Organizer
Gadget news
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
Testing Airalo and Yesim travel eSIMs in London
9:10 pm | March 30, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Mobile phones news | Tags: | Comments: Off

Traveling is synonymous with planning and for us here at GSMArena, that also includes figuring out how to deal with roaming fees when we step abroad as we need an uninterrupted internet connection at all times. With embedded-SIM (eSIM) support now widely available on phones, tablets, and smartwatches picking up a travel data plan is a quick and easy process and we got the chance to test out travel eSIM plans from Airalo and Yesim during a week-long trip to London. The convenience of downloading a travel eSIM plan and then having instant mobile data as soon as you get off the plane...

Nothing Phone (2a) unboxed in London
1:00 pm | February 27, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Mobile phones news | Tags: | Comments: Off

Nothing’s teaser campaign for the Phone (2a) is still going on as the latest round of hype gives us an AR unboxing of the device. Nothing's marketing team has placed Phone (2a) posters around London and a specific one near Old Street has the device’s new camera and a fancy AR rendition of the device in its retail box. An unboxing like no other. Phone (2a) just dropped in London.Launching 5 March. pic.twitter.com/7hcb4ELYMG— Nothing (@nothing) February 26, 2024 This is our first official Phone (2a) look from Nothing, even though we’ve already seen leaked renders that confirmed the...

Status Between 3ANC review: stunning and with solid ANC, but forget tailoring
1:00 pm | August 19, 2023

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets | Tags: , , , | Comments: Off

Status Between 3ANC: Two-minute review

How to differentiate yourself in a sea of Apple AirPods impersonators? Create a bold, angular, wide-stemmed design in "bone", with easy on-ear volume that could never be mistaken for an Apple product – that's how. Then, pack the earpieces with three drivers per earbud (dual-balanced armature drivers; one 10mm dynamic driver) and add six mics in total, dotted around the striking design, to boast a whopping 38dB of active noise cancellation. 

It's a compelling proposition. That last claim alone makes these some of the best noise-cancelling earbuds on the market. If all you want to know is whether that noise-nixing assertion holds water, we don't mind spilling the tea early: it does. You can only choose "on" or "off" mind, but when the ANC toggle is switched to on, the rest of the world all but melts away – yes, it's that good. Also, they're surprisingly comfortable and the sound quality is more than acceptable; big, expansive and zealous, although lacking an extra ounce of dynamic sensitivity. 

This New York outfit says it never compromises on the drivers within its products – and it shows. Battery life is also highly competitive, at eight hours with ANC switched on (the same as that offered by the new Sony WF-1000XM5) and 30 hours in the case (which betters the 24-hour total in Sony's latest progeny). Plus, it's nice to see wireless charging and an IPX5 water-resistance rating on the spec-sheet, too.

The thing is, gazing at this same spec sheet (and the companion app), you can't help but notice a few omissions. There are no fit or hearing tests; no branded, spatial audio side-sauce such as 360 Reality Audio, THX, Dolby or Dirac; no sound zones; no auto-off and no voice-enhancing sidetone or "Hear My Voice" tech during calls. 

Status Between 3ANC earbud held in hand

The bud may look an oddly sharp shape, but the Status are very comfortable (Image credit: Future)

Neither do you get LDAC, aptX Low Latency or, in fact, support for any of the higher-resolution Bluetooth codecs, which is a shame. However, you do get multi-point connectivity to two devices, which works well. 

All of this leaves us with a strange proposition. These are some of the best wireless headphones in certain aspects: specifically, active noise cancellation, in a unique design that's also comfortable and includes easy on-ear volume tweaks. In addition, sonically, the eight-band EQ customisation tab is one of the most responsive and useful I've ever tried. 

Build quality and security are spot on; I actually had compliments about them while out and about, which is a first. Also, even the shiny lower part of the stems refuses to collect fingerprints. The thing is, that excellent ANC isn't adaptable beyond "on" or "off", and neither is the Ambient profile – which certainly works, but does add a little warmth to your music. 

The wireless connection to our various devices never faltered, and when watching movies, we experienced very little lag, which makes these Status earbuds a perfectly viable and solid proposition. But Status has billed these flagship earbuds as "supreme triple-driver acoustics, now with ALL the bells & whistles" – but compared to the class-leaders at this level, a few extra accoutrements are missing. 

Whether or not you care when the ANC is this good is up to you, though… 

Status Between 3ANC earbuds in their case, on colorful background

The earbuds slip into their case easily, tails first, which feels reassuringly secure (Image credit: Future)

Status Between 3ANC review: Price & release date

  • Released on April 12, 2023
  • $249 (approx. £249 / AU$399)  

The Status Between 3ANC earbuds arrived in April 2023 with a premium price tag of $249. This is a fair price hike over the April 2021 Status Between Pro they succeed, which launched at $169 / £120 (around AU$235).

At the time of writing, we're still waiting to hear when the Status Between 3ANC will be released in the UK and Australia. 

The keen-eyed will note that Sony's flagship WF-1000XM5 launched just after, priced just a little higher, at $299.99 / £259 / AU$499 – but there isn't a lot in it, and both parties know it. Status is trying to play with the big boys, over that there can be no mistake. 

At this level, other rivals include the excellent Technics EAH-AZ80 (which boast triple-device connectivity and some of the best call quality we've ever experienced) and, of course, the five-star Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II, still sitting pretty as some of the best earbuds for active noise cancellation we've had the pleasure of testing. 

Status Between 3ANC earbuds out of their case, on colorful background

The neck may look long, but the buds sit securely – with no twisting or constant readjustments necessary (Image credit: Future)

Status Between 3ANC review: Specs

Status Between 3ANC app, showing three screens

The app is uncluttered and the eight-band EQ tab is a joy, but it does seem a little feature-light compared to rivals (Image credit: Future / Status)

Status Between 3ANC review: Features

  • Solid, efficient; does-what-it-says-it-will ANC
  • Good call quality
  • No auto-off or scope for on-ear control tweaks 

It might be more prudent to list what you're not getting here. There's no support for higher-resolution codecs or special spatial audio sauce (Sony's Tidal upscaler, 360 Reality Audio – aka 24 object-based channels arranged in a 360-degree soundstage, is off the menu, for example), and so your Spotify tracks will be just that – as good as 320kbps can sound. 

Also, you'll find the Status app perfectly acceptable and clean, but devoid of tutorial, fit-test, auto-off, in-call vocal enhancements, or scope to alter the on-ear touch controls. In fact, said app is essentially just three pages: a homepage, Headphones page and a firmware update screen. The homepage provides a nice picture of your product along with battery status. There are two toggles for ANC or Ambient Sound Mode – and despite our eagerness to tell you how good the noise cancellation is when deployed, on or off is your lot in terms of tailoring. 

Under this, you'll see a Sound Mode tab. Click it and you're off two the second screen, to select between "Status Signature", "Status Audiophile", "Original Between Pro" (for fans of the older-generation model, presumably) or a custom EQ setting of your choosing. Of the presets, the third option is the warmest – and, for some, may feel just a tiny bit fuzzy around the lower registers. Audiophile and Signature will suit different ears and are genuinely fun to experiment with, although it would be nice to see a visual representation of them on the eight-band tab you get when choosing your own. 

The third screen is purely for firmware updates and will likely tell you you're all set. Hardly extensive and exhaustive, is it? 

Luckily, what the Status Between 3ANC do, they do very well indeed. There's a small physical button on the top of each earbud that switches between Ambient or ANC modes (switching both off is only possible via the app; it's announced vocally, too); but a tap of either bud's main upper stem, above the driver housing, easily plays or pauses your music. Double-tapping skips back or forward, depending on which bud you tap, and my favourite feature is a press-hold of either bud, which ups or lowers the volume. 

It may sound a simple feature, but the fact that volume tweaks are easy, reliable and don't require the mastering of four-tap morse code skills (Sony WF-1000XM5, I'm looking at you) to alter loudness is nothing short of joyous. I wish more brands would do this, over prioritising access to our voice assistants. I can't be alone in wanting to alter the volume of my favorite tracks without consulting my phone far more often than I ever want to ask Siri the price of cheese? 

Again, though, the most recent Sony proposition offers a choice of 20 increments of Ambient Aware, on a slider, whereas here it's just "on" or "off". And that doesn't really shout "all whistles and bells" to us, splendid although that ANC is. 

