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Sennheiser IE 600 review: these wired earbuds illuminate details you didn’t even know existed
3:00 pm | July 5, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Audio Computers Earbuds & Airpods Gadgets Headphones | Comments: Off

Sennheiser IE 600 review

The Sennheiser IE 600 are a pair of in-ear monitors that paint the most delicate details onto a canvas. They excel in tying several sonic elements together into a beautiful work of art, with exceptionally clear and beautifully balanced audio, plus strong separation, too. Of course, such qualities come at a steep price (around $800 / £700 / AU$1,200), but there’s no denying that the Sennheiser IE 600 offer excellent quality on a number of levels.

First of all, the Sennheiser IE 600 are particularly skilled in supplying defined audio – in part because of their dual two-chamber absorbers. These essentially capture and attenuate multiple sounds occupying the same frequency range, according to Sennheiser, meaning that you can enjoy textured audio and pick out the finer details. As a result, it never feels like you have to go on a mission to discover intricate audio attributes – the Sennheiser IE 600 does all the necessary heavy lifting to ensure that each unique sonic element is unearthed.

The IE 600 perform fantastically across all frequencies – perhaps unsurprising given that they’re the higher-priced sibling of the Sennheiser IE 300, which proudly sit on our list of the best wired headphones.  When listening to Rains again by Solji, the rain coming down throughout the introduction is utteraly natural and convincing, with each drop defined. In addition to that, the earphones perfectly captured the delicate nature of the track’s high-pitched vocals and finer details, such as the click of the singer's tongue on the palate. Vocals in the mid-range also pop really well on the IE 600, and often sound slightly forward, but never in a way that disrupts overall balance.

Sennheiser claims that the IE 600 deliver “fast, accurate bass”, and it isn’t wrong. When tuning into Black Eye by Allie X, I was wowed by the rapid pumping of the drum machine as the bassline dipped to impressive depths; it bounced up in a very controlled manner. The depth of the bass was certainly imposing, so if you’re the kind of person who wants to experience meaty low-frequency sounds, these IEMs won’t disappoint.

The authoritative nature of the bass ties into a wider theme with the IE 600; they excel in serving up powerful, full-bodied audio. When switching between the far cheaper, but still fantastic, Sennheiser IE 200 and the IE 600, I certainly felt that the latter offered a more all-encompassing listening experience, mainly due to their ability to show off subtle sonic details. For instance, I used the IE 600 to test out I Want You by Moloko and felt genuinely energized by the almost cinematic reproduction of the tune. The IE 600 faithfully captured the track’s complexity, including the intro’s breathy vocals, natural-sounding keys, and the several instruments that enter the fray later in the track to form a dense, layered mix.

Of course, you understand why they're so difference when you compare the IE 200's price of $149.95 / £129.99 / AU$239.95 to the IE 600 at 4-5 times that. No wonder the IE 600 are a cut above for sound, and will impress hardcore audiophiles.

Now that’s out of the way, let’s talk design. The IE 600 are beautifully manufactured, and their 3D-printed metal casing rocks a textured, classy look. Fun fact: the metal used to build the IE 600 – ZR01 amorphous zirconium – is the same type used for the drilling head of NASA's Mars Rover. Now, that’s pretty sturdy. The earphones are still small and relatively lightweight, though. Coming in at 0.21oz / 6g (per bud), they bring elegance alongside durability. They also fit really well, and it took me no time at all to find the right feel. The earphones are attached to a bendy cable, which makes it easy to adjust the fit around your ear and achieve maximum comfort. Speaking of which, I never felt any irritation while wearing the IE 600, even when keeping them in for full work days. Thankfully, I was subjected to very limited cable noise, something that can be a real mood-killer with a lot of wired in-ear headphones.

My personal feeling is that the IE 600’s gray cable is a bit of a downgrade on the plaited silver one included with the IE 200. Although the IE 600’s wire has a smooth, clean aesthetic, I found myself more attached to the feeling and chain-like appearance of the cheaper model. Like the IE 200, it’s a shame that the included cable here doesn’t include an in-line controller or mic, which makes the IE 600 a little inconvenient if you’re on the go and have to adjust volume via the source device. There’s a way around this – but it involves spending an additional £59.99 (about $75 / AU$115) on an alternative Sennheiser cable with built-in controller.

The default wire for the IE 600 has a 3.5mm connector, but the box also includes one with a 4.4mm connector that you can attach the earphones to instead. There are other extras bundled in too, including a hard carry case, a cleaning tool, a clip that you can attach to the IE 600’s cable, and a collection of different-sized foam and gel ear tips. I found that the foam tips were the most comfortable, and they assist in enabling pretty solid noise isolation. If you want near-silence, though, you'll get a greater effect from the best noise cancelling earbuds

Overall, the Sennheiser IE 600 are a brilliant pair of IEMs that I thoroughly enjoyed using. If you’re looking to invest in some top-quality wired in-ear headphones, these will almost certainly sound the part – and last you for many years to come. As a result, I can definitely recommend the Sennheiser IE 600 – especially because you shouldn't need to pay list price (which is a touch high in my opinion), but should be able to pay more like $500 / £500 / AU$1,000.

Sennheiser IE 600 next to gray/black carry case

(Image credit: Future)

Sennheiser IE 600 review: Price and release date

  • $799 / £699 / AU$1,199
  • Launched in March 2022

There’s no denying it, the Sennheiser IE 600 are pretty expensive. With a list price of $799 / £699 / AU$1,199, they’re truly in the high-end category compared to the likes of the Sennheiser IE 200 – although they’re capable of fuller, more detailed sound. On the flip side, the IE 600 are considerably cheaper than their even more premium sibling, the Sennheiser IE 900, which have a list price of $1,499 / £1,299 / AU$2,399. 

A crucial factor here is that it’s pretty unlikely you’ll have to fork out the list price to get your hands on the Sennheiser IE 600. I spotted them for as little as $469.95, £499.99, and AU$972 (in the latter’s case via Sennheiser’s own online store), so be a savvy shopper.

Sennheiser IE 600 review: Specs

'Sennheiser IE 600' is engraved on the reverse side of one of the Sennheiser IE 600 earphones

(Image credit: Future)

Should you buy the Sennheiser IE 600?

Buy them if...

Don't buy them if...

Sennheiser IE 600 review: Also consider

How I tested the Sennheiser IE 600

Sennheiser IE 600 plugged into FiiO M11S music player

(Image credit: Future)
  • Tested across the course of two weeks
  • Used in the office and on walks
  • Predominantly tested using Tidal on the FiiO M11S music player

I put the Sennheiser IE 600 to the test over two weeks. I predominantly used the IEMs while seated in the office, but I also used them while on walks and at home. Most of the time, I used the IE 600 with the FiiO M11S hi-res music player, listening to tunes on Tidal.

When playing music, I started by tuning into the TechRadar testing playlist, which contains tracks from a wide variety of genres. I also used the IE 600 with my Windows laptop when watching YouTube videos or playing games, to ensure quality was high across multiple devices and media. I also used the Sennheiser IE 200 and Shure Aonic 3 to directly compare audio quality, comfort levels, and design features, when appropriate. 

Read more about how we test earbuds.

JBL Live Beam 3 review: a strong case for stellar earbuds that easily outlast the rest
7:30 pm | June 29, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Audio Computers Earbuds & Airpods Gadgets Headphones | Tags: , , | Comments: Off

JBL Live Beam 3: Two-minute review

There are lots of great options on our guide to the best noise-cancelling earbuds, but there's one feature that none of those excellent buds offer: a screen on the case. And the screen on the JBL Live Beam 3 is so much more fun than the display of its predecessor, because now you can select a lock-screen wallpaper from any of the photos stored on your paired smartphone, and the image will even flip so it stays the right way up (so all your friends can see it) when you snap open the case. 

I still wouldn't describe it as a must-have – it still feels as if JBL could deliver greater more through this touchscreen, since it still doesn't present functionality that your smartwatch can, for example –  but given the fact that to tweak the volume by tapping the buds results in the loss of either playback control or ANC profile-scrolling (you don't have to sacrifice anything using the box), it's certainly useful. In addition, the lock-screen wallpaper personalization feature is a nice touch. 

However, the real improvements here aren't to do with the screen. No, the real star here is the improved audio quality. It's typically Harman curve-esque and meaty – but in the best way. There's an expansive soundstage; there's dynamic agility; there's cohesion across the frequencies this time around. 

Plus, battery life is excellent at up to 12 hours from the earbuds alone, minus noise cancellation, or 10 hours with it engaged (and nearer nine with adaptive ANC on –more on the efficacy of this later). The case, too, delivers three further charges, taking your total audio playback time up to a class-leading 48 hours. For clarity, Apple's priciest Pro-suffixed AirPods only deliver 5.5 hours with its top-tier Spatial Audio deployed, or a maximum of 30 hours including the case. 

The JBL Live Beam 3 also boast a very well-rounded feature set, including auto-off when you remove one bud, a fit test, multipoint connectivity, plus a few novel bits and pieces – including "Personi-Fi", where a detailed hearing test of each ear enables you to better tailor the sound to your liking. 

I wasn't convinced by the spatial audio profiles, which is a shame, since JBL has offered a total of three immersive soundscapes for music, movies and games. If you're expecting sonic articles in a three-dimensional space here, you'll be disappointed – and although the ANC is fine, it isn't about to challenge Sony or Bose in the supreme bubble-of-silence stakes. Yes, low-level constants are massaged (my microwave humming away didn't filter through, for example), but the sound of cars outside simply floating away wasn't quite there. 

One truly valuable addition few competitors offer is something JBL is calling Smart Talk. It lowers the volume of your music and activates JBL's TalkThru mode as soon as you speak, then resumes to normal service either five, 15 or 20 seconds after you've stopped. It's a great little feature because you don't have to touch the buds to engage it  – for example, when someone in the office wants to know where that report is. And, of course, if you don't like it, it's easy enough to toggle it off in the JBL Headphones app. 

The fit is great, the battery is seemingly never-ending and, honestly, the JBL Beam 3 quickly became my go-to earbuds for confident, banging, thumping bass – and given my qualms over the audio in previous stablemates, it's a big leap forward for JBL, for which I commend the company. 

For the price, JBL offers a very reasonable sound-per-pound proposition here. Having said that, the price in the UK is currently £179.99 – not the initially reported £149.99. Nevertheless, the JBL Beam 3 still represent value for money, particularly if stamina is a priority in noise-cancelling earbuds. 

JBL LIve Beam 3 on starry blanket

(Image credit: Future)

JBL Live Beam 3 review: Price & release date

  • Unveiled January 2024 (but only available to buy from June 3, 2024)
  • Priced $199.95 / £179.99 / AU$249

The keen-eyed will note that the prices above mean the JBL Live Beam 3 (thus called because of the "beams", or stems attached) retail for $50, £50 or AU$100 cheaper than the screen-on-case-enhanced earbuds they effectively replace, the JBL Tour Pro 2.

The Live Beam 3 are actually one of three earbuds propositions with cases that JBL unveiled simultaneously in January 2024. The Live 3 range comprises the Buds, Flex and Beam, the latter of which we're reviewing here. The Buds 3 look most like standard earbuds; the Flex 3 are akin to the shape of regular Apple AirPods, with a stick design but no silicone tip that sits in the ear canal; and the Beam 3 are similar to Apple's AirPods Pro, with a stick design plus an in-ear fit and ear tips. 

All three options boast JBL's smart screen case, True Adaptive Noise Cancelling, Bluetooth 5.3 with LE Audio, JBL Spatial Sound, LDAC Hi-Res Audio for compatible phones, multi-point connectivity, wireless charging, and six external mics to facilitate noise cancellation and to help with calls. Also, all are similarly priced. 

There are a few differences to quickly scoot through: Buds and Beam are certified IP55 for water-resistance, while the Flex are IP54; the Buds and Beam have 10mm dynamic drivers compared to 12mm for the Flex; and the quoted battery life is up to 40 hours on the Buds, 48 on the Beam, and 50 on the Flex (for the buds and case combined).

