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Earin A-3 review: The world’s smallest earbuds are actually good

The Earin A-3 is expensive for what you get, but this pair of true wireless buds has both style and smarts

Earin A-3 review
(Image: © Future)

Our Verdict

The Earin A-3 is not the best-value set of wireless earbuds, nor the most fully-featured. Still, clever design and high sound quality make it hard to dislike.

For

  • Extremely small and light
  • Good sound
  • User-friendly

Against

  • Not many features
  • Insecure fit
  • Underwhelming battery life

Earin might not be a titan of audio tech, but with the Earin A-3, this Swedish company has quietly made one of the most interesting pairs of true wireless headphones in a long while. The A-3 promised the world’s “smallest and lightest” wireless buds when it launched in January and has plenty of other perks, like an ear-agnostic design and accelerometer-aided touch controls.

Now that I’ve had the chance to see (and wear) this pair of earbuds in the flesh, I can confirm that each one is absolutely tiny. However, shrunken dimensions are not without their downsides, and the issue of whether the A-3 can beat the Apple AirPods and join the best wireless earbuds is a lot more complicated than the product itself. Can a lighter touch produce better buds? Keep reading our Earin A-3 review to find out. 

Earin A-3 specs

Colors: Black (black or silver charging case options) 

Battery life (rated):  5 hours (30 hours with charging case) 

Size: 0.8 x 0.7 x 0.6 inches (per bud); 2.3 x 1.9 x 0.8 inches (charging case) 

Weight:  0.12 ounces (per bud); 1.76 ounces (charging case) 

Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0

Processor:  Qualcomm QCC5121 

 Earin A-3 review: Price and availability 

The Earin A-3 costs $199, and is currently only available direct from Earin. The only color for the buds themselves is black, though you can choose between black and silver finishes for the included charging case.

$199 is a lot of cash for a pair of wireless earbuds, especially one without active noise cancellation (ANC). In fairness, it’s an equal price to the standard AirPods with the wireless charging case option, and the A-3’s case supports wireless charging as standard. But it also brings these buds into competition with the feature-stuffed Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro, and even the AirPods Pro has been dropping to around £200 recently. 

 Earin A-3 review: Design 

Earin A-3 review

(Image credit: Future)

If there is a pair of true wireless earbuds that’s smaller or lighter than the Earin A-3, I haven’t seen it, and after handling these buds I wonder how it could even exist. Each one is genuinely miniscule, not measuring more than 0.8 inches in any direction and weighing a feathery 0.12 ounces. The AirPods, with that elongated stalk design, would look gargantuan next to the A-3. Each earbud barely sticks out at all, and the only part that does is an incredibly thin touch sensor.

The lack of bulk means the charging case can stay compact too. The A-3 earbuds are made of unremarkable plastic but the aluminium case is one of the finest of its breed, with a nice matte finish and a flip-top lid that makes you feel like you’re popping open an expensive lighter. There is a patch of plastic on the rear, but this proves useful by enabling wireless charging and acting as a button to initiate pairing.

Back on the buds, these aren’t in-ear headphones that extend a tip down your ear canal; they simply park themselves in your concha. The A-3 is also unusual in that both of its earbuds are essentially identical — instead of having one left and one right bud, you can put either into whichever ear you choose.

Rather brilliantly, the A-3 can then instantly detect which ear is which, and assign itself the appropriate left/right audio channels. This worked faultlessly, every time, so I never had to worry about putting in the wrong bud.

The tradeoff for this convenience is the one-size-fits-all shape, so there are no tips and wings to swap around for the perfect personalized fit. There’s also no ANC, not that it would work very well with the A-3’s relatively loose seal. Still, you do get IP52 waterproofing, which is enough to block out rain, sweat and dust.

 Earin A-3 review: Comfort and fit

Earin A-3 review

(Image credit: Future)

As you’d expect from such a lightweight set of earbuds, the Earin A-3 is comfortable to wear for short bursts and long listening sessions alike. Having a more open design than most in-ear models does mean less grip, but also a less intrusive feel.

However, because the buds aren’t shaped to fit a particular ear, they’re not particularly ergonomic. Unlike with more sculpted earbuds, the A-3’s units can move around in your ear if you don’t set them properly — but not to the point that they actually fall out. This means it’s a little too easy to leave them at slightly the wrong angle, which in turn affects how they sound. Angled too far in towards your ear canal and there’s too much bass; too far away and it’ll sound weak and recessed. 

I could still wear the A-3 quite happily on a long walk, though even with the low weight and sweatproofing, the lack of an rock-solid fit means it won’t be joining the best running headphones list anytime soon.  

 Earin A-3 review: Setup and controls

Earin A-3 review

(Image credit: Future)

Pairing the Earin A-3 for the first time is easy enough: pressing that button on the rear of the charging case, while both earbuds are docked, makes them available to connect over a Bluetooth 5.0 connection. It supports the high-quality aptX Bluetooth codec as well, something not even the AirPods Pro or Galaxy Buds Pro can claim to do.

From there the A-3 will reliably re-pair with a source device every time you take the buds out of the cause. 

