The true wireless audio segment is perhaps the fastest moving and evolving among all the audio categories in India, with new launches happening practically every week. Most of these launches are in the affordable segments, but there have been some significant new entries in the mid-range and premium segments these past few months, from brands such as Jabra, Samsung, Oppo, and Nokia, to name a few. This has led to quite a few changes in our list with this update; the excellent Jabra Elite 75t has been replaced by the impressive Oppo Enco X in the mid-premium segment.
Despite the big launches in early 2021, most of our top picks are still the same, although we have shaken up the list of honourable mentions to include some of these key launches. Our list also includes two recommendations from Oppo, signifying the quiet but notable impact this electronics manufacturer has made on the audio segment in India. Read on to find out what are our top picks among true wireless earphones, well into 2021.
How do true wireless earphones work?
Up until the advent of true wireless technology, wireless headphones and earphones have had some kind of connector between the left and right channels, be it a wire or a headband. With true wireless earphones, even this short cable is gone, and each earbud features its own battery, DAC, amplifier and Bluetooth chip. The earbuds individually connect to the source device, or a dominant earbud that is connected to the source then also connects with the second earbud to provide the digital signal.
This way, each earphone is able to work independently, yet the two function together to ensure that the listener gets stereo sound output from the source device. The obvious advantage of this arrangement is the convenience of a completely wire-free listening experience, which improves comfort and ease of use. This is a boon in many usage scenarios, including while working out, in crowded places, on your commute, or when you want to use your earphones while lying down.
True wireless earphones often also include built-in microphones, which makes it possible to use them as hands-free devices with your smartphone. Provided the microphones are good enough to pick up sound over a slightly longer distance, this makes true wireless earphones the most discreet and effective way to have call conversations on the move. And while the additional components may make the earbuds a bit heavier than typical earphones, many new options have compact, light-weight designs that are comfortable and don’t rely on winged tips or ear hooks to stay in place in your ears.
Best true wireless earphones: Apple AirPods Pro
Our favourite true wireless headset you can buy today is the Apple AirPods Pro. Yes, it’s expensive at ₹ 24,900. However, for that price, you get features and sound quality that, in our opinion, are unmatched in the segment. The AirPods Pro is a big improvement over previous AirPods and competing headsets, thanks to one big feature – active noise cancellation. This makes the headset a lot more useful than most other true wireless options, and improves your ability to hear the sound even in the noisiest of environments. There’s also Transparency mode, which lets in outside and ambient sound in the most natural sounding way we’ve heard on any earphones to date. We found the sound to be engaging, immersive, and clean.
Much of the improvements in these earphones can be credited to the in-ear fit, which makes for better noise isolation and a more immersive listening experience. The AirPods Pro is also incredibly flexible, and is able to adjust to different tracks on the fly for a comfortable, yet entertaining sound. As expected, the AirPods are meant to be used with Apple devices and work best if you have an iPhone or iPad. That isn’t to say they won’t work on Android smartphones or computers, but certain features will only work with an Apple iOS device. But regardless of what device you use it with, the AirPods Pro is an easy and engaging pair of true wireless earphones.
Buy: AirPods Pro
Best under Rs. 15,000: Oppo Enco X
Oppo is better known for its smartphones, but recent months have seen it quietly grow into a capable maker of audio products as well. Among the company’s recent launches is the Oppo Enco X, its most premium true wireless headset available in India which is priced at Rs. 9,990. For that price, Oppo is offering quite an impressive product, with a dual-driver setup developed in collaboration with Dynaudio, active noise cancellation, and a wireless charging case.
Although there is support for the LHDC advanced Bluetooth codec, most users will have to stick to the SBC and AAC Bluetooth codecs when using the Oppo Enco X. However, this doesn’t hold the earphones back too much; this is an enjoyable true wireless headset to listen to with detailed and immersive sound. Good active noise cancellation tops things off, and the overall experience is excellent for Rs. 10,000.
Although average battery life does hold the Oppo Enco X back a bit, and the on-device controls are basic, the value for money proposition of this headset helps it truly stand out. For the price, you’re getting what competing brands such as Jabra and Sony charge a lot more for, which makes the Oppo Enco X our top pick under Rs. 15,000.
Buy: Oppo Enco X
Best under Rs. 10,000: Lypertek Tevi
If you haven’t heard of Lypertek before, we’re not surprised. This small and relatively unknown brand is making waves in audiophile circles with the Tevi, its first pair of true wireless earphones. Priced at Rs. 6,999, the Lypertek Tevi is our current top pick of true wireless earphones priced under Rs. 10,000, thanks to the balanced and natural sound on offer.
