BBC Science Focus

Wireless wonders

The shops are flooded with a tide of earbuds that have broken free from their cables. Mike Sawh finds the ones that rise to the surface…


Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2

In the audio world, Sennheiser is royalty. Investing in a pair of its second generation truly wireless earbuds doesn’t come cheap, but you do get what you pay for.

If you want something that will do justice to curated Spotify playlists, Sennheiser squeezes in the tech to give you plenty in the bass and treble department­s. If that sound still isn’t quite in tune with your audiophile ears, an equaliser inside its companion app will let you tweak things further. You can also use the app to prioritise what you control from the buds, so you can keep your phone safely in your pocket.

As has become the earbuds norm, Sennheiser gives you quick access to Google and Apple’s smart assistants, while the charging case provides half a day’s worth of extra listening time.

PRICE: £279

BATTERY LIFE: Four hours off a single charge COMPATIBIL­ITY: iOS and Android ACTIVE NOISE CANCELLATI­ON: Yes

Apple AirPods Pro

It’s taken Apple a couple of iterations to deliver a pair of wireless earbuds that justify the hefty price tag. The AirPods are still all-white, but a smarter, stubbier design means that you no longer look like you’ve stuck a pair of electric toothbrush heads in your ears.

Unsurprisi­ngly, the AirPods play best with Apple hardware, with a setup that’s mercifully painless thanks to the new chip technology.

Sound quality has stepped up a notch, offering something that’s more balanced. It’s not heavy-handed with the bass and there’s a nicer sense of detail. The headline grabber is the addition of active noise cancellati­on, to help drown out the world. Apple uses outward microphone­s to detect the noise from outside, and an inward-facing one to deal with sound that makes it through the seal.

There’s even room to squeeze controls into the stem, while a pocket-friendly case gives them a quick battery boost. More features are on the way too, including surround sound support and a smart switching mode that pairs to the device you’re currently using.

PRICE: £249

BATTERY LIFE: 4.5 hours off a single charge



Jabra Elite Active 75t

Jabra’s heritage lies in headsets, the kind you’d find littering office cubicles. These days, it also knows a thing or two about making earbuds that you can use for longer than most of its closest rivals.

The 75t sits more discreetly than most earbuds and delivers a powerful audio roar with satisfying clarity. Perform the hearing test in Jabra’s smartphone app and you can get sound more tailored to your ears. Take things further and pick from preset sound profiles, or create your own to make things sound even more personal. It’s one of the few options that gives you hands-free access to Amazon’s Alexa, while its waterproof and sweatproof ratings improve the durability stakes.

It delivers big battery life with a speedy 15-minute charge, getting you a useful hour to play with. There’s even a version that plays nicely with wireless charging pads, to save you from scrambling for the charging cable.

PRICE: £189.99

BATTERY LIFE: Seven hours off a single charge COMPATIBIL­ITY: iOS and Android ACTIVE NOISE CANCELLATI­ON: No

Nuheara IQbuds2 MAX

Nuheara isn’t a household name in the audio space, but it’s taking big strides to build something beyond the typical wireless earbuds. You can perform a clinically validated hearing test to adjust the sound settings, in order to make these buds a better fit for your hearing strengths and weaknesses at different frequencie­s. This is sound customisat­ion at its most comprehens­ive, and some audiophile­s will no doubt appreciate its thoroughne­ss.

The ability to augment sounds is a big benefit. You can filter out background noise and focus on the sounds that matter most to you, giving them some appeal to those who suffer with mild to moderate hearing loss. Walking around in ‘street mode’ and hearing the sound of barking dogs, or conversati­ons amplified in greater detail, is pretty impressive.

They sound good too, offering a profile that prioritise­s clarity over heaving bass, while still offering satisfying warmth. There’s proper noise cancellati­on as well, for when you need to block out your worldly environmen­t.

Nuheara talks of itself as a smart hearing company and the IQbuds2 MAX live up to that billing of offering better control over the way you hear the world around you.

PRICE: £314

BATTERY LIFE: Five hours off a single charge COMPATIBIL­ITY: iOS and Android


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