It’s 2022, and the 3.5mm headphone port is on its way to extinction on smartphones and Bluetooth audio, particularly via TWS (True Wireless Stereo) earbuds are thriving. However, with so many tech brands offering their own earbuds, there is a lot to choose from and it can get overwhelming. If you’re looking forward to buying a new pair of TWS earbuds, here’s a handy set of things to keep in mind.
TWS earbuds come in multiple shapes, but the majority of them should stick to two basic designs which are the stemmed and stem-less earbuds. The ‘stem’ is the part of an earbud that hangs outside your ear, usually facing downwards. Both designs have their advantages and it is up to you to decide which ones make more sense for your use-cases.
Most stemmed earbuds feature their primary microphone on the end of the stem. These earbuds will usually have a better calling experience as the stem will allow the microphone to be closer to the mouth. Non-stemmed earbuds will almost always be more compact and light, allowing for greater comfort during long hours of wear, also making them ideal for when you’re at the gym or engaging in sports.
One of the most overlooked aspects of choosing a pair of TWS earbuds is the charging case of the buds. However, the case is equally important to the entire experience. In terms of their shape and structure, flat-bottom cases like the Nothing ear (1) will let you place the case on most surfaces without having them wobbling around or worse, dropping. Curved cases may look prettier but could be a tad clumsier to store when not in use.
You will also want a case that has the same charging port as your phone, which for most phones these days will be a USB Type-C port. If you’re worried about aesthetics, you should also go with matte-finish textured cases instead of cases with a shiny outer layer, which gets easily scratched. Also, pay attention to aspects like charging indicator LEDs and a steady hinge on the case.
Sound, microphone quality
A number of budget audio products can surprise you with good audio quality for the price. But to know which ones deliver on this key aspect, you will have to rely on third-party reviews. Always check multiple reviews for a product, or even better, try them out at a store before you make a purchase if that is possible. What you should ideally be looking for are earbuds that have a balanced sound signature, not too heavy on the bass or the highs (unless that is what you specifically desire).
A balanced sound signature will help you enjoy music across genres. Also, look for earbuds which offer sound that can be tuned via a companion app. Earbuds like the Dizo Buds Z Pro will let you use an app to configure your sound tuning and also control other features like gestures and ANC.
Finally, don’t forget to check the microphone quality of these earbuds too. While great sound output may be your primary goal, earbuds that are good at sound reception will help you make much better, clearer voice and video calls, especially during Zoom meetings or other conferences.
Another aspect you will most likely have to check yourself at a store or trust reviews with is strong, reliable connectivity. You don’t want to buy a pair of earbuds that is rich with features but keeps disconnecting on its own or every time there’s a single concrete wall between you and the audio source.
Earbuds good at connectivity will maintain an uninterrupted connection to your phone. They will also seamlessly connect and disconnect every time you turn them on or off. While features like dual-device support will be hard to find at this price range, you may find exceptions like the Realme Buds Air 3.
Noise cancellation is one of the most sought-after features today and brands in the budget segment often use the hype around noise cancellation to sell products with sub-par ANC (Active Noise Cancellation) or cheaper implementations like ENC. You can check the difference between ANC and ENC here, but know that what you’re likely looking for when you think of noise cancellation is ANC.
A number of earbuds have ANC, but it may not always be good, useful ANC. Check trusted reviews for the earbuds you’re eyeing to see if the ANC on the product is actually good at cancelling out sounds like a ceiling fan, wind, traffic, etc. Again this is much harder to achieve in earbuds, especially at a budget price range.
Battery Life and charging
The new TWS earbuds will be no good if they’re always running out of juice and blasting an annoying low-battery tone. While picking up a new pair, check out the battery capacity of various earbuds. Look for the capacity of both the earbuds themselves and the charging case: higher numbers will mean longer playtimes in one stretch.
Check for fast charging as well. Many earbuds these days offer fast charging, allowing you to top up the case and the buds significantly with 10-15 minutes of charging. This can be really handy when you have to charge your buds quickly and leave for the office or an outing.