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Cambridge Audio Melomania M100 review: the best earbuds prompts in the business with excellent ANC too
11:00 am | May 18, 2024

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

Cambridge Audio Melomania M100: Two-minute review

The Cambridge Audio Melomania M100 are what the fans were waiting for. Prior to their release, Cambridge Audio's excellent earbuds couldn't join the ranks of the best noise-cancelling earbuds for one simple reason: the UK audio specialist's true wireless buds sounded fantastic, but they didn't have the necessary antiphase noise-nixing tech onboard to offer active noise cancellation. And that is because Cambridge Audio prefers to focus on excellent audio quality (and long may that last by the way). 

But times have changed. While Melomania will never cease to mean 'crazy about music', the British company has conceded that the people are also crazy about active noise cancellation. And if Cambridge is going to offer ANC, it's going to do it right. Although you can't tweak its splendid noise cancelling profile any further than 'On', 'Off' or 'Transparency', when it's on, the ANC here is as effective at cancelling low-level noise as you could wish for, cocooning me in a bubble of near-silence and keeping the footsteps around my desk (plus my own tap-tap-tapping of the laptop keys upon which I bring you this review) barred from that bubble. 

The transparency profile is less useful, with a bit too much audible feedback and a near-constant quiet hiss, even in quiet environments, to be a wholly pleasant experience. But a less-than-perfect transparency mode is a minor shortfall I'm prepared to accept when the noise nixing is this good. 

Multi-point connectivity is baked in here, as is aptX Lossless and aptX Adaptive for higher-resolution audio (if you've got a decent, paid-for music streaming subscription and files up to 24bit/96kHz to serve them), and the battery life, at up to 10 hours from the buds and a total of 23 with ANC on, or 16 hours from the buds and 36 with ANC off, is exceptional. The build quality is also bang-on, with a far more ergonomic driver housing than the bullet-shaped Melomania 1 Plus

There's no device-agnostic spatial audio special side-sauce or fit tests and I'm not surprised. I can hear Cambridge Audio's engineers reaffirm the choice to offer "as few opportunities as possible to muck around with your music – we like a clean sound", as they did at the launch of the excellent CXN100 Network Player in January 2024. And you know what? I really don't mind, because the sound in these earbuds is expansive, detailed, nuanced, clean, neutral and immersive enough all by itself. That said, Cambridge will let you select one of six EQ presets, or create a custom one of your own – with a seven-point EQ parametric tab. 

Call handling is also very good, thanks to the Qualcomm's three mic cVc (or Clear Voice Capture) solution, designed to separate your voice from environmental noise, which works very well indeed. 

I should mention that the case is a little big – again, I'm OK with this more substantial box given the excellent stamina, sound quality and ANC. Also, they're perhaps $50 or £40 pricier than the direct competition. Are they worth it? It all comes down to whether you prioritise sound quality above all else in a true wireless design. For me, the Melomania M100 represent sound-per-pound value – but if you want fit tests, tailored otoacoustic hearing profiles and other whistles and bells, you won't want these. 

Cambridge Audio Melomania M100 review: Price and release date

Cambridge Audio Melomania M100 one earbud, held in a hand

The ergonomic earpieces are a hit (Image credit: Future)
  • Released on March 27, 2024
  • Priced at $219 / £169 / AU$299

The Cambridge Audio M100 aren't as cheap as the Melomania 1 Plus earbuds they succeed, which had a launch price of $139.95 / £119.95 / about AU$185 – although their price has dropped significantly since that.

At £169 (about $219 / AU$326) they're still considerably more affordable than AirPods Pro 2, which typical sell for $249 / £249 / AU$399. While you could argue that Apple sets a pretty high bar and most brands undercut that pricing, that's not necessarily true in 2024. Consider Bose's $299 / £299 / AU$449 Bose QuietComfort Ultra, Sennheiser's March 2024 $299 / £259 / AU$479 Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 4 or Technics' EAH-AZ80, also at $299 / £259 / AU$499. See? For the level, Cambridge Audio has actually priced these earbuds competitively.

What you need to know is that while there's plenty of flagship talent here, they actually come in slightly under flagship money. The Melomania M100 are not as affordable as the excellent Nothing Ear (a), for example, but the Nothing buds are an entry-level proposition – a great proposition, but missing just one or two of the flagship features you'll find in their top-tier Nothing Ear counterparts. 

Cambridge Audio Melomania M100 review: Specs

Cambridge Audio Melomania M100 review: Features

Cambridge Audio Melomania M100 case, held in a hand

The case is a little large, but it's perfectly pocketable and honestly, I don't mind its dimensions one bit (Image credit: Future)
  • Great active noise cancellation and app support
  • Excellent battery life
  • Use the 'Southwark' Audible Feedback profile

The fact that Cambridge Audio has included active noise-cancellation (ANC) plus a Transparency mode is big news, because it's a first for the UK audio outfit's Melomania lineup – but the even bigger news is, the noise nixing works really well. At my desk, I'm living in a bubble of near-silence akin to that afforded by the AirPods Pro 2, and that's not a statement I make lightly. 

You're also getting Bluetooth 5.3 with LE Audio, aptX Lossless for CD-like audio quality, Auracast (for when broadcast audio-sharing comes to our airports and waiting rooms), plus the more efficient LC3 codec. 

Call handling is a breeze using the Melomania M100's three mics per earpiece (kitted out with cVc echo-cancelling and noise suppression tech from Qualcomm) and the battery life here is very impressive, with a possible 52 hours from the buds and charging case combined – because you get 16 hours from the buds alone if you keep ANC turned off. For clarity, the AirPods Pro 2 last 'just' nine hours with ANC off (I know this because I tested it myself). 

Melomania Connect is the M100's capable (and newly updated) companion app, which opens the door to additional features such as the ability to customise the on-ear controls to your liking, six EQ presets plus a seven-band graphic equaliser so you can create your own, wearer detect to pause audio when you remove one, mono audio (if you've given one bud to a friend), a sleep mode (which disables all touch controls and voice prompts until you put them back in their case) a gaming mode to reduce latency when watching videos and my favorite, the chance to select what Cambridge calls 'Audible feedback'. This, it turns out, means the person talking to you in your headphones about pairing status, noise cancellation and so on. Scroll down to 'Southwark' in this tab and you hear none other than the actual Matt Berry (What We do in the Shadows; Toast of London; The IT Crowd). And that, truly, is an ace up Cambridge Audio's sleeve. If you don't believe me, just spend a few moments setting up multipoint.

There’s no special spatial audio processing (which doesn't surprise me given Cambridge Audio's thoughts on keeping music authentic and as the artist intended), but some users may miss the fit tests and even tailored profiles based on your hearing offered by the Denon PerL Pro and Nothing's new Ear (a), to name just two products that offer it – because you won't find these in the M100. 

  • Features score: 4/5

Cambridge Audio Melomania M100 review: Sound quality

Cambridge Audio M100 in their case, held in a hand

It's all about black with more black here, unless you get a limited edition set…  (Image credit: Future)
  • Expansive, detailed presentation
  • Sublime clarity across the frequencies 
  • Just a shade off excellent for dynamic nuance

You can of course listen to lossy Spotify tracks using the Melomania M100, but Cambridge Audio's focus has long been sound quality and as such, you might want to treat these buds to some higher-resolution Apple Music, Qobuz or Tidal streams. Also when you do, there's so much to love. 

When streaming The Bangles' Eternal Flame, Susanna Hoffs' stunningly understated vocal is given a few inches more space to shine than I'm used to at this level, and backing vocals arrive in each ear with surprising texture and clarity through the lower mids. Travis Scott's FE!N is immersive as synths dart between each ear, proving that the M100 aren't afraid to drop low and get grimy either. 

Belle and Sebastian's She's Losing It is another sonic delight for neutrality and detail in each musical passage; you'll feel as if you learned a bit about this Glaswegian indie band's use of strings and additional voices after a session with the Melomania M100. 

Sam Smith's Unholy reveals a minor shortfall in terms of dynamic nuance though. The M100s still serve up a detailed and cohesive mix, but I'm missing an extra ounce of the spirited rise and fall that typifies the track. This is a song that grabs you from the get-go, with a full choral recital of the main theme followed by a moment of silence before the bass-riff drops. It's just not quite as ear-grabbing, zealous or petulant as I've heard prior to now. 

Again, it's a long way from an actual issue – and many listeners will prefer the expansive, integrated, detailed, thoughtful presentation of the Cambridge Audio Melomania M100. I adore listening to Melissa Etheridge's I Want to Come Over with these earbuds, since I can hear her particular method of approaching guitar strings in ballads and the beautiful, imperfect textures in her vocal at times, but if you tend to listen to  hip-hop and grime tracks on the commute, you may just yearn for a little extra oomph. 

  • Sound quality score: 4.5/5

Cambridge Audio Melomania M100 review: Design

Cambridge Audio Melomania M100 held in a hand

(Image credit: Future)
  • Ergonomic, secure and comfortable earpieces
  • On-ear controls work well
  • Case is a little big

These are easily the most comfortable Melomania earbuds ever made. The buds slip easily into my shell-likes with none of the tiresome twist-and-lock screwing them in some earbuds require. At 6.65g per bud, they're not particularly light given the competition (Sony's LinkBuds S weigh just 4.8g, for example), but they're beautifully well-weighted and the design feels like it wants to hug your ear and stay put, which is always helpful.

OK, the case is on the large side, plastic, and other options look a little more premium for the price, but it is perfectly durable and pocketable. Unless you're lucky enough to bag a limited edition How High pair (which comes in a bright yellow and black color scheme – a nod to the music video for The Charlatans' hit How High, in which singer Tim Burgess wore a bright yellow jacket) the M100 is available in black with more black only, so if you wanted something in white or silver, you won't find it here. 

That's not to say I don't like the design; I do. The central touch-capacitive 'button' (you don't actually have to depress it) on the top plate of each driver housing is easy to find has a nice tactile edge to it and is a chic nod to Cambridge Audio's circle-within-a-circle logo. The controls also work very well indeed and each function can be toggled on or off if you won't use it. I like that I can have Matt Berry announcing the ANC profiles when I tap the left earbud, while play-and-pause is a single tap of the right, and the on-ear volume control is handled by a long press of either bud (left to decrease; right to increase) which is always the best solution I find – because perfecting three or four taps so that your earbuds actually understand and respond accordingly is a big ask. 

  • Design score: 4.5/5

Cambridge Audio Melomania M100 review: Voice prompts

Cambridge Audio Melomania M100

'Southwark' is the only English audible feedback you want (apologies to the other, perfectly lovely English voice prompt artist, but Matt Berry is unsuprassed)  (Image credit: Future)
  • Select 'Southwark' and you get Matt Berry 
  • No really, it's actually Matt Berry 

In case it hasn't been mentioned enough (and I feel it can never be overstated, so sub editor, please leave this in), by heading to the 'Audible feedback' tab in the app, scrolling all the way to the bottom and selecting the unassuming 'Southwark' option, the dulcet tones of Matt Berry will greet your ear. He'll serve up delectable vocal morsels such as "Device one, connected" or "Waiting to pair" depending on how you're using them, in addition to the standard "Noise cancelling", "Normal" or "Transparency" and if you're a fan of Matt Berry's sizeable oeuvre, it's priceless. It's almost like having Steven Toast at your beck and call. ("Hello Steven, can you hear me? It's Clem Fandango…")

  • Voice prompts score: 6/5

Cambridge Audio Melomania M100 review: Value

  • As feature-packed as any earbuds has any business being for the money
  • A no-brainer for Tidal members
  • Unbeatable for comfort and sound-quality at the level

For features, noise cancellation and sound quality, these are a compelling set of earbuds – but them and you will not be disappointed with the levels of detail in your music and the near-silence they'll add as a backdrop if you want it.

The AirPods Pro 2 will give you a little more dynamic zeal, and Denon's PerL Pro will offer hearing tests and tailored sonic profiles. That said, both rivals will charge you a little more for it. 

Cambridge Audio's focus here has been on detail, clarity and effective ANC. If those requirements are top of your list, these may well be the buds for you. 

  • Value score: 4/5

Should I buy the Cambridge Audio Melomania M100?

Buy them if...

Don't buy them if...

Cambridge Audio M100 review: Also consider

How I tested the Cambridge Audio Melomania M100

  • Tested for two weeks, listened against the Technics EAH-AZ80, AirPods Pro 2 and Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds
  • Used at work (in the office; walking through London; on a train) and at home
  • Listened to Tidal, Apple Music Lossless, Qobuz tracks and Spotify on an iPhone 12 Pro, a Samsung Galaxy S22 and a MacBook Pro

It will come as no surprise to learn that the Cambridge Audio Melomania M100 became my musical companions for two weeks – after a thorough 48-hour run-in period. How else am I to test them? 

They accompanied me to work on weekdays walking (and on more than one occasion, running) to the station; boarding a train and on the London Underground; at the office. They also stayed in my ears during long walks on the UK's Jurassic Coast, in Dorset – a great way to test any wind-interference from mics during calls.

To better test the battery life and comfort levels of the Cambridge Audio Melomania M100, I wore them throughout the working day and into a yoga class in the evening – and they outlasted my working day by some distance. 

To test the audio quality across the frequencies, I listened to our reference playlist but also my own music (spanning everything from country to classical) on Apple Music, Qobuz and Tidal, but also to podcasts and albums on Spotify – and YouTube tutorials (mostly about silversmithing, if you're curious) from 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 personally – but having heard how wonderful ANC can be when done well, I know what to look for. 

Read more on how we test earbuds at TechRadar

  • First reviewed: May 2024
OnePlus Buds 3 review: more than just a gift to receive with a OnePlus phone
12:00 pm | May 15, 2024

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

OnePlus Buds 3: Two-minute review

Like many smartphone companies, OnePlus makes true wireless earbuds to go alongside its smartphones, that it will ship as a pre-order bonus or as a handy extra purchase for die-hard fans of the brand. The OnePlus Buds 3 arrive as another pair of fairly affordable buds in this spirit, but they’re among the better such options.

