Finding wireless earbuds that fits
Last update: 4th July 2017
One of the things I’ve used and purchased most frequently are headphones in various forms. I prefer compact earbuds so I can potentially always carry them with me. I love great sound and usually big headphones are the best at this, but they are too big for moving around with no bags.
I’ve always struggled in finding earphones that stay in my ear whether I’m sitting still or running. I’ve come to believe I need ones without cables so they won’t get pulled out of my ear when I turn my head.
True wireless are for that reason, really interesting to me.
This is a developing story and it’s based on me typically listening from my iPhone or iPad. I will update this as it develops and may do minor corrections or changes so until I’ve solved my challenge.
Current status: darn nearly solved
I really want something like the Apple Airpods. They almost seem like magic to me.
But since all the previous Apple earbuds have had the worst fit in my ears of all earbuds, I fear they will eventually just fall out and into the nearest drain.
I did actually try them on in a shop for a few minutes and they actually managed to stay in despite shaking my head. But they always had this loose feeling like they could fall out anytime. Its mentioned in some reviews, that they work much better than you would expect, and I find that to be absolutely correct.
“Low battery time” As shown later in this story, I’m already used to ~5 hours battery time. And despite having run out of battery or forgotten to charge them, plenty times, I still think this is what will work the best for me.
Now I’m just waiting for someone to outdo or even just match Apple’s Airpods that will fit into my ears.
Main features I like about the Airpods, which I’m looking for in others:
- Quick charging, being able to charge these for another 3 hours of use, out of 24 hours total, in just 15 minutes is just brilliant. Why is it that most of the competitors don’t have this, despite having a much bigger case(filled with air?).
- Very reliable Bluetooth connection, almost — most importantly, other owners/reviewers indicate that Apple actually managed to get Bluetooth audio working with minimal delay and no dropouts in their W1 chip. If it keeps dropping it out, its no use. If they play audio with high latency, say while watching a movie… again, useless.
- Thoughtful design, I don’t mean how they actually look, even though I don’t find them ugly like many reviewers do. Clever design is among other things how they fit into the case (and start charging). Even bonus features for iPhone owners in how they interact with the case and pair with your easily.
So far I’ve tried:
- Apple Airpods
- Erato Apolly 7
- Onkyo W800BT
- Jabra Elite Sport
Update 4th July: I’ve updated status from Not Solved to very close.
I got the Jaybird Freedom as a replacement for my broken Jaybird Bluebuds, I’ve been using them for about a week now, they solve some of my biggest issues with other earbuds and they don’t have much to fault yet.
What I’m currently using
Received 2017: Jaybird Freedom
I’ve received these as a free replacement for my Jaybird Bluebuds which just suddenly stopped working after several years of good usage.
It impressed me as soon as I started using them.
The sound is good though I think, the Bluebuds might have sounded a tiny bit better. But I can’t compare any longer as Jaybird had me cutting the wire in order to send a free replacement.
As reviews say, the battery is less than many others, I think I’m getting about 3–4 hours. The included mini battery which also serves as the charging dongle gives about 40–50% charge in 45min, it has enough for an extra 4 hours meaning 8 hours in total.
They are extremely cheerful, turning them on has thumping beats in background of the female voice over. Even when turning them off, the beats are being played again as if the party never ends.
What is most incredible, is that I might have solved the big issue of getting earbuds that will stay in my ears. I need to use the flangs, which I also tried without luck on my Bluebuds. But these actually do stay in, despite lots of wind and moving around. I still haven’t tried them for a run yet, but I’m confident they will work.
What I’m considering
Released 2017: Apple Beats X
I’m really considering these, I just need to ensure they will stick in my ears. And that they don’t sound terrible.
Based on reviews they seem to check off several of my wanted features like quick charging (5min for a few hours or 15min for 75%) and all the nice things that comes with the W1 chip.
I’m starting to believe that I will probably not get earphones from Apple as they will likely continue to make generic models. But now that they’ve bought Beats and shares technology with them, this might be the brand that I will look for.