A picture of a seal on the JBL Live Beam 3's lock-screen

Want a photo of a judgemental seal on your case? Have it…  (Image credit: Future)

JBL Live Beam 3 review: Specs

Becky Scarrott dancing, in a lock-screen on the JBL Live Beam 3

Or how about a dramatic dance shot by Peter Mares?  (Image credit: Peter Mares (Avid Images))

JBL Live Beam 3 review: Features

  • Excellent call quality features
  • Personal amplification and Personi-Fi add value
  • The case – you can't ignore it

JBL has thrown everything it has at these earbuds – and that's putting the charging case to one side for a moment, concentrating on the various audio augmentations and fixes instead. 

Call-handling is ace, thanks in no small part to the numerous options you have available to enhance the experience, including Sound Level Optimiser, which balances the volume of the voice on the other end of the line; Sound Setting, with which you can increase the bass or treble of that voice, or keep things "natural"; Voice Setting, which is the same thing, but for your own voice; VoiceAware, which is a slider to control how much of your own voice you'd like to hear during calls; and Private Call Mode, which actually lets you remove one bud and use it as a mic, so you might lower your voice a little and keep the convo private. During tests, the majority of folk on the other end said that I sounded as if I was just talking on the phone – which certainly can't be said of every set of earphones I've ever tested. 

This level of attention to detail continues across the board. You have six EQ presets or the option to create your own, plus Adaptive EQ for real-time adjustments, with the option of toggling on "Low Volume EQ" to boost highs and lows, even if you're listening at low volumes. There's even "Leakage Compensation", to sort the sonics if the tips you've fitted don't offer an optimal seal. 

The ANC has similar scope. Deploy ANC (over Ambient Aware, TalkThru or off all together) and you can customize functionality by toggling Adaptive ANC – which adjusts the level of cancellation based on your surroundings – and Auto Compensation, which adjusts things based on your ear canal and wearing status once more. 

But we're not done: if you switch Adaptive ANC off, you're presented with a slider that offers seven increments of noise-nixing, irrespective of your location. On paper, it sounds exceptional – and in reality it's good. The seventh level nixes most low-level thrums happily; it certainly doesn't color or negatively impact the presentation. Nevertheless, I think Adaptive is the way to go, because I felt it did a fair job of making adjustments when I was at the beach, on the street, and at home. Does it lower the noise floor in your noggin as deftly as the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds or the AirPods Pro 2 can? Not quite. And that goes for the JBL Beam 3's spatial audio profiles (movies, music or gaming have been supplied), too. Things feel a little warmer, more bass-centric and cosier for sure; but it isn't the eyebrow-raising, bullets-over-my-head performance I might have dreamt of. 

That's the reason I knocked half a star off the score for this section, but I maintain that there's still so much here to love – and I haven't even spoken about Personi-Fi yet! This involves a lengthy hearing test of ever-quieter tones at various frequencies dealt to each ear (after an initial fit test). But it's worth it. 

After the tests, you're presented with a written report, which offers a mini verdict on the compensation required for each ear and the option to "have a try" by toggling it on and off. Suffice to say, it's not just parlour tricks or fun graphics (although there is one); it does genuinely make the music ever-so-slightly more detailed, the leading edges of notes more impactful, and the overall presentation is layered with greater precision – to my ears, at any rate. I tended to deploy this, but leave spatial audio to one side when wearing the JBL Live Beam 3. 

Lastly, to the case. I used it much more than I did when testing the JBL Tour Pro 2. It's responsive and far easier to navigate than the previous iteration, plus you can hide features you won't use in the app – the flashlight feature is fun, but it essentially just turns the screen a bright white; my iPhone's torch feature is better. I also really liked the lock-screen wallpaper. Yes, it might be the high-tech equivalent of a Polaroid sticker on your earbuds case; but so what? We're allowed to want that. 

  • Features score: 4.5/5

JBL Live Beam 3's JBL Headphones app, three screen-grabs showing smart charging case settings

(Image credit: JBL )

JBL Live Beam 3 review: Sound quality

  • LDAC tracks are beautifully relayed 
  • Bass is resolute; treble well handled
  • Greatly improved audio 

No matter what you listen to, the JBL Live Beam 3 will sound rather good, but it seems a shame to listen to lowly compressed Spotify streams when Sony's LDAC (from a compatible device – a Sony Xperia smartphone, for instance) is on the menu with these JBLs. Apple Music tracks are handled with zeal and flair, as are my trusted Qobuz tracks. 

Melissa Etheridge's' I'm the Only One is a bass-walking, axe-talking country romp. Etheridge's textured vocal is central and emotive in a mix that shines a light on each solo, riff or musical passage; it will have you dancing wherever you listen to it. 

Baby Lasagna's Rim Tim Tagi Dim is a tough ask for the driver-snap, dynamic nuance and musical cohesion in any set of earbuds, but the JBL Live Beam 3 don't shy away from it. This is techno, and it can easily be muddied in lesser earbuds. Here, though,  I felt every cymbal as it darted from my left to right ear, but never at the expense of the vocal. 

The JBL Live Beam 3 are able to unearth an extra ounce of detail through the strummed guitars and vocal in Noah Kahan's acoustic Stick Season, too, and the fact that I was tapping my foot along is proof that the timing here and agility through the low end is greatly improved over the JBL Tour Pro 2, which I felt were a tad treble-centric, even tinny on occasion. 

The sound is typically JBL at its best again, and you love to see it – sonically, they're a big hit. Want big, exuberant sound that knows when to deliver large, but also when to pull back just a little, allowing the detail to shine through? That's the sonic recipe the JBL Beam 3 present – and I like it for the money. 

  • Sound quality score: 5/5

JBL Live Beam 3, showing an incoming call, case held in a hand with red fingernails

The multi-function button on the WF-C700N beats any capacitive touch option I've tried. (Image credit: Future)

JBL Live Beam 3 review: Design

  • Earpieces fit snugly and securely
  • On-ear functions require compromise
  • The case is very likeable

I found these earbuds easy to wear – despite my small ears. However, it's worth noting that the Live Beam 3's earpiece design does sit rather far into your ear canals. Those who find this type of fit claustrophobic – think AirPods Pro 2 – may want to look at JBL's other designs, although I can't vouch for those. Again, it won't be an issue for most, just worth noting. 

The on-ear touch functions respond well and can be customised, but this does lead me to a minor negative: you need to ditch a set of functions. To explain, your command options are Playback Control, Ambient Sound Control, and Volume Control, but you have only two ears – and only two earbuds to assign jobs to. I often criticize earbuds that don't offer a way to tweak the volume of music without having to dig out a phone (or ask Siri); while the JBL Beam 3 do offer volume control, assigning that to the left earbud and Playback Control to the right meant I had to forego on-ear ANC. Yes, the touchscreen enabled me to quickly access the ANC, Ambient or TalkThru modes (although not the extra adaptive toggles), but at this level I don't think it's churlish to expect your earbuds to be able to handle all three – because other options, such as the Cambridge Audio Melomania M100, do. 

However, that's where the criticism ends; because the case is very fun. Where the JBL Tour Pro 2 felt like a prototype, the JBL Beam 3 feel every millimeter a second-gen upgrade. They've been refined, made more sleek – and more svelte, too. Yes, the case is still deeper than your average case at 3.25cm (or just over one-and-a-quarter inches) thick, but the little lanyard spot on the top right (as you look at the screen) is quite delightful – because you've now got lock-screen wallpaper to show off. 

The build quality of this case feels resoundingly expensive – and I maintain that Apple is watching from afar, to implement in future AirPods designs. And while the screen isn't an essential yet for functionality, the resolution, responsiveness and brightness – which can be adjusted; you get three levels – is spot on. 

  • Design score: 4/5

JBL LIve Beam 3 on starry blanket

The buds are comfy, honestly!  (Image credit: Future)

JBL Live Beam 3 review: Value

  • Exceptional battery life; great sound
  • The classy finish feels expensive
  • Spatial audio performance is the only issue 

The JBL Live Beam 3's battery life, sound quality (with its smorgasbord of customisations), build and finish are more than worthy of the money here. And the noise cancellation will please all but the most picky of noise-nixers. Oh, and you also get a screen – which in no way affects the stellar stamina. 

My only real gripes are the compromises relating to on-ear functionality, plus the somewhat disappointing spatial audio trio JBL offers here. If you're after buds that are great for movies, for example, I'd point you to the (much more expensive) Sonos Ace headphones, or the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds

But given the competitive asking price of the JBL Live Beam 3 (the Bose alternative listed above cost $299 / £299 / AU$449, which is $100 / £120 or AU$200 more than the JBLs), there's so, so much still to enjoy for the money. 

  • Value score: 5/5

Should I buy the JBL Live Beam 3?

Buy them if...

Don't buy them if...

JBL Live Beam 3 review: Also consider

Cambridge Audio Melomania M100
Another pricier option (although not as pricy as the Bose), but the ANC here is very good indeed – as is the sound quality. And to top it all off, you also get the option of Matt Berry on voice prompts (his "Waiting to pair!" is the best you've ever heard). No screen on the case, mind, and the overall aesthetic is far more shy and retiring.
Make your choice by reading our Cambridge Audio Melomania M100 review

How I tested the JBL Live Beam 3

JBL Live Beam 3 held in a hand with red fingernails

(Image credit: Future)
  • Tested for two weeks; listened against the Cambridge Audio Melomania M100, AirPods Pro 2 and Bose QuietComfort Ultra
  • Used at work (in the office, walking through London, on a train), at home and on the beach
  • Listened to Tidal Masters, Apple Music Lossless tracks and Spotify on an iPhone 13 Pro, a Sony Xperia 1 V and a MacBook Pro

The JBL Live Beam became my musical companions for two weeks – after a thorough 48-hour run-in period (during which I loaded many lock-screen wallpaper options to the case). 

They accompanied me to work on weekdays (walking brusquely to the station; on the London Underground network; at the office), and throughout a week in Dorset, with regular trips along the promenade and to the beach at low tide – which is a great way to test any wind-interference from mics during calls.

To better test the comfort levels and security of the JBL Live Beam 3, I wore them to the gym – and they certainly did not budge during training. 

To check the audio quality across the frequencies, I listened to various playlists (spanning everything from classical to crunk) on Apple Music, Qobuz and Tidal, but also to podcasts and albums on Spotify – and YouTube tutorials (mostly about soldering sterling silver bezels to make jewelry from the sea glass collected at the beach, if you're curious) on my MacBook Pro. 

I’ve been testing audio products for over five years now. As a dancer, aerialist and musical theater performer in another life, sound quality, fit and the user experience have always taken priority for me – but having heard how wonderful ANC can be when done well, I know what to look for. 

Read more about how we test

  • First reviewed: June 2024
SoundMagic E80D review: sleek, sonically pleasing USB-C wired earbuds at a bargain price
4:00 pm | June 23, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Audio Computers Earbuds & Airpods Gadgets Headphones | Comments: Off

SoundMagic E80D: Review

With the SoundMagic E80D, the headphone manufacturer has released yet another budget pair of earbuds capable of serving up hi-res audio. That’s partly because the new E80D come with a built-in digital-to-analogue converter (DAC) – a common inclusion for SoundMagic products, and something that sets its products apart from a lot of other budget wired earbud creators. So, just how good do the E80D buds sound, and are they worth their asking price? Let’s find out…

The E80D’s built-in DAC is capable of handling audio up to 24bit / 96kHz, and was a key difference-maker on quality when I compared them to the DAC-less (and admittedly cheaper) Skullcandy Set USB-C. Added quality was apparent when listening to Adagio Per Archi E Organo In Sol Minore by the London Philharmonic Orchestra; the track’s organ and string elements were easily distinguishable, something that other budget buds can struggle with. When I listened to the same track on the Set USB-C, they melded the instruments together more, restricting the expressive nature of the composition. 

Similarly, when I listened to Diamonds On the Soles of Her Shoes by Paul Simon, vocals in the mid-range felt more natural on the E80D to me. Percussion also felt a bit more weighty and impactful in the transition out from the intro than it did with the Skullcandy model. 

SoundMagic claims that the E80D have a “defined bass” – and I’d agree. With Black Eye by Allie X, I was pleased by the level of depth the E80D could achieve. And although the kicks didn’t have the same sharpness that you’d expect from a more premium pair of wired headphones, they still packed a punch. 