So are they some of the best budget earbuds around? They're not far off. You’re probably considering the OnePlus Buds 3 if you own one of the best OnePlus phones already, but you’ll be able to enjoy them if you own any other brand of mobile smartphone too; unlike Apple, OnePlus doesn’t lock its tech to pre-existing customers.

At a glance, the OnePlus Buds 3 bear more than a passing resemblance to their predecessors, the OnePlus Buds 2 Pro. And while it’s true, these aren’t exactly wild revisions on the 2023 models, they’re more affordable and have some improvements across the board. 

In some areas, OnePlus may have gone too far, and the sound quality is something of a sore spot. In our Buds 2 Pro review we said bass was “not especially heavy” and the Buds 3 have overcorrected, taking inspiration from the RWE Bagger 288 (which Google tells me is the heaviest vehicle in the world) because it’s heavy.

The bass on the Buds 3 is just too much, no matter how much playing around you do in the equalizer, blowing the treble into the distant corners of the sound mix. You shouldn’t buy these if you like a balanced or neutral sound.

Did I say equalizer? Yes I did, because that’s one of the many cool features packed into the smartphone tie-in app. Other features include spatial audio, ear canal scanning to get a tailor-made sound, the ability to change to different active noise cancellation (ANC) modes and more. For not-really-that-expensive earbuds, the feature range on display is really something.

You’ll have to enjoy these features in small bursts, though, because the OnePlus Buds 3 will only last for 6.5 hours of listening in one go when ANC is turned on. Turning it off boosts that to 10 hours, but that’s still nothing to write home about – thankfully the case is generous with extra charges.

That ANC is pretty good, too, and it’s got to be one of the best I’ve tested in the sub-$100 / £100 / AU$200 price range. There are a range of strength levels and a transparency mode, to let you fully customize how much sound comes through, but at any level the buds are a dab hand at getting rid of annoying unwanted noises.

While they’re not quite fantastic enough to make it into our ranking of the best wireless earbuds, the OnePlus Buds 3 do have a lot going for them. If you receive them as a gift alongside a OnePlus phone, you should count yourself lucky, and they’re well worth considering even if you have to buy them on their own. 

OnePlus Buds 3 review: Price and release date

The OnePlus Buds 3 earbuds in a hand.

(Image credit: Future)
  • Unveiled in January 2024
  • Costs you $99 / £89 / AU$179

The OnePlus Buds 3 were officially unveiled at the end of January 2024, in lieu of the new smartphone the company sometimes unveils at the beginning of the year.

You’ll pay $99 / £89  AU$179 to pick up the buds – in theory, though these are the kind of earbuds that you’re more likely to acquire through pre-order bonuses or as a free gift with a OnePlus phone, rather than as a chosen purchase.

That price shows these as being more affordable (read: lower-end) than 2023’s OnePlus Buds 2 Pro, despite being similar in terms of design and the feature set. Unless you find those dramatically marked down, the OnePlus Buds 3 will be a much more tempting purchase.

OnePlus Buds 3 review: Specs

OnePlus Buds 3 review: Features

A OnePlus Buds 3 bud in the case

(Image credit: Future)
  • 10-hour buds battery, 44-hour with case
  • Absolutely loads of features thanks to app
  • Buds are slow to pair 

The OnePlus Buds 3 earbuds have a middling battery life: 10 hours with ANC turned off, which drops to 6.5 hours when it’s on. That’s not amazing, though some rivals last an even shorter amount of time. The charging case rockets that figure up to 44 hours (with ANC off, 28 with it on) which is a much bigger jump-up than cases often provide, so people on long journeys can rely on this case. 

When setting up the OnePlus Buds 3, I was perturbed to find no tie-in app available on the Google Play Store. Instead, I was prompted (both by the recommended suggestions, and OnePlus’ own website), to install a third-party app called HeyMelody which has a pretty low rating on the Play Store. It seems this is how people without a OnePlus phone control the buds – handsets from the company seemingly have a first-party control app.

It’s worth bearing in mind that the buds worked well without the app, and I only downloaded it to access extra features. You can enjoy music and noise cancellation without HeyMelody, you just can’t control your sound, or access certain extras you’re paying for.

The app lets you play with an equalizer (more on that later) and adjust noise cancellation, with an impressive range of options in terms of strength and efficacy (a Transparency mode cancels some sounds but maintains important ones). It’s actually mildly handy once you’ve set it up, though it’s definitely not required.

The OnePlus Buds 3 buds in the case

(Image credit: Future)

You can also use the app to set up the touch controls: the two buds can have individual commands mapped for one, two or three taps, as well as a long hold or a slide gesture. That’s a lot of potential, though I found that the almost-imperceptible button area meant I frequently missed the correct area when trying to use the touch controls.

The OnePlus Buds 3 are among the better earbuds at this price that I’ve tested when it comes to noise cancellation, using a deft hand to remove annoying background noises. I tested in Max mode, although there are degrees of intensity if you’d rather only strip out a middling amount of sound.

HeyMelody brings two extra features I’d like to flag: first off is Golden Sound, which lets the buds scan your ear canal in order to calibrate your music. The instructions on the test are poorly worded and it took me a few tries to figure out what it was actually asking, but it’s a cool additional feature, even if the results are barely audible.

Then there’s OnePlus 3D Audio, which had a much more palpable effect. This is basically spatial audio, and it really creates a sense of dynamic (though artificial) soundstage, really improving music. It’s only available on certain apps so I’m not going to take it into account for the music quality section later, but luckily the super-niche music app Spotify (you may have heard of it) is one of the compatible apps.

One thing I should note is that the OnePlus Buds 3 had a pretty slow average phone pairing time compared to most rivals I’ve tested. When I put the buds on, they’d take up to ten seconds to connect with my phone, and almost always over five, which is slower than basically every other alternative I’ve tried.

This was also the case when I first set up the earbuds, and my phone took a good while to detect them.

  • Features score: 4/5

OnePlus Buds 3 review: Design

The OnePlus Buds 3 bud in an ear.

(Image credit: Future)
  • Lightweight and barebones case
  • Small buds with touch controls
  • IP55 certification

I’ve got to say, I’m a big fan of the look of the OnePlus Buds 3.

The carry case is a tiny lightweight pebble, measuring just 5.9 x 5 x 2.6 cm and weighing 40.8g – that’s the kind of case you can easily lose in your bag or pocket, it’s more svelte than the majority of its competitors. It has naught but the essentials – space for the earbuds, and a USB-C charging port.

I did find that the smooth material of the buds made them a tad hard to remove from the case though – every removal required roughly three slips before a successful attempt.

The case is made from plastic, hence its lightness, though it does feel like it’d snap if you clenched it in your fist too hard. Our smartest gadget-reviewing minds have a suggestion: don’t do that.

Like their carry case, the buds themselves are incredibly lightweight, with their 4.8g barely registering on scales (or your ear). As wireless earbuds go, they’re pretty barebones: no OnePlus branding, no obvious sensor or buttons, just a tip and a stem.

There is, in fact, a sensor on each earbud, but it’s denoted just by a slightly matted area on the stem, so you’d be forgiven for missing it. It’s so subtle that it avoids detection not just by your eyes, but by your fingertips too – but I've already discussed that above.

The buds have IP55 certification, which means they’ll survive splashes or bursts of water, but shouldn’t be submerged in liquid.

  • Design score: 4/5

OnePlus Buds 3 review: Sound quality

  • Bass-heavy sound
  • Treble is lacking
  • Equalizer lets you tweak sound to an extent

The OnePlus Buds 3 bud on a log.

(Image credit: Future)

You can’t exactly expect precision-tuned sound on earbuds that cost this little, and you won’t get that on the OnePlus Buds 3. That said, they’re nothing to turn your nose up at either for this money.

These earbuds will appeal to people who like their bass-heavy sound, because that’s exactly what they provide. Whatever kind of music I tested, from pop and house to acoustic singer-songwriter tracks, the lower range of instruments and notes was always a lot more prevalent.

Some people might like that, but it was a little overbearing in plenty of songs – you don’t listen to rock to only hear the guitar’s lower E string, after all. Treble is all but blown out, meaning vocal lines lose their clean sparkle and harmonies and countermelodies were often harder to hear than I’d like.

The OnePlus Buds 3 earbud in a hand.

(Image credit: Future)

The mids within my reference music tracks often stood up to the brutal barrages from the bass, but treble was almost always less prominent than I’d like. Saying that, sometimes when it was palpable, peaking made me wish it was buried even further…

The in-app equalizer lets you tweak your sound to a certain extent, with a few presets, a customization option and also a bass boost option, but honestly I found all of my tweaking was for naught. The equalizer is very light touch, and you might not notice changes unless you’re really (really) listening for them.

  • Sound quality: 3/5

OnePlus Buds 3 review: Value

The OnePlus Buds 3 charging case on a log.

(Image credit: Future)
  • Great value if received as gift
  • Decent for the price, but a shade off fantastic

As mentioned before, it’s hard to envision someone buying the OnePlus Buds 3 full-price, given that they’re likely designed to be bundled with a new OnePlus phone.

If that’s how you’re acquiring these buds, they’re a great little gift; they’re solid all-around wearables that’ll save you from having to buy a separate pair to use with your brand new shiny smartphone.

If you’re paying full-price, the value proposition is different. The OnePlus Buds 3 are fine for their price (and you’re certainly getting some flagship fit and spatial audio features), but there are other sub-$100/£100/AU$100 rivals that’ll give you more sonic bang for your buck.

  • Value: 3.5/5

Should I buy the OnePlus Buds 3?

Buy it if…

Don’t buy it if…

OnePlus Buds 3 review: Also consider

How I tested the OnePlus Buds 3

The rear of the OnePlus Buds 3 case

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

The OnePlus Buds 3 were tested over the course of the week, with the review writing period rounding the testing period out by a few extra days. The main device I paired with was a Xiaomi Mi Note 10 smartphone, but I also tested it alongside a Windows laptop and an iPad. I did not test it with a OnePlus phone.

I listened to a range of music genres in different places including my office, my home and on various walks around my neighborhood. I mostly tied with the strongest noise cancellation mode and the EQ set to the default setting.

I've been testing gadgets for TechRadar for over five years, and in that time I've reviewed many OnePlus phones and headphones like this.

  • First reviewed in May 2024
Speck Gemstones Play review: comfy cheap earbuds, but you can do better
2:00 pm | April 28, 2024

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

Speck Gemtones Play: Two-minute review

The Speck Gemtones Play true wireless earbuds are a step out of the comfort zone for Speck, which is better known for its range of phone cases, and it shows. While the sound quality of these earbuds deliver is as you might expect for $49.99 (about £40 / AU$75), the Speck Gemtones Play earbuds don’t offer as much value as the Earfun Air 2 earbuds, which retail for roughly the same price, but have additional features like wireless charging and longer battery life. 

I’d be tempted to say that you get what you pay for from the Speck Gemtones Play, but since there are alternatives among the best budget wireless earbuds at the same price with additional features, that wouldn’t be strictly accurate. This is not to say that these earbuds are noticeably bad, because they aren’t. If you’re not an audiophile who focuses on output and dynamic range then you’ll be happy enough with the sound quality that’s on offer here. One noticeable issue, however, is the audible strain around the vocals, which is apparent when listening to both music and podcasts. This can be remedied by switching to the Vocal Range EQ preset, but it’s a shame that the default EQ settings don’t offer better vocal clarity. 

While the earbuds are easy to keep track of thanks to the Find your Earbuds function and the inclusion of a push-to-release button on the case, the lack of quality in the materials quickly becomes apparent. The hinged lid of the case feels flimsy, and the matte black finish scratches and shows fingerprints easily; the case of my review sample looked like it had been through an ordeal after just a few days of use.

If you’re looking for a better-quality finish and more features without spending extra, we recommend the 1More PistonBuds Pro Q30 or the Earfun Air 2 earbuds.

The speck Gemtones Play earbuds are pictured lying on a white tabletop in front of their charging case. The ear buds are black, with the left one having the Speck logo printed in white. The case is also black, with white inside the earbud cavities.

(Image credit: Future / Cesci Angell)

Speck Gemtones Play review: Price & release date

  • Released in January 2024
  • Priced at $49.99 (about £40 / AU$75)
  • Only available from Speck within the US, may be available from third-party retailers

The Speck Gemtones Play earbuds were released at the start of 2024. At present, Speck only sells its earbuds within the US, but you may be able to find them at third-party retailers elsewhere. 

Better known for its production of phone cases, Speck has taken a leap into audio tech, and at $49.99 (about £40 / AU$75), these earbuds are the cheapest offering in the Gemtones range, coming in below the $69.99 Gemtones Sport (with earhooks for a secure fit) and the $79.99 Gemtones Pro. 

While these are relatively cheap and cheerful earbuds, they have stiff competition from the likes of the 1More Piston Bud Pro Q30s, which have the added benefits of Spatial Audio, Low Latency mode, and ANC, which the Gemtones Play unfortunately lack.

Speck Gemtones Play review: Specs

Speck Gemtones Play review: Features

  • 28 hours max playtime
  • Four EQ profiles
  • Find your Earbuds function

The Speck Gemstones Play lack some of the features you might expect at this price point in 2024, but the easy-to-use app and a couple of novel features help bump up their score.

The Speck Gemtones app is basic, but its lack of complexity and ease of use will appeal to some. When I launched the app it spotted my earbuds straight away, and once I’d paired them via Bluetooth in my phone's settings, it only took a tap of the icon in the app to sync them.

The app provides a range of useful features, including four different equalizer presets: Default, Balanced, Dynamic Bass, and Vocal Range. It doesn’t offer the ability to create custom EQ settings, though, which is a shame, but it does have a feature that could prove particularly useful for the forgetful among us – a Find your Earbuds feature, which you can use to get either the left or right earbuds to emit a loud beeping to help you hunt them down. This only works when they’re not in the case, however – and obviously you need to be close enough to be connected to them.