Released 2016 (Only Japan): Radius HP-NHL 21
These are not wireless and they only work with a Lighting port (only iPhone and iPad). But they impressed me to such a degree that I would forego wireless until something very nice showed up. And my gosh, the sound coming out of these impressed me more than any headphones/earphones has done for years. Not only that, but how well they fit into my ears, I was almost crying.
I could barely get them to fall out of my ears. And I don’t even understand, why it was only this pair of set that worked so well, I tried all the products from Radius and none of them came close… which I actually find kinda suspicious.
I went back to the shop 3 times on different days just to make sure it wasn’t a fluke, the awesome sound and fit. And they never failed me, but in the end I didn’t buy them because of the lighting port requirement. It is not a problem for me now, because I’m almost exclusively using iPhone and iPad. But still they wouldn’t work with my computer or anything else, meaning they could suddenly become entirely useless to me. This mini-jack transition is weird and annoying. You shouldn’t be afraid of buying a product that may become complete obsolete soon.
So far, it appears that Radius are only sold in Japan which is a shame if they are truly as good as I found them to be. There are online importers.
What’ve I ended up buying so far…
Bought 2015: Jaybird Bluebuds X
After reading reviews, in particular the one by The Wirecutter. I bought these Bluetooth sport earphones and were rather impressed for quite a while. They sound rather impressive at times and in the beginning, they fit my ears quite OK. Now I noticed this with others and I wonder if the shape of my inner ear changes when using these earphones.
When doing exercise, I quickly discovered that they would start sliding out of my ears and once I was sweaty enough, they wouldn’t stay in for more than 10 seconds. This is not a problem exclusive to these earphones but I was hoping the flangs would prevent this and they did, but only to a certain degree. The problem is, the earphones will still slide out just enough to stay in my ears, but I could barely hear any sound. And often, the flangs would prevent them from completely falling out of my ear but barely any audible sound — so for me, still useless.
After some googling, I learned about these soft tips from Comply. And they gave my earphones another good year or so. I still can’t do exercise with them but when sitting still or biking, they work pretty well. But now after almost two years, the tip size I used is falling apart.
Just a few days before I wanted to write about these, it appears that my Bluebuds after almost two years of use have died. The earphones were working just fine a week ago with what I think, a still intact ~5 hours but now all the sudden, they sometimes refuse to turn on and when they do, they just power down after about 30 seconds without any low battery warning. A reset didn’t help, but I’ve contacted Jaybird and I hope to hear from with a solution.
Update 4th July: After trying different resets with Jaybird support, they concluded it was truly dead. Despite being out of warranty, they very kindly offered the Jaybird Freedom as a replacement and I like them!
What I like about these:
- Good sound
- Pairing works flawlessly with multiple devices
- Rarely any Bluetooth fallout issues
Bought 2016: Miiego AL3 Freedom Limited Red
These Bluetooth headphones looked like they could be the solution for listening to music while running. I tried them at the shop and they felt like they would work quite well. The sound wasn’t impressive but “ok”. When pairing, powering on/off, a lady voice will speak but in an extremely glaring low quality sound. Why would anyone make a product with the first impression being so bad?
Despite the initial shock, it sounded much better with music my phone. But after some actual use, it would start to get annoying to use.
- Bluetooth connection is no good. As an example, having my iPhone 6s in my left trouser pocket, it will consistently drop connection if I turn my head to the right. That means, no eye-contact when greeting fellow runners on my ride, how rude of me.
I think the main unit is in the right speaker but it doesn’t seem have any affect wearing them opposite. Also, I don’t even have to have my phone in my trouser pocket, it can be in my shirt pocket and it will still drop connection.
- It can pair with multiple units but it easily get confused if they are all within vicinity. It will announce that it has paired with all of them, one after another, but it doesn’t to have be connected to either of them.
- It has physical buttons, but they are kinda hard to press and hard to find blindly.
- It won’t pair reliably, it may say connected and play sound for a bit, but usually, you need to disconnect and reconnect again.