  • Features score: 3.5/5

Status Between 3ANC earbud held in hand, above their case

The two-tone top plate looks stylish in an 80s, Jem and the Holograms type of way – and you can adjust volume with a simple hold-press (Image credit: Future)

Status Between 3ANC review: Sound quality

  • Meaty, immersive listen
  • Bass can sound fuzzy on occasion – but can be tweaked in the EQ tab
  • Detail and dynamic build can be bettered by Technics and Sony

As mentioned above, there aren't any higher-resolution codecs onboard here. Nevertheless, there's plenty of bite and excitement from the get-go in an expansive and nicely layered presentation.

It's a meaty and enthusiastic performance when streaming Sean Paul's Gimme the Light, with various additional vocals arriving at each ear in a cohesive performance.

Switch to Aerosmith's Water Song / Janie's Got a Gun, and it's a similar story – up to a point. The 10-second "Water Song" intro (involving a glass harmonica, wind gong and bull-roarers) is accurate across the frequencies, but doesn't build from barely perceptible to quiet and pensive, as it can through more dynamically agile earbuds. These buds are energetic almost to a fault. 

And there's a minor shortfall when it comes to the bass, which is a shade off excellent for depth through the leading edges of notes, which means it can come off a little lightweight or fuzzy (tubby would be an overstatement) without EQ adjustment. 

When streaming Amaarae's Fancy, the virtual placement of audio through the intro is divine, toying around our chin and throat; but when the beat drops, it's just a shade off excellent for a regimented low-end, until we up the bass through a custom EQ profile. This really does help, but bass-fiends may well need more – and here, the Status buds may fall short. 

In direct comparison, the Technics EAH-AZ80 are able to offer a little more clout and depth. For dynamic build (the rise and fall of each musical note) it's also a marginal win for Technics, although that's a more closely run race. That said, for me, the Status Between 3ANC earbuds are incredibly secure and easy to use – and possibly because I have such a great seal betwixt ear tip and ear canal here, the ANC offered by the Status edges it. 

  • Sound quality score: 4/5

Status Between 3ANC earbuds in their case on colorful background

The case isn't the smallest you've ever seen, but it stands up, repels fingerprint smudges, and is of a decent quality (Image credit: Future)

Status Between 3ANC review: Design

  • Striking earpieces – you may get compliments
  • On-ear volume control is a joy
  • Rock-solid connectivity

These earbuds fit me very well indeed – and they're striking. If you ever wanted to look like an extra on Jem and the Holograms, these are the buds for you. The smallest size of ear tips and silicone "fitwings" come pre-fitted, and they fit me perfectly; but  there's a medium and a large set to choose from, too. Also, because the fitwing (which covers the lower portion of the driver housing and makes it more bulbous if your ear needs that) and the ear tip aren't physically attached, they can be switched around independently as necessary. 

Note that these extras are a little tricky to fit, so it's best not to do it on your commute. However, once you get it right, I vouch for the security here. 

It's odd that while Status' earbuds are so distinctive, angular and design-conscious, the case is functional and – let's face it– pretty commonplace. Status' squiggle branding doesn't feature on the buds at all (of which I'm grateful), but it does make an appearance atop this box. That said, the case doesn't collect any greasy thumb-prints, it shuts with a reassuring snap, stands up so you can easily charge up wirelessly or using the USB-C port, and it does feature a useful line of three LEDs to denote battery left within it. Does Sony's WF-1000XM5 case look more expensive? No. But the Technics EAH-AZ80 case does. 

For me, the earbuds are a joy to wear and use. As mentioned above, but it bears repeating: while you'd have to master four quick taps to either up or lower the volume in Sony's newest flagship earbuds, here a simple hold-press does the job and without any registering tones invading your music. Although it's worth noting that there's no option to turn off the notifications that do feature (mostly where ANC and Ambient are concerned). 

The physical buttons on the top edge of each earbud make switching between ANC profiles a certainty rather than guesswork, but more than all of this, the Bluetooth connectivity is rock-solid. Calls? Yes, good. There was a little wind-noise intrusion on a blustery day by the sea, but for the office they'll certainly suffice. 

  • Design score: 5/5

Status Between 3ANC review: Value

  • ANC is solid – but cannot be tailored 
  • Design-conscious wearers will find value here
  • Rivals offer a more tailored experience

The simple truth here is that Technics' EAH-AZ80 earbuds, which can be yours for just a little more, will give you simultaneous connectivity to three devices, not two – and with a clean, comprehensive companion app to boot. Also, you'll get voice-isolating tech for calls, an extra mic per earbud, LDAC support, and the option to tailor both the ANC and Ambient levels and the on-ear controls to your heart's content. 

Does the Bose QCE II edge it for active noise cancellation in direct comparison? Actually, for me, no – but other members of the team have stuck resolutely to Bose's option because, again, these buds offer a slider to tweak the amount of noise you'll hear, which you won't get with these Status earbuds

The fit is excellent and the sound quality is good – I loved the separation, stereo-imaging and verve – but the bass weight does need a bit of help, and dynamically they're a shade off excellent. 

In the end, it comes down to your priorities. Are you prepared to forego fit tests, ANC tweaks, buds that know when you're talking and cut the music, and hearing tests to get solid, dependable noise cancellation in a striking build? Because toggle that ANC on and there's most definitely a fraction of a second where extraneous noise floats off into the ether, leaving you with your playlists. The answer, of course, is known only to each of us – and, luckily, we're all so very different. 

  • Value score: 3.5/5

Should I buy the Status Between 3ANC?

Buy them if...

Don't buy them if...

Status Between 3ANC review: Also consider

How I tested the Status Between 3ANC

Status Between 3ANC earbuds worn by TechRadar's Becky Scarrott, outside

(Image credit: Future)
  • Tested for two weeks, listened against the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II, Sony WF-1000XM5, Technics EAH-AZ80 
  • Used at work (in the office; walking through London; on a train), at home and in Weymouth, Dorset
  • Listened to Tidal, Apple Music, Qobuz and Spotify streams and downloads on an iPhone XR, Sony Xperia 1 IV and a MacBook Pro

As always when testing earbuds or headphones, one has to invest time and energy. After a thorough 24-hour run-in period, the Status Between 3ANC became my commute and office companions, as well as my musical providers on a trip to the UK coastal town of Weymouth, Dorset. 

I wore them throughout the working day and on the busy (read: noisy) London overground train network. I also wore them in an aerial silks class to check what I like to call the "upside-down loss risk". 

The Status Between 3ANC came to work on weekdays (walking brusquely to the station; boarding a train and the London Underground; at the office) and for a particularly blustery walk on the Weymouth Dorset promenade – a great way to test any wind-interference from mics during calls.

When testing the audio quality across the frequencies, I listened to various playlists (spanning everything from reggaeton to prog-rock) on Apple Music and Tidal, but also to podcasts and albums on Spotify – and YouTube tutorials (largely on harnessing the power of Chat GPT, if you were curious) from my MacBook Pro. 

I’ve been testing audio products for five years now. As a dancer, aerialist and musical theater performer in another life, sound quality, fit and the user experience have always been a priority for me personally. I also know full well the benefits of powerful active noise cancellation when done well. 

Read more about how we test

  • First reviewed: August 2023
Sony WF-1000XM5 review: smaller and sonically special, but rivals are gaining
7:00 pm | July 24, 2023

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets | Tags: , , | Comments: Off

Sony WF-1000XM5: Two-minute review

Sony's WF-1000XM5 are the most hotly anticipated earbuds of the year, and because the leaks regarding their smaller size have proved genuine, it's an open goal for Sony, right? They're 25% smaller and 20% lighter than the older class-leaders, but boast the same kind of sonic talents. Five sweet stars, surely?

Not quite. You'll see that we've knocked a whole star off in our rating above, which means we have some explaining to do. 

They're still a compelling proposition, and some of the best noise-cancelling earbuds on the market, but it is our job to review objectively and thoroughly – and if certain priorities (including near-silence in the office) are paramount there may actually be alternatives that suit you better for the same money, as sacrilegious as that may sound. And we're about to tell you why.

First, a quick run-down of the improvements found in Sony's newest progeny: you now get Bluetooth 5.3 and three mics per earbud, including two feedback mics, as well as Sony's new dual integrated Processor V2 to unlock the potential of the HD Noise Cancelling Processor QN2e (you got two mics and one processor in the WF-1000XM4). This little setup is able to deliver three times more data than before. Still with us? Good. 

Battery life is carried over from the older-generation model at a very respectable eight hours for the earbuds and 24 hours total in the case. A 60-minute quick-charge gives three hours of playtime too.

