We tested out some truly wireless earphones that promise to deliver the freedom you desire for much less than Apple's AirPods. With so many models to check out, we ordered 8 top-sellers from Amazon and pitted them against one another to see how they stacked up.
We evaluated each set based on their design, ease of use and pairing, sound quality, controls and battery life. Here are our wireless earphone picks, ranked from best to worst.
The Smartomi Q5 earphones provide responsive bass, clean highs and solid mids typically found in more costly wireless earphones. Battery life came in around 4 hours, making these buds a good choice for anyone who endures long commutes to work or who wants to enjoy extended jam sessions. Phone conversations came through clearly as well, providing limited background noise.
Each earbud has a single button that controls answer/reject, mute/hang up, pair/power on or off, skip/pause with minimal effort. At first glance, the earphones' design looks uncomfortable, but I assure you that they fit nicely in your ears. The Q5 earphones come with additional earcups/hooks, a split USB charging cable and a soft pouch to store the units. As with a number of truly wireless earphones, adding a simple volume button would allow us to stow our phone away and control sound levels remotely. But that’s a trade-off for the low price.
The triangle-shaped HT-E1 earbuds came ready to perform. The secure-fitting earbuds delivered surprisingly deep bass and clean vocals normally found on more-expensive earbuds. I streamed music for about 3 hours before I dropped the HT-E1 into the case to recharge. The pair has a simple multifunction button that allows you to toggle the power on or off, play/pause and answer phone calls.
Based on my testing, the call quality was clear, and I did not encounter feedback, even in noisy areas. I also enjoyed the friendly voice prompt informing me that the power was low almost as much as the built-in automatic-shutdown feature, which assisted in saving battery life when I forgot to turn the HT-E1 off when not in use. However, the lack of volume control forced me to rely on my smartphone, and, ultimately, prevented the buds from earning a higher than other earphones in this roundup.
The Nomad earbuds came to the party ready to impress. They delivered impressive low-end sound coupled with crisp highs and a pleasant midrange, which allowed me to enjoy my commute, jamming to my favorite artists. Phone calls' sound quality was clear, although I experienced some feedback at times. I paired the Nomads to my iPhone easily, allowing for a solid Bluetooth connection at over 35 feet.
The earbuds fit secure in my ear and stayed there comfortably during long commutes and extended workouts. I used the Nomad RIF6 W until it powered down around the 3.5-hour mark, and charged up in 90 minutes inside the included storage/charger. I would have preferred integrated volume controls rather than being dependent on my device, but the built-in charger and impressive sound quality allowed me to overlook that shortcoming.
The Losei earbuds deliver clean, clear and accurate sound reproduction at an affordable price. They fit in my ear comfortably and were light enough that I didn't notice them when I binge-watched episodes of my favorite streaming series. The Losoi connected to my iPhone easily and kept a solid connection for roughly 3 hours before needing a recharge. The multifunction button located on each earbud controls power/pairing, call answer/end, play/pausing and redialing.
The overall sound quality was good, although the lows ran a bit flat and the highs were tough to discern on acoustic tracks. Additional features that make these earbuds a pretty good value are the good call quality and included charger/storage case. The lack of a volume control is understandable at this price, but I wish I didn't have to pair each earbud individually with my phone.
The TWS Q17 earbuds deliver responsive low-end sound, noticeable midrange and highs that were enjoyable to listen to across my musical selections. Phone calls came through clearly and without echo, but I encountered dropped connections on a few occasions. On the plus side, I was able to stream audio for roughly 4.5 hours before the batteries conked out. And I was able to charge them up in under an 90 minutes.
I like the included pouch, which kept the TWS Q17 earbuds from getting lost in my backpack, as well as a split USB charger, which makes it simple to charge one or both earbuds at the same time. However, the multifunction controls were difficult to use. I accidentally skipped tracks when I pressed too hard, and the volume controls were so finicky I relied on my phone instead.
The Xiaowu wireless earbuds deliver acceptable sound, but it was a struggle to pair them to my phone. On the plus side, the lightweight design and secure fit held up to vigorous workouts, such as biking and running on the treadmill. The sound quality was decent across all ranges, though the Xiaowu had challenges reproducing lows, and the highs sounded thin.
These wireless earbuds offered fairly clear sounding calls, performing well even in noisy areas. The battery life came in at a decent 3 hours before I had to drop the Xiaowu into the included charging station. The multifunction button on the earbuds makes it easy to control basic call and music functions, such as power/pairing, answer/hang up, skip track and pause. I liked the overall fit and feel of the Xiaowu, but the mixed sound quality and connectivity issues keep it from a higher rating.
The Thor Shocking True Wireless Earbuds delivered the longest battery life of any budget earbuds I tested, lasting almost 6 hours before I had to drop them in the included charging station. Too bad the design of the earbuds look dated. It reminded me of what Frankenstein would use rather than someone who wanted to be a trendsetter. I also encountered problems pairing the Thor with my iPhone, as it required multiple attempts.
The earbuds performed well overall, but lacked responsive bass and midrange when listening to music at higher volume levels; I also would have preferred a wider range of sound. Voice quality during calls sounded clear and allowed for people on the other end to hear me even while walking down a busy street or speaking softly on the train. Overall, the battery life is great. But you can do better.