The biggest drawback when it comes to sound is the fact that the E80D just don’t get loud enough. At first, I wondered if all the years of high-volume listening were catching up on me, but after checking my experience against that of others online, I realized I wasn’t alone here. I checked loudness across a Windows laptop, Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 and Fiio M11S music player, but couldn’t always quite get the power I craved. I found myself typically playing songs at the 80-90% volume mark, which is significantly higher than when using the SoundMagic E11D, for instance. 

Still, most people will likely be satisfied with the E80D’s sound levels if they keep them cranked high enough – it might just take a bit of getting used to. All in all, this is a bit of a shame though, given one of the reasons that their sibling, the SoundMagic E11C, got onto our list of the best wired headphones, was due to their impressive power.

Beyond sound, the E80D listening experience is relatively free of discomfort thanks to a comfortable fit – I gladly kept these in for hours across multiple days in the office and when walking home. They’re also pretty lightweight at 0.56oz / 16g, which adds a touch of elegance. 

Additionally, they offer passive noise isolation, which helps to reduce the rumble of passing traffic, surrounding chatter and similar. In all honesty, I was surprised at how good the E80D’s noise isolation was given their price tag of $44 / £39.98 / AU$66. When I was playing music in the office, I could barely make out the sound of typing or colleagues speaking. Of course, you’re not going to get the near-silence that you may get from active noise canceling, but for what they set out to do in the isolation department, the E80D deliver.

One area of minor frustration during listening sessions was with cable noise, which, although not severe, is still a slight distraction. This was more prominent when I was on the move, although this is pretty common for earbuds that hang down, rather than wrap around the ear. If you want to tune in to music or podcasts while on the go and you’re not hellbent on purchasing wired buds specifically, it might be a better move to select a pair of the best wireless earbuds instead. 

If you need to find the perfect fit or get the most out of the E80D’s noise isolation, you’ll be pleased to hear that there are additional ear gels included in small and large sizes, as well as a double-layered option (the default ear tips are standard, medium-sized gels). On the topic of extras, the E80D also come with a hard carry case for transporting your buds around.

The SoundMagic E80D look pretty similar to their predecessor, the SoundMagic E11D. They aren’t particularly stunning, although their silver-colored wire has a twisted look, which I’m a fan of. However, it’s worth noting that I also tested an older version of the E11D in Black, which had a much chunkier USB-C connector and didn’t have the coiled visual effect of the Silver model, so the E80D make for a significant improvement over this variant appearance-wise. My largest gripe with the E80D’s build is that the remote – which includes controls for volume and play/pause – is similar to that of the E11D, and still has buttons that are too small and close together. However, the controller’s inbuilt mic performs well, and recorded relatively clear audio when I created a voice recording – though I could make out a little static in the background.

Overall, you get a lot for your money with the SoundMagic E80D without having to sacrifice on quality across audio, design, or comfort – as a result, I would recommend these.

SoundMagic E80D and carry case resting on top of orange-colored amp

(Image credit: Future)

SoundMagic E80D review: Price and release date

  • $44 / £39.98 / AU$66
  • Launched on April 17, 2024

The SoundMagic E80D are still quite fresh, having only been released in April 2024, around six years after the E11D. One of the most attractive aspects of the E80D is their affordability, with the model holding a list price of $44 / £39.98 / AU$66.

If you’re working with a slightly smaller budget though, you can still find quality options, such as the stylish Skullcandy Set USB-C, which come in at $31.99 / £29.99 (about AU$50). You will, however, miss out on the inbuilt DAC, with the Skullcandy supplying decent audio, but not to the same standard you get with the E80D. 

SoundMagic E80D review: Specs

Person holding SoundMagic E80D's controller

(Image credit: Future)

Should you buy the SoundMagic E80D?

Buy them if…

Don't buy them if...

SoundMagic E80D: Also consider

SoundMagic E80D review: How I tested

SoundMagic E80D resting on top of orange-colored amp

(Image credit: Future)
  • Tested across the span of multiple weeks
  • Used in the office and whilst on walks
  • Predominantly tested using Tidal on FiiO M11S music player

When judging the SoundMagic E80D’s audio quality, I usually connected them to the FiiO M11S hi-res music player and listened to music via Tidal. However, I also tried tuning into some tracks on Spotify using my Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 and watched some YouTube videos with them on my Windows laptop. 

As always, I selected tunes from the TechRadar testing playlist when conducting this review, which includes records from a whole host of different genres. I used the E80D in the office, on walks, and at home over the course of multiple weeks.

Read more about how we test.

  • First reviewed: June 2024
Creative Aurvana Ace 2 review: ace-sounding earbuds let down by noise cancelling snafus
5:00 pm | June 22, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Audio Computers Earbuds & Airpods Gadgets Headphones | Tags: | Comments: Off

Creative Aurvana Ace 2: Two-minute review

The Creative Aurvana Ace 2 got audiophiles excited in a way few things ever could when news of the xMEMS-driver-toting earbuds were first announced. So, do they deliver on their undoubted potential? Well... yes and no. 

The headline feature of the Creative Aurvana Ace 2 – at least according to these pumped up audiophiles – is the use of solid-state drivers created by tech manufacturers xMEMS. To boil down a PowerPoint presentation's worth of tech jargon, these audio drivers are created using the same processes as chips (computer ones, not the fried foodstuff) to improve phase consistency and maintain dynamic audio while keeping earbuds small. And if you want us to skip any form of buzzword, then the point is this: the drivers are meant to revolutionize audio in earbuds.

And, frankly, it works: the Creative Aurvana Ace 2 sound great. They provide a lovely neutral sound with fantastic detail across the board and a dramatic sound stage. They’re some of the best noise-cancelling earbuds I’ve used at this price... if all you care about is sound. Perhaps the color design, too, which is also worthy of praise as I'm loving the Creative Aurvana Ace 2's black-and-copper aesthetic.

Unfortunately, while sound is (obviously) quite important for earbuds, it’s not the only factor to consider, and Creative flubs the landing in a few other key areas.

The battery life isn’t great. The noise cancellation is fine at best and bonkers at worst. The Creative app doesn’t have enough features to justify itself. The equalizer doesn't seem to work. The touch controls are basically impossible to reliably use. And, worst of all, there’s the screaming, which you can read more about in the design section.

If every rose has its thorn, then, this one is attached to an entire, overgrown bush.

Some have been calling the Creative Aurvana Ace 2 the first earbuds to use this xMEMS tech but, as you may have discerned from the use of the number ‘2’ in the name, they’re not alone. They were released alongside the ‘standard’ Aurvana Ace which also features this technology. 

What upgrades does the Creative Aurvana Ace 2 have over its near-namesake, then? The higher-end buds cost a touch more, introduce adaptive ANC, add support for the AptX Lossless codec, and are decked out in that smoldering copper finish. And that's, er, it.

In short, you might find the ‘cheaper’ Creative Aurvana Ace versions provide better value for money. 

Creative Aurvana Ace 2 review: Price and release date

The Creative Aurvana Ace 2

(Image credit: Future)
  • Announced January 2024 
  • Cost $149.99 / £164.99 / AU$229.95

The Creative Aurvana Ace 2 were announced at the beginning of 2024, alongside the more affordable Creative Aurvana Ace – both sets of earbuds marked the first use of the xMEMS drivers, though at the time of writing they’re not the only ones.

The buds will set you back $149.99 / £164.99 / AU$229.95, so they’re pretty much mid-range earbuds, though that market segment is very large and the Ace 2 sit toward the low end of it. For some context the Aurvana Ace cost $129.99 / £134.99 / AU$169.95, and in both the US and Australia I’ve already seen small discounts on both products.

There’s not actually that much competition in the low-triple-digit price band, and you’ll be able to see a few select competitors below, but perhaps the closest contemporary rival is the new Nothing Ear which came out around the same time, for the same price, and which I reviewed immediately prior to the Ace 2.

Creative Aurvana Ace 2 review: Specs

Creative Aurvana Ace 2 review: Features

The Creative Aurvana Ace 2

(Image credit: Future)
  • 4-hour buds battery, 16-hour with case
  • App doesn't really add anything
  • Buds keep screaming at me

In the introduction to this review, I ominously mentioned the screaming, and your mind might now be picturing some atmospheric horror film. You’d be better off thinking of that mandrake scene from the movie Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. When noise cancellation is turned on, and the buds are totally enclosed (ie, clenched in your hand) they sometimes make a weird, high-pitched screaming sound.

Why would you grip the buds in your hand like that? Well, that’s not the only reason you’d have them enclosed – the noise sometimes happened when I was trying to use the buds' touch controls, when they were sandwiched between my hands and my face. Having a high-pitch squealing beamed straight into your shell-like isn’t nice.

I can’t say for sure what causes this noise, but my guess is that the noise cancellation creates a feedback issue into the buds when they’re in a small space. I also heard the buds pumping out an odd sound when I was in enclosed spaces such as an elevator or small connecting rooms in gyms or theaters. Whatever the reason, the screaming and the strange helicopter-blade-sounding ANC sound were both disconcerting and annoying.

Although it's possible I have a faulty review sample, I still feel compelled to write this review honestly, and (while we're happy to test another set in future) this was a genuine issue and one that surprised the TechRadar team. 

The Creative Aurvana Ace 2

(Image credit: Future)

These issues didn’t occur when ANC was deactivated, and they’re not the only reason that I’d advise you not to turn the Aurvana Ace 2’s noise cancellation on – the main one is that it simply isn’t very good. It takes the edge off background sound but struggles to eliminates louder noises, as well as low-level wind or louder talking.

That's not to mention the transparency mode, which ostensibly beams in background noise so you can still hear what's going on around you. Most buds have this feature, but the Aurvana Ace 2's was unique in that it seemed to amplify these sounds buzzed in. Passing busses, nearby weights dropped in gyms, me coughing, all were blared into my ear like a klaxon from hell. Too loud!

ANC can be toggled using Creative’s smartphone app, creatively called… Creative. This has a few features like ANC control, button customization and an equalizer (which I’ll get into in the Sound quality section, given this one increasingly resembles War and Peace) but as far as headphone tie-in apps go, it’s a little sparse. 

Creative’s official estimate for the Ace 2’s battery life is four hours, and in testing I’d roughly concur – if you follow my advice and turn ANC off, that goes up to six hours. The case battery bumps that up to 16 hours of listening, or 24 without ANC.

I don't think I've ever tested a pair of earbuds with a battery life this short: even the worst rivals sit around six hours. I’m writing this journey on a coach journey that’ll last longer than four hours – life (general) necessitates extended listening periods!

  • Features score: 2/5

Creative Aurvana Ace 2 review: Design

The Creative Aurvana Ace 2

(Image credit: Future)
  • Small, comfortable earbuds
  • Alluring black-and-tan look
  • IPX5 certification

The Creative Aurvana Ace 2 come in a pretty appealing hue. They're black with a bronze trim, and both the case and the buds take this theme. It’s pretty zingy, I like it.

The buds weigh 4.7 each, and I have no complaints about the fit – they felt snug in the ear and only once or twice did they become a little loose. I used them at the gym a few times, too, so that's not unheard of by any means!

They’re lightweight so I never felt earache from wearing them, and the IPX5 protection meant I felt safe using them in drizzle. I couldn't find an IP rating for the case, so leave that poolside when you're going for a dip.

The Creative Aurvana Ace 2

(Image credit: Future)

Apparently the buds have touch controls but I think you need magical powers to use them, because I could never work out how to toggle the haptic button. Not even the app tells you how. Only once did I use it successfully, and that was when I didn’t even mean to – I somehow turned the volume up to full when putting the buds in my ear. Helpful.

Then there’s the case, which looks pretty standard as wireless earbuds go: a small pebble, which weighs 46.6g. That’s nice and light, and the Aurvana Ace 2’s case (the cAse 2?) often disappeared into my pockets. 

The case has a USB-C port for charging and also supports wireless charging, and its only other feature of note is a small intent loop through which you could put a lanyard or wrist mount string. You don’t see these often enough in earbuds.

  • Design score: 3.5/5

Creative Aurvana Ace 2 review: Sound quality

  • xMEMS drivers really bring it
  • Equalizer doesn't bring anything
  • Lots of supported audio codecs

The Creative Aurvana Ace 2

(Image credit: Future)

I can finally say some good things about the Aurvana Ace 2! They sound pretty great compared with same-price rivals. I’ve just come off of testing some similarly priced earbuds and the Ace 2 sound better.