A Volume Limit feature can also be found in the app, which is still not too common in headphones apps. As someone with sensitive ears, I was reassured to know that it wouldn’t be possible to accidentally hit the volume keys on my phone and raise the volume too high – and it’s also great for making sure kids don’t harm their hearing by cranking up the sound. In practice, however, this feature doesn’t work as I’d anticipated. Instead of stopping the volume from going any higher than 85dB at full volume, it reduces the sound at all levels, so 50% volume is no longer 50%. This concerns me, because once you turn the limiter off – albeit this can’t be done accidentally, as you need to enter a code – the volume shoots back up to whichever volume you’re set to. It’s also worth mentioning that even with the volume locked, the volume at which the buds announce that they’re connected is quite loud.

The app also shows you how much charge is left in the earbuds. I found that the battery life performed a little better than advertised, lasting around eight hours and 20 minutes while playing music continuously at 50% volume. I listened to music and chatted on work calls while working from home without needing to charge them, and between the charge in the buds themselves and in the case, I could do the same in the office, plus listen to music on my commute home, without running out of battery.

The Speck Gemtones Play's dual microphones didn’t impress me when compared, again, to the similarly-priced 1More PistonBuds Pro Q30 earbuds. When I listen back to a recording of myself, I sound distant and unnatural. They’d be adequate for making phone calls indoors, but the low volume and lack of clarity may prove problematic when making calls out and about, or with a rocky connection.

It’s a shame that these earbuds offer no active noise cancellation. This may seem understandable considering the price point, but as mentioned, there are alternative options on the market in this price range that offer this feature – the 1More that I've mentioned just above, or the Earfun Air Pro 3, which often fall to this kind of price. 

A further small but frustrating niggle is that you can’t start listening on another device without disconnecting the buds from the current device first – i.e., there’s no multipoint pairing – which can be a pain if you often switch between listening on phones, tablets, laptops, etc. Again, the 1More and Earfun offer this.

  • Features score: 3/5

The Speck Gemtones Play earbuds sitting inside their charging case with the lid open, on a white tabletop.

(Image credit: Future / Cesci Angell)

Speck Gemtones Play review: Sound quality

  • Acceptable sound quality for the cost
  • Good tonal range, but lacks clarity
  • Capable of delivering clear vocals, but with sacrifices

As expected for the price, the Speck Gemtones Play don’t deliver the most dynamic sound. They’re pleasant to listen to, but if you have an ear that can appreciate rich bass through to sparkling and natural treble, they may fall a little flat. On the other hand, these earbuds could pick up delicate touches, such as background synths in sections of Black Eye by Allie X, so they score points for their general clarity.

While they can be forgiven for not being as dynamic as the likes of the Marshall Motif II A.N.C earbuds, which are priced at $199.99 / £179.99 / AU$349, they also lag a little behind the sound quality of the similarly priced 1More PistonBuds Pro Q30 – and this is hard to ignore considering that the 1More earbuds also offer extra features including ANC, spatial audio, and Low Latency mode.

I found myself regularly changing the EQ presets to get the most out of different songs. While I can hear that the sound quality is improved after choosing the appropriate setting, I do wish the default preset performed a little better to make for a more effective listening experience when out and about. When left on default, music can sound flat, with an edge of strain on the speakers from vocals. Although cycling between EQ settings can improve the listening quality, it sometimes feels like you’re having to sacrifice an element such as vocal clarity or bass quality, and I found it hard to achieve a good balance. That’s especially true when the Vocal Range preset isn’t selected, as it can sound like the vocals are being dampened, as if I’m listening through a curtain.

When listening to I Want You by Moloko with the Vocal Range equalizer preset selected, the raw vocals come through beautifully. You do, however, lose the impact of the percussion hitting. The Dynamic Bass equalizer preset was a good middle ground on this occasion, softening the vocals without sacrificing that depth.

The Default equalizer preset made Justin Hawkin’s vocals in The Darkness’ I Believe in a Thing Called Love lack impact, making the listening experience fall flat. Selecting the Balanced EQ preset once again sounded muffled, as if I wasn’t in the same room as the band. I’d go as far as to say that you’ll feel like you’re listening from outside the venue when it comes to this song. The most satisfying preset for this particular track was Vocal Range, which delivered the drama lost with the other presets.

When listening to podcasts on the Default settings, voices had a tinny edge to them, but they came through with more clarity when the Vocal Range equalizer preset was selected. The same was true when listening to content on YouTube.

  • Sound quality score: 3/5

The Speck Gemtones Play earbuds sitting on a white table top. They are matte black with the Speck logo printed on the top of the left earbud in white.

(Image credit: Future / Cesci Angell)

Speck Gemtones Play review: Design

  • Useful press-to-release button
  • Comfortable fit for smaller ears
  • Light-but-cheap materials

The Gemtones Play case feels lightweight at just under 1oz / 29g. It appears more cheaply made than some other earbuds in this price bracket, with a thin, transparent black frosted flip lid and matt black body that marks easily from fingerprints. It scratches easily, too – I have long gel nails, and it was instantly clear where they’ve made contact with the case. 

The case would probably be useful for you if you plan to keep it in your pocket or hanging from its fabric loop on the outside of your bag, as it won’t open unless you push the release button, which is a feature that I appreciate. The hinge feels sturdy, but the plastic is very thin and looks like it could be easily broken. I have questions about the longevity of this case, although aside from the aesthetic issues it hasn’t let me down just yet. 

The design of the earbuds themselves isn’t anything to get excited about. Similarly to the case, they’re made from cheap-looking matte black plastic, with the left-hand bud having the Speck logo printed on it. There’s a small indicator light on each bud, and another in the space between them on the case which indicates when the earbuds are prepared for Bluetooth pairing, whether the earbuds or case are charging, or whether either are fully charged. These lights are a little on the subtle side, as the LEDs are deep-set, so it’s not clear what the lights are showing unless you’re looking down the barrel at them.

The buds feel comfortable in my ears, and I wore them for long periods with no issues. I was able to wear them straight out of the case, without needing to switch to another pair of silicone tips, which Speck includes in sizes from extra small to extra large, and this was a new experience for me, as I have smaller ears and often need to switch to smaller tip sizes. Helping them to feel comfortable is the fact that the earbuds are light at just over 0.15oz / 4g each.

While the touch features are basic, they are simple to use. A single tap on either bud will play or pause the track, and triple tapping will trigger your device's voice assistant. I quite liked that skipping past or going back to songs is triggered by a double tap on the right or left bud respectively, although if you’re in a situation where you need to settle for just one bud it’s a little annoying that you’re limited to either skipping or returning. The same issue is present with volume control too, as pressing and holding the left earbud turns the volume down, and pressing and holding the right earbud turns it up. It shouldn’t be a big deal most of the time, though.

The touch controls aren’t always responsive, and there were a few instances where the music would play or pause, or the voice assistant would be triggered, when I was trying to double tap, but this was only a small niggle. If you’d rather assign different functions than the default offering, you can customize what each touch control triggers within the app. 

The earbuds I’ve been testing were in the Back in Black finish, but they’re also available in other colors, including Pop Purple, Bop Blue, and White Album.

  • Design score: 3/5

A face on view of the Specks Gemtones Play earbuds sitting in their charging case, clearly showing the press-to-release button.

(Image credit: Future / Cesci Angell)

Speck Gemtones Play review: Value

  • Reliable battery life, delivering the promised 8 hours of playtime
  • More features available for the same price from competitors
  • Useful app, but cheap-feeling hardware

As previously mentioned, the sound quality of the Gemtones Play isn’t bad for the price. It would be unfair to expect a premium listening experience from these earbuds; however, the presence of the similarly priced Earfun Air 2, which offer more features, and the incredibly cheap but good-quality JLab Go Air Pop earbuds, which offer a better user experience and wear-detection, does lead me to question whether these are truly worth the $49.99 (about £40 / AU$75) price tag given the current competition.

Ignoring the competition, though, the app works well, and offers useful features that increase the appeal of these earbuds. In addition, the press-to-release button on the case certainly comes in handy, but the quality of the materials does let these buds down.

  • Value score: 3/5

Should I buy the Speck Gemtones Play?

Buy them if...

Don't buy them if...

Speck Gemtones Play review: Also consider

How I tested the Speck Gemtones Play

A view from directly above the Speck Gemtones Play earbuds are shown sitting in their charging case sitting on a white table top

(Image credit: Future / Cesci Angell)
  • I tested the earbuds for 7 days
  • I tested at home, in the office, on walks, and commuting
  • I listened to music, podcasts, and YouTube content

I subjected the Speck Gemtones Play earbuds to a week of testing. I tested the wearability, sound quality, and features by listening to music for hours at home, in the office, on walks, and while commuting. In addition to listening to music, I watched YouTube videos and listened to my usual podcasts.

I also followed TechRadar’s standardized testing process for earbuds, including listening to a particular set of tracks to make it easy to compare different buds, and real-world measurement of the battery life. Read more about how we test earbuds at TechRadar.

Nothing Ear (a) review: mellow yellow earbuds to herald Nothing’s purple patch
1:24 pm | April 18, 2024

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

Nothing Ear (a): Two-minute review

When it comes to Nothing's earbuds output, it's hard to stop oneself from playing a game of Spot the Difference. That's quite a fun game here, though, since almost all of the differences are vast improvements over anything Nothing has achieved before. All these incremental gains become especially impressive when you consider that this entry-level option from Nothing comes in at $50 / £30 cheaper than the company's last effort. 

For the money, these are some of the best noise-cancelling earbuds of the year thus far. Their closest rival? That would be Sony's class-leading WF-C700N. While there's no 360 Reality Audio support in the Ear (a) and a few Sony-specific features are, of course, off the menu, the Nothing earbuds look more premium and feel more foxy. Their noise cancellation is a touch more robust and the sound is every bit as energetic, detailed and zealous, and (dare we say it?) a tad more expansive to boot. Did I mention that the battery life is also impressive, although admittedly it's a lot better without the superb ANC processing deployed? 

I have to admit that the Nothing Ear (a) performed far more admirably than I'd anticipated. I enjoyed them more and more as the listening tests cruised by. Gone is the fidget spinner case idea: my review sample might be a fun English mustard-yellow hue, but the Ear (a) is serious about bringing you music – proof that Carl Pei's 2020 startup finally hit its purple patch. The sound is incrementally better than the Nothing Ear (2), and it's backed up by a Nothing X app that's easier to navigate and offers plenty of scope for tweaking things to your liking, including via the newer pinch-control stems. 

OK, let's get that moniker out of the way, shall we? I advise you to view Nothing's naming structure with a simple shrug and the raise of an eyebrow, but I'll try to explain it succinctly. Ear (a) is the model you're reading about now, Nothing's 2024 entry-level offering released in conjunction with the more expensive (by $50 / £30) Ear. Nothing tells me that the Ear (a) is effectively the upgrade for the Ear (Stick), while the Ear is the upgrade on the Ear (2). Good intel, but I'd say it does Nothing's newest entry-level earbuds a disservice because the Ear (a) are streets ahead of the Ear (Stick) in every regard. 

Both the Ear (a) and Ear were unveiled simultaneously in April 2024. They supersede the inaugural July 2021 Nothing Ear (1), the October 2022 follow-up Nothing Ear (Stick), and the March 2023 Nothing Ear (2). So, aside from a few minor updates (including a Nothing Ear (1) Black Edition, which fared much better than the troublesome originals) the Ear (a) can also be considered the company's joint-fourth Nothing-branded release. That is, if we're not counting the super-cheap CMF by Nothing Buds, which arrived barely a month before the model we're reviewing here. Got it? Well done. (You're doing great, by the way.)

If you take nothing else away from this Nothing Ear (a) review, know that at $99 / £99 (or around AU$192) you'll not be disappointed with these lovely little yellow earbuds.

Nothing Ear (a) next to the Nothing Ear (2) earbuds

Nothing Ear (a) on the left, Ear (2) on the right. Yes, there are key differences (Image credit: Future)

Nothing Ear (a) review: Price & release date

  • Released on April 18, 2024 (hitting shelves on April 22, 2024)
  • Priced $99 / £99 / around AU$192

If the price above made you think 'Hang on, isn't that less than the older Ear (2)?' well done for paying attention. The Nothing Ear (a) are priced to sell – and sure as eggs is eggs, sell they will. 

The Ear (a) earbuds come in three colorways – a warm yellow alongside the more ubiquitous shiny black or white finishes. Why go with yellow? It's a primary color, which Nothing says aligns with its stripped-back, transparent-wherever-possible design language (yes, the stems still feature see-through plastic too). 

At this level, the Ear (a)'s closest competition aside from Sony's WF-C700N is perhaps the slightly more expensive Sony LinkBuds S, because remember, the class-leading Technics EAH-AZ80 come in at $299 / £259 / AU$499, and Apple's AirPods Pro 2 retail for $249 / £249 / AU$399. 

Of course, that's hardly a fair comparison, since those two options offer premium perks, including triple device connectivity (Technics) and remarkably accurate head-tracked spatial audio from an iOS device (Apple). 

That said, Nothing's relatively humble asking price is tempting, particularly when you consider the expressive sound quality and solid noise-nixing they can serve up. 

Nothing Ear (a) held in a hand, with the case in the background

Hello, yellow!  (Image credit: Future)

Nothing Ear (a) review: Specs

Three screenshots of the Nothing X App

The Nothing X App is a fuss-free, wholly positive experience  (Image credit: Nothing)

Nothing Ear (a) review: Features

  • Bluetooth 5.3 with LDAC support
  • Greatly improved ANC
  • Pinch-to-speak ChatGPT integration coming, with Nothing Phones

The nominal price of these earbuds is listed above, so I won't keep banging on about it. But if you want listening gear that does the basics – good sound, great noise cancellation, clear calls, easy comfort, a bit of EQ wizardry, and reliable on-ear controls – and does them very well indeed, these are that gear. Also, they're a bit of a conversation starter if you want that, miles away from the black and gray pebble-like options often seen at their level.