You also now get four pairs of unique and premium-feeling polyurethane foam tips, including a new 'SS' size for smaller ears, which you don't get with Sony's older buds. There's a bone conduction sensor to detect the user speaking, plus the mesh on feed forward mic is better thanks to a redesign. Also, the packaging is now zero-plastic and made from sustainable bamboo, which is nice to know. 

Sony WF-1000XM5 earbuds in the palm of a hand

Has Sony made the Golidlocks 'just right' earbuds for size? I believe so (Image credit: Future)

Despite the additional super-small ear tip option (which I had to select for my annoying right ear) within Sony's particularly picky fit test and the excellent, deep, agile, zealous Sony sound, competition in 2023 is incredibly harsh. Specifically, we found the active noise cancellation simply didn't nix as much noise as two other rival models at the level. That, and the fact that the team – using different review samples in different continents – experienced more than one or two connectivity drop-outs during testing, which didn't happen with said competitors, means we're unable to give them full marks across the board. 

Multi-point connectivity (but note, only to two devices, not three), LDAC and adaptive sound control are all here as you'd expect in a top-tier set of earbuds, which means your physical location or activity can be automatically detected and tailored, if you want. You also get Sony's 24-bit audio processing and DSEE Extreme real-time 'upscaling' engine, so Spotify tracks are going to sound a heck of a lot better, while 360 Reality Audio also takes your Tidal tracks to new heights. 

The Sony Connect app is a very similar affair to the one you'll find with the Sony WF-1000XM4 wireless earbuds and Sony WH-1000XM5 over-ears – and you're right to say that the latter are some of the best wireless headphones on the planet right now, so if it ain't broken, don't fix it, particularly when Sony's loyal fanbase loves it so. The thing is, some of the team found it a little busy and cluttered given the competition, and felt the experience might have benefitted from a redesign to make it quicker to access noise cancellation (which is on the second screen, under a very small drop-down menu) and the fit tests – which are easily lost under the top-right 'tutorial' header, for example. 

The build quality and battery life are all exemplary; there's less protrusion than with the older XM4 and the Sony WF-C500, and the build and finish do feel more premium compared to the new and splendid entry-level Sony WF-C700N noise-cancelling option. But there's the rub: the C700N are so good for sound and feature set, one does wonder whether the significant extra outlay you'll need to make acquire the flagship WF-1000XM5 is worth it in the 'sound per pound' stakes – particularly given our minor issues with them. 

Sony WF-1000XM5 earbud held in a hand on white background

The shiny plastic is limited to the circumference – and they're lovely and svelte  (Image credit: Future)

Sony WF-1000XM5 review: Price & release date

  • Released on July 24, 2023
  • Priced $299.99 / £259 / AU$499 

This is business as usual for Sony's flagship buds: the Sony WF-1000XM4 launched at $279.99 / £250 / AU$449.95 in 2021 – so far, so standard. 

At this level, the closest competition would be the excellent Technics EAH-AZ80 (which boast triple-device connectivity and some of the best call quality we've ever experienced), and of course the five-star Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II, which sit pretty as the best earbuds for noise cancellation we've ever had the pleasure of testing. 

Sony WF-1000XM5 earbuds and case held in hand

  (Image credit: Future)

Sony WF-1000XM5 review: Specs

Sony Headphones Connect app three screens on gray background

The app is capable of greatness, but it can come off as feeling a little cluttered (Image credit: Sony)

Sony WF-1000XM5 review: Features

  • Excellent immersive 360 Reality Audio
  • ANC is standard rather than excellent
  • Call quality is much improved, but can still be beaten

Sony's earbuds always excel when playing Tidal tracks, because this opens the door to Sony 360 Reality Audio support – aka 24 object-based channels arranged in a 360-degree soundstage, which Sony launched back in 2019. Yes, you have to take photos of your ear, which is a little finicky, then link your Tidal account under the oft-forgotten 'Services' section of the app. But it is emphatically worth it when the processor – and thus the detail, directional filters and placement – is this good. 

Also advised: Sony's WF-1000XM5 tutorial, which is found under those little three dots in the top right of the homescreen, beside the picture of your product. This measures the "air-tightness" of your chosen ear tips and is remarkably strict, asking me to downsize on one ear in the name better noise cancellation and sound quality. 

You get the option to pause audio when they're removed (which you won't get with the cheaper WF-C700N) and the toggle to "capture voice during a phone call" is similar to Technics' ‘Just My Voice' tech and one I really enjoyed, because it helped me avoid shouting during calls in a busy street. Also good is Speak to Chat, which detects your voice and pauses playback when you stike up a conversation with anyone nearby.

As you'd expect, Sony's Headphones Connect app is the star of the show. And as with the entry-level C700N, Adaptive Sound Control, optimized according to what you're doing, means that these headphones learn how you use them and try to help. Don't like that it deploys ANC when you're 'Staying'? Fine, tap the cog in the app's Headphone Settings and you can deploy Ambient sound or turn all noise profiles off – and until you change it, that should happen whenever you're sitting at your desk. 

When Ambient is deployed, you can select from 1-20 on a slider (I typically select 12 when 'Walking' to my train and 20 when 'Running') and these work really well. 

But is the ANC better owing to that new extra mic and processor? For me, it's fine rather than eyebrow-raising. Noises are largely softened and massaged, but the AC unit above my head in the office remains present in my mix. Does the Bose QCE II beat the performance here? It does. 

Call quality is much better in this iteration and you can even answer calls by nodding your head (or reject them by shaking it) if you're wearing the earphones and looking at your smartphone, which is a fun touch if your arch-enemy is calling. Is the call-quality as good as the Technics EAH-AZ80? For me, not quite – on a very blustery day, the Technics clarity edged it, but it was a closely run race. 

  • Features score: 4.5/5

Sony WF-1000XM5 earbud held in a hand

Is four taps of this right earbud too much of an effort to level up the volume? Maybe (Image credit: Future)

Sony WF-1000XM5 review: Sound quality

  • Zealous, exciting listen
  • Tidal tracks are masterfully delivered with 360 Reality Audio
  • Trebles can be beaten 

If you've skipped straight to the sound part (I applaud you and) it's good news. Sony says it has worked hard on crisp bass weight and clout here and it isn't joking. If you're all about that bass but you want earbuds rather than cans, the WF-1000XM5 should be on your list. 

Those with a Tidal account are in for a special treat thanks to that 360 Reality Audio, but even when streaming lossy Spotify tracks (or much better Apple Music streams), the WF-1000XM5 eat it all up and put on an agile, meaty, enthusiastic performance. 

When streaming Dave and Central Cee's Sprinter, the texture of the delicate Spanish guitar is never lost at to the distinctive, nuanced and three-dimensional rap vocals vying for our attention. It's a beautifully layered and expansive mix that goes right down into an impressive bass floor with snap and nimbleness.

Melissa Etheridge's Come To My Window is another showcase for the sonic talents of the XM5s. They actually expose minor shortfalls in this rock anthem: was Melissa a little close to the mic then? Did the Wurlizter come in perhaps just a tiny bit early? It's all in the recording, but these are the kind of stunning details that are missed by lesser earbuds. 

John Coltrane's Moment's Notice reveals trumpets, drums, upright bass and keys all beautifully placed and held in a cohesive mix, with each musical passage given space to shine but held resolutely in check. 

In direct comparison, the Technics EAH-AZ80 are a close match for it, though. Is the treble in the Technics product a little more present and sparkling joy? For us, yes. But is the low end in the Sony product just a shade more dynamically nuanced? That's a much closer debate. Rather than one option being categorically better than the other, here I would direct you to ask yourself this: do you prefer an integrated, refined, hi-fi sound? The Technics product will suit you better. Want enthusiasm, bass and fun? Go for the Sony. 

  • Sound quality score: 4.5/5

Sony WF-1000XM5

OK so they're not winning any novelty design awards, but the Sony WF-1000XM5 are a compact proposition (Image credit: Future)

Sony WF-1000XM5 review: Design

  • Beautifully compact, ergonomic earpieces
  • On-ear volume control takes some work
  • The team experienced connectivity drop-outs

Simply put, these earbuds fit me. One male member of the team found them almost too small, and that the ear tips actually stayed in his ear when he removed the units, but for most listeners I am willing to go on record and say these will probably fit you – and comfortably so. 

