An Out of Character Tech Review: Wireless Earbuds

I am not a reviewer. I am a little bored, breaking in a new keyboard and spent more time choosing a pair of wireless earbuds than I would care to admit. Rather than let my struggle be repeated by others, I thought I’d treat you (all three of you) to my thoughts on choosing the right wireless earbuds.

My Requirements

I’ll be using these buds a lot. I’ll be using them for calls during the day, when I’m out walking the dog for about two hours per day. These things could plausibly be in my ears for ten hours per day.

I’ve found from previous in ear buds that I’ve used that having something jammed in my ear all day doesn’t feel very comfortable, so something that doesn’t do that would be great.

I live in the North East of England near the coast, and those of you familiar with the region will know that it’s pretty windy and rainy here. I usually walk the dog on the beach or along some bridle ways which are near a dual carriageway, so noise cancelling is really important and some sort of water resistance would be a plus.

I’m a big fan of heavy rock music and also listen to podcasts and audiobooks. Sometimes on the walk I’ll call family… in short, I’m going to be pretty difficult to please.

Earbuds I’ve owned

I purchased my first set of wireless earbuds in January 2019 and went for the Jabra Elite 65Ts which a friend recommended. I loved these earbuds but the charging case and battery retention after a few months went down hill.

My next earbuds were the Jabra Elite 75Ts … which were a massive improvement. Smaller, lighter, better sound, better battery and a better case.

While I don’t need to buy another pair, I can justify a yearly refresh due to how often I use them, so I decided to take a look at the market.

The Models I Tested

Apple AirPod Pro

I am a huge fan of Apple’s products, I purchased my first iMac back in 2006 and haven’t looked back. I discounted the Airpod Pro’s when I purchased the Jabra 75T’s because of a few reviews favouring the sound quality of the Jabras, but with features like spacial audio being added in the last year I figured it was time to look at them.

I was pleasantly surprised with the audio quality when they arrived, although I did notice that the mids and highs did sound a bit compressed.

The connectivity features on these buds are just incredible if you have other Apple devices. There is zero friction when transferring from Mac to iPhone to iPad and even to watch, in typical Apple style… it just works.

The pressure based controls that sit on the stems of the buds give you some satisfying haptic feedback when they are activated and some nice little sound indicators.

The ANC was better than expected, but didn’t fair so well on keeping out wind noise.

However, I did not keep the Airpod Pros. Whilst these devices were very light I found that the fit was not great for my ears. I constantly felt like they were about to fall out and I think that might have had something to do with the positioning of the stems, which kind of make them act as levers against my ears.

Bose Quietcomfort Earbuds

I like Bose products a lot, some people and audio nerds tend not to like the sound profile that Bose use as standard but as a Rock fan it suits me just fine. I’ve owned a few pairs of Bose’s over ear products and had the wired quiet comfort earbuds a few years back so thought I’d give their new wireless ones a try.

These earbuds are bigger that the rest of these and a little bulkier – but because of the way they are designed to sit in your ears it actually feels a bit more pleasant. Bose have opted to put all of the hardware on the outside side of the ear, with a weird little fin on the silicon bits of the earbuds to fit nicely in your ear and as a result have a really secure fit, these things ain’t coming out. As these devices sit on the outside of the ear, they are clearly visible by other people which is important when, like me, you like to talk on the phone whilst about and about and not look like you’re talking to yourself. The sound quality is great, as you’d expect from Bose products and did edge out slightly from the Apple Airpod Pros but not by as much as you’d think.

The touch controls on the QC’s are a little clumsy but workable. These buds are definitely the ANC king. Everything was eliminated from the outside word… road noise, wind and people talking which was nice – I was able to listen to content at a lower volume and it sounded great.

Connectivity is a bit shonky… they have an app which is really temperamental and the only hardware based way of changing devices with with a button is on the case.. which brings me to my biggest beef with the QCs…. The case.

The case is huge, just huge. If you were commuting with a rucksack or bag then I dont think that it would be much of a problem but they are definitely on the border of not being ‘pocket friendly’. You’d think that with such a big case there would be a monster battery for travellers right? – not really. A full charge from the case will deplete the battery by about 50%. The build quality of the case is probably the best of all of them though.

Jabra Elite 85T

Jabra released these earphones at the tail of end 2020 with added ANC and bigger drivers. I was really looking forward to seeing how Jabra were going to improve on the already nearly perfect Elite 75Ts. Spoiler; they didn’t.

The new ANC is probably the worst of all the earbuds I tried, I think it actually made the wind noise louder. They did feel a little more comfortable than the 75Ts though as they have shifted some of the hardware outside of the ear canal and slightly changed the shape of the silicon buds.

Connectivity on the Jabra’s is pretty good, they can connect to multiple devices and the app is pretty decent.

They definitely don’t sound as good as the 75Ts either. The 75T’s are really punchy and dial up the bass a bit which makes them really fun to listen to… the 85Ts just sounded a bit flat, which is actually something that audiophile people like.

These went back within twenty-four hours.

The Verdict. Which Product did I stick with?

Winner: Bose Quietcomfort Earbuds

Despite the connectivity woes and mega case, I kept these. The fit and the ANC were enough for me to put up with a bit of pain from the pairing process. I really like these earbuds and they give me a weird nostalgic feeling from when I first upgraded from £10 headphones and speakers to Bose products all those years ago.

Special Mention: Jabra Elite 75T

The reality is; I didn’t need to change my earbuds at all. These things are still incredible and I’d probably recommend them over the Bose earbuds for value. In fact, when Jabra released the 85Ts they also enabled ANC for the 75Ts. w Whilst the ANC may not be as advanced as dedicated ANC microphone setup in the 85Ts, the when paired with the passive noise cancelling that comes from the tight fit and closed back design on the 75T, in my opinion, the 75T noise cancellation is better than the 85T.

I hope this all bored you to death as this certainly bored me to death writing it.

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