Want something better than the basics? Well, Nothing's got an ace up its sleeve here too. Although I was unable to test it in my not-yet-public version of the Nothing X app (rollout will be gradual across Phone (2) followed by Phone (1) and Phone (2a) for the Nothing Ear and Ear (a) in the weeks after April 18, 2024) Nothing tells me it has integrated both Nothing earbuds and Nothing OS with ChatGPT, to offer users instant access to the chatbot directly from its devices. What this means is that users with the latest Nothing OS and ChatGPT installed on their Nothing phones should soon be able to pinch-to-speak to the popular consumer AI tool, directly from these entry level Ear (a) earbuds. However comfortable you feel with AI, it certainly adds value at the level. 

Nothing X app screens showing AI voice integration using Nothing earbuds

Voice AI using ChatGPT is coming using Nothing Ear (a) using your Nothing smartphone…  (Image credit: Nothing )

Back to the Ear (a) specifically and call handling is far better this time around, with recipients telling me my voice was unusually clear, which checks out when you see that the Clear Voice Technology has been upped from v2.0 in the Ear (2) – or 1.0 with Bass Lock software in the Ear (Stick) – to 3.0 here. 

You're getting Bluetooth v5.3 and LDAC support for hi-res audio (the Sony-developed codec that lets you stream high-resolution audio up to 32-bit/96kHz over Bluetooth at up to 990kbps, if your device supports it and the file is up to scratch), which is a valuable inclusion at this level. 

There's no onboard spatial audio wizardry and you don't get the Ear (2)'s splendid personalized hearing tests. However, you do get in-ear detection (to pause music when they're out and resume it when they're in), a low lag toggle for gaming, issue-free multipoint to two devices, an ear tip fit test and a Find My Earbuds feature, which issues a rattlesnake-style sound from whichever bud you're trying to locate. 

Now, the noise cancellation. After deploying ANC (rather than 'Transparency' or 'Off'), you can select from High, Mid, Low, and Adaptive profiles. High is very good: the hairdryer we use in our meticulous and methodical testing was largely nixed. I can see why it drops the battery life from 9.5 hours without ANC to 5.5 with it, but when the near bubble-of-silence outcome is this good, it's a hit I'm willing to take. The quoted improvement is 45dB over 40dB of ambient noise nixing and if that's hard to quantify, let me tell you that when I sat down to do some work at home wearing Ear (a) with ANC on High, I didn't realize the oven extractor fan was on (my other half was making breakfast), but as soon as I switched to Ear (2) it became perceptible. 

Heading over to the Transparency option, this is signified by a woman exhaling, which is fun. Although there's no slider to tweak the level of ambient sound you're letting in, it's perfectly acceptable and means voices can be heard without removing the Ear (a). 

The Nothing X app takes the reins and it too is much improved, never faltering and always serving me what I need, without going round the houses to get there. The EQ tab is essentially a three-band offering presented in what I like to call a splodge, rather than sliders for each – think Nura True Pro's visual depictions rather than a mixing desk, with four presets for more bass, more treble, voice focus or a balanced sound – but of course, you can create your own. It's not the most fully-featured offering Nothing has in its arsenal (for that you'd have to opt for the Nothing Ear) but it certainly works. 

Anything missing where it should be? Nothing. No sir. 

  • Features score: 5/5

Nothing Ear (a) next to the Nothing Ear (2), on a brown sofa

The new Ear (a) next to the Ear (2): a fun game of Spot the Difference  (Image credit: Future)

Nothing Ear (a) review: Sound quality

  • LDAC handled very well indeed 
  • Fun and zealous sound
  • Unusually expansive for this type of in-ear

If you've read the star rating at the top of this review and come this far (thank you for sticking with me), it will come as no surprise to learn that the Ear (a) doesn't lack in the sonic department.

Those with a Sony smartphone (I used the Sony Xperia 1 IV) will find LDAC codec files are delivered with expanse and pinpoint accuracy when it comes to the placement of each sonic article. In Aerosmith's Going Down / Love In an Elevator, a shaker sits comfortably in the well of my right ear as backing vocals come in through the left. When the heavily processed "Going down" vocal bridge sweeps across the soundstage like a freight train, it grazes the back of my brain en route. 

Even when I stream lossy Spotify tracks (or much better Apple Music songs) the Nothing Ear (a) buds handle them admirably, with ample texture and space around Elton John's Rocket Man vocal, in a cohesive mix that brings forward the synths and bass plucks other earbuds at this price can't reach. 

For dynamic build and nuance, the Nothing Ear (a) are best described as meaty and arresting. It's not that they lack refinement exactly, just that they prioritize fun and energy over that integrated hi-fi listen some might prefer. For me, there's so much here to celebrate sonically that I cannot pick fault. No, they're not better than something at nearly three times the price (such as the Technics EAH-AZ80, for example), but for the money, Nothing has tweaked its recipe to near perfection here. 

Want to see what I mean? Play the intro of The Who's Substitute. Tell me those guitar strings and shaker aren't every bit as jangly and expressive as you could ever wish for at $99… 

  • Sound quality score: 5/5

Nothing Ear (a) earbud on the left, Nothing Ear (2) on the right

See how Ear (a) is just slightly bigger than Ear (2), across the board?  (Image credit: Future)

Nothing Ear (a) review: Design

  • Smaller and more pocketable case
  • Pinch stems work really well, even when wearing gloves
  • Nothing's design language is beautifully realized 

Holding the Nothing Ear (a) earpiece next to the Nothing Ear (2) is a fresh surprise. Nothing has tried hard to keep its popular design language constant, but these two earpieces are actually very different beasts. I've placed the Ear (2) next to the new Ear (a) in the images below to prove that the earpiece is just slightly bigger across the board – 1.5mm taller, 0.2mm wider, and 0.8mm deeper, to be exact. The Ear (a) earbud is also 0.3g heavier than the Ear (2), although the case is 12.3g lighter and quite a bit shallower.

I mention these facts and figures only to highlight that it is emphatically not a case of 'same buds, different box' from Nothing. They're different. They're better. Perhaps the only potentially disappointing stat here is the size of the driver, which is now 11mm – down from 11.6mm in the Ear (2) and 12.6mm in the Ear (Stick) – and the 11mm driver in the flagship Ear is ceramic, while this one isn't. Not so fast, though, as Nothing tells me that through tweaks to the dual chamber design under the hood, which now includes two extra vents for improved airflow, it's extracted 10%-15% more from Ear (a)'s driver. However Nothing has achieved it, I certainly agree that the sound from said driver is greatly improved.

After switching out to the smaller ear tips (you get three in total), I find the Ear (a) a breeze to wear – although if you've particularly small ears you may need to try before you buy, and my guide to the best earbuds for small ears is worth consulting. 

The new case makes a lot of sense. It flips open as easily as it slips into and out of my pocket, and the earbuds are some of the easiest to retrieve I've ever tested – Nothing's right-red, left-white dots also help you match the colors for charging. You don't get wireless charging support at this price, but the IPX2 rating of this charging nest (for mild water resistance) is more than you get with plenty of pricier options. The earbuds themselves boast an IP55 rating, which is the same as Nothing's new Ear earbuds, although the Ear's case has an IP55 rating – so it's essentially dust- and water-resistant. 

Nothing's pinch stems also work really well. You can customize what the morse code short- and long-press combinations do for each stem – yes, including volume. These stem-squeeze controls also work with gloves on, unlike many touch-capacitive solutions. 

  • Design score: 5/5

Nothing Ear (a) earbuds on a brown sofa, in their closed case – with transparent lid

Rarely have I had so many colleagues strike up a conversation with me over a set of earbuds  (Image credit: Future)

Nothing Ear (a) review: Value

  • As good-looking as any earbuds can be for this money
  • Winning ANC at the level 
  • LDAC for extra sound-per-pound value 

I've sprinkled this liberally throughout the review, but I'll say it again, design-wise there's nothing better at the level. But don't be mistaken, these aren't style over substance: the sound quality is very good, and for noise-cancellation specifically, they're extremely hard to beat for the money. 

As always, it's important to state that if you're prepared to spend $299 / £279 / AU$429 (aka three times the money) there's better noise-cancellation available in the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2, but that's hardly fair. 

Prior to testing the Nothing Ear (a), for this price point, I would nudge you towards the Sony WF-C700N, but in my honest opinion, these entry-level Nothings give those a solid run for their money, across the board. And for premium looks for budget money, there's really no contest… 

  • Value score: 5/5

Should I buy the Nothing Ear (a)?

Buy them if...

Don't buy them if...

Nothing Ear (a) review: Also consider

How I tested the Nothing Ear (a)

Nothing Ear (a) held in a hand, on brown background

USB-C for juicing up, but there's no wireless charging (Image credit: Future)
  • Tested for two weeks, listened against the Sony WF-C700N, Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2 and Technics EAH-AZ80
  • Listened at work (in the office, walking through Dorset, on a train) and at home
  • Listened to Tidal Masters, Apple Music Lossless tracks and Spotify on an iPhone 12 Pro, MacBook Pro and Sony Xperia 1 IV

The Nothing Ear (a) became my primary musical companions for five days – after a thorough 48-hour run-in period. 

They accompanied me to work (walking brusquely to a train into our Paddington office or on the London Underground to various events) and on a flight to Copenhagen (I know, get me).

To better test the comfort levels (and battery life claims), I followed TechRadar's meticulous methodology testing. 

To check the audio quality across the frequencies, I listened to TechRadar's reference playlist (spanning everything from pop to classical) on Apple Music and Tidal, and also my own musical selections and podcasts. I also wore them to watch YouTube tutorials (mostly about silversmithing: finessing bezel settings and working with art clay silver, since you ask) from my MacBook Pro. 

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

Read more about how we test earbuds at TechRadar

  • First reviewed: April 2024
CMF By Nothing Buds review: stylish budget earbuds with a vibrant flair
1:00 pm | April 14, 2024

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

CMF Buds: Two-minute review

The CMF By Nothing Buds are very cheap for what they offer. At just $39 / £39, it’s predictably too good to be true to expect great Active Noise Cancellation, exceptional sound quality, and all the other things that come from much pricier earbuds. However, there’s a charm to the CMF By Nothing Buds with their minimalist yet attractive case and that extends to use.

They certainly won’t rival most of the best wireless earbuds but among budget buys, there’s a temptation here. The CMF By Nothing Buds sound reasonable if not exceptional. There’s a crispness here but bass is pretty weak and understated. Music won’t stand out here and even the soundstage is a little lackluster but they’re fine for listening on the move.

Similarly, ANC is more about dampening background noise rather than taking a proactive approach, but it’s better than nothing. You’re left being merely impressed that the CMF By Nothing Buds even attempts ANC at this price. There’s also app support, although it’s temperamental. 

Dual-device connectivity and reasonable battery life all add up to make the CMF By Nothing Buds a nice pair of budget buds, even if not the pair you’ll want to live with forever. That’s not bad at all for under $50 / £50, although in an ideal world, you’ll want to invest more into the best noise-cancelling earbuds.

CMF Buds review: Price and release date

The CMF Buds on carpet

(Image credit: Future)
  • Released in March 2024
  • Officially price dat $39 / £39

The CMF By Nothing Buds was released in March 2024 for $39 in the US and £39 in the UK. The Nothing site directs you exclusively to Amazon for online purchases while UK customers can go to the Nothing store in London if they prefer.

The earbuds are available in orange, dark gray, and light gray. Orange is the most eye-catching color and it’s already proving to be the most popular. Typically, the best budget wireless earbuds are usually black or white so being able to get something more distinctive is a nice perk. 

The biggest rival at this price is the JLab Go Air Pop, which is slightly cheaper but lacks ANC. Other than that, you’ll have to pay more for options like the Sony WF-C700N with the budget wireless earbuds market fairly limited when you go this low.

CMF Buds review: Specs

The CMF Buds being held

(Image credit: Future)

CMF Buds review: Features

The CMF Buds control app

(Image credit: Future)
  • Up to 35.5 hours of battery life with ANC disabled
  • Companion app
  • Dual-device connection 

Perhaps surprisingly for the price, the CMF By Nothing Buds cover all the bases for essential features. There’s what Nothing calls dual-device connectivity so you can switch between your devices. There’s app support, ANC, and decent battery life.

The app is a little bit of a mixed bag. It’s simple to use and clearly laid out with options for adjusting the equalizer, activating Ultra Bass which makes things a bit more bossy, along with ANC controls. The issue with the app is that I found it would sometimes forget my earbuds. My phone would happily pair with the CMF By Nothing Buds and then switching over to the app would report an issue so I’d have to re-pair them. It’s not the end of the world but it can be mildly irritating if you just want to change the ANC settings briefly.

The ANC is also pretty poor. It dampens down surrounding noises but never to the point where it isn’t entirely obvious that the noise is there. That goes for whether you have the Transparency mode enabled or you go ‘full’ ANC. I’m not exactly complaining though as efforts are made and at this price, any kind of attempt of blocking out noise is a welcomed thing.

Nothing promises a battery life of up to 35.5 hours via the charging case and 6.5 hours on one 10-minute charge. That seemed about right in my time with it and I had no complaints at all. Diving into the app can always help you see what’s going on with power. As is often the way, Bluetooth 5.3 means no chance of dropouts. 

Features score: 3 / 5

CMF Buds review: Sound quality

A single CMF Bud

(Image credit: Future)
  • Weak ANC 
  • Little quiet 
  • Small soundstage

The CMF By Nothing Buds’s strong point definitely isn’t audio quality. They don’t sound awful but it’s very run-of-the-mill stuff. These aren’t hidden gems to rival the best earbuds

Instead, you get a fairly weak aural experience that you’ll have to crank up to enjoy. That’s fine for going for a walk but if you want to hear every crisp note of your favorite songs, you’ll be a bit disappointed. I worked my way through David Guetta’s discography and nothing truly caught my attention. Bass is fairly flimsy and trebles and mids are distinctly weak. Better however was listening to podcasts. Sound is reasonably crisp so voices come through clearly. 