This should come as no surprise that Sony is making great strides in terms of the size of its earbuds, with the WF-C700N and Sony LinkBuds S another firm favorite for my smaller ears. The case is functional and shuts with a reassuring snap, and the brushed plastic doesn't collect any smudgy fingerprints either. You could look at the Technics EAH-AZ80 case and think its cool metallic top plate looks more premium however – and you'd be right. Sony isn't winning any novelty awards with this case, but it holds its precious cargo securely and slips into a pocket very easily. 

The top plate of each earpiece is easy to find during wear and the customisable touch capacitive functions work very well – although for me, four quick taps to either up or lower the volume (along with tones to issue the touch) is a little hard work and affects my enjoyment of the music a tad. You can turn off certain notifications and voice guidance in the app, but not these tones. 

It's also worth noting that there are plenty of options to tweak the EQ in the app, using the 'Find Your Equalizer' system, which asks you to select the best sound for you from a selection of numbered profiles, then more, and then more still. The optimized profile created can either be applied or ignored entirely, but it's fun to play with. 

Our main issue with the build here is a strange one: occasional drop-outs when streaming music. When listening in our busy publishing house office, music simply paused and resumed a few times. And it didn't happen with our control sets of earbuds (namely, the Technics and Bose models listed below). 

Sony has said this may be due to connection set up and indeed, in the Sound tab of the Sony Headphones Connect app, you can select the Bluetooth connection quality between 'prioritize sound quality' or 'prioritize stable connection'. But having to downgrade on sound quality to get a stable connection does seem counter-intuitive when a set of earbuds boasts such sonic talent – and also, our issues persisted even when opting for stability. Sadly, other members of the team in other territories also experienced the issue. It's odd, although we must specify that the bulk of our testing was also conducted using an early beta version of the app, which could account for some of the issues.

  • Design score: 4/5

Sony WF-1000XM5 review: Value

  • Sony lovers and bass fiends will struggle to find better
  • Tidal subscribers will also find value
  • Competition is gaining though

Sony is still a class-leader and its progeny must be given due diligence. If you know and love your current Sony earbuds and know your way around the Sony Headphones Connect app, you'll find no fault with it here.

But it's also important to notice that rivals are gaining – and some have even bettered the Sony earbuds' spec-sheet this time around. Take for example Technics' EAH-AZ80 earbuds, which can be yours for the same money as the Sony WF-1000XM5 and will give you simultaneous connectivity to three devices, not two – and with a clean, comprehensive companion app to boot. 

For us, the Bose QCE II edge it for active noise cancellation in direct compariosn with the WF-1000XM5 and as such, that might affect the value of Sony's newest and greatest to the potential buyer.

For us, the sound quality befits Sony's rich and storied heritage, but we did experience a few connectivity drop-outs during testing, so they're a shade off perfection. As always, the customers buys with their wallet, but while it is our job to point out viable alternatives, we certainly don't think buying Sony's newest would be money poorly spent. 

  • Value score: 3.5/5

Should I buy the Sony WF-1000XM5?

Buy them if...

Don't buy them if...

Sony WF-1000XM5 review: Also consider

How I tested the Sony WF-1000XM5

  • Tested for two weeks, listened against the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II, Sony WF-C700N, Technics EAH-AZ80, Bowers & Wilkins Pi7 S2
  • Used at work (in the office; walking through London; on a train) and at home
  • Listened to Tidal Masters, Apple Music Lossless tracks and Spotify on an iPhone XR, Sony Xperia 1 IV and a MacBook Pro

As always when testing earbuds or headphones, one has to invest time and energy. And thanks to Sony, the WF-1000XM5 became my musical companions for four weeks – after a thorough 48-hour run-in period. 

To better test the comfort levels (and battery life claims) of Sony's flagship WF-1000XM5, I wore them throughout the working day and on the busy (read: noisy) London Underground network. I also wore them in a yoga class to check what I like to call the earbud-loss risk. 

They accompanied me to work on weekdays (walking brusquely to the station; boarding a train and the London Underground; at the office) and on a particularly blustery day on the Weymouth Dorset promenade – a great way to test any wind-interference from mics during calls.

When testing the audio quality across the frequencies, I listened to various playlists (spanning everything from classiscal to death metal) on Apple Music and Tidal, but also to podcasts and albums on Spotify – and YouTube tutorials (mostly about nuclear fission, if you were curious) from my MacBook Pro. 

I’ve been testing audio products for 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 listen for. 

Read more about how we test

  • First reviewed: July 2023
Edifier Stax Spirit S3 review: maybe the best-sound wireless headphones you can get
1:55 am | June 5, 2023

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets | Tags: , , | Comments: Off

Edifier Stax Spirit S3: Two-minute review

To gaze upon the Edifier Stax Spirit S3 is to see a pair of great-looking, chic, comfortable and portable wireless planar magnetic headphones with hi-res audio certification – and by hi-res, I mean Qualcomm's Snapdragon sound with aptX Adaptive, aptX HD and regular aptX, so they cover all of the current top-tier wireless audio coding. 

They adopt Edifier's latest proprietary planar magnetic technology using 89mm x 70mm planar magnetic driver units, which offer a frequency response of 20Hz~40KHz and I believe deliver some of the most accurate, crisp, meaningful sound reproduction of any of the best wireless headphones market at the price. 

The Stax Spirit S3 support Bluetooth 5.2 for (meaning Auracast will likely soon be on the menu) and you'll get around 80 hours of playtime. Read that again. That's more than any of the best noise-cancelling headphones currently on the market. Also, a short 10-minute charge delivers a whopping 11 hours of playtime and there's a mic for aptX Voice certified call-handling to boot.

But planar magnetic closed-back over-ears with a Bluetooth chipset must mean heavy and cumbersome, right? Not at all. At 329g they're comfortable for all-day use – but if that's just a number, consider that Apple's AirPods Max weigh 55g more at 384g, while Sony's WH-1000XM5 are a little lighter at 249g. Also, they fold up into the headband and come with a refreshingly small hard case for transport.

Confused by the name? You're not alone, so for clarity: these Edifier headphones are not to be wrongly assigned to the STAX brand (although Edifier did acquire this brand name in 2012), although they do use magnetostatic transducers in the "Spirit" of STAX. Also, they have been closely linked to Audeze's Mobius headphones, just with new branding. Got it? Good.

Whatever their heritage, they are all Edifier now – and if you read no further, know that they're a compelling and talented proposition. You even get an additional set of cooling-mesh ear cushions for season-specific on-the-go use, along with a USB-C charging cable, 3.5mm headphone cable for wired listening, a 6.35mm adapter and an 'ear cushion pick' which you'll only need to worry about if you're switching up. 

The Edifier Connect app is acceptable rather than excellent, but it functions without issue and as any audiophile will tell you, companion apps can largely be ignored if the design and sound quality is good enough to avoid fiddling – and that is emphatically the case here. 

Any flies in the ointment? One: no active noise cancellation. Whether or not you really need it when the sound quality and passive isolation is this good is up to you. If you prioritize an expansive soundfield and crisp detail with a more-than healthy bass extension though, put these headphones at the top of your list. 

Edifier Stax Spirit S3 on orange/gray sofa

Good-looking gold accents and herringbone styling on the ear cups, no?  (Image credit: Future)

Edifier Stax Spirit S3: Price & release date

  • Released on February 24, 2022
  • Priced $399 / £330 / approx. AU$640

The Stax Spirit S3 were released in early 2022, and as such there might be a little bit of wiggle room on the prices above – but not a lot.

This not insubstantial pricing puts them bang up against some of the best and most heavy-hitting over-ear headphones in the business, including the Sony WH-1000XM5 ($399 / £380 / AU$649), the Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless ($349.95 / £300 / AU$549.95) and the Bowers & Wilkins PX7 S2 ($399 / £379 / approx. AU$575). 

Tough company to keep, especially when you consider that active noise cancellation doesn't feature. But sonically, they're more than up to it. 

Edifier Stax Spirit S3 close-up, showing the multi-function button, on orange background

Check out the excellent padding – but the multi-function button is a tad unreliable. (Image credit: Future)

Edifier Stax Spirit S3: Specs

Edifier Stax Spirit S3 headphones folded, on blue sofa

How's that for portability? A great proposition for the commute. (Image credit: Future)

Edifier Stax Spirit S3: Features

  • Incredibly long battery life
  • Bluetooth multipoint
  • Somewhat limited in-app EQ presets

As stamina claims go, 80 hours is insatiable in almost any arena, but particularly concerning wireless headphones – and during my time with them I actually gleaned just over 90 hours from them before they seemed even a bit tired. It's rare that during the course of a review I need only charge a set of over-ears once, and even then only for 10 minutes or so – thus netting a further 11 hours. 

