The Tireless Search for Wireless Earbuds

I hate coming to this blog empty-handed. My NES Classic non-review still haunts me as a personal and professional disappointment. With that experience behind me, I was hoping for more success with my hunt for new headphones.

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Pictured: My NES Classic.

This quest actually began before Apple announced that their next iPhone wouldn’t support traditional wired headphones. My Mophie Juice Pack case limits the access to the iPhone 6S’s headphone port, but they make a special adapter cable (about 2.5″ long) that lets any wired headphones connect through the case. One night not too long ago, during my nightly walk, the Mophie adapter cable kinked just a bit too far in my pocket, and the internal conductor snapped. I could no longer listen to my iPhone with standard wired headphones.

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Mophie’s recessed headphone jack (above), and the adapter required to plug into it. Source: techguide.com.au

I took it as a sign, since very soon after this happened, Apple took the headphone jack away altogether from their next phone. I concluded that I shouldn’t spend any more time or money on “legacy” equipment that, while effective for using wired headphones on an iPhone 6S, would be useless on a 7. So my attention turned toward wireless solutions.

When Apple unveiled the iPhone 7, they also announced their own stereo wireless earbuds, the AirPods. Unfortunately, at the time of this writing, these AirPods have yet to hit store shelves; in fact, since missing their announced “Late October 2016” launch window, no new street date has even been announced. I may eventually get those AirPods, but I’ve got walking to do in the meantime. And I can’t walk without my tunes.

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Until a realistic street date is announced, the AirPods (above) are nothing more than “vaporware.”

Wireless stereo headphones come in two styles: connected and separate. The connected headphones are often wired to each other by a thin cable, but sometimes there’s a thick middle piece that wraps around the neck or back of the head. My own comfort preferences led me toward the separate form factor. At this point, I’ve tried out two models of separate earbuds: the Sol Republic Amps Air, and the Jabra Elite Sport.

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Connected headphones, in many shapes and sizes. Not the best for running, in my opinion. Source: bestbuy.com

For those of you looking for a quick conclusion, here’s the TL;DR (Too Long; Didn’t Read) upshot: I’ve returned the Sol Republic set to the store, and the Jabra is going back, too. Neither were especially comfortable (a risk one runs when all the electronics have to be crammed into the individual earpieces with no external modules). And while the Sol Republic set’s sound quality was too tinny to justify a $150 price tag, at least I could hear my Spotify playlist in both ears. My attempt to “road test” the $250 Jabra set was hampered by an inability of the left bud to produce any sound at all. And the whole point of stereo earbuds is to avoid looking like “that guy” with the bluetooth headset in one ear.

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Sol Republic Amps Air. Source: solrepublic.com

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Jabra Elite Sport earbuds. Source: jabra.co.uk 

It’s funny, now that I’ve tried these two sets for myself, I can understand Apple’s hesitation to release their own wireless earbuds too early. According to an article in The Wall Street Journal (shared via Macrumors.com), the sound quality–particularly distortion-free stereo sound–didn’t meet Apple’s high standards. And that may be true (although manufacturing problems may also or instead be contributing to the delay); but it’s very frustrating for those who jumped to the new iPhone 7 (or those of us about to), counting on wireless earbuds to complement their new wireless phone audio experience.

I’m not sure what earbuds I’ll try next. Samsung makes a set, the Gear IconX; but the salesman actually discouraged me from picking it originally, because I wouldn’t be pairing it with a Samsung phone. I may decide to live on the edge and try it out, regardless. And if it works better than the other brands, you’ll be hearing from me.

I just hope I can hear from it. ◼︎

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One thought on “The Tireless Search for Wireless Earbuds

  1. Pingback: My New Best Buds | The At Home With Technology Blog

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