That’s less the case when you’re walking near busy traffic as the CMF By Nothing Buds’s ANC doesn’t do much to block things out. The soundstage also feels pretty narrow so you won’t feel wrapped up in the magic of a hit through these. Even when using the ultra bass setting on the Nothing app, the likes of Muse’s Hysteria struggled to truly grip me.

Sound quality score: 3 / 5

CMF Buds review: Design

The CMF Buds on carpet

(Image credit: Future)
  • Super smooth case
  • Touch controls 
  • Room for a lanyard 

The CMF By Nothing Buds’s case feels like a minor work of art. It’s angular yet smooth and it looks so much cooler on your desk than regular earbud cases. It has a silver sliding circle that moves around to reveal holes for a lanyard. I received a lanyard with my earbuds but these don’t come as standard. Still, it’s easy enough to get hold of your own.

The case isn’t a wireless charging case which is hardly surprising at this price, but it means it’s lightweight and easy to store. The buds themselves are fairly standard and they fit snugly in your ears with a selection of silicone eartips included to get things how you like them.

Each earbud has a touch-sensitive area for controlling things like skipping tracks, answering calls, switching between ANC and Transparency mode. No complaints here. For a change for touch controls, it wasn’t overly easy to activate the controls.

Design score: 4 / 5 

CMF Buds review: Value

The CMF Buds in their case

(Image credit: Future)
  • Cheap for what they offer 
  • Not perfect but appealing 

The CMF By Nothing Buds aren’t perfect at anything but they’re incredibly cheap for earbuds that offer ANC, even if it’s not great. 

In an ideal world, you’d want to spend more and enjoy ANC that actually works well, of course. The likes of the Sony WF-C700N and the JLab Go Air Pop sound better but the former cost a lot more and the latter lack ANC. It all depends what’s most important to you.

Value score: 3.5 / 5

Should I buy the CMF Buds?

Buy it if... 

Don't buy it if.. 

CMF Buds review: Also consider

How I tested the CMF Buds

A CMF Bud being held

(Image credit: Future)
  • Tested over seven days 
  • Compared to Soundpeats Air4 Pro and Apple AirPods (Pro 2 and 3rd Gen)
  • Listened to Apple Music, Spotify, YouTube videos and Twitch 

Over the lasts even days, I’ve replaced my usual AirPods Pro 2 with the CMF By Nothing Buds. Of course, the price difference is huge so I also reacquainted myself with the more affordable Soundpeats Air4 Pro that I was using fairly recently. 

I used the CMF By Nothing Buds on my daily morning walks. I know the route well enough that I can tell you all the worst places for traffic noises, so it was a good way of seeing how well the buds fended off distractions.

I also used them on a run to see how well they coped with wind and speedy (ish) movement. It was a good test of the Transparency mode in particular so I didn’t have to worry about missing hearing a bike ride past me.

At home, I used the CMF By Nothing Buds to watch Twitch videos and content on YouTube. That went well with my podcast listening to check out how clear voices sounded on them. 

For music, I predominantly listened to Apple Music and Spotify. The iPhone 14 Pro was driving most of that with a MacBook Pro entertaining me with videos. My taste is fairly varied so there was a lot of spoken word content but also Linkin Park, David Bowie, Foo Fighters, and David Guetta.

I’ve reviewed audio products for over 10 years. I might usually use pricier earbuds as my main option but I regularly use cheaper earphones and headphones for work and so I can keep up with the biggest work-related question I’m asked by friends -- ‘do you know of any good cheap earbuds?’.

Jabra Elite 10 review: Dolby Atmos sound in first class comfort
5:24 pm | April 13, 2024

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

Jabra Elite 10: One-minute review

The Jabra Elite 10 is the Danish brand’s flagship premium wireless earbuds. They're its most expensive pair of headphones to date, borrowing smarts from the company's headset and hearing aid businesses to help it deliver incredibly clear call quality and effective Active Noise Cancellation. 

As its most advanced pair of buds yet, the Elite 10s pack in a lot of premium features, like Dolby Atmos with head tracking and multipoint pairing, in a unique new oval design that sits on the outside of your ears, making them incredibly comfortable – even when wearing them for long periods. 

But being a premium pair of buds means that the Elite 10 has a lot of competition among the best wireless earbuds. When compared to rivals like Sony's, Bose's or Apple's top earbud offerings, it falls short of being the absolute best for sound quality. That said, it's priced slightly less than its closest competitors so if you want comfortable spatial audio while on the go and are not bothered by best-in-class ANC and hi-res audio quality, the Elite 10 could be a great alternative.   

Jabra Elite 10 review: Price and release date

A hand holding the Jabra Elite 10

(Image credit: Future)
  • Announced on August 31, 2023 
  • Became available to buy in September 2023
  • Priced at $249 / £229 / AU$379

Jabra first announced the Elite 10 back in August 2023 alongside a more fitness-focused model called the Jabra Elite 8 Active, which sells for $199 / £199 / AU$329. As its flagship earbuds, the Elite 10 costs more than its sporty offering at $249 in the US, £229 in the UK and AU$379 in Australia. This means it's also more expensive than its predecessor’s, the Elite 7 Pro, launch price of  $199 / £199 / AU$299.    

The jump in cost means the Elite 10s are going head-to-head with the biggest players, but they undercut the competition in the premium market on price. They’re less than both Sony’s WF-1000XM5 ($299 / £259 / AU$499) and the Technics EAH-AZ80 ($299 / £259 / AU$499) that launched at the end of 2023. And they are squarely in line with two premium releases from 2022: Apple’s AirPods Pro 2 and the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2, which cost $249 / £229 / AU$399 and $199 / £199 / AU$299, respectively, at the time of writing. 

Jabra Elite 10 review: Specs

A pair of headphones on a table next to a DAP

(Image credit: Future)

Jabra Elite 10 review: Features

Three iPhone screenshots of the Jabra Sound+ app

(Image credit: Future)
  • Immersive Dolby Atmos with head tracking 
  • ANC is decent but not best-in-class
  • Crystal clear call quality 

Since launching its first pair of wireless earbuds in 2016, the Elite Sport, Jabra has released seven generations of buds, and the Elite 10 is its most advanced yet. It's the step-up from the Elite 7 Pro, which had targeted the lower to mid-range market but still had premium features like ANC, adjustable EQ settings, an IP57 rating and wireless charging. The Elite 10 builds upon all of its predecessor's features, and Jabra has a few more tricks up its sleeve to make sure it can hold its own among the market’s premium offerings. 

The newest feature to be included in the buds is also a first for Jabra earbuds: support for Dolby Atmos with head tracking. This makes the buds have a wider soundstage when turned on and listening to Atmos content that's like hearing each instrument in a track as if they’re placed all around you. When head tracking is turned on, this virtual soundstage moves with you but I found this to have a slight delay when you readjusted your head to a new position. I found it worked better when watching a show or movie rather than listening to music. Conveniently, you can toggle both spatial audio and head tracking on and off in the Jabra Sound+ app as well as adjust the HearThrough mode, Advanced ANC, EQ settings and more. 

Outside of the app, you can also control the Jabra Elite 10 by pressing the buttons on the buds themselves. Pressing the surface of the left bud will rotate through HearThrough and ANC, while pressing the right can pause and play a song (you can switch to different variations of this in the app). Tapping the right bud twice skips tracks, while holding down either button increases (right) and decreases (left) the volume. Holding down both at the same time also activates pairing mode. 

As for other features, there's also in-ear detection, automatic muting settings, Bluetooth Multipoint pairing for listening to two devices at the same time, voice assistant support that lets you control your buds with voice commands and FindMy for when you've misplaced them. And while the Elite 10's six hours of battery life (21 hours with the case) does outlast Bose's QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds, it's beat by Sony's WF-1000XM5s.      

One of the biggest standout features for me is the Elite 10's exceptionally clear call quality, especially while out and about, and that’s down to the six mics inside them. Jabra says that the external mics are active all the time, while the internal mics activate when wind is detected. The extra mics make the Elite 10’s call quality far better than the AirPods Pro 2, which only has two mics. Jabra’s Advanced ANC is also on by default during calls to help cancel out unwanted background noises, which is a feature that was improved on in a March 26 software update (Jabra claims that the update helps cancel background noises twice as easily). There's also an adjustable sidetone setting so you can hear your voice more, which is not something we see a lot of. 

Just like Apple’s Adaptive Noise Control, Jabra’s Advanced ANC uses scanning tech and noise leakage detection to automatically adjust the ANC to your surroundings. It’s the brand’s most advanced ANC mode, and is claimed to deliver two times more noise cancellation than its standard ANC. And it does work, cancelling out the screeching banshees along the Northern Line of the London Underground. However, compared to the Sony WF-1000XM5 and Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds, it doesn't quite match up. 

Features score: 4 / 5

Jabra Elite 10 review: Sound quality

The Jabra Elite 10 buds outside their case

(Image credit: Future)
  • A balanced listen, with some minor adjustments 
  • No hi-res support (only AAC and SBC)
  • Immersive Dolby Atmos tracks 

There’s a strong confidence to the Jabra Elite 10’s sound performance. If I were to summarize it in one word, I’d say it was effectively balanced. From the trebles to the mid-range and through to bass, the sound is tonally steady when streaming via Apple Music on a FiiO M11S (keep in mind there's only support for AAC and SBC). 

But when listening with a keener ear to a more bass-heavy track like Black Eye by Allie X, there was a lack of oomph that I'm used to hearing. This was easily improved upon by adjusting the EQ settings but for an out of box listen, the Elite 10 wasn't completely ready to go. I found this again when testing the bud's treble. Again, tracks like Rains Again by Solji benefited from a slight EQ adjustment to really come alive for me personally. 

As a whole, I'd say the earbud's audio quality is still generally great, it's just not exceptional, especially when compared to the likes of the AirPods Pro 2, which offers a more dynamic listen. Even with smaller drivers, the Sony WF-1000XM5 can deliver an "agile, meaty and fun listen" that's packed with enthusiasm. If you're an audiophile looking for flawless hi-res sound quality, I'd recommend looking to its rivals for a more detailed listen. 

Sound quality score: 3.5 / 5

Jabra Elite 10 review: Design

A hand holding the Jabra Elite 10

(Image credit: Future)
  • Proprietary ‘ComfortFit’ technology
  • Ergonomic, uniquely designed earpieces

Jabra found during the research and development of its latest earbuds range – the Elite 10 and Elite 8 Active – that comfort was the most valued feature by most people. A survey conducted by the company saw 47% of participants valued comfort over all else, with sound quality and battery life coming next. For this reason, Jabra has developed what it calls ‘ComfortFit’ technology, which is a new type of unique oval-shaped design. 

Jabra calls it "EarGels" and the best way I can describe the semi-open fit is that instead of sitting completely inside your ear canals – like the in-ear monitors in our best wired headphones guide – the buds sit in the outside of your ear, snugged up inside the middle part of your ear. Jabra says it scanned 62,000 ears to get the unique shape and the results are effective, as they're some of the comfiest earbuds I've worn to date (the silicon is softer than the plastic used in the AirPods Pro 2).   

The design of the buds' earpieces is similar to that of the Sony WF-1000XM5, which we’ve found to fit most people – and the same is true for the Elite 10s. The only time I briefly had trouble with the fit was while out, when I could feel them coming loose from walking around and moving my head, but a quick readjust made them feel secure again.  

Aside from the unique oval shaped buds, the Elite 10s have a simple design that you can personalize by choosing from one of five different colors, including cocoa, cream, black, matte black and titanium black. The case is slightly bulkier than the likes of the AirPods Pro 2 but this is quickly outweighed by the softer materials used for the buds. The Elite 10s also don't have poky stems that dig into the bottom of your ear, making them a lot more comfortable to wear for longer periods of time.   

Design score: 5 / 5 

Jabra Elite 10 review: Value

A hand holding the Jabra Elite 10

(Image credit: Future)
  • Cheaper than premium rivals  
  • ANC and sound quality can be beaten 

There are trade-offs when it comes to earbuds. If you want ANC, don't expect flawless sound quality. If you want a portable earbud design, then they're not going to be as comfortable as a pair of over-ear headphones. And so it goes without the Elite 10. 

The ANC is by no means the best in the business (instead we’d recommend looking at the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds) but the comfort is the best I’ve experienced in a while and the call quality was far better than the AirPods Pro 2 I tested them against. The sound performance is also not going to beat the Technics EAH-AZ80 but if you value other features like spatial audio and a good control app more highly, the Jabra Elite 10 offers a great middle ground.    

Value score: 4 / 5

Should I buy the Jabra Elite 10?

A hand holding the Jabra Elite 10

(Image credit: Future)

Buy it if… 

Don't buy it if... 

Jabra Elite 10 review: Also consider

How I tested the Jabra Elite 10

The Jabra Elite 10s on a Mac next to an iPhone and DAP

(Image credit: Future)
  • Tested for more than two weeks and compared to AirPods Pro 2 
  • Streamed music from Apple Music, Spotify and Deezer
  • iPhone 13, MacBook Pro and FiiO M11S as source players

I tested the Jabra Elite 10s for more than two weeks, during which time I alternated between connecting them to my phone, laptop and a digital audio player. I used them mostly at home to listen to music, make phone calls and watch the odd show, but also took them out with me while commuting to test the ANC.  

To test the sound quality, I listened to a playlist that we test earbuds with at TechRadar. I did this with both the ANC on and off. In addition to music, I also listened to podcasts and watched a YouTube video to see how the audio quality compared between sources. 

To keep my overall judgement of the earbuds fair, I also conducted a blind listening test, comparing them to the AirPods Pro 2 while streaming music via two iPhones on Apple Music and Spotify simultaneously.

Jabra Elite 10 review: Dolby Atmos sound in first class comfort
5:00 pm |

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

Jabra Elite 10: Two-minute review

The Jabra Elite 10 is the Danish brand’s flagship premium wireless earbuds. They're its most expensive pair of headphones to date, borrowing smarts from the company's headset and hearing aid businesses to help it deliver incredibly clear call quality and effective Active Noise Cancellation. 