These headphones are very easy to pair, very quick on the uptake where the app is concerned and easy to use, too. Multipoint? Completed it; soon I'm happily chopping and changing between my phone and my laptop all the livelong day. 

As you might have spotted, there's no ANC or Ambient awareness here, and no auto-off functionality, but that doesn't mean Edifier sees no reason for a companion app. The Edifier Connect app is fine, but that's as far as I can go. It tries to cajole you into buying Edifier products a little too readily (with two "Discover" and "Mall" tabs at the bottom of the landing page sending you off to discover and shop Edifier exclusively), but the headphones tab gives a good battery life indicator and interestingly, asks you to confirm whether you've fitted the "Leather earmuffs" or "Ice feeling earmuffs" in order to better tailor the sound. 

There's an unusual "Soothing sounds" section tab in the top right, which offers a plethora of free soundscapes such as "summer night" (no, not the song from Grease) "lapping waves" and even a mewing cat. I mean, it adds a modicum of value, perhaps. The app also displays the music currently playing in the way your streaming service does and in the settings tab, you can customise the volume of vocal prompts and tweak the functionality of double and triple presses between pause/play, gaming mode, sound effects (more on this in a moment) or voice assistant access. Call quality? Splendid – clear and snag free. 

The EQ presets are a let-down, though. The second, swipe-left screen within the app is labelled "Sound Effects" and it lets you pick between "Classic", "Hi-Fi" and "STAX" profiles. There's no tablature for this, though, and while Classic is a hands-down favorite owing to its extra modicum of warmth and zeal, STAX feels borderline tinny and hi-fi lacks a bit of oomph but doesn't unearth any extra iotas of detail – because these are already supremely detailed cans sonically. What I'm saying is, giving users the option of five- or even three-band sliders to augment certain frequencies would be preferable. 

The third screen is purely for gaming mode on, or off, which is all well and good. In the end, though, dedicated audiophiles will doubtless try not to touch such fripperies; happily, the sound quality here is good enough that bypassing the app entirely is no bad thing. 

  • Features score: 4/5

Edifier Stax Spirit S3 case, on orange and gray sofa

This case is about half the size of the Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless and I loved taking it with me. (Image credit: Future)

Edifier Stax Spirit S3: Sound quality

  • Divinely detailed and revealing
  • Snappy bass extension; depth in spades
  • An expressive and dynamically agile listen

They sound so good, these. Oh, you need more words? Right then. 

Bruce Springsteen's re-release of Darkness on the Edge of Town live with with the E-Street Band (streamed; a Tidal Master file) is brimming with emotion, revealing any minor deviations in the keys and raucousness from the excitable crowd in a gloriously detailed mix. 

Burna Boy's Anybody on Apple Music (a Lossless file) unearths emotion and textures in the vocal rarely heard at this level and there's a glorious three-dimensional quality to the drums and sax solo, even as the percussion goes low. 

Nicki Minaj's Super Bass (Tidal HiFi) bursts through with a juicy, full and cohesive mix that darts between each ear with the kind of spritely agility normally seen in wired headphones at double the price. 

Gerry Cinnamon's Belter is a lovely example of pared back rhythmic guitars and backing vocals, which are expertly layered and relayed here with ample space around each element to shine. If anything, the added stems here as the track progresses (the crack of a whip, a chanting crowd, the shake of a rattlesnake's tail) feel a little lonely – but that's certainly not a criticism where the Edifiers are concerned; quite the opposite. Because these headphones can do so much more. 

Is it the same with a wired 3.5mm connection? Not quite. The presentation lacks just a little conviction when physically wired to a Sony Xperia or an iPhone – although that's something that few of us will do, given the incredible battery life and convenience offered here. And in case it needs to be re-stated, there's no USB audio option. 

  • Sound quality score: 5/5

Edifier Stax worn by Becky Scarrott, around the neck to show that the earcups rotate out, rather than in

Thing is, it is a bit odd for earcups to rotate this way when not being worn…  (Image credit: Future)

Edifier Stax Spirit S3: Design

  • Additional pair of cooler earcups supplied
  • Foldable design
  • Multi-function button is a shade off excellent 

If you miss folding headphones (not seen in the heavy-hitter arena since the Sony WH-1000XM4), they're back here and it does make taking them on your commute – or in your hand luggage – much easier. The supplied case is only about a half to two-thirds the size of the ones supplied with products such as the Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless, Focal Bathys or newer Fairphone FairBuds XL

The design here feels light and cool, with optimal clamping force, and the lovely herringbone accents and gold branding on the black earcups make for a chic aesthetic – though vegans should note that these do include real leather. 

The ear cups angle forward just slightly and the headband is nicely padded over the crown, which makes these cans feel well weighted and good for longer listening sessions. And the sound bleed? Minimal; people on desks next to me couldn't hear my tracks at 50% volume in the office. 

There are some minor drawbacks. The ear cups rotate to lie flat around your neck when not being worn, but only outwards, which feels entirely wrong for those planar magnetic drivers. The headband is also overly clicky when adjusting for size; a pet peeve but the noise does impact your listening pleasure. Lastly, the multi-function button and volume buttons either side of it are just a bit hit and miss for this level. It's a critique I also levelled at the more-expensive Focal Bathys, but when a long press is meant to turn the headphones off and sometimes, this just doesn't seem to work, it's worth mentioning it. 

Overall though, it's important to state that these are a good-looking, comfortable set of over-ears. Furthermore, their portable design, coupled with the splendid sound quality, makes me grab them over several other sets when heading out. 

  • Design score: 4.5/5

Edifier Stax Spirit S3 on orange/gray sofa

That headband can be a bit noisy and clicky when adjusting, but it's a fairly minor gripe in an attractive set of headphones (Image credit: Future)

Edifier Stax Spirit S3: Value

  • Sound quality that's impossible to beat at the level
  • A great gateway planar magnetic design
  • No ANC impacts value for some

What you must know is that if you want ANC over-ears, your money is not well spent here. There is no active noise cancellation. 

Buying headphones almost always involves some sort of compromise (a dearth in call quality, omission of a codec, lack of water resistance), but for sound-per-pound clarity and quality in a planar magnetic wireless design, the Edifier Stax Spirit S3 are almost impossible to equal. 

The detailed, expansive and energetic sound is the star here and for me, that's just fine – plus it lasts and lasts (and lasts), for days. The case is beautifully light and compact – I have to say that I've taken these headphones on a flight and loved the experience, despite the lack of noise cancellation. 

Then again, the app is a long way from excellent and the EQ presets are somewhat eccentric, plus I do find myself wondering why the ear cups turn outwards when I take them off quickly to leave them around my neck. 

Depending on your priorities, the Edifier Stax Spirit S3 still represent a top and TechRadar recommended buy – it just might be that a lack of noise cancellation means they're not the right pick for you.

  • Value score: 4.5/5

Should I buy the Edifier Stax Spirit S3?

Buy them if...

Don't buy them if...

Edifier Stax Spirt S3 review: Also consider

Edifier Stax Spirit S3 worn by Becky Scarrott, in profile, on orange background

They're comfy cans and no mistake (Image credit: Future)

How I tested the Edifier Stax Spirit S3

  • Bulk of testing done using an iPhone 12, running Edifier Connect app, firmware version 1.0.2
  • Tested across two weeks, listened against the Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless and Focal Bathys
  • Used at work (in the office; walking through London; on a train) on a flight and at home
  • Listened to Tidal Masters, Apple Music, Qobuz and Spotify on an iPhone 12, a Sony Xperia 1 V and MacBook Pro

As is always the case, to test headphones is to invite them into your life. These cans became my daily musical companion – after a thorough 48-hour run-in period, of course. And very welcome the Edifier Stax Spirit S3 were. 

They accompanied me to work on weekdays (walking brusquely to the station; boarding a train and the London Underground; at the office) on a flight to and from Munich and throughout a long Bank Holiday weekend at Climping Beach on the UK coastline – a great way to test any wind-interference from mics during calls.

To better test the comfort levels (and battery life claims), I wore them throughout the working day too – and they never disappointed me or let me down. 

To check the audio quality across the frequencies, I listened to various playlists (spanning everything from acid jazz to thrash metal) on Apple Music and Tidal, but also to podcasts and albums on Spotify – plus of course YouTube tutorials (mostly about calibrating a tricksy tonearm on a deck which will remain anonymous) from my MacBook Pro. 

