Wireless earbuds are all the rage now. Apple really kicked off things with the AirPods, released in December of 2016. They have been described as “pretty f***ing cool” by Rolling Stone.
“And while $159 is still a pretty penny to spend on far less than audiophile-grade headphones, it’s a bargain for the experience of walking around, totally wire-free, with a personal soundtrack pumped directly into your brain. In a nutshell: pretty fu***cool.”
Late last year, Sony released its WF-1000X wireless earbuds for $199 (now $179 in many places) to compete with Apple. Trusted Reviews gave Sony’s entry into the earbud game five stars, praising the noise cancellation, the stable fit, and the great sound. Many thought Sony’s new earbuds would be the ones to beat, but then the quality control issues hit hard.
The WF-1000X earbuds were first released, then secretly recalled, due to connection issues — especially in the right earbud. On the Sony message boards, user Jaymbee describes the issue that many were having.
“I have a pair of the new wireless in-ear WF-1000X. There is an intermittent problem with sound in the right earbud cutting out. It seems to be random; sometimes it happens for a second or so a few times in quick succession, sometimes only once in the entire day,” he notes, adding that this isn’t necessarily a Bluetooth problem but rather one of relaying sound from the left earbud to the right.
By the time Sony “officially” released the WF-1000X buds, the problem was minimized, although it’s still present in a lot of units. However, perhaps the worst thing about the WF-1000X buds is that it’s practically impossible to make or receive calls since the sound is so bad. This has to do with the placement of the microphone. One might say that you shouldn’t expect good sound quality from earbuds, but both the AirPods and the Bose SoundSport Free offer great phone quality.
Sony has offered a firmware update for the WF-1000X buds, but as this author and others have found, the update aborts about halfway through. All of this is really disappointing because the WF-1000X buds really had potential. Apple’s AirPods might not sound as good as Sony’s offering, but at least they work. And Apple was smart enough to wait until they fixed all the issues with the AirPods before making them available in the marketplace.
The AirPods sound above average, and the deeper you are able to fit them in your ear canal, the better they sound. There are many third-party products that help the AirPods fit better. What is really fascinating about the AirPods is how well they work. If you have an Apple device, the W1 Bluetooth chip works to create a flawless connection. And you can switch between Apple products without any connection hassle whatsoever.
The only flaw of the AirPods (and this may not be a flaw for some) is the complete lack of noise isolation. The AirPods aren’t made for using at a busy gym or a loud Starbucks. You will be frustrated using them on a train. For some, however, the lack of noise isolation isn’t a big deal because they like being able to hear everything, and the AirPods are meant to be used as an extension of your ears.
According to MacRumors, Apple is expected to release updated AirPods during the second half of 2018, and they could have a noise-cancellation feature. For now, however, the AirPods are still the best wireless earbuds one can purchase.