As its most advanced pair of buds yet, the Elite 10s pack in a lot of premium features, like Dolby Atmos with head tracking and multipoint pairing, in a unique new oval design that sits on the outside of your ears, making them incredibly comfortable – even when wearing them for long periods. 

But being a premium pair of buds means that the Elite 10 has a lot of competition among the best wireless earbuds. When compared to rivals like Sony's, Bose's or Apple's top earbud offerings, it falls short of being the absolute best for sound quality. That said, it's priced slightly less than its closest competitors so if you want comfortable spatial audio while on the go and are not bothered by best-in-class ANC and hi-res audio quality, the Elite 10 could be a great alternative.   

Jabra Elite 10 review: Price and release date

A hand holding the Jabra Elite 10

(Image credit: Future)
  • Announced on August 31, 2023 
  • Became available to buy in September 2023
  • Priced at $249 / £229 / AU$379

Jabra first announced the Elite 10 back in August 2023 alongside a more fitness-focused model called the Jabra Elite 8 Active, which sells for $199 / £199 / AU$329. As its flagship earbuds, the Elite 10 costs more than its sporty offering at $249 in the US, £229 in the UK and AU$379 in Australia. This means it's also more expensive than its predecessor’s, the Elite 7 Pro, launch price of  $199 / £199 / AU$299.    

The jump in cost means the Elite 10s are going head-to-head with the biggest players, but they undercut the competition in the premium market on price. They’re less than both Sony’s WF-1000XM5 ($299 / £259 / AU$499) and the Technics EAH-AZ80 ($299 / £259 / AU$499) that launched at the end of 2023. And they are squarely in line with two premium releases from 2022: Apple’s AirPods Pro 2 and the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2, which cost $249 / £229 / AU$399 and $199 / £199 / AU$299, respectively, at the time of writing. 

Jabra Elite 10 review: Specs

A pair of headphones on a table next to a DAP

(Image credit: Future)

Jabra Elite 10 review: Features

Three iPhone screenshots of the Jabra Sound+ app

(Image credit: Future)
  • Immersive Dolby Atmos with head tracking 
  • ANC is decent but not best-in-class
  • Crystal clear call quality 

Since launching its first pair of wireless earbuds in 2016, the Elite Sport, Jabra has released seven generations of buds, and the Elite 10 is its most advanced yet. It's the step-up from the Elite 7 Pro, which had targeted the lower to mid-range market but still had premium features like ANC, adjustable EQ settings, an IP57 rating and wireless charging. The Elite 10 builds upon all of its predecessor's features, and Jabra has a few more tricks up its sleeve to make sure it can hold its own among the market’s premium offerings. 

The newest feature to be included in the buds is also a first for Jabra earbuds: support for Dolby Atmos with head tracking. This makes the buds have a wider soundstage when turned on and listening to Atmos content that's like hearing each instrument in a track as if they’re placed all around you. When head tracking is turned on, this virtual soundstage moves with you but I found this to have a slight delay when you readjusted your head to a new position. I found it worked better when watching a show or movie rather than listening to music. Conveniently, you can toggle both spatial audio and head tracking on and off in the Jabra Sound+ app as well as adjust the HearThrough mode, Advanced ANC, EQ settings and more. 

Outside of the app, you can also control the Jabra Elite 10 by pressing the buttons on the buds themselves. Pressing the surface of the left bud will rotate through HearThrough and ANC, while pressing the right can pause and play a song (you can switch to different variations of this in the app). Tapping the right bud twice skips tracks, while holding down either button increases (right) and decreases (left) the volume. Holding down both at the same time also activates pairing mode. 

As for other features, there's also in-ear detection, automatic muting settings, Bluetooth Multipoint pairing for listening to two devices at the same time, voice assistant support that lets you control your buds with voice commands and FindMy for when you've misplaced them. And while the Elite 10's six hours of battery life (21 hours with the case) does outlast Bose's QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds, it's beat by Sony's WF-1000XM5s.      

One of the biggest standout features for me is the Elite 10's exceptionally clear call quality, especially while out and about, and that’s down to the six mics inside them. Jabra says that the external mics are active all the time, while the internal mics activate when wind is detected. The extra mics make the Elite 10’s call quality far better than the AirPods Pro 2, which only has two mics. Jabra’s Advanced ANC is also on by default during calls to help cancel out unwanted background noises, which is a feature that was improved on in a March 26 software update (Jabra claims that the update helps cancel background noises twice as easily). There's also an adjustable sidetone setting so you can hear your voice more, which is not something we see a lot of. 

Just like Apple’s Adaptive Noise Control, Jabra’s Advanced ANC uses scanning tech and noise leakage detection to automatically adjust the ANC to your surroundings. It’s the brand’s most advanced ANC mode, and is claimed to deliver two times more noise cancellation than its standard ANC. And it does work, cancelling out the screeching banshees along the Northern Line of the London Underground. However, compared to the Sony WF-1000XM5 and Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds, it doesn't quite match up. 

Features score: 4 / 5

Jabra Elite 10 review: Sound quality

The Jabra Elite 10 buds outside their case

(Image credit: Future)
  • A balanced listen, with some minor adjustments 
  • No hi-res support (only AAC and SBC)
  • Immersive Dolby Atmos tracks 

There’s a strong confidence to the Jabra Elite 10’s sound performance. If I were to summarize it in one word, I’d say it was effectively balanced. From the trebles to the mid-range and through to bass, the sound is tonally steady when streaming via Apple Music on a FiiO M11S (keep in mind there's only support for AAC and SBC). 

But when listening with a keener ear to a more bass-heavy track like Black Eye by Allie X, there was a lack of oomph that I'm used to hearing. This was easily improved upon by adjusting the EQ settings but for an out of box listen, the Elite 10 wasn't completely ready to go. I found this again when testing the bud's treble. Again, tracks like Rains Again by Solji benefited from a slight EQ adjustment to really come alive for me personally. 

As a whole, I'd say the earbud's audio quality is still generally great, it's just not exceptional, especially when compared to the likes of the AirPods Pro 2, which offers a more dynamic listen. Even with smaller drivers, the Sony WF-1000XM5 can deliver an "agile, meaty and fun listen" that's packed with enthusiasm. If you're an audiophile looking for flawless hi-res sound quality, I'd recommend looking to its rivals for a more detailed listen. 

Sound quality score: 3.5 / 5

Jabra Elite 10 review: Design

A hand holding the Jabra Elite 10

(Image credit: Future)
  • Proprietary ‘ComfortFit’ technology
  • Ergonomic, uniquely designed earpieces

Jabra found during the research and development of its latest earbuds range – the Elite 10 and Elite 8 Active – that comfort was the most valued feature by most people. A survey conducted by the company saw 47% of participants valued comfort over all else, with sound quality and battery life coming next. For this reason, Jabra has developed what it calls ‘ComfortFit’ technology, which is a new type of unique oval-shaped design. 

Jabra calls it "EarGels" and the best way I can describe the semi-open fit is that instead of sitting completely inside your ear canals – like the in-ear monitors in our best wired headphones guide – the buds sit in the outside of your ear, snugged up inside the middle part of your ear. Jabra says it scanned 62,000 ears to get the unique shape and the results are effective, as they're some of the comfiest earbuds I've worn to date (the silicon is softer than the plastic used in the AirPods Pro 2).   

The design of the buds' earpieces is similar to that of the Sony WF-1000XM5, which we’ve found to fit most people – and the same is true for the Elite 10s. The only time I briefly had trouble with the fit was while out, when I could feel them coming loose from walking around and moving my head, but a quick readjust made them feel secure again.  

Aside from the unique oval shaped buds, the Elite 10s have a simple design that you can personalize by choosing from one of five different colors, including cocoa, cream, black, matte black and titanium black. The case is slightly bulkier than the likes of the AirPods Pro 2 but this is quickly outweighed by the softer materials used for the buds. The Elite 10s also don't have poky stems that dig into the bottom of your ear, making them a lot more comfortable to wear for longer periods of time.   

Design score: 5 / 5 

Jabra Elite 10 review: Value

A hand holding the Jabra Elite 10

(Image credit: Future)
  • Cheaper than premium rivals  
  • ANC and sound quality can be beaten 

There are trade-offs when it comes to earbuds. If you want ANC, don't expect flawless sound quality. If you want a portable earbud design, then they're not going to be as comfortable as a pair of over-ear headphones. And so it goes without the Elite 10. 

The ANC is by no means the best in the business (instead we’d recommend looking at the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds) but the comfort is the best I’ve experienced in a while and the call quality was far better than the AirPods Pro 2 I tested them against. The sound performance is also not going to beat the Technics EAH-AZ80 but if you value other features like spatial audio and a good control app more highly, the Jabra Elite 10 offers a great middle ground.    

Value score: 4 / 5

Should I buy the Jabra Elite 10?

A hand holding the Jabra Elite 10

(Image credit: Future)

Buy it if… 

Don't buy it if... 

Jabra Elite 10 review: Also consider

How I tested the Jabra Elite 10

The Jabra Elite 10s on a Mac next to an iPhone and DAP

(Image credit: Future)
  • Tested for more than two weeks and compared to AirPods Pro 2 
  • Streamed music from Apple Music, Spotify and Deezer
  • iPhone 13, MacBook Pro and FiiO M11S as source players

I tested the Jabra Elite 10s for more than two weeks, during which time I alternated between connecting them to my phone, laptop and a digital audio player. I used them mostly at home to listen to music, make phone calls and watch the odd show, but also took them out with me while commuting to test the ANC.  

To test the sound quality, I listened to a playlist that we test earbuds with at TechRadar. I did this with both the ANC on and off. In addition to music, I also listened to podcasts and watched a YouTube video to see how the audio quality compared between sources. 

To keep my overall judgement of the earbuds fair, I also conducted a blind listening test, comparing them to the AirPods Pro 2 while streaming music via two iPhones on Apple Music and Spotify simultaneously.

JLab Epic Lab Edition review:
12:00 pm | March 23, 2024

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

JLab Epic Lab Edition: Three-minute review

The JLab Epic Lab Edition isn't the cheapest of earbuds and when you pay a premium price for some headphones, you expect a base level of music quality – but it manages to buck that expectation. JLab charges you a princely sum for these top-end headphones, but I’ve heard better audio quality on cheap buds that cost a quarter of the price.

JLab’s earbud range almost entirely falls within the ‘best budget wireless earbuds’ bracket, with our ranking of the best earbuds flagging some of its offerings as worthy low-cost alternatives to premium options. Of its current selection, the Epic Lab Edition costs twice as much as its nearest siblings, the JLab Epic Air. If you didn’t tell me the price, though, I’d believe that the Epic Lab Edition was just another member of this busy market bracket, and it’s startling that JLab would sell these for more than the Apple AirPods.

The main problem with the Epic Lab Edition is the sound quality – something you’d hope expensive earbuds would crack. Sound has more peaks than a platter of meringues, with vocals, drums, guitars, all getting lost in a tinny buzzy haze that’ll have you wondering if you’re listening to a B-side or just a swarm of angry bees.

By default, the bass totally overpowers the mid and treble too. You’ll have to jump into the JLab app’s equalizer to try and regain some semblance of balance, though many of its presents are somehow even more off-kilter. Thankfully, a custom option exists.

The JLab Epic Lab Edition case, open, with the buds inside.

The JLab Epic Lab Edition don't look as premium as their price suggests.  (Image credit: Future)

The buds fumble with their noise control modes, which fall under ‘Noise Cancelling’ or ‘Be Aware’ (or 'off'), with the latter intended as an ambient noise awareness mode. You won’t need it, though, because the noise cancellation is so light-touch that you’ll be all-too-aware of surrounding sounds anyway. With this in mind, you might be querying our three-star verdict. That's because JLab really picks up the ball in its design and features department.

The buds are nice and lightweight, despite packing a meaty battery life, and they feel comfortable when worn as a result. The case isn't too big either, despite the fact it holds an extra USB-C dongle for quick and temporary connectivity to new devices. This is a really handy tool in theory, though in practice I found that it didn't work all the time.

The JLab app is one of the more useful I've tried as it lets you get a lot more out of your buds, like letting you switch between modes for streaming music or videos, custom EQ or volume limiters to protect your hearing.

These useful features mean that this JLab Epic Lab Edition review can't be wholly negative, but they're still only appropriate for people who don't mind spending  $199.99 / £199.99 / AU$249.99  on buds solely for the feature set.

JLab Epic Lab Edition review: Price and release date

The JLab Epic Lab Edition earbuds.

JLab says the Epic Lab Edition are its "most premium true wireless” earbuds.  (Image credit: Future)
  • Went on sale November 2023
  • Premium price of $199.99 / £199.99 / AU$249.99

You can pick up the JLab Epic Lab Edition for $199.99 / £199.99 / AU$249.99, so these are distinctively premium earbuds from a brand that usually stays away from this market segment. The JLab Epic Air, some of its other ‘premium’ buds, are only half that cost.

At that price, these cost even more than Apple AirPods, which go for $179 / £169 / AU$279. However most of the best earbuds overall do outprice the JLabs with the Sony WF-1000XM4, Apple AirPods Pro and Technics EAH-AZ80 all launching for more than $200 / £200 / AU$250. 

The buds were announced in November 2023 and went on sale straight away.

JLab Epic Lab Edition review: Specs

JLab Epic Lab Edition review: Features

The JLab Epic Lab Edition's USB-C dongle.

A USB-C dongle allows you to access Bluetooth LE Audio but only on compatible devices.   (Image credit: Future)
  • Total battery life of up to 56 hours, though lower with ANC
  • App offers lots of extra features
  • USB-C connectivity dongle is great in theory, iffy in practice

The JLab Epic Lab Edition has, to its credit, a feature set that’s pretty decent for its price.