The sound is totally, white-flag-waving neutral, which is something you don’t see enough of in the warm world of mid-range earbuds. This means that the sound doesn’t lean by default too far towards the higher or lower pitches. 

Something I loved about the buds is the palpable sound stage, more so than on any buds I’ve tested in ages – you can really sense the different instruments around you, helping you to enjoy your songs on a different level.

These boons are all, presumably, thanks to the use of the xMEMS driver, as well as an extra 10mm dynamic driver on each bud. Perhaps the xMEMS revolution really is here, though I don't see the Aurvana Ace 2 being the product to deliver it.

The Creative Aurvana Ace 2

(Image credit: Future)

The buds also support a nice big range of audio codecs, for people who know what that means. Enjoy high-fidelity audio from AptX standard as well as Adaptive and Lossless as well as AAC, LC3 and SBC. Good luck finding LC3 files to listen if you're not an avid audio fan though.

By default the sound is a little too low, and there’s no way in the app to turn it up. That's apart from the aforementioned accident of turning up the volume on the bud’s stem, which unlocked never-before-heard levels. 

Since every positive comment I make about the Ace 2 comes with a qualifier, here's your sound quality caveat – the equalizer. I used it when listening to the buds. I used it quite thoroughly. I slid the various dials up and down. And the differences in sound were so minute that I'm not convinced I wasn't imagining them, like some audio placebo. If you want to add some extra treble to your music, or pull out the bass, these aren't the buds you're looking for.

  • Sound quality: 4/5

Creative Aurvana Ace 2 review: Value

The Creative Aurvana Ace 2

(Image credit: Future)
  • Audio quality is better than most same-price rivals...
  • ...but most other features are worse

If you'd let me test the Creative Aurvana Ace 2 without revealing the price, I’d probably be able to tell you exactly how much they cost to the penny – they’re basically bang average for earbuds in this bracket. But that’s a game of averages.

In terms of audio quality, the Ace 2 punch above their weight – you could pay a fair bit more and expect sound quality like this.

However that’s balanced out by a dearth of features, and some major issues that display the trappings of cheaper buds than the Ace 2. These are corners cut to keep the price considerate.

  • Value: 3.5/5

Should I buy the Creative Aurvana Ace 2?

Buy it if…

Don’t buy it if…

Creative Aurvana Ace 2 review: Also consider

How I tested the Creative Aurvana Ace 2

The Creative Aurvana Ace 2

(Image credit: Future)
  • Tested for 10 days
  • Tested at home, in the office and on walks

I used the Creative Aurvana Ace 2 for just over two weeks prior to writing this review, and used them paired alongside both my Android phone, Windows computer and briefly my Apple iPad.

The testing time co-incided with a trip I took so the Ace 2 got tested to the max in terms of environments: I listened to music, conducted calls and watched Netflix in cafes, on buses, in a hotel room, in busy streets, in the rain and shine and even in packed pubs (it was only a trip to Sheffield, England, so I wasn't missing anything).

I have over five years' experience testing tech gadgets for TechRadar, which includes loads of earbuds, especially at this lower- and mid-range price levels. Seriously, the Ace 2 weren't the only pair of earbuds I was using during the testing, so I can accurately compare them to rivals.

  • First reviewed in June 2024
SoundMagic E11D review: impressive hi-res USB-C wired earbuds that won’t break the bank
1:00 pm |

Author: admin | Category: Audio Computers Earbuds & Airpods Gadgets Headphones | Comments: Off

SoundMagic E11D: Review

SoundMagic makes some bold claims about the SoundMagic E11D, stating that they deliver “superior sound”, “enhanced accuracy and detail”, and are made from “high-quality aluminum components” – but how good are they really? Pretty good, actually.

Let’s start with what matters the most – audio quality. I was very pleased with the clarity offered by these buds, and when listening to Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes by Paul Simon, they skilfully weighted the various instrumental elements – from the groovy bassline to the recurring guitar riff and layered vocals. However, I did find that clarity was hampered somewhat at louder volumes. On that point, these buds can get very loud if you want them to; there’s no way that you’ll be left wanting more on the amplification front.

When tuning into Black Eye by Allie X, I was impressed by the E11D’s ability to supply controlled bass. The deepest tones weren’t astonishingly impactful, but they certainly demonstrated a bit more depth than the Skullcandy Set USB-C buds on comparing the two. Similarly, Rains Again by Solji was delivered clearly and without any tinniness at 50% volume. However, high-pitched vocals fell short of being perfectly crisp. All in all, though, audio will satisfy the vast majority of listeners – something that also rings true of the E11D’s sibling, the SoundMagic E11C, which appear on our list of the best wired headphones.

The E11D’s effectiveness in the sound department is, in part, thanks to their built-in digital-to-analogue converter (DAC), which can handle up to 24bit/96kHz audio. This alone earns the E11D kudos, especially given that even some of the best wired earbuds still require one of the best portable DACs to truly showcase their skills. That’s not to say that you’ll transcend to a new plane of consciousness by using the E11D, but for the very decent list price of $44 / £39.99 / AU$65, you’ll most certainly get your money’s worth.

On the topic of cost, it’s important to consider that the E11D arrive with a few extras to sweeten the deal. Alongside some silicone ear tips, in small, medium, and large sizes, you also get a sturdy black and gray carry case, which is a decent-looking, convenient addition to the mix. 

Another area in which the E11D score positively is comfort. I kept them in my ears for multiple full work days and while on walks, and they never once fell out of my ears or felt irritating after longer listening periods. In addition, the E11D enable you to enjoy music, podcasts or videos without being overly distracted by external noise, thanks to their noise isolation. 

Imagine this: you’re sitting in the office with colleagues around you typing away. A plethora of sounds surround you, whether it's occasional chatter or the roar of an engine as a car zooms past – but even that’s overridden by an electric guitar blaring from the next room over. Well, let’s just say I didn’t have to do much imagining last Thursday – but, thanks to the E11D, all of this wasn’t too much of a distraction. Noise isolation here is pretty good, and although some sounds will still creep through, these buds do a nice job of keeping you zoned into whatever you’re listening to – especially considering they don’t come with specialized foam ear tips. 

One more factor that can disrupt a wired listening experience is the sound of wires moving during use. SoundMagic has done a decent job of keeping cable noise relatively dulled compared to other more budget models. You can still hear these sounds if you touch the wires, for instance, but the noise is far less imposing than I’ve heard with the Skullcandy Set USB-Cs, for example.

So far you might be thinking that me and the E11D have an unbreakable bond that could last a lifetime. Unfortunately, I’m going to have to burst that bubble. You see, these earbuds may offer solid sound and considerable comfort, but they don’t hit all the right notes, especially on the design front.

First, the E11D’s controller is pretty disappointing. While equipped with the classic volume up, down, and play/pause buttons (the latter can also be used to take or hang up calls and skip songs), the buttons themselves are so small and positioned so close together, that they can prove a challenge to use. Even my colleague with fingers smaller than mine struggled with the button controls. This is pretty frustrating if you’re trying to adjust the volume while on the go, for instance. When it comes to the E11D’s built-in mic, though, I’m pleased to report that it works very well, and I could hear myself clearly – with only a little background static – when listening back to a voice recording.

Looks-wise, the E11D aren’t stone cold stunners, but they’re also far from ugly. The rounded appearance of the actual buds lacks the sharpness of models such as the Skullcandy Set USB-C, for instance, but they're still classy in their way. Available in either black or silver, I did test a seemingly older variant of the E11D in black, which had a larger connector, plus they did have some issues working with my Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4. However, when using the newer, silver version of the E11D, I experienced no such issues, and in fact I’d argue that their cable’s twisted design makes them the better choice. 

Overall, the E11D deliver plenty of bang for their buck. The combination of hi-res audio and impressive noise isolation means that you’ll almost definitely be satisfied with what they offer.

SoundMagic E11D earbuds and gray carry case on top of orange amp

(Image credit: Future)

SoundMagic E11D review: Price and release date

  • $44 / £39.99 / AU$65
  • Launched in November 2018

SoundMagic’s E11D earbuds are available for $44 / £39.99 / AU$65 and first launched in November 2018. 

These are a budget option, but there are USB-C earbuds on the market that are cheaper still, such as the aforementioned Skullcandy Set buds, which come in at just $31.99 / £29.99 (about AU$50), but also Apple’s USB-C EarPods (list price currently $19 / £19 / AU$29). More on the Skullcandy alternative later – but be warned that in our opinion, Apple’s USB-C EarPods don’t deliver particularly great sound quality. If you want access to a higher caliber of audio, shelling out a little more on the E11D could be well worth it.

SoundMagic E11D review: Specs

SoundMagic E11D controller against orange background

(Image credit: Future)

Should you buy the SoundMagic E11D?

Buy them if...

Don't buy them if...

SoundMagic E11D review: Also consider

SoundMagic E11D review: How I tested

SoundMagic E11D hanging down against orange background

(Image credit: Future)
  • Tested across two weeks
  • Used in the office, at home, and while walking
  • Predominantly tested using Tidal on FiiO M11S hi-res music player

I tested the SoundMagic E11D earbuds in a range of environments, including the office, at home, and while out and about. When listening to music, I played tracks from the TechRadar testing playlist, which contains tracks from a vast variety of genres, in order to measure sound quality.

I also listened to hours of songs via Tidal on the FiiO M11S hi-res music player, and watched YouTube videos on my windows laptop. When appropriate, I used the Skullcandy Set USB-C buds to compare the E11D on audio quality, comfort, and ease of use.

Read more about how we test.

  •  First reviewed: June 2024
Motorola Moto Buds+ review: brilliant budget wireless earbuds with Bose-tuned sound – but there’s one big catch
12:30 pm | June 21, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Audio Computers Earbuds & Airpods Gadgets Headphones | Tags: | Comments: Off

Motorola Moto Buds+: Two-minute review

The recently released Motorola Moto Buds+ claim to offer excellent audio tuning and impressive active noise cancelling. Which perhaps isn't surprising given their sound was certified by Bose, whose earbuds are celebrated for their cutting-edge audio features. The price tag of $129.99 / £129.99 / AU$249 sounds enticing; however, there are some frustrating limitations. There’s a lack of app support for some devices, and it’s not possible to use the Dolby Atmos or Dolby Head Tracking features without a compatible Motorola smartphone. This seems like an odd choice, alienating a large portion of the market, especially as many iPhone models are capable of handling Dolby Atmos, but here we are.

As a result, a lot of the features that I’m going to mention in the full review are only accessible via the Moto Buds app, which, unfortunately, is only available on Google Play. It is not available on all Android devices either, as the app was incompatible with our FiiO M11S music player, which also uses Google Play. This means that some users won’t be able to make use of all of the features. The earbuds can pair with an iPhone, so you can still enjoy the impressive sound quality and most of the noise control modes via the touch controls, but that’s about it, sadly. 

The Motorola Moto Buds+ are equipped with a range of features that you’d find on offer from some of the best wireless earbuds, including wireless charging and multipoint connectivity. The noise control capabilities are mixed, but one mode in particular stood out. The modes available are Transparency, Noise Cancellation, and Adaptive. Adaptive mode can only be activated through the app, but you can cycle through the other two modes or turn noise control off by holding your finger on the earbud's touch control area for three seconds.

The Motorola Moto Buds Plus case is sitting open in a women's palm. One of the earbuds is inside the case, and the other sits in front on her hand.

(Image credit: Future)

In terms of the Noise Cancellation mode, these earbuds could give some of the best noise-cancelling earbuds a run for their money. I tested this feature out on a flight to the Canary Islands without the app, and this particular mode was very impressive. When I took the earbuds out after listening to music for a while, I couldn’t believe how noisy the airplane cabin was; the Moto Buds+ cut that ambient noise out completely.

Another useful feature that is on by default is wear detection. Nine times out of ten, this feature worked well, pausing within a second of an earbud being removed and resuming playing almost instantly after putting the earbud back in. 

The design of these earbuds is pretty unobtrusive. I can’t speak for the Forest Gray color, but the Beach Sand color option is giving me pebble vibes. Despite photos on the Motorola website making the earbuds look slightly metallic, in reality, they have a rough matte finish. I wasn’t a fan of this texture at first, but it grew on me slowly. The touch controls worked well most of the time, but there were a few occasions where they misregistered gestures or there was no response at all.