I’ve been testing audio products for five years now. As a dancer, aerialist and musical theater performer in another life, sound quality and the user experience have always taken priority for me personally – but portability and comfort come a close second. 

Read more about how we test

  • First reviewed: June 2023
Sony WF-C700N review: the best cheaper noise-cancelling earbuds you can buy
4:46 pm | April 14, 2023

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets | Tags: , | Comments: Off

Sony WF-C700N: Two-minute review

Sony's WF-C700N earbuds are a joy to wear. But how often have you loved the design and fit of a set of earbuds only to be let down when you actually get them doing their job – ie. playing your music? 

That won't happen here. In fact, with the WF-C700N, Sony just ripped my notions on what is achievable at this level to smithereens. Some of the best noise-cancelling earbuds of the year, then? Indeed. Can they be bettered by rivals? Yes, but not for this money. You'll have to set your sights much farther up the food chain if you want to beat this suite of features and sound quality. 

Honestly, I cannot believe Sony has priced them so low. Suffice to say, I like them a lot. You do need to look past Sony's odd naming game (the N addition to the moniker does indeed stand for Noise cancellation; these 'buds mark Sony's new entry level for ANC earbuds) but once that's done you'll find a truly likeable, solid set of earbuds that are nothing short of fantastic for the money. 

Add to this the fact that their talents go above and beyond their Adaptive ANC and into Sony's 360 Reality Audio, guided by the excellent Sony Headphones Connect app, and you get an inkling of what I'm about to go to great lengths to celebrate. 

Multi-point connectivity and adaptive sound control are here (you can select 'Walking', 'Waiting', 'Travelling' or 'Registered places' in the app, which is frankly incredible at this level) and you get Sony's standard DSEE audio 'upscaling' engine, so Spotify tracks are going to sound a lot better. Look, it's the kind of tech people like me are more au fait with when it comes to the excellent – but quite a bit more expensive – Sony WF-1000XM4 wireless earbuds and Sony WH-1000XM5 over-ears. And those are some of the best wireless headphones on the planet right now… whereas the WF-C700N are in what I like to call the budget-to-mid sector. 

Did I mention that the build quality and battery life are bang-on too? There's less protrusion than with Sony's more affordable buds (Sony WF-C500, all eyes on you), because they're 37% lighter and 38% smaller than the top-tier WF-1000XM4

The long and short of it is this: the eagerly-awaited Sony WF-1000XM5 earbuds had better be good when they land in my lap (even if they are rumored to be a lot smaller), because as far as I'm concerned, the WF-C700N is where the smart money goes… 

Sony WF-C700N earbuds in a hand, on white background

Sony is showing exceptional talent in distilling its audio know-how down into ever diminutive earpieces.  (Image credit: Future)

Sony WF-C700N review: Price & release date

  • Released on April 1, 2023
  • Priced $119 / £99 / AU$199 

If the prices above made you double-take, well done you. Yes, Sony has challenged in this territory before, (see the sporty IP55-rated Sony WF-SP800N which feature a degree of noise-cancellation, or the budget friendly Sony WF-C500, if you can live without ANC) but never with quite this level of skill and accomplishment.

As with other options in Sony's more affordable oeuvre, these cheaper earbuds come in a few whimsical colorways: lavender and sage green (which is more like pistachio ice cream) as well as the more traditional black or white finishes. 

At this level, the closest competition is likely the Panasonic RZ-S500W earbuds, or even the cheaper (but devoid of ANC or immersive audio) Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus, but both options involve compromises, including a bulkier size and slightly bassier presentation in the Panasonic product (although perhaps you love that), and a more basic app in the Cambridge Audio option in addition to lacking noise cancellation. 

Sony WF-C700N earbuds in their case, on white background

Yes, the box is plasticky. But it's oh-so pocketable…  (Image credit: Future)

Sony WF-C700N review: Specs

Sony WF-C700N case held in a hand on gray background

The earbuds feature little magnets to find each other and 'hug', if you place them down (Image credit: Future)

Sony WF-C700N review: Features

  • Excellent immersive 360 Reality Audio
  • ANC profiles and optimization add value
  • No auto-off feature 

For this level, I think it would be churlish to ask any more from your earbuds. Call-handling? A breeze – but not literally; Sony has worked hard on neutralizing wind-interference (there's a new mesh structure surrounding the microphone) and the fact that the units are much more flush with your ear does promote clearer calls. 

But where these 'buds come alive for me, is when I get to playing Tidal tracks, because this opens the door to Sony 360 Reality Audio – aka 24 object-based channels arranged in a 360-degree soundstage, which Sony launched back in 2019. You'll have to take photos of your ear, which is a little tricky at first, then link your Tidal account. But it is emphatically worth it. I'll wax lyrical on the sound quality later, but as features at this level go, you're looking at game-changing immersive sound for this money.

As noted, Sony's excellent Headphones Connect app takes the wheel here. It's very good. Why? Adaptive Sound Control, optimized according to what you're doing, that's why – yes, these headphones learn how you use them and try to help. Don't like that it deploys ANC when it knows you're 'Staying'? That's fine, tap the cog in the app's Headphone Settings and you can deploy Ambient sound or turn all noise profiles off – and until you change it, that'll happen whenever you're sitting at your desk. 

When Ambient is deployed, you can select from 1-20 on a slider (I keep mine at around 12 when 'Walking' to my train and 20 when 'Running') and these work very well indeed. When ANC is on, at my desk, all but the loudest noises are softened, leaving me immersed in my playlists. It's a feat and no mistake. 

Perks abound. You can even deploy safe listening levels or collect badges pertaining to how often you've listened, and in which scenarios!

Any omissions worth mentioning? No auto-off when you remove them, but at this price, I'm prepared to follow Elsa's advice in Frozen and let it go.

  • Features score: 4.5/5

Sony WF-C700N earbuds on gray background

Aw, aren't they just lovely?  (Image credit: Future)

Sony WF-C700N review: Sound quality

  • Tidal tracks come alive with surround-sound and verve
  • Even Spotify tracks are levelled up 
  • A truly exuberant, agile and fun listen

Those who have read the entirety of this review won't be shocked to learn that this particular section, like those before it, is extremely positive. But if you've skipped straight to here (naughty!), well, it's good news. 

Those with a Tidal account are in for a real treat, but even when I stream lossy Spotify tracks or much better Apple Music streams, the WF-C700N put on a resoundingly agile, meaty, enthusiastic performance. 

When streaming The Bangles' Eternal Flame, backing vocals arrive in each ear but never to the detriment of Susanna Hoffs' occasionally pensive, understated vocal. I feel like we get an extra ounce of detail and texture through her high belt, too, compared to the competition. Stream XTC's Making Plans for Nigel on Tidal and guitar riffs and whooping vocals attack each ear in one of the most expansive, three-dimensional and fun soundstages I've heard from a set of earbuds – and that's not a statement I make lightly. 

For dynamic build, the WF-C700N also shine, with Fontaines D.C.'s I Don't Belong starting out brooding and just slightly further away than the band seems as the track builds to its conclusion.

Want a test of what the Sony WF-C700N can really do for immersive detail? Stream the first 30 seconds Prince's When Doves Cry on Tidal. Listen to how those "yeah"s skulk over from your left ear, around the back of your head and finish in your right. It doesn't feel gimmicky (the funk-heavy bass and guitar licks are masterfully held in check in what is an admirably cohesive mix), but there's so much space for that vocal to shine… 

  • Sound quality score: 5/5

Sony WF-C700N earbuds close-up in a hand, on gray background

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

Sony WF-C700N review: Design

  • Beautifully compact, ergonomic earpieces
  • Push-button works very well
  • No on-ear volume control 

These are some of the most easy to wear, comfortable earbuds I've ever had the pleasure of wearing, a fact which shouldn't be a huge surprise given the Sony LinkBuds S are another firm favorite for my smaller ears. While a little fuller over the body, they fit without having to stretch my ear or screw them in, in any way. And thanks to the new material (which Sony says "holds on to the inner cup of your ear") they stay put for hours on end. 

Yes, the case is plastic and feels a shade off high-end, but it's pocketable, functional and shuts with a reassuring snap. The mesh over the mic on each earbud is a stroke of genius because as well as enhancing call-quality and ANC, it's tactile, thus helping my finger navigate to the little raised lip of the multi-function button with ease. 

