creating discomfort.
AirPods Pro also features an adaptive equalizer that adjusts the sound to the shape of the ear, and an ambient audio function. A quick switch between the user's devices is now available after the update. This is also a good headset for talking, as the speech is transmitted clearly. Battery life reaches 4,5 hours with active noise cancellation (or transparent mode), with recharging in the case you get more than 24 hours of listening. There is also Qi-compatible wireless charging.
Although the AirPods Pro can be used not only with Apple gear, there is no auto pause and voice control on Android, settings are not available. Problems with volume level and AAC codec functioning may occur on some smartphones with Google's operating system.
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds active noise cancellation system shows the best results in the segment. Here the headphones are the closest to their over-ear cousins. The model's feature is the possibility to set ANC levels from zero - transparent mode, and up to 10 - maximum suppression of ambient noise. In Bose Music app you can choose three favorite presets and cycle through them by double-tapping the left earbud. The sound is crisp, rich, and balanced. Active EQ technology automatically adjusts bass and treble according to the current volume level. The microphone array is great at picking up your voice while reducing unwanted ambient sound.
The large size makes the headphones stick out from your ears, but the fit seems secure enough for everyday use. Bose QuietComfort Earbuds can continuously play music for up to 6 hours. Another 12 hours will be provided by the case. It's not small either, but at least Bose added wireless charging support. There is also a USB Type-C port for fast charging (15 minutes gives you 2 hours of listening).
For all the advantages of in-ear headphones, some users prefer earbuds. The second generation of Apple AirPods is the best option for iPhone for instance. But if you have a smartphone of another brand and / or limited budget, we recommend to look at the Xiaomi Mi True Wireless Earphones 2 Basic. Horizontal case of the headphones is convenient and does not take up much space, you get connected to your smartphone when you just open the lid. There is a proximity sensor, so when you remove the headset from the ears music is automatically paused. The sound is not bad, but do not expect deep bass.
Sound delay is minimal, does not interfere even in games. Operating time reaches 5 hours, together with the case it goes up to 20 hours. For charging there is a USB Type-C connector. Although additional microphones for noise cancelling are integrated, the quality of speech in noisy conditions suffers greatly, but in a quieter environment Xiaomi Mi True Wireless Earphones 2 Basic can be used for phone calls. Xiaomi smartphones with the MIUI 12 shell will display a nice animation when connected. If you feel ok about the bulky look of the headset, it is a good option. You can also find the model under another name Xiaomi Mi Air 2 SE.
Huawei's flagship model does not stay behind its competitors - there is an active noise cancellation system, a transparency mode, and an application for settings. Apart from that, we should mention the possibility of simultaneous connection to two devices. Not that it is a unique feature, but in TWS models it is extremely rare. In addition to touching the leg FreeBuds Pro recognizes swipes up / down to adjust the volume. At first there can be difficulties with the removal from the case, so Huawei has added an animation describing the best way (first you need to tilt the earpiece away from you). During calls, the microphones confidently capture the user's voice, but do not always remove outside sounds in the background.
Huawei FreeBuds Pro surprised by the pleasant sound with a slight accent on the low and high frequencies. The dynamic mode with automatic adjustment of the noise modulation depending on external conditions is used "out of the box". At 50% volume the headphones play up to 5 hours, if you turn off noise cancelling, the operating time will increase up to 7 hours. The extra battery in the case is enough for three more recharging. By the way, wireless charging of the battery case is available.
Unlike Galaxy Buds Live, Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro have a more familiar in-channel design with good passive sound insulation. As a result, the effect of active noise cancellation became more evident. A 360-degree sound function with head position tracking for Dolby Atmos content was added, the bad news is that it only works on Samsung devices with One UI version 3.1 or higher.The control is an entire touch panel. Korean engineers have thought about the possibility of adjusting the volume by holding your finger. By default, it switches between noise cancellation and transparency modes. But this is easily reassigned in the Galaxy Wearable app.
Using a bone conduction sensor, Galaxy Buds Pro are able to detect when the user starts talking and automatically turn on the amplification of ambient sounds (with a 5, 10 or 15 seconds delay). Initially the function worked poorly, but with the release of updates everything got improved, there are almost no false signals. The compact case supports fast charging and adds 18 hours of listening to 5 hours of headphone battery life. The performance is even better with the noise reduction turned off - 8 hours + 28 hours with charging in the case. The Galaxy Buds Pro's microphones pick up the voice well.
Some users have noted that the headphones are hard to hold up in their hands. This is where the Galaxy Buds+ have the advantage, being designed for a more secure grip.
Soundcore Life Dot 2 impresses with its battery life which exceeds 100 hours, and thus making them good for active workouts. The housing of the modules themselves is sweat and splash-proof (IPX5), the manual buttons allow you to control the headphones even with gloves, and a confident fit is provided by the included ear clips - there are two sizes. Without charging in a case the headphones will last up to 8 hours. SBC and AAC codecs are announced.
The headphones have good passive sound insulation. The sound quality is not bad for its price, you can feel a little emphasis on bass. Microphones work well: in a quiet room, the voice sounds clear and understandable. Background noise makes things worse. This model does not work with the Soundcore application, so you can not reassign the buttons.