Finally, but most importantly, I can confirm that you certainly get the sound quality you expect from these Bose-certified earbuds. With dynamic basslines, and delicate details from both vocals and instruments, they make for a wonderful listening experience.

Both Motorola Moto Buds Plus earbuds, one with the silicone tip facing the camera, the other facing backward. They are photographed on a dark surface with a pink background.

(Image credit: Future)

Motorola Moto Buds+ review: Price & release date

  • $129.99 / £129.99 / AU$249
  • Available since April 2024

Released in April 2024, the Motorola Moto Buds+ earbuds are available to purchase directly from the Motorola website in the UK and the US, and the Australian website will redirect you to Lenovo (who happen to own the brand).

Given they’re packed with features such as Sound by Bose, Dolby Head Tracking, Active Noise Cancellation, and wireless charging for just $129.99 / £129.99 / AU$249, you could be forgiven for thinking these earbuds sound too good to be true.

Admittedly, they do have their pitfalls, such as the lack of app support for some devices, and the inability to use the Dolby Atmos or Dolby Head Tracking features without a compatible Motorola smartphone. This is disappointing, especially as many iPhone models are capable of handling Dolby Atmos. Nevertheless, if you have a compatible device, the Moto Buds+ are great value for the price, and, to be honest, even without the bells and whistles that the app has to offer, they’re pretty darn good as they are.

The wireless Motorola Moto Buds Plus case is closed, showing the silver Motorola logo on the top. The case is a sandy colour and has a rough texture. It is pictured on a dark surface and against a pink background.

(Image credit: Future)

Motorola Moto Buds+ review: Specs

Motorola Moto Buds+ review: Features

  • Customizable EQ and touch control settings
  • Active Noise Cancellation up to 46 dB
  • 3 microphones per earbud with Environmental Noise Cancellation

The Moto Buds app is attractive and intuitive. However, I was disappointed to discover that it is only available to download on Google Play. It isn’t available on Apple’s App Store or some Android devices, such as older smartphones and the FiiO M11S music player, for example, despite them having Google Play. The Motorola Moto Buds+ can connect to these devices via Bluetooth, but you won’t be able to access all of the features as most are only available on the app. 

The app has a lot of common features that you’d expect from earbuds in this price range. The in-ear detection feature is on by default, and it works well. It paused within a second of taking an earbud out and started playing nearly instantly when I put the earbud back in. The app shows you the battery level of each earbud and the case, which is always useful. There is also a Find My Earbuds feature, which plays a sound out of the left or right earbud to help you locate it if you’ve misplaced it. 

You are given the option to change the gestures of each earbud. As default, double tap is play/pause, triple tap on the right bud and you’ll skip to the next track, while tapping the left takes you back a track, and tapping and holding for three seconds switches between noise control modes. You can rearrange these gestures to suit, or change a gesture to control volume or activate your device's voice assistant instead. You can also select None if you do not want a particular gesture to toggle an action.

A close up side profile of a woman with orange and pink hair, she has one of the Motorola Moto Plus earbuds in her ear, and her finger is hovering ready to press the touch control area.

(Image credit: Future)

There are also four equalizer presets available to fine-tune your listening experience – Brilliant Treble, Bass Boost, Vocal Boost, and Flat, which is the default. If you wish to set the levels yourself, you can customize the equalization settings manually, too.

An interesting feature on the app that I hadn’t encountered before was the Fit Test, designed to ensure excellent audio quality and noise control by ensuring you’re wearing your earbuds correctly. When I had the earbuds in, they played a tune to determine if either bud needed adjusting. In my case the right side was fine, but it recommended adjusting the left or changing to another ear tip size.

The active noise cancellation in these earbuds is pretty good. You can set the level of noise cancellation on the app or by holding your finger on the touch area for three seconds. The only noise cancellation mode you can’t activate without the app is the Adaptive mode, but you can cycle between Transparency, Noise Cancellation, and Off modes via the touch controls. 

Adaptive mode was adequate, but I found myself choosing the Noise Cancellation mode every time as this offered the best noise cancelling by far. Unfortunately, I’m not a fan of the Moto Buds+ Transparency mode. While I could hear the sounds from the environment around me, every time I tried it out it sounded over-amplified, and there was audible hissing in the background, which was off-putting.

A close up view of one of the Motorola Moto Buds Plus earbuds. You can easily see the silicone tip and the microphone at the top of the ear piece. It is siting on a dark work surface.

(Image credit: Future)

I tested Noise Cancellation out on a four-hour plane journey and it cut out cabin noise efficiently. So much so that it was a shock every time I turned it off or took an earbud out, as the ambient noise was so loud. I also tested it out while taking a train, walking along busy roads and through a bustling city center, and it worked a treat. 

The Moto Buds+ have a triple microphone system and Environmental Noise Cancellation to aid the various noise control features. The talk microphone proved reliable during testing, and my voice sounded crisp and clear when played back.

The Moto Buds+ are advertised as providing up to eight hours of continuous playtime. Upon testing with ANC switched off, the left bud lasted for six hours exactly, while the right bud soldiered on until a few minutes past seven hours. Motorola hasn’t given a figure for the battery life with ANC switched on, but I found that the earbuds' battery dropped by 20% in just under an hour while playing music at 50% volume.

On the subject of batteries, an additional feature I appreciate is that, along with the standard option of charging via USB-C, the Moto Buds+ case can be charged wirelessly. This is a feature that even the Bose Quiet Comfort Ultra Earbuds don’t have unless you want to spend an additional $50 on a case, despite those earbuds costing just shy of $300 in the first place. I’m pleased to report that the Moto Buds+ case charged quickly on my Anker 3-in-1 Cube charger.

  • Features score: 3/5

Motorola Moto Buds+ review: Sound quality

  • Great all-round performance
  • Generous volume levels
  • Delivers detailed sound

The Motorola Moto Buds+ are fantastic all-rounders, even when left on the default Flat EQ profile. They delivered an enjoyable listening experience for every track on our testing playlist, plus all the other music and podcasts I listen to regularly. The sound quality is both impressive and immersive, making these a new favorite for me.

The Moto Buds+ had impressive treble clarity when playing the song Young Blood by The Naked and Famous. As this song breaks down around the three-minute mark, it’s also clear that these earbuds had good control over lower-frequency sound too.

The track Clair de Lune by Kamasi Washington gave the Moto Buds+ another opportunity to showcase their ability to handle different levels. The bassline was clear but not overpowering. As a multitude of instruments build and layer over each other, these earbuds delivered a dynamic sound with loads of detail. Another song that confirms the Moto Buds+ abilities is I Want You by Moloko. The hit of percussion feels sudden and exciting. Once again, the earbuds deftly handle the many layers of instruments, synths, and vocals with precision, providing yet more intricate detail.

The Motorola Moto Buds Plus case sits open on a dark surface with a pink background. Both earbuds are in place inside the case, and the Bluetooth connectivity button is visible towards the front.

(Image credit: Future)

The vocal clarity in Rains Again by Solji was fantastic. I could hear wonderful detail in the vocals, and the high notes were handled well. Despite being in a similar range, the vocals, strings, and guitar complemented each other well. One slight disappointment with this track, however, is that the sound of rain at the beginning and end of the song sounded more like static, which is surprising considering the Moto Buds+’s ability to pick up so many other details.

Black Eye by Allie X gives further proof of how dynamic these earbuds are. The song starts with an explosion of electric energy, sinking into the deep bass of the drum machine effortlessly. Despite the Moto Buds+ focus on low frequencies, they were still able to pick out the delicate electronica in the background.

The volume level on offer is generous – when testing the battery life by playing our tracklist continuously at 50% volume I could easily hear the music when the buds were on my desk. Even when working in the office with noise cancellation switched off, I found I could listen to a podcast at 25% volume and not miss anything.

  • Sound quality score: 4.5/5

Motorola Moto Buds+ review: Design

  • Comfortable and secure fit
  • Touch controls not always very responsive
  • No IP rating

The Moto Buds+ are available in two different colors in the UK and Australia, Forest Gray and Beach Sand, while currently only Forest Gray is available in the US. I was provided with the Beach Sand color option. The case has a rough matte textured finish, with a shiny silver-colored hinge at the back above the USB-C charging port. There’s an indentation at the front of the base allowing you to get some purchase when opening the lid, and both the case and hinge feel sturdy and reliable.

There’s a circular button toward the front of the inside of the case that puts the earbuds into pairing mode; the small indicator light on the front of the case will flash blue when it’s activated. The case’s interior has a softer matte finish, as do the inner-ear sections of the earbuds. Conversely, the exterior sections and the posts have the same rough matte texture as the outside of the case. Admittedly, I wasn’t fond of this texture at first, but it has grown on me.

A close up of the front of the Motorola Moto Buds Plus case. It is closed and sitting on a dark surface and is against a pink background.

(Image credit: Future)

The earbuds themselves, including the silicone tips – which come in small, medium, and large – are the same color as the case, apart from the black feedforward microphone at the top of each post. There are three mics in each bud: the feedforward microphones I just mentioned; the feedback microphones, which sit in with the speaker and are used for the noise control modes; and the talk microphones that are located within the silver base of each earbud post. The touch controls, which sit towards the top of the outside of each earbud post, below the feedforward microphone, were somewhat responsive. But there were multiple occasions when they did not register my gestures correctly, if at all. 

The earbuds were lightweight and comfortable to wear straight out of the case. I usually need to change to a smaller tip size, but the medium size that was already on them fit perfectly well. As I have long hair that has a tendency to misbehave, I often find myself accidentally pulling earbuds out when trying to get it out of the way, but the Moto Buds+ stayed firmly in place.

A close up side profile of a woman with orange and pink hair, she has one of the Motorola Moto Plus earbuds in her ear.

(Image credit: Future)

As for durability, I had some initial concerns regarding the rough texture on the outside of the case, as it looked like it could be prone to showing scratches or dirt. However, it fared quite well after a few weeks of use, despite being transferred between bags and pockets and left out on desks, the case had only suffered a few minor scuffs that were barely visible unless caught in the right light. 

Motorola states that the Moto Buds+ have a water-repellent design, protecting against moderate water exposure such as accidental spills or light rain. There is no evidence of an IP rating though, which is disappointing – and unusual, as even budget earbuds such as the Speck Gemtones Play have an IPX5 rating.

  • Design score: 3.5/5

Motorola Moto Buds+ review: Value

  • Great quality sound and noise cancellation
  • App and some features only compatible with certain devices
  • No official water resistance rating

Unfortunately, the elephant in the room with these earbuds is the lack of app support for iOS users. Not all Android devices are a sure bet either, as the app wasn't available to install on our FiiO M11S music player or older devices such as the Samsung Galaxy S9. There is a workaround if your main device isn’t compatible with the Moto Buds app, but it would involve you having access to a compatible Android device to update your settings, which obviously wouldn’t work if you like to change EQ settings often.

However, if you have a compatible device then, all in all, these feel like a bit of a bargain considering the fantastic Bose-certified sound quality and noise cancelling on offer. Especially given they cost around $70 less than the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2, which don’t have wireless charging or the ability to connect to a second device, as the Moto Buds+ do. 

That being said, do you want to spend $129.99 / £129.99 / AU$249 on a pair of earbuds that don’t have an official water resistance rating? Motorola’s use of the vague marketing term “water-repellent design” does raise some questions, especially considering many of the best budget earbuds on the market have IP ratings. If you’re a particularly careful person then this may not pose a problem. However, if you’re a little on the clumsy side, like myself, or you plan to wear them rain or shine on your commute, this lack of official rating is worth considering before purchasing.

The Motorola Moto Buds Plus case is sitting open, with the left earbud inside, and the right earbud sitting outside of the case on a dark surface. The charging case is pictures against a dark background.

(Image credit: Future)
  • Value score: 4/5

Should I buy the Motorola Moto Buds+?

Buy them if...

Don't buy them if...

