Since the first real wireless earbuds were unveiled in 2015 by Japanese electronics company Onkyo, the new form factor has improved in both audio quality and performance – and CES 2020 showed that real wireless technology could finally be ready for the most part.
In the past, real wireless earbuds were full of connection problems, poor audio quality and bulky designs – however, based on what we saw at CES this year, the best real wireless earbuds from 2020 can compete with wired headphones on a much more level playing field.
We have finally seen the kind of specifications that we can expect from real wireless earbuds in 2020; from noise reduction to a long battery life, so here are three reasons why if you have stayed at a distance you should consider a few unbound earplugs to enjoy your music every day.
More choice when it comes to price
For some time, real wireless earbuds usually cost more than their wired counterparts – but CES 2020 showed us that this form factor does not have to be expensive.
The new JLab Go Air True Wireless earbuds are a good example of the growing accessibility of wireless listening; for just $ 29 / £ 29 (about AU $ 40) they are nearly eight times cheaper than the current leading model, the Sony WF-1000XM3.
Do they sound as good as their more expensive rivals? Absolutely not, but they fill a gap in the market for cheap real wireless earbuds from a trusted audio brand.
On the other side of the price scale we also see some incredibly high (and incredibly expensive) models coming on the market.
Klipsch & # 39; s latest model, the T10 True Wireless earbuds, were announced at CES, with a suggested retail price of $ 649 (around £ 490 / AU $ 930).
Why so expensive? Well, these earbuds are chock-full of every top product available on the wireless audio market, including noise reduction and built-in artificial intelligence, that takes us to the next real wireless trend for 2020 …
Artificial intelligence and gesture control
In CES 2020, a number of brands announced genuine wireless earbuds with built-in artificial intelligence – let's explain what that means.
The aforementioned Klipsch T10 have their own operating system with & # 39; embedded artificial intelligence & # 39 ;, which can play voice-controlled music without having to install a third-party voice assistant such as Google Assistant or Alexa on your smartphone.
The TicPods 2 Pro are delivered in the same way with Mobvoi & # 39; s own AI technology built in, called TicHear and TicMotion.
TicMotion is the technology that allows you to control your music and calls by moving your head, thanks to the built-in motion sensors – which means you can nod your head to accept a call or shake it to decline.
Although the gesture control of the TicPods is limited to calls, the application of this technology points to a future in which we can control much more with simple movements, including music playback and perhaps even the way our earphones sound, with gesture-controlled equalizer settings.
Until now, hands-free operation of our real wireless earbuds has been limited to giving vocal commands to the voice assistants built into our smartphones – and for anyone on the shy side, speaking out loud in public is not attractive proposal.
Gesture control as we have seen in the TicPods 2 Pro (even if we felt that they were not as effective as they could be) can lead to more organic interactions with our earbuds, making them more like a natural extension of ourselves .
Whether models like the Klipsch T10 and the TicPods 2 Pro will pave the way for a world where everyone sees their real wireless earbuds in the same way we view our smartphones – remains to be seen with AI – our ordinary & # 39; stupid & # 39; headphones set to become much smarter.
Noise reduction as a given
We are not saying that there is not yet a good real wireless headset; The Sony WF-1000XM3, for example, have been our toppers since their release in 2019, and the Apple AirPods Pro is a huge improvement over the AirPods Classic (AKA among the best-selling real wireless earbuds in the world).
However, what will change in 2020 and beyond is that noise reduction is expected after a certain price point – we do not recommend that you purchase genuine wireless headphones without non-noise reduction above $ 100 / £ 100 / AU $ 150.
This once premium feature already appears in cheaper real wireless earbuds, such as the $ 99 / £ 119 / AU $ 209 TicPods 2 Pro, and although the effectiveness can vary between different models, this trend has continued.
The decision of Jabra not to include this possibility in its recent Elite Active 75t headphones is all the more surprising. The rumors about Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus also seem to be suppressing the cancellation of noise, which could be a missed opportunity for the Apple rival.
On the other hand, just as audiophiles tend to close the & # 39; closed & # 39; To avoid noise from noise-canceling headphones, we may see an increase in the number of natural-sounding real wireless earbuds, such as the Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 – and these buttons have no built-in noise cancellation, but instead aim for the broad soundstage of open headphones. to bring you closer to the audiophile sound.
Better connectivity, longer battery
Thanks to innovations in wireless connectivity, such as aptX Low Latency, which reduces the delay between audio and video when using wireless earbuds to watch TV and play games, the best wireless headphones of 2020 rarely experience the frequent disconnections of their predecessors.
Announced at CES was Bluetooth LE, the newest standard in wireless technology. Bluetooth LE is a particularly interesting development; using a new codec, called LC3, this technology has been set up to improve sound quality and battery life, and to connect hundreds of devices to one source.
For the average listener, Bluetooth LE means that the five-hour battery life we have become accustomed to (we look at you, Apple AirPods) will become something of the past, with 10 hours or more the standard.
That's because Bluetooth LE uses less power than previous wireless standards – and based on the acceptance rate of earlier standards such as Bluetooth 5.0, it's only a matter of time before we see Bluetooth LE advertised on the packaging of real wireless earbuds.
However, it may take a few years before we see most wireless headphones with Bluetooth LE; Bluetooth 5.0 was finally released in 2016 and it is only the last few years that the standard has been widely accepted by headphones manufacturers.
Yet innovations such as these, along with specifications such as noise reduction, artificial intelligence and gesture control, make it clear that real wireless earbuds go beyond simple portable audio devices – and these are the features you should pay attention to if you decide that 2020 is the year in which you finally immersing your toes in the world of real wireless.