2017 TECH IN REVIEW: Audio

Let's hear it for true wireless earphones

Apple's AirPods is a truly wireless headset without a cable connecting the two earbuds.
Apple's AirPods is a truly wireless headset without a cable connecting the two earbuds.PHOTO: APPLE

What went down in 2017:

This is the year true wireless earphones entered the mainstream market, with Apple's AirPods reaching most customers.

Not to be outdone, Google released its own take on wireless earphones, the Pixel Buds, last month. Over the course of the year, brands like Bragi, Sony and Jaybird refined their true wireless offerings and pushed out compact, wire-free earbuds with better battery life and even features like active noise cancellation.

Even audiophile brands - known to insist on wired products due to their better sound fidelity - have jumped on the wireless bandwagon. Venerable brands like Beyerdynamic and Focal released their first pairs of wireless, Bluetooth-connected headphones. This is in part due to new codec standards released this year like aptX HD, which allows high-resolution, 24-bit music to be transmitted wirelessly through Bluetooth.

This year also saw a shake-up in audio file formats with the mainstream adoption of the Master Quality Authenticated file type, with digital audio players such as the Onkyo DP-S1 and Sony NW-ZX300 starting to support the format.

On the home audio front, we gave up some of our privacy to more smart speakers with integrated personal assistants. Google updated its Google Home line of smart speakers with the Home Mini and Home Max, while Amazon released the second generation of its Echo device.

What to look out for in 2018:

Music lovers can look out for adaptive headphones that change how they sound by customising to the shape of the listener's ears. HTC has already started doing it with the USonic earphones bundled with its U11 smartphone, as has Beyerdynamic with its Aventho Wireless headphones.

And true wireless earphones are set to really soar, sparked in part by the concurrent trend of smartphones going wireless with the ditching of the 3.5mm audio jack, and by advances in technology giving them longer battery life and better sound quality.

Lester Hio

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 27, 2017, with the headline 'Let's hear it for true wireless earphones '. Print Edition | Subscribe