Motorola Moto Buds+ review: Also consider

How I tested the Motorola Moto Buds+

  • Tested the earbuds for a month
  • Used them when commuting, at work, and at home
  • Listened to music and podcasts on Tidal, Apple Music and Spotify

I wore the Moto Buds+ on weekdays, listening to music or podcasts on my walk to the train station, on the train, and when walking through a busy city center. I wore them in the office, for work calls and to listen to music while I tapped away on my keyboard. I also wore them on the weekends and during my time off, including on a four-hour plane journey.

I followed our usual testing protocols and tested the battery life of the earbuds with ANC switched off. Normally I would repeat the full test with ANC switched off, but these earbuds automatically turn off the ANC when they aren’t being worn, even with wear detection switched off. I can confirm, however, that the battery level decreased by 20% after just under an hour.

I used the Moto Buds+ with the following devices: Google Pixel 7a, Samsung Galaxy S22+, OnePlus Pad Go, iPhone 12 Pro, and a MacBook Air. I listened to a bunch of different music genres, from country to rock to indie pop to classical instrumentals, as well as the TechRadar testing playlist, of course.

Read more about how we test

  • First reviewed: June 2024
Sennheiser HD 620S review: entry-level wired headphones with a great sound
12:30 pm | June 18, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Audio Computers Gadgets Headphones | Comments: Off

Sennheiser HD 620S review: One-minute review

The Sennheiser HD 620S are something of a departure for the existing HD range, which largely consists of open-backed headphones – the preserve of audiophiles who don’t want anything, even the headphones themselves, getting in the way of expansive soundstages and high-fidelity audio.

The Sennheiser HD 620S hope to achieve the large, dramatic soundstage of open-backed headphones with a closed-back construction that keeps some of the environment around you shut out – the sonic quality of one design, with the sound isolation of the other. According to Sennheiser, its aim is to produce “the most open-sounding closed-back headphones currently in the market”. Most people don’t have the luxury of listening to music in a soundproof room, after all, and some noise isolation can be helpful – but is this halfway house strategy successful?

The HD 620S do sound brilliant, with detail, dynamism and a wide-ranging frequency response. Like many of the best wired headphones out there, they lack some of the modern comforts of everyday consumer headphones, like touch controls or Bluetooth, but they excel in the one area that really matters: the sound.

The closed-back design does inevitably impact the soundstage, preventing the truly ‘open’ feel of backless headphones, but not hugely and those jumping over from most consumer headphones will only feel a benefit on this front. And at 150 Ohms impedance, these headphones are suitable for those getting into hi-fi for the first time, rather than seasoned audio professionals.

Just be warned that the closed back is also limited in what it can achieve. You might block out the tapping of your keyboard as you type or muffle conversation in the living room, but loud sounds still push through – you won’t fare too well with commutes, offices or particularly rowdy housemates. ANC headphones these are not, but for a particular brand of home listener who only needs a partial noise reduction, the Sennheiser HD 620S could be ideal.

Sennheiser HD 620S review: Price and release date

Sennheiser HD 620S on a wooden floor

(Image credit: Future / Henry St Leger)
  • Released on June, 6, 2024
  • Price: $349.95 / £299.99 / AU$599

The Sennheiser HD 620S headphones went on sale on 6th June this year and retail for $349.95 / £299.99 / AU$599. 

That’s a good sight cheaper than the open-backed Sennheiser HD 660S2 model (£499.99 / AU$799) or Sennheiser HD 800S (£1,499 / $1,799 / AU$3,099).

Sennheiser HD 620S review: Specs

Sennheiser HD 620S review: Features

Sennheiser HD 620S headphones showing inner ear on a wooden floor

(Image credit: Future / Henry St Leger)
  • Consistent wired connection 
  • Effective data transfer
  • No Bluetooth, Sennheiser Control app connectivity or touch controls

Features are few and far between with the Sennheiser HD 620S, which lack a lot of common modern conveniences found elsewhere. You’ll find no built-in buttons or touch controls, neither is there Bluetooth connectivity. They rely on the consistent connection and effective data transfer of a wired connection.

As a wired model, the HD 620S don’t work in tandem with the Sennheiser Control mobile app either – as it focuses on wireless headphones – though we’re told you can run third-party EQ software to adjust the sound if you want.

Features score: 3 / 5 

Sennheiser HD 620S review: Design

Sennheiser HD 620S wired headphones inside a soft cloth bag

(Image credit: Future / Henry St Leger)
  • Sleek look, closed-back design
  • Stiff metal headband designed for home listening
  • Soft cloth bag

The Sennheiser HD 620S headphones are certainly sleek to look at. As with the HD 600 or HD660S2, the earcups are far more expansive than most consumer headphones, aiding the size of the soundstage.

At 9cm wide and 12cm tall, they cover quite a large portion of the side of your head, though with a rigid construction and choice cushioning to keep the headphones firmly in place with a modicum of comfort. The backing to the earcups also prevents the HD 620S from feeling flimsy, or exposed, as some open-backed models can.

The headband is reinforced with metal, despite a largely plastic black exterior, and is a little stiff to adjust. Once you’ve picked the right configuration, though, you’ll be unlikely to want it moving around accidentally, so this feels intentional.

There are no in-line buttons or touch-sensitive interfaces with these headphones, meaning every part of the construction is geared towards the audio recreation and your own comfort, without other parts getting in the way. Those who are used to sliding their hands across an earcup to skip tracks may have to get used to their absence, but it’s likely worth it.

At the end of the 1.8m cable is a standard 3.5mm connector, with a large 6.3mm adaptor over the top of it – useful if you’re plugging these headphones into professional audio equipment that uses the latter jack, though there’s no qualitative difference with either connector.

There’s a simple, soft cloth bag to stop the headphones accumulating dust, though nothing more substantial to protect it from hard knocks in a rucksack. These are, despite the closed-back design, still headphones designed for home listening, and you likely won’t get much use out of them on your daily commute.

Design score: 4 / 5

Sennheiser HD 620S review: Sound quality

Sennheiser HD 620S 3.5mm headphone jack

(Image credit: Future / Henry St Leger)
  • Expansive soundstage with excellent separation
  • Incredible detail scales with volume
  • Padded earcups block out quiet noises

The Sennheiser HD 620S reference headphones are designed for high-fidelity sound reproduction, despite their closed-back limitations. And the HD 620S are very successful on that front, with incredible detail across pop, rock, and classical music. 

It feels strongest with the last of the three, with an expansive soundstage that really allows instruments to swell in and out of hearing, and excellent separation between them even as an entire orchestra surges together. But modern pop also excels, with the space for vocals to expand in a controlled way – the multitude of vocals overlapping at the end of Billie Eilish’s Happier Than Ever build wonderfully without muddying the sound.

These are stereo headphones, mind, so there’s no formal support for spatial audio formats such as Dolby Atmos, but the size of the 42mm transducers, the roomy earcups themselves and the angled baffle (which Sennheiser says “recreates the triangular imaging of a great loudspeaker setup”) allow for a spatial quality for anything you listen to. 

Watching 2022 film All Quiet on the Western Front, I was struck by the accumulation of clanking metal canteens, boots into muddy water and bullets flying at all angles, as soldiers marched across churned-up land. Even plugging the HD 620S into my Nintendo Switch was a thrilling experience, with a clear separation between vivid, thumping soundtracks and in-game effects in the foreground.

Compared with muddier consumer headphones – often focused more on a punchy bass response or soft, low-fatigue listening – the HD 620S manage to make every note pull its weight. The audio detail scales incredibly with the volume, too, gradually drawing out more of the track as you ramp up the output. Sennheiser cites the “speedy transients” (the initial impact of a new sound) made possible by its 150 Ohm aluminum voice coil, and it’s thrilling to hear the full oscillation of a note as it swings into the audible range. (There’s a notable step up in impact from the still-quite-good $230 Sennheiser Accentum Plus, for example.)

The bass can feel a little restrained, especially at lower volumes, though it rises in a controlled fashion as the sound gets louder and eventually packs a good punch. Sennheiser’s own measurements show a more prominent low frequency response than the older, open-back HD600, too.

These headphones lack full-on ANC, meaning you’re reliant on the passive sound isolation of these padded earcups, which is enough to block out quiet sounds and muffle conversation, but still allows a shout to come through quite clearly. That’s very convenient for a certain kind of listener, one who wants to remove low-level distractions but is happy for louder sounds to cut through, who wants ‘open’ audio but is happy to fence in the soundstage a little to hear more clearly.

Sound quality score: 5 / 5

Sennheiser HD 620S review: Value

Sennheiser HD 620S headphones showing metal headband

(Image credit: Future / Henry St Leger)
  • Reasonable price point
  • Lack of features reflected in price
  • Suited to home use

The Sennheiser HD 620S come in at an interesting price point. They’re not high-end audiophile headphones, but are still billed as ‘reference’ headphones with a driver design that apes open-back relatives such as the HD 660S2.

As entry-level reference headphones, their $349.95 / £299.99 / AU$599.00 price tag seems eminently reasonable. You are trading the smart features, touch controls and ANC of similarly priced headphones (Sony WH-100MX5, etc) for an audio experience more suited to hi-fi sessions at home, but $350 feels right for what you get.

Value score: 5 / 5

Should I buy the Sennheiser HD 620S?

Buy them if…

Don’t buy them if…

Sennheiser HD 620S review: Also consider

How I tested Sennheiser HD 620S

  • Tested for two weeks
  • Listened in home office and in public workspaces
  • Listened to Spotify on MacBook Air

The Sennheiser HD 620S headphones were bound to my desk for a good couple of weeks during on-and-off testing, accompanying me for work, study and listening sessions in my home office. The backdrop was the everyday environmental noise of an open-plan home – can you cook a little quieter, please, Dave? – and occasional building work on the street outside.

I also tested the headphones in public cafes and workspaces, against the din of dogs, families, chattering friends and passersby.

To check the audio quality across different frequencies, I listened to a mix of musical styles, from modern pop to classical music, alongside a selection of podcasts and video games, testing on both my MacBook Air and Nintendo Switch.

I’ve been testing audio products for six years, and was previously the Home Cinema Editor for TechRadar, where I reported on TV/AV hardware around the world.

  • First reviewed in June 2024
Sennheiser IE 200 review: affordable wired earbuds but with audiophile-grade sound
1:00 pm | June 15, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Audio Computers Earbuds & Airpods Gadgets Headphones | Comments: Off

Sennheiser IE 200 review

The Sennheiser IE 200 are USB-C wired earphones that aim to deliver high-fidelity sound at a relatively low price. And my expectations were high. The company is one of the biggest names in the sound world and has an excellent reputation for crafting top-class wired headphones. So, you can imagine my delight upon discovering that these earphones live up to the hype, serving up bold, meaty audio, a sleek design, and plenty of comfort.

Let’s delve into what matters most: sound quality. The Sennheiser IE 200 stoke up excitement with weighty, immersive audio that instantly captures your attention. Sound is excellently balanced, and when tuning in to St. Thomas by Sonny Rollins, the characteristics of the smooth double bass, playful percussion, and flowing saxophone were all faithfully captured to create a fantastically well-rounded listening experience. Furthermore, tracks never sound muddied or convoluted when using the IE 200, even with the volume cranked up all the way. The high caliber of separation will be of great use to musicians involved in the mixing process or listeners looking for a step up from an average pair of wired buds.

When listening to I Want You by Moloko, low frequencies came through with strong levels of control and clarity – exactly what I’d expect from a set of the best wired headphones. Bass doesn’t get super deep, but it still hits with a strong level of intensity on tracks centered around low-frequency sounds. If you really want booming bass, it may be best to go for something on our best wireless earbuds guide that’s compatible with an EQ adjustment app.

I Want You was a particularly useful track for measuring the IE 200’s audio quality overall. As the track develops, instrument after instrument is woven into the piece, though the energetic percussion, layered synths and strings all keep their individuality in the mix. The intro – focused around powerful, yet controlled vocals – sounded natural and instantly gripped me. In general, vocals feel prominent when using these IEMs, especially those in the mid-range. However, they never disrupt the balance – it's more that if they’re meant to steal the show, they’re given license to do so. Higher-frequency vocals, such as those in Rains again by Solji were also delivered with crisp precision expertly capturing the expressive nature of the song. All in all, you’re getting fantastic quality across all frequencies in a balanced package, and the IE 200 left me with no sense of disappointment sonically. 

These IEMs are also dual-tunable, meaning you can place the ear tips all the way onto the earphone or have them on ‘outer’ position – each setting serves up a significantly different sound signature. When setting the tips to the ‘outer’ position, the treble gets a bit more limelight, especially at the highest of frequencies, whereas the bass, especially at the lowest level, is dialed down compared to the standard position. Of course, the better option will depend on your personal preference and the sort of audio you’re consuming, but I almost always stuck with the standard setup in order to get more low-end power.

All right, so far so good on sound, but how do they fare comfort-wise? The Sennheiser IE 200 have what I’d describe as a very minimalistic feel, perhaps thanks to the fact that they tip the scales at just 0.14oz / 4g (per bud). The IE 200 create a tight seal in the ear canal and are attached to bendy, adjustable wires that curl behind the ears – I found that it was quick and easy to find a great fit, and at no point did I feel irritated by the earphones throughout multiple full days of listening. Comfort levels are also enhanced by noise isolation, which helps to dull harsh sounds, particularly higher-pitched ones. Passive noise isolation is solid if you use the foam ear tips, but not so good with the silicone ones – so make sure to choose wisely if you’re on the go or generally keen to block out external sounds.

The IE 200 don’t just feel good, they look good too. Well, actually, Sennheiser has gone one step further, claiming that “wires have never been this sexy” – and I’m here to say that I’m in full agreement. Even the silver wire’s braided, chain-like design looks classy and feels quite satisfying to handle (is that weird to say?). The adjustable ear hooks further enhance the earphones’ discreet, stylish appearance, ensuring that the IE 200 hit the right notes in the looks department. The earphones themselves are curved and clean, but their plastic housing doesn’t quite have the luxury feel or durability of the metallic Sennheiser IE 600, for instance. 

One gripe I have with the IE 200 model’s design is the lack of an onboard controller. Not being able to adjust volume, skip tracks, or pause music unless I reached for the device playing audio was a tad inconvenient, especially when on the go. This sort of issue would be borderline unforgivable for earbuds designed for workouts or runs, for instance, but here it’s less of a deal-breaker. The IE 200 aren’t exactly pitched as wired headphones to wear while you sweat it out at the gym, but bear this in mind if you’re looking for a wired option for when you’re out and about or getting active. 

Back to the positives though – the IE 200’s wire is detachable, so you can attach the earphones themselves to a replacement MMCX cable. Another great thing about the included wire is that it doesn’t cause too much cable noise when you move around – you can hear a little bit of this, but it's pretty constrained and never felt overly distracting. Perhaps the best aspect of the wire though is that it seamlessly untangled any time I took it out of the included carry pouch, earning it extra points in the convenience department. Alongside the carry pouch, additional foam and gel ear tips in small, medium, and large sizes are included in the IE 200’s box. 

So, despite setting a very high bar for itself, Sennheiser has easily cleared it with the IE 200 model. They offer awesome all-round sound and manage to look pretty cool while doing it. And considering they won’t leave your pockets feeling all too empty, I simply have to recommend these. 

Sennheiser IE 200 next to carry pouch

(Image credit: Future)

Sennheiser IE 200 review: Price and release date

  • $149.95 / £129.99 / AU$239.95
  • Launched on January 31, 2023

Sennheiser’s IE 200 don’t cost that much considering the quality, and many competitors charge a fair bit more for products of a similar ilk. For instance, the Shure AONIC 3 earphones, which are very similar in quality, come in at $199 / £209 (about AU$300) – more on these later.

The IE 200 certainly sit on the lower end of Sennheiser’s IE range given that the Sennheiser IE 900 command a far loftier list price of $‌1,499.95 / £1,299 / AU$2,399.95. Though you may not get the supreme quality on offer there, the IE 200 still deliver stellar sound and make for an excellent pick for audiophiles on a budget.

Sennheiser IE 200 review: Specs

Sennheiser IE 200 between person's fingers

(Image credit: Future)

Should you buy the Sennheiser IE 200?

Buy them if...

Don't buy them if...

Sennheiser IE 200 review: Also consider

Sennheiser IE 200 review: How I tested

Sennheiser IE 200 on counter

(Image credit: Future)
  • Tested for one week
  • Used in the office and while on walks
  • Predominantly tested using Tidal on Fiio M11S

I used the Sennheiser IE 200 over the course of a week. I predominantly tested them while working in our office, but also on walks near busy roads in order to trial their noise-isolation capabilities. 

To test musical output, I used the Tidal app on the FiiO M11S hi-res music player. When listening to tunes I played tracks from the TechRadar testing playlist, which contains tracks from a variety of genres. I also tried the IE 200 on my Windows laptop and Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 while watching YouTube videos or tuning into the latest news on the BBC website. 

Read more about how we test.

  • First reviewed: June 2024 
Shure AONIC 3 review: superb-sounding wired earbuds that nix excess noise
4:00 pm | June 13, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Audio Computers Earbuds & Airpods Gadgets Headphones | Comments: Off

Shure AONIC 3: Review

The Shure AONIC 3 earbuds claim they supply “striking full-range sound” – and spoiler alert, Shure isn't lying. When listening to various tracks, every individual sonic element feels like a uniquely scented flower, coming together to create an immersive garden of sound.

Tuning into St. Thomas by Sonny Rollins, I found that the percussion features dotted throughout the track sounded detailed and the record’s drum solo came through with sharpness. I was delighted by the wonderful separation on offer, too, with the rhythmic guitar loop in Young Blood by The Naked and Famous maintaining its distinct position in the track without becoming lumped in with the bass – and even at very loud volume levels, I could still appreciate each individual component of the song.

Not only do the AONIC 3 do well at delivering sound in a distinct manner, but audio is presented with wonderful clarity across all frequencies that sees them stack up well against even some of the best wired headphones. Rich mid-range tones are the real star of the show, with powerful vocals, blaring electric guitars, and percussion feeling particularly impactful. Highs aren’t totally flawless, but they certainly have an air of delicacy and sweetness that will please the majority of listeners.

I’d argue that, sonically, the only downside is with the transmission of deep bass and ultra-low frequency audio. When listening to I Want You by Moloko, the pumping bass sounded defined, but didn’t have the weight that I hoped to feel. It’s important to caveat this by saying that the deep bass still sounded very clear and wasn’t muddied with other elements of the song, which is a pretty layered piece – it just didn’t hit as hard as I’d like. Ultimately, there’s still great balance here, but those looking for an earth-shaking deep bass might be better served by a set of the best wireless earbuds with EQ controls instead.

An excellent wired listening experience wouldn’t be complete without a strong level of passive noise isolation. Thankfully, the AONIC 3 deliver on this front and then some. While in the office, I heard little to nothing other than the music playing from these buds (at 50% volume), and was massively impressed by their ability to keep unwanted distractions at bay. At one stage, someone was hammering away building a shelving unit, but the AONIC 3 severely dampened the coarse noise of clanging metal. 

If you’re listening to music at a slightly quieter volume, you may still hear some external sounds filter through. In light of this, if you want near-silence then you may be better off with Bluetooth buds capable of great active noise cancelling. As you can see from our Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2 review, Bose's buds might be a better option as they perform very well in this department, and still sit among the best wireless earbuds.

Should you go on a longer walk, you may well be using the AONIC 3 for hours on end and, for that, you want comfort. These buds have a bendy cable that wraps around your ears rather than just hanging straight down. Since it’s adjustable, you can tailor the fit perfectly to your ear shape – although it’s worth mentioning that it took me a while to find the right fit. Sometimes if I took the buds out, I felt the wire took a few seconds to readjust, but it wasn’t too much of a bother.

On finding the right fit, the AONIC 3 were pleasant to keep in for multiple hours, and I only had to adjust them a couple of times through the multiple full days of use. The wrap-around design also helps to keep cable noise to a minimum, which is particularly important if you want to maintain a clean listening experience while on a run or doing other physical activities.

To boost enjoyment, you can also select between a range of different ear tips to find a feel that suits you best. There are small, medium and large foam and gel tips included, but there are also yellow foam and white triple-layered gel alternatives in the box. After rotating through the entire roster of ear tips, I felt that the default medium-sized Comply tips provided the best comfort and sound quality overall. If you hold the Comply tips in place for 15-30 seconds, they expand to fit your ear canal, providing an optimal seal. The AONIC 3 buds also come with a neat-looking circular carry case, in which you can store your comprehensive collection of ear tips.

That’s not all on the customizability front, though. The AONIC 3 can be inserted into an included adapter for use in 0.25 inch (6.3mm) jacks. Additionally, the buds themselves are detachable, and you can add them to an over-ear wireless adapter (sold separately) and listen to audio via a Bluetooth connection – although detaching them is a little tougher than I’d have liked.

The AONIC 3 are most certainly designed to deliver super sound, but do they look cool while doing it? Sort of. They’re not exactly stunning, mainly due to the model’s chunky Y-cable and controller. The angled earbuds are quite sleek, though, and the way they slip behind the ear makes for a discreet, clean look. You can choose to purchase the AONIC 3 in either Black or White, and both colorways lend themselves to the minimalistic vibe.

Although the controller may appear to be slightly oversized, it works great and has appropriately sized buttons. The play/pause button enables users to skip songs and take or hang up calls on the go. There’s also a switch on the controller that can be set to “A” or “i” mode, depending on whether you’re using an Android- or iOS-powered device. The built-in microphone works well, and I heard only a bit of static when recording and listening back to a voice note.

The Shure AONIC 3 bring fantastic sound, solid comfort, and very good noise isolation – a set of qualities that these buds share with some of the best wired headphones. However, this comes at a price – and not a particularly low one. Coming in at $199 / £209 (about AU$300), the AONIC 3 are a little steep; but if you can stomach the cost, I would certainly recommend them.

Shure AONIC 3 next to carry case

(Image credit: Future)

Shure AONIC 3 review: Price and release date

  • $199 / £209 (about AU$300)
  • Launched on October 1, 2020

 

The Shure AONIC 3 earbuds released on October 1, 2020, and are directly available via Shure’s digital store in the UK and the US, but not Australia.

Their list price at the time of writing is $199 / £209 (about AU$300), which certainly isn’t cheap, but nowhere near the dizzy heights you’ll see from premium models such as the Sennheiser IE 900s, or even Shure’s very own AONIC 5.

Shure AONIC 3 review: Specs

Shure AONIC 3's controller against turquoise background

(Image credit: Future)

Should you buy the Shure AONIC 3?

Buy them if...

Don't buy them if...

Shure AONIC 3 review: Also consider

Shure AONIC 3 review: How I tested

Shure AONIC 3 on top of amp

(Image credit: Future)
  • Tested over the course of a week
  • Used in the office and while on walks
  • Predominantly tested using Tidal via the FiiO M11S

I used the Shure AONIC 3 buds over the course of a week, predominantly putting them to the test in an office environment and while out on walks near busy roads to trial their noise isolation capabilities. 

To test musical output, I used the Tidal app on the FiiO M11S hi-res music player. When listening to tunes I played tracks from the TechRadar testing playlist, which contains tracks from a variety of genres. I also tried the AONIC 3 on my Windows laptop while watching videos on YouTube or tuning into the latest news on the BBC website. 

Read more about how we test.

  • First reviewed: May 2024
Nothing Ear review: the third-generation wireless earbuds bring major upgrades
2:00 pm | June 12, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Audio Computers Earbuds & Airpods Gadgets Headphones | Comments: Off

Nothing Ear: Two-minute review

The Nothing Ear are actually the third-gen version of the company’s flagship earbuds line. If you're not up-to-date on your Nothing history, this should be enough to make you aware aware that Nothing cares, well, nothing about naming conventions.

In many ways, the shiny new Nothing Ear are really great earbuds for the price and among my favorite of all the in-ears I’ve tested for TechRadar. Having said that, I’d much rather be using whatever Nothing comes up with next than these new-for-2024 models. Might that be the Nothing Ear (4)? Who can say. For now, the Nothing Ear have a few glaring issues that – potentially ironed out in a future version – could be some of the best noise-cancelling earbuds out there.

My biggest issue with the Nothing Ear, something which plagued testing, was their surprisingly low maximum volume. When outdoors, the buds don’t reach even the quietest volume I like to listen to – even with decent noise cancellation, it was hard to enjoy music in noisy areas. 

Next up is the battery life. Earbuds makers really need to understand that five hours of listening just doesn’t cut it in this day and age, when people spend more time with headphones on than off. I had to keep pausing my testing in order to let the buds charge – that isn’t a good sign, even if the case does hold quite a bit more juice.

Talking of the case, it’s made of a really cheap-feeling plastic is a contender for the least-nice-to-hold earbuds holder I’ve ever used. It creaks and flexes in the hand, and I feel like one drop from even the lowest-slung coffee table would crack it. That’s not even to make mention of the fairly uninspired and blocky look of the thing.

That's my main Nothing Ear gripes off my chest, early doors, so I can spend the rest of this review heaping on the praise they rightly deserve. The Nothing Ear offer spectacular audio for the money. The equalizer gives you total control over the buds’ sound, more so than in most rival products, and that’s doubly the case if you like a thumping, accurate, crisp bass. 

If you felt the ground shaking in early June 2024, that wasn’t an earthquake – it was me testing these buds' bass. It’s incredible, and you can almost feel your head thumping at how vibrant the low frequencies are. For some, it might be too much, but that’s why it’s so great that the equalizer lets you bring out the sparkle in your music.

The Nothing X app also brings a fantastic sound detection technology, to try and tune music specifically for your ears. A few brands offer this but none has had such a dramatic effect on the listening experience as this one.

Sure, the Nothing Ear's charging case isn't the best, but the buds are much better: they’re lightweight and sit in your ear as reliably as an earring would – so much so, you can easily forget that you’re wearing them. 

So there’s a lot to like here, and a fair bit to love, too – it’s just a shame that the Nothing Ear have those three glaring issues. I could look past any one of them alone, but together they make it hard to give the buds a higher review score.

Nothing Ear review: Price and release date

The Nothing Ear buds between two fingers.

(Image credit: Future)
  • Announced in April 2024 alongside Ear (a)
  • Costs $149 / £129 / AU$249

The Nothing Ear was announced alongside the affordable Nothing Ear (a) in April 2024, with the buds hitting store shelves a matter of days later. This was just over a year on from the release of the Nothing Ear (2) – the Ear are follow-ups to those and how I wish the makers would have just called them the Nothing Ear (3), for simplicity’s sake. Got it? Good.

You can pick up the Nothing Ear for $149 / £129 / AU$249. That's how much the Ear (2) cost last year everywhere except in Australia, where a slight price bump has come into play.

That means you can’t quite consider these ‘cheap’ earbuds, but they’re certainly not pricey ones either. There’s not much competition at this in-between price point, with many earbuds aiming at customers who want to spend less than $100 / £100 / AU$200 and most of the step-up options costing double that.

But if you do want something for this specific price, there are a few options like the Beats Studio Buds, Jabra Elite 5, Sennheiser Accentum and of course the bog-standard Apple AirPods. Or check out our best earbuds page for various budgets. 

Nothing Ear review: Specs

Nothing Ear review: Features

The Nothing Ear buds in their case.

(Image credit: Future)
  • 5-hour buds battery, 24-hour with case (when ANC is used)
  • Decent noise cancellation, with caveats
  • Nothing X app brings useful extras

Lots of the Nothing Ear's magic comes from their tie-in phone app called Nothing X. You don’t need the app, but lots of the features it brings are game-changers.

With the app you can set touch controls (discussed in detail in the Design section), fiddle with sound settings with an equalizer, bass booster and hearing test (all dealt with in the Sound quality section), toggle the noise cancellation (explored in the Features sect- oh, wait, that’s this one!) and change a few other settings like in-ear detection and which audio standard you stream from. Plus you can do an eartip fit test and find the earbuds if you lose them. That's a lot.

The noise cancellation is good – great in some circumstances and a little lacking in others. It’s not quite best-in-class for mid-range earbuds but it’s up there. There are six optional modes: off, Transparency (basically like an ambient mode) and four different intensities of standard ANC: high, mid, low and adaptive. 

The latter, which I found myself using for most of the testing period, changes the level of noise cancellation based on where you are, which means the Nothing Ear aren’t using loads of battery to block out noise if you’re home alone. 

Screenshots from the Nothing X app.

(Image credit: Future)

In most cases, the noise cancellation was good at removing background sounds, but it didn’t always succeed when there was a lot going on – a busy road near my house proved a bane every time I was near it. This combines with a volume issue that we’ll explore later on, to make the buds inadequate when you’re somewhere noisy.

The adaptive mode also felt slow to respond to changes in environment and often played catch-up when I was moving through different locations.

A bigger issue with the buds – or a shorter issue – is the battery life. When you’re using ANC, you can only listen to the Nothing Ear for about five hours before they need to be recharged, which really isn’t going to cut it. The case will give you a fair amount of lasting power, at 24 hours, and those figures are much better at 8.5 and 40.5 hours respectively if you opt to turn noise cancellation off.

From my testing, the adaptive noise cancellation did seem to give me a little extra listening time, so I’d recommend it for anyone who thinks five hours might be enough but aren’t totally sure.

The Nothing Ear connects to your phone or tablet using Bluetooth 5.3, which I found reliable – it only dropped once and that was for a second. And for all you wondering, you don’t need to connect the earbuds to a Nothing phone in order to enjoy all of their features.

Pairing is quick and easy, whether you’re connecting the buds to your phone for the first time or every other time you’re using them. I’ve got no complaints, and everything worked as intended – as did other features like the quick wear detection, the dual connections so you can pair the buds to multiple devices and jump between them and a latency mode, so the buds are handy for gaming.

You may also have heard that Nothing is now offering pinch-to-speak to ChatGPT integration across its earbuds, provided you own a Nothing Phone. I don't – and I think only a fraction of potential buyers here will be fully immersed in Nothing's ecosystem. But nevertheless, it's a feature worth mentioning – and it's available in Nothing's older earbuds lineup too. So, if you kit yourself out with Nothing Ear, Nothing Ear (a), the inaugural July 2021 Nothing Ear (1), the October 2022 follow-up Nothing Ear (Stick), the March 2023 Nothing Ear (2) or Nothing's budget CMF by Nothing Buds (including the CMF Neckband Pro and CMF Buds Pro) plus a Nothing smartphone (Nothing Phone 1Nothing Phone 2 or Nothing Phone 2a) running the latest version of the app and ChatGPT, you'll be able to use it. 

  • Features score: 4/5

Nothing Ear review: Design

The Nothing Ear buds in their case.

(Image credit: Future)
  • Small and comfortable earbuds
  • Buds have IP54, case has IP55 protection
  • Tacky plastic case

You know what you're going to get with true wireless earbuds like the Nothing Ear: two small buds and a case.

In true Nothing fashion the case is see-through, letting you gaze adoringly upon the buds inside should the mood so take you. However, the plastic material used for the holder feels incredibly cheap – dare I say ‘tacky’? – and a little fragile, too. It creaks when you hold it too tight and it’s a shame that Nothing wouldn’t opt for a more premium design.

It’s a square case, a little bigger than some I’ve seen but it fits in pockets easily. It has a USB-C port on one side for charging and you can also charge wirelessly, although it’s pretty slow. The case measures 5.5 x 5.5 x 2.2 cm and weighs 51.9g.

The buds themselves are nice and small and at 4.62g each they’re lightweight in the ear. They’re stem-style buds which gives them a nice rigid fit, although the Nothing-style see-through look might put off fashionistas.

There’s a touch control on each stem and, while you can rely on them to pick up individual touches pretty easily, there’s a noticeable delay between a press and the action actually picking up. You can customize the actions for single, double and triple pinches as well as a single and a double pinch and hold, on both the left and right buds, giving you a whole host of customization over your gestures – if you can remember what each single action does, that is. I, frankly, could not.

The buds have an IP54 rating against dust and liquid, while the case is a slightly higher IP55. This means that both can survive all but the finest particles and also sprays of water droplets, with the case withstanding stronger showers of water.

  • Design score: 3.5/5

Nothing Ear review: Sound quality

The Nothing Ear bud in an ear.

(Image credit: Future)
  • Oodles of bass (in a largely good way)
  • Responsive and handy equalizer
  • Some distortion, but not much

The Nothing Ear sound pretty good for buds at this price, but they are absolutely fantastic for bass lovers. Seriously, these are second only to sitting on a bass amp blaring out Debaser by Pixies when it comes to thumping rhythms.

I spent my initial testing time with the ‘More Bass’ in the equalizer and the ‘Bass Enhance’ options turned on and the latter at its highest setting. And with these settings turned on, the bass is intense – you’ll hear it pushing past all the other parts of any song to sit forefront and I could almost feel my head vibrating with the music. 

This incredible amount of bass can likely be attributed to two features. One is Nothing’s custom-built 11mm ceramic drivers made just for these buds (you won't find them in the Nothing Ear (a), which include more traditional solo dynamic drivers in each bud), and the other is an algorithm from the company which is designed to detect and enhance bass sounds in music.

If you’re not a bass fan, you’ll be glad to know that you don’t have to turn it up to 11 like I did, and in fact the buds sound great when all these modes are turned off. The default sound is quite bass-heavy, but you can change that.

The in-app equalizer lets you tweak the buds’ output whether you know how they work or not: a simple mode lets you spread sound between treble, bass and mid, while an advanced mode gives you a lot more versatility, and a sound personalization mode tests your hearing to work out a perfect mix for you.

The Nothing Ear buds on a log.

(Image credit: Future)

The latter is surprisingly effective, too, and the several-minute-long test helped me find a nice mix (while also making me realize that my hearing is quite different between my ears!). What’s doubly great is that you can use this test and the equalizer, so you can account for both your hearing and your preferences.

Nothing’s buds are strong whether you want to pull out some nice crisp treble, some sturdy mid or the aforementioned bass. And there’s enough clarity to give a decent amount of sound stage, more than you normally hear in buds at this price – you can hear different instruments spread around you.

I did notice a tiny bit of distorting on certain parts of songs, with acoustic guitars and hi-hats getting a little scratchy if I let the equalizer bring them too far forward in the mix, but you’re about to read about why peaking isn’t as much of an issue as it could be.

This has all been a lot of praise for the Nothing Ear’s audio but the buds do have one major issue – an Ear-chilles’ heel, if you will – when it comes to volume. The max volume is far, far too low.

At its highest output, the Nothing Ear are roughly as loud as my usual comfort volume when I’m indoors, and below it when I’m out and about. I’m not usually a fan of overly loud music, so these buds will really disappoint people who do.

It’s an issue most palpable when you’re out and about – the noise cancellation is good, but if you’re in a loud environment or just want to really feel the energy of the music you’re listening to, the Nothing Ear just don’t get loud enough to compete with what’s around you. And, yes, I spent ages digging around in the in-app equalizer and that’s not the issue.

  • Sound quality: 4/5

Nothing Ear review: Value

The Nothing Ear buds by their case.

(Image credit: Future)
  • Punchy above their price class
  • Will compete with predecessors

Between the feature set and sound quality, the Nothing Ear are punching well out of their price class. Nothing could have charged 25 per cent more for these buds and they'd still be competitively priced.

You're getting more than you pay for by a country mile, with the Nothing X app's features in particular feeling incredibly premium.

If anything threatens to upset the Nothing Ear's value proposition, it's price cuts to the previous two generations of Nothing Ear, as well as the more affordable Nothing Eer (a). Each bring similar feature sets but for a lower price, so if you don't need all the trimmings of the top-tier offering, you could be swayed by them.

  • Value: 4/5

Should I buy the Nothing Ear?

Buy them if…

Don’t buy them if…

Nothing Ear review: Also consider

How I tested the Nothing Ear

  • Tested for over two weeks
  • Tested at home, in the office and on walks

I used the Nothing Ear for two weeks prior to writing this review and testing was mainly done with the buds paired to my Xiaomi phone, though I did use it on a Samsung one for a while, too. I didn't test it with a Nothing phone.

During testing I listened to various genres of music, played games and watched TV shows. I did so across various mixes, sound profiles and music features on the Nothing X app and, as mentioned, also used the hearing test halfway through the testing process. I listened at home, in my office and on many walks around my local area, as well as central London.

The Nothing Ear is just the latest of many gadgets I've tested for TechRadar over five and a half years, which includes many other earbuds, smartphones, tablets, speakers and more.

  • First reviewed in June 2024
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