Much of the credit for the good sound quality goes to support for the aptX Bluetooth codec, along with excellent tuning that favours detail over excessive thump and power. The resulting sound is clean, enjoyable, and as natural as you can expect on a pair of earphones priced under Rs. 10,000.
Apart from delivering excellent sound quality, the Lypertek Tevi looks decent, has great battery life, and is IPX7 rated for water resistance, making this perhaps the best all-round pair of true wireless earphones you can buy right now. If your budget is lower than Rs. 10,000, there isn’t a better true wireless headset you can buy than the Lypertek Tevi right now.
Buy: Lypertek Tevi
Best true wireless earphones for battery life: Samsung Galaxy Buds+
While true wireless earphones are extremely convenient, battery life is still a bit of a pain point; the small size of the earphones makes it hard to put large enough batteries into them. However, Samsung appears to have made some progress on this front with the Galaxy Buds+.
The successor to last year’s Galaxy Buds, these earphones also happen to be the best option to buy if you own a modern Samsung smartphone, thanks to support for the Scalable Bluetooth codec. Improvements in the drivers makes this an excellent sounding headset for ₹ 13,990.
With the earbuds offering an impressive 11 hours of use per charge in our testing, the Samsung Galaxy Buds+ is the only headset in our list capable of true all-day, uninterrupted listening. The charging case offers just one additional top-up to the earphones, but this is entirely acceptable given the long run the earphones themselves are capable of.
Buy: Samsung Galaxy Buds+
Best true wireless earphones under Rs. 5,000: Oppo Enco W51
Priced at Rs. 4,999, the Oppo Enco W51 is our new top pick in this price segment for one big reason – functional active noise cancellation on true wireless earphones at a previously unimaginable price. Although the quality of the active noise cancellation is nowhere near as good as you’d get with more expensive options, it’s good enough to make the listening experience a bit cleaner and easier.
Interestingly, you also get Qi wireless charging for the case, IP54 dust and water resistance, and sound quality that is cohesive, energetic, and detailed. The Oppo Enco W51 earphones are also comfortable and pretty good for voice calls. Although slightly let down by average battery life and strange touch controls, the pros largely outweigh the cons with the Oppo Enco W51. This is the true wireless headset you should buy if you’re on a tight budget.
How we picked the best true wireless earphones
We’ve reviewed or used a wide range of true wireless headphones, including popular options from major electronics manufacturers, as well as options from traditional audio brands that have been in the business of making headphones and earphones for many years. We also took into account specifications, codec support and price to come up with our top recommendations.
True wireless earphones form a relatively new product segment, and we’ve had a chance to test most of the new options. Apart from the earphones themselves, we’ve also paid attention to the charging cases that come with these options. The cases usually offer additional battery backup, and also make for a convenient and safe way to carry your earphones when not in use. With all of these points in mind, we’ve selected our list of top recommendations, as well as other options to look out for as listed below.
Also consider these true wireless earphones
OnePlus Buds Z: Priced at Rs. 2,999 gets almost everything right, making this the most impressive pair of true wireless earphones you can buy on a budget. USB Type-C fast charging is a particularly impressive feature for less than Rs. 3,000.
Sony WF-1000XM3: At ₹ 20,000, Sony’s flagship WF-1000XM3 offers the absolute best active noise cancellation you can find on a pair of true wireless earphones. Sound quality is good, but not quite as good as what Apple and Sennheiser have to offer.
Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2: If you have an Android smartphone to take advantage of the aptX Bluetooth codec, this is the absolute best-sounding pair of true wireless earphones that you can buy right now. It’s expensive, though, at ₹ 24,990.
Jabra Elite 85t: Jabra’s latest true wireless headset is priced at Rs. 17,999, and is its most advanced one yet with great sound, good ANC, and all-round performance. It’s just a bit expensive, compared to the excellent Oppo Enco X.
Lypertek Levi: There are a lot of good options at under Rs. 5,000, but the Lypertek Levi stands out for a few reasons including a balanced sonic signature, great battery life, and wireless charging.
Nokia Power Earbuds Lite: Not too fancy, but not too shabby either, the Nokia Power Earbuds Lite offers consistently good sound, decent battery life, and good touch controls for Rs. 3,599. There’s also IPX7 water resistance, which is quite useful to have.
Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro: If you use a Samsung smartphone, there’s no better true wireless headset than the Rs. 15,990 Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro right now. It’s pretty good even if you have any other smartphone, but it performs best if you are in the Samsung ecosystem.