True wireless in-ear headphones roundup

(Clockwise from top left) Apple AirPods Pro, Sony WF-1000XM3, Klipsch T5 II True Wireless, Aukey True EP-N5.
(Clockwise from top left) Apple AirPods Pro, Sony WF-1000XM3, Klipsch T5 II True Wireless, Aukey True EP-N5.PHOTOS: APPLE, SONY, KLIPSCH, AUKEY

True wireless in-ear headphones (TWH) range from nameless brands that cost peanuts to premium brands that cost a bomb. The Straits Times rounds up nine TWH in three budget ranges, which might just suit your needs.

PREMIUM ($300 AND ABOVE)

Apple AirPods Pro


PHOTO: APPLE

$379 (available on Amazon, Lazada and Shopee)

If you are an iPhone user, it is almost a no-brainer to get the AirPods Pro. Not only does it look sleek, it pairs easily with the iPhone.

Once the first pairing is done, the AirPods Pro will automatically pair with all your other Apple devices that are logged in with the same Apple iCloud account.

Sound quality is great - bass is punchy with detailed mids and clear highs. I can hear each instrument distinctly regardless of the music genre.

The active noise cancellation (ANC) works well. On the train, it blocks out most ambient noise except for the announcements.

The only downer is the average battery life, which lasts for around 4.5 hours with ANC on. This pales in comparison with the other two premium models here.

Sony WF-1000XM3


PHOTO: SONY

$349 (available on Amazon, Lazada and Shopee)

It may have been released more than a year ago, but the WF-1000XM3 is still one of the best - if not the best - TWH in the market. It delivers great audio quality - with punchy bass, detailed mids and crisp highs.

 

It still has the best ANC in its segment. It is able to filter out most of the ambient noise in my home - from the loud air-conditioning to the din from the home improvement works upstairs.

Battery life is impressive - up to 6 hours with ANC on and up to eight with it off.

The WF-1000XM3 is not for the fashion-conscious though - the buds protrude quite significantly from the ears.

Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2


PHOTO: SENNHEISER

$449 (available on Amazon and Lazada)

It may be the most expensive TWH here, but the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 (TW2) will not disappoint.

Design-wise, it is a cross between the sleek AirPods Pro and the bulbous WF-1000XM3. The TW2 earbuds feel really lightweight and can be comfortably worn for hours.

More importantly, the soundscape is amazing, with detailed, smooth and clean audio delivery. I can hear the different instruments clearly. The bass is punchy but not overbearing, while the mids and highs are rich and well-controlled.

The TW2 has the best audio quality among the premium TWH here.

ANC capability is only slightly less effective than the WF-1000XM3's. Still, it is able to filter out the noise from my neighbour's constant knocking and hacking.

Battery life - up to 7 hours on a full charge - is superb.

While some may baulk at its price, the TW2 is still cheaper than offerings by premium brands like B&O and Master & Dynamic.

MID-RANGE ($151 TO $299)

Oppo Enco W51


PHOTO: OPPO

$179 (available on Lazada and Shopee)

These earphones can customise functions and update firmware directly from the Bluetooth settings of a paired Oppo phone. They also work like a charm with both Android and iOS phones.

The earbuds are comfortable and will stay secure even when you run.

In terms of audio quality, the Enco W51 produces clean mids but the highs are a tad grainy. The bass is not overly punchy but still delivers enough thump. Most users should find the audio quality better than average.

The ANC is pretty impressive for its price - probably only a notch and a half below the premium models. It can cut out the constant groan of my air-conditioner and the doorbell ringing.

Battery life is average, though - at 4 hours with ANC on from a full charge.

Samsung Galaxy Buds Live


PHOTO: SAMSUNG

$288 (available on Amazon, Lazada and Shopee)

If looks are your priority, then you should love these, especially the bronze version. The shiny touch-sensitive outer side of the earbuds - which looks like rose gold from certain angles - will turn some heads.

The Buds Live - which looks like kidney beans and also available in black and white - also comes with a colour-matching charging case that resembles a wedding ring box.

They do not come with ear-tips, but the earbuds lock nicely into my ears.

You use the Galaxy Wearable (Android) or Galaxy Buds (iOS) app to configure the Buds Live, like selecting the equaliser (EQ) preset. The Dynamic EQ preset is recommended as it produces punchy bass with clear vocals and a relaxed treble. If you prefer a more balanced soundscape, go for the Normal EQ preset.

On the downside, due to the earphones' relatively open design, the ANC is not as effective as that on the premium models.

But battery life - 6 hours with ANC on - is great.

Klipsch T5 II True Wireless


PHOTO: KLIPSCH

$299

Klipsch's T5 II gets a slight makeover, better Bluetooth antenna and a lower price than its predecessor's $349.

The charging case still looks like a Zippo lighter and the earbuds are still in Klipsch's familiar oval shape. But they now have a shorter stem as well as a smaller Klipsch logo that also functions as a clickable control button. The earbuds' smaller size offers better comfort than its predecessor.

The original T5 has superb audio quality and the T5 II is no exception. Bass is punchy with crisp mids and clear highs, even when the volume is cranked to maximum. I can easily discern the instruments.

While it does not come with ANC, the T5 II's closed design offers great sealing against ambient noise or passive noise cancellation. In fact, it offers a transparency mode that lets you listen to more ambient noise.

But the best part about the T5 II is its long battery life at 8 hours on a full charge. You can practically wear it for one working day.

ENTRY-LEVEL ($150 AND BELOW)

Aukey EP-N5


PHOTO: AUKEY

$99 (available on Lazada and Shopee)

Priced at just under $100, the Aukey EP-N5 offers the best value for money in this roundup. It has decent audio quality, ANC and good battery life.

The earbuds look a tad like Apple's AirPods Pro but with longer stems. But they are black. The build is quite plastic and lacks the premium feel of AirPods Pro.

Audio delivery is decent, but tends to be heavy on the bass side. The mids can be lost in the super-punchy bass with the treble sounding grainy.

ANC performance is not bad, though - it filters out my loud air-conditioning.

Battery life is rated at 7 hours with ANC off and 4.5 hours with it on.

If you are on a tight budget and like heavy bass, you will not go wrong with the EP-N5.

Huawei FreeBuds 3i


PHOTO: HUAWEI

$128 (available on Lazada and Shopee)

They might look like Apple's AirPods with the all-white exterior (also available in black) and long stems, but the Huawei FreeBuds 3i offers much more bang for buck.

For instance, it features ANC - not found in AirPods. The silicone ear tips are comfortable and help secure the earbuds in your ears.

While audio quality is decent with clear mids and highs, there is a lack of richness and the bass lacks punch.

But the ANC performance is quite impressive. It is able to cut out most noise, giving most of its pricier competitors a run for their money.

Battery life is pretty average at 3 hours of playback with ANC on.

Xiaomi Mi True Wireless Earbuds Basic S


PHOTO: XIAOMI

$39.90 (available on Amazon, Lazada and Shopee)

This is the cheapest model here. And Xiaomi's Mi True Wireless Earbuds Basic S is truly, well, basic.

The elliptical-shaped earbuds have a single big button. There are no protruding stems or bulbous bodies. The buds fit nicely and comfortably in the ears, as long as you find the silicone ear-tips of the right size.

The soundscape is very bass heavy - great for rock music fans or gamers who love the thumps. But the bass drowns out the mids and highs as a result.

Perhaps the biggest disappointment is the pairing process. It takes several tries before the earbuds pair with the phone.

Battery life is average at 4 hours on a full charge. And its charging case still uses the slower micro-USB port instead of the USB-C one.

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