Said button is a great solution. Depress it, and you know you've done something (unlike so many touch-based solutions) and I find myself neglecting my phone to answer calls, scroll through ANC profiles (on the left earbuds) and pause my music (on the right, but this can be customized in the app). 

My only gripe here is the lack of on-ear volume control, although Sony says that following a firmware update, it will be possible, with a four-time press "or more" of either earbud. On public transport, it would be lovely not to have to dig my (relatively expensive) source device out from its special safe place in my bag, is all I'm saying.

  • Design score: 4/5

Sony WF-C700N 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

I'll speak plain: for features, design and most-importantly sound quality, these cannot be bettered for the money. In fact, you'd have to double your outlay to do so.

Okay, if you're prepared to spend over three times the money, there's more detail and sonic insight (through the higher frequencies) to be gleaned from the Bowers & Wilkins Pi7 S2, but those earbuds don't have the battery life or ANC talent of these inexpensive Sony earbuds.

Prior to now, my shout for this money would be the Panasonic RZ-S500W, but in my humble opinion, the Sony WF-C700N now edge those for sound. It's a close-run race, but the bass feels just that bit tighter, snappier and less prone to overstatement in the Sony product.

  • Value score: 5/5

Should I buy the Sony WF-C700N?

Buy them if...

Don't buy them if...

Sony WF-C700N review: Also consider

How I tested the Sony WF-C700N

Sony WF-C700N earbuds worn by Becky Scarrott

(Image credit: Future)
  • Tested for two weeks, listened against the Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus, Bowers & Wilkins Pi7 S2 and even the Audeze Euclid
  • Used at work (in the office; walking through London; on a train) and at home
  • Listened to Tidal Masters, Apple Music Lossless tracks and Spotify on an iPhone XR, a Samsung Galaxy S22 and a MacBook Pro

As always when testing earbuds or headphones, the Sony WF-C700N became my musical companions for two weeks – after a thorough 48-hour run-in period. 

They accompanied me to work on weekdays (walking brusquely to the station; boarding a train and the London Underground; at the office) and throughout a long weekend on the UK coastline – a great way to test any wind-interference from mics during calls.

To better test the comfort levels (and battery life claims) of the Sony WF-C700N, I wore them throughout the working day too – and they certainly did not disappoint. 

To check the audio quality across the frequencies, I listened to various playlists (spanning everything from acid jazz to thrash metal) on Apple Music and Tidal, but also to podcasts and albums on Spotify – and YouTube tutorials (mostly about crochet stitches, since you ask) from my MacBook Pro. 

I’ve been testing audio products for 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 about how we test

  • First reviewed: April 2023
Bowers & Wilkins Pi7 S2 review: if you’re all about the music, these buds are for you
7:22 pm | March 29, 2023

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets | Tags: , | Comments: Off

Bowers & Wilkins Pi7 S2: Two-minute review

Bowers & Wilkins is a UK audio specialist that's not noted for its cheap and cheerful pricing strategies, and that certainly hasn't changed with the Pi7 S2 earbuds. Nevertheless, audiophiles will be aware of the inaugural earbuds this second iteration (note the 'S2' suffix, above) are based on. Why? Because to paraphrase Rhianna, they shine bright like a diamond, sonically speaking – and that has also not changed in this updated set. 

If you came here to discover whether the Pi7 S2 are as detailed, crisp, insightful, weighty and immersive as the original Bowers & Wilkins PI7 – and whether Bowers & Wilkins has once again bettered other best-in-class buds for sound – take it as read. Yes, these earbuds offer a better-quality listen than any other similarly wireless design on the market. 

If you're waiting for the 'but' though, it's coming. Usually, when a fresh iteration rolls off the production line, you can expect some big upgrades over the previous model. And here, the Pi7 S2 boasts… an extra 30 minutes of stamina, plus a more reliable Bluetooth connection. The battery life in the buds has been improved from 4.5 hours to five hours in the new version – hardly a headline grabber. Most of the competing options in our best noise-cancelling earbuds guide can beat even that upgraded figure quite comfortably. 

And while you do get a more reliable connection overall now (including a longer Bluetooth range of up to 25m), thanks to a re-engineered antenna design, plus hi-res audio from compatible sources with aptX Adaptive, the two-way audio setup of a 9.2mm driver with a balanced armature treble unit in each bud here is largely the same as in the previous generation. 

And the noise-cancelling, which wasn't much to write home about in the original, is now supposedly smarter about noise-nixing with Adaptive Noise Cancellation. Only, I initially struggled to select the in-app 'auto' option – the indicator light simply danced between 'on' or 'off' under my gaze. The passthrough function also refused to comply to the taps on my iPhone once or twice – and it's important to note that this is the only way to access passthrough, since on-ear controls are limited to playback functions, scrolling through the ANC profiles (via a long hold of the left earbud, choosing between 'on', 'adaptive' or 'off') and accessing your voice assistant. 

Although noise was noticeably quashed when using the 'on' mode for ANC, it was still far from perfect. While tapping on my keyboard at work, I once heard tinny, unusually high-pitched sonic articles from the movement of my fingers filtering through into my earbuds – yes, using ANC rather than passthrough. Odd. 

The Bowers & Wilkins Music app is otherwise an excellent companion, however, rounding all of my streaming services and playlists into one place and showing me B&W's curated options, as well as the usual battery life information and status of the buds – including wear sensor and streaming quality (which I set to 'highest').

Fans of the unusual feature will be happy to note that the nifty audio retransmission perk is still on board. Fans of on-ear volume tweaks from their earbuds, though, will be sad to see it still doesn't feature. 

Oh, and you do get new colors – mine are a lovely midnight blue with gold-tone accents. 

What you really need to know is that sound is still the star. And what a bright, shining star it is against this new midnight blue colorway. But given that the originals were sonically stellar already, whether or not you should buy this new proposition is a question you need to answer for yourself. 

Bowers & Wilkins Pi7 S2 review: Price & release date

Bowers & wilkins Pi7 S2 and S1 side by side, in cases, on multi-colored background

B&W Pi7 S2 on the left; S1 on the right… so, not a huge shift visually  (Image credit: Future)
  • $399 / £349 / AU$700
  • Released on Januarya 25, 2023

These second-gen Bowers and Wilkins’ Pi true wireless earbuds retail for $399 / £349 / AU$700. The keen-eyed will note that this pricing is practically identical (depending on where you live) to that of the original Pi7, which retailed for $399 / £350 / AU$599 when they launched in 2021. 

And even if you're not keen-eyed, you'll have spotted that these numbers are not small – those prices dwarf even Apple's. The inaugural buds went beyond any other earbuds in terms of sound quality – but they also cost about 50% more than the likes of the AirPods Pro 2, so you'd hope for a lot more again here. 

Bowers & Wilkins has recently launched a step-down option, the Pi5 S2, which retail for a slightly more palatable $299 / £249 / €299 / AU$450. 

What do those buds offer? Well, this might not be the place, but okay: a 9.2mm driver, but not the extra balanced armature – so the dynamic range may be affected. They have the same battery life and do support aptX, but not aptX Adaptive, plus you lose the audio retransmission feature in the case. They also have active noise cancellation, but not the adaptive tech used in the PI7 S2 (though you can adjust the level of cancellation). Good? Good. On with the Pi7 S2 review… 

Bowers & Wilkins Pi7 S2 review: Specs

Bowers & Wilkins Pi7 S2 review: Features

Bowers & Wilkins Pi7 S2 and S1 single earbuds held in a hand to show how similar they are

Spot the subtle (very subtle) differences between the S1 and S2 earbuds  (Image credit: Future)
  • Hi-Res with aptX Adaptive support is a triumph
  • Audio retransmission from charging case
  • Adaptive ANC is just so-so

B&W's nifty audio transmission feature – whereby you can connect the case's USB-C port to a computer or analog audio source, and sound would broadcast in aptX quality to the buds – is a cool addition. It's not entirely unique – LG's T90Q buds offer a similar feature – but it's still nice to have. Let’s say you’re on an aeroplane and don’t want to use the free wired headphones. No problem! Connect the case and listen with your B&Ws instead. 

Unlike earbuds at (and let's face it, slightly beneath) this level, B&W has shied away from ear-fit tests, EQ presets and hearing profiles here – and when they sound this good, we couldn't care less. Nevertheless, if you're someone who likes to crank up the bass in your earbuds, you cannot do that here. Also, you can't alter the volume on the earbuds. This may seem a minor gripe, but I'd much rather touch an earbud to lower my music and thus hear a train announcement than go foraging in my bag for my safely-stored phone – particularly when traveling alone. 