The touch controls are only basic: you can play or pause tracks, answer or hang up phone calls or summon your handset’s voice assistant, but not skip or adjust the volume. Even so, I’m a big fan of how the A-3 handles these inputs. That teensy pill-shaped touch sensor is solely dedicated to voice assistants; for play and pause, you merely need to double-tap one of the earbuds, anywhere you like. That’s because each one includes an accelerometer and can detect jostling, saving you the fiddliness of making precise taps on a small sensor.

The iOS companion app also lets you make limited customizations, like having the play/pause input only need a single tap instead of two. The Android app isn’t available yet, but the word from Earin is that it will launch “soon” and include the same features as the iOS version.

 Earin A-3 review: Sound quality

Earin A-3 review

(Image credit: Future)

Earin has stuffed some big, 14.3mm dynamic drivers into the A-3 earbuds. These custom-built speakers quickly allayed my fears that smaller buds would mean weaker sound.

First, some extra credit is due to that left/right ear detection, which never got confused about which side was which. This allowed the A-3 to demonstrate its impressively wide soundstage; tracks which shift vocals or instruments across the two channels for effect, like Foo Fighter’s “Low” or Lorde’s “Still Sane”, were executed with a satisfying sense of breadth. 

Yes, a lot of ambient sound gets in, but this doesn’t muddy the mix. If anything, the way the A-3 clearly separates all the different elements of a recording to maintain intricacy is one of its best sonic features. And, if you wish to simply drown out nearby noises, the A-3 can comfortably sit at high volumes.

There’s also a very decent amount of bass punch, granting the requisite power to electronic, rock and metal music without losing any detail. That’s important on tracks with a lot of distortion or overdrive effects in play — the spiralling bass on Royal Blood’s “Typhoons” sounded filthy in the best possible way.

Frequency balance is good in general, with bass, mids and treble never threatening to overpower or even really compete with one another. Vocals could be slightly closer to the forefront, but podcasts are perfectly listenable. Video audio always stays in sync, too.

 Earin A-3 review: Features

Earin A-3 review

(Image credit: Future)

It’s a good thing the Earin A-3 sounds so good out of the box, because one thing you don’t get — via the mobile app or otherwise — is adjustable EQ. Or ANC. Or a transparency mode. Or spatial audio. Or pretty much anything that this review hasn’t already mentioned.

That’s not to gloss over the special features that the A-3 does have. Tricks like left/right ear detection and the ultra-compact, ear-agnostic design are commendably unique, while more common features like voice assistant support and water resistance both work well. The A-3 shrugged off a splash in the sink, so some light rain won’t faze it.

At the same time, you can get an awful lot more toys for the same $200. The Galaxy Buds Pro, in particular, has even better waterproofing while offering ANC, transparency mode, 360 Audio (Samsung’s version of spatial audio) and a much deeper app. 

 Earin A-3 review: Battery life 

Earin A-3

(Image credit: Future)

Even worse is the Earin A-3’s battery life. Earin promises 5 hours of playback per charge, and up to 30 hours with repeated use of the charging case. The latter sounds pretty good but the former is nothing special, and in practice I couldn’t even get it to the full 5.

Even sticking at 50% volume, I only got 3 hours 5 minutes out of my first run. This seemed almost too low so I recharged and tried again, this time reaching 3 hours 15 minutes.

Not every pair of true wireless earbuds can have the amazing endurance of, say, the JLab Epic Air Sport ANC. But not even four hours per charge? That’s disappointing, and means you shouldn’t expect 30 hours from the charging case either. 

 Earin A-3 review: Call quality

Earin A-3

(Image credit: Future)

This isn’t much of a calling headset either. According to Roland, our UK editor and my mic test guinea pig, I apparently sounded “crackly” when using the A-3’s microphones. I suspect the fact that the earbuds barely poke outwards makes it harder for the mics to pick up speech, as I also sounded as if I was speaking into them from a distance, with a notable echo even when I was in a well-insulated room.

I could still, it should be said, be heard well enough that I was never asked to repeat myself. But I did sound more distorted than when I was using my phone’s own microphone, and stepping outside onto my balcony apparently produced massive wind noise on the other end of the line.

 Earin A-3 review: Verdict

Earin A-3 review

(Image credit: Future)

How, then, has the Earin A-3 earned a respectable three-and-a-half stars? For such a high price tag, you’re getting poor call quality, low battery life, a loose fit and no ANC in return.

Two reasons, really. One is that for the central, vital role of blasting music into your ears, the Earin A-3 does a great job. On a $200 budget the Sennheiser CX 400BT is even better, but I was consistently impressed by the A-3’s wide soundstage, clean instrument separation and rich bass.

The second is that this pair of earbuds has something that very few lumps of solder and circuitry could be said to possess: charm. The ultra-compact bud design, the Scandi-chic charging case, the effort-free touch control afforded by the accelerometers; it’s all just so likeable. There’s a tangible sense that Earin has tried something different here, and while the result isn’t a true pair of AirPod-killers, it’s enough that I’ve kept reaching for the A-3 well after I was finished testing it.