The Jabra Elite Active 75t has IP57 dust and water protection and a rubberized coating for a more secure fit, making it a good choice for sports. The headphones offer good passive sound isolation, and Jabra added ANC in a major software update. It is no match for Bose and Apple's noise-canceling technology in terms of effectiveness, but the headset does a pretty good job of removing low-frequency noise. In the Jabra Sound+ companion app, you can calibrate the function to your personal taste. With a single press on the physical button on the left earpiece, you can switch from ANC to HearThrough amplification of external sounds, or disable both modes. Out of the box, you can also adjust the volume with long presses on the left and right earpiece.
The app includes a customizable equalizer and even a separate EQ for calls (during which the voice quality is good). The Jabra Elite Active 75t will work for up to 5.5 hours with ANC enabled and up to 24 hours with a carrying case. Fast charging is claimed: just 15 minutes in the case will provide an hour of listening time.
OnePlus Buds Z are well-balanced true wireless headphones with nothing extra. The only additional features are auto-pause when you take them out of your ear and support for the HeyMelody app. There you can update the firmware, check the charge level of the case and headphones, as well as adjust the controls. The program is not needed on the latest generations of OnePlus smartphones, all the settings are already in the system. Dolby Atmos sound and gaming mode with minimal delays are also available for original devices.
The headphones last up to 5 hours, with just 10 minutes of fast charging in the case providing 3 hours of listening. The battery in the case allows three full charges. Going back to touch controls, the OnePlus Buds Z makes them as simple as possible. The main action is a double tap, and by default both earbuds will switch playback to the next track. To pause or rewind, you have to download the app.
The TWS headphones of the Anker sub-brand are attractive for several reasons. They are able to work for 7 hours, and even if the Soundcore Life P2 is discharged at the wrong moment, 10 minutes of charging in the case is enough for 1 hour of listening to music. The case also has a pretty decent 700 mAh battery, with it the total working time goes up to 40 hours.
Anker Soundcore Life P2 also supports aptX codec, which adds to better audio quality streaming. This is the only model from the list with this codec.
Compared to more affordable models, the headset is assembled with greater attention to detail and you don't want to immediately replace the original ear cushions with something of higher quality. The buttons are manual, which means no accidental presses. Each earpiece has a second microphone for noise reduction, the speech is transmitted clearly, here Anker did not fail. Users also note the stable connection without interruptions. The headphones are protected by IPX7, they can be washed under running water.
Enjoyable listening experience
IPX7 water-resistant protection
Solid battery life and fast charging
Good enough for making calls
Pressing button pushes the earbud into ear
Best TWS Headphones - Buyer’s Guide & FAQ
What TWS Headphones Mean
TWS stands for TrueWireless Stereo, which means true wireless stereo, and is a trademark of Qualcomm. These headphones are ultra-small, fit directly in the ear, and synchronize independently with the sound source (computer, phone, tablet, or TV) and with each other. Modern technologies of miniaturization have reached a level where such small devices contain a driving chip, a battery, and a control switch is often replaced by a touch panel.
The best headphones support Bluetooth version 5.0, which ensures low power consumption and low latency in data transfer. Even noise-canceling technology CVC, which is a sound processing algorithm that reduces the amount of noise during conversations. In our review, AirPods Pro turned out to be the best in this matter.
How to Connect TWS Headphones
Connect the TWS headphones just like any other Bluetooth device. Usually, you'll need to press and hold the Power button to put the headphones in pairing mode. Then, in the Bluetooth settings of your computer, smartphone, or tablet, you must activate the Bluetooth device search and press the pairing button when the model name of the headphones appears in the list of devices found. After a few seconds, the headphones are connected to the device. In the future, connection is automatic when Bluetooth is enabled on the device and the headphones are removed from the charging case. The process of initial setup may vary from model to model, this is just the case when it is worth studying the manual in detail.
How to Choose TWS Headphones
The capabilities of TWS headphones in the same price category are about equal. And the huge range on the market allows you to choose the model with the features that are most interesting to the user. For example, support for aptX technology which provides low power consumption with improved sound quality. There are models with wireless charging, this is most of the top models. The higher the number, the better the protection level (IPX4, IPX5, IPX6 and so on).
How to Synchronize TWS Headphones
The advantage of TWS headphones is that they automatically sync with each other. This is what has made them so popular. If one of the headphones stops working, all you have to do is put them in the charging case and take them out - they automatically sync with each other. If they don't, then one of the headphones is discharged. In this case you need to put it in the charging case for 1-1.5 hours (although Anker Soundcore Life P2 and OnePlus Buds Z support fast charging, and you can continue listening to music after 10 minutes).
TWS headphones have a full reset function; detailed instructions on how to return to the original state should be specified in the manual. Note also that in budget models, mono mode often works with only one, the main earpiece of the pair.
How to Charge TWS Headphones
Almost all TWS headphones are charged via a USB cable. More recent models use a reversible USB-C connector that can be inserted either way. The others charge using a standard microUSB socket. Some TWS headphones support wireless charging, such as the AirPods Pro, Galaxy Buds Pro and Bose QuietComfort Earbuds.
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