I'll get more granular regarding sound quality later (there's so much to celebrate!), but B&W's Music app makes it very clear that multipoint connectivity is not an issue for the Pi7 S2, giving you options for managing your current connections, and whether you're happy to auto-connect to the last-paired device. I found chopping and changing between my laptop and phone without lifting a finger was easy-breezy.

Musically, it's all very slick too, linking your streaming services including Deezer, Tidal and Qobuz (although Apple Music seems to be an omission here, which is a shame given its hi-res content) and playlists on your device. The app makes your music collection the star, rather than the buds themselves – which feels like the right direction for B&W to be heading. Very quickly, the app becomes something I wonder how I lived without, rather than surplus to requirements. 

What I did need more of was ANC, and, for that matter, passthrough. I truly wish I could report on the efficacy of these options, but all I can say is that with 'auto' or 'on' deployed, the sonic isolation was slightly better. Essentially, not all regular low-level thrums were nixed. It's not exactly bad, it's just not great – and for this top-tier money, I'd hoped for a little more. Passthrough was a similar story; despite turning it on and taking the slider up to the max, I heard very little of my surroundings. Other options (such as the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II) are winning, here. 

Call-handling was a pleasurable experience though, with the Pi7 S2's three mics per earbud giving me subtle access to my own voice, as well as the caller's, thus making conversations feel supremely natural. This feature – often called sidetone, and very well implemented in the Sennheiser CX Plus True Wireless earbuds – is one I wish more companies would include.  

  • Features score: 4/5

Bowers & Wilkins Pi7 S2 review: Sound quality

Pi7 S2 earbuds worn by TechRadar's Becky Scarrott, on white background

B&W's Pi7 S2 earbuds are unobtrustive and relatively comfortable (also, my other earring reads 'The sisterhood')  (Image credit: Future)
  • Detailed, insightful, beautifully spacious soundstage
  • Snappy but expansive and impactful bass 
  • No head-tracked spatial audio or Dolby Atmos support

Get ready for the praise. Switching all ANC profiles off, you're in for a sonic masterclass and then some. The 2001 remaster of XTC's Wake Up on Tidal is crisp and frankly joyous, as jagged guitars attack each ear in a cohesive and well-balanced mix. 

In fact, so analytical is the presentation of the Pi7 S2s, I actually hear elements within tracks that artists might wish I hadn't. In Rod Stewart's This, for example, (recorded in 1995), I clearly hear the strain in Rod the Mod's voice. I know and love the track, but here I'm granted access to his struggles at the time. There's a slight wavering through the upper registers that other earphones have failed to divulge, on all but one other occasion – and those were not wireless earbuds. 

Dynamically, these earbuds are incredibly immersive and agile, despite the lack of support for head-tracked spatial audio. FKA twigs' Two Weeks celebrates every drop of bass and thud in the backing track, but never at the expense of Tahliah Debrett Barnett's ethereal and breathy vocal. Allow your playlist to continue to Cellophane and there's an injection of volume, of fullness, half-way through the track which is delivered with more zeal and energy than I've heard from any set of true wireless earbuds to date – including the first-gen model. 

Sonically, these earbuds are a delight. And that's not a statement I make lightly. 

  • Sound quality score: 5/5

Bowers & Wilkins Pi7 S2 review: Design

Bowers & Wilkins Pi7 S2 case on green background

The case is smooth and feels premium. Oh, and did I mention that midnight blue colorway?  (Image credit: Future)
  • Re-engineered driver housing caps 
  • Classy build and finish
  • Smaller ears may struggle with fit

The Pi7 S2 look very similar to B&W’s previous generation, including the jewel-like rounded sides, and a raised circular outer case housing the buds' capacitive touch controls.

Fresh colorways aside (the Pi7 S2 is available in Satin Black, Canvas White and Midnight Blue), Bowers and Wilkins claims it has well and truly fixed the biggest issue users encountered with the older Pi7 – connectivity. The original Pi7 had a tendency to drop out, especially in busy signal areas such as crowded airports. The good news is that the company has re-engineered parts of the buds to fix the issue. The caps at the end of the earbuds have been made from a new material that's more transparent to Bluetooth signals, and the antenna is redesigned and repositioned within the earbud endcap to improve antenna performance. 

And it worked. I experienced no dropouts during testing, and the claimed 25 metre range (double what it was before) also proved true – and I tested them through a thick stone wall. 

This is Bowers & Wilkins, and the finish here is classy. In my palm, the buds look glorious, with the perimeter of the endcap shining as if glowing under the right lighting, and the gold accents reminding me of Swiss watch-style craftsmanship. The case too is pocketable, and feels every millimeter a premium product. 

My only issue with the design (aside from the still slightly anaemic battery life) is the size. At 7g per bud, they're a fair bit heavier than the Sony LinkBuds S at 4.8g. Want a little more comparison? It's not that heavy – each Sony WF-1000XM4 earpiece weighs 7.3g, although reports suggest Sony may be shaving a fair bit off this for the Sony WH-1000XM5

Here's the thing: the shape of the Pi7 S2 is not especially small or ergonomically shaped, to the point that I have to actually stretch my right ear around the main body of the unit and sort of push the earpiece down, wedging it in place. Now, I have a slightly smaller and more particular right ear (a discovery made while trying UE's novel heat to fit earbuds), but nevertheless, it's worth noting that if your ears are small, you may struggle here. It's not a question of the neck or size of the eartips (two alternate options are given, although more would be welcome); no, the actual earpieces are just on the large size. 

  • Design score: 4/5

Bowers & Wilkins Pi7 S2 review: Value

  • Outstanding audio quality – and that's hard to put a price on
  • A little low on additional features 
  • No on-ear volume control 

Buy the Pi7 S2 and you're paying top dollar for top-quality audio. It isn't a particularly tailored experience (forget fit tests and personal sound profiles), but if the best-sounding music in a pocketable design is a must in a pocketable, you should look to this product. In fact you must look to this product. And it's hard to put a price on that. 

Other options – Apple's AirPods Pro 2, Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II, Sony WF-1000XM4, Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro and even Honor Earbuds 3 Pro – offer better and more reliable noise cancellation, but if you're someone who can take or leave ANC tech, that won't be a deal-breaker. 

Call-handling is also good, but you don't get on-ear volume control, and the battery-life is far from class-leading. Add to this the fact that smaller-eared users may struggle to get them to stay put and you'll see where the extra star went. 

As always, whether this proposition represents value to you is a delicate and deeply personal matter. But know this: in the sound-per-pound stakes, they're unbeatable. 

  • Value score: 4/5

Should I buy the Bowers & Wilkins Pi7 S2?

Buy them if...

Don't buy them if...

Bowers & Wilkins Pi7 S2 review: Also consider

How I tested the Bowers & Wilkins Pi7 S2

  • Tested for two weeks, listened against the Pi7
  • Used at work (in the office; walking through London; on a train) and at home
  • Listened to Qobuz, Tidal Masters and Apple Music Lossless tracks on an iPhone XR and Nothing Phone 1

When testing the Bowers & Wilkins Pi7 S2, they became my musical wing-men for a fortnight – after a thorough 48-hour run-in period. They came with me to work on weekdays (walking brusquely to the station; boarding a train and the London Underground; at the office while call-handling) and on a long weekend walk. 

To better test the comfort levels (and battery life claims, modest though they are), I wore them throughout the working day. I put some distance between my source device and the Pi7 S2 earphones to check the Bluetooth range (it is much better with this iteration) and whether the drop-out issues have been resolved (they have).

To check the audio quality across the frequencies, I listened to various playlists (spanning everything from grime to classical) on Apple Music, Qobuz and Tidal, but also to podcasts and TV shows on Netflix. 

I’ve been testing audio products for 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 about how we test

  • First reviewed: March 2023
Review: Nike FuelBand
3:04 am | January 30, 2013

Author: admin | Category: Cameras | Tags: , , , | Comments: None

Review: Nike FuelBand

At its heart, the FuelBand is little different to the UP or Fitbit; it’s basically an accelerometer you wear on your wrist that tracks how active you[……]

Read more

Hands-on review: Updated: iPhone 5
3:12 am | September 27, 2012

Author: admin | Category: Mobile phones | Tags: , , , | Comments: None

Hands-on review: Updated: iPhone 5

Hands on review

The Apple iPhone 5 release date is upon is, with the latest arrival boasting a 16:9, 4-inch screen, new smaller port, thinner, lighter[……]

Read more

Next Page »