The battery life of the buds clocks in at 13 hours (or 9 hours with ANC turned on), and when you factor in the charging case, that total life span rockets up to a whopping 56 hours (or 36 with ANC on). That’s a fantastic amount of power, which means you’ll barely need to power up the device.

When you do power it up, the JLab benefits from dual charging: you can power it up using a USB-C cable or wirelessly on a charging pad (though you can’t use both at the same time). It takes two hours to charge the case from full to empty, and that’s also how long it takes to power up the buds when they’re in the case. JLab estimates that 10 minutes of charging will give you an hour and 45 minutes of listening time.

The buds can use Bluetooth Multipoint, which basically lets them connect to multiple oft-used devices and automatically pair with whichever you’re using. This worked well in testing, with the Epic Lab jumping between the various phones I’d paired it with as soon as I unlocked them.

You can pair the JLabs to your phone without needing to use any kind of app, but if you want you can download the JLab app to get some extra tools. This includes the ability to tweak the noise cancellation (off, standard and Be Aware), an optional volume limit to protect your hearing, an equalizer with some presets and also a custom control mode, and a few other small tools.

The app is a handy way to get the most out of the earbuds and also to keep tabs on their battery power. When you’re listening to music, the app displays the remaining power of each bud and the case, though on my phone this was bugged and cut off half-way through, over the actual battery percentages.

The JLab Epic Lab Edition has one extra neat feature that’d easily score it an extra star in this review… if it worked properly. Included in the case is a little USB-C dongle and, if you plug this into another device, it’ll override the buds’ Bluetooth connection to instead pair to this new device, thereby saving you having to go through the entire pairing process for a device you’ll only use temporarily.

This sounds really handy, but in practice, it didn’t always work. When I plugged the dongle into my custom-build PC it just didn’t register them, and when I plugged the dongle into my iPad Pro, I could listen to music, but it’d repeatedly drop individual earbuds before re-pairing them several seconds later – not a great listening experience.

  • Features score: 4 / 5

JLab Epic Lab Edition review: Design

The JLab Epic Lab Edition's in-box extra bud tips.

Out of the six ear tips provided in the box, three are foam and three are silicone. (Image credit: Future)
  • Lightweight and comfortable buds
  • Touch controls work well
  • IP55 rating and six pairs of in-box tips

The JLab Epic Lab Edition don’t exactly re-invent the wheel when it comes to wireless earbud design: they consist of two small earbuds and a charging case (and the aforementioned dongle which is housed in the buds).

The case weighs in at 63.5g (when the dongle and buds are removed), with dimensions of 6.9 x 2.7 x 4.1 cm – it’s pretty much average size for an earbud charging case, with the dongle not adding that much heft.

On the front are three LED lights, a simple but effective indicator of how much charge is left in the case. The rear has a USB-C port for charging, as described already. One small but handy design feature is that the underside of the case has a rubbery layer, unlike the metal of the rest of the body, and this small amount of added traction means the case stays still on tables and uneven surfaces instead of wobbling about.

The buds themselves measure 2.3 x 2.7 x 1.9 cm and measure 5.35g each – very lightweight as far as buds go. The main discerning feature of the buds is a large JLab logo on each, which doubles as the button for touch controls – these were responsive to the touch and easy to use. So is the wear detection, which was incredibly quick to recognize when I’d removed the buds or replaced them in my ear.

In the box you get six total sets of earbud tips, three of foam and three silicone, which I found handy as the default tips caused the buds to keep falling out. You also get a USB-C to USB-C charging cable.

The buds have an IP55 rating which means they’re protected form dust and also against jets of water (like rain) but they won’t survive submersion in water. Some earbud tips struggle to stick in your ear in rainy conditions though, so keep them dry.

  • Design score: 3.5 / 5

JLab Epic Lab Edition review: Sound quality

The JLab Epic Lab Edition earbuds in an ear.

(Image credit: Future)
  • Oft-distorted audio
  • Very limited sound stage
  • Noise cancellation doesn't do much

I was disappointed by the JLab Epic Lab Edition’s sound quality, which should be no surprise if you read the first 500 words of this review. JLab touts features like hi-res audio, "hybrid dual drivers", spatial audio and an LDAC, but at the end of the day, they still don’t sound great.

The main issue is that music sounds tinny, owing to how distorted sounds could be on a regular basis. In certain songs, drum tracks sounded like they were drilling into my head, and rhythm guitars and vocal lines could have the same effect too.

Music also suffered from a lack of sound stage, with mid, treble and bass all blended into one mush of noise. Bass also overwhelmed other sounds, even in non-bassy songs; while treble could occasionally hold its own, mid parts were often completely lost in the mix. Rock music became 60% bass guitar, 30% vocals and 10% ‘everything else’.

I tested the EQ function of the JLab app but the other presets somehow emphasized the bass even more, making the custom mode the only way I could try to balance the music. It’s hard to recommend earbuds if you need to turn sound engineer to make them sound good.

Another problem is the ANC, or ambient noise cancellation. When switched on, it doesn’t ‘cancel’ sound, as much as put it through a filter to make it sound as tinny as the music. You can still hear background audio, it just sounds even more annoying than usual.

  • Sound quality: 2 / 5

Should I buy the JLab Epic Lab Edition?

The JLab Epic Lab Edition's case from the rear.

(Image credit: Future)

Buy it if…

Don’t buy it if…

JLab Epic Lab Edition review: Also consider

How I tested the JLab Epic Lab Edition

A JLab Epic Lab Edition earbud

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

I tested the JLab Epic Lab Edition for a week and a half to write this review, which doesn't include testing done during the writing process of the review.

The majority of the testing was done with the earbuds connected to my Xiaomi Mi Note 10 smartphone, as well as an Vivo X100 Pro which I was testing concurrently. To trial the connectivity dongle I plugged it into my PC, an iPad Pro and a Windows laptop, but the majority of the bud testing was not done with the dongle.

I've been testing tech gadgets for TechRadar for over five years now, for various sections of the site. This is currently done on a freelance basis however I spent several years as part of the full team.

  • First reviewed in March 2024
Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 4 review: sound reigns supreme for these excellent wireless earbuds
2:01 am | March 1, 2024

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

Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 4 review: Two minute review

Sennheiser continues its Momentum True Wireless series with its latest incarnation, the Momentum True Wireless 4 (TW4). At its $299 / £259 / AU$479 price, the Momentum True Wireless 4 faces a lot of competition but brings a lot to the table to put up against some of the best noise-canceling earbuds on the market.  

Features are one of the Momentum TW4's strong showings, with future-proof Bluetooth support including the latest Bluetooth 5.4 version, aptX Lossless, LE audio and Auracast. Its battery life is long-lasting, with up to 30 hours total playtime, and there are ways to prolong and save power for times without chargers available. These features place it amongst the best earbuds around. 

The Momentum TW4’s call quality is good, with mics handling tougher weather conditions well. There were no options to tailor ANC or transparency to calls during my test, such as the Sidetone feature on Sennheiser’s Momentum 4 Wireless headphones, but they will be coming in a future firmware update. 

The Sennheiser Smart Control app is a functional companion to the Momentum TW4 that offers plenty of customization options and features, but can sometimes be a little confusing to navigate and doesn’t beat Sony’s Control App. 

Sound quality is where the Momentum TW4 shines. Its neutral profile may not excite people who like the bass of the Sony WF-1000XM5 or the trebles of the Technics EAH-AZ80, though the Momentum TW4 will nonetheless reproduce any genre thrown at it beautifully - no instrument goes unnoticed or is left behind. 

ANC on the Momentum TW4 is effective. Busy streets and office environments are drowned out when you have music pumping, though the Adaptive Noise Canceling feature can be a little hit-and-miss. With music off or at a low volume, the Momentum TW4 does a good job of muffling, but not totally wiping out, external noise, so if ANC is your top priority, you’ll instead want to look at the Bose QuietComfort II

The Momentum TW4’s design is copied from the previous Momentum True Wireless 3, with the finish here taking on a more appealing metallic sheen. The buds may be bulky for some, but with different fitting options and a Fit Test in the app to help, the Momentum TW4 buds nonetheless felt comfortable enough during long periods of use. Customizable, intuitive touch controls and a stylish and practical charging case round out a good overall design. 

In a competitive, even cluttered market, the Sennheiser Momentum TW4 is a great deal and what it does, it does well. I did have gripes about call control and the Smart Control app, and the sound may not be to everyone’s taste, but the Momentum TW4 gives the best wireless earbuds a serious challenge. 

sennheiser momentum true wireless 4 earbuds on white desk

The Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 4 (pictured) are in a fiercely competitive price bracket, but still do an excellent job of standing out.  (Image credit: Future)

Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 4 review: Price & release date

  •  $299.95 / £259.95 / AU$479.95 
  •  Released March 2024 

The Momentum TW4 costs slightly more than its predecessor, Momentum True Wireless 3, which was released at $249 / £219 / AU$399 Even so, the Momentum TW4 is priced in the same region as many of its competitors (of which there are many) at  $299.95 / £259.95 / AU$479.95.

The Momentum TW4’s closest rivals include the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II, which launched at $299 / £279 / AU$429, the Technics EAH-AZ80  ($299 /  £259 / AU$499), the Sony WF-XM1005 ($299.99 / £259 / AU$499) and the Airpods Pro 2 ($249 / £249 / AU$399). While those prices are all very similar, the other buds have seen major discounts, which puts the new Momentum TW4 on the backfoot. But, based purely on features and sound, the Momentum TW4 is released at the right price.  

Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 4 review: Specs

Sennhesier smart control app side by side

The Sennheiser Smart Control app (pictured) is functional and offers customization options for sound and more.  (Image credit: Future)

Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 4 review: Features

  •  Extensive Bluetooth support 
  •  Solid battery life 
  •  Functional Smart Control app 

Sennheiser clearly wanted to future-proof the Momentum TW4. It’s equipped with Snapdragon sound built on Qualcomm’s S5 Sound Gen 2 platform, which will stream not only at 16-bit/44kHz but also 24-bit/48kHz pending a future firmware update, and is compatible with LE audio and Auracast, (both also coming in a future update). 

Bluetooth support is stacked, with the latest Bluetooth 5.4 version, aptX Lossless, LC3, and other usual Bluetooth suspects. But unlike with the Sony WF-XM1005, there is no support for spatial audio. 

Call quality gives a strong showing on the Momentum TW4. There are 6 mics in total, the same as the Momentum TW3, but also a new feature that Sennheiser calls “AI improved voice pickup and call virtualization”. While on a call with the Momentum TW4, I was told I was coming through loud and clear, even on a wet and blustery day. 

I wanted to be able to control what the call sounded like at my end, as ANC was set to maximum. Although this was effective, it was also a little off-putting as I couldn’t hear traffic and my busy surroundings. I’ve been told that customizable features such as transparency will soon be added in an update, but it would’ve been nice to have this feature available as I found the quality of the caller’s voice a bit lacking. 

The battery life of the Momentum TW4 is touted as 7.5 hours of charge in the earbuds with up to 30 hours total playtime including the case. Generally, this was accurate. Even when playing with ‘Lossless’ Audio Resolution, the battery life was impressive, and when I combined this with ANC at full I only lost 30% charge over roughly 2.5 hours of playtime. 

Wireless charging is also available, though it takes longer than the standard USB-C charging, which does offer up to an hour of playback off a quick 8-minute charge if you’re in a hurry. That’s not quite Sony XM5 level (which is a staggering 3 minutes) but it’s still decent. There’s also a Battery Protection Mode option within the Smart Control app aimed at prolonging battery life by slowing charging and never charging to 100%. 

Sennheiser Smart Control may not be the most exciting app, but it’s functional. There’s plenty of customization via a 5-band EQ and sound personalization option, a Fit Test to get your buds sitting right, and customizable Touch Controls. I sometimes found its responses to be a bit laggy or unclear (adjusting transparency while listening to music had no obvious effect) but the app generally serves its purpose. 

There’s also a Smart Pause option that pauses music when it detects an earbud has been removed which was generally effective, especially at restarting when you put the earbud back in. If that’s a feature you’re bothered about, you can also turn it off in the app. 

  •  Features score: 4.5 / 5 

sennheiser momentum true wireless 4 with buds and case on display

The Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 4 (pictured) has outstanding sound quality. (Image credit: Future)

Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 4 review: Sound quality

  •  Balanced, wide soundstage 
  •  Extensive sound customization options in app  
  •  ANC is effective, but can be beaten 

The Sennheiser Momentum TW4’s sound quality is superb. A balanced and neutral profile means no aspect of the sound is overwhelming, and no instrument goes missing. For some looking for serious bass or enhanced trebles that may not be the best news, but there’s still much to like about the Momentum TW4’s sound. 

Whether listening with lossy Spotify or the superior lossless quality Tidal, the Momentum TW4 sounded great. Naturally, Tidal gets the most out of these buds, and it’s worth using to get that little more out of them. 

Streaming Confidence Man’s ‘Holiday’, a big and bold dance-pop number, the Momentum TW4 showcased its weighty bass and euphoric synths, which soared without drowning out the vocals, and the wide soundstage enabled every aspect of the song to sing. 

Moving on to Dir En Grey’s ‘Rinkaku’, a powerful, driving metal song, the crushing guitars and thunderous drums plowed through the track, and lead singer Kyo’s falsetto vocals also pushed through, with the Momentum TW4 enabling every instrument to breathe. 

Listening to A Tribe Called Quest’s ‘Award Tour’, a chill hip-hop classic, the bass wasn’t as powerful as I’d like, but it was tightly controlled and refined. Once again, the Momentum TW4’s balance showed itself, with the vocals, twinkling keyboards, and bass and drums all combining beautifully. 

These were just some highlights. Most genres were brilliantly handled by the Momentum TW4, whether it be the sweeping strings of various Final Fantasy soundtracks, the shimmering acoustic guitar stylings of Cat Stevens or the chaotic jazz opening ‘Tank’ of anime Cowboy Bebop! (which features a particularly sharp saxophone solo). 

One thing seems apparent - these earbuds were designed with ANC in mind, as I found music to sound better the higher the ANC level. When transparency was set to 'High', I did find the music lost some of its punch compared to the Low transparency setting, but the quality was still there. 

Speaking of Active Noise Canceling (ANC), the Momentum TW4 is effective, offering several ANC options through the Sennheiser Smart Control app. The Transparency is adjusted from Low (higher ANC levels) to High (lower ANC levels) via a slider. In a busy office with ANC on maximum, nearby voices were muffled but audible with no music playing. With music on, however, I found it difficult to hear the sound of my keyboard while working. 

The Adaptive Noise Canceling feature, which dynamically adapts ANC to the world around you, was also effective on my walk through busy streets to my office, though it was not mind-blowing. ANC on the Momentum TW4 is very good, though Sennheiser won't dethrone the Bose QuietComfort Buds II anytime soon. 

One thing worth noting is there is no way to turn noise canceling completely off, but merely to a low transparency level. I didn’t find this to be much of an issue, but it is something worth bearing in mind. 

Sound customization options are available within the Smart Control app, including a 5-band EQ and a Sound Personalization option that compiles your ideal sound profile by going through an A/B test with sliders. I found the out-of-the-box sound (after a couple of days run-in) to be perfectly fine, but it was also nice to have these features. When I experimented with Sound Personalization to get my EQ profile, it was surprising how different the sound was. 

While the Sony WF-1000XM5 may offer bass and the Technics EAH-AZ80 more treble, the Momentum TW4’s sound profile sits nicely in the middle in a way that suits my listening style. So if you want a more neutral sound, you will also like the Momentum TW4. 

  • Sound quality score: 4.5/5 

sennheiser momentum true wireless 4 case

The case of the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 4 (pictured) has a premium feel with its felt material.  (Image credit: Future)

Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 4 review: Design

  • Customizable touch controls 
  • Comfortable with plenty of fit options  
  •  Practical, if uninspiring design 

The Momentum TW4 is almost identical to the earlier Momentum TW3, keeping the same shape and arm design. As for colors, Sennheiser offers three options: Black Graphite (the option I tested), White Silver and Black Copper. The metallic sheen is an improvement over last year’s design but still feels a little plain. That copper color is certainly tempting, however…

In terms of fit, the Momentum TW4s sit within the ear canal. There are 4 bud sizes (XS, S, M, L) and 3 ear fin sizes (S, M, L) in the box, and I found the M size of both the bud and fin (which were the already fitted size) to suit me fine. After several hours of continuous use, the Momentum TW4 buds were still comfortable enough to keep wearing. 

To aid with fitting, a Fit Test within the Smart Control app uses different music clips at various volume levels to establish optimum fit, which I found helpful. This is not a unique feature to Sennheiser (many rivals have it), but it is worth checking out.

I found touch controls on the Momentum TW4 responsive, with the left earbud controlling transparency and ANC and the right controlling playback. These controls are customizable within the app, so if you use one function more than others, you can make it a one-tap option. You can also, of course, turn the touch controls off altogether if you wish.  

The Momentum TW4’s overall build quality is solid and weighty, although some may find its bulkier 6.2g weight and larger size cumbersome compared to the Sony WF-1000XM5, which weighs in at 4.2g. 

The charging case that comes with the Momentum TW4 is a particular highlight, with a similar weighty, solid design as the earbuds. It may not suit everyone, but the felt material does give it a more premium and comfortable feel.

  •  Design score: 4 / 5 

sennheiser momentum true wireless 4 buds in person's hand

The Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 4 buds (pictured) have a weighty but solid design.  (Image credit: Future)

Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 4 review: Value

  • Feature-packed for the money 
  • Premium feel  
  • Extremely competitive area 

The Sennheiser Momentum TW4 is packed with future-proof features, including LE audio and Auracast compatibility, and offers great sound quality. But with a retail price of $299 / £259 / AU$479, it has a lot of competition in its price range. 

Compared to rivals, the Momentum TW4 is bested in certain areas (Bose QuietComfort II for ANC, Sony WF-1000XM5 for apps and spatial audio), though it does offer a jack-of-all-trades approach that covers every area well. But even at a price currently higher than its rivals, the Momentum TW4 is a good value, just not quite a perfect one. 

  • Value score: 4 / 5 

Should you buy the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 4?

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 4 review: also consider

sennheiser momentum true wireless 4 with accessories and box

The Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 4 (pictured) with box and charging cable. Other bud and fin fittings come inside the box. (Image credit: Future)

How I tested

  • Extensive playtime over a week
  • Tested at home, in office and in public 
  • Pixel 6A used as source player, streaming Spotify, Tidal, Netflix and more

After a 48-hour run-in time, I tested the Sennheiser Momentum Wireless 4 with both Spotify and Tidal streamed through my Google Pixel 6A (which supports aptX HD audio), listening to various genres from metal to pop and beyond. I also watched content with streaming sites such as Netflix and BBC iPlayer to test voice quality, and used podcasts to test this as well.

To test battery life, comfort, and noise-canceling, I wore the Momentum True Wireless 4 earbuds throughout my working day in the office, and during my commute to and from work through busy streets and often wet and windy conditions. I also listened at home when it was quietest and tested call quality outside in different weather conditions. 

Read more about how we test

  • First reviewed: February 2024
Soundpeats Air4 Pro review: A cheap, stripped back AirPods Pro alternative
1:00 pm | February 25, 2024

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

Soundpeats Air4 Pro review: Two-minute review

The Soundpeats Air4 Pro are the definition of fine without ever quite being remarkable. Granted, they’re good value for what they offer but they’re not up there with the very best noise cancelling earbuds and there’s nothing about them that make you rush to tell your mates about something cool it does.

Despite that though, the Soundpeats Air4 Pro mostly sound pretty good. Bass is meaty and while there’s no nice technical detail in the mids or trebles, these are the kind of earbuds that are fine for putting in your ears before a walk, run, or workout session. For most people, that will be just fine. 

Notice the word fine featuring a lot? It’s the best word for the Soundpeats Air4 Pro. It does have key essentials like wear detection, which works flawlessly, and there’s a control app. The app isn’t the best or easiest to use but it does offer some core functionality like being able to switch between ANC and Transparency mode. 

The latter isn’t great but full ANC does a good job of blocking out irritants although occasionally lets some errant sounds in. Still, not bad at all for the price and Multipoint functionality will please many. 

Via the charging case, you get up to 26 hours of battery life, which is pretty good going. The 6.5 hours of charge at a time works out as more than good enough for most situations and the USB-C connection recharges quickly. 

At $90 / £80, the Soundpeats Air4 Pro are worth considering. They’re not as exciting as the best noise cancelling earbuds but they’re dependable at this price and I can only see them getting cheaper over time. 

Soundpeats Air4 Pro review: Price and release date

The Soundpeats Air4 Pro held in a hand

(Image credit: Future)
  • Released in September 2023
  • Officially priced at $90 / £80 / AU$94

The Soundpeats Air4 Pro was released in September 2023 for $90 in the US, £80 in the UK and AU$94 in Australia. The earphones are available in the US and UK directly from Soundpeats as well as through third-party retailers like Amazon for those in Australia.

The earbuds are available in white and black, which are functional colors but not exactly exciting. The best budget wireless earbuds world is a packed field, with the Sony WF-C700N being a little more expensive than the Air4 Pro but not prohibitively so. Instead, the EarFun Air Pro 3 are more closely matched in more than just name. 

In terms of other close competitors at the Soundpeats Air4 Pro's price range, there’s always the earlier SoundPeats Air 3 Deluxe, which should see some discounts now it’s been overtaken.

Soundpeats Air4 Pro review: Specs

Soundpeats Air4 Pro review: Features

The Soundpeats Air4 Pro held in a hand

(Image credit: Future)
  • Up to 26 hours of battery life with ANC disabled
  • Companion app
  • aptX lossless sound 

The Soundpeats Air4 Pro has most of the core essentials you could want from a pair of earbuds. There’s Multipoint connectivity for when you want to connect two devices and switch between them like your laptop and your phone, which is increasingly vital for most people. 

Additionally, there’s SBC and aptX lossless sound – although don’t count on any other codecs to be supported here. Granted, as we’ll see shortly, sound quality isn’t exceptional but it’s solidly reliable at this price. Adding to the aural experience, there’s ANC. 

ANC is a slightly mixed bag here. With full ANC on enabled, the Soundpeats Air4 Pro block out surrounding sound well whether we’re talking traffic outside or a noisy dehumidifier in the room. However, it’s not quite as crisp as much pricier earbuds so don’t count on it being high-end. It feels almost rough and ready in how it blocks sound leaving you feeling like you can hear the inner workings. It sounds odd but you won’t complain.

Where complaints arise is with Transparency mode. It’s pretty ropey. I tried using Transparency mode while listening to a podcast on a windy day and could barely hear a thing. That’s quite the test for any pair of earbuds but it led to me checking it was even enabled. During quieter moments, Transparency mode switches to a lot of hissing although you can hear someone speak to you easily enough. 

Battery life promises about 26 hours of total playtime with 6.5 hours per single charge. That feels about right with the Soundpeats Air4 Pro lasting long enough that you won’t notice any discrepancies with this figure. There’s no wireless charging but at least there’s USB-C charging which is fairly speedy at a couple of hours for a full charge – something that you’ll likely top up rather than go all or nothing with.

Bluetooth 5.3 continues to ensure good things with the Soundpeats Air4 Pro never seeing any dropouts and nice, efficient running times. 

There’s also companion app support but it’s pretty ugly. The actual features are just fine with a simple toggle between noise cancellation modes and disabling wear detection, but don’t count on it looking stylish while you do it. Setting up adaptive EQ is a bit of hassle too.

Features score: 4 / 5

Soundpeats Air4 Pro review: Sound quality

The Soundpeats Air4 Pro held in a hand

(Image credit: Future)
  • Good ANC
  • Weak Transparency mode
  • Strong bass

Temper your expectations based on the price and you’ll be delighted by the Soundpeats Air4 Pro’s sound quality compared to the best earbuds that cost many times more. 

Bass is the Soundpeats Air4 Pro’s strong point with a fairly smooth punch that was noticeable while I listened to Foo Fighters’ All My Life and Angel by Massive Attack. At louder volumes, things get distorted but I doubt it’s wise for your ears anyhow. 

Trebles and mids are weaker so don’t count on these earbuds for anything more technical or with more subtlety, but it’s unlikely you’re buying a pair of earbuds for less than $/£/AU$ 100 to kick back and relax at home with. Instead, these work well for walks, cleaning, running and your general busy lifestyle. 

Sound quality: 4 / 5 

Soundpeats Air4 Pro review: Design

The Soundpeats Air4 Pro held in a hand

(Image credit: Future)
  • Straightforward cycle
  • Chunky case
  • Touch controls

I’m no fan of the Soundpeats Air4 Pro’s case. Its lightweight plasticky build feels cheap and it awkwardly manages to feel both smooth yet angular in places. More importantly, while it keeps your earbuds safe, said earbuds are at an unusual angle so you’ll never quite grab them as smoothly as you might like.

Sure, these are relatively small things but if you’re pulling the Soundpeats Air4 Pro out multiple times a day, you’ll notice it. The case also has no IP rating but the earbuds themselves are IPX4 so they can handle some sweat. 

The fit of the buds are pretty snug. There are different tip sizes included but I found the standard ones out of the box are just fine. Even when running, these won’t fall out which is always good news. They look a lot like AirPods Pro so at a glance, you can look like you’ve bought something pricier.

There are also touch-sensitive areas on the earbuds with the option to increase or decrease volume, as well as adjust playback. It’s incredibly easy to activate these by mistake so head over to the app and disable them for your sanity’s sake.

Design score: 3 / 5 

Soundpeats Air4 Pro review: Value

The Soundpeats Air4 Pro held in a hand

(Image credit: Future)
  • Useful features 
  • About right for the price 

The only truly standout part about the Soundpeats Air4 Pro is its sound quality. It’s pretty good for the price and makes up for a temperamental ANC/Transparency combo. Other than that, there’s a cheapness here that reflects the price accurately. 

Against the Sony WF-C700N, this feels like dubious value but if you check out the EarFun Air Pro 3, the battle is a little fairer and more balanced.

Value score: 3.5 / 5

Should I buy the Soundpeats Air4 Pro?

The Soundpeats Air4 Pro on top of a table

(Image credit: Future)

Buy it if...

Don’t buy it if...

Soundpeats Air4 Pro review: Also consider

How I tested the Soundpeats Air4 Pro

The Soundpeats Air4 Pro on top of a table

(Image credit: Future)
  • Tested over 10 days 
  • Compared to Apple AirPods (Pro 2 and 3rd Gen) and Final Audio UX2000
  • Listened to Apple Music, Spotify, YouTube videos and Twitch 

Over the last 10 days, I’ve replaced my usual AirPods Pro 2 with the Soundpeats Air4 Pro. I previously used the AirPods 3rd Gen so I checked those out a few times to more adequately compare the quality of the Soundpeats Air4 Pro. 

I used them on my daily morning walks to see how they coped with the noise of the school run and commute. I also used them a few times on runs to see how good the fit was when I moved quickly (at least, quickly for me) and checked out how they handled running alongside a windy coastline. It was all a good test for the Soundpeats Air4 Pro’s ANC and Transparency modes, as well as adaptive EQ. 

For the most part, I listened to Apple Music and Spotify. Spotify was the home of all my podcasts while Apple Music was predominantly for listening to music. At home, I’d spend some time checking out YouTube videos of satire and Let’s Play videos before checking out live streams on Twitch. The iPhone 14 Pro provided everything to the Soundpeats Air4 Pro.

As always, my music taste is a bit all over the place. Some Harry Styles, John Legend, Holst’s The Planets, Linkin Park, and Sting all featured at various points here.

I’ve reviewed audio products for over 10 years. While my main drivers are on the pricier end of the scale these days, I regularly use cheap earphones and headphones for work purposes and am seemingly always asked for recommendations in this price range by friends.

  • First